Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Best Perk of the Job

Last night, as I was doing my final pre-flight check for the boys (i.e. making sure they were all tucked in with blankets covering and Blanket and Tigger in their co-pilot positions), Andrew woke up-- sort of-- and saw I was there. Without saying a word, he leaned over the side of his bunk bed, gave me a kiss, and went straight back to sleep.

Being a mother is the hardest job in the world, but perks like that make it worth it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Winter Movie Reviews

For those of you weighing what film you'd like to see next, I'm including Nicholas' thoughts on the winter blockbusters. Please note: when he says, "Great!" he jubiliantly raises both arms over his head and smiles. When he says, "Scary!" he furrows his brow, scrunches his nose, and frowns. He may be only 2 1/2, but the boy knows what he likes.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: "Harry Potter - Scary!"

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith: "Star Wars - Scary!"

March of the Penguins: "Penguins - Great!"

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: "Wardrobe - Scary!"

King Kong: "King Kong - Very Scary!"

Nicholas came to his conclusions on the first two having seen the advertisemens on the sides of buses and in tube stations. His review for the latter three are more credible, having viewed "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" on Sunday and having seen the trailer for "March of the Penguins" and "King Kong" while waiting for the film to start.

Now those who have seen Nicholas on the town know that he is a superstar when it comes to the popular media. On Saturday, when London was blanketed with posters for "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," Nicholas would spot one from 50 paces away and yell, "Wardrobe!" While I had my doubts that he would enjoy the movie, I thought his older brother, age 6, would love it. How wrong I was.

I spent most of the movie with not one, but TWO young boys clambering over me in attempt to hide. Nicholas kept saying, "Scary!" but not once did he ask to leave or even cry. From the very start of the movie, when Nazis are dropping bombs onto London, Andrew was saying, "I don't like this movie. I'm scared. I want to go home." He kept saying that even after the bombings had stopped and the children are being evacuated via a train. ("Now, look, they're at a train station," I said. "There's nothing scary about that. We do it all the time.") It took me about 20 minutes to talk him down from the ledge, and even then, he didn't seem to enjoy himself very much (though he stopped asking to go).

However, when the action would heat up, he'd say, "Cover my eyes Mom! I don't want to see!!" Which, of course, I did, but then he would move my hands so that he could still see, but the hands would still be on his face so he could move them back, if need be.

After more than two hours of this, the movie ended, at which time Andrew turned to me, "That wasn't so scary, Mom."

Perhaps seeing a scary movie as a six-year-old is like childbirth: once it's all over, you forget the pain and the fear.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Christmas Nativity: The Show Must Go On

Parents of primary school children are flocking to assembly halls this month to see the English Christmas tradition that is the nativity play.

My American friends need to know that in this country there's no pussy-footing around Christmas. EVERYONE, regardless of religion, nationality or preference, is understood to be celebrating Christmas. If you're not, or even offended by it, well, that's just too bad for you, as far as the English are concerned. In the U.S., on the other hand, people bend over backwards not to offend anyone, so it seems that there's less and less "Merry Christmas" greetings these days. Even Banana Republic, in an effort to include everyone, says, "Happy Winter." What's so happy about Winter? It's cold, you get frostbite, there'a real chance you'll break a limb on the ice. But I digress.

English primary schools traditionally mount a Christmas nativity play. Now some schools, it has been reported, have stopped doing this. Our school has not. I have to say, the first time I heard that they did a nativity play in a public school, it struck me as odd. But now I'm completely assimilated, so it doesn't bother me in the least (though I wouldn't go as far to say, "that's just too bad for you if you don't like it).

As with any quality production, the backstage drama was nearly more interesting than the play itself. Abby, the original actor chosen to play Mary, caught a terrible case of stage fright, so Poppy, her understudy, was brought in to play the part. Poppy stole the show and I'm sure she'll go on to great dramatic things. Meanwhile, Jack (the most shy boy in the class), turned white as a ghost and nearly lost his lunch when asked to be a Three King. His mother had take him home early that day, such was the pressure of appearing as a king. They picked someone else. When asked what part he had, Isaac, another Year One student, told his mother, "I'm a nothing." He was, in fact, a supplementary king. We are also lucky enough to be Close Personal Friends with the actor playing Joseph, though we were not lucky enough to get an autograph. Andrew, clapping off the beat ("It looks like he got your rhythm," Tim said), was chosen to be in the choir.

You certainly know the story, so there's no point in recounting it. Off-tune singing and ambivalent dancing featured prominently in this year's production, but there still wasn't a dry eye in the house. The actors and performers received a standing ovation when it was all over. Then they had to go back to class.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

St. Andrew's Day

Happy St. Andrew's Day!

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Russia, Greece, singers and old maids. The Scottish flag is the Saint Andrew flag.

Saint Andrew, a fisherman, was the first apostle. His brother was Peter.

St. Andrew's Day is celebrated every year in Scotland.

St. Andrew's Day is celebrated every year in our family as a way to mark of the days until Christmas, but also to recognize the Andrew we've got. "St. Andrew" brings the boys new books.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Battle of the Books

I guess I no longer need to worry about if I looked fat when I appeared on nationally on television in the U.S., as the only things you got to see were my hands when I was covering my eyes during our water tasting. (For those of you catching up with the rest of the class, MarathonMum and Mr.MarathonMum were filmed over the summer doing a water tasting as part of a CBS Sunday Morning segment on our friend Tom Standage).

Oh well. Hopefully the report will help sell more of his book, "The History of the World in Six Glasses." It seems that it has. A quick check on shows that it has shot back up the charts to No. 63 in books. Well done, Tom!

To compare, I checked the current sales status of another book by a friend, "The Things You Want to Eat" by Ted Allen, which is No. 1,729. You may know Ted better as the food and wine expert in the U.S. show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Ted's book is also an excellent book, with a particularly good recipe for blue-cheese butter, which actually was something I made for Ted years ago, and it made the book. So while we helped Tom with "research" by drinking, we helped Ted with "research" by eating.

So with the Christmas shopping season in full swing, if you need some gift ideas, both books are great. But only available in the U.S. (or shipped abroad via

Friday, November 25, 2005

We're Going to be on TV!! (Hi Mom!)

Many moons ago, when the weather was hot and clothing was light, the CBS Morning Show, an American news show, interviewed our great friend Tom Standage about his most excellent book, "A History of the World in Six Glasses."

During the day-long filming,MarathonMum and Mr.MarathonMum participated in a water tasting. This was something we first did a year ago, as part of Tom's research for his book. The idea was that no one would be able to differentiate between the tap water and the water in fancy bottles you pay over-the-odds for to drink.

While I didn't identify the tap water, I was able to taste a difference between brands. This surprised me, not least of all because I really did think that water was water was water. But now I know better. In the first tasting, the one water I couldn't bear to finish was the tap water (though I failed to guess that it was the tap; that should have been a tip-off). My favourite at both tastings was the Fiji water, which is delicious, but I would never drink it on a regular basis, given the environmental cost of getting it to me, delicious though it may be.

In any case, they filmed our tasting. I enjoyed the first tasting much more, probably due to the fact that I didn't spend the whole time thinking, "How will I look on TV? Will I look fat? Will any ex-boyfriends see me?" I doubt that the tasting will feature prominently, particularly since they spent the whole day filming Tom and only an hour filming us.

In any case, if you'd like to see us, the story will be on Sunday morning. Check local listings.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is my most favourite holiday in the entire year: Thanksgiving.

It is a quinessentially American holiday, and you don't have to buy any presents or send any cards. The only things you need to do today is be with family and friends, be thankful/happy and eat well. (Done, done and done, I say.)

Here in London, we usually do a big blow-out all-day party on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, since today is not a holiday here, obviously, but this year I'm taking the year off. I decided to give myself a break from the one month of planning, the one week of cooking and the one day of stressing. Instead, we're going to have a small party with just the four of us.

The boys were enthusiastic about having a Peanuts Thanksgiving (i.e. popcorn, sandwiches and jelly beans), but I vetoed that idea. We will, in a nod to the genius that is Charles Schulz, be having popcorn as a side dish.

After dismissing the sandwiches-and-popcorn menu, the plan was to buy a chicken and make all the usual side dishes, but when it came time to pull the trigger at the butchers, I just couldn't do it. So rather than buying the 10-pound free-range turkey that would have cost me $65 (no, not a typo), I went for the smaller turkey breast, so we can still have sandwiches and turkey pot pie tomorrow.

Enjoy Thanksgiving everyone. Remember the cardinal rule: If you're not overeating, you're not doing your job.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I'm Talking To You Cordless!

