Monday, December 04, 2006

Our Christmas Kick-Off

Editors Note: I was going to write about arthritis today, answering your questions and outlining my sporting plans (I've got some good ones in mind), but that bummed me out too much, so I've written this entry instead. "It's my blog, and I'll write what I want to," she says, indignantly.

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and Thing One and Thing Two are all hopped up for Christmas. So all is as it should be.

The weekend kicked off on Friday with the lighting of the local lights. "Santa's going to be there," I said sanguinely, as cheers erupted around me. We duly set off with our friends Emma, Wendy, Charlotte and Caroline. After we arrive, witness the lighting and smell the mulled wine, we learn that Santa is installed in a shop. Friends advise us that the line is now short, so we excitedly make our way there. While we wait, I run into my friend Ellie and ask her how Santa is. "Well, I think he might be having a bit of a laugh," she said, and then made the universal motion of hoovering up drugs to indicate to the parents what was awaiting us. "No! It can't be!!" said Mrs. Christmas (that would be me) appalled at the idea that no Santa-controls were in place.

But I'm pretty sure she was right. We finally got to the door, but had to wait while Santa disappeared behind his chair for about a minute. You can draw your own conclusions. I didn't detect any white powder on his face, but then again, it was covered with a beard. The young man, clad in a Santa costume, handed the boys their bags, wished them a Merry Christmas and we were out. No enquiries as to what was on their lists. No comments on their behaviour. Really, he was the worst Santa I've ever seen.

Perhaps this is just the 21st Century equivalent of sitting on the lap of a drunk Santa.

On the way home, Thing One turned to me, unprompted, and said, "You know Mom, sometimes there's Santas out there that aren't REALLY Santa. They're just pretending."

"That's right," I replied, picking up the observation and running with it. "Santa is really, really busy in December. Every once in a while he does get to go to a mall or a store, but lots of times there are people who are just playing dressing up."

"That makes sense," Thing One replied.

The conversation then turned again to what chimney Santa will use when he comes on Christmas Eve. Now that we're in a new house, there has been much discussion as to which chimney Santa will come down (there are five fireplaces to choose from, believe it or not). The boys finally concluded that they thought he would come down their chimney, since it's on the top floor and closest to the roof, but still leave the presents under the Christmas tree downstairs.

Let's just hope they've already forgotten about the "Santa" they saw Friday.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Know Your Friends

Hello MarathonMum friends.

I know I've been neglecting this blog, but things have been happeneing here at MarathonMum HQ. I know this post is cheating, but I felt I had to get one post up this month before it concluded.

Imbedded in the answers below is the reason why I haven't posted in such a long time. There's been X-rays and doctors and blood tests and more doctors. So if you're patient and you read through you'll see what I'm talking about. I'll post more about it soon.

1. What is your occupation? Chairman and chief executive officer of our family.

2. What color are your socks right now? light blue (I should note they are about 10 years old)

3. What are you listening to right now? The birds in the backyard.

4. What is the last thing you ate? Does my morning coffee count? With it I had an Italian amaretto biscuit. Yum.

5. Can you drive a stick shift? Thanks to Sean Fitzgerald, yes.

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Would depend on the day.

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Kathy Krueger.

8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Not really. I'm just sending it back so she thinks I still like her. Did I say that out loud??

9. How old are you today? 38

10. Favorite Drink? Champagne.

11. What is your favorite sport to watch? Hard to say, given the prevalence of snooker and cricket on t.v. here. I really miss the NFL and the NBA though. I guess, thinking it through, college basketball starring the Villanova Wildcats of course.

12. Have you ever dyed your hair? I started going grey at 20. Does that answer your question?

14. Pets? I have two sons. That's more than enough fun for one household.

15. Favorite food? Italian, followed very closely by French, not to mention sushi.

16. What was the last movie you watched? "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Actually, I didn't watch it. Nicholas watched it, and I used the time to have a long chat with my friend Kathy (see above). The movie I actually watched was "Breaking and Entering" starring Jude Law. I'd give it a 7.5/10.

17. Favorite day of the year? Hard to pick.

18. What do you do to vent anger? I used to go out for a long hard run. Now that I can't do that anymore given that I've just been diagnosed with arthritis, I'm going to have to think of something else.

19. What was your favorite toy as a child? My doll "Baby." I was a very literal child.

20. What is your favorite season: Autumn

21. Hugs or kisses? hugs

22. Cherries or Blueberries? Blueberries

23. Do you want your friends to email you back? Absolutely

24. Who is most likely to respond? I'm hoping that my friends lead such a full and rich life they won't have time to respond. I'm just using this questionnaire as a procrastination exercise before I go upstairs to get out our Christmas decorations.

25. Who is least likely to respond? See above.

26. Living arrangements? Living at the fun house (a 200-year old Georgian house) in Greenwich, London, with my husband and two pets-- I mean, sons.

27. When was the last time you cried? On Friday when I found out I probably won't be able to run ever again. Still makes me cry a little, even as I type this.

28. What is on the floor of your closet? The boxes I still haven't unpacked from our move in March.

29. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending this to? Have to be Kathy, though I'm also going to post it on my blog, so it's possible that there's someone out there who's reading it who's known me longer. Say, someone in my family.

30. What did you do last night? After hustling the boys off to bed, I made dinner for me and Tim, and then I rested on the sofa in the hope that the excruciating pain in my foot would go away. It didn't.

31. Favorite smells? Lavender. It's the scent I wear, and when Thing Two was about one year old, he went up to a lavender bush and hugged it. I like to think it reminded him of me.

32. What inspires you? Lots of things, but I always want to make my family proud.

33. What are you afraid of? That I will soon have to install one of those chair elevators in my house because my arthritis will get so bad I won't be able to walk. (That's a joke. Sort of.)

34. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? cheese

35. Favorite dog breed? Golden retrievers. Though, to reiterate, we have no need for dogs because we have boys.

36. Number of keys on your key ring? 2 (I have a separate key ring for the car since we use it so infrequently).

37. How many years at your current job? It's a lifetime appointment.

38. Favorite day of the week? Probably Saturdays, since it's Pizza NIght.

39. How many states have you lived in? You can tell this questionnaire was written by American, because they assume you couldn't possibly have lived in another country. So I will answer the question in my own way: I have lived in five states and two countries. So there.

40. Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving.

41. Ever driven a Motorcycle or heavy machinery? No, though I've ridden on a motorcycle and I helped the boys use a mini JCB at Legoland. Does that count?

