Sunday, July 18, 2010

As The Birth Approaches....

My mind is often swarming with many thoughts about this birth.

Other than the obvious "when will the baby come" I have been battling thoughts of fear and worry throughout the pregnancy. The other day I found myself rebuking fear and death in the name of Jesus as I was suddenly worried that the baby would die before labor started or during labor. Or that I would have another shoulder dystocia with a midwife that panics instead of facing it calmly. Or that Jon's thesis would not be done in time and life would feel even more stressful since he'd need to be home helping instead of finishing his thesis.

Now I have 9 days to go and I find myself praying that God would send the perfect midwife for our birth. I have no idea who will be coming to my birth. I have only met one midwife who may be on call and I do not want her to be the one for my birth. I don't trust her. She is nice and pleasant but I do not like the way she sees my past births. She made an offhand comment at my last appointment that I felt was unprofessional and unhelpful--and I felt it gave me a true glimpse on her perspective. I feel like if she is coming to my birth then she will be looking for any reason to transfer me into the hospital. (In the UK if you are having a homebirth with the NHS you are assigned a community midwife that is based out of the doctor's office you are assigned to. You don't rotate through the different midwives.)

I've been listening to the hypnobirthing cd for the last few weeks and that has helped me to stay positive about the birth. Ultimately I am looking to the Lord for his peace, wisdom, and comfort as I have been working out whatever emotional hangups I've been having with this pregnancy.

This pregnancy has been the easiest in many ways--I've gained MUCH less weight-about 20 lbs. instead of the 40 I've gained in the past. My body feels better, healthier and it is easier to get up and around. I think it has saved me from a lot of discomfort. I haven't had any Symphysis Pubis pain with this pregnancy and my back hasn't been a problem either. I don't find it difficult to sleep because my hips aren't bothering me at night either. Heartburn has been minimal as has swelling in the legs/ankles.

Truthfully, I want to get the birth over with and move on to the baby-in-my-arms-craziness because I'm tired of trying NOT to worry about everything. I think if the midwife I meet with was more encouraging and would take the time to look at my whole person I would feel much more peaceful about everything. It is for this reason that we have hired a doula. She is familiar with the system here and is a voice of comfort and encouragement to me.

I keep going back to the verses we've been praying for this baby and hanging on to God's promises.

If you would like to pray for us and the birth here are some specific things you can pray for:
  • The right midwife for the job would come to the birth.
  • Jon would be nearly done with his thesis by the end of this week. (He is halfway done at this point.)
  • Peace in my heart and mind (instead of worry) as I continue to prepare emotionally for this baby's arrival.
  • The kids will be emotionally ready to welcome another little brother into their lives.
  • The birth goes smoothly without any problems.
  • The baby won't be born on Ewan's birthday (July 31st). Due date is July 27th.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Strawberry Pickin'

We went strawberry picking on Thursday afternoon at a farm just a few minutes drive from our flat. We were there for less than an hour and picked a huge harvest of strawberries to enjoy. We've had them for breakfast and dessert and I have put several bags in the freezer for smoothies and other fun dessert nights. The scenery is absolutely beautiful!

Being 9 months pregnant and picking strawberries isn't really the most comfortable activity. I was on my hands and knees picking the berries and trying to avoid the stinging nettle weeds. Had I worn long pants it would have been a little easier on the knees but I still managed to fill my basket.

There is something so peaceful and fulfilling about being out in nature, picking your own fruit, and connecting to God's creation.

Our harvest. Plus Isaac's basket he's filling the background. It was difficult to stop picking berries.

Hartlepool (Pronounced Heart-lee-pool)

Today we ventured out to Hartlepool which is a coastal town about 30 minutes south of Durham. The porter from our building mentioned to me a few weeks ago that Hartelpool is a port for the Tall Ship Races sometime in late July or early August and also happened to mention that it had a pirate ship and fun marina to walk around. It sounded like a fun day trip AND like something we should do while the weather is still nice.

We ventured out with our friends, Orrey and Kristi. They were brave enough to join our family and the boys loved having some friends come with us on our little adventure. Graham has a little toddler crush on Kristi. He thinks she is one of his best buds.

