Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Just salute and call me Arnold...

Super obscure Red Dwarf reference there. I promise, if you get the reference it is hysterically funny. Though I did cry the first time Martin said it to me...

But basically, I now have an "H" shaped scar on my forehead.

I saw a dermatologist for a mole next to my nose right before Christmas. That one was fine, though the doctor referred me to have it removed. Then, on my way out the door, he asked me if I had any questions. So I asked him to take a quick look at what I thought was an age spot (because my papa D has loads of them). He looked at it, then grabbed a magnifying device for a closer look. Then put some lubrication on my skin for an even closer look. Then he measured it. And said, "Hmmmmm..." Then he referred me to the maxillo-facial surgery department at Scunthorpe hospital. Six weeks later (which, incidentally, is lightening quick for the NHS!) I was having the "lesion" removed for biopsy. They removed the entire lesion as well as a small margin all the way around it, which was approximately the size of my fingernail. And because the area was so large they had to do some creative cutting on my face to cover it. A graft wasn't necessary, but they had to release my skin from my fascia and create "advancement flaps" to stretch over the wound.


This is immediately after the procedure.

Obviously I was numb for the procedure. There were a lot of dissolvable stitches underneath the skin, and twelve of them to close the outside flaps. The nerves were cut, and could take up to 18 months to regenerate, so the stitched area doesn't hurt too much. But holy Hannah, my eye puffed out like a proud father's chest, and I had some deep bruising that came out yellow about 3 days after the procedure. Seriously, my eye was nearly swollen shut!





I basically hid in the house for a week because I felt like a hideous beast, leaving only when I HAD to. But then the stitches came out, and it looked a bit better. But my right eye and cheek were still swollen. It felt like a really bad allergic reaction, but without the itching.




After the stitches were removed, I accidentally rubbed the wound lightly with a washcloth. It opened up on the bottom again. Only a little bit, but it bled for about half an hour. I just read a book while I applied pressure until it stopped. That is still some delicate skin! But it occurred to me what a miracle the human body is. A week ago, my skin was in a different place. A doctor loosened it and moved it, then stitched it somewhere else. And my body changed. Just like that! In another week, I will be able to start massaging the area so the scar tissue doesn't become too bulky, and a year from now you probably won't even be able to tell I had it done. The surgeon moved stuff around, but my body is going to accept that movement and heal itself in the new place. Amazing!

And now, three weeks later, it looks, well, almost normal? The healing process is coming along nicely, and I don't cringe when I look in the mirror any more. At least, not over the facial scar :D




Oh, and that mole next to my nose? Still there!

Friday, March 03, 2017

So our moving sale happened...

I've decided what it is about a trans-Atlantic move that stresses me out so much. And it's not the moving bit!

When you move house, you take your belongings with you. Yes, you have to pack everything up and get it from point A to point B, and that is a major nuisance. But you get to the new house, and you settle in and make it your own. You hang pictures, figure out where to put the telly, plug in the refrigerator, cook your first meal there to get rid of the previous occupants' food smells, etc. And you are surrounded by familiar things. Things that are still yours, just in a new place. Not so with this move, or the one we did over 11 years ago.

What we are trying to do, essentially, is erase our existence on this island. We are shipping some things over, yes. But we almost have to make it like we never existed over here. Our belongings aren't moving to a new place with us. They are being scattered all over the place, either with friends or through charity shops. Our house will have to be cleaned out and stripped of our presence. Even our car, that ridiculous soccer mom Renault that I hated for the first month I drove it, will either be scrapped or sold to another family. It will be like we were never here.

This move would be so much easier if I could just pack a few suitcases and boxes, and then go. It would feel like an adventure then, instead of the slow and systematic dismantling of an entire life. Four of them, actually.

A funny thing happened on Saturday, as we tried to sell off our earthly possessions. I lost it over an antique white enamel bowl. Such a simple thing, but I loved it. Irrationally! Martin and I picked it up on an antiquing day, not long after the children both started going to school full time. We went to some random town near Harrogate that is famous for its' antique shops, and rummaged around this converted factory. It was such a lovely day, and this old bowl was the icing on the cake for me. It is HUGE! And really old, with chips in the enamel that have rusted. The age and the rust made it all the more beautiful to me. And when our friend Naomi asked if I was selling it, I almost cried. Over a rusty old bowl. Plenty of other things that I love have been sold and taken away, but that bowl nearly undid me. I don't care about the clothes and shoes that I'm giving away, or the furniture we are selling. I don't even miss the microwave and toaster, both of which have already gone! But the memories tied to that bowl are so lovely, and I wanted to clutch it to my chest and hold on to it forever. So silly! I'm normally not that sentimental. Or emotional.

