Thursday, 28 January 2010

The taming of a fussy eater

The previous post seems to have struck a chord with lots of readers about fussy eaters. I don't think I've ever gone into detail on the blog about my experience with Littleboy1 so I thought I'd recount the tale now: hopefully it will give some hope to those of you are at your wits' end with fussy younger children.

Before I had kids, I scoffed at people whose children were fussy eaters. Surely it must be the parents' fault - they hadn't introduced them to a wide variety of healthy foods, they gave into them all the time and let them eat what they want, they let them have too much junk food, and so forth. I vowed to be different. I love food, I am married to great cook, and neither of us has ever been fussy. We are both firm believers that cooking from scratch is important. Even when we were at our busiest with careers, getting home late in the evening, we never ordered takeout or popped a readymeal in the microwave; we always took the time to cook, even it was just a bowl of pasta with cherry tomatoes. So, MY children were going to eat anything and everything, and meanwhile I would lovingly cook them delicious meals from scratch every night. Weren't they?

Before weaning Littleboy 1, I read Annabel Karmel diligently and started to prepare little purees of apple, pear and carrot, blending and freezing them in ice cube trays. I waited till he was six months' old (despite everyone around me giving in at about four months in desperation for their children to sleep through the night). His first meal was a little bit of a baby rice blended with breast milk.

Bleugh. He spat it out. OK, Annabel said that was normal, I thought. But on the second and third day, bleugh and bleugh again. So I tried the fruit purees. Nada. Mashed banana? Niet. Carrot? Projectile vomit.

This went on four about three weeks. By this time my friends' babies were all, naturally, eating pasta with lumps, mashed avocado and (probably) coq qu vin. Eventually someone gave me a tip - try yoghurt/fromage frais. So the first food he accepted was a commercial banana baby yoghurt. I already felt like a failure....

As time went on, Littleboy 1 started to eat a few more of the fruit purees. I'm not sure he ever accepted a vegetable one -perhaps butternut squash and pear - but we managed to make the move to things like lentils, beef stew and fish. But lumps were off the menu until he was over a year old (it didn't help that he was a late teether); he wouldn't eat any jarred food (which made travelling with him a nightmare) and introducing a new food was always a trial. We had tremendous kitchen battles, he and I: he sitting in his highchair, jaws mutinously clamped together, me cajoling with a spoon, trying to make him laugh so he'd open his mouth. Usually something ended up being thrown across the kitchen - and it wasn't always by the baby. I'll admit now that mealtimes were my major source of stress and anxiety with him during the baby years; I let it get to me, and badly.

As a toddler, while other people complained that their children were fussy, Littleboy 1 was in a different league. For example: he didn't even eat the stuff that all children supposedly like: cake, chocolate and sweets; people at parties were always amazed that he refused these things, thinking that I must have trained him really well, but, while I'd like to think it was my good parenting, actually it was more that they weren't on his list of prescribed foods. This was an extremely small list. He always liked breakfast cereal and toast, and thankfully all fruit, but staple foods such as meat, vegetables, pasta, rice - these were all off the menu. While his diet was actually pretty healthy - his favourites included baked potato with tuna and pitta bread with hummus - it was very limited.

When Littleboy 2 - who ate anything and everything as a baby - came along, it became ridiculous: I was determined not to limit Littleboy 2's diet, so he would be getting chicken curry while his brother ate yet another baked potato . There was no question of us all eating together as a family (well, unless we all wanted baked potato with tuna every single night). So at one point I was preparing three separate meals every evening. This soon became impossible. And far from cooking delicious meals every night for my children, I was running around fobbing Littleboy 1 off with marmite toast while Littleboy 2 tucked into Plum Baby.

I tried all sorts of tactics - including sending him to bed hungry if he didn't eat his supper - but he did not seem to care. He was stubborn beyond belief, and did not seem to have much of an appetite either.

But you know what? There is light at the end of the tunnel. As Littleboy 1 gets older, and more rational, I can explain to him why certain foods are good to eat and he is more willing to try them. "Mummy," he'll say. "If I eat all my supper I'll grow up to be a big boy, won't I?"

At four and a half, he now happily eats rice, spaghetti, chicken, pork and beef; he eventually grew to love carrots (at first dipped in hummus, now alone as as snack). He has accepted green beans (with ketchup, but it's a start). There are still several things that are off the menu (penne pasta, for some reason, eggs and green veg like peas and broccoli) and he insists on a salami sandwich every single day in his lunchbox. Eating at friends' houses can still be a challenge, when he turns his nose up at a perfectly acceptable-looking meal just because he doesn't recognise it.

