26 November 2009

im here. finally.

hello america. we have arrived. after 20 hours of travelling, man! i am SO glad to be on solid ground. I will have a post shortly about the plane journey of me and the 4 month old, but for now i will leave you all with some some great quotes from the trip so far.

"well thats a Gerber baby if i have ever seen one!" flight attendant on the plane

"i was holding your baby and then the flight attendant came and FORCEFULLY took her out of my hands because she wanted to hold her instead. bitch." from the woman across the isle who held eleri when i went to the bathroom. people were literally fighting over her.

conversation between me and a woman in the customs line when we landed in chicago

woman: "oh what a cute baby. what is her name?"

me: "eleri"

woman: "LARRY?! i thought it was a girl!"

"wow what big eyes! i think she might be the cutest baby i have ever seen. probably even cuter than my own baby" woman in chicago.

conversation between me and mikey, my 6 year old nephew.

mikey: "i just drew a picture of eleri with a mustache"

me: "what? eleri doesnt have a mustache!"

mikey: "no, not yet. but she may grow up to have one. you just never know."

so far its been good. and as tomorrow is thanksgiving, i imgaine the trip will only get better.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

20 November 2009

tuesday is coming fast

i leave on tuesday. i will be gone from my house for 42 days. that is a long time to have to pack for, especially when that invloves packing for a little one. and i really havent even started yet. good plan kristina, good plan.

but what is really making me nervous is the day of travel. here is what is looks like

6.30am: arrive heathrow

9.00am: plane leaves heathrow

9 hours later.....land chicago

customs, baggage re-check, terminal change

4 hours later.....leave chicago

6.30pm: land tulsa

plus throw in a crazy 6 hour time change and there is my day. the long haul flights are bad enough when its just me. and i can read, watch movies or sleep.

there will be no sleeping or watching movies this time around. just me and little ele. and its kind of freaking me out.

not the fact that i will have my daughter all day, because we do that all time. its the having to occupy a 4 month old on a plane. and what about the air pressure? what if it bothers her little ears? and what about sleeping and diaper changes, and toys, and breast feeding? so many questions. and instead of dealing with them in a calm, cool and collected way....well, i am kind of freaking out. maybe once i start packing and get some things out of the way, i will feel better.

but until then, i need some help. any suggestions? any tips on flying with a little one? even if you dont have kids, but you have a good idea, throw it at me. i am accepting all the help i can get!!

oh, and eleri's british passport just came in the post today! woo hoo!! she has both her passports now; we really are all ready to go!

18 November 2009

it's all make believe

sometimes that is how i feel. like the country i live in is really some giant fairy tale land with kings and queens and funny accents. in reality, its just Britain. but sometimes the pomp and circumstance of it all causes my breath to catch in my throat and i think "really? such a place actually exists?" and it makes me smile. because as a little girl i read story after story of the princess, the dragon, the queen, the carriage taking the fair maiden to the ball. but the book always came to an end and then it was back to real life. but every so often, that fairy land of my childhood becomes a reality here in the UK.

and today was one of those days.

today the queen gave her annual speech at parliament. this is how she arrived.

and this is what she wore

but sometimes it feels like a fairy tale land for other reasons. something else happened today. far from fancy carriages and sparkly jewels, there was a more sinister side to the day. There was a shooting on old kent road. my husbands current project is on old kent road. not only was i worried for his safety, but when it came time for him to come home, all the buses were cancelled due to the gunman lose on the streets. When he finally made it to euston station to catch a train home, he saw a sign quite similar to this.

this particular sign was from my commuting days, but the situation was the same. a man jumped in front of the train and was caught under the carriage. I will never forget the first time this happened on my commute. 5 November 2007. I walked into the station and saw hundreds of people just milling around, looking annoyed. I asked someone what was going on and they said, and i quote "another damn jumper. couldnt have waited until after rush hour" how inconvenient of the poor, depressed soul. it actually happens quite a lot. about 2 or 3 a month. sometimes i cant believe that is real.

so he finally made it home. we put our daughter to bed and ate dinner. and i kept thinking about the dichotomy of today. a make believe, fairy tale of fancy dresses, horse drawn carriages and priceless jewels right along side the darkest and most depressing aspects of human nature.

to end on a happier note, this was another sighting. check out all those buses!!

crazy fairy tale land....