It's been tough to start saying goodbye to friends as well. We've met so many wonderful people, who have enriched our lives in countless ways. Luckily, I have my family to look forward to. They are the best sort of friends--the ones who stick with you no matter what. And I know we will meet new people, and rekindle old friendships as well. I am excited about the prospect. And so happy to be able to participate in the family events that we have missed out on for the past decade! There's the sealing of the little Bassetts, the birth of my newest niece or nephew, their blessing, Edith's baptism and confirmation, where her many uncles and her grandpa will be able to participate in the ordinance, the family reunions, and so much more. It makes me unbelievably sad that I have missed two weddings, a funeral, and more baby blessings, birthdays, and baptisms than I can count.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that things are pretty bittersweet right now. So many different feelings, each one contradicting the next. The only thing I know for certain is that our little family will be together, and that's what matters the most. Home is where the heart is, and my heart resides in Martin, Dylan, and Edith.

Still, a large part of me doesn't want to leave my home here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Eek!

Looking at flights to the USA. Getting a little bit queasy/nervous. Not about moving though. About the flight. I hate flying!

Well, let me re-phrase that. I don't hate flying. I hate preparing to fly, checking in to fly, and dealing with customs and rechecking baggage. Ugh!

First of all, there is the stress of getting to the airport on time (a huge deal when you are married to a man named Martin John Gilbert). Then there is the pressure of getting everybody checked in for the flight, making sure all the documents and passports are in order, etc. Then there is the massive ball-ache of queueing for security. Then it's finding the gate. And after all the rushing around, it is the absolute boredom of waiting to board.

Take-off is fun. I love that moment when you feel the airplane lift off the ground. Exciting, and a little bit terrifying. Kind of like that first drop on a roller coaster, but in reverse. Unfortunately, the flight lasts a little bit longer than your average roller coaster ride. at least 5 hours (for my travelling purposes) of being confined to one spot, eating when told to, peeing at a massive inconvenience to anyone seated in your row, and breathing in other people's germs and flatulence. Man, I feel sick just writing about it.

And when you land, it doesn't get easier. For us, it is a trip to collect our bags, go through customs (and immigration, this time around. Eek!), re-check our bags, and find our next gate. After that stress, it is once again the boredom of waiting for the next flight. It is cranky kids who just want to get some dinner and go to bed. It is restless legs, and having to sit on the floor because your gate area seats are all taken. It's a huge building full of grumpy people who also hate travelling. And they hate you even more when they see that you are flying with children. Nobody likes to sit next to a family on a flight--not even me, and I HAVE children. With me!

But it is exciting to think that in just a month's time we will be winging our way across the Atlantic towards home. It's been too long. And once we get there, I am sure I'll be excited to be home. As Martin keeps reminding me, "Think about how much you hate coming back to England when we have been to see your family." He is right, of course. He quite often is. Right now it feels like too much of a wrench to be exciting though. I still have all these doubts about whether we are doing the right thing or not.

We are going through all of our possessions right now, and deciding what to keep, throw away, give away, or sell. It's super stressful and bloomin' hard work! But we are getting it done. Because we don't want another move like the one that brought us here. Remember that, mom and dad? All that stuff? All those panic attacks? That was a bad scene. I need to keep it together for the kids' sake, if nothing else.

Moving. A pain no matter what. A pain on steroids when crossing oceans and continents!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Our (hopefully) last trip to the US Embassy, London

First of all, let me say that even though I LOVE London I am always glad to get back to sleepy little North Lincolnshire. Cities are great, but I prefer a much slower pace now!

The trip down was pretty uneventful, which is what you want for a long journey. We left at 5:40am. Not nice! I drove 'til Peterborough. I refuse to drive south of there, and since Martin pretty much insists on taking the A1 instead of the M1, he gets to drive the last hour. Everyone else had a nap. Nice, quiet drive for me. We got to Cockfosters in good time, and onto the Picadilly with time to spare. We arrived at the embassy early, carrying all of our bags for the trip. Booked a flat through Air B&B and couldn't check in until after 2pm. We found out then that the kids and I couldn't go in with Martin, so we kissed him goodbye and I took the kids out on my own. We got some breakfast at a little café nearby...





This kid loves selfies almost as much as I do. If I ever want to cheer her up, I just whip out my phone and ask, "Do you wanna take a selfie?" Instant smiles!

