Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Birthday

A certain special someone I know is celebrating a certain special birthday today. Sadly, he is spending it away from us. We dropped Trey off at the airport this morning for his second stint in Dallas. He'll be back around noon on Saturday. Definitely not the most festive way to spend your birthday, but to make up for it next Saturday he and I are going to NYC for the day sans kids! We think we may do the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island since he's never been and I haven't been since I was about 16.

And just a quick side note, which all you PhD wives will particularly get a kick out of. His birthday present this year? By request, the rebinding of a very old volume of something or other from France. We shipped it off to jolly old England a few days ago. You should have seen the gleam in his eye as he reviewed the leather board options online. Academics are a funny lot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reverse Culture Shock: Halloween

I'd forgotten how over-the-top Halloween can be here until the neighbors across the street started bedecking their residence with cobwebs and ghouls and aliens. Growing up I loved the holiday as much as the next kid mainly because of the ungodly quantities of sugar dispensed in one fell swoop. Now that I'm older and the holiday has become so blatantly commercialized, I'm a bit appalled at the excessive nature of it all. It's a multi-billion dollar industry second only to Christmas for decorating.

On one of our recent walks I snapped a few photos of the decorations to give you an idea of how outrageous it can be around here. I still can't get over the REAL coffin on the front porch of a house just one block away. It now houses some sort of life-sized Frankenstein replica all of which has helped to introduce such words as witch, monster, and ghost into my oldest's vocabulary.

Missing Aberdeen

I know for all of you, my dear friends, who are currently clinging to the waning light of a city at 57° latitude whose clocks have already fallen back and whose sun sets at 4:30pm, this may come as a great surprise. Today has been a bit wistful and not for the reasons you might imagine. Last night during what should have been the final game of the World Series, a game that is currently still in a rain delay I might add, a mist ever so reminiscent of Scottish dreich began to blow across the field, giving way ultimately to a more soaking variety. Today has dawned just as wet. It is a day that feels like Aberdeen. Damp. Cold. Dreary. And yet, in my heart it stirs the sad warmth of memory for places left behind, experiences that have changed me, and friends I love so.

It happened a few weeks ago when I reached into my vest pocket and found a bus ticket date stamped Friday, 8 August 2008 10:23am. I knew exactly where I had been at that moment, riding the bus to church for Friday Toddler Group. I winced at the ache and still can't bring myself to throw the crumpled bit of paper away. Yesterday as I put laundry in the tumble dryer (don't hate me), I made the bold decision to hang the sweaters to preserve their size. In two years' time, I'd forgotten how much knits shrink up in the dryer, and as I hung the clothes on the small line in our laundry room something stirred within me, a longing for that simple act of domesticity so intertwined with my daily life in Scotland. However rare the days were, there was nothing that could make me feel more alive than hanging wet laundry in that cold, clean Scottish air.

And I miss it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Election Season

No, this is not a political expose. I promise to steer clear of such volatile fodder for the sake of peace and unity. However, I can't help but comment on the number of campaign signs cropping up on front lawns all over the burbs, and, no surprise here, the majority are Obama/Biden signs. I've lost track of how many are on our street alone. No, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore. Literally. It's a red state and Jersey ain't!

One of only two McCain/Palin signs on our street. I asked Trey whether he thought the guy's head on the lamp post was a McCain representation. He said no because it was too young. (I'm only kidding!)

The first time I saw this lawn I laughed out loud and thought, "That must be a fun house to live in." Over the last week the number of Obama signs on said lawn have spawned out of control, leaving a lone McCain holdout. Stand strong, my friend, and don't lose heart. At the very least, you're probably just canceling out each other's votes.

The Rector and the Bull

Despite the miles, our hearts are never far from Aberdeen. Saturday Trey brought this story to my attention, and I could see the ache in his eyes knowing he had missed out on the festivities.