42. Who's your favorite NFL team? In the interest of household harmony, it would have to be the Pittsburgh Steelers.

43. Do you have a house phone that is NOT cordless? no

44. 10 inches of snow or 100 degree weather. Given that we don't get either of those things in London, it's hard for me to imagine either possibility. But if pressed, I would have to say 10 inches of snow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Season

In London, "The Season" refers to the myriad of events that take place roughly from April to August and includes the Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and Cowes Week.

In our house, "The Season" refers to the myriad of events that occur between late September and December and includes Thing One's birthday, Halloween, MarathonMum's birthday, Thanksgiving, St. Andrew's Day, St. Nicholas' Day and Christmas.

It is, in short, an exhausting time of our lives.

But we love it. While we might not get to wear fancy hats or our finest finery, autumn and early winter proves to be a whirlwind of fun, activities, and most of all, laughter.

Having enjoyed the first event of the season-- Thing One's birthday-- we're now preparing for one of the greatest days in a young child's life-- Halloween. I will keep you posted as events warrant, but so many events in so little time make my postings less frequent than I would like.

By the way, anyone can participate in the events in Our Season, not just those families listed in Debrett's.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Two Things I Never Imagined I Would Say

This week, I got to utter two phrases that I never imagined I would ever get to say in this lifetime.

No. 1: "I can't pick them up, because I'll be at a reception at Buckingham Palace."

That was SUCH a fun thing to say! After all, Buckingham Palace is such an inconic place, particularly for an American girl who got up at 5 a.m. to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer (that fairy tale didn't end so well, but it was a beautiful wedding).

I was due to go to "Buck Palace," as some locals like to say, for a tour and a wine reception with the American Correspondents in London. However, it wasn't meant to be, which leads me to...

No. 2: "I sprained my wrist while running."

As a very helpful friend pointed out to me after I said to the above, "You're not meant to run on your hands, love, you should use your feet!" But as anyone who knows me well will attest, I am the clumsiest person on earth. When I was a girl, my parents sent me to ballet lessons in the hope I would become graceful. It didn't work.

So on a beautiful Tuesday morning, I set out for a run-- the first one in school hours in which my personal trainer was not along for the ride. As I was running through the Royal Naval College and thinking about how nice it was to not be pushing a buggy, I suddenly found myself flying through the air, bouncing once (I'm guessing) and landing with a thump with my arms and legs akimbo. Nice one. After I checked that no bones were protruding through my skin or I wasn't bleeding profusely and I assured the worried onlookers that I was OK, just deeply embarrassed, I continued on my way and ran about 3 miles.

However, by the time I arrived home, my left wrist was already swelling up, not to mention the layers of skin I lost off my right elbow and the huge purple bruise I earned on my left knee. As the afternoon wore on, the thought of spending a few hours admiring Buckingham Palace clutching a glass of wine while dressed nicely was more than I could bear, so I cancelled.

After a restless night when it was very difficult to sleep, I got myself to the hospital to hear the verdict: it's not a fracture, but a bad sprain. So now I have an oh-so-attractive wrist splint, along with a royal blue sling. I'm considering writing on the sling, "Running Injury!" just for laughs.

I have to say, though, saying those two things was LOTS of fun, though doing them was another matter entirely.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Spongebob?*

*Sung to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" from the Sound of Music.

After yesterday's marathon of events (a "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" birthday party for Thing One, a screening of "Curious George" for Thing Two, a reading awards ceremony for Thing One and a Zoomaround birthday party for the both of them, all in different locations), I was hoping for a relatively restful morning before heading out to Greenwich's annual Car Free Day. It was not to be.

Let me explain. At the screening of "Curious George" Thing Two received a gift bag to celebrate the Picturehouse's first birthday. The bag included a Spongebob Squarepants T-shirt, which unfortunately for Thing Two was two sizes too big for him, but the perfect size for Thing One. [All the parents reading this know what happened next.] Thing One wanted to wear the shirt. Thing Two said no. Thing One put on the shirt, to show him how perfect it was. Thing Two said no. Thing One asked, enquired, pleaded and begged Thing Two to wear the shirt. No. No. No. No. This went on for-- I'm not kidding-- an hour. At one point, Thing One went down to his new typewriter and typed out the message, "Please Nichlas, let me wear the shirt." No again.

Much like the U.N. in civil wars, I found that I needed to get involved.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I give you a chocolate? No.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I give you a Simpsons ice lolly? No.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I get you a magazine? No.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I get you a cupcake? No.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I get you a very special treat, which you can pick out? Oh, [big sigh] OK.

With peace brokered, we set out for Greenwich Car Free Day. In its fifth year, this is an annual event where two major streets are closed down for entertainment, games, food and fun. It's always heaving with people, and we always run into lots of friends there. It's great.

As expected, with the hordes of people at events like this come the helium balloon vendors. After we had finished our bike race challenge (with Thing One pedalling, and Thing Two sitting atop the stationery bike while I pushed the pedals for him [I won]), we found a vendor with a cast of characters: Tigger, Piglet, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder and (hooray!) Spongebob Squarepants.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Spongebob? You pay £4 to get a helium balloon. Peace at last.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy Roald Dahl Day!!!!

Roald Dahl should need no introduction, but in case you don't know what all the hullabaloo is about-- and hallabaloo is JUST the kind of word he would love-- he is quite simply the most brilliant children's author ever.

Dahl, who would have been 90 years old today, might be best known for writing the classic tale, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," but that is just one of many fantastic books he penned from the shed in the back of his garden. He is also responsible for the James' fantastic flight in "James and the Giant Peach," the clever mind of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and the pharmaceutical experiment gone wrong in "George's Marvellous Medicine." He was, in short, a genius.

Here at MarathonMum HQ, we are on High Alert for the celebration. In fact, the very first thing that Thing Two said this morning was, "It's Roald Dahl Day today! Hooray!!" As we walked to school in our yellow t-shirts (see below) Thing One worried aloud, "Why isn't anyone else wearing yellow shirts?" I replied, "Maybe they didn't realize Roald Dahl is today." During story time at our local bookstore, Nicholas interrupted "The Gruffalo's Child" to tell the woman, "Today is Roald Dahl Day!" This, in fact, was news to her because the store's celebration is scheduled for next Saturday. Sometimes, three-year-olds DO have something to teach you!

But you don't have to sit on the sidelines watching others celebrating Roald Dahl Day, instead you can take up the Roald Dahl Day Challenge (for more information about the big day, go to this site). For fans under the age of 10, complete the number of challenges equal to your age. If you're older than 10, you should strive to complete all on the list.