17 November 2009

some thoughts on the "public option"

with all that has been happening in america recently, i have had many discussions with my fellow americans regarding health care and obama's plans to "revitalize" the system. Because i live here, in the UK, and we have nationalised health care, people have been asking me lots of questions. and offering their opinions. most of those opinions are based on exactly that, opinion. since the american system basically offers you two choices, private insurance or no insurance, most people have never had the privilege of dealing with a nationalised system. or public option as obama is choosing to call it.

and the general consensus of most americans that i speak with is that the plan is a good one. it will benefit the poor, help those with little to no insurance, and on a whole wont really change the system. because what could be bad about health care that is free right? hmmm...

i recently had one friend point out that the new plan will predominately help those who really cant afford health care. he ended his argument by pointing out that we have never really been poor and in america. true. i have never really been poor. i have been a struggling college and grad student, working 40 plus hours to try and make ends meet. i have been a struggling new graduate, working a crap teaching job that didnt even pay enough to cover rent and bills. but i have been all of that as a single person, no husband, no family. so my friend was right in a sense that i have never really been poor and needed health care. but i have been without insurance and needed medical attention. oh boy, that was a challenge.

during graduate school and my first year out, i did not have medical insurance. i couldn't really afford it. but i did get sick in those 3 years. and i had huge amounts out of pocket to see a doctor and get prescriptions. and the care i received was different. the clinics i had to go to were not as nice, not as well staffed and well, pretty much you could tell that i was at a place that would see people on a cash only basis. its hard to be in america without insurance.

but hear me on this. i would take america with no health insurance over government run health care any day. there is no choice. because even though the care wasnt the same as if i had had health insurance, and even though the clinic may not have been as nice, i was still seen in a timely and efficient manner. the problem was address quickly and effectively.

timely and efficient are words that seem to evaporate over here. because health care is government run, everything is worked out on a cost/time/effort basis. will the procedure be lengthy and time consuming? if the answer is yes, then dont expect it to happen. doctors (GP's as we call them over here) are paid based on how many people they see in a day. when you have an appointment you are given 10 minutes. well 10 minutes at my doctors office. its less elsewhere. but when you allotted time limit is up, you have to go. my sister in law was actually told, and i quote, "your 5 minutes are up. if you have more questions you will have to make another appointment." she did have more questions. she had only briefly discussed her problem and had a questions about her daughter. she had to make another appointment.

and before you think "yeah, thats just an isolated incident. doesnt happen all the time" think again. if something is not cheap, quick and easy then its more than likely they wont do it. sometimes you get a doctor who is willing to take the time to actually talk to you and investigate, but those are few and far between. and the really disheartening thing is that even when you get a doctor who is willing to help, to really investigate, you still have to fight with the NHS system as a whole.

take my daughter for example. There is potential that due to the difficulty in labour and delivery, eleri may have some nerve damage in her right arm and hand. we went to the doctor to get it checked out. he agreed that there was potential she has some weakness and sent her to the hospital paediatrician/neurologist to check it out. we went into the GP on the 6th of November. The FIRST appointment available at the hospital is the 20th of January. that is almost an entire 3 MONTHS after i would have had the first doctors appointment. 3 MONTHS. but i cant do a single thing about it. the doctor mentioned that catching nerve damage within the first 5 months means that there is a big chance the problem can be corrected. by the time we get our appointment that 5 month window will be gone. She will be 6 months old already.

and there is not a single thing i can do about it. i just have to wait. but hey, at least its free right?

and what could possibly be wrong with free health care?!

the problem is that you pay for what you get. if you pay nothing, then that is what you can expect to get. nothing. and as a new mother who wants the absolute best for her daughter, nothing is just not good enough. waiting 3 months to see a doctor is not good enough. and what can i do about it? nothing. sucks.

i could pay to go private in the UK, but the cost is astronomical. essentially there are two choices in this country as well, government run health care at a sub par level or pay out huge amounts of money for private care. not too be a downer, but i foresee this as the way it will end up in the states. people keep saying that the public option really wont affect the system as it is now. but i dont buy it. at all. i have experienced government run health care. and it sucks. i can only imagine what americans will think of it.

to be fair, i will say that not every experience i have had with the NHS has been negative. when i went in to the doctor in the summer and was diagnosed with skin cancer, i had a fantastic NHS doctor. she was brilliant. quick, efficient, and free. so in that instance the government run and paid for health care was perfect. but there have been more times than i can count that have been awful.

so forgive me, fellow americans, if i can not jump on board 100% with obama's plan of government run health care. I do agree that something needs to happen to change americas system. it does not work for every one. i do understand that. but i do not think that health care run and paid for by the government is the right answer. i know that the NHS is a more extreme version of what obama wants. i realise there are many differences between what i have described and what obama wants to implement. but the basic principle is the same.

and in my opinion the outcome is the same. government run health care sucks.

its official

finally. its official. 100% for sure. we are coming to america.