This past Friday the new rector of the University, Stephen Robertson, was installed for his three year post. As part of the ceremony, he rode the student mascot, Angus the Bull, up High Street to the St. Machar Bar where, as tradition required, he bought a round of drinks for the students. His main rectorial duties involve advocating for the students' welfare on the University Court, a position dating back to 1495. Evidently this begins by liquoring his constituents up. What a shock.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Red Highlights

The red was really red when I left the hairdresser's last week, but over the past few days it's mellowed quite a bit and now favors a reddish shade of chestnut rather than a cherry lollipop. It's drawn quite a lot of notice, almost all positive, so it may be here to stay for a while.

Me doing an arty pose.

I did a full head of highlights this time. No more dark underside.

The New Limo

Many hard decisions were made when we left Aberdeen. Physically you can only bring so much luggage with you on the flight. Realistically you can only ship so many boxes. There were many items, especially related to the boys, which we simply had to leave, give away, or sell. One such item was the double buggy we inherited the spring Davis was born. It carried our precious cargo countless miles through Aberdeen, Edinburgh, London, as well as one trans-Atlantic jaunt last Christmas. When we got the buggy, it was well-used. However, the flight to and from America last year proved a little more than it could handle, and when we collected it in baggage at the Aberdeen Airport, metal rods had sheered off and the back wheels were in a sorry state. Miraculously the buggy held it together long enough to get us through the summer, including a flight down to London, but the better part of wisdom meant we would be leaving it behind when we moved home.

The blessings of a car render a buggy much less necessary these days, but with another one due in just a few months, we knew a replacement was in order. I had done some researching back in Aberdeen and decided that I wanted to get one of the new sit and stand strollers. The price tag is particularly compelling, and it provides the freedom for the older child to stand and ride or sit and relax. I found one almost half the normal retail value on eBay. It was collection only about an hour from our house. We picked it up a couple of weeks ago, and I have fallen in love. It collapses using only one hand, is very lightweight and maneuverable, not to mention the TWO cup holders.

Here are some pictures of the boys just before our walk the other day modeling their new ride, matching tracksuits were not included.

The Glories of Autumn

My parents' home awash in yellow.

October brings a forgotten treat every year. We are currently in the throes of autumnal splendor, radiance so vivid it takes my breath away sometimes as I drive down the road. A few days ago Trey and I took the boys on a walk to capture, among other blog-worthy tidbits -- stay tuned, the vibrancy of this wonderful season. The weather has finally turned crisp. The air is dry and tinged with the scent of burning fireplaces. It makes me want to curl up in a big warm blanket with a seasonal drink and some knitting. Here are a few of my favorite shots from around our neighborhood. The rest are in the Autumn 2008 album.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

At Long Last

I was 12 years old the last time the Phillies went to the World Series. I can remember the moment they won the NLCS like it was yesterday. In fact, I think I cried. Last night's win over the Dodgers was a little less dramatic for me, probably because I roused from pregnancy slumber just minutes before the final out. What a proud moment for our city, a city ravenous for a world title of some sort. We've come close in basketball and (American) football a few times over the last decade, but like Tantalus, the prize has remained elusive. I remain the eternal optimist, however. We're definitely due.

Jimmy Rollins has been with the team the duration of his career. What a sweet win for him!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mister Softee

Ranking among the most recognizable signs of summer is the infuriatingly cheerful jingle of a Mister Softee truck roaming the streets of suburbia. I remember as a child longing to hear that sweet music, hoping against vain hope that today would be my lucky day, but if memory serves correctly, Mister Softee came around a lot less frequently than he does now. Since our return I have been regaled with the maddening tune twice daily. The truck makes its rounds along our street somewhere around 4pm and then again at 8pm. I feel badly because I very much want to surprise Addison one afternoon and say, "Let's get some ice cream from Mister Softee," but c'mon! Is eating ice cream at 4 o'clock really a great idea when dinner is just around the corner? What are they thinking? And then why do they come around again 4 hours later? Trying to tempt the after dinner crowd? At this point in October it's pitch black at 8 and Mister Softee is liable to run over a few stray children running towards the van. Come to think of it, seems as though the season has gotten a lot longer too. Summer is well over now but they're evidently still counting on those persistent wee ones conning their parents into a cold treat amidst falling the leaves.