Help probably would it but fun the in join to gobblefunk in fluent be to need not do you. [This is not a typo. Please see number 5 and 3 below.]

Here's what to do:
1. Wear something yellow – it was Roald's favourite colour!
2. Wear one or more items of clothing backwards.
3. Drop "gobblefunk"* into your conversations
(the unique language created by Roald and most commonly used by
the BFG).
4. Swap a Roald Dahl book with a friend.
5. Talk backwards.
6. Tell a silly joke – Roald loved swapping these with his kids.
7. Play an "unexpected" prank.
8. Give someone a treat – Roald was a great believer in treats, whether it was a bar of chocolate or a lovely surprise.
9. Write your own revolting rhyme.
10. Make up an Oompa Loompa dance and get all your friends to join in!

(In case you're wondering, MarathonMum has completed six of the 10 challenges by 2:34 GMT).
*Many thanks to Tom Standage who performed the electronic magic necessary so I could include the most-excellent graphic above. Tom can now cross No. 8 off his list, as this would count as a treat to me!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Partial List of Summer Fun

Summer is over. Bummer. But the memories will live on…

We travelled many miles—though not as many as last year—and had lots and lots of fun. For those of you interested in what constitutes “fun” this family (and yes, that includes a ride in a tow truck) here’s a partial list:

• Rode in the Chunnel on our way to France. (This entry is for you, Jenn Traficanti)
• Rather than looking for state license plates (an American pastime), we looked for EU country stickers while on the road in France.
• Played baseball in an organic vegetable patch.
• Collected eggs from chickens.
• Swam in the English channel off of Omaha Beach: A good place to surprise and defeat the Nazis in June 1942, and 64 years and (nearly) 64 days later, a good place to make sandcastles.
• Toured Mont St. Michele, 11 years after I first wanted to go there.
• Collected stickers for our “Cars” (the movie) sticker books.
• Swam in a pond, while fish skirted around our ankles.
• Found not one but two great bakeries in the small town we called “Maisy’s town,” but was actually Grandcamp-Maisy.
• Ate at a French McDonalds, where you can’t get milk with your Happy Meal, but you do have a choice of two different bottled waters. (this entry is for the boys, obviously)
• Ate yummy French food, especially the BBC: butter, bread and cheese.
• Visited the best aquarium we’ve EVER seen (and that includes Baltimore): Grand Aquarium Saint-Malo.
• Walked on the ramparts of Saint-Malo.
• Tried to correctly pronounce the town named “Rennes” when we visited.
• Walked on more ramparts in Dinan and tripped through its cobbled steep streets.
• Sat on our chairs and watched an actual “Cow Parade”—not a faux one created by a tourist board-- pass by our farmhouse.
• Milked some cows (That’s what Thing One says, but actually, we just got to watch. Whew! It SMELLS!!)
• Battled an invasion of flies in our farmhouse in Brittany. The flies won. We fled the scene.
• Saw “Cars” in an un-air conditioned cinema on one of the hottest days of the year. Thing Two fell asleep on my lap, making the un-air conditioned atmosphere even MORE uncomfortable.
• Weeded our back garden in the pouring rain.
• Made masks at our local library.
• Went on a Teddy Bear Picnic.
• Had tennis lessons.
• Rolled down the hill at Greenwich Park, much like they used to do in the halcyon Victorian days.
• Helped finish the school’s mosaic.
• Splashed in Emma and Wendy’s new splash pool.
• Ate Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. Yum!
• Learned to live without electricity, “Like in the olden days,” Thing One said, when we lost our power seven times (for a total of more than 20 hours) over a three-day period.
• Enjoyed the fine products of Meantime Brewery at our favourite local pub, The Union. (that was the adults, NOT Thing One and Two)
• Saw “Cars” for a second time! This time, air conditioning wasn’t necessary, as it was a cold and rainy day.
• Got our faces painted at the library (Thing One: Spiderman. Thing Two: Tigger)
• Went to the Tate Modern. Got yelled at lots by the guards for nothing at all. (I think they had their fill of families at that point)
• Thing One opened a “Coffee Shop” with the drinks made with water and old chalk. Yum!
• Searched the house for nearly an hour, looking for a lost piece of wire Thing One’s friend had lost. When I say “wire” I mean “wire.” After Thing One found it, I spent another hour contemplating my career options.
• Went to the National Maritime Museum, where no guards yelled at us.
• Learned to love the art of Rope Swinging.
• Wore our polar bear (Thing One) and reindeer (Thing Two) ear muffs in August, just because we could.
• Witnessed the Science Experiment of the Year: Mentos-induced exploding Diet Coke.
• Made our own exploding volcanoes out of sand, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
• Created turtle pictures out of sand, seeds and bird feed.
• Rode donkeys at the top of Greenwich Park.
• Played hours and hours of Cadoo.
• Found an incredibly cool indoor play centre called Gambado, where Thing One met a girl who followed him around for the entire afternoon. Ah, young love.
• Rode in a tow truck! Whee!! (Thanks, AA)
• Made T-shirts at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
• Saw “The Bubble Show” for the (estimated) 55th time at the Science Museum.
• Rode bikes in the new garden of our friends Shakira and Tayo.
• Saw “Deep Sea 3-D” at the local Imax, where Thing Two spent almost all of the movie saying, “I want to go home now, Mom!” But when asked later how he liked it, he said, “I loved it!”
• Ate at Wagamama, our favourite family restaurant, several times.
• Celebrated our 11th Wedding Anniversary!
• Picked apples, corn and raspberries in Kent.
• Learned to pack 12 weeks of fun (an American-sized summer) into six (a British-sized summer).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to School!

Thing One joyfully returned to school this morning, laden with his oh-so-hip "Cars" backpack and lunch box. This means, sports fans, that summer is officially over, even if the calendar disagrees. Of course, because school was open, that meant we had the nicest day we've had in weeks today.

Our accountants are now checking the accuracy of our summer fun list and it will be released tomorrow.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Apples of My Eyes

Thing One, Thing Two and I ventured into the darkest depths of Kent Sunday with the always-delightful Ella, Miles and chaperones (read: parents) for our annual end-of-summer tradition of fruit and corn picking. I say "tradition" but that's actually a misnomer: we did it last year, and we returned again this year and plan to go next year but I'm not really convinced we can describe it as a tradition until we've been there three times. You know the saying: one is a point, two is a line, three is a trend. Also, last year, there was no corn as the badgers got there first. But I digress.