Orrey and Kristi

Me, Kristi, and Graham walking along the coast

It turns out the pirate ship is actually a naval ship from the mid-1850s and you can (for a fee) gain entrance to the Maritime Experience and go aboard the ship to learn about how ships worked and what they looked like. The ship is the oldest floating naval craft in Europe (we think). After going on the ship, I gotta say that being a sailor must have taken some non-sensitive nostrils because this ship had only plastic/wax dudes on it and some parts of the ship smelled as bad or worse than the boys floor of a college dorm. I can only imagine 250 men working the ship. Stinky-ola!

The front of the ship

The back of the ship. The windows are part of the Captain's Quarters. It reminded us of one of Jon's favorite movies, Master and Commander.

Looking at upper deck of the ship. I couldn't believe how many cannons were on that ship!

Jon is teaching the boys about how the ship was steered.

We got to go to the lower decks of the ship and here Ewan and Isaac are looking all the weapons stored on the ship.
Orrey is checking the sick sailor in the infirmary.
The Captain's Quarters. His hammock is behind me and to the left.
The boys are checking out one of the cannons and how they could be adjusted to aim at other ships more accurately.

The Maritime Experience also has a marina set up with different shops that would have been around 18th century where you could learn about buying swords, trading goods, proper dress for naval sailors and the like. I learned that QUAY is actually pronounced KEY at the Maritime Experience. Who knew? I still want to look at it and say QWAY.

Need any pots or pans? Or baskets or buckets?

This is my favorite sign!

There were some exhibits that had some great hands on learning for the kids.

One of the boys favorite things was the AWESOME wooden pirate ship they could play in. I think it would be so cool to build something like this in our (future) backyard for the boys to play on. The inside had all kinds of rooms and places to run around. Unbelievably fun! It took them all of 10 seconds to start playing a creative role game.

After we left the Maritime Experience we ended up driving around the town and landed at the coastal front. There wasn't a beach but we did happen upon where the first soldier was killed on British soil in WWI. It was near the Heugh Gun Battery which houses military vehicles and artillary weapons. We didn't go in the HGB but instead walked around the coast and enjoyed being near the ocean and smelling the breeze.

Looking out at the ocean.
Me and Grahammy
Catching a smooch with the hubs!
Where the first soldier was killed on British soil in WWI.

Hartlepool is a lot bigger than I thought it would be. The marina in Hartlepool is apparently one of Europe's most modern marina facilities. Who knew? We didn't even get a chance to go to the marina and look at the boats currently docked. I don't think we will be going to the Tall Ship Races this year but I would love to go back sometime while we are here and see the ships come into port.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some Cultural Observations...

*Isaac working the obstacle course*

*Ewan in the running race*

*Ewan is skipping rope and being encouraged by a Year 6 student. It was a little chilly so he had on his sweatshirt over his house shirt.*

*Isaac is in the red hat in the middle being helped by a student in Year 6*

About a month ago Ewan and Isaac's school had a sports day (It is the equivalant of Field Day in the US). The kids had been practicing all sort of activities like skipping (jumping rope), running obstacles, racing etc. They were very excited about it because it also meant that they could wear shorts and their house colored shirt. Each kid in school is assigned a house (think Harry Potter and the different houses all the wizards and witches are in) that works together throughout the year to accumulate points. Ewan is in the green house and Isaac is in the red house.

All the parents were to meet at the school grounds to watch sports day and their children do some healthy competing. The children were sitting in groups according to their grades and the parents were facing them across the field.

When it came time for the events and the children set off for their races, all the kids were cheering for their houses. And here is the cultural difference....

The parents were silent.

No cheering, hooting, hollering, clapping--nothing. Everyone just watched the events. There were a few exceptions--if any particular child who was young or disabled was struggling then parents would cheer them on. But no one was cheering for their own child and encouraging them in the races.

Except me. I couldn't help myself. I cheered for Ewan when he ran and Isaac when he did his obstacle course. I wasn't a complete jerk about it but I did feel conspicuous.

In the US all the parents would be rooting for their kids and all their kids friends. It's just how we do things.

And language differences....

Remember that episode of FRIENDS when Jennifer Coolidge appears as Monica and Phoebe's old friend who is visiting from England? The one from Yonkers who went to live in England? They make fun of her fake British accent saying, "and she was like--Call me on my MOH-BILE...". Remember that one? Here is a link from youtube from that episode.