After our meal, we decided to walk over to Buckingham Palace. We got most of the way there, too. But we stopped to look at bus routes and discovered that we were AT the bus stop for the Natural History Museum. Just then, the bus pulled up. Since it was raining, we decided to give Buckingham Palace a miss. So off to the museum we went!

At this point, I'd just like to point out that I successfully navigated us around London using the bus system. Super proud of myself, since I usually leave that bit up to Martin!

We ended up getting off at the Victoria and Albert museum and having a little wander through there first. I love the V&A. It's just so weird and quirky! The kids were a little bit less enthusiastic, but had a good time with the audio presentations in a few of the rooms. When they couldn't handle it any more, we moved on to the Natural History museum. They were better there, though it was absolutely heaving with school children.

While we were there, I got a call from Martin. He was done at the embassy. All is in order, but he was missing a few vital pieces of paperwork. They can all be e-mailed over, so we are good to book flights, etc. even though the greencard hasn't been officially approved yet. Hooray! He met us at the museum, then we headed to our rental.

The flat was ok. Nothing too special, but the price was good and it was on Edgware Road, near the embassy. Vital, as our appointment the next day for Dylan's passport renewal was at 9:30am! We chilled for a bit, then went for a wander to find a place to eat. Settled on a Lebanese restaurant called Fattoush. The food was incredible! I will definitely miss interesting and exotic food when we move back to rural Utah...

The next morning was an early one. We got a bus back to the embassy and sorted out Dylan's U.S. passport. It actually arrived at our house yesterday. The process was quick and painless, and the family are nearly ready to travel.

After the embassy, we gambled a little bit and took the kids to the Tate Modern. I say gamble, because past excursions to art galleries have been a bit hit and miss. Mostly, the kids end up getting bored. We thought the Tate Modern might be different, because modern art is so weird and wonderful. Turns out, we were right. We had a delightful 1.5 hour trip around the museum, saw some Monets, a few Picassos, and a couple of Dalis. Some interactive stuff as well, which was fun. These were my favourites:


It's some guy named Gerhard Richter. Weirdly, about a week after we saw his work, I heard him mentioned somewhere else. Love the style and the scale and the colours, and, well, everything about them. They feel so free and easy!



Just thought this stairway was super cool. The museum is in the old Battersea power station in the bank of the Thames, and the building seems like as much of a work of art as the stuff inside it. Such an amazing space!





Then it was a walk across the Thames to the Tube station, and a long train ride back to the car. And an even longer drive home. But it was a lovely trip all the same, and we are that much closer to our next big adventure!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Baby milestones...a previously unpublished draft!

Edith woke up last week and decided that she was all about the solid food. She's gone from one "solid" meal a day to three, and I'm considering adding a few little snacks as well. She's sitting up and really taking an interest in toys now, and she's also started putting everything in her mouth. It's as if she turned into a baby instead of a newborn over night.

I love these milestones. There is nothing more fascinating than watching a helpless new baby develop ever so slowly into an independent child. I'd imagine watching them become an adult is fascinating (and frightening) as well.

Dylan slept at his nanna's house on Sunday night, and it was GREAT! Especially because Edith slept through the night and we were able to go back to sleep on Monday morning until nearly half past eight. But it was so quiet without Dylan there. Bath time was very quiet, and story and prayer time was near enough silent. It was strange, because Dylan hasn't even been talking properly for a year now, but we are so used to him talking that it's hard to imagine a time when he didn't speak.

I am pretty excited for Edith to start talking. Obviously she is babbling like crazy now, and has started experimenting with different sounds. She has such a sweet little voice--already deeper than Dylan's so I think she will have a low, husky voice when she grows up.

I'm also absurdly excited for Edith's hair to be long enough for me to style it.

This having kids thing is pretty crazy. Being a stay at home mom isn't my idea of a good time, really. It's hard work nearly all the time, and that work goes largely unacknowledged and unappreciated. But being home with my two beautiful children is still rewarding, and I am still happy. Most of the time, anyway.

Our family's "staycation" was fun, and just what I needed to shake me out of my self-pitying funk. We had such fun hanging out as a family, going shopping, visiting family and friends, going swimming, and just being together. Next days off--Christmas. But Martin had a chat with the Place owner about having two days off in a row once a month, and that is really good, too.

And now for something completely different!

Edith had her ballet show last weekend. Three performances, at three hours long each! She's been doing dancing lessons for over a year, but this was her first show. She loved it!

I've a new respect for my parents--they went to every dance recital for their 5 girls. That is some next level parenting, right there. Because even though I enjoyed watching my baby girl dance, that show was BORING! The older girls were quite good. A few of them were exceptional, and they had been given plenty of dancing solos. But most of it was just a whole lot of mediocrity.