Ella and Thing One eagerly explored the "Maize Maze" of a giant squirrel and made it to the centre on their own wits alone. To see them victorious at the finish, scroll down to the bottom of Ella's current website. To see how much they've grown since last year, scroll down to the bottom of last year's page. Thing Two and I missed the Maize Maze because he was feeling his age and didn't want to go. Oh well.

However, Thing Two did recover in time to pick some apples-- his most favorite fruit in the whole world. After that, we made our way over to the sweetcorn, where Kirstin won the Farmer O' the Day accolade because she knew that the corn we wanted to pick had silk that was black at the end. Way to go, city slicker! Finally, to finish it all off, we wrestled with the brambles and the thorns to pick a few raspberries. I can appreciate now why raspberries are so expensive, given how difficult they are to pick.

A beautiful day, with wonderful friends and fantastic food. What more could you ask for? (Maybe, just maybe, a husband that ISN'T on a plane to Dubai.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

The All-Star Crew at the V&A

(From left to right: Geogia, Ella, Miles, Nicholas (Thing Two) and Andrew (Thing One)

Summer Fun Activity No. 61 (a full accounting will be available at the conclusion of the season) took place Thursday with a trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington.

The All-Star Crew, so named because all of the bipedalistic children wore Converse All-Star sneakers, took to the train, the tube and the (pedestrian) tunnel to get there. By the time we arrived at the family workshop area, the queue of eager families stretched out the door. The children were to create a pyschedelic T-shirt based on the museum's current 60's exhibition. All for free! In London! Miracles do happen.

Thing One diligently started to work, Thing Two diligently started to watch me work and their friends Ella and Georgia got down to business. Miles, who has not yet acquired bipedalistic skills, slept through the job.

The picture above shows the products of their (and our) labours. Thing Two seems particularly proud of the work he merely oversaw, but did not actually do. He's destined for management.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Anything Can Be Fun

On Wednesday, Thing One, Thing Two and I, were ready to set out for Summer Adventure No. 57: fruit picking.

Under sunny blue skies, we packed our picnic, chose a rendevouz point with our friends, mapped our route, filled our station wagon with petrol and away we went. It was a scene that could have been ripped from a 1950s Good Housekeeping issue, except (a) I wasn't wearing a skirt, (b) the boys had chocolate on their faces, and (c) our station wagon [or estate, depending on what language you speak] does not have wooden cladding, nor is it American made.

All was going swimmingly as we sped down the highway until I heard clunk-clunk-clunk. "Oh," I thought. "That must be the car next to me," as I turned up the soundtrack to "Cars." As my friend in front sped up, I had the distinct feeling that our car, who we affectionately call Gazerbeam for its GB country sticker on the back, wasn't keeping up. Finally, disaster: we lost power, I couldn't downshift and lights starting blinking ominously on the dashboard. Luckily, I was able to get us over to the shoulder.

"Well boys, I've got some bad news and some good news," I told them after I had called my friend to say we wouldn't be joining her after all, and then the Automobile Association to come tow us away. "The bad news is we won't be fruit picking today. The good news is we can have a car picnic! Hooray!!"

"Gazerbeam is sad," observed Thing Two. "Poor Gazerbeam is tired," added Thing One.

So while we waited an hour for the AA to come rescue us, we ate our lunch, consoled ourselves with chocolate chip cookies (which always make me feel better), planned Thing One's 7th birthday party and listened to the "Cars" soundtrack some more.

After our tow truck driver left us in the warm embrace of our usual mechanic, he handed me the receipt for the tow. "Ah, yes," I said. "Good times!"

And while I have to say it wasn't the absolute best time we had all summer, it wasn't the worst time either, thus proving the maxim: Anything Can Be Fun.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

MarathonMum Update

Hello MarathonMum fans. Yes, I know I've been on hiatus, with nary a word about where, when or how. Lots of things have happened since the previous post. To recap:

-England lost to Portugal. But it was a great party! (And many times, that's all that matters)
-Italy won the World Cup, but not before Zidane, arguably one the best players to play the game, showed the world how manly he was. ("Wow!" Thing One said when he viewed the head-butt-in-the-chest-incident. "That must have hurt.")
-Mr.MarathonMum went to Singapore for the second time in two months. How was it? "I have no idea," he said. "I was in meetings all day."
-MarathonMum had a sad, unexpected and brief SOLO trip to the U.S. Three weeks later, Thing Two still runs up to me, gives me a hug and says, "Mom! You're back from America!"
-Thing One finished his school year July 21. I still laugh when people say, "Have a great summer!" When the so-called summer is only six weeks long. If you want a summer, go to school in the U.S., where it's twice as long.
-Thing Two received his official letter about starting nursery school. I spend my time vacillating between joy (mornings to myself!), wonderment, (time for school already?) and a teeny, tiny bit of sadness (where did the past three years go?)
-Finally, the whole family went on a much needed and much appreciated two-week break to France.

We are back. I am back, refreshed and rested.

Normal MarathonMum postings will now resume.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Challenging Cuisine

Later today, England plays Portugal in the World Cup. Come on, England!

Excitement is at fever pitch. Stores have put up signs saying, "We will close at 3:30 so our employees can watch the World Cup." I got a parcel delivered at 7 a.m. today because Parcel Force is going to end the day early so they can see the game. By 4 p.m., I am certain there will be no traffic or pedestrians. Nearly everyone in this country will be glued to a television set.

We will be having a small party here at MarathonMum HQ. Thing One and Thing Two have their England shirts ready to go, and we've got England napkins, plates and flags.

Before the World Cup had even started, and we thought we'd be gathering today for another reason (for the Spaghetti Challenge Redux), my friend Sam had the brilliant idea that whoever was playing today, we should make the cuisine of that country. No problem, I thought, as the food of France, Italy and even Germany danced in my head.

But now we've got England (no problem) against Portugal (huh?). On Monday morning, I started to do some research into Portuguese food. I browsed the bookshelves with my 104 cookbooks (not a typo). I found a "Great Recipes of the World" and thought I'd hit paydirt. I paged past nice dishes like French Onion Soup and Chinese Cashew Noodles. Finally, I found one: Portuguese Grilled Sardines. Um, thanks, but no.

Larousse Gastronomique, the encyclopedia of food, was more forthcoming. The Portuguese like fish, especially cod. It suggested some dishes, but no recipes.

After trolling the Internet and checking some more cookbooks, I decided to make paella. I know that strictly speaking, it's a Spanish dish, but I have decided in my own mind that we will pretend that we're in a town in Portugal on the border with Spain. In actuality, it's a recipe from British-born Gordon Ramsay, but it's got lots of fish in it.

