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.