Well, when we were at Legoland I thought I left my cell phone in the cafe where we ate our lunch. I went to the nearest guest services and asked the lady behind the counter if anyone had turned in a silver cell phone because I thought I had left it laying on a table. She looked at me as though she didn't understand what I was saying. I repeated myself and then remembered that I needed to use the proper wording. So I said, "I think I left my MOH-BILE on the table in the cafe next door. Did anyone turn one in?" She said, "Oh right. What color did you say it was? Sorry love, no one's turned in a moh-bile."

It turned out that Jon had it the whole time and didn't realize he'd put it in the stroller (or should I say pushchair?). I had a nice chuckle to myself as I walked to meet the rest of the family since I promised I would never say moh-bile phone after seeing that episode!

Words I find are now in my vocabulary:
Mochas are pronounced Mokkas so when I order one I say Mokka
Pushchair is used interchangeably with stroller
Trousers for pants
Toilet for bathroom
Loo on occasion but toilet is much more common
Wonky for broken or messed up
Cheers for thanks (only when addressing other Brits though--not with my American friends)
Jumper for sweatshirt/sweater

The kids (additionally) now say:
Wee for pee (Mom, I need to go wee).
Football for soccer
Ladybird for ladybug
Tell or Told Off for getting in trouble with a teacher (i.e. So and So got told off today at lunch my Mrs. Teacher because he hit me)

And on meeting people:

I can't remember if I've written about this before or not but I have found it very difficult to connect with other Brits while we are out and about. Especially at the kids school. People here are nice--but not friendly like we are in the southern part of the US. People don't just start a conversation with you or really smile at you seeming like they are open for conversation. I gave up trying to friend the other moms at the kids school because everyone just seemed closed off. Jon said I should try to mention something about the weather when trying to meet someone because Brits love to talk about the weather. I've tried it a few times but have never gotten anywhere.

If however, you are introduced to someone by a mutual acquaintance, then you can have pleasant conversation and begin to get to know someone. I've decided this stems from the old custom from hundreds of years ago that it was socially taboo to talk to anyone whom you have not been formally introduced. Think Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Collins tries to speak to Mr. Darcy and makes a complete fool of himself. Even though this custom is not formally a part of the culture--it still has an impact on how people interact. I have found it much easier to talk with other international students from other cultures than with Brits.

Jon took Ewan to a birthday party several months back and stood next to two other dads for a good 30 minutes before either of them finally started talking to him. Since then, he has a comfortable relationship with one of the dads and they would chat when they ran into each other at school drop off. Two weeks ago Jon came with me to pick up the boys and he started chatting with his friend (Jason). Even though Jon and I were standing next to each other Jason would not address me in conversation until Jon said, "Jason, I'd like to introduce you to my wife, Amelia." And even though Jason and I have seen each other everyday for months at pick up time and our 2 and 3 year olds have talked he only now will smile and wave hi since the formal introduction.

Of course there are exceptions in all cultural behaviors but that has been my experience. I'm glad that I have a better understanding of how things work because it helps me in my day to day perspective.

At Ewan's soccer (or should I say football?) class there were two other moms (who were friends) in the gallery above the gym watching their kids in the class. I had Graham and Isaac with me and they were playing and/or doing homework while Ewan's class was going on. I finally decided that the American in my was going to come out and I asked them a question about some of the t-shirts the other kids were wearing in the class. I had another question about football leagues in the area and lo and behold we engaged in conversation for the whole time. And yes, we did talk about the weather. I was so excited that I got to talk with other moms and feel more connected to the community my kids are in. Time easily could have passed where they only talked to each other. I was glad I took the risk to engage in conversation.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

So, It's been 2 months...

So, it's been 2 months since I've written any blog post.

What have we been up to?

March 20th-April 21st we went back to the States for a visit. We visited family and friends and even though we were there for a month we didn't get to see e
veryone we wanted to see. We decided that April is the BEST month to visit Texas because you get wonderful spring weather and get to avoid the dreary (aka cold and rainy) English weather for a whole month.

We visited Alnwick Castle (pronounced Annick) and thoroughly enjoyed the grounds and pleasant weather that day. The Duke and his family still live there. The gardens are absolutely beautiful.

