Monday, July 21, 2014

Stepford Wifes and Sofa Bisons

I worked until the husband and me had our first baby and then I became a stay home Mum, which I absolutely love.  Yes, that's right, I said I love it!  I've met a few people recently who have literally stared at me in horror when I told them what I do, but to be honest, I'm old enough now that I don't really give a hoot.  "What do you do all day?" "Don't you get bored?" "I couldn't stay home all day, I'd go crazy!" are just a few gems that some people have said to me in the past and so inspired me to write this post. 

First of all, I don't think I've ever actually spent all day at home.  Even when the kiddos were babies, we always had the dog to walk, playdates to go on, exploring to do (because we usually moved every couple of years and were either living someplace cool or brand new), or even just going to the gym where I got my sweat on and caught up with friends while the kiddos played in the gym daycare. You get the picture, we didn't stay home too much.  Did I miss working at first?  I missed the 'crack' sometimes I guess, but my day was still filled with schedules (of sorts), routines and lots of laughs with the kids and my friends.  It was fun and I can assure you, I was never bored.  Sure, there's always the mindless chores like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, doctor appointments and errands to run, but if I worked, I'd still have to do those things - which in reality, are part of everyday life anyway.  Was it always rainbows and unicorns?  Of course not, but the majority of time, everything was great! 

Obviously things have changed as the kids have grown older and started school.  I won't bore you with the details, but my day starts at 5am.  I choose to get out of bed way earlier than the kids so I can check my Facebook, emails etc, have a quiet breakfast and maybe go for a run if the husband is home, before it's time to wake them up to get ready for school.  Every day is different, but I'm usually on the go most of the time before, during and after school.  I still get up at 5am when the children are on vacation so that I can do the same.  I do understand that not everyone is able to stay home so I feel very lucky that I am able to do so. 

Therefore, I really don't understand why some people automatically assume what kind of person I am because I stay home.  I'm not a mindless Stepford Wife with a perfectly clean home, perfectly clean children, preparing delicious meals all day.  Nor am I a mindless sofa bison, staying in bed as long as possible every day getting out of bed only to watch TV and eat junk food.  I'm just a normal Mum.  Everybody is different and everybody does what is best for themselves and their family.  I totally understand why some people would hate my way of life, but why criticize me for the choices that the husband and me have made for me to stay home?  Live and let live people!  I admire working Mums, for they truly do have to fit a whole lot more into their days, but I certainly don't judge them or think they're doing the wrong thing - because it's their choice, just as staying home is mine!

Do I want your pity or your admiration?  Hell no!  What I'm really trying to say, is that in my opinion, there should be no competition or even debate about stay home vs working Mums.  At the end of the day, we are all just parents who love our children, doing what we think is best for our families.  No family is the same so why should we all do the same thing, or judge when people do things differently from us?   

I shall leave you now, because it is surely time for me to go and enjoy a bonbon on the sofa while watching my favorite soap opera...HA! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Breakin' The Law

There are several things I can do in the States that I wouldn't dream of doing back home.  It always makes me feel slightly rebellious that I can do many of these on a daily basis, knowing I won't get into trouble or face any consequences. 

When I run in the early hours or in the evening, I carry my runner's mace.  It gives me a (probably false) sense of security that should somebody with unfriendly intentions approach, I can give them a quick spray and sprint off safely into the distance.  I'm glad to report that I haven't used it yet, but I'm also glad that I'm allowed to carry it should the need arise! 

We don't watch too much TV in our house, but I'm always shocked at what is considered to be daytime viewing in the States.  Swearing, violence, commercials for erectile dysfunction, you name it.  If I didn't have children, this probably wouldn't seem as shocking to me, so I love that the UK has the 9pm watershed on the major TV channels.  This means that shows with inappropriate content are generally not shown until after 9pm.   

I was driving on the freeway the other day.  The 2 fast lanes were going pretty slowly and I was in a wee bit of a hurry, so I overtook on the inside lane.  THE INSIDE LANE people!  Although this is perfectly legal here, I rarely do it because it always gives me major feelings of guilt and wrongdoing.