One thing I did do was stick to my guns on the healthy diet. I tend not to buy foods such as biscuits and cakes, unless we are having a party, so if he wants a snack, it's an apple or clementine. I won't let him scoff bread late at night if he hasn't eaten any supper; he knows the deal. Fries, chocolate (which he now likes, but only as of Halloween last year) ice-cream - these are all treats and not something we generally have at home.

So; my advice to others dealing with the hell that is fussiness; don't give up. Keep trying new things; not night after night (unless you want every meal to be a shouting match), but after a few months, when they've forgotten they didn't like the thing before. Eat with your kids whenever you can, and let them eat with other children. If their diet is limited, don't worry too much, but try to ensure that the things they will eat are nutritious. Toddlers are capable of making fussy eating into an extreme sport, if you let them. But get through these years as best you can without turning them into junk-food junkies, and they might start to surprise you.

I don't know if I dealt with my fussy eater the best way - I know that, at times, I got very stressed and angry about it all and I think my stress probably filtered through to him, making him even more difficult about food. But looking at him now, fit, strong and healthy, and demanding another bowl of carrots, I think I must have done something right.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Sunday roast

I may have given the impression in my last blog post that I am permanently tearing my hair out over the Littleboys, but that is not always the case. (Although The Doctor, who tends to arrive home at the witching hour of half past suppertime, may disagree...).

The boys can be incredibly sweet, affectionate, playful, funny, cuddly and even, on occasion, well-behaved. I often feel a tremendous swell of pride just looking at them as we walk down the street together. Only the other day, we passed a woman who pointed at them and said: "That's SOOO cute." (I wasn't sure if by "that" she meant the pair of them, the fact they were scooting, or something else, possibly Littleboy 2's snowboots with moose faces, but hey, it was a compliment).

Yesterday they managed to earn themselves several brownie points (or should that be cub-scout points?) at supper time. Over the past few months, we have been endeavouring to eat supper together at the weekends as a family. During the week, it's not really possible, as they are usually clamouring for food well before The Doctor gets home - but at the weekend, we have the time and inclination to prepare a big family meal and eat it with them. In the summer, it was usually a barbecue, but during the winter a traditional English roast has been attempted on several Sundays.

This has not been without its difficulties. Meat is rather different here from in the UK, and the concept of the roast, while not unknown, is not particularly common. So on the one hand, good steak is cheap and widely available and our Christmas turkey, despite coming from the upmarket Whole Foods, cost a third of what it would have done in the UK. But on the other, selecting a joint of meat for roasting can be tricky. For example, finding a leg of lamb is a rare thing in our local supermarket; and if you do, more than likely it will be expensive and imported from New Zealand. The US is a land of cowboys, not shepherds, so mint sauce is off the menu for the moment.

Pork is plentiful and good, but the roasting joints are somewhat different from the UK - it seems Americans don't go in for crackling, and despite the fact that this is probably a lot better for our waistlines, I miss my dose of bubbling, crispy salted fat. One weekend The Doctor (the head chef of the Sunday Roast) decided to go rogue and bought something describing itself as a 'veal roast'. Now I had misgivings about this from the start, never having heard of roast veal, but he insisted that "the French eat it all the time". Let's just say that after two mouthfuls all of us gave up and politely pushed it to one side; it was the stringiest, toughest roast I have tasted since Sunday lunch at boarding school. We made a stock out of it instead, which turned out excellent.

Then there was my Boxing Day ham experience. Having bought it in rather a hurry in a crowded supermarket on Christmas Eve, I glanced at the packaging at home and was highly unamused to see that I had bought something called 'Butt Portion Ham'. Now I am sure there were plenty of delicious hams available, but I had chosen, basically, the arse end. And although it tasted OK once doused in cloves and honey, I am sorry to say that while eating it I could not get out of my head the child's chant 'Yum, yum, pig's bum'....

Yesterday I bought a 'round eye roast' of beef. Jackpot! This turned out to be delicious, succulent and tender.