Spring has finally arrived in Durham and all the trees now have green on them. The daffodils have bloomed and now the tulips are in bloom. Canola (here they call it Rapeseed oil) fields are in bloom and beautiful over the English countryside.

Graham is thrilled that he can wear his Crocs without socks. "I no not wear socks with my crocs, Mommy?" He was a little concerned about not having to wear socks.

Isaac has lost his first tooth.

Graham is now sleeping in a Big Boy Bed. Thankfully it has been a smooth transition--no Jack in the Boxing from him--yet. It's been a month now and he's been doing great! Next task is potty training. We're bracing ourselves for a more difficult transition. We'll start that in early June.

I'm 30 (almost 31 weeks) along in the pregnancy. The baby LOVES to kick around and do his alien baby moves every night from about 9:30-11:30. He is pretty active. Even though we are planning on this being our last baby--I'm ready for the pregnancy to be over. I know I'll miss all the baby kicks and it is easier to take care of a baby in my belly than on the outside but--all the extra effort of exercising so diligently, watching what I'm eating, checking my blood sugar is wearing on me. I'm trying not to worry about having another Graham sized baby but it is difficult not to. I won't be sad if the baby comes a few weeks early! I'm sure the next 9 weeks will go by quickly. Probably a little too quickly for Jon who is working on writing his Masters Thesis.

Jon is enjoying studying and working on his thesis. His goal is to finish before the baby comes. I hope that happens! The sooner he finishes the longer break he has before he starts working on his Doctorate thesis.

We've discovered our new favorite park (Riverside in Chester-le-Street--pronounced ChesterLEEStreet). We have to drive there--it only takes about 10 minutes but it is perfect for all 3 boys. It has sand to play in, lots of modern climbing equipment, swings, slides, fields for running, playing football or picnicking, and a river with swans to watch.

Ewan has started collecting Match Attaxx which is a British football (soccer) trading card phenomena. He is very excited about collecting and trading cards.

Ewan has switched from Year 1 to Year 2 in school. With the way British schools work, he should have started the school year in Year 2 (equivalent of 1st grade) but we asked if he could be in Year 1 instead since he didn't attend Kindergarten in the US. The school agreed to let him be in Year 1 with the intention of moving him to Year 2 at some point in the year. His teacher, the principal (or Head Teacher), and the Year 2 teacher all agreed that he was ready to transition after the Easter break. The transition has gone well and he enjoys being in Year 2. He is still not quite caught up but he works hard at school (at home is another issue) and is learning a lot. I'm amazed at some of the things they are learning already--like cursive! We've been doing a handwriting bootcamp of sorts at home to help him correct bad printing habits and will move on to a cursive bootcamp when he completes his printing one. Ewan enjoys math and science. Writing--not so much--but only because he struggles with writing. I'm hoping that the bootcamp will boost his confidence and ability to write down his (creative and wonderful) thoughts.

We've also discovered a farm that sells raw milk and the BEST ice cream in England. You can also purchase beef from their grass fed and very well taken care of cows. Why buy the crappy ice cream at the store that has VEGETABLE OIL in it when you can get homemade ice cream made from Jersey Cows? We've tried the chocolate (to die for), coconut, wild cherry, lemon sorbet, and wild strawberry. All wonderful--made with REAL ingredients. The farm has a parlour with an indoor preschool play area and a play area outside for running around. The name of the farm is Wheelbirks in case you are ever traveling in Northern England and want a cozy place to have some coffee and ice cream.

That's all for now.....Next stop London. We'll be taking a little vacay there soon. The boys are VERY excited about their first trip to Legoland. I'm excited about my first visit to London. I'm curious about the difference in the northern England culture and "The South" as it is referred to here.

One more is 9:38pm and still bright out. The sun starts shining around 3:30 (maybe earlier). How's that for a long day?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day in England? Just a Pinch.

Cultural Note:

So, yesterday I (Jon) was in class.  After noting the date I was writing into my notes, I remarked (before we started) to my professor (an Aussie who has lived most of this life in the UK) and the other students (2 from the USA, 1 from Canada, 1 from Germany, 1 from Australia, 3 from England) that today was going to be St Patrick's Day.

