Wednesday, May 25, 2005

There's a Needle in my Butt!!

Regular readers of this journal will note that there hasn't been much in the way of running news here lately. The reason for its absence, despite this blog's title, is that I haven't been doing any. This is a very sad development for me, but even sadder for Nicholas, who really enjoyed our daily forays into the park and along the River Thames.

To use the technical term, I am having piriformis problems. This is the same hip problem that waylaid me just two weeks before the marathon. I only ran one mile on Marathon Day, and my hip then shouted at me, "What the hell are you doing to me??" Actually, the problem is one that I think most mothers can relate to: my piriformis muscle was doing the work of other muscles, when they were too lazy to do the work themselves. So when my piriformis is aching, that's its way of saying, "Doesn't anyone appreciate me around here? Do I really have to do the jobs of three people?"

I have been faithfully seeing my physiotherapist and doing the exercises required to rehabilitate it, but it still wasn't getting much better. Until Monday. I think the phsyiotherapist was somewhat exasperated that I was still complaining about this, so she suggested we "needle" it. It's sort of like acupuncture, but without the Chi element to it. The idea is that you get blood rushing to the area that hurts, and that helps alleviate the tightness in the muscle. I was willing to try anything, just as long as it didn't hurt anymore. I've got races scheduled for July, and I need to start training again.

So there I was, lying on my side, minding my own business, with a big fat needle sticking out of my butt. Truth be told, I did think, "This is so hip!" (pun intended) "I'm just like Charlotte on Sex and the City!" It felt a little strange when she put the needle in, but it didn't hurt. Bear in mind, though, that my threshold of pain is somewhat different from many people, given that I've experienced childbirth twice and a marathon once.

To make a long story short, I think The Needle In My Butt worked. I'm still a little sore, but I was able to go out for a short run today without my hip hurting. I'm going to go for a slightly longer run tomorrow.

What's the moral of the story? For those, like me, with Pain in the Butt (this does not include offspring), try a Needle in the Butt. It works a treat!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Our Man in Jordan

Back in the old days, meaning those dark times before technology made our world so much smaller, getting posted abroad really meant something. Now, with the advent of the Internet, inexpensive air transportation and satellite technology, it's really no big deal to go anywhere. Foreign journalists are a dime a dozen. To become "Our man in London" or "Our woman in Tokyo" (how news organizations used to refer to their correspondents abroad) doesn't really require anything more than a valid passport and a desire to travel.

However, there are still times when journalists get sent to places so unusual or dangerous that it gives people pause. As regular readers of this journal know, Tim got to see one part of the Axis of Evil when he had to go to Iran in March. His latest destination was less dangerous, but nearly as exotic: Jordan, for the World Economic Forum.

Tim, who is an editor at Bloomberg, went to coordinate their coverage but to also chair a panel on Saturday.

In this picture below, taken while he did some on-air commentary for Bloomberg, you can see the Dead Sea behind him. He went swimming in it and he said it was the most bizarre sensation he's ever had. The Dead Sea is one of the saltiest water bodies in the world, so when you swim in it, it is virtually impossible to not float in it. Tim said it was nearly impossible to put his legs down to feel the bottom of the lake.

So Our Man in Jordan is now on his way back to London. However, the next scheduled business trip is just as interesting. He's meant to go to Nigeria.

Tim on air for Bloomberg News during the World Economic Forum in Jordan. Posted by Hello

Friday, May 20, 2005

Learning Geography the Easy Way

We had to take the Family Atlas (which to us is like a Family Bible) down from the bookshelf, as Tim has been floating around in the Dead Sea in Jordan this week.

Andrew is getting to be quite the expert in geography, given that in the last five months his dad has been to Moscow, Paris (twice), Iran and now Jordan. Next week, the whole family will travel to Germany for our spring break. Andrew apparently has put his geographic expertise to good use, showing his class where America was on the globe, and earning a house point in the process.