And best of all, the Littleboys munched their way through the whole meal. Four slices of roast beef, green beans, potatoes. This may not sound like a big deal but Littleboy 1 is a notoriously fussy eater - only six months ago, I worried that he would never eat anything other than salami and hummus (as you can see, his foods of choice were rather unusual, but he refused to try anything else). He has never before deigned to eat a green vegetable, let alone announce that he 'loved' it (albeit he ate them with ketchup, but at least it's a start). Breakthrough! I beamed with pride at my angelic duo. Not only that, but they helped to set the table and cleared the plates at the end of the meal.

So today, they can fight over their train set all they like; Littleboy 2 can go to nursery with Weetabix in his hair (and believe me, he did); and no doubt they'll be driving me crazy by 6pm. But they have set themselves up for the week. Sometimes, it's the little things that make it all worthwhile.....

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Tantrums, toilets and Thomas the Tank Engine

This was going to be a post all about getting through January and how I cope with it - booking holidays, reading a good book, curling up in front of some crappy but compulsive TV at night (a new series of '24' has just started, set in New York; in it, Jack Bauer carries an interesting leather man-bag, perhaps a nod to Manhattan metrosexuality?). But, to be honest, that was rather dull, so I thought I'd tell you about my day yesterday. It was not a vintage one in the Nappy Valley household...but it was a fairly typical Wednesday (the one day the boys do not go to preschool in the morning, so they need entertaining all day).......

Let me give you a quick rundown:

* Littleboy 2 had the mother all of tantrums, which hereafter shall be known as the Muffin Tantum. I will not go into all the boring details; suffice to say that it involved him being dragged kicking and screaming for 400 yards along the street in order to prevent him returning ALONE to a bakery, where he had happily eaten a brownie and eschewed a muffin ten minutes before...
* Prior to this his brother had coughed over all the free cookie samples in said bakery, without putting his hand over his mouth. The owner was very nice about it, but I suspect those samples will be going straight in the bin....
*A visit to a friend's house for a playdate resulted in us inadvertently causing her toilet to overflow and leak all over the bathroom floor, just as she was about to rush off to an activity with her three kids. Cue lots of frantic mopping and administration of paper towels. And this time it was not the boys, but me, who was the culprit.....oh the embarrassment.
*We were supposed to be meeting another friend straight afterwards but had to rush back to our house first as my socks were soaking wet from the Toilet Incident. The boys were also demanding drinks so I snatched them some water bottles for the car. Littleboy 1 then howled all the way to the next playdate that he had wanted orange juice. I ignored him and turned the radio up louder.
*The evening news was just bloody depressing. More devastation in Haiti, and the residents of Massachussetts have taken it upon themselves to elect a Republican into the late Edward Kennedy's vacant seat, thus scuppering Obama's healthcare reforms. (For those not in the US, this is as if Tony Benn were to die and be replaced in a by-election by a Tory).
*My children, who are obsessed with Thomas The Tank Engine, have labelled me 'Sir Topham Hatt' when they play their imaginary Thomas games. So, I am the Fat Controller, who looks permanently cross and tells everyone off? I guess at least he's in charge, which is more than I can say for myself sometimes....Littleboy 1, meanwhile, has decided he is 'Spencer', who as far as I can see is an obnoxious and arrogant engine (although he is 'very fast'). Great.

Getting through January? To be honest, at the moment it's more about getting through Wednesdays....

Monday, 18 January 2010

Bloggers for Haiti

It's almost impossible to comprehend the horror that is taking place in Haiti. This morning I have been listening to some radio reports about a school outside of Port-au-Prince where they were still trying to pull children out of the rubble, five days after the earthquake. There were no more survivors. Can you imagine if this were going on in the UK, or US?

It's easy to feel powerless, but we can help by donating to the aid effort. So click here to donate to Save the Children, or alternatively visit the Bloggers for Haiti justgiving page, which has been set up by some enterprising members of British Mummy Bloggers.

It raises money for Shelterbox, an international disaster relief charity specialising in emergency shelter provision. Each Shelterbox includes not only a ten person tent and a range of survival equipment, but a children's pack including crayons, drawing boxes and pens. So far the Bloggers for Haiti donations have raised over 2,000 pounds; so let's make it more.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

A song and a story

What is it with children and post-Christmas naughtiness? It's only Thursday and already this week Littleboy 2 has managed to break a standard lamp belonging to my landlady and sneak a load of wax crayons into a laundry load, some of which then made it into the tumble dryer too, possibly staining clothes, and the dryer, irrevocably. I need a distraction, and in the absence of anger management classes, thank God for blogging.