That's what Lance (played by Anthony Andrews) says to Gib (played by John Cusack) as Lance floats in the fraternity swimming pool atop a raft while holding the cordless phone in "The Sure Thing."

At the time of filming, the idea of not being tethered to a phone on the wall or table was a revolutionary concept. Cordless phones were used by the rich or the gadget prone. However, and now I'm dating myself, the film is now 20 YEARS OLD (yes, I'm shouting because I've just had one of those moments where I thought, "Really? 20 years?? And I can remember who I saw the movie with?"), and now everybody has a cordless phone. We haven't used a cord on a phone in at least a decade.

Today, on my computer, I am talking to you cordless, thanks to my ultra-cool birthday present, the iBook. I am back in the warm embrace of the Apple Family, a very happy place I had to leave seven years ago when our relocation forced us to begin using a PC. Now I have to relearn all the Apple tricks (they're coming back to me slowly) and cast aside all of my bad PC habits (right click, I'm talking about you). I also have the tedious job of transferring over files, photos, e-mail addresses and other essentials into this computer, but the hassle will be worth it.

Now I can take the computer anywhere in the house and enjoy cordless goodness. I can multitask to the highest degree; the kids can watch Sunday morning cartoons while I read the New York Times on the sofa. Twenty years from now this will not be such a revolutionary concept, much like using a cordless phone is today, but for now, I am chuffed.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Today in History


The Mayflower Compact was signed by Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower. It would provide the basis for all governments of the American colonies.


Former slave Nat Turner was executed.


Washington became the 42nd U.S. state.


The Allies and Germany signed an armistice ending World War I.


The Tomb of the Unkown Soldier was dedicated in Arlington National Cemetery in the United States.


MarathonMum was born in Morristown, N.J., U.S.A. (Other famous people born today: Feodor Dostoyevsky [1821], General George Patton [1885], Kurt Vonnegut Jr. [1922] and Leonardo DeCaprio [1974]).


The Church of England voted to ordain women as priests.


Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, died in Paris. Mahmoud Abbas was elected to take his place.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Warning to Parents

Today's post was made possible by the generous support of Meg in South Carolina who sent this to me and to Google, who made it so much easier to post photos on the blog (have you noticed an increase in photos? Doesn't it make the blog more fun?)

Helpful French Phrases (in light of the current situation)

Handy French phrases if you plan to be in France soon:

* Ou sont les pompiers? - Where are the firemen?
* Avez-vous un extincteur? - Do you have a fire extinguisher?
* A quelle heure est le couvre-feu? - What time is the curfew?
* Pourquoi brulez vous ma voiture? - Why are you burning my car?
* Avez-vous du feu pour allumer mon cocktail molotov? - Do you
have a light for my petrol bomb?

Thanks to Tim for this contribution to MarathonMum.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The New York Marathon

On Sunday, 35,000 runners hit the streets of New York's five boroughs to participate in the New York Marathon.

While I loved running the London Marathon in April, and it will always be special to me, the New York Marathon is the one I grew up watching on television. I still distinctly remember the race in 1982, when Alberto Salazar won in 2:09.29 and Grete Waitz prevailed in 2:27, because I went out later that day to run my first 10k race. I was 13 years old. I don't remember my time, but I do remember that-- crucially-- I didn't come in last in the race.

I felt a slight bit of jealousy when I looked at the pictures Monday because I remember the euphoria of having finished a marathon. (The euphoria, of course, was followed by a week of not being able to walk correctly and eight lost toenails, but that's neither here nor there). Also, running in New York in early November is probably perfect-- good weather and the leaves are changing colour.

Now I think it's important to inform all of the MarathonMum fans out there (all three of you-- thanks for your support) that I will not be entering this year's London marathon. [If you listen carefully enough, you will hear my mother's sigh of relief worldwide.] There are several good reasons for this decision, chiefly that my personal trainer (now 2 1/2) is getting too heavy, vocal and strong-willed to push for the one-hour training sessions that are necessary to get the job done. When I say vocal, I mean to say that we'll be heading out for a run and he'll say, "No run! Park! No run! Park!", and then he'll point in the direction of the park, in case I'm mistaken about what he's talking about.

I thought about entering the lottery and then deferring for one year if I was lucky enough to get a spot, but in the end I decided not to do that either. I thought, first, since I was really lucky last year and got my spot through the lottery, it wouldn't be fair to the other 80,000 who weren't so lucky last year and were trying again this year. Also, since I knew I wouldn't be able to train pushing the 2 1/2-year-old, it also didn't seem fair to enter with the intention of deferring. I did decide, however, to take the £31 I would have spent on my entry and send it to my marathon charity, CAMFED. The money will be better spent by helping a girl go to school in Africa then receiving a London Marathon fleece (what you win if you don't get a spot) that I don't need anyway.

But all of this brings us back to the issue of the New York Marathon. Every year, the race is held in early November. As luck would have it, my birthday is also in early November. I have decided [listen for the drums rolling in the background], that I want to run the New York Marathon for my 40th birthday in 2008.

Anyone who would like to join me is more than welcome. In the meantime, I will continue to train in the hopes that the fantastic base I will have built up by then will bring me home to the finish in a respectable time.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More Halloween

Responding to public outcry (OK, one person asked), here's a picture of the boys with Andrew's No. 1 girl Ella dressed in their Halloween finery. For those not familar with the Pixar's ouevre, Nicholas is Jack-Jack, Andrew is Mr. Incredible and Ella is a (non-Pixar) witch. Intense social obligations this week-- Nicholas had two birthday parties in one day!-- prevented me from posting this sooner.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Your Vote Counts!

Happy Halloween!

As an American child, Halloween is simply one of the best days of the year-- right up there with Christmas. You get to dress up as whatever you want (pending parental approval, of course), take in some fresh autumnal air, then knock on doors, say "Trick or Treat!" and people give you candy. It's so beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it as adult.

We are, however, not in America. This fact is never so apparent when holidays like these roll along. Now, to give credit where credit is due, the British are trying. Every year, Halloween seems to be getting bigger and bigger, along with the cries about the creeping Americanization of the culture. Our first Halloween here, in 1999, I couldn't even find a pumpkin for my infant son (now the strapping young lad in the middle above). Now, with U.S.-based Wal-Mart owning Asda, one of the largest supermarket chains in the country, it's becoming much easier to find the crass orange-and-black accrutremonts that are essential for enjoying the holiday.

But it's just not the same.

In an effort to maintain a high level of fun and frivolity on our family's life, we hosted our Fifth Annual Halloween Bash on Sunday. We ate pumpkin cookies and pumpkin donuts (the shape, not the flavour), played Pin-the-Nose on the Pumpkin and enjoyed other seasonal (for the U.S., anyway) goodies. [Kudos to Ella (far right in photo) and Kirstin, who have attended every Halloween party we've had here.]

This afternoon, we will attempt to do some trick or treating. But don't be fooled. This is not the fun event of mapping out where all The Really Rich Families Lived so the quality of candy improved. Instead, I have asked many friends and acquaintances if they will be receiving trick-or-treaters today. Some did say no, but I don't hold it against them, because really, it's not a British thing. An older British woman said to me once, "It's just like begging for candy." Looking at it that way, I'd have to agree.

But the boys and I will do our best to make our little corner of London a little like the U.S.-- for today, at least.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wallace and Gromit Fever: Catch It!

The boys and I are under the spell of Wallace and Gromit at the moment, the Most Excellent Dynamic Duo now at a cinema near you.

It is half-term week here (for all of you non-Brits, that means all the schools nationwide are off, meaning the streets, museums and parks are filled with those under five-feet tall). To celebrate its first day, we set off to our newly reopened cinema Greenwich Picturehouse to see "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Ware Rabbit."

It is a brilliant film, with loads of funny gags that amuse 2-year-olds, 6-year-olds, and 36-year-olds. Nick Park described it as, "A horror film for vegetarians," so it's even seasonally appropriate, with Halloween less than a week away. Crucially, it passed the Nicholas test, which means the 2-year-old sat still through the entire film, a feat repeated only one other time, at "The Incredibles."

Monday's outing was the 6-year-old's third (!) viewing of the film (one at a Leicester Square special showing and another at a birthday party) and he said, "It was great! My favourite bit was the big burp!" Outsize humour always appeals, no matter what the age.

We spent the morning watching the three previous Wallace and Gromit outings, ("A Grand Day Out", "A Close Shave" and "The Wrong Trousers"). You have to love movies where the dog sits in his chair reading, "Electronics For Dogs."