For those of you unfamiliar with this franchise, Mister Frostee is a Philadelphia original headquartered just a couple of miles from our house in Runnemede, NJ, and if you are one of the lucky ones who has never heard the delightful sound of this roving treasure trove of treats, here is a clip from YouTube. I dare you to not get it stuck in your head!

Rest in Peace

After a roller coaster weekend, Trey's laptop was finally laid to rest last night. It was initially diagnosed with a bad hard-drive. A second opinion blamed spyware and viruses, but it all didn't matter when out of the blue the motherboard failed last night. Trey stared blankly at a black screen that wouldn't turn on at all. Thankfully, we have all the important files saved, and so now begins the process of looking for a new one. Suggestions anyone?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkins and Apples

I am woefully behind on this post. Last Saturday my mom, sister, brother, my boys, and I headed further south into the true garden of the Garden State. First stop, Mood's Farm for some apple picking. Sadly, the picking orchard had been hard hit by a hail storm a few weeks back and most of the fruit was bruised. Even so, we got some token shots to make it look like we picked a bushel.

The farm stand which wafted the intoxicating scent of cider doughnuts all around. I'm sure you gain weight just by smelling them.

Mini gourds displayed in old-fashioned shopping carts (trolleys), child not included.

Jersey apples a-plenty.

A few unbruised fruits.

Mama and D.

The grass around the orchard came above Davis's knees, which made trudging through it something of a feat for our little half pint. He took more than a couple of spills.

Our ham collecting apples with tremendous enthusiasm and focus.

The second farm we visited, Duffield's, with pumpkins as far as the eye could see.

I took Addison on a hay ride, not a brilliant idea for someone like me who suffers from rather overwhelming hay fever (didn't put that one together far enough in advance), to the pumpkin patch. Just like his Daddy, he wasted no time in selecting a pumpkin. Indecision will not be his life-long struggle. He saw a beautiful and, might I add, enormous one the minute we disembarked the wagon and announced, "I want that one!" Lucky mommy.

The pumpkin patch.

The ride back to the farm, pumpkin in tow.

Happy Davis, face covered with cinnamon sugar, the remnants of an exquisite cider doughnut. Start the addiction early. Check out the rest of the photos in the Autumn 2008 album.

It occurred to me upon reflection that some of you may not be familiar with American apple cider. It is not alcoholic like its UK counterpart, but rather is what the British know as cloudy apple juice, an unfiltered version of the clear variety. Apple cider doughnuts are a seasonal commodity, a cake doughnut with cider mixed into the batter, rendering it not apple-y but tangy and oh so moist. For a great article about cider doughnuts complete with recipe click here.

Privacy Gone

As further evidence of our in-between status, one foot on this continent, the other on our favorite island, Addison's accent seems to be caught somewhere in the middle of the pond. He insists on saying privacy with a short "i", like in the word give, but has started pronouncing gone "gawn" like dawn or lawn. Oh dear.

Of Crashes, Colds, and Color Change

It's been an interesting week. Friday night the nearly unthinkable happened. Trey's computer crashed. Well, that's a bit melodramatic since he hasn't technically lost any data, but while writing away on a lecture as I slept in bed late Friday, Microsoft Word became frozen and wouldn't save or allow him to back-up any of his material. Furthermore, Control Panel and almost any other Windows-based program would not open at all. After lots of incompetent fiddling on my part, we came up with a plan approaching the 2am mark. Geek Squad to the rescue while Trey worked on the rest of his lectures on my laptop thanks to his handy-dandy Flash drive with its stash of lectures and the golden thesis. Yesterday morning, first thing, we headed to the computer doctor. The Geek who helped us was surprisingly non-condescending, and so I did my best to ignore the uni-brow. Thankfully, the problem does not appear to be viral but rather some sort of Windows's malfunction (blasted Bill Gates). 3-5 days and it should be brand-spanking new, its only lasting evidence a slightly lighter wallet and a profound sense of relief at another computer bullet dodged.