The lovely Brit in Bosnia has tagged me for a meme involving songs and the stories behind them - a sort of Desert Island Discs, or Inheritance Tracks if you're a fan of Radio 4's Saturday Live.

There are so many songs that evoke strong memories for me; where just one chord can whirl back in time to a room, the people in it and exactly what I was feeling about the world at that very moment. I could tell you about how The Glory of Love by Peter Cetera reminds me of my dorm at boarding school; Soak Up the Sun by Sheryl Crow reminds me of driving down Route 101 in California, pre-kids; Take That's Back for Good makes me think of the end of University exams.

But the one I'm going to choose is Patience, by Guns N Roses. Now I confess I am not really a heavy metal/hard rock fan. Indeed, before the summer of 1991 I never would have voluntarily listened to a Guns N Roses album. But that summer, the one following A Levels, my friend J and I bought ourselves an Inter-Rail ticket each and set off for Europe. I don't know if Inter-railing is still popular, but it was THE thing to do with your summer holidays back then; you bought one ticket which was valid for a month all across Europe, including in exciting-sounding new countries that had only just emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, such as Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

J and I met at Victoria Station to take the Boat Train, in those pre Eurostar days. Not wanting to carry too much, I had packed light, with a tiny rucksack, one book, a swimsuit and a few clothes. J appeared carrying not only a massive rucksack but her stereo, a huge, heavy contraption with enormous speakers - the kind of thing my mum would have referred to as a 'ghetto blaster'.
J was a huge fan of heavy metal/rock - Bon Jovi, Kiss, Metallica but most of all Guns N Roses. She wore, as I remember, the same Guns N Roses t-shirt and long, fringed black skirt for the entire trip, but she had decided she could not live without her music. Nowadays I guess she would have taken the whole thing on a tiny iPod, but this was 1991 and we were still listening to cassettes; hence the huge rucksack, which was stuffed with them.
So J's music was our soundtrack to Europe that summer; we listened to it on railway platforms at midnight; on Mediterranean beaches; in cheap guesthouses and strict youth hostels from Barcelona to Corfu; even on the French beach where we daringly slept one night and narrowly escaped being eaten by a sand-machine at 4am. It was actually a great way to meet people - everyone came up to us on the train and chatted about the music or wanted to listen to it. And while I never warmed to Metallica, I grew to like some of the Guns N Roses music; Sweet Child O'Mine, Paradise City and especially Patience, a ballad where Axl Rose temporarily abandons the head-banging and guitar-throwing and sounds really quite sexy.

It summons up everything about that month; lazing in the blazing Mediterranean sun; rushing for trains with our rucksacks; flirting with an assortment of dodgy European boys; trying menthol cigarettes (oh, we thought we were so cool). The stereo nearly came to grief a couple of times; once in Barcelona, a guy snatched J's purse and ran off. She dropped everything, including the stereo, kicked off her espadrilles and chased after him, leaving me standing there like a lemon surrounded by luggage. Amazingly, she caught up with him and he threw it back. In Corfu, where we rode around on mopeds, with the stereo strapped to the back with string, it escaped from its moorings constantly and nearly perished on the steep mountain roads. But it survived.

Most of all, Patience makes me think of our last night on an isolated beach in Corfu, towards the end of our holiday. We were up late, despite having a ferry back to Italy to catch at 6am, sitting round a campfire drinking Jack Daniels (what else to Guns N Roses?) with some good-looking South African boys we had met. I was quite hopeful of having a snog with one of them before the end of the night. Then, disaster struck. I had dropped my wallet somewhere on the sand. Now, this did not contain anything as vital as my passport, Inter-rail ticket or travellers' cheques, but it did contain all the ticket stubs I'd been collecting throughout our entire trip with the aim of making a scrapbook. I was determined not to lose them, and so forced the whole party, including the South African boys, to walk up and down the beach for what seemed like hours, combing the sand in the pitch dark for my crappy leather wallet.

Eventually, by some miracle I found it; hallelujah! Now it really was time to leave, and the 'moment' had definitely passed with South African Boy, who looked somewhat miffed by this point. But I kept the souvenirs and still have that scrapbook.

The summer ended. And J and I rarely saw each other after that; we went to the same Uni but in different years. She started going out with a long-haired fellow rocker and Jack Daniels drinker; I hooked up with The Doctor. Years later I went to her wedding; she married the rocker, who had transformed into a Hugh Grant lookalike who worked for a mobile phone company. J herself became a highly succesful corporate banker; they live now in a converted barn in the Home Counties with kids, a dog and horses.