Us Brits don't really like to complain or cause a fuss.  We like to adhere to rules and regulations.  When we return items to stores, we mostly have our receipts in hand and our feelings of guilt for causing a fuss.  Over here though, it's no big deal.  No receipt?  No problem.  Returning something months after you bought it?  Again, usually no problem.  The customer is always right.  Thank you America!   

During my time in the RAF, I always enjoyed when we got to play with train with our weapons.  On the firing range, in the classroom, in the field - what a blast!  (Excuse the pun).  But after each training session or exercise, our left over ammo and empty casings were handed over and counted.  We were inspected to make sure nothing had fallen into our pockets or boots.  We had to make a special statement saying that we had nothing left in our possession.  Guns are illegal in the UK so it amazes me that you can go into your local Walmart, outdoors or pawn store and walk out with a gun and a bunch of ammo.  A new law was just passed here in Tennessee allowing people to carry loaded guns in their vehicles - even if they don't have a carry permit.  This I find really crazy.  I'm not judging anybody nor am I going to launch into a debate about gun control, because I do have several friends who are (what I would consider) responsible gun owners.  They have even changed my opinion slightly about the general public possessing guns, but again, because I'm just not used to it, gun laws here will probably always seem shocking to me.  At least until the zombie apocalypse starts and then all bets are off...

It's funny, because I've probably spent half of my life living outside the UK, but I guess because I was brought up there, the laws and feelings of British-ness will never leave me.  This isn't a bad thing, I'm very proud to be Scottish (okay, British) and it gives me a laugh every day at the differences between the way things are done both here and back home.  Incidentally, did you know it's illegal in the UK to put a postage stamp on upside down if it has an image of the Queen on it?  It's actually considered an act of treason!  Have a good day y'all, God Save the Queen :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Learning Curve

Let's talk about education.  No, I'm not going to be debating the pros and cons of Common Core or anything like that.  Just the confusing (to me) school terms here in the US.  It seems so much simpler back home, although I know it's not the same everywhere.  This is based purely on the places I have lived in the UK and the US.

Back home in Scotland we go to Primary School followed by Secondary School.  Yep, that's it, just 2 schools before college and university people.  Simple.  Over here however...

Elementary School.  Pretty much the same as Primary School but instead of having simple Primary 1 through Primary 7, the US Elementary School starts with Kindergarten (same as Primary 1) and usually only goes through till 5th Grade (same as Primary 6).  When my UK friends ask what Primary my kiddos are in, I have to quickly count on my fingers because of Kindergarten being the same as Primary 1.  Obviously, I've never been accused of being a mathematical genius.   

Middle School.  Have you watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid?  In the words of the main character Greg Heffley, "Let me just say for the record, that I think middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented".  I would have to agree with Greg.  Middle School is for 6th Grade till 8th Grade (Primary 7 through 2nd Year at Secondary School).  So kids here move schools after Elementary School for a paltry 3 years before moving schools again to start High School.  Seems like unnecessary upheaval to me! 

High School.  Now it gets really confusing.  I'm sweating at the thought of having to remember all the different categories that make up High School over here.  When my US friends talk about Juniors/Sophomores etc, I mostly nod politely and agree because I truly have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.  Back home it's so simple!  Secondary School starts at 1st Year and goes through 6th Year, although in Scotland you can leave school at the age of 16.  I can get my head around that!  Over here though...  High School is from 9th - 12th Grade.  Easy to remember huh?  No sir.  Instead of keeping it with the numbers, each Grade has it's own special name:

9th Grade   = Freshman Year
10th Grade = Sophomore Year
11th Grade = Junior Year  (Why is 9th Grade not Junior Year?  Doesn't that make more sense?!) 
12th Grade = Senior Year

I don't even want to think about College with sororities/fraternities and everything else that brings with it.  Some of my friends talk about Homecoming - what does that even mean?  It's not when the bell rings and all the kids rush off home for the rest of the day! 