I have my passport.

eleri has her passport. (well, one of them anyways.)

we are coming to america in less than a week!

11 November 2009

the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month,

remembrance day. its a special day for me. it always is. it just means a lot to me that worldwide there is a celebration for those who have served their country, both past and present. remembrance day last year will forever hold a special place in my heart as i got to experience a once in a lifetime ceremony with 3 of last surviving world war I veterans. it truly was a once in a lifetime as just one short year later, all 3 are dead. (for more info read HERE and HERE)

and this year is special but for another reason. this remembrance day is eleri's first. i realise that she is just 3 and a half months old and will have no recollection of this time. but its important to me that even from this early of an age she is surrounded by the words, pictures and memories of those who have so bravely served their countries. i want her to remember so that their sacrifices are not forgotten. i want eleri to know, to understand, to care.

I wanted to take her to the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. It was focused on the first world war because, as i mentioned earlier, all the surviving british WWI veterans died this year. it didnt quite work out that way, and we ended up staying home. we read poems, sang songs, looked at pictures and observed the 2 minutes of silence at the 11th hour.

and in an attempt to familiarise my daughter even more with great 'war' moments of the past, i read her all the famous speeches i could think of. i

"we shall fight them on the beaches" winston churchill

"a day that will live in infamy" franklin d roosevelt

"sixteen hours ago" (in reference to the atomic bomb) harry truman

"scorched earth" joesph stalin

"the iron curtain speech" winston churchill

"peace for our time" and "this country is at war with germany" neville chamberlin

"the war to end all wars" woodrow wilson

and at the end of president wilson's speech, eleri started to goo and giggle. i think she missed the poignancy that is remembrance day. all she understood was that her mommy was playing with her. and as she laughed, i started to cry. I was struck with the dichotomy of the situation. i was reading words telling of great destruction and tragedy, stories that recounted the most horrific situations. i was reading the words of war to my sweet, innocent daughter. and it broke my heart.

i cried because the men of the two world wars are dying out. i cried because we still have men and woman fighting and dying in wars even today. i cried because someday she may know the pain of loss that comes with war. and she just kept smiling, goo-ing and laughing.

this day will hold a special place in my heart. i will tell her about her first remembrance day. and when she is older, and can actually understand what courage and sacrifice are honoured on this very special day, we will read through the speeches again.

thank you soldiers past and present. thank you for your selfless sacrifice to help bring peace and security to our world. soldiers, you are not forgotten.

9 November 2009

the terrible, horrible, no good, very....AWESOME day.

embassy day has come and gone. and boy it was quite a day. it started about 8.30 in the morning. eleri and i were dressed, bag packed, baby bjorn strapped on and adjusted and at the train station. just in time for the signal failure and train delay. sweet. an excellent start to the day. we finally made it into central london an hour later (two people offered me a seat on the train! unbelievable london commuting behavior) and slowly began the tube journey to paddington station.

in an interesting development that occurred the night before we were to go into the embassy, i found out that i needed the actual paper ticket that eleri will travel on in november. the embassy wanted to see it as proof of travel for her rush passport. I was not planning on getting the paper ticket until we actually went to the airport to check in, but clearly that would no longer work. so before the embassy, me and big e would have to go to heathrow and back. not ideal, but hey, you do what you gotta do.

so from paddington we caught the very expensive, but very fast, Heathrow Express. and she cried the whole way to the airport. i couldnt figure out why until i looked at my watch and realised it was time for a feed. 'i will just hold her off until we get to heathrow. surely they will have a feeding facility' i thought to myself. WRONG. NO FEEDING ROOM. i even asked just to make sure. seriously?! what about all of us breastfeeding mom's out there who want to maintain a little modesty? well, for me that meant feeding the little one in the airport bathroom, sitting on the toilet. nice. but hey, no more tears after that. and i was able to quickly sort out the paper ticket and be on my way back into london.