Wallace and Gromit Fever: Catch It!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A 9.33 mile for Andrew!

Andrew made his debut on the running circuit today, clocking an impressive 9:33 mile!

For months he's been asking me if he could do a race with me, and finally, I found one: a one-mile race at the Millennium Dome. I asked a friend, who is (a) a doctor (b) a mother and (c) a runner if it woud be OK to have a six-year-old race one mile, and she said it would be no problem. (As it happens, we saw kids younger than Andrew racing too. So maybe my worrying was for nothing).

It was a beautiful Sunday and he was eager to get started, asking me about every two minutes if it was time to go yet. I kept telling him not to start by sprinting, to take it nice and easy. I also told him if he ever got tired, we could walk. But he only asked to do it once, at the very beginning.

When we got to the finish line and I saw his time, I couldn't believe it. I was mentally predicting a 12- or 15-minute mile, so he came in well under my estimates. As we were picking up our finishing certificates, an older woman saw Andrew's time. She turned to her friend and said, "Did you see that? That boy ran a 9:30!"

I couldn't help but say, "He's awesome, isn't he??"

Monday, October 17, 2005

I Will Run A Year (Nike Run, Part Two)

My Personal Trainer has made his own running pledge for the next year, so I guess I'm going to stick with it. (The shirt is clean, in case you're worried that he put on my stinky post-race shirt.)

The funny thing about Nike's pledge, "I Will Run A Year," is that I've already done that. I started running again in earnest for last fall's Nike run and kept it up since then, even finishing the London Marathon in April. But even though I'm disappointed by yesterday's result, I will keep running. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal.

I felt better after talking it over with my friend Kate this morning. Now Kate is a phenomenal runner and more amazingly, doesn't brag about it. To wit: she finished the New York Marathon in under 4 hours. If I had done the same, you can bet that I would have tatooed my time on my forehead. But I digress. Kate said she doesn't get too wrapped up in her time, she just tries to enjoy every race she enters. Under those guidelines, I DID have a good day yesterday: (1) I passed lots of people, particularly at the finish (2) I had my family-fan club cheering me on for the race (3) The weather could not have been more perfect.

So I Will Run A Year (and also figure out how to finish a 10K in under an hour in the process).

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Run London

On a picture-perfect October morning, my family and I headed up to Victoria Park so I could participate in Nike's Run London 10K race. The accompaning fan club was a (much welcome) last minute addition to my plans, so we didn't actually leave the house until just over an hour before I was due to start.

We got to Bow and walked about 20 minutes from our DLR stop before we got to the park. ("My legs are getting tired!" Son No. 1 kept saying.) As luck would have it, the entrance we used was at the start line. This was a very good thing, given that it was 10:27 a.m. (I was due to start at 10:30 a.m.) and a sea of red shirts was waiting for the race to start. I had to run down a bit and up again to reach them, and I was all the way at the back, but at least I got there. The gun sounded and we slowly made our way to the start, but once I got there, I realized I needed to reset my watch so I could time myself. "This is really something I should have done about an hour ago, I know," I said to the steward.

The one good thing about being all the way in the back was I spent the entire race looking for someone further up who I wanted to pass, and then worked my way up and got them. I'm happy to report that every person (I did not discriminate on the basis of gender), I picked out for passing, I did pass. Of course, I was able to pass about 15 people in the last 200 meters of the race, because my Fan Club was there to cheer me on and I wanted to impress the boys. Some things never change.

I also ran without my iPod, which made me feel a little bit naked, but I do think it helped me run a better race. I feel that I was able to concentrate better on the task at hand, rather than singing aloud to Aretha Franklin.

However, even with all these things in myu favor: beautiful weather, an enthusiastic fan club who I passed SIX TIMES (Yeah!) during the race, a high level of concentration and basic kick-ass passing, I am incredibly disappointed to say that I STILL HAVEN'T broken the one hour barrier. I feel utterly deflated and dejected that I didn't. (But, I was slightly faster than the 10K I did in July, so maybe that's some improvement. Or I'm clutching at straws).

There will be more races and other opportunities to run faster. I would be happy to list a litany of excuses as to why it didn't happen, but there's no point. There's always next time. It still was a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

If this is a trend, I'm not interested

The most e-mailed article in the New York Times for the past two days has been, "A Fast Track to Toilet Training for Those at the Crawling Stage." The story details how a new movement is emerging in the U.S. to teach children how to use toilet before the age of one.

The article says, "A growing number of parents are experimenting with infant potty training, seeing it as more sanitary, ecologically correct and likely to strengthen bonds between parent and child. About 2,000 people across the country have joined Internet groups and e-mail lists to learn more about the techniques of encouraging a baby - a child too young to walk or talk - to go in a toilet, a sink or a pot."

Are you kidding me?

Now, I would be the very first to say that I detested potty training, and if I could outsource the job, I would. (When my husband and I were talking about the job once, I said that and he responded, "I agree," to which I said, "You did outsource it. To me.") I waited for as long as I could to teach Son No. 1, and I only finally did do the job because he was starting nursery school in two weeks and had to be potty trained. There's nothing like a deadline to get a journalist working. (He mastered it-- for the most part-- in one day).

The article has created quite a flurry of responses in the bulletin board devoted to the story, with more than 2,000 postings on the subject.

I say if it works for you, then go for it. But I have to wonder, who is trained at 7 months old: the child or the parent?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy September to Us

Sorry for the lack of postings in September, but we had a very busy and very happy month.

First, on the second of the month, Tim and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. I still can hardly believe that the milestone has passed. Time really does fly when you're having fun. In an age where we know dozens of couples that have split up (lately we're averaging a split-up news flash once a week), it really is magical to still be together and happy.

We pushed the boat out to have dinner at the Michelin starred Connaught Hotel. We got the seven-course tasting menu, which was the best meal we've ever had. (For those of you who don't know us, that is an extraordinary thing to say because we're really tough critics.) We also got to meet the head chef, Angela Hartnett, who was really lovely in addition to being a fabulous cook.

On the 29th of September, our very own Willy Wonka turned six. Again, time flies when you're having fun, because I can still distinctly remember everything that happened on the day he was born. (Most of the day was spent in labour, but enough about me). We had a chocolate-themed Willy Wonka party the following Saturday, with chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Such a theme was bad news for Andrew's friend Finlay, who doesn't like chocolate. But you can't please everybody.

Our Cake Tester

While I was busy doing something else, Son No. 2 took it upon himself to drag a kitchen chair over to the counter and test the cake I was making for Willy Wonka's birthday. To prove I am not a Stepford Wife, my reaction when I saw what he'd done was to laugh hysterically. To fix the problem, I just made more icing. A lot of frosting can hide a lot of sins.

Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner!

Last night, while killing time waiting for "Lost" (The Most Excellent Show Currently on the Telly) to start, I watched some snippets of "Dirty Dancing." For Women of a Certain Age, this is a seminal movie. While watcing, I realized/mulled over several important things:
1. Patrick Swayze spends most of the movie shirtless.
2. The plot roughly follows that of "Rocky", i.e. underdog wins the contest and gets the girl/guy.
3. I can still remember where I saw it (The Barn, Doylestown) and with whom I saw it in 1987.
4. I also remembered that I wasn't such a huge fan of it when I saw it, but I think it's grown on me over the years.
5. The theme song was used by our friend for her first dance at her wedding. The wedding was actually quite scandalous, by Villanova standards, because she got pregnant her freshman year. It was a classic shotgun wedding. They are still together, though, the last I heard.
6. What has happened to poor Jennifer Grey?
7. The classic line, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner!" actually is said quite quickly by Johnny Castle/Patrick Swayze.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Demi and Ashton Wed

Demi Moore (who has the same birthday as me-- Novemeber 11!) reportedly wed her boyfriend of two years, Ashton Kutcher, in a Kabbalah ceremony over the weekend.

However, there is now speculation that the "ceremony" was a prank for Kutcher's show, Punk'd, where he plays practical jokes on stars.

Whatever the case, I wish these two crazy kids all the luck in the world.

Now that's out of the way, I'd like to say for the record that I'm including them in my "Sure to be Divorced/Broken Up" List, which did include Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney until recently.

If you're curious, here's some of the other star unions I've got on my Watch List:
-Britney Spears and Kevin Federline
-Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
-Paris and Paris
-Hillary Swank and Chad Lowe
-Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez (sorry, I know it seems like Real Love, but look at her track record)
-Beyonce and Jay Z
-Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachley (although I barely know who either one of them is)

Also, I'd like to apologize for the lack of postings of late. It is Birthday Eve here for Son No. 1, so we've been in the thick of preparations. Those of you with children will understand.