To top it all off, earlier this week, Addison started with a nasty cold which, bless his young and vibrant little body, only lasted a few days. Trey and I, on the other hand, have not been so fortunate. We both have been hacking and wheezing like a couple of Atlantic City old biddies with a fondness for gin and 3-pack-a-day habit. I am a bit concerned about my breathing. Many of you know I have asthma, and this particular chest infection seems to have set up shop in my lungs. I don't know if it's the diminished capacity from a growing stomach or a symptom of a larger problem, but I've been practically attached to my fast-acting inhaler. Stairs or any mild exertion winds me. If my breathing is not significantly improved by tomorrow, I'm calling the doctor. So far, Little D has escaped this one. Here's to hoping!

And the final piece of news is that I dyed my hair a new and bold color. Red. Well, again a bit melodramatic. I added red into the blonde mix of highlights. Strange to get one's hair cut in a place where they call fringe bangs and don't flat-iron as a matter of course. I swear I live in a parallel universe of vocabulary uncertainty and cultural confusion. Buggy or stroller? Nappies or diapers? Bangs or fringe? Who says what? I'm so muddled I can't remember anymore. And when did the flouncy, American hairstyles of today start to look so last decade? At least my fellow Americans find my vocabulary amusing even if I just find it a constant reminder of the ongoing transition of repatriation. I'll post a picture of the new color soon (the cut is uneventful as I'm trying to grow my hair out for the new baby and the wedding next year).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My Fake Baby Update

My post on My Fake Baby garnered a rash of responses, so I thought I would quickly update you. I watched the documentary the other night and it left me with so many thoughts rattling around in my head I'm not really even sure where to begin. The piece left me with a profound sense of sadness and emptiness. It's much less creepy and a lot more pitiable. I've embedded the documentary here broken up into 2 parts so you can see it for yourself. Please share your thoughts. I'm eager to hear your reaction.

Oh, and the picture above is not another reborn pirated from the internet. It's my own dear Addison a few days after he was born. I couldn't bring myself to post more doll pictures when my own newborns are so darn beautiful.

Are You a Follower?

Be honest. How many blogs do you read regularly? I have 18 blogs I check daily using a nifty site called Bloglines, which allows you to see at a glance all your favorite blogs and which ones have new posts, saving lots of time. I found out about it from another blog I follow regularly, Asher Daniel Chappell, which I found through a real life friend of mine's blog, Rachel Owens. Ah, what a tangled web we weave. I know friends of mine who faithfully read my blog have begun reading other friends of mine's blogs, and so it goes. The blogging world has such a tight, interconnected network that the 6 degrees of separation may need to be revised down to 3 or 4.

I bring all this up because I have just added a new application to my sidebar, the Faithful Reader Box. It's a new feature on Blogger that allows regular readers to identify themselves with two benefits. The first applies to me. I can see at a glance who is reading on a regular basis, or at least willing to admit it. The second applies to you. You can advertise your blog and hopefully drum up some additional, interested followers. It facilitates inter-blog readership, which is after all, part of what keeps us all blogging, an eager audience.

So feel free to add yourself as a Follower. It's easy. Just click on the "Follow this Blog" link in the "Faithful Readers" widget. You can choose to follow anonymously, but better yet, let us all know who you are and advertise yourself a little.

Month 4 Update

I had my doctor's appointment yesterday, and I have to add how pleased I have been with my care so far. I am seeing the same doctor who delivered Addison but at a different practice, which I like much more. The nurses and receptionists are more respectful and friendly. The general atmosphere is very positive.