I wonder if she still listens to Guns N Roses? I suspect not, but Patience will always remind me of that summer and that friendship.
I'm going to tag these bloggers to share their songs and stories:
Calif Lorna

Monday, 11 January 2010

Let's hear it for New York

Well, it took a trip into Manhattan to prove what several of the commenters on the previous post pointed out: Americans in cities DO go out in the cold.

There could not have been more contrast between the two days of our weekend. On Saturday morning, we went for a walk in woods at a beautiful nature preserve overlooking Long Island Sound. No-one else had been there since the last snowfall, and the only footprints ahead of ours were those of animals and birds. (And, according to Littleboy 1, Yetis, who he says live in igloos). It was icily cold (minus 5 or so in celsius) but bright and sunny; we wrapped up warm and no-one got frostbite. We saw no-one the entire time, and our car was the solitary vehicle in the parking lot.

On Sunday we went into Manhattan. After taking the Littleboys to see a model railway exhibit at Grand Central Station (perfect for train-loving small boys, and worth the trip to see the station and its fantastic vaulted halls) we ventured outside. Despite even colder temperatures, New Yorkers were out in force, ice skating in the sunshine in Bryant Park (pictured). The trendy Celsius bar overlooking the rink was packed, and there were even a couple of people eating their lunch alfresco. Others were admiring the fountain, frozen solid with impressively large icicles. There was a general air of festivity, despite the chill.

Back home, we walked down Main Street from the railway station to our house. Again, we were the only people about; certainly the only ones who had taken their children outside.

So this attitude to the outdoors (which Iota at Not Wrong but Different expanded on in her own excellent post) does appear to be a peculiarly suburban feature; a seamless journey from heated house to heated car to heated shopping mall does seem to be the default winter behaviour out here. It reminds me why, despite enjoying suburban life more than I ever imagined at present, I think I'll be pleased to return to city life in London at the end of our time here. Don't get me wrong; people in the suburbs are really no different from those in the city, and in many ways life is more convenient, cleaner and safer. But there's something about the life-force of the city that gives it vibrancy, an impulse for its inhabitants to come out of the cocoons of their own houses and become part of its ebb and flow. And that has to be a good thing.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Why don't Americans go out in the snow?

Since winter has descended here, there is one thing I have noticed. It is fairly puzzling.

When it's cold, snowy or even just a little bit chilly, Americans don't appear to take their children outside. At all. Even when the sun is shining.

Now I am not a fan of the cold; like many females I suffer from poor circulation in the hands and feet, and sub-zero temperatures tend to make my nose drip. But I simply cannot stay in the house all day long with the Littleboys. There is only so much Lego-building, DVD watching and Thomas the Tank Engine play-acting they can do before they start going stir crazy. They need exercise, prererably outdoors, otherwise they hurtle about like wild animals crashing into furniture by an hour before bedtime. It is a very rare day when we do not venture outside at all; last Sunday was one (because it was minus 7, windy and grey and everyone was tired) and it is not to be repeated if I can help it.

In London, if I went up to Clapham Common on a cold day, there would be plenty of other people with small children about; drinking hot chocolate by the bandstand or pushing their kids on the swings. On a snow day, the place would be packed out.

But here it is a different story. If we go to the playground on a cold day, we will be the only people there. Guaranteed.

When we had a deep snowfall, just before Christmas, we took the boys out for a snowy walk the next morning. No-one else had taken their small children outside to build snowmen or play in the snow. No-one. There were a few teenagers sledging, but that was it. Our neighbours did not emerge from the house all day, except to clear their driveways.

Another day, when my sister was here, the sun was shining hard although the snow was still on the ground. We went to one of the local beaches, where there is a small playground on the sand. It was cold but the snow-covered beach was beautiful; no-one else had been there and the four children delighted in making footprints in the virgin snow. We stayed there an hour before we finally got too cold and retreated; we were the only people there. My sister pointed out that had this been the UK, the place would have been awash with families playing in the sun and snow.

My German friend (the one person who also likes to meet up on the beach or at the playground in winter) recounted an amusing story.. The first winter they were here, she had bought a snowsuit for her son in Germany and got him all dressed up the first time it snowed. They took him out for a walk. There was no-one about; certainly no small children. She wondered where they all were. Then they saw another family coming towards them. Aha, she thought, so Americans do go out in the cold after all. Then she noticed that the child was wearing the same snowsuit.......they turned out to be fellow Germans.