So there you have it.  It doesn't take much to bamboozle me and I will surely embarrass my children in the future for my lack of High School Year description knowledge.  I should probably start studying them now!  Or perhaps we'll be living somewhere outside of the US by the time they reach High School and I can stop stressing :) 


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Life's a Beach

I've been to several beaches in the US, in Florida, California and Virginia.  My favorite ones so far are definitely the Destin area beaches in FL, but I know America has way more to offer than I've seen.  I'm often asked what the coastline and beaches are like in Scotland, so here are a few pics of my favorite beaches back home in Scotland, courtesy of Google images.

Oldshoremore.  We went here every summer when I was a child.  It has everything a beach could possibly offer - white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, dunes, rockpools, dramatic cliffs, a cave and even a couple of small streams to dam with driftwood and rocks.  We have spent many happy days here.  Unfortunately though, because this beach is on the west coast, the weather doesn't always cooperate.  But it's still fun going for a walk on the beach in the rain, right?  Especially when it looks like this! 

Beautiful Oldshoremore


Nairn.  Nairn has not one, but two amazing beaches, both within walking distance of my parents' house.  How lucky is that?!  The West Beach has rockpools, sand and amazing views across the Moray Firth.  We actually got married in The Golf View Hotel overlooking this beach, a perfect location!  It also is at the bottom of the Links which is a huge grassy area complete with cricket pitch and bandstand where the Nairn Highland Games are held annually.  

View of the beach from the Nairn Golf Club

The East Beach is a huge sandy beach, complete with large dunes and a sandbar that can be reached at low tide.  Again, many a happy day has been spent here both when I was younger and more recently, with my own children.  
 Nairn East Beach


Hopeman.  This beach is a well kept secret!  The beach itself is a sheltered bay with white sands, dunes, rockpools, changing huts and a coastal trail that leads you to caves and along dramatic coastal scenery.

The beautiful Hopeman Beach


Lossiemouth.  Another pretty seaside town with two amazing beaches.  The West Beach features a lighthouse, silver sands, Lossiemouth Golf Club Links and huge sand dunes.  You also get the added bonus of watching the aircraft take off and land at RAF Lossiemouth :)

Lossiemouth Lighthouse
The East Beach is reached by a wooden footbridge crossing the River Lossie and is simply stunning - beautiful silver sands and dramatic sand dunes.

View of Lossiemouth Beach from the town

Sango Sands.  Situated on the Northwest tip of Scotland, this is another stunning beach.  The photo speaks for itself.

Simply Stunning Sango Sands


Sandwood Bay.  This remote beach features a haunted cottage on the 4 mile hike in to the beach, a sea stack and also several folk tales involving mermaids and Auld Nick himself (separately of course)!  But it is also one of the most beautiful places in the world.  The husband, my brother and myself spent one Hogmanay in a bothy situated high above the bay which was both an amazing but very scary experience!   

Am Buachaille sea stack at Sandwood Bay



Arisaig.  A very popular tourist stop off on the West Coast, but understandably so.  Just look at this beach! 

Arisaig's crystal clear water


St Andrews.  Everybody's heard of St Andrews, mainly because of the golf.  But this picturesque town has a lovely beach too!  
St Andrews

So that's a few of my favorite Scottish beaches. I'm feeling very homesick now and can't wait till next summer for our family vacation back home!  Although the weather in Scotland isn't always exactly go to the beach, swim in the sea kind of weather, the beaches are truly amazing, clean and best of all - THERE ARE NO SHARKS!!!!!

Monday, June 30, 2014

The 4th of July





One of my favorite American holidays is just around the corner - The 4th of July aka Independence Day!  Yeah, yeah, I know, it's a celebration of American declaring it's independence in 1776 from Great Britain (this date is imprinted on my mind as a result of having to study to get my American citizenship), but why shouldn't there be a celebration?  I love this all American holiday!  It's everything you see at the movies.  Family get togethers, barbecues, parties, parades, pies, flags, red white and blue things everywhere, baseball games, fairs and of course fireworks.  I wish there was a day like this back home, it's actually quite moving seeing the patriotism and just general American-ness (is that a word?) everywhere!