Running News

My training for the RunLondon continues apace, for the most part.

I ran 6 miles Sunday, only to be overtaken in the park in the last mile by a gazelle-like friend. I felt like shouting after her, "I've done six! How many have you done?" but resisted. The only problem was my back, which hurt quite a bit and is related to my previous problems with my hip. But I did two hours of pilates on Monday with My Most Excellent Teacher, so that seemed to help.

Now I'm wrestling with the decision of whether or not I want to carry my iPod with me during the race. I'm beginning to suspect that having music might slow me down. My friend Susan, who is an Ironman Triathelete (amazing), competes without music because she says it's important to be in the flow of your own performance. I'm beginning to think she's on to something, because I don't want to be distracted by a song I hate as I approach the finish line, which is what happened to me last year at RunLondon. Watch this space.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Spot the Difference: A Jordan Special

You will ony find the above hilarious if you happen to live in the United Kingdom and know who the hell Jordan is. For my international readers: Jordan became famous for her talent (read: EE breasts, or whatever they are) on Page 3 and is euphimistically called a "glamour model". She married a few weekends ago in what I believe to be the most garish, pink and over-the-top ceremony at a castle outside London. OK!, a British magazine, reportedly paid £1 million deal (that's $1.8 million, sports fans) for exclusive rights to publish the monstrosity, I mean, ceremony. You have to see the rest of the pictures to believe how truly awful it was. Apparently, she was aiming for classy. She failed.

Thanks to my friend Kirstin who supplied the photo.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My Grade as a Mother

One of the most frustrating things about being a mother who isn't working another job (notice I didn't use the heinous phrase "full-time mother". There is no such thing as a part-time mother) is a lack of annual review. When you're working in your profession, you can count on an annual assessment of how you're doing and in what areas you need to improve.

However, a mother never gets any feedback or guidance from the people she's working for, or, if she does, it's more along the lines of, "You forgot to bring my P.E. kit to school" or "I don't have any clean shirts to wear."

Last week, the Evening Standard columnist Allison Pearson asked her six-year-old son to rate her job as a mother on a scale of one to 10, with 10 the best. He gave her a two. When she asked him "bitterly" (I don't blame her) why she didn't get a one, he told her that once she let him have something she initially told him he couldn't.

I was curious how I would rate, so I asked my own (nearly) six-year-old son how I would rate on a scale of one to 10. After mulling it over, he said, "A nine!" Even though I was thrilled with my score, I asked him why I didn't get a 10. He said, "OK, a 10 then!"

Now, I don't know if it's his American tendencies to grade inflate or think big when he gave me that score, but I'll take it.

We're Running in the Rain

The weather in Greenwich has been putrid today-- gray skeys, heavy rain (on and off) and cold, so of course, my personal trainer and I went out for a run.

It should be said that I wasn't too thrilled with the idea. My personal trainer, on the other hand, was more than happy to head out as he was suitably equipped with an Incredibles rain poncho AND an umbrella-- making running in the wind a challenge. I was soaked, still sore from yesterday's hill work and not at all enthusiastic, but on we went anyway.

To make matters worse, I was having operational difficulties with the personal trainer's chariot. It was off kilter, so I had to keep both hands on the bar to keep it straight, which was a drag, because usually I only need one hand. This only added to my bad attitude.

However, we staggered through the required 20 minute run. According to my Nike training schedule, I should have been off today, but as I took off on Monday, I switched that run to today. It's days like these when you think you should get extra credit for the effort.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Frida Kahlo in London

My Personal Trainer and I headed out to the Tate Modern this morning to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit. (yes, yes, sports fans, this meant we missed our morning run).

The most interesting thing I took away from the exhibit was how the Cult of Personality was in force, even then. Kahlo, who married, divorced and married Diego Rivera, was known for her surrealist pictures, but also for her traditional Mexican dress. She always wore it, first to impress Rivera, but eventually I think it became part of her "thing" and people expected it of her.

You think of the 1940s and 1950s as being a more simple time, when artists were judged on merit alone, but my sense is that in her case, that just wasn't so. She was known as much for her marriage to Rivera and the drama associated with it, as for her art. Interestingly, they had two self portraits of Kahlo and Rivera side by side and when I compared them, it seemed to me that technically Rivera was a better artist. My friend Caroline, who was with me and is an artist herself, agreed.

My Personal Trainer seemed to like the exhibit, for the most part, but near the end I had to feed him raisins to keep him quiet. I also found myself shamelessly asking him, in a Middle Class/ aspirational kind of way, what color this or that was. However, when there were other people standing near us, I stacked the deck in his favor because I only pointed to those things that were blue, which is what he thinks every color is these days. So the strangers think he's a genius, while I secretly know better.

The exhibit runs until October 9.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Milestone Moments

We achieved a couple of notable milestone moments this weekend with both Son No. 1 and Son No. 2.

First, Son No. 1, who is 5 11/12, has become quite a good speller. We know this because we were using the classical parental subterfuge of spelling out something so the children wouldn't know what we were talking about. My husband said to me, "You know, there's still some W-O-N-K-A B-A-R in the frig," when Son No. 1 pipes up, "There's a Wonka Bar in the frig? Great!"

So now it seems we're going to have to revert to using a foreign language. Bummer.

In other news, Son No. 2, now 2 1/4, seems to have made a successful move into a Big Boy Bed. We thought it was time to move him into the bottom bunk. After No. 1 had a sleepover using the bed on Saturday night, we moved No. 2 into it last night. He settled right down, and amazingly enough, did not use his new-found-freedom to play in his room for another hour. He even settled down for his nap today with no problem. Now time will tell is the successful transition was a fluke or a genuine success.

Well done to both!

More Running

I'm really getting back in the swing of things with my running. After much procrastinating-- and when I say much I mean it-- I finally got out yesterday at 4:30 p.m. While it is true that I should have been busy preparing Sunday dinner, I drafted my husband into the job so I could go out. I was impressed that I got out there at all, given that I like to get it over with first thing in the morning. But I knew that I wouldn't be running on Monday or Tuesday so I finally got it in gear and hit the road.

The thing I forgot about going out without my personal trainer was how simply LOVELY running alone can be. For all the times when people said to me, "Wow, pushing the buggy must be hard work," and I said, "Oh, it's not that bad, you get used to it," I take it back. While it is true that you do get used to it, I only realize how hard it is to push a 30-pound two-year-old when I'm out on my own. It was great and so much easier. Conditions were less than optimal: my Ipod ran out of juice after the first mile and it started to rain, but I still had a great time and a good run.

I'm following the Nike training schedule to get ready for RunLondon October 16. I needed to be out there for 45 minutes yesterday. I came in two minutes under that, but I was pleased to figure out after the fact that I covered about 4.5 miles, so that's good. My goal for RunLondon, like my Blog Buddy Michelle, is to finish under 1 hour. While I'm going to have to step it up to do that, at least I know I'll have to speed it up only a little for yesterday's pace to finish in that time.

The funny thing about saying that I want to finish in under an hour is that when I was in high school and running track and cross country, that time would have been EASY for me. (Doing it in under 50 mintes- or 8 minutes per mile- would have been more of a stretch, but doable.) But those times were 20 years ago, so it's probably not fair to compare. It's just funny how old age and time sneak up on you.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bush: "What Went Right and What Went Wrong"

"I'll lead an investigation into what went right and what went wrong," President George Bush said Tuesday, following criticism of the government's actions in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Who: The Committee Charged with the Hurricane Katrina Investigation
What: The First Day of Meetings
Where: The White House
When: Sometime in the future
President Bush: "OK, let's start with what went right. Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?"

Like millions of other people, I have been horrified, dismayed, shocked and disappointed at the U.S. goverment's mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. It is unbelievable to me how wholly incompetent the federal government responded to the disaster. When watching the scenes from New Orleans, I had to keep reminding myself that this was the United States of America, not some far-flung country with questionable infrastructure and a corrupt government.

The whole point of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to coordinate the response to disasters like this one. In a BBC News Special last night, they ran video of President Bush praising FEMA DirectorMichael Brown, to whom he bestowed the nickname, "Brownie." But how in the world can he seriously say he's doing, "One heck of a job." I'll say he's doing a heck of a job, just not in a good way.

Before joining the agency four years ago, Brown, an attorney from Oklahoma, had no experience with emergency relief. [In reading the New York Times profile of him, I have discovered that he and I share a birthday. Weird.] From 1991 to 2001, he was commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, and was in charge of rule enforcement at its horse shows. How does that experience prepare one for emergency relief?

