Friday 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding; my highlights

*Watching it from bed. Surprisingly OK, even if it was 5am. I made good use of my new teapot.

*Waking up Littleboy 1 at 7 to see the carriages leaving the Abbey. He was so excited.

*Quotes from the Littleboys.

Littleboy 2 (seeing the full leaves on the trees in London): "is it June in the film?"

Littleboy 1: Where's the King? There's no King? (I explain about the Duke of Edinburgh). He must be older than the Queen. He's taller. Where's the president? (Good question....)

Littleboy 2: I like that girl. The one in the white dress. (Good taste....)

*Switching channels to NBC, because the BBC coverage was getting rather dry and boring, and finding them explaining that Kate's father would be walking her up the aisle. We quickly switched back.

*Peeking at Fox News for some classic quotes. On the security contingent: "There's 40,000 cops there, and they don't have guns. That's unbelievable. Can you imagine that in New York?"
Fox also had a countdown clock to 'The Kiss'. Pure class.

*Catching up with everyone's comments on Twitter and Facebook. Events like these are really where social media comes into its own - and keep me really connected to what my friends are thinking back in the U.K. (and in the blogosphere).

Happy public holiday, everyone. I hope you're enjoying those parties.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Oh to be in England, now that April's here

It's finally happened. After two years of being in the US I'm finally homesick.

Prior to this, I was actually starting to wonder if there was something wrong with me. Although I missed friends and familyI never once stopped and thought I'd much rather be back in the U.K. than here. I put this down to a combination of things: a childhood spent abroad, which meant I lacked a deep-rooted tie to the UK; unusual family circumstances (both my mother and mother-in-law died over a decade ago, and both families have been through some difficult years); and, of course, being happy with where we are in the US.

But I don't know what it is about this last couple of weeks. There was Easter; normally a big family occasion for us, this year we were totally alone. It seemed as if everyone else had something to do or somewhere to go, except us. This is one of the downsides of expatriate life; when it comes to the big family occasions, you're on your own. Seeing my father and sister on Skype was lovely, but I'd rather see them in the flesh. Then there is the Royal Wedding; although I'm not exactly a flag-waving monarchist, I'd like to be in London at this point, all full of wedding fever. Knowing that England has been having a glorious spring doesn't exactly help. The weather has been indifferent here at best (although it's finally hot today). On Friday, we went to the beautiful New York Botanical Gardens. They were lovely, but I couldn't help thinking about Kew Gardens and all the wonderful times we have had there.

One thing that has cheered me up a little has been being nominated for blogger awards The MADS. I'm very grateful to anyone who has already nominated me; if anyone else wants to, just go to the website and follow the instructions. You don't have to be a blogger to take part!

MAD Blog Awards 2011

And if you want to make me feel better about not being in England, tell me here how you'll be celebrating the Royal Wedding on Friday. Whether you're in the US, UK or somewhere else. I'd love to know.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Tales from the nail salon

When I lived in London, I think I could count on one hand (or should that be foot?) the number of times I went for a pedicure. It just didn't seem like a priority, and I only got my nails polished professionally when I was going to a wedding or some other smart event that required more than my own efforts at toenail painting.

But here it is a different story. While I wouldn't say that Long Island mommies are more glamorous than those in London, when it comes to the feet they are decidedly more high maintenance. In spring and summer, everyone sports perfect-looking painted toenails and sleek-looking feet, so if you have chipped nail polish and heels like leather you are definitely going to stand out. Going for a pedicure is also a fairly social activity; many women go with their girlfriends and have a catch-up while they sit there, and you also see mothers and daughters doing it together.

(This may be a sign of the times, but when I was growing up I don’t remember my Mum ever suggesting I went for a manicure or pedicure. Indeed, I'm fairly sure she never went herself; although she was always well-groomed, with nails she filed herself. But now it is quite normal to see mothers dropping off their teenage daughters at the salon – I’ve also seen little girls sitting alongside their mothers having their tiny toenails done.)

So yesterday I took myself off for the first pedicure of the season (no, I don’t do it year-round – what’s the point when your feet are encased in boots all winter?). I’m probably being a bit optimistic because it certainly isn’t sandal weather yet, but it felt like time and, having my first week off work since January and with the Littleboys esconsed in a sports class, I felt perhaps I deserved a touch of pampering.

The nail salon is also a great place for people watching. On a rainy Tuesday morning I was the sole customer (no pun intended), until Sweatpants lady walked in. In many ways she was so typical. Huge cup of Starbucks in one hand, iPhone in the other, dressed in her gym gear. She was midway through a phone conversation as she walked in, and proceeded to chat loudly for the first five minutes while the nice Chinese salon lady waited patiently to ask her what she wanted done. (Nail bars here are always run by Chinese or Koreans).

Sweatpants has a cursory look at the colours on offer and then asks ‘Don’t you do 'Minx'?”. The Salon lady looks blank. “It’s like, a sticker that you stick on. It lasts for two months. It’s so fabulous.” Salon lady shakes her head again. Sweatpants carries on about the wonders of Minx, although quite clearly it isn't on offer, until she runs out of steam. But then: drama! She can’t pick a nail colour. Cue long, long conversation over which colours will last longest. Eventually she picks two colours – plum and silver. “I can’t decide – I’ll decide while I’m sitting here.”