My kiddos have been scouring Pinterest for all things red, white and blue for our 4th of July celebration.  Our menu this year includes blue tortilla chips, red salsa & white sour cream, red white and blue cupcakes, strawberry pretzel dessert decorated to look like a flag, fruit salad with watermelon stars, blueberries, strawberries and pineapple stars, fruit punch for the kiddos with more fruit stars and sangria for the grown ups - of course with the obligatory fruit stars.  Burgers and hot dogs will also be on the menu if we have any room after all our red, white and blue items :)   
Some of last year's creations

I already mentioned fireworks, but man, it gets really crazy here at night on the 4th of July.  In fact, it usually starts getting crazy a couple of weeks before the actual holiday.  Huge tents are set up in parking lots selling all kinds of fireworks in addition to the already ridiculous amount of firework stores along the Interstates.  There's no way this would fly at home and it just looks so dodgy and unregulated to my British brain!  Health and Safety?  Ha, what's that!  Although there are usually some rules regarding where and when you can set them off, nobody seems to care.  
Because you need to be able to buy fireworks 24/7


Massive amounts of massive fireworks!
You start hearing bangs over a week before the 4th, my poor dog starts to freak out, refuses to go outside for her last ablution of the day and starts sleeping in our closet.  I did buy her a thundervest and it does seem to help her anxiety a bit, but last year, it was so bad that the vet had to prescribe her some tranquilizers.  Hopefully it won't come to that again this year!  People set them off in their yards, out in the street - just absolutely everywhere!  I still remember the adverts from when I was a kid in the UK warning of firework danger.  Because of these, it makes me really nervous watching the husband nonchalantly set off these huge things out front of our house.  Although, like I said, over here this is totally normal!  Anyway, the fireworks displays, either organized or unorganized ones are usually spectacular and SO AMERICAN!!  I LOVE IT!!!


So, like millions of other Americans, I'm looking forward to hanging out with my family on Friday, eating lots of red white and blue food and watching some fireworks.  Wouldn't it be nice if we did this back in the UK, just to celebrate being British?  Have a good week y'all! 



 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Faggots and Grits

There are a lot of strangely names foods over here and also at home in the UK.  Without further ado, here are my US and UK lists. 

Sloppy Joes.  Sounds disgusting but is actually kinda tasty and certainly very easy to make (I'm all about being lazy when it comes to cooking).  The kids always scoff this but will turn up their noses when I make something fresh that takes a long time to prepare.  So annoying!  Basically you brown some mince, add a can of the ridiculously named Manwich sauce, chuck it in a roll and dinner is served!  

Sloppy Joes

Grinders.  This is really just a sandwich so why not just call it a sandwich?  A Grinder does not sound remotely appetizing. 

Sliders.  Again, just another strange name for a sandwich really.  But this time, it's served in a small roll.  According to Wikipedia, the name Slider name may have originated aboard U.S. Navy ships, due to the way greasy burgers slid across the galley grill while the ship pitched and rolled.  Who knew? 

Corn Dogs. Sausage on a stick, covered in corn batter.  The kids love these, me not so much!

Corn Dogs


Grits.  Looks kinda like porridge, but is actually ground corn.  Even though I live in the South and will probably be blasted for this, I'm not a fan.

Grits

Rocky Mountain Oysters.  These are basically just bull testicles with a fancy name.  Again, not a fan!  

Raw Rocky Mountain Oysters


Marshmallow fluff.  This very sweet concoction looks just like it's name says, but it's basically just a sweet spread. It's very similar to the filling inside a walnut whip which is one of my favorite treats back home :)  


When I think about it though, we have some foods in Britain that probably sound downright bizarre to my American friends.  Here are a few examples:

Toad In The Hole.  My mouth is watering just thinking about this dish.  Sausages cooked in yorkshire pudding batter, served with onion gravy?  Yes please!   

Toad in the Hole


Faggots.  There are a few different ways to make faggots.  Normally, they're made from offal, pork liver, heart and bacon all minced together, sometimes with added breadcrumbs or herbs.  You eat faggots with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy.  I'll pass on the faggots though.  