The appointment itself went well highlighted by a strong fetal heartbeat. I spent some time talking with my doctor about the fears I have for delivery in light of Davis's rapid entry into this world. I talked him through what led up to the unplanned homebirth and he was very understanding of my anxieties. I have this vision of me driving down the road after a trip to the mall or grocery store with the two boys in the backseat of the car and my water breaking in transit. I know once that happens I probably only have an hour tops before delivery. What do I do? While most people would think such a fast labor and delivery is a dream, it's actually quite a terrifying and overwhelming experience. I've talked with a few other women who have gone through it, and they really understood the intense emotions evoked by going from non-labor to the pain of transitional labor in a matter of mere minutes. When I would talk about it afterwards and tell people Davis's birth story, my heart would palpitate and I'd start to breathe faster, a kind of post-traumatic birth reaction.

The good news is I don't have to experience such an unplanned delivery again. My doctor is willing, should I choose, to induce me early at 38 weeks, 4 days, the earliest point at which research indicates babies' lungs are almost always fully developed. I told him that after being induced with Addison, I was reluctant to pursue that, and he allayed my fears by saying that we could follow a non-aggressive induction in which they would just break my water and have me walk the halls hoping to bring on labor more naturally without the use of IV drugs. I really liked the sound of that, and I am going to ponder and pray on it over the next few months to see if that is the best option for me.

In the meantime, my ultrasound date is November 6th when we will find out boy or girl. I was a little disappointed it wouldn't occur sooner, but working with Trey's travel schedule necessitated the later date. Nay bother. I didn't even find out with Davis, so I can certainly wait 4 more weeks with this one.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cape May

Cape May holds a very dear place in our hearts. It was the site of our first date, the destination for many family vacations and lovely day trips, and our location when we found out little D was on his way. The memories that line her historic, Victorian streets and white, sandy beaches could make me smile even on the darkest, driechest Aberdeen day, and so, with child-like anticipation, we headed down to Cape May this past Friday for our first visit in over two years.

The traffic was lighter being out of season and many more houses were for sale than I can ever remember, a tangible reminder of these hard economic times, but in the space of two years reassuringly little else had changed. We climbed to the top of Cape May Lighthouse as we have done numerous times before. Amazingly, Addison made it all the way to the top with no help despite my misgivings. Evidently the 199 steps are harder for adults than spry young children. Who knew? We dined at the Lobster House for lunch, rounding out the day with ice cream cones and a drive-by of Sunset Beach. It was such a comfort to see all our old haunts just as we remembered and to finally share them with the latest member of our household. The rest of the photos are in the Cape May album I've just added.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Fake Baby

No, this is not a friend's baby. It's a reborn, a doll made to resemble in an eerie, life-like way real infants. They are intended for adult collectors (OK, that's fine...we all have our hobbies) and, make sure you're sitting down, women who play with dolls. It's rare, but every once in awhile something leaves me completely speechless. Watch this video and you'll see what I mean. BBC America airs the full documentary tonight, which ran in the UK back in January. Since we don't get that channel, I'm hoping to watch it online somehow once it airs. Wait, I sense my powers of speech returning. Can you say daft and more than a little creepy?

A Wee Update

Silence is usually a sign of normalcy, so forgive my blogging absence. Trey returned very late, or should I say bright and early, Saturday morning at nearly 1am. Blasted Philadelphia Airport and its no-good delays. He sat in DFW for several scintillating hours waiting for the skies over our fair city to clear long enough to safely land a large jet. I ended up setting my alarm for 12:30am and in the pregnancy-induced coma-like fog of after sleep I wended my weary way in mist that can only be described as Aberdeen driech to the airport to collect our even wearier scholar. One week of travel down, two more to go.

Life has settled into a fairly predictable routine. Today we head back to the zoo with friends. Friday Trey and I will be taking the kids down to the Cape May lighthouse. Saturday we go apple picking. In the meantime I'm working on getting a NJ chapter of the Knit Wits together. The days are cooler and shorter, but, blissfully, we're still in short sleeves. Oh, and one piece of excitement that we in Philadelphia are hardly accustomed to, our beloved Phillies have made the playoffs! The first game begins this afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers. I'm not worried though. I feel fairly confident that we can knock off a team named for the purveyors of an intoxicating beverage, no?