Someone needs to be accountable for this disaster, and at the top of my list would be Brown. (At the very top of my wish list would be President Bush, but I think that would just be greedy). It's the same lesson I try to teach to my sons: you have to be held responsible for the things you do wrong. The same should be true of the government official at the top of the organizational chart in charge of federal emergencies.

Adding insult to injury, Barbara Bush, the former first lady and the president's mother, said on NPR's Marketplace Tuesday that some of the hurricane survivors might be better off. After meeting some of the survivors in Houston's Astrodome she said, "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. So this is working very well for them." [Read the full New York Times story about what she said here]

In what way is losing all of your possessions, having to flee your home and losing contact with friends and family, "Working very well for them?" Many of these survivors may have been poor, but you could argue that makes whatever things they did have were that much more precious.

George Clooney has just donated $1 million to the United Way's hurricane relief effort. If you'd like to be like George, or impress George, or know someone who would, Amazon is accepting donations for the American Red Cross. Unlike FEMA, they seem to be managing the crisis quite well.

Running Update

For those of you interested in the running stuff, here's an update:

My personal trainer and I have been out hitting the pavement for the last two days. Now that school is back in session, it's easy enough to get back in the habit of going out for a run after dropping Son No. 1 off at school. However, I have forgotten how hard it is to push a 30-pound two-year-old. It's also probably more difficult because he's getting bigger, but I'm not getting significantly stronger.

While we were in the U.S., I did manage to go out quite a few times by myself for some short runs. However, I haven't really done anything challenging since the British 10K in early July, so it's time to get back in the swing of things, especially since I've signed up for the Nike 10K on October 16. I also have set a finishing time goal for myself, so I find myself working extra hard to improve. (Usually I think, "Isn't just being out here, pushing the boy, enough?")

The runs have been going well, but it should be said that my personal trainer isn't as enthusiatic as he once was about being in the buggy. Complicating matters is an improved ability to talk, so now he says, "No run! Walk! Park!" accompanied by appropriate hand gestures (pointing to the playground he'd rather be in). So far, I've gotten away with promising a trip to the playground AFTER I'm done, but I don't know how long this deal-making will work.

I'm still having aches and pains in my back and hip, but either I'm getting used to them, or they're slowly getting better. I'm hoping it's the latter.

RunLondon, the Nike 10K, has a special significance for me, because it was this race last November that really got me running seriously again. Just before that race, I found out that I had a place in the London Marathon. I remember finishing the race and being extremely chuffed that I hadn't stopped when I thought, "And in April, I'll have to run 20 more miles after that."

This year, I'm hoping I'll be able to run faster, given that I have run 20 miles beyond 6.2. I'm also starting to FINALLY feel recovered from the marathon, so that should make working harder easier. If all of that training for the marathon doesn't help me improve my time, nothing will. Roll on, RunLondon!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

I know it’s been a shockingly long period of time since I last posted, but I’ve been busy. When I say busy, I mean it.

To wit: since July 28, my family and I have flown 10,271 miles, visited with 58 friends, relatives and their offspring, set foot in six different states, slept in eight different beds, swam in seven different places, climbed 110 steps in the Statue of Liberty, toured one World War II submarine, fed one giraffe, rode two roller coasters, watched “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” twice, saw more than a dozen F-22 fighter jets, watched the Pittsburgh Pirates lose at baseball, hunted for alligators with a flashlight and held one Emmy award.

But if I when I recount this list to our son, now aged 5 11/12, and ask him what he liked doing the most, his response was, “When we had lunch at McDonald’s.”

So now I know. Next summer, all I need to do is take him to McDonald’s; that will make my life so much easier. This, I realize, is a by-product of never taking him there. When we do go, the experience supersedes anything else, no matter how exciting.

We returned to school today, though, so MarathonMum will be resuming her regular posting schedule. Those with eagle eyes will have already noticed that most of my posts previously had been done between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. GMT. This golden time is naptime, but during the summer, precious naptime time was taken up by Son No. 1, so there wasn’t much I could do. Plus, I was busy doing all of the above.

I’m sorry to all of my fans who were disappointed with the paucity of posts for the past six weeks, but sometimes, you have to go out and live your life, not just write about it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Life in America

Traveling to a foreign country is exhausting. In my case, the foreign country is not some sort of exotic location, but the United States of America.

It may be the country of my birth, but I feel, for the most part, like a foreigner here. After nearly seven years of living abroad, I feel out of touch with the American way of life. I don’t know the price of a stamp. I can’t name even one winner of “American Idol.” I’ve forgotten who won the Super Bowl last year. I can’t fathom the serving sizes at restaurants (How can anyone clear their plate with so much food on it?). I am utterly flabbergasted at the number of SUVs and minivans on the road (Doesn’t anyone own a regular-size car anymore?) I don’t know which college football team is favored to be the best this season.

I’m also amazed at the proliferation of American flags and “God Bless America” stickers. While I think the obvious display of patriotism is a good thing, I can’t help but wonder, “Why isn’t God blessing any other countries?”

For our two British-born sons, though, we really are visiting a foreign country. When we asked our five-year-old if he wanted to see a baseball game, he asked, “What’s baseball?” We had to respond, “It’s a lot like cricket,” and our red-white-and-blue hearts died a little death.

The five-year-old’s accent also is attracting a fair share of attention. His aunt said this weekend, “We think he sounds like Harry Potter.” To my ears, his accent sounds neither British nor American, but I suppose sounding like the boy wizard-hero is not a bad thing.

I asked the five-year-old what he thought was different about America, when compared to London, where we live. “The cars are bigger,” he said, interrupting his count of roadside McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts to make his observation. I suspect the boys also think there’s a McDonald’s restaurant on every corner, something perhaps not a million-miles-away from the truth.

The one thing I have truly loved since arriving on U.S. shores 12 days ago is being able to eat all of my favorite American food. I’ve realized, though, that all of my U.S. favorites aren’t doing my waistline any favors. Pizza, hoagies, stromboli, cheese fries, chicken wings, Philadelphia cheese steaks and Oreo cookies is a short list of some of things I’ve enjoyed in abundance the last few days. Why I can’t crave just a really nice salad with some American-grown produce is beyond me.

Exhaustion aside, the best thing about being back in the U.S. is being able to reconnect with family and friends after time away. I’ve found, much to my relief, that even if I haven’t seen some people in many years, we were still laughing at the same things and enjoying each other’s company. Good friends are always good friends, even if time and oceans prevent you from seeing them as often as you’d like.

My parents have a small needlepoint picture in their bathroom that says, “Home is where they love you.” After 4,793 miles flown from London to New York to Pittsburgh to Chicago to Philadelphia and sleeping in five different beds, I couldn’t agree more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

You Call This A Summer?

It's been cold (65F or so) here in London this summer and I, for one, am sick of it. Summer should be hot. Summer should be sunny. Summer should be like, well, summer. This is no summer.

It's bad enough that school didn't end until last Friday. As an American, summer should be an awfully long stretch of school-free time. Six weeks of summer vacation does not constitute a "long stretch."

This spring, the newspapers were full of stories saying this was going to be the hottest summer on record. Hottest for whom, I'd like to know. Penguins??

Since Monday, it's been overcast and rainy here. While this is excellent news for the new turf we laid in the backyard, it is terribly bad news if you're five and two and aching to spend a nice sunny day running around your local park.

Our Lithuanian cleaner, whose command of English isn't great, summed up my feelings about this weather exactly: "This is bullshit," she said today.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

London in the news (again)

Some of you may have heard that there were some minor explosions at three Tube stops and on one bus in London today. Again, we are all safe. Details are still quite sketchy. For up-to-the-minute updates, check the BBC News site.

We have decided, however, to employ a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy concerning these recent developments with our five-year-old. As no one is sure when/if these terrible events will stop, I see no need to make our son nervous about going on the Underground or worried about his father, who uses it every day. Because the explosions were minor, we think it's best to leave it and have him worry about the things that are important to him: i.e. when he'll be able to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or what he will do on his last day of school, which is tomorrow.

The two-year-old is completely oblivious. Lucky him. His most immediate concern is, "When will I eat my next chocolate chip cookie?" I wish my most immediate concern was the same.

Help Me Decide

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

To Run or Not To Run?

The new issue of "Marathon News" landed in our front hallway with a thud yesterday.

As soon as I had it in my hot little hands, I ran inside, ripped it open and perused it to see if there were any pictures of me in this year's race. While the issue was bereft of MarathonMum pictures, it did contain the ballot to enter next year's London Marathon.