Edith was one of the quite good ones, obviously. And I am a very honest parent in print. I would have told her I was proud of her and admired how she tried hard regardless of her performance, and then rolled my eyes behind her back and quietly encouraged her to try other things. But she is a very good dancer! She has a great sense of rhythm and is incredibly graceful and light on her feet.

Her class did two numbers. They danced to "In Summer" from "Frozen," and wore adorable snowman costumes with top hats and canes. And then they did this "Wiggle" number. She was dressed in emerald green sequins, and even without them she would have sparkled. Seriously, adorable. Except on the first night, when she seemed to spend a fair amount of time with her finger up her nose. She and her friend Connie also helped with the younger girls' dance numbers, so she got to wear a cheerleader-esque costume and a beautiful baby blue tutu. She just melted my heart.

Remember what a homely little baby she was? I knew she would be beautiful when she got older! Her daddy's going to need to get a shotgun. Good thing we'll be back in 'Merica!

It's strange to take the back seat. To be the one in the audience while your child performs. Strange, but nice. I love to see my children do well. Parenthood brings up all sorts of weird emotions. Even though I've been a mother for over 9 years now, it sometimes feels so fresh and new to me. Maybe because I am just making it up as I go along!

Incidentally, photography was not allowed. Sorry mom, no pictures. Just take my word for it--she was beautiful. Completely radiant, from the inside out. I think my mother-in-law will share her copy of the DVD though...

On being the right kind of immigrant...

I tried to not get political in 2016, mostly because my family lean heavily Republican and I tip slightly the other way. And as for British politics, well, I'm not a citizen and have been fairly careful in my opinions because I am on outsider. But something's got me thinking this morning, and opinions long held in are springing to the surface.

Blame NPR for this one. More specifically, "This American Life." Damn you, Ira Glass!!! It was the post election show, titled, "The Sun Comes Up," which I listened to via podcast. And they were talking about the election result and the impact it would have on immigration. They interviewed immigration lawyers and also a family of Brits living in the U.S. And I got slightly terrified (side bar--is it possible to be only SLIGHTLY terrified?).

Brexit freaked me out, as well. An entire country, which I have happily called home for over a decade, basically decided that they hated immigrants and wanted to cut themselves off from Europe as a result. When I woke up on the morning after the referendum and found out how the country had voted, my heart sank. I felt unwelcome here for the first time since I arrived. One of my friends commented on Facebook that she (also an immigrant) felt the same way, and one of the responses to that comment was that she wasn't THAT kind of immigrant. You know, one of the bad ones. She was the RIGHT kind of immigrant.

Apparently, I am also the "right" kind of immigrant. And the weird thing is, we are also the "right" kind of white person (oh yes, in England that is definitely a thing)! I'm not eastern European. Because my Polish ancestors immigrated to America 200 years ago, I am saved from being one of the "bad" immigrants. Seriously, the whole concept is horrible to me.

What exactly makes someone the "right" kind of immigrant? In this case, my friend is Canadian and a native English speaker. She is married to a nice Englishman, and they have two lovely kids who are 100% Yorkshire. She's even become a British citizen now. But she came here on a work visa, with a good education, a job offer, and nothing else. She wasn't particularly desirable as an immigrant then, but she is now. You don't know if someone is going to be an asset to your country until they are!

And now, this immigrant is attempting to take her very English husband and drop him back into a country that has just declared an unofficial war on immigrants. And, once again, we are dealing with the fact that he is also the "right" kind of immigrant. He is a white native English speaker with an American wife.

I didn't ask anyone in my family who they were voting for. Mostly because I was afraid of what the answer might be. But I hope they didn't vote for the man who vowed to stop immigration. Illegal immigration, yes. But also legal immigration for the "bad" immigrants.

When you look like everyone else, and you don't sound TOO different, people tend to forget that you are an outsider. But, speaking as one who has been an outsider for the past eleven years, you never forget. And people say horrible things, like immigration reform is top priority, like we need to stop letting people in to our country, like even the people who come here legally aren't really welcome. And it hurts. I only hope that nobody in my family believes those things--on either side of the pond!

Immigration policy is totally up in the air right now. With Donald Trump on the cusp of his presidency and a Republican controlled House and Senate, I am honestly worried that Martin won't get his green card. We are still waiting for an appointment from the U.S. Embassy. What if they are holding off until Trump is sworn in, to see what changes will be made? And even if everything goes to plan, is it ok for me to bring my children, with their very foreign accents, to live in a country where over 50% of the people decided they don't want outsiders being let in? Or will they be fine, since they are the "right" kind of immigrants?