There was a very minimal amount of acknowledgment about the veracity of this statement so I followed it up with an observation,
"It doesn't seem like St Patrick's Day is celebrated as much here as in the US."
(I had noticed how there isn't green everywhere and big sales on Guiness or stuff like that.  No sign of an impending party anywhere!)

Professor Barton agreed,
"You might find more of it in someplace like Liverpool where there are more Irish immigrants."

"Hmm!" I said, "That's interesting!  I had never realized how much Irish culture has impacted American culture."
(I realized at that moment that the UK has cumulatively been through hundreds of years of war with the Irish, so celebrating their nation may seem a bit odd?  I think there are still parties here but perhaps this history tempers the excitement.)

(There was a pause--as there often is in British conversation--to weigh the merits of such a statement.)
Then, my fellow American, Orrey, spoke up [correct me if I'm wrong Orrey but this is the way I remember it]...
 "I guess you don't do the pinching thing here."

Prof Barton looked a little stunned and quipped,

"We have laws about behaviour like that!"

We all had a big laugh and started class.  I'm not sure the other non-North Americans had any idea what Orrey and I were talking about!  I wonder what they think of us now??

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Can't Believe....

I am going to be the mother of 4 boys. 4 BOYS! 4!

We got the ultrasound today to check and see that all is well with Baby Cinco and to find out what it is.

Here's how it happened....The sonographer was looking around and taking measurements. She just happened to land on a shot where we could see the legs straddled in a "v-position" and there was the penis sticking out for all the world to see. Since I've already had 3 boys, I knew what to look for. I looked over at Jon and said, "Oh my gosh--It's a boy!" She didn't even have to tell me. She confirmed my announcement by saying, "Aye-It's a lad alright. He made no mystery about it. That's for sure."

Many of you are wondering how I feel about that. Well, I am thrilled that as far as anyone is able to tell, the baby looks healthy. Sure, I am a little sad that I won't have a daughter and all the wonderful things that go with clothes, wanting me at the birth, the mother of the bride etc. But, I also know that this little boy will fit right into our family and it will be impossible to imagine our lives without him. So, I'm truly happy and I know that this boy is a gift that has been given to us. We will love him forever.

It does give me pause to think about what a responsibility it is to raise 4 boys who will become men who (I pray) love and follow Jesus. I am already praying for the wives of my sons--that I will have a good relationship with them and be a great mother-in-law. I've learned a lot just by watching my own mother in law be such a great one! And maybe at least one will invite me to the birth ;).

Early on in the pregnancy when I was so worried about having another miscarriage the Lord gave a verse to Jon:

1 Corinthians 2:9 "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has ever conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."

I wrote it on a big piece of paper and put it on the ceiling above my side of the bed. Every time I have worried about the baby, the birth, or have felt fear I have remembered that verse. This baby is being knit together by our heavenly Father who loves him and already has great things prepared for him, me, and our family. I know it doesn't mean that nothing could go wrong--but it is a word from the Lord and has been comforting for me. So far, each baby has had a whole Psalm to be prayed during the pregnancy but I wonder if this baby will just have this verse.

Having another boy does make some things a little simpler--I have lots of boy baby clothes in storage back in the US. We have the toys. I know what to expect (MORE WRESTLING---Lord help me!) What potty training a boy is like, their love for sticks and holes. (seriously--read that link--really funny post by one of my favorite bloggers)

Things that aren't so simple....

1. We have to confront the whole circumcision thing again. Not looking forward to that at all. It is not common in the UK and you have to pay out of pocket. There are not many places (if any) locally to go either. I heard about one option in our town--but it sounds a little sketchy.

2. We have to pick another boy name--+ 2 middle names. We've already used 9 names with the other 3 and now we gotta come up with 3 more that fit all our criteria??!! I really enjoy the whole process--I just don't think it will be EASY.

3. I am seriously outnumbered in my house! My strategy is to get a girl dog when we go back to the US. Her name will be Darcy. And I'm considering adding on a second girl dog just for some balance. Although I do like the idea of having a boy and girl dog whose names are Mr. and Mrs. Darcy....but that's another post. 5 men and 1 woman. 5 to 1. I guess I better learn to love the smell of boys dorm rooms--cuz I think my house will start smelling like that in about 10 years!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs OR......

Yummy cupcakes?