Now, had the magazine arrived Monday I wouldn't have even entertained the thought of doing the race next year. Monday marked the fourth straight day I decided I'd go out for a run (even dressing for the activity on Friday and Monday), only to talk myself out of the endeavor, using one lame reason or another. But on Tuesday, I told myself Nicholas and I would go for only 20 minutes-- 10 minutes up the Thames and 10 minutes back. But I was enjoying the beautiful morning, jamming with my tunes, and running with such a nice rhythm that I actually went for 37 minutes. It was a great run.

I weighed the pros and cons of doing it next year.
For: I've got experience now and know what to expect
-I can learn from the mistakes I made in 2005
-Enjoying the experience of feeling like an Olympian for the day
-I can try to beat my time, which I was quite disappointed with
Cons: I've got experience now and know what to expect
-Three months on, my body STILL isn't fully recovered (back and hip still hurt)
-My personal trainer (Nicholas) will be that much older and heavier, making weekday training much more difficult
-No one ever asks you HOW MANY marathons you've done, only IF you've done it

I told Tim at dinner last night that the magazine/ballot arrived.
"I hope you threw it away," he said.
"So should I take that to mean you think I shouldn't do it?" I asked.
He pointed out that I was still suffering from this year's marathon, and also how much I wasn't around on the weekends, given the long Sunday runs I had to do. "You also got a little bit obsessed," he added. [Me? Obsessed?? Is that possible??? Does that finally explain why I've kept the name MarathonMum for my blog? {Actually, the reason I've kept the name is so that I can shamelessly continue to mention that I did the marathon}]

Now, when my mother reads this entry later today, I am quite sure that I will be able to hear her yelling, "NO! NO! NO!" from the other side of the Atlantic. There are probably lots of other people who know me and love me who also think doing the marathon again is pure folly.

I still haven't made up my mind about what I'm going to do, but I'm leaning against sending in the ballot. It would be nice to just support the other runners and enjoy the day next year. On the other hand, there's still that little voice inside my head who is saying, "Come on! Do it again!!"

Watch this space.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'm a Televangelist!

I took a "Personality Disorder" test on the web site OKCupid! and it turns out that I ould make a PERFECT televangelist! Watch out, Tammy Fae. It's a fun test and worth checking out. To do it yourself, click here

You are 28% Rational, 57% Extroverted, 14% Brutal, and 57% Arrogant.

As the Lord as my witness, I swear upon the good book that you are
indeed the TELEVANGELIST! Characterized by extreme arrogance,
self-assurance, and extroversion, you would make a very charismatic
leader (or a very despotic one). On top of that, you are also more
intuitive than rational, predisposing you to a more spiritual or
emotional outlook on life. Thus, you are thoroughly irrational. You
also tend to be rather gentle and considerate of others' feelings.
Clearly, you would make the perfect televangelist. Emotional,
extroverted, arrogant, and gentle, you annoy the hell out of people who
have to listen to the feel-good, intuitive shit spewing from your
mouth. Not only that, but people may look down on you as a
self-centered asshat. So while you are gentle and genuinely care about
others, it is quite clear that you still care about yourself MORE. Why
is your personality flawed? Because you are too damned extroverted,
emotional, and arrogant. So preach your irrational message, brotha-man!
I assure you, no one will be listening!

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more INTUITIVE than rational.

2. You are more EXTROVERTED than introverted.

3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.

4. You are more ARROGANT than humble.


Your exact opposite is the Spiteful Loner.

Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Hippie, the Starving Artist, and the Robot.



If you scored near fifty percent for a certain trait (42%-58%), you
could very well go either way. For example, someone with 42%
Extroversion is slightly leaning towards being an introvert, but is
close enough to being an extrovert to be classified that way as well.
Below is a list of the other personality types so that you can
determine which other possible categories you may fill if you scored
near fifty percent for certain traits.

The other personality types:

The Emo Kid: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Starving Artist: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Bitch-Slap: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Brute: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hippie: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Televangelist: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Schoolyard Bully: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Class Clown: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Robot: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Haughty Intellectual: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Spiteful Loner: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Sociopath: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hand-Raiser: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Braggart: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Capitalist Pig: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Smartass: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 4% on Rationality
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 58% on Extroversion
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 4% on Brutality
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 70% on Arrogance
Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on Ok Cupid

Monday, July 18, 2005

What Am I?

As my family and I prepare for our annual trip to the U.S., I find myself thinking about what determines nationality.

My husband and I moved to London in late 1998 assuming it would be a three-year assignment. Now, two sons and nearly seven years later, we’re still here. Some people, both here and in the U.S., seem amazed that I still have my American accent, but an accent is a difficult thing to lose after 30 years. British acquaintances will describe me as “The American” when they can’t remember my name. I am American and I will always be American.

But my two sons are a different matter. They were both born in the United Kingdom. Neither has spent much time in the United States. They both hold U.S. passports, since they have American parents, but I don’t think I could call them American.

But I couldn’t call the boys British, either. They don’t have British passports. They don’t have any other relatives in this country, nor do we have any ancestors from here. They have American parents. However, this is the place that they were born. London is home, and America is a foreign country to them.

We do what we can to reinforce American traditions to our sons. We enthusiastically celebrate Thanksgiving. I make sure to tell them about Ground Hog Day. We talk about the importance of Memorial Day. We mark the Fourth of July, even though the explanation is a little bit tricky. (“This is the day that Americans celebrate the fact that they didn’t have to live under British rule anymore.” When I saw the quizzical expression on my five-year-old’s face, I added, “We live under British rule, but that’s by choice and we can leave at any time.”)

Living in Britain, it’s difficult not to get caught up in British sayings, traditions and ways of life. We eat “bangers” not “sausages.” We put “rubbish” in the “bin,” not “garbage” in the “trash.” We celebrate Guy Fawkes Day in November. We enjoy a nice roast for Sunday lunch, which takes up most of the afternoon. We had goose for Christmas this year, and then we opened up our Christmas crackers.

Soon after he started school this year, my 5-year-old son told me that I was misspelling my own name. “It should be M-U-M, not M-O-M,” he said. But I refuse. It’s fine if he wants to call me “Mum”, which he does when his British accent is particularly strong, but I just can’t bring myself to call myself “Mum.” I would feel like a fraud, and every American fibre of my being would revolt.

I’ve decided that my sons are neither American nor British. While there are some superficial differences between the two nationalities, American and British people have many of the same good qualities: Courage, tenacity, intelligence and honesty. I can only hope that as they grow from boys into men, they will draw on their experiences and history from both countries to represent the best of the U.S. and the U.K.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Stiff Upper Lip

The mythology surrounding the British stiff upper lip is absolutely true, I have found this week.

Less than a week after four bombs exploded in central London, life continues, much as it did before. The news may be focused on finding the perpetrators and identifying the victims, but for many Londoners, we have acknowledged the bombings, discussed the aftermath, and vowed that life will not change because of some cowardly terrorists.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a stiff upper lip as “An attitude of determined endurance or restraint in the face of adversity.” No picture illustrated the definition, but if a lip were to be included, it would most definitely belong to a Londoner.

London comes by its collective strength honestly. One newsreader said this weekend, “London, like the rest of Britain, carries on in spite of its wounds. Scars will heal. Evil will never win.” However, the narrator was speaking not of the terrorist bombings on Thursday, but of the bombings during World War Two, 65 years ago.

This is a city that survived a five-day fire in 1666. This is a city that survived bombings by the Nazis during World War Two, when parents had to evacuate their own children to the countryside so they would be safe. This is a city that survived random bombings by the Irish Republican Army in the 1980s, when no one knew when or where the next bomb would be.

London has been battered before, but never beaten. People are getting on with their lives because they believe that by doing so, they are defying the terrorists. Londoners believe if they were to stay off the Underground, or change their life in other ways, that would be capitulation to the terrorists, because that’s what they want us to do. So we carry on.

“The people responsible for this bombing understand evil, but they don’t understand us,” one person wrote to the Daily Mail.

The London bombings showed me British resilience and courage, but it also drove home something else: people are tested in all sorts of ways every day.

During one of the calls I made to tell friends and family we were safe, one good friend told me that their 21-month-old daughter was having seizures and they didn’t know why. My brother in Panama City, Fla. called to see if we were okay just before he had to evacuate due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Dennis. When I called my cousin in Atmore, Ala. on Sunday to tell him we were fine, he was waiting to see what destruction Hurricane Dennis would bring.