At long last, her pedi begins. But we aren't quite there yet. It’s nearly time for the colour to be applied. Then she looks up. “Did I see ALL the new colours?” she asks. The nail lady shrugs and gestures back to the shelf where she had spent at least 10 minutes. “Oh, I didn’t see those ones round there!” she exclaims. And she leaps up, mid foot-scrub, to take another look.

I left the salon at this point, so I’m afraid to say I can’t reveal what colour she went for in the end. But I did wonder if she made the right decision. And I'd also love to know what the salon staff (who have a habit of talking very fast in Chinese while glancing furtively at you, which convinces me they're sharing how appalled they are by the state of my feet) had to say about it......

Monday 18 April 2011

How do you know your kids are becoming American?

How do you know your kids are becoming American?

1. They use the expressions 'awesome', 'Oh, Man' and (more recently) 'Oh, brother' on a regular basis.

2. They can identify a quarter, and talk about dollars, but have no idea about pounds and pence.

3. They ask you who the first President of England was.

4. Some of their favourite foods are hot dogs, pizza and pretzels.

5. They know the entire pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag off by heart, but can barely even recognize the Union Jack. 6. They are experts on the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State building, but couldn't point out Big Ben or Buckingham Palace.

7. Their artworks so far this school year include Lincoln's Log Cabin, George Washington's Cherry Tree, pictures of yellow school buses, and dissections of pumpkins.

8. They are already excited about the summer because of summer camp. 9. They think it's quite normal for their parents to take home the remainder of a restaurant meal in a box....

10. ....and it's also perfectly normal to go for a restaurant meal at an unusual time of day. Eg. Sunday lunch at 11am.

I'm beginning to think it's time they learnt a little bit about their home culture. I might even make them sit through the entire Royal Wedding next week. Mind you, on the strength of 9) and 10) I think we parents might need a crash course in being British, too......

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Easter on Long Island...a very New York blend

Easter-time is a little different in this area of the U.S. We were away last year, spending time with the boys' cousins down in Florida, so I didn't really take in the differences between the UK and US at this time of year. Basically, they boil down to the fact that 'Easter' is not really mentioned in an official sense - instead, we have Spring Recess to look forward to for the boys, but there are no public holidays on either Good Friday or Easter Monday. (I keep having to stop myself referring to the 'Easter holidays', as it would mystify most people or be somehow politically incorrect, but somehow this phrase is ingrained in me after years in the U.K.)

There are various Egg hunts happening in town, but in keeping with the non-religiousness of public schools, and the large Jewish population, the whole thing seems to be slightly rolled in with Passover. The Easter Bunny, meanwhile, seems to have morphed into a kind of second-tier Santa, bringing not necessarily chocolate but general gifts - one mum friend told me her teenager had asked for a new CD from the Bunny.

This week I attended what was dubbed a 'Spring Celebration' in Littleboy 1's classroom. They had an egg hunt and a special snack of matzah (a cracker traditionally eaten at Passover) dipped in melted chocolate. An interesting blend of two religious traditions, I thought - and something that struck me as likely to be uniquely New York. I kind of like that.

Despite the vagueness over Easter, Spring is definitely here now, although the weather continues to veer wildly from warm to freezing cold. Cherry blossom, magnolias and daffodils are out all over town (Potty Mummy, here's a special picture of my flower beds just for you); winter clothes are being stashed away and everyone is asking you where your child is going for summer camp, as the long, hot summer holidays loom ever nearer. Before I know it, it will be May - and the second anniversary of our arrival in the States. It's funny going back and reading about our first impressions of the area, and our househunting experiences - two years on, so many things now seems normal, but I'm also constantly surprised by so many differences.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Birthdays, teapots and the lurgy

"Mummy," said Littleboy1 about a week ago. "Are you so excited that it's your birthday next week?"

"Er, well, I suppose so," I replied.

He was also shocked to hear that I was not having a party. Not renting out a room at Pump It Up for all my friends to jump on bouncy castles, nor hiring a magician, nor even giving out party bags. (Birthdays are a big feature at the moment, with all of his friends seemingly about to turn six in the course of a few months, and we are constantly buying presents, searching for strange party venues in the mall-ridden hinterland of Central Long Island, and trying in vain to prevent them necking entire goody bags full of candy in the car).

Still, he thought it was exciting, so on the day, he and his brother thoughtfully woke me up at 6am to give me their card. I tried sending them back to bed, but then felt so guilty that I invited them to come back in, and we had a present opening session in the half-light of dawn. Luckily one of my presents from the Doctor was this beautiful new teapot (perhaps in recognition of my love of tea) , so at least there was a chance for some caffeine.

In other news, I managed to flummox a mother at one of these parties by asking her if her son had escaped the 'lurgy' that was going round the school. Even as I said it, I thought "I bet that's a British expression that she won't understand", but it came out anyway for want of a better word. "Lurgy?" she asked me, wide-eyed in horror. "What IS that?"

I had to look it up later and it turns out 'lurgy' was invented by Spike Milligan on the Goon Show. Who knew?