Faggots


Cock a Leekie Soup.  Just a funny name for chicken and leek soup really!  Mostly the soup also has barley in it, but there is nothing sinister or disgusting about this dish :) 

Cullen Skink.  This delicious soup is made from smoked haddock, potatoes and onion.  It usually is also made from water, milk or cream.  We do like our soups in Scotland :) 

Spotted Dick.   Spotted dick is a traditional British pudding usually made from suet and mixed with baking soda, flour, molasses and nutmeg. Raisins or other dried  fruit are also added, creating the spots.  The pudding is steamed or boiled and served with custard.   
Spotted Dick and Custard
Black Pudding.  I miss black pudding!  We mostly have this with breakfast in Scotland.  Not so healthy but oh so delicious :)  Yes, it's made from pig blood, but it's also mixed with oatmeal, spices and onion.  Grilled or fried, it literally melts in your mouth.  In my opinion, a fry up is incomplete without it!  

Black Pudding


Haggis.  Although the ingredients of haggis don't sound very appetizing, it's actually a very tasty Scottish dish.  For real!  It's made from sheep's innards (liver, heart and lungs) mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt.  Then it's put inside the lining of the sheep's stomach and simmered until cooked.  It can also be put inside sausage casing should you not have the sheep's stomach handy.   In case you didn't already know, haggis are not wee creatures that run around Scottish mountainsides :)

Haggis


Jellied Eels.  This is an English thing.  Yep, it's exactly what it says it is and yep, it's DISGUSTING!!! 


Jellied Eels


So there you have it. I know there are a lot more strange sounding foods on both sides of the Atlantic, but this was just a wee sample for you.  What's the strangest sounding food you've come across?    






Monday, June 9, 2014

Birth Stories

The husband and me have 3 beautiful children.  Our daughter A is 10 (going on 16, rule follower and animal lover), our middle son C is 8 (soccer mad and tender-hearted) and our youngest son L (aka the Royal Prince Baby) is a 6 year old homebody who likes nothing more than to stay home and snuggle on the sofa.  Each of them have completely different personalities and birth stories.  I will spare you the very gory details so don't be afraid to read on :) 

I had 2 early miscarriages before I finally became pregnant with A at the ripe old age of 35.  We were living in Minot, ND.  I'd never been around babies and knew nothing about them, hence not being ready to have one till I was "ahem" older!  Although I didn't feel old, as soon as I tested positive I was classed as high risk due to my advanced maternal age.  Pfffft.  My whole pregnancy experience with A was thankfully event free and painless although we were constantly worried because of the previous miscarriages.  Seeing as it was my first pregnancy, I took it as a license to eat unlimited Oreo Blizzards from Dairy Queen.  I gained a whopping 65lbs!!!  Her due date was actually on my birthday in December which was rather exciting, but what babies ever actually arrive on their due dates? 

Fast forward to December, the day before my due date.  I went to see my doctor who gave me the usual tests, everything looked fine.  Later that day, I got a phone call from the nurse telling me that my protein levels and blood pressure were very high indicating pre-eclampsia (which can be dangerous for both mother and baby).  She told me to come in and pick up a large container in which I had to pee for the next 12 hours, then bring the contents back to the hospital in the morning when they would start to induce me.   The only thing they can do for pre-eclampsia is to get the baby out ASAP.  I did as they asked, but around 2am I started getting contractions, at least I thought that's what they were!   The husband took Molly (our dog) to boarding, then off we went in -20 degree temps to the hospital with my bucket in hand.

The hospital took said bucket and told me to come back in a couple of hours, so we hit up a local diner for my last meal before baby.  I wasn't allowed to eat much, so toast and tea was it for me.  It was hard watching the husband tuck into one of the diner's finest and largest breakfast plates.  How thoughtful of him...!

Back to the hospital where they confirmed that yes, my levels were very high and they whisked me upstairs to get the process started.  Although it was painful during the contractions, we actually had a fun day!  I gorged myself on jello and frozen popsicles, the nurses were lovely, we were having a good laugh and it didn't seem like there was anything to worry about.  That is until around 10.30pm.  I'd been pushing all day and suddenly A's heart rate dropped.  The atmosphere changed immediately.  We didn't really know what was going on, but I was rushed to an emergency operating room so they could get A out as quickly as possible.  The husband who had been with me all day long, was left on his own in the birthing room, not knowing what was going on and not allowed in the OR because it was an emergency.  All we knew was that it was going to be an emergency C-Section.  I remember lying there feeling them cut into me (sorry to my squeamish readers).  They realized that I could feel it happening so they put me straight to sleep.  Next thing I knew, I woke up in a dark room.  The husband came through the door with our baby A, but because I was still so woozy from the drugs, I could hardly see her and thought that she had pointy elf ears :)  She was born around 11.30pm - on my birthday!  How cool is that?!  