(Note for my American readers who haven’t read Harry Potter: In some British schools, classes are divided up into “Houses.” The term originates from boarding school, where Houses correlated to what dorm the students lived in. As there are no dorms in Andrew’s school, Houses are just a way to have the students compete against each other. I will report back when I find out what the Winning House gets at the end of the year.)

I’ve always been pretty good at American geography, but I really nailed down the Fly-Over Territory-- the region of the U.S. between the East Coast and the West Coast-- in 1988. That summer, I accompanied my brother on a road trip from Colorado to Pennsylvania. Sure, it might have been quicker and easier to nail down the difference between Kansas and Missouri by using some memorization techniques, but then I would have never seen the World’s Largest Prairie Dog in Kansas or taken a helicopter ride around the St. Louis Arch in Missouri.

Likewise, now that I’ve lived in London for more than six years, I’m a superstar when it comes to European geography. I can tell you where Andorra is (between France and Spain) and I’ve been to 2/3 of the Benelux region (Belgium and the Netherlands). We will complete the Benelux triumvirate when we drive through Luxembourg on the way to Germany.

With this trip, I will be able to add two more countries to my list of foreign countries visited, bringing my grand total to 14*. Tim’s total will be 18**, Andrew’s total will be 10***, and Nicholas’ total will be eight****. I think that’s a fairly impressive statistic for an American family, given that only 18% of U.S. adults hold a passport.

Yes, Germany is an unusual choice for a family vacation. I met a German man in the park today who even seemed flummoxed by our choice of destination. “Really?” he asked. “You’re going to Germany for holiday?? Not many people do.”

At the time, Nicholas was running away after a football, so I didn’t have time to explain that this was how my family learns geography.

*United States, Canada, Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Finland, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany
**Add to my list: Switzerland, Russia, Iran and Jordan.
***Andrew visited Morocco and Finland before Nicholas was born, so add those to the list below.
****Great Britain, United States, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A Number Four, Please

Andrew followed in the steps of his younger brother to get his hair cut this afternoon. For some reason, he loves going to the barber. I don't know if it's the attention, the spritz of water, the ticklish brush or the lollipop at the end, but the trip becomes the highlight of his week.

The two boys and I arrived at the barbershop and Andrew arranged himself in the chair. The barber turned to me and asked, "What number do you want today?" To which I replied eloquently, "Huh??"

I tried to save face by quickly adding, "Just make it shorter all around." But then he tried to get all technical by asking where exactly did I want it to be shorter, how much did I want left at the top and whether or not there should be a lot of hair left around the ears. Are you kidding me? When did a boy's hair get so complicated? We're talking about a head that normally doesn't even see a brush every morning (one of the perks of being a boy).

Now I realize I should have known better, given that I am outnumbered by males in my household and I grew up with two older brothers, but I had no earthly idea what number haircut we needed. At least I knew that number referred to the length, but that was the extent of my knowledge. The very helpful and friendly barber looked around the barbershop, trying to find a picture that would give me an idea. But it was, after all, a barber shop, not a beauty parlor. It's not like there were old Cosmos lying around to give you ill-informed ideas about what you'd like to do with your hair.

In the end, the barber decided to do a number four. "I can make it a number three by cutting it again, but I can't make it a number four by gluing back the hair that I've cut," he said.

So if you ever need to take Andrew to the "haircut store", as he calls it, remember that he needs a number four.

 Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

One Month Later

One month has passed since I finished the London marathon. Looking back on it now, what did I learn?

-It is not shameless behaviour to tell every person you see that you are running/have run the London marathon. However, no one—except maybe your five-year-old son and your physiotherapist—wants to keep talking about it one month later.

-There is a time and a place when wearing your medal is appropriate. While you may be tempted to wear it to bed, it might post a strangulation risk. But at least the medics there to take your dead body away would say, “Look at that! She ran the marathon!” In addition, it could be considered somewhat audacious to wear your medal every day or even to carry it with you everywhere.