My friend Diana also did some dining detective work and found some Portuguese salad recipes on the Internet, which she will bring.

Meanwhile, Sam, who came up with the idea in the first place, rushed up to me yesterday and asked in a panic, "I don't know what I'm going to make! What should I do?" I said we still didn't have any desserts, so she is bringing (wait for it) strawberries and cream.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How This Mom Watches World Cup, Part Two

Step One: Put the children to bed. This is critical. They may suddenly profess enthusiasm for the game, but don't be fooled. The only reason they're showing interest is because the 8 p.m. kickoff means their bedtime will get pushed back. Don't fall for it.

Step Two: Once the children have been bathed, read to and tucked in, realize you've missed the 8 p.m. kick off of England versus Sweden. Do not worry.

Step Three: Get a COLD beer out of the frig. For those MarathonMum fans who were slightly distressed that I had to drink a warm beer last week, do not despair. The warm beer reflected only my lack of forward planning.

Step Four: Prepare Indian ready-made-meal, as Mr. MarathonMum is at a work event. Listen out for cheering on the street.

Step Five: When cheering on the street is heard, rush upstairs to see first goal of the game.
Go England!

Step Six: After watching the goal replay, switch to the BBC's show on the Summer Exhibition (talk about counter-programming). Smile to yourself knowing that its host, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, probably is not watching World Cup either, because you saw him picking up his dry cleaning during England's first game against Paraguay.

Step Seven: Answer phone and chat with friend, who is watching the game and gives you the necessary goal news as it happens. Chat for 40 minutes about jobs, life, memories and Angelina Jolie.

Step Eight: Go back upstairs and watch final 10 minutes so you can say you saw the game.

Step Nine: When offspring wake up in the morning, tell them that England tied Sweden, 2-2.

Step Ten: Get out globe to show them where Ecuador is.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

How This Mom Watches World Cup (In 7 Easy Steps)

1. Most importantly, you have to convince your two offspring that this is a good idea. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security that this will be easy if your two offspring are male. Particularly if they are under the age of 7. Indeed, evidence from a friend with two sons shows she had the same problem.

2. Persevere with No. 1. They may moan, ask to watch anything else or even, in a fit of desperation, suggest they will play outside. "Why do we want to watch television on a beautiful day like this?" they may ask. The correct response is to laugh, and heartily at that, because if they had control of the remote they would very much like to watch telly on a beautiful day like this. But they don't have the remote.

3. Don't say it to them during the game, but it's important that they watch England play World Cup, because, frankly, you don't want them to turn into the type of kids who get beat up in the playground.

4. Once you have asserted your authority over the remote, sit down and enjoy the game. But never forget you are a mother and your middle name is "Multitasking," so surround yourself with piles of laundry that need to be folded. Fold, watch, take sips of beer-- be sure said children do not trip over the beer-- and cheer, as necessary.

5. If the children decide that they are more interested in reading a book than watching the exploits of Beckham and the Bunch, do not despair. At least they're not still asking for the remote back.

6. Try not to recall the beer-fueled days of yore when watching Villanova victorious or Chicago celebrating. Those days are gone. This is the best it's going to be for World Cup. That's right: piles of laundry and a lukewarm beer. Life is good!

7. Take the opportunity to teach your children the fine art of celebration when England scores, and scores again. Jump, scream, clap and raise your hands in the air like you just don't care. (But you do, of course. Especially the beating-up-in-the-playground part.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

England Wins!

England won its first match in the World Cup today by beating Paraguay, 1-0.

Hardly a blowout, particulary when you consider that the one point was an own-goal by a Paraguay player, but a win is a win.

MarathonMum fans not familiar with the glory of the World Cup-- yes, I'm talking to you Americans-- it is an athletic spectacular surpassing the World Series, the NBA Finals and the Super Bowl all rolled into one. When those U.S. events roll around commentators always talk about the millions and billions of people around the world watching, but that's just hyperbole. When they say that about the World Cup, they mean it.

[By the way U.S. fans, I'm talking about the game you call soccer, but that everyone else in the world calls football.]

As you can see from above, Thing One supported England's team in his own special way. But he'll be rooting for the U.S. on Monday.

Go England! Go U.S.A.!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Team Jolie-Pitt Triumphs Again

Now we know the price for worldwide celebrity obsession: It's more than $4.1 million.

The figure is reportedly the amount that People magazine in the United States paid for the exclusive North American rights to pictures of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But the pictures apparently also have been sold to Hello! magazine in the United Kingdom and other media outlets worldwide, pushing the estimated total amount paid up to $7 million.

In a masterstroke of both charitable giving and public relations, Jolie and Pitt plan to donate all the proceeds from the pictures to charity. This donation follows their first gifts of $300,000 for maternity equipment for two Namibian hospitals and a $15,000 for a community education initiative.

Suddenly, all celebrities who have pocketed the money for pictures of their babies, weddings or homes seem shallow, miserly and stupid. Much like they are, probably.

The May 27 birth of this little girl has been a case study in how to outfox the media and the public. Pitt and Jolie travelled with their other two children to the southern African country Namibia to have the baby. I'm quite certain that most entertainment reporters could not find that country on a globe prior to this trip. By going there, they ensured that there would be few reporters and photographers in the country to follow their every move. To ensure their privacy, the government would not issue any journalistic visas to anyone without the express written consent of Jolie and Pitt.

Personally, all of these actions caused me to switch my allegiance from Team Aniston (wronged first wife) to Team Jolie (international humanitarian who really cares about African children). Jolie seems to be a woman who takes her responsibilities as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador seriously. Unlike, say, Geri Haliwell, also a U.N. ambassador who recently sold pictures of her newborn daughter to Hello! but did not donate any of her proceeds to charity.

The couple, who are the subject of worldwide interest, first got to know one another while starring in the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Pitt happened to be married to Aniston at the time.

But how the couple, dubbed Bradgelina, have handled the interest in this child makes me respect them like I never did before.

The couple said in a statement, "While we celebrate the joy of the birth of our daughter, we recognize that 2 million babies born every year in the developing world die on the first day of their lives. These children can be saved, but only if governments around the world make it a priority."

If only all celebrities could use the superficial interest in them for the benefit of others. Other celebrities really could learn something from Team Jolie-Pitt.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Legoland: City of Dreams (for kids, anyway)

Our trip kicked off at 4:21 a.m., when Thing One walked into my bedroom while pulling his wheelie suitcase behind him, and asked, "Is it time to leave for Legoland yet?"