So while London’s bombings were tragic and terrible, they were just one type of test people around the world had to endure last week. But wherever they are, people should use the British stiff upper lip as a fine example of steely resolve in the face of adversity, whatever or wherever that may be.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Terror in London

LONDON -- Now it seems as though it is our turn to feel the wrath of al Queda.

Less than 24 hours after being named host of the 2012 Olympics, London was rocked by bombs throughout the city’s center on Thursday, leaving people scared, angry, shaken and nervous. The terror completely eradicated the utter euphoria the city felt after winning the Olympics just a day before.

I first learned about the bombings in a most 21st century way—through a news headline e-mail. Just as I finished reading it, thinking there had been some mistake, my husband called telling me he was safe (his office is less than a mile away from one of the bombings) and urging me to put on the news.

In those first harrowing minutes, nothing was certain, except that there had been several bombs throughout the city. The BBC newsreader lists the Tube stops: I have been to all of them, for one reason or another. The fact that I thought about going in to the city to do a long-needed errand wasn’t worth considering.

As I sit and watch the news unfold, my body begins to remember its reaction to 9/11: my hands start shaking uncontrollably and I feel sick to my stomach. On that day in 2001, my husband and I sat in front of a television in Chicago while our nearly two-year-old son ran around saying “Sirens! Sirens!”

Now, nearly four years later, I was sitting in front of a different television with a different two-year-old son running around, but with the same sick feeling. Again, I think: “What sort of world am I bringing my son into?” But this time, after the bombings in the U.S. and Spain, there seemed to be a certain inevitability to the terror. It was never a question of “if” al Queda would bomb London, but “when” and “how.”

When I was a summer camp counsellor, I spent much of my day doing head counts of my second-grade group to make sure everyone was present and accounted for. On Thursday, I did the same thing. I did a mental list of everyone we knew who worked in the city and tried to call them. However, with the mobile networks overloaded with millions of people doing the same thing, the task was difficult. We now know that everyone in our immediate circle of friends is safe, but it is only a matter of time before we learn of a friend-of-a-friend who was caught up in the terror.

With the sky gray and rain falling occasionally, the weather seemed to match the ominous mood. I heard sirens in the distance, as ambulance and fire crews were diverted into central London. Helicopters flew overhead. The streets were empty, as the police commissioner urged people to stay where they were.

In the midst of this, I had to walk over to our local Royal Park to see my 5-year-old son play in his school’s sports day, an annual end-of-school event with fun and games. The children hadn’t been told about the bombings, and they ran and laughed, oblivious to the terror just a few miles away.

Later in the afternoon, when I picked up my son from school, I tried my best to explain what happened. In 2001, he was too young to understand the events. But on Thursday, he could read the newspaper headline we walked past, “Terrorists Attack London – Many Dead” and see the hundreds of people filling our local streets, walking home after the Underground and bus services were shut down.

I told him that some bombs had exploded, and Daddy was safe, but lots of people died or were hurt. The only thing he said was, “I hope none of our friends lived on the street were the bombs were.” Amen.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Explosions in London

For those of you who are worried, everyone on the MarathonMum team is safe. I will post more later.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

London Wins! London Wins!

London will host the 2012 Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday.

MarathonMum says, in an American accent no less, "We rock! Hooray! This is awesome!"

The announcement was just like any great Olympic event because London just edged out heavily-favoured Paris, with a vote of 54-50.

MarathonMum has much to do before the big event, including training Andrew to be in a sport that a 13-year-old boy could be competitive in, finding a bigger house so all of our friends and family who are so inclined can come and stay with us, and finding some marginal event that I can compete in (I'm thinking archery).

This is great. I am so excited.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

MarathonMum (me), Michelle and Laura after the British 10K Sunday. Posted by Picasa

Meeting my Blog Buddies

"Blog buddies? What in the world are they," you ask.

Blog buddies (I should trademark the term, I see it catching on), are my 21st century pen pals. My Blog Buddies Laura and Michelle also ran the British 10K on Sunday, so we decided to meet up at the race. Laura and I started the race together, and we met up with Michelle once we were all done. (I should note that Laura beat me in the race-- well done Laura-- because I just gave up trying to dodge around all the walkers and runners that were slower than us to keep up with her.)

Like all meetings of pen pals, 21st century or otherwise, you know lots of things about these people, but you haven't spent much time together. So it's a little bit strange, and could even be awkward. Once we did meet in person, we hugged each other like old friends and didn't stop talking for several hours.

We found out during our post-race lunch that we had many things in common: we all did the London Marathon, we're all foreigners in Britian, we're all tenacious, we'd all like to be faster runners, we all have close families and none of us take ourselves too seriously.

The race itself was rubbish (too many people, no water at the finish, poor markings, I could go on) but the rest of the day was fantastic. We are now trying to decide what race we will meet up at next.

This great day just prove the serendipitous nature of friendships: whether its at high school, through work, by the school gates or via the Internet.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Centre of the Universe

London seems to be the centre of the universe at the moment, with Wimbledon continuing, the (best) Live8 concert tomorrow, the start of the Summer Sales and the Olympics bid decision next week.

We've got a jam-packed weekend planned.

It's an all-American women's final at Wimbledon tomorrow, with Lindsay Davenport playing Venus Williams. I'd like to see Lindsay win-- she might not be the most exciting person, but she is an amazing player and very classy. Go Lindsay!

I will be watching the Live8 concert from the comfort of my sofa (boo!) but with an ice-cold beer in my hand (yeah!). The winners of Live8 tickets learned yesterday that alcohol will be banned at the event, which suddenly made me feel not so sad that I didn't win tickets. Also, as previously predicted in MarathonMum, given the number of artists performing, they'll each be playing no more than four songs.

The start of the Summer Sales is also a big deal in the city. Now, my American friends-- they live in the land of perpetual sales-- are scratching their heads and wondering what the big deal is. But here, we have two sales a year-- one right after Christmas and one in the summer. So this is it for bargains. I've gotten used to it, and in fact, I'm not convinced that Americans get bargains if things are on "sale" all the time. Tim hit the sales on Friday, and I will be attempting to get a few things tomorrow.

Finally, in the lead up to the Olympics decision on Wednesday, there will be a 10K race in the heart of London on Sunday morning. Now, I am slightly worried about what my performance will be, given my Marathon periformis problems, but I did run six miles on Thursday and it went great, so maybe it won't be the disaster I fear. Even better, though, is that I'm meeting up with two of my fellow bloggers whom I "met" while we all trained for the London marathon. Laura and I plan to run together, and Michelle is going to meet up with us after for some celebratory pints.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

London 2012 - Back the Bid

Olympic fever seems to be contagious at the moment, since the International Olympic Committee will announce on Wednesday which city will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

London is a finalist to host the games with Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow. As you can see from the photo below, our family (well, Andrew and I, anyway) would really like to see London win. Sure, our taxes would go up, and there would be all sorts of hassle associated with the games, but it would just be SO COOL if the Olympics were in London, as I've always wanted to go.

If London wins, Greenwich itself will be the host venue for the equestrian competitions (at our local Royal Park), gymnastics and basketball (at the old Millennium Dome), meaning I could walk to the horse events (if only I had any interest at all in them), or hop a bus-- or run if I were by myself-- to the other two events at the Dome.

Last Saturday they had a "Back the Bid" event at Greenwich Park, where Andrew got to try out the Olympic sports of rowing, judo, football and bicyling. We had our fitness tested, which gave me yet another opportunity to casually mention that I ran the London Marathon. The tester complimented me on my fitness-- I was excellent or good in all categories-- so I thought it was only right that I tell her why. They also had a parade, which Andrew and I had made flags for (see picture below). We even got our Back the Bid t-shirts, which we both wear with pride. Andrew, in fact, loved his so much that I had to convince him it was time to wash it after he'd worn it for two straight days.

According to the British press, Paris and London are the joint favourites to host the Games. Madrid is considered to be in third place and New York and Moscow aren't in the running, apparently (sorry, American and Russian friends).

Needless to say, I am ardently following developments related to the awarding of the Games. I hope London wins.

London 2012 - Back the Bid! (Register your support at

Monday, June 27, 2005

Andrew, clad in his Leap for London T-Shirt, joins in the Back the Bid celebrations at Greenwich Park Saturday. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

Prince William to Work in the City

Prince William, future King of England, will work alongside those who think they are kings when he takes a job in the City.

Prince William graduated with honours from St. Andrew’s University Thursday. The British press quickly dubbed him the brainiest-ever royal, as his neither father or his uncles graduated with honours. (The Queen, alas, did not go to university. She has a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. And a crown.)