-Your feet will never be the same, and will never forgive you for having run. At last count, I lost four toenails, (Where did they go? Maybe I should check under the bed again), two turned black/purple and four survived. It was only a week ago that I was able to venture into a shoe store to get a lovely new pair of red pumps. Of course, it also gave me another chance to tell a stranger about what I’d done. (“Sorry about the feet, but I ran the marathon last month.”)

-Even if you’ve fully loaded your iPod shuffle, the only songs that will rise above the din of the crowd to make it to the front of your brain will be your three All-Time Favorites: “Born to Run” by Bruce Spingsteen (I’m a Jersey Girl. What can I say?), “Respect” by Aretha Franklin (Sisters of the World, Unite!) and “Clocks” by Coldplay (Nicholas and Andrew’s most favourite song, which they dance to every morning).

-Running 26.2 miles is the easiest way to make a 6.2 mile run seem like a walk in the park.

-It is impossible to wipe the smile off your face or the immense pride you feel when you think about finishing the marathon for the 1,784th time.

-It’s a great thing to talk about at cocktail parties, though, again, showing off your medal is frowned upon.

-The generosity of my friends and family, and even some strangers, astounds me. The combined donations of people on both sides of the Atlantic will be enough to send more than 150 African girls (and counting!) to primary school for one year. It’s still not too late to donate—click on the link to the right. For me, that’s an even bigger accomplishment than having finished the race. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who donated.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Nicholas Turns Two!

Champagne. Chocolate cake. A Royal Park. Friends. Sunshine. Laughter. Onion dip. Submarine sandwiches. The Greenwich Meridian line. Leftover Easter candy.

We found that these were the ten essential things for an unforgettable second birthday party on Saturday.

Friends gathered in the Secret Garden at Greenwich Royal Park, astride the Greenwich Meridian line, 0 degrees longitude. We drank Nicolas (Feuillatte) champagne (Yum!), and then when that ran out, we acknowledged Nicholas’ dual heritage by drinking Pimms. In a culinary nod to his American roots, we ate submarine sandwiches—also known as hoagies or heroes, depending on where you are in the U.S.—and onion dip, which our British friends LOVED and found quite exotic. After a dodgy start to the day, the sun made an appearance at the party and stayed for the duration, until we all had to get home to put the kids to bed. In the goody bags, the children were awarded with Incredibles toys and leftover Easter candy. Yes, you read that correctly. I have no shame. But since everyone there knows me, and since I included a witty note about it, I just didn’t care about how that appeared.

A grand day was had by all.

If only all children’s birthday parties could be so simple. One of the terrible truths that no parent passes on is how a simple celebration to mark another year becomes A Very Big Deal once they hit age four. Maybe it’s a reflection of living in London, where everything is competitive. All I know is that Andrew’s sixth birthday is four months away, and I’m already trying to figure out how we’ll mark the occasion for his friends.

On Saturday, one of the highlights of the afternoon was a Nicholas Trivia Quiz. The winner got to take home a bottle of Nicolas champagne. (Congratulations Tom and Kirstin, who got 9 out of 10 correct, plus the bonus question right). If you’d like to try your luck, here’s the questions, and you can post your answers and I’ll tell you how you did.

1. When is his birthday?
2. How did Maureen get to St. Thomas’ Hospital?
3. What colour are his eyes?
4. What is his favourite fruit snack?
5. What did he do on his father’s last birthday?
6. What did Tim do on Nicholas’ first birthday?
7. What is the name of his swim teacher?
8. What is his favourite film?
9. What was his first proper noun?
10. What is his middle name?
Tie-breaking question:
What colour is his toothbrush?

Nicholas is somewhat befuddled by all the fuss of his second birthday, but he very much enjoyed his Incredible cake! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What's in a Name?

Personally, I think choosing a name for an offspring is one of the most difficult tasks a parent faces. It’s a moniker that has to carry the child through his or her toddlerhood, primary school, awkward teenage years, and finally, into adulthood. It’s a choice that will stay—or haunt, as the case may be—for a lifetime.