I made these for our weekly potluck on Sunday. The theme was Italian so these seemed appropriate. Someone saw them from across the room and thought it really was some kind of spaghetti muffins with meatballs on top! I had always wondered what kind of event I would take some spaghetti and meatball cupcakes too--and now I know!

They are pretty easy to make--especially if you have a boxed cake mix (they don't really sell those here so I had to make from scratch). I got the recipe from the book Hello Cupcake!

I brought the book with me to England and I was considering taking it back to the States on our next trip because many of the cupcakes require US candy that is impossible or difficult to find in the UK. After making these on Sunday though, I may keep it here for a while. The book does offer some good ideas for inspiration.

When Little Boys Are Sick...

They fall asleep in the hallway while mommy is taking a shower. He snuggled with his favorite stuffed puppy and his favorite lego guy and crashed.

Poor guy slept on the floor for about half an hour and then got up and fell asleep in my arms. He uses that puppy as a pillow in his bed and it gets carted around the house--so of course it makes sense that he would use it to sleep on for his makeshift bed late in the morning.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Top 10 Boy and Girl Baby Names in the UK for 2010

Okay...I think this is an interesting list. Mainly because of the boy names.

1. Jack
2. Harry
3. Alfie
4. Thomas
5. Oliver
6. Daniel
7. Joshua
8. Charlie
9. Mohammed
10. George

3 of the names are the names of former Kings (Harry, George, Charlie). I hear Harry being called out ALL the time by parents to their children. I'm surprised it isn't #1. Charlie and Edward are other common boy names I hear being called even though Edward isn't on the list. Oliver is often shortened to Ollie which I think is cute. But Alfie? Really?

1. Olivia
2. Ruby
3. Emily
4. Grace
5. Lily
6. Jessica
7. Amelia
8. Chloe
9. Isabella
10. Emma

I don't think the UK girl names are very different from US top 10 names for 2010 kids--except maybe Ruby.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mind the Queue (a cultural note from Jon)

So, let's start with the basics.  In Britain, it's not a 'line" it's a queue.  Etymology? Apparently French, meaning "tail."  That makes sense enough.

More importantly, queues are a major cultural live-wire.  In Britain, you don't "jump the queue," if you you do, they may jump you.  Not really, but you may feel actual physical pains from the amount of nasty, dagger-eyes slabbing you from behind, and it's entirely possible that you will be publicly shamed.

This is all in theory, of course.  I've never seen it happen.  That's because people are so trained (or scared) not to jump the queue that they don't.  Ever.  Seriously, I've never seen someone jump the queue.  One clearly immigrant guy at the grocery store lost his head a few weeks ago and walked right in front of me to take his place at the self-serve checkout machine.  But he only lasted a nano-second before he popped right around and excused himself profusely to me for forgetting there was a queue.  Not that I had said anything.

O wait, Amelia has just read this over my shoulder and reminded me we did see ONE person ONCE jump the queue.  And it was raining at a outdoor light festival at the Cathedral and some folks walked right into the Cathedral rather than stand patiently for 30 minutes in the rain to get in.  Someone yelled sharply at the them, "MIND THE QUEUE!!!"  We were coming out and had, of course, not waited in the rain. (We don't really have British patience for queues.)  We used good ol' American ingenuity and went around to the back entrance where there was no line! Ha-ha!

This is all a lead-in to yesterday.  We were standing in a queue, and my impatience began to kick in.  "Why am I feeling culturally annoyed?" I asked myself.  We had traveled to York by car and parked at the Park and Ride to take the bus into town to see the Jorvik Viking Festival.  Here's the scene:

A small canopy with some benches for what would be a normal amount of commuters to the city centre.  One bus pulled up to the curb (double-length) with two more behind it.  A queue of would-be Jorvik celebrators and York-shoppers standing some 200 long all streaming from the one bus in front of the one canopy.  Each buying their tickets from the bus driver for the first bus.  The other two buses are just waiting.  No movement from their drivers.  No movement from the queue.

I realized then that it was entirely possible (if not likely) that in the States people would not wait patiently in the queue for the first bus but would break their line in half and begin trying to get onto the second or even the third bus.  In a very logical way, everyone would get to their destination sooner if they all split up and got on three different buses with three different drivers giving out three different sets of tickets.  But not in Britain.  In Britain, you "Mind the Queue."