So what is the difference between us Europeans and Americans? Is it just that Americans are so much more used to snow that it is not fun for them (although young children will not have seen it before, or remember that they have, so presumably they would still enjoy playing in it?) Are they just wusses about the cold (unlikely, because they are so much more accustomed to it?) Are they going to indoor places such as malls with their children (fine with a baby, but with two small boys runing up and down escalators? No way, Jose). Are their houses so chockfull of entertaining toys and media for the kids that they have no need to go out, and can go into a kind of hibernation?

Answers, please, on a snow-encrusted postcard.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

2009: the Nappy Valley highlights

God I hate the first week of January. It really is my least favourite time of year. It's cold, it's windy, the time for over-indulging in food and drink is over and there's nothing to do but clear up the detritus of Christmas.

We have been spending the morning taking the Christmas tree down and packing away the Christmas decorations, stockings and left over wrapping paper. (Interesting finds nestling in the tree: a Lego cow, several forgotten chocolates and candy canes and a plastic Santa from who knows where). Littleboy 1 is having to finish his holiday homework, all of us having forgotten about it. Everyone goes back to school or work tomorrow (in my case, looking for freelance work, always horrible and too easy to put off in favour of browsing the supermarket, filing my bank statements or emailing my friends).

Of course, once tomorrow is over everything will settle back into its usual routine and everything will be fine, but just for today, it seems like Christmas is over and there's nothing to be excited about for the forseeable future.

So it's probably a good thing that I've been tagged - not once, but twice, by A Modern Mother and Motherhood the Final Frontier, to write about my highlights of 2009, rather than carry on moaning.

For me, the whole year was dominated by the Move to America, so if one thing stands out as a highlight it has to be that. Well, not the move itself, which was stressful beyond belief, nor even the first few days in the US, which were marred by a bad experience during our stay in Brooklyn (which for family reasons I can't go into on the blog), but the fact that we got here, we found a fantastic place to live and we've started making a life for ourselves - one that, so far, we are loving.

The months leading up to the Move are rather a blur to me but, thanks to re-reading my blog posts, a few things stand out.

1. Skiing in the French Alps in March. Two weeks of perfect sunny weather, perfect powdery snow and all-round enjoyment. Littleboy 1 learned to ski and we had a welcome break from packing.

2. My birthday present - a trip to A View from the Bridge in London -provided a chance to reflect on how I met The Doctor and how Arthur Miller played a part in our courtship.

3. A whirlwind trip to the Lake District for a family wedding. We left the boys with a babysitter and enjoyed an idyllic boat trip across the lake to the reception, followed by champagne and a sumptuous dinner on a stunning headland.

May was dominated by The Big Move, but although I didn't particularly blog about them, there were two significant things that also happened.

4. Our leaving do. The first time since our wedding that so many friends were together in one room. I spent hours compiling a playlist of New York-themed songs, and having failed to provide decorations for the pub room where we had it, we borrowed a poster of Obama from the barman for the occasion. It went far too quickly, and I didn't get to speak to everyone, but it was fun.

5. One of my oldest friends had a much-longed-for baby, conceived naturally after four years of trying and two rounds of IVF. I managed to see the newborn girl the day before we left London, in the midst of frantic packing.

In late May we arrived in America, and after a short stay in Brooklyn during which we found a house and a car, we had a couple of weeks to kill. While living out of a suitcase with two small children was not exactly fun, I did enjoy:

6. A road trip to Virginia, seeing The Doctor's American relations and staying in a cabin in the Blue Ridge mountains.

We moved to Long Island in June, and began our life here. Life has been full of new adventures since then, but the ones that stand out most are:

7. The fourth of July weekend. The first of many such Sundays spent on the beach, followed by an All American barbecue.

8. A trip to Connecticut in mid-October to see the fall colours. Beautiful countryside, a warm New England welcome, and the first time the boys have properly hiked with us.

9. Experiencing our first American Halloween, in particular the Littleboys' delight at trick or treating.

10. Christmas here with my sister and her children, including several trips into the delightfully Christmassy city, and walks in the deep snow that fell the weekend before.

I should probably continue the meme, but I think it's rather past its sell-by date now. But I'd love to know what your highlights were, if only in the comments box.

Happy New Year!