Even though my sons are five and nearly two, I still have moments when I question whether Andrew and Nicholas were good names to pick.

Our name-picking process was a bit tortured, to say the least. With son number one, he was knocking around for a full three days before we decided on a name. We were a bit more prompt with Nicholas (by one day), but only because our friends Anne and Chris babysat Andrew for us for a few hours so we could have a “Name Summit.” (I’m sure if we had a few more days to spare, we would have taken them to deliberate).

In our defense, we didn’t know the gender of either child ahead of time, so that made deciding when pregnant doubly difficult. Also, since we’re writers, I think we approached the task with slightly more obsessiveness than most people. But when people tell me they had a difficult time picking a name, I totally understand.

My friend Jennie gave birth to a beautiful daughter two weeks ago, but for the first few days, her daughter was also nameless. She and her husband had been expecting a boy—they have two older sons—so when a girl came along they were completely unprepared, both with pink clothes and a name. They thought they had decided on Opal for a name, but apparently so many people pulled a face when told the choice, they changed their mind. Their daughter’s name is now Lydia.

So today, when I was doing some research into the 60th anniversary of V-E day, (the original subject of today’s post, and don’t worry, I’ll get to World War II eventually), I came across the U.S. Social Security Site listing the most popular baby names. I started to look into how popular our choices were, and I was disappointed to see that both choices made it into the top 15. It is possible, however, that while Andrew and Nicholas may be popular in the U.S., they aren’t as popular in the U.K.

In any case, in 1999, the year Andrew was born, that name was the seventh most popular in the land. Andrew held that spot until 2003, when it jumped to No. 5, and last year, it settled back down to be the sixth most popular name.

In 2003, when Nicholas was born, it was the 13th most popular name, and it held that spot last year. George, which was a strong contender to be Nicholas’ first name, and is in fact his middle name, was ranked 138th. George is my father-in-law’s name, but when we were deciding on a name, I could hear my mother-in-law in the back of my mind saying, as she once had, “George always hated his name. It’s a terrible name.”

Now that I’ve seen that it wasn’t so popular that year, it made me second-guess our choice a full two years later. While it was always important to me that my children have names everyone can spell, I also don’t want either of my sons to have someone in his class with the same name. On the other hand, if you go too far in the other direction, by giving them a really distinct name, then you find yourself in Jennie’s situation, where people make a face and say, “Really?” when told the name, and I don’t want that either.

(If you’d like some fun, and if you’re not careful, you might waste a lot of time, check out your own name at the Social Security Site at

As I’m still wrestling with our decisions, I don’t envy any new parent’s task of choosing a name for their new beautiful baby. Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” Quite a lot, I’d say.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Happy Mother's Day Eve Eve

Happy Mother's Day Eve Eve, which in the United States, will be celebrated on Sunday. (Here in the United Kingdom, we held our Mother's Day bashes two months ago). But frankly, mothers aren't appreciated enough, in my opinion, so I might start lobbying my family that we celebrate on both the U.S. and U.K. holiday. Also, I would get to eat more cake. (Actually, no, I wouldn't be able to eat more cake because I haven't been able to run-- or even really walk-- since last weekend owing to my hip. So the marathon-inspired all-you-can-eat policy will have to be abandoned at the moment. But I digress.)

Now that I am one myself, I can say with authority: It's a thankless job being a mother. We could have a really great day-- one featuring art projects, games in the park, homemade brownies and a completely nutritional and organic dinner-- but no one would say to me at the day's end: "I had a really fun day today, Mom. Thanks!" It's more likely I would hear, "Why do I have to take a bath?"

When you're a full-time employee of a company, you're entitled to all sorts of benefits and you receive an annual job performance review. When you're a full-time employee of your family, there are no tangible benefits (such as sick days) and no annual review.