Upon graduating, William outlined the three work experiences he has chosen for the next six months. He’ll work on a farm, with a mountain rescue team, and in the City. “The City”, for those MarathonMum fans not from here, is the London equivalent of Wall Street. When you say you “Work in the City” it is understood to be at a financial institution, usually making loads ‘n loads of cash.

“I very much hope that these work placements will give me hands-on experience in three very different but important areas," William said in a statement. “The work experience in the City was something I was particularly keen to do as I feel that this is an area in which I could learn a lot, and it may well help me with charitable fund-raising in the future.” [Read: Meet more rich people who will be able to pony up large amounts of cash when I need it for my yet-to-be-named-or-formed charity.]

No specific financial institution was named due to security concerns, so Bloomberg News needs to get on the case and break the story. Come on, people! This is the sort of news people need, not the latest in the Citigroup-Legg Mason deal or whether oil is still trading above $60 (At the time of writing, it was trading at $59.90).

The Friday newspapers contained some speculation about where William will work. The Sun said it might be Merrill Lynch, where William’s friend Edward van Custem is employed. The Telegraph said it might be Barclays, KPMG or Coutts, the Queen’s bank. (“Would you like me to ask my banker if they have any summer jobs?” she asked her grandson. “Sure, Grandma, that would be brilliant!”)

Personally, I think it’s hilarious that William will work in the City. Here he is, the future King of England, surrounded by men with Ego Complexes larger than England. Wouldn’t it be great if just once he told them, “You think you’re so hot because you got a £5 million bonus last year? One day I will be your ruler!” A girl can dream, can’t she?

“The City” can also roughly include Canary Wharf, just on the other side of the river from Greenwich, since so many financial institutions are there. Maybe one day, I’ll be minding my own business at the local Pret a Manger when he will stroll over to buy a Coronation Chicken sandwich. Again, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Tim Henman Update

Tim Henman put Britain out of his annual misery by losing in the second round of Wimbledon. He did put up a fight, losing in five sets, but still, that's it for him, for this year at least.

We'll always have Henman Hill, though.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tennis Update

Tim Henman barely made it past his first-round opponent Tuesday, taking more than three hours to finally win in five sets.

Andy Murray, The Next Great Hope, breezed through his first-round game, winning in straight sets.

See what I said about the up-and-comer and the old timer? Remember: You read it here first in MarathonMum.

Wimbledon, a British institution

It’s late June, and that only means one thing to the fine people of Britain: Will this be the year that Tim Henman finally wins Wimbledon?

Henman-fever really is something to see. It’s a combination of national pride and a desire to see the nice guy win. In some ways, it is not very British to be so ambitious and obvious to hope that this will be the year he'll do it. Every year, in the days leading up to Wimbledon, there are the inevitable stories and speculation: Will this be Tim’s year? And for the seven tournaments I’ve witnessed from these shores, the answer has been (sadly) No.

This year, however, there seems to be a lower temperature for Henman Fever. Either the fans have been disappointed enough times, or it’s a nod to the fact that Tim is in the twilight years of his tennis career, but there’s an up-and-coming British player, Andrew Murray, who is getting an equal amount of attention.

Murray won the U.S. Open Junior title last September, and he’s in Wimbledon on a wild card. (His mother, incidentally, taught tennis to my friend Gillian, who grew up in his hometown). It probably won’t be Andrew’s year, but I doubt, as much as I’d like to see it—that it’ll be Tim’s year either.

On a personal note, I find it funny that the torch is being passed from a Tim (my husband’s name) to an Andrew (my older son’s name).

Regardless, when Wimbledon is on it’s a great time of year to be in London. Strawberries are in season. It’s time to make Pimms on a regular basis. The BBC coverage—from dawn until nightfall—is unparalleled. I’d be in front of the telly all day watching tennis, if I could.

When we went to Wimbledon ourselves, in 1999 and again in 2000, we loved it. It was one of those wonderful moments in life when you take a minute, look around and think, “I’m really here! This is so cool!!” We ate strawberries. We studied the brackets. We saw some great tennis. I even caught an errant ball, which, to this day, I’m sorry I threw back to the ball boy.

Wimbledon is a great British institution. Be sure to eat strawberries and drink some Pimms while you watch it-- if you can. But most of all, enjoy it-- even if Tim doesn’t win.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Human Cannonball Can't Fly

A human cannonball was fired from his job because he wouldn't fly.

Todd Christian, who worked for Cottle & Austen Circus, lost his job because his fear of flying prevented him from attending a special training camp in human flying in Brazil, according to a story in today's Independent.

Christian, who previously held posts as a lion trainer and trapeze artist (talk about multi-talented!), took on the explosive task of human cannonballing two months ago. However, the daily act of being shot out of the cannon via compressed air with pressure of 190-pounds-force per square inch led to several injuries and muscle strain.

The circus wanted to send Christian to special training at the Guiana space center in Brazil, but he didn't want to fly there. He told the Independent, "I know it sounds silly because I'm a human cannonball, but I don't like long flights and if I'm on a plane for a long time I start to panic." The circus fired him once he refused to fly.

Christian is now consulting with a lawyer about suing for unfair dismissal.

Christian's replacement, Diego the Human Rocket, has been to the specialist training camp. But he is from Brazil. It is not known if Diego also suffers from a fear of flying, but it seems unlikely.

Now I'm no expert on phobias, but do you think the fear of flying and the whole shot-out-of-a-cannon-at-60-mph thing are related?

Please, justify my existence.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Live 8 Ticket Mania Update

Winners of Live 8 concert tickets will be banned from using Ebay to sell them, the global auction house said late Tuesday.

As first reported in MarathonMum Tuesday afternoon, some Live 8 ticket winners were attempting to use Ebay to sell the highly sought after tickets. However, many of these sellers were being stymied in these efforts as people put in false bids of up to £10 million pounds.

Sir Bob Geldolf, Live 8’s organizer, described the sales as “sick profiteering” and pressed Ebay to ban the sale of the tickets. More than 2 million people sent text messages in the hopes of winning tickets to the Live 8 concert on July 2 in Hyde Park, which will feature U2, REM, Madonna, Coldplay, Sir Paul McCartney and others.

Even though Ebay has banned the sales, it’s not going to stop people from trying to profit from their good fortune. But with Ebay out of the equation, it will make it much more difficult to get a high price for the tickets. Sellers will have to return to the dark and scary place where there is no Internet, and sell them through word of mouth, classifieds or the local newagent's window.Posting a notice in your local newsagent’s window is pretty far afield from being able to sell it on Ebay.

Finally, while I think it’s great that Ebay bowed to public pressure, I’m not convinced it was wholly necessary. When I checked the site late last night, before the tickets had been removed from sale, more than 20 pairs had bids of £10 million. It seemed as though those who objected to the sales were doing a fine job themselves of thwarting the auctions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Live 8 Ticket Mania

As my mobile phone sits silent, I’m guessing that I didn’t win Live 8 London concert tickets. Bummer. I really wanted to go. Now I’ll have to watch it on BBC with everyone else. Looking on the bright side, at least I won’t have to stand all day, getting high off secondary smoke, only to listen to one band play three songs, followed by one hour of changing equipment for the next act. (At least, that was my experience when my friends and I went and saw the Amnesty International concert in Philadelphia in 1988.)

Just out of curiosity, I decided to check EBay, the capital of secondary markets, to see at what price tickets are being sold. At the moment, there are 422 ticket pairs up for sale. Five pairs of tickets have the highest bid-- a staggering £10 million pounds, with two more pairs at more than £9 million and three pairs at £5 million. No, those aren’t typos. Upon closer inspection, it seems as though people who have a philosophical problem with selling the tickets on EBay are driving up the prices. Some of the names of the bidders include, “don’t-bid-live8-is-for-proverty-not-profit,” and “against profit from suffering” and “charity cheaters get stuffed” and “live8istomakepovertyhistory”.

EBay seems to have its hands full, as when I look into the bid history of some of these tickets, there are dozens of bids cancelled for each of these tickets due to it being an excessive bid. Some of comments of the cancelled bids were, “I suspect the user is abusing the system.” One could argue that the seller is doing the same.

The anarchist in me applauds these people for mucking up the bidding when people are trying to profit off of Live8. If any of the sellers were to say that they would be contributing their sale’s proceeds to charity, then I’d say, let the market decide how much the ticket is worth. But since all of them seem to be trying to profit from what is a worthy cause, then I’d say, they deserve it.

But if any of you out there have won tickets and are looking for a friend to accompany you, I’m available that day.