from paddington to oxford street. at this point we were just killing time until our appointment at the embassy. we walked up and down oxford street, looked at all the nice shops. e was enthralled by the christmas lights and i was beyond annoyed by all the londoners who kept bumping into us. now before you say "oh, everyone bumps into people occasionally" London 'bumping' is not an accident. people in the city are more than happy to run you over if it helps them get where they are going 2 seconds faster. obviously saying excuse me would slow them down too much, so they just run you over. i cant count the number of times that we were shoved, hit, run into and pushed out of the way. people i had a BABY, an INFANT, strapped to my chest. how could you miss that?! why would you think it would be ok to run into me?! it was not ok with me. so by oxford street, whilst eleri enjoyed the sparkly lights, i was pretty much walking with my elbows out just daring anyone to come close. one woman did and she got an elbow in the face. (i am not mean people, she hit eleri and made her cry. and she only got an elbow in the face because she was just that short)

rhys met us shortly thereafter and we started to make our way to...dun, dun, dun....the American Embassy. apparently i killed a little too much time wandering oxford street because rhys and i were practically running to make it for our appointment time. it was a nice run through mayfair and down park lane though. two of the nicest, most posh areas in london.

we arrive at the embassy and begin the 30 minute process that is american security. we finally make it inside, to the right room and joined the massive queue. about an hour and half later our number was called and we excitedly made our way to window one. i had carefully been collecting all the necessary documents for this day. all of my passports, expired and current, rhys passport, marriage certificate, birth certificate, school transcripts, proof of residency in both the us and the uk, pictures, drivers license etc... etc... i was sure everything was set. and i was wrong. the woman behind window one informed me that eleri's passport photos were the incorrect size. crap. she was actually really helpful though. she sent rhys and the baby back out of the embassy and down to regent street to an 'american approved' photo shop. i had to stay and have an interview to prove my american-ness. because clearly my american passport, american birth certificate, american marriage licences and american accent are not enough proof. i had to name in order every, single school i attended from preschool to graduate school. i passed. they told me to sit back down and they would call our number again. so i waited. and waited. and rhys came back. and we waited some more.

window four. some more questions. window eight. pay for the registration of consular birth. wait. and then wait some more. window one again. window eight again to pay for the passport. then wait. wait. wait. and then window one yet again. she said it all looked good. they would send us everything in the special delivery envelope that we had to buy from the embassy. how kind of them to offer that service, and for only twenty pounds at that.

by this point its been nine hours since i left the house. i have been carrying around a baby that weighs almost 15 pounds and waiting in more queues than anyone would ever want to. i am tired. i am hungry. and i am grumpy. its dark outside because in the winter it gets dark about 3.45.

and it has started to rain.

rhys is holding the baby and i pull out the umbrella. we all huddle under, pop into starbucks and head back down oxford street to go home. and then.....then it happens. everything fades away and it becomes magical. here we are, arm in arm, huddled under a tiny umbrella trying to shield the side ways rain drops off eleri's face, gingerbread latte in hand, and christmas lights glowing overhead. it doesnt matter that it has been a very long and very expensive day. it doesnt matter that i haven't eaten anything since 7am. nothing matters anymore. i am with my family in one of the most exciting cities on earth. it was a glorious moment. i turned to rhys and said it was probably one of my favourite moments ever. and to be honest, it probably makes the top 5. my husband, my daughter and me; walking along the crowded streets of london with millions of lights twinkling just for us.

it was the perfect ending to a not so perfect day. the morning and afternoon may have been a bit rough (to put it mildly) but by nightfall, it was a magical wonderland. moments like that remind me how lucky i am to live in london.

however, as we came in off the street and tried to make it on the tube in Friday rush hour...well i was reminded why i am NOT lucky to live in london. but hey, you give and take. and i would never take back those magical few moments with my family on oxford street. for lack of a more articulate word, it was awesome.

5 November 2009

remember, remember the 5th of November

today is bondfire night, or guy fawkes day. there is a cute little poem that school children say but "remember, remember the 5th of november" are the only lines i know. its a big celebration over here: fireworks, parties, the whole lot. I was planning on taking eleri down to the rugby club for the fireworks display and bondfire. we even made a little, tiny effegy to burn. but then i decided it would be best to feed her and put her to bed instead. you know, more essential things for a baby. (for those of you unfamiliar with the background of guy fawkes and the effigy thing, click HERE for the handy wikipieda article about it all)

so whilst i was respectful of my little chicklets schedule and put her to bed instead of fireworks, others were not so kind. they sell fireworks everywhere for this holiday, and they are 2 for 1 at Tesco (walmart) so of course every one has some. plus its legal to set them off anywhere. so of course they are going off everywhere! and it is SO LOUD; the flash and band keep coming through on the baby monitor. i am not pleased. boo on bondfire night.

plus, we need our sleep. tomorrow is THE big embassy day. off into central london to the american embassy for "Registration of Consular Birth" and baby e's first passport. she will have such a variety of official documents before she is even 4 months old, its ridiculous. big day, big day. wish us luck.