But just the other day, Andrew stopped eating his dinner and said to me, unprompted, "Thanks for making me such a nice dinner, Mom!" So maybe it's not such a thankless job after all.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Nicholas’s First Haircut…. And the power of commercials

We had a three-day weekend here in the U.K. (Happy May Day Everyone!) so it gave the Stapleton-Coulter Family an opportunity to get things done that we have been putting off. Mainly, getting Nicholas’s hair cut for the first time.

Yes, yes, I know he’ll be two years old in two weeks, but if you’ve ever seen his beautiful cherubic curls, you would understand my reluctance to get them snipped. I also realize that his hair was getting so long he was getting both dreadlocks and mistaken for a girl (I don’t know what’s worse), but still, I waited to do the deed.

Andrew, it should be noted, had the same type of beautiful curly hair, but because he was my first and I was eager for him to experience his first milestones as quickly as possible, we had his cut at 19 months. I think the difference this time around is that because Nicholas is my baby and we don’t plan to have any more children, I’m happy to extend his babyhood for as long as possible.

On Saturday morning, I screwed up my courage and called Trotters, the ever-so-posh children’s clothing/shoe/toy store in Chelsea that also does children’s haircuts. We don’t venture into SW3 very often, but this store makes a big deal out of a first haircut, and Andrew had his done there too, so we decided to return. SW3, the former home of Sir Isaac Newton, Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde, is just too posh, beautiful and lovely for words. Years from now, if anyone asks either of my sons where they had their first haircut, they can say with pride, “In Chelsea!”

I think Nicholas was as reluctant to get his hair cut as I was to see it done. When the hairdresser asked how much she should take off, I said, “Keep the Curls” as if it were a war cry.

Nicholas really doesn’t like people touching his curls—it usually makes him cry. “Don’t touch my Mojo!” is what we think he would like to say, if he could talk. Saturday proved to be no exception. As soon as the hairdresser started to work, Nicholas started to cry and kept covering his hair with his hands. I tried to hand him snacks to keep his hands busy, but he wasn’t going for it. Finally, the deed was done and it looked great. He still had his curls, but no one would mistake him for a girl—at least for now.

Meanwhile, Andrew kept himself amused during the haircut by browsing around the shop. For weeks, he’s been asking if he could get Geox shoes. I had no earthly idea what Geox shoes are, but Geox must advertise on Nick Jr. Andrew tells me, “They’re the shoes that breathe.” [I know all the parenting books say you shouldn’t use TV as a babysitter, but I use the time the boys are entertained by TV to do really exciting things—like make Andrew’s lunch or take a shower]. “Can I look for Geox shoes, Mom?” Andrew asked. “Sure,” I said, never thinking he’d find them.

But sure enough, the store stocked them. Disappointingly for Andrew, though, they didn’t have his size in any of Geox shoes they carried. When some other children overheard Andrew’s request, they said to their parents, “I want Geox shoes too!” (I guess they also watch Nick Jr.) Tim and I picked out some other shoes that we thought were just as cool, but Andrew would sigh and say, “But do they breathe?” When we’d say no, he’d put the pair back on the shelf.

We went to three other shoe stores and we could not find the elusive Geox shoes. The next day we decided to make Andrew’s need for Geox shoes our mission, so we went Geox’s only store in central London. Alas, they didn’t have his size either. At this point, I lost whatever maternal patience sent me on this quest and we went to Selfridges—a department store—to find Andrew a new pair of shoes.

While Selfridges didn’t have Geox shoes either, we found a pair that looked nearly identical. Having learned our lesson the hard way, when Andrew asked, “Do these shoes breathe?” We said, “Of course!” Andrew is now running around in a cool new pair of shoes, though they are not Geox.

Parental duplicity is a beautiful thing.

This is a rushed picture (we had two minutes to get out the door to get there in time) taken by Andrew. You still get a sense of how many curls Nicholas had, though. Posted by Hello

This is after the haircut. It really doesn't look that much shorter, but when the hairdresser asked me how much she should cut, I said, "Keep the Curls!" Posted by Hello