But we ARE still coming, regardless of my misgivings. Hopefully this coming crack down on immigration won't mean we have to stay in England forever. Because I miss my lovely family.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Not just a river in Egypt...

I am in serious denial!

This move back to the U.S. is looming ever closer, and it still seems completely unreal to me. Every time I think about it, I start to feel completely sick to my stomach, so I have chosen to just not think about it. Mistake! Because when I eventually am forced to think about it, I freak out and wind up stewing.

The latest freak out has been on behalf of my kids. I've been worried about how they will deal with the adjustment to school in Utah. It's so different from school over here. Not necessarily in a bad way, but kind of in a bad way. UK primary schools are set up so that the kids all progress at their own pace. Each subject is divided into sets, with the higher achievers all working together at an advanced pace and the slower learners hanging back and spending more time on the fundamentals of a particular concept. That's why Dylan is only in year five, but is already doing year six level maths. US elementary schools seem to bee more aimed at a middle of the road approach, and I'm not sure how my smarty pants kids will cope with that. Added to the fact that they basically started going to primary school two years before US kids do. Will they be bored out of their minds? Or will they struggle because things are taught in a different way and fall behind because the subjects aren't taught in such an individual way?

I'm also concerned about how they will do socially. Well, not so much about Edith. She is a social animal who gets on well with everybody but isn't worried about their opinions. She's basically a Regina George in the making. Dylan gets on well with everybody as well, but he is such a sensitive soul. I'm worried that he won't fit in and will be picked on. That would destroy him. If it happened to Edith, she would just think it was their problem, brush it off, and move on.

They both have friends here--friends that they've had since they were tiny. Does pulling them away from that make me a bad parent? A selfish parent? Am I going to ruin their lives?

This is why I wanted to move back before they started school!

Another, more mundane, concern is the housing situation. I am used to a certain amount of charm in my environment. Right now we live in a quaint little historic market town, in a modest but historic Victorian row house (oh how I miss my Georgian townhouse!). The streets are narrow and quite often include cobblestones. The houses are historic and made of local red brick. There's so much green! Every time we look at property for sale in Utah, it seems to be hideous 1970's ranch style houses on streets a mile wide so it's all concrete and no green. Ugh! And have I mentioned the plethora of wood paneling and terrible kitchens? It makes me want to cry.

Oh, and we will have to get rid of most of our stuff again. That's a panic attack just waiting to happen!

I've discussed this with a few people, but it's weighing on my mind. We're basically starting over for the second time. If we were staying in England, selling our house would mean buying a nicer house. We'd be paying professionals to do it up. We'd be getting new furniture, as well. Instead, moving back to Utah means we will only be able to afford a starter home. And we have almost no furniture. The work we do to the place will have to be almost entirely DIY. It's kind of soul destroying to think about.

Sheesh, this is a negative post. I'm sorry about that. Just needed to get it off my chest before it overwhelmed me. Next time I will write about the things that make me happy about moving back. I'm sensing a top ten list coming on. Or maybe even a pros and cons list.

Regardless, this move is happening.

It seems like parenting is 100% about worrying all the time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I don't have penis envy...

...but sometimes I wish I were a man!

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day. Here's the rundown of things I did before 9:30am:

Got up and cooked the kids breakfast (fried eggs on toast--yum).
Supervised the filling in of reading diaries, signed them, and made sure they were put in school bags.
Prepared two packed lunches.
Made sure the kids got dressed, and fixed Edith's hair.
Helped find lost homework.
Drove the kids to school (see above item).
Cleaned the kitchen.
Pegged the laundry on the washing line.
Sorted all of the dirty laundry.
Started a load of laundry.
Got myself ready.
Collected shopping bags in preparation for the big weekly shop.
Got in the car to drive to Martin's hospital appointment.

By comparison, here's what Martin did yesterday before 9:30am:
Got up and got himself dressed.
Made two appointments via phone and internet.
Got in the car to drive to his hospital appointment.

Anyone else seeing a bit of imbalance there?

In Martin's defense, he DID let me get a nearly three hour nap on Sunday while he cooked dinner and ironed/watched football with the kids. That's 100% true (But he made me write it. Guilty much?).

It's been a long summer. Mostly because Martin has been ill for most of it, so a lot of stuff that he normally does has fallen to me. We're both pretty frustrated right now, but I still love my husband. Like, a lot!