A few hours, a breakfast, a shower and a lost tooth later, we were on the road heading to the Promised Land. I planned the half-term adventure because Mr. MarathonMum had a business trip to China, and I thought a mini-break would be fun for the rest of us. Thing One and Thing Two thought that Dad had the short end of the stick, since he only got to go to China, while we got to enjoy two days at LEGOLAND! and stay at a HOTEL! with a POOL!

Before we left, I did my due diligence by checking the Internet and asking Legoland veterans for tips and advice. If you ever go, an impressive 11-year-old created a site full of advice here. I tried my best to devise a strategy, but in the end I decided to just go with the flow and enjoy it without military-like precision.

As a 10-year-old, when I first read about Legoland in Denmark in National Geographic for Kids (then called "World") it seemed so amazing and foreign and exotic and far away. I also thought at the time, I'd never be able to experience the wonder of seeing an entire city built out of Lego, because Denmark was so far away from New Jersey. How wrong I was. Now in addition to the original Legoland, there are parks in Windsor, where we went, California and Germany. The miniature cities and towns made entirely out of Lego, especially London, were amazing. The boys loved them. But I couldn't help but wonder: How do you get a job building cities out of Lego? What sort of degree do you need?

Aside from the Lego cities and sculptures everywhere, Legoland basically is an amusement park for children. The top attraction for both Thing One and Thing Two was Driving School, where they got to drive a Lego car around-- without the benefit of a steering track underneath. If they successfully finished the course-- all the kids did, even the ones who were hopeless at it (read: Thing Two)-- they got a driver's license.

On Friday morning, I had the good luck to read that my friend Laura also would be there. My mother-in-law is convinced I could find a friend anywhere, so I suppose the fact that I found a friend at Legoland (not to mention seeing two more on Saturday), confirms her theory.

Laura and I used mobile telephony techonology [we sent texts to each other] to rendevouz at the park. It was great to see her. Our friendship is one of the more unusual ones that I have. It started as we both trained for the London marathon, we first met each other in person at about mile 17 in the race, and we have remained friends since via e-mails and our blogs. But we are very similar in our outlook and approach to life and we keep finding unusual things that we have in common (shoe size, the fact that we both rowed starboard). The kids had a fantastic time together, and I was happy to have a friend to talk to in the midst of all the child-centric fun.

By the end of the second day, Thing One and Thing Two had become a bit jaded about the wonder of Legoland. "Look!" I'd say, "A giraffe/tiger/zebra/dinosar."

"Oh," they'd say, disappointed. "It's just made out of Lego."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Wobbly Tooth Wobbles Out!


DefTooth 1 has been lifted. The subject tooth has fallen out. The family now will revert to DefTooth 5 (normal peacetime readiness).

At 8:08 a.m. GMT, the tooth's owner ran down to the kitchen and exclaimed, "Mom! Mom! My wobbly tooth fell out!"

Joy, jumping, laughter and jubliation ensued.

Subject now is preparing a letter to the Tooth Fairy, and the tooth has been placed in an evidence bag.

Meanwhile, subject's brother is convinced that he had a wobbly tooth and it, too, has fallen out. As brother is only three and only just filled his mouth with new teeth, he has a way to go.

In a prepared statement, subject's mother said, "It's been a terribly exciting day for us all."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wobbly Tooth Watch: Day 7

We remain at DefTooth 1.

However, chewing has become painful and the tooth is very, very loose (I can see it for myself).

The "pull the tooth out with a string and a doorknob" method has been suggested by two friends: one via online comments and one via a conversation on the sidewalk, but Thing One has resisted the idea.

As always, pool coverage and photos as events warrant.

Pixar Exhibit: It's Incredible!

With just over a week before it closes, the boys and I headed out to the Pixar animation exhibit at the Science Museum. "It's Incredible!," Thing One said, with the pun probably unintended, but well done just the same.

Pixar, for those of you catching up with the rest of the class, is the animation studio responsible for "Toy Story", "A Bugs Life", "Monsters Inc.", "The Incredibles" and the soon-to-be-released "Cars." Our family's love for Pixar cannot be adequately described. To illustrate: when we recently painted the toy room in our house, we painted it not red, but "Incredibles red."

The exhibit had hundreds of pictures and models that Pixar animators made for the movies. I wasn't really sure that Thing One and Thing Two would like or appreciate it, but they did. They loved seeing the models and some of the pictures. We also loved the spot where we could watch all of the Pixar short movies (or "shorts," as they say in the business) and the final video montage where the pictures came to life, via computer animation.

The highlight, hands down, was the Toy Story zeotrope (pictured above). We loved it so much we went back to watch it four different times. This was worth the price of admission alone. Characters from Toy Story, including Buzz, Jessie, Wheezy the Penguin, the aliens and the toy soldiers, performed various stunts on the round sculpture as it spun around under strobe lighting. Buzz bounced on a Pixar ball. Jessie did rope tricks. The toy soldiers parachuted into the action. When the zeotrope stopped, you could see that each of the characters was in a slightly different position so that the 3-D animation could occur. Even the adults around me were enraptured, with several people laughing and gasping at how wonderful it was.

(The picture above is courtesy of the New York Times and is the zeotrope from the New York exhibit. Ours was slightly different, as we had Jessie, but no Woody. The picture also doesn't really do it justice. To really appreciate it, you have to see it in action.)

The Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted the exhibit first, at the beginning of the year, then it travelled transatlantically to London. You could tell that the exhibit started life in an art museum, because it certainly had an artistic-- rather than scientific-- feel to it. But the exhibit definitively proved that what Pixar does is art.

It truly was incredible.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wobbly Tooth Watch: Day 6

"It's very nearly going to fall out!"

We are at DefTooth 1.
The Tooth Fairy has him on the top of his watch list.

Pool coverage and photos will be provided as events warrant.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Spaghetti Challenge

Thing One, Thing Two and I took part in our school's "Spaghetti Challenge" last week. It was thrilling, challenging, suspensful and fun (sort of). We learned a lot about the pathos of winning and losing, but especially losing. But it also taught me an important lesson: Not all answers are available on the Internet.

The Spaghetti Challenge is a science exercise designed to show students about building, architecture, forces and problem solving. Each team was given a packet of spaghetti, a bag of marshmallows and a chocolate egg. The team that built the tallest tower in 20 minutes that could support the chocolate egg won the contest.