That meant that everyone waited until the first bus was loaded, then the second one drove up and it too was patiently loaded, then the third, and so on.  Quietly. Orderly.  With no one but my inner American having showing the slightest sense of annoyance at this way of doing things.

Oh well.  It could be worse.  I could be in a hurry all the time instead of trying to slow down and let things take their time like the Brits do.  (I wonder if they would ever have road rage here... I doubt it.)  And after all, it could be worse.  I could be in Russia.  There (correct me if I'm wrong Karen), if you see a queue you get in it and you wait.  You may have no idea what it's for, but if there's a queue, it's probably worth having, and Russians can wait a LONG time in their lines.  5 hours I once spent in a queue in Russia!  (Long winters have trained them well for patience, I guess.)

So, remember, when in Britain, mind the queue!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Differences in Maternity Care UK vs. US

I thought that some of you might be interested in what maternity care and birth is like here in the UK. So far there are a lot of differences that I've noticed and I'm only in my 16th week of pregnancy. Some of my knowledge comes from friends who are also currently pregnant or have recently had a baby.

1. Everyone here sees a midwife, unless you are a high risk pregnancy. If, during your pregnancy, you have an issue arise that might require an OB's help, you have a consultation appointment with an OB. But, you keep seeing the midwife for all your prenatal appointments.

2. You can choose to have a homebirth or hospital birth where a midwife will attend your birth.

3. Even though there might be 6 or 7 midwives in the hospital group you are assigned to, you will typically see the same midwife each visit. This is because you are assigned a particular doctor's office and the midwives don't rotate their stations--they work at the office they are also assigned to. (Usually in the US if there is a group of midwives you rotate through all of them to get to know them and vice versa.) You don't know who will be on call when you go into labor.

4. They don't monitor your weight here. They get an inital weight at your first appointment and then they don't weigh you after that.

5. Some tests, like the glucose intolerance test, are not routinely administered unless there are certain risk factors to indicate a need for the test.

6. You only see the midwife for appointments at 8, 16, 28, 34, 36, 38, and 40 weeks. They routinely do 2 ultrasounds-one around 12 weeks to check for dates and one at 20 weeks to check for abnormalities.

7. You carry your health records with you to every appointment. They fill in information but they don't keep the file--you are responsible for it.

8. You have to bring EVERYTHING with you to the hospital if you have a hospital birth. Pads, diapers, hat for baby--normal things the hospital would provide in the US you are responsible for bringing.

9. It's FREE!

10. There seems to be a general assumption that your birth will be normal.

11. Epidurals are not as common here--somewhere between 30-50% of births, I think. In the US it is about 95%. They do use something here called "gas and air" which is laughing gas, I think. That is very common for women to use during the most intense parts of labor.

12. You get free dental, eye care, and prescriptions while you are pregnant and for 1 year after the birth of the baby. (The prescriptions may not be free for one year after--I can't remember)

13. You also get to bring in your "wee" (pee) at every visit. They provide you with a container that you wash and bring with you for each visit.

Overall there are a lot of good things that come with the NHS and the care you receive here while pregnant. I do wish that I was going to meet with more than one midwife during the pregnancy and also that I went a little more frequently. I know there isn't a lot that is done during appointments early on--checking for the heartbeat and feeling the top of the fundus to make sure everything seems like it is growing like it should, checking blood pressure and urine--but it would have been nice to hear the heartbeat a little sooner. Because of the fewer visits I feel a more disconnected from the practice and shy about calling for problems that concern with the pregnancy. Thankfully, I haven't had any issues come up but I don't feel the same kind of closeness that I experienced at the birth center in Pittsburgh. The system still feels like a system rather than the "mother centered care" value I had grown to love from the midwives in Pittsburgh.

There are independent midwives that are not part of the NHS and do homebirths but they are uber-expensive--I wan't to say around 6000-7000 US dollars. I think I would enjoy working with an independent midwife more but we don't have that kind of money to spend on a homebirth and I think the care I get is adequate.

Once I'm further along into the pregnancy I'll probably have a part II to this. I have my 16 week appointment on Thursday and I am looking forward to it. I haven't heard the baby's heartbeat yet and I'm still wearing my normal clothes. I'm tempted to be thankful that I haven't gained much weight or worried that the baby isn't growing like it should. This is the FIRST pregnancy that I've still been wearing my normal clothes for this long. With the boys I was growing out of my clothes somewhere between 12 and 14 weeks. I think I have another few weeks left in my trousers and I want some reassurance that everything is progressing normally. It works out well since my maternity clothes are still in the US!