To cut a very long story short, my pre-eclampsia didn't go away when A was born.  My blood pressure, which is usually very low, remained at a dangerously high level so I was put on bed rest for a whole week.  The doctors couldn't understand why this was happening so it was pretty scary for us, not knowing what exactly was up and why I wasn't getting back to normal.  To add to this, we were moving to Germany in a matter of weeks so it was a pretty stressful time.  We were lucky enough to have our own room in the hospital the entire time though, so we had plenty of time with A, although I was pretty much a mess.  The husband stayed with us the entire time.  When I was eventually allowed to leave (the temperature was around -30 deg), it was all systems go to get ready for our international move which involved first driving to CA where it was warm enough for Molly to be able to fly with us!  A few thousand mile drive with newborn and crazy dog?  No problem!  But that's another story... 

We were in Germany when C was born.  There was no room at the local military hospital so all my care was at a local German hospital.  What a great experience!  My doctor looked like Starsky, never wore socks with his Birkenstocks and would tell me "You must drink the German beer at least once a week because it is good for the baby"!  Ha!  While I never actually indulged in this, I was tempted, but I guess it's ingrained in me after reading too many pregnancy books that it's not quite such a good idea to do so. Most of the hospital staff spoke some English, but I was thankful for my high school German, although the nurses did seem to laugh and giggle a lot when I spoke!

Again, this was a pretty smooth pregnancy although obviously, I was a bit older than last time.  My doctor, being German, was into everything being as natural as possible.  He decided that I could try for a natural birth this time even though I'd already had a C Section.  He was so laid back about the whole thing that I was in agreement.  I got very sick towards the end of the pregnancy so my wonderful Mum came from Scotland to look after me and A because the husband was crazy busy with work and school.  Anyway, C who is also pretty laid back, still showed no signs of appearing - even 2 weeks after his due date, so they scheduled me for a C Section.  We showed up at the hospital and within a couple of hours we were in the OR.  The husband was allowed to accompany me this time which was great.  Again, it was a very jovial atmosphere with lots of banter and joking which relaxed us both.  Everything went smoothly this time and out popped C, a huge, chilled out baby!  Again, we had our own room to bond with him and spent a few days recovering and relaxing.  It was a Catholic Hospital so I had several nuns taking care of me and bringing me food which was a lovely experience!

Shortly after C was born, we decided we would like to have one final baby.  I got pregnant again pretty easily (there's only 15 months between C and L).  Everything seemed fine until one of my blood tests indicated a potentially life threatening chromosomal defect.  They called to tell me this the evening before our movers were coming to pack up our house for our upcoming move to South Dakota.  We were in complete shock.  The doctor did explain to us that there was a chance that it might be a false positive but that we had to have high level ultrasounds to investigate further.  As you can imagine, it was very stressful going through all this when we were living in temporary accommodation and traveling to a new base in a different country.  When we got to Rapid City, SD, we had the ultrasound which thankfully indicated no obvious problems with the baby, but it was no guarantee that everything was 100%.  We tried not to worry too much even though the husband was going to be gone for the last several weeks of the pregnancy training before deploying to Afghanistan.  It was tough.  He came home for a couple of weeks before L was born, but  left just 6 days after the birth - thankfully L was 100% healthy.

We had scheduled the C Section this time based on the time period when the husband was home.  My parents again came out to take care of the other kiddos and to stay and help me for the first few weeks.  American hospitals, in my experience, are wonderful.  We were looked after from start to finish by lovely, professional staff and again, had our own room the whole time we were in the hospital. 

So that's it, 3 very different birth experiences in 3 very different places.  We are so blessed with these children of ours and every day is an adventure for sure.  Thank you for reading!