Now I love a good challenge. I'm also a big believer in arming myself with research and possible solutions before embarking on tasks such as this. So prior to the challenge, I did various things to get ready: I consulted with my dad (an electrical engineer), my best friend (a chemical engineer), I thought about how we could do it, and, crucially, I googled the problem.

After searching a couple of different terms, I couldn't find what I needed: a picture of a prize-winning spaghetti challenge entry. Obviously, the science teachers of the world (these contests have been held worldwide) are conspiring against future contestants in this challenge by never posting a picture of the winner. What's the point of the internet if it's not going to give up something like that?

I consoled myself by deciding I had done enough ruminating and consulting to solve the problem. We set out with a spring in our step. When we reached school, I realized I forgot my camera. "How will the world see our prize-winning entry?" I thought to myself. "I want to do my part to help future contestants!"

Thing One, Thing Two and I sat around our black bin bag, with Thing One clutching the spaghetti and Thing Two clutching the marshmallows. The whistle blew and we set to work. Our team was somewhat hampered by Thing Two's insistence that he eat a marshmallow. "But we'll need it," I said, thinking of my aspirational five-foot-tall structure. Finally, I acquiesed, knowing that if I didn't, he'd disrupt our work [read: cry until I let him have one].

To make a long story shorter, my ambitious plans were just too ambitious. We spent too much time on the first structure, whose foundation didn't really work. We pushed it aside with five minutes left to try a different one, but we ran out of time. As Thing One put it, "We didn't win because our tower did not stay up."

I should note that the winning team had THREE adults on it, a distinct advantage, and I also have insider information that as the structure got taller, the children were not allowed to build it, or for that matter, even touch it.

But we had fun. Thing One and I have decided that since Mr. MarathonMum missed the challenge (a big story broke just an hour before the challenge), we're going to try again in our kitchen.

Will I post a picture of a successful structure or will I contribute to the international conspiracy of silence? Only time will tell.

Wobbly Tooth Watch: Day 4

Thing One has a Wobbly Tooth! He woke up on Friday morning with it. This is terribly exciting for all of us, as this is his first wobbly tooth [in America, you would say loose tooth]. We are sure he is now on the Tooth Fairy Watch List.

Day: 4
Status: "Still wobbly!"

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Crime & Punishment Success

With nine hours to go until my book club meeting, I finished "Crime and Punishment" today.

Yes, it was difficult. Yes, it felt like homework. But like many things that require hard work, it was worth the effort. I've always wanted to read it, and now I have.

To summarize: Penniless university drop-out decides to murder pawnbroker to prove a theory. In the 1860s, many people in St. Petersburg are poor and sad. The murderer is poor, but not sad. The murderer finally admits his guilt to the police, but still feels no remorse. He gets sent to a hard labour camp in Siberia for eight years. Even Siberia doesn't make him feel sad. Finally, it is the love of a good woman which makes him feel sad. And happy. The end.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Crime & Punishment Challenge

There's not much time for blogging today, MarathonMum fans, because I have reading to do!

Pages read: 459 (out of 647)
Pages remaining: 188
Hours until meeting: 32
Average number of pages I'll need to read per hour to finish in time: 6 (but then I'll have to give up sleep).

Yes, it does feel like homework, but it really is a fantastic book.

Friday, May 19, 2006

My Left Foot

I haven't been out on a run in two months. This is not by choice, mind you, but because of my dodgy left foot [insert joke about Academy Award winning movie here].

I've taken Nurofen. I've put ice on it. I've applied anti-inflammatory cream. I've tried to rest, but as any mother will tell you, that's impossible to do.

After two trips to the doctor and one X-ray, I finally hobbled to the orthopedist today. His diagnosis was that it was either a stress fracture or an inflamed joint on my toe. But first we must take an MRI.

"Ooh! An MRI!!" I thought. "They get those on ER all the time. I know I must bring my iPod because I have to sit still for a long time. I've always wanted one of those. This is exciting!"

The doctor went on to say that if it was an inflamed joint, I'll need to get a shot of cortizone. Then I said, "Just like a real athlete!"

Now I have to wait until the MRI in two weeks' time, to find out what exactly the problem is. I will keep MarathonMum fans posted.

In the interim, there will be no running (Obviously, since I can hardly walk, but still...Boo! I'm really, really starting to miss it), rest, and more Nurofen. Crucially, I need to stay off my feet as much as possible. We'll see if that can be done as a mother of two.

Tasteless Joke of the Day

A South African gold miner loses his leg in an
mining accident.

Choking back the tears later, he cried,
"It's over! who's gonna want a one legged gold

Then his phone rang. "It's Paul McCartney."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Crime & Punishment Challenge

We're making progress, MarathonMum fans.

Pages read: 201 (out of 647)
Pages remaining: 446
Days until meeting: 6 1/2
Average number of pages I'll need to read per day to finish in time: 67

It's still a challenge, but the plot is picking up, so it's getting easier to read.

The McCartneys Split

Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills McCartney announced Wednesday they will divorce.

Shock! Horror! Sadness!

Not, mind you, because their marriage is over. But because I didn't include them in my Couples Who Will Never Last List. To review, in September I compiled a list of couples who were bound to split:
Ashton Kutcher-Demi Moore,
Britney Spears-Kevin Federline,
Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie,
Paris (Hilton)-Paris (shipping magnate), *split*
Hilary Swank-Chad Lowe, *split*
Marc Anthony-Jennifer Lopez,
Beyonce-Jay Z,
Jessica Simpson-Nick Lachley. *split*

I didn't do too badly, since three of the eight couples (37.5%) are no longer together. I guess I didn't include the McCartneys because I thought Sir Paul really did find True Love (even if Stella and Heather didn't get along), but I was wrong.

It's now an appropriate time to update the list!
Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise (the brainwashing will stop eventually)
Jennifer Aniston-Vince Vaughn (the cynic in me says she just wants to keep up with Brad)
Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie, (though I'm beginning to think this one might stick)
Britney Spears-Kevin Federline,
Marc Anthony-Jennifer Lopez,
Beyonce-Jay Z,
Ashton Kutcher-Demi Moore,
*I'm sure I've forgotten a few, so I'll add more later. The last time, I forgot TomKat, which was a MASSIVE oversight. If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Crime & Punishment Challenge

My book club (or clique, as one friend called it) is reading "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I am becoming somewhat worried about this, since the meeting is next Wednesday at our house and I haven't read much of the very, very long book.

I've decided to make it a challenge and give my MarathonMum fans a daily update about my progress. As I can't run at the moment-- it's my dodgy foot and I see the orthopedist on Friday-- this is a way to test myself. Encouragement is encouraged for this monumental task.

Today's update:
Pages read: 42 (out of 647)
Hours until meeting: 222

Wish me luck.

Thing Two Turns Three

Thing Two became a three-year-old today!

I love age three. I know some mothers think three is worse than two, but I totally disagree. First, we can go out and about and actually have FUN rather than be worried about having enough nappies, getting back in time for nap time and having enough snacks on hand (read: most of the drudgery is behind us). Second, he can make clear what it is that he needs or wants, even if he doesn't always get it. Third, he's not yet in nursery, so we can do interesting things during the day, like go to museums. And finally, he's becoming his own little person.

Now, if you'll indulge me, I want to list the Top Seven things that he does at the moment that I love:

1. If I forget to say, "Bless you" when he sneezes, he says, "Bless you me, Mom!"

2. If I give him one snack or treat, he'll automatically say, "And one for Andrew?"

3. When he runs into my room in the morning, he pulls on my hand-- much like Lassie-- and says, "Breakfast Time!"

4. If he's doing something he shouldn't, and I ask him what he is doing, he'll say, "Just boring things."

5. He's made up his own little special tune he sings when he's happy.

6. His smile and laugh.

7. When I say, "I love you, " he responds, "I wuv you too."

Happy Birthday, one-time marathon personal trainer. You're the best!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The British Apprentice

"The Apprentice" was chosen last night, and the winner was Michelle!

Now, for my American friends, you would be mistaken if you thought I was talking about the Donald Trump show. In fact, I am talking about the BBC version of the Donald Trump show, which stars British multimillionaire Alan Sugar.

As it is a BBC show, you would be correct in thinking that it is classier, less manufactured and more interesting than the Donald Trump show of the same name.

I was completely and utterly riveted by "The Apprentice." I loved watching them do the tasks. I couldn't believe how stupid some of them were. And I was quite impressed by the sales acumen of some of them, especially Ruth (though she lost out in the final to Michelle).

I'm quite tempted to apply myself but I don't think I'm such an attractive candidate. First, I am currently unemployed, so the BBC wouldn't have a job description to put under my name. Instead, it would say, "Maureen, Unemployed." Not so impressive. Also I have no business experience whatsoever, unless having a paper route at age 12 counts. Sir Alan would say something like, "So you've never worked in business. What makes you think I should employ you, given you have NO IDEA how business works." Sir Alan may also not like Americans, and there's nothing I can do about that. Finally, I may be too old. I think Sir Alan likes his Apprentices young, and at 37, I might be considered to be over the hill.

Still. Still. Still. Watching the candidates do some of the tasks, I thought, "I could do that" (even selling used cars). I think that really to succeed, you just need some common sense and confidence, of which I have both. Some of the candidates made such STUPID mistakes (ordering 100 chickens for 100 pizzas, for example) I thought again, "I could do that."

But the moment that really made me think I ought to apply was when it was evident that not one of the four finalists had bothered to do their due diligence about Sir Alan's portfolio of companies.

Even an unemployed 37-year-old American woman would know that you arm yourself with information, and then you start.

p.s. While I was happy to see that a woman will be the apprentice, I began to think she ought to have lost out on dress sense alone when I saw what she chose to wear to the post-win interview. Harsh, but true.

David Blaine: Who Cares?

The other day, David Blaine completed his latest "magic trick"-- and I use the term as loosely as I can-- at Lincoln Center in New York. He spent an entire week in what Thing One accurately described as a "fish bowl."

Ho hum.

Why is this magic? I know plenty of people (read: mothers) who would think seven days away from making meals, cleaning up Lego, remembering P.E. kits, and all the other usual tasks was a holiday, albeit one underwater.

Blaine's last stupid human trick, I mean stunt, I mean magic trick, took place just a few miles from here, next to Tower Bridge. For that "event" (I'm trying to be polite) he spent 44 days in a plastic cube suspended next to the bridge. Again, where's the magic in that? And that time, it meant even longer time away, that time 44 days. Where do I sign up?

Apparently, Blaine said this time he took his travelling freak show, I mean MAGIC SHOW (I have to stop doing that) to New York because he didn't feel appreciated in London. While hanging in the box, people did all sorts of funny things, including using a remote-controlled airplane to dangle a hamburger next to his box.

I would argue that was one of London's finest hours. Londoners, and I include myself in this group now, weren't hoodwinked into thinking his "trick" was anything more than a stunt.

Maybe after his failed human fishbowl "magic trick" New Yorkers will agree.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Midnight Stroll in London

Last night, Nicholas-- who will be 3 a week from today-- and I had a rare opportunity to stroll the streets of Greenwich at midnight. I'm sure we were quite a sight: he in his Superman pajamas and me in my red trench coat.

We were, in fact, not admiring shop windows or counting stars, but making our way to the car, so I could drive him to the local hospital.

Our Sunday had been lovely. We had a wonderful (read: slightly boozy) Sunday lunch with our friends, and then, much to the delight of our family, the new season of "Top Gear" started last night. Nicholas, filled to the brim with fun and laughs, fell asleep on Tim's chest during the show (alas, he missed "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car).

At midnight, I was awoken with the most horrible sound-- coughing crossed with wheezing and a little bit of barking thrown in. It sounded as if he was choking on something, but we couldn't think what he could have found in his bed. We asked him, "Did you put something in your mouth?" He replied, "Yes. Blueberries!" (that had been six hours earlier).

We decided, finally, we (read: the person who knows where the pediatric A&E is) should take him to the hospital. My one comforting thought at the time was at least there wouldn't be a wait at 1 a.m. My heart sank, though, when we arrived and I saw two other families in the waiting area. At least I didn't have to pay for parking.

While the nurse looked at him, he didn't cough once, and that's when I started to feel a little silly for bringing him in. But she said the symptoms sounded like croup, which improves once the night air hits the throat, opening up the air passageway. She said she would listen out to hear the cough while we waited for the doctor.

Now it's 1 a.m. and Nicholas is in great spirits. He's playing with the Nintendo Game Cube, putting together some Lego cities and even playing Foozball. At one point, he and I are laughing with another Mom at the Foozball table and I thought to myself, "Is this right? Should I be laughing at 1 a.m. in the emergency room? Shouldn't I be on the chairs with a concerned look on my face?"

Once I do sit down, I realize that the Phillies are playing the Giants. So I've got that going for me, at the A&E at 1 a.m. I can show Nicholas some American sports! It reminded me of the time I was in labour with Andrew and I got to watch Monday