Once I'm further along in the pregnancy, I'm sure I'll have a part II for you.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

On British Customer Service

We unsuccessfully ventured out to get the boys hair cut this afternoon. We left the house at 4:15 hoping that we could find some kind of barber shop/cheap salon open to cut their hair. Everything here closes early--even on a Saturday. We are so used to getting whatever service we want in America that we don't really think about planning very far ahead in the day. After driving by several places that were already closed before 5 on a Saturday afternoon we thought that Supercuts was our best chance since they are a chain and more likely to have later hours.

We arrived at Supercuts at 4:40. They didn't close until 5:30! Great!
Me: "Can we get the boys' hair cut?"
Supercuts: "No, we are finishing up here."
Me: "But, I saw you are open until 5:30."
Supercuts: "Oh, we have to cut this lady's hair first."

There were 2 stylists available. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the US we would have been welcomed since we got there well before closing time.

It is common here in the UK for restaurants, shops and other service shops to not let you in well before it closes because they don't want to serve you. If a restaurant closes at 6pm and you come in at 5:45 they are likely to tell you to leave or not let you order anything from the kitchen. In the US stores don't start closing until the last customer is served.

It makes life easier for the shop workers because closing time is closing time. The customer isn't the number one priority. Anyone who works in retail would appreciate the cultural difference. I was talking with a friend of mine who is from Canada. She is Muslim and we were talking about cultural differences in customer service. She lived in Egypt for several months and said that if she was looking for something the store owner would say, "Oh yes, we have what you are looking for (even if she didn't tell him what she wanted)." If the store owner did not have it he would find a way to get it. In Canada (and US) if you are looking for a service most places are willing to find a way to help you or even make some kind of special circumstance for you. It just isn't like that here in England. It's not right or wrong, it's just different!

(I started this post over a week ago and we did get the boys hair cut on Saturday. We went in the morning this time.)


For the past two days I've been feeling in a funk. Sort of like a gray cloud is hovering nearby. Kind of sad. I don't have any real reason to feel sad. I think maybe I'm just missing home and all the familiarities and comforts. I miss our family, the ease of talking to my friends, the familiarity of how things work, the ease of getting around without having to plan in advance, the sun. In regards to the sun I still have to get through February and March. Thankfully we'll get a good dose of it when we are in Texas in April! I'm soooo looking forward to warmer weather and sunny days! And Chuys, and Whataburger and, and, and...

That isn't to say that I don't enjoy living in England--I do very much. Life is simpler here in so many ways than it is in the US. I love our community here, the slower pace of life, the adventure, walking everywhere, making a smaller carbon footprint, hardly driving anywhere, spending less money on "extras". We don't spend as frivously here because it is such a chore to go shopping and we have very limited storage space to pack things in. Parking is difficult so we tend to stick to Durham, which is small, so we don't face the same temptations as we would if we "just ran into Target". No Targets here! We tend not to go anywhere. There are fewer fast food options so we don't do fast food very often. Simpler lifestyle=less spending on "extras".

I don't know what it is about loving the familiar but I miss it. I'm wondering when living here will be like second nature. When will doing something like DRIVING to Newcastle not seem so daunting and intimidating? (That reminds me of a story I should post about....) Maybe in another six months? Who knows. I do look forward to that and having a better understanding of the culture here and what to expect.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Boy, His Elephant, an Unexpected Nap, and His Wellies (post from Jon)

This is Graham's friend, "El-phant." El-phant sleeps in his bed, but sometimes they like to go for walks together.

One day, Mommy was tired (the new baby "shot her with a tranq") so she let Isaac play Wii and let Graham watch while she curled up on the couch to nap. When she got up, she went looking for Graham. This is where she found him...

On our bed!

It's been snowy and rainy so much lately that there has been a lot of "Wellies"-wearing going on. Graham felt particularly drawn to wear his around the flat one afternoon. Too cute.

I wouldn't be surprised if all these were taken on the same day. Day in and day out, that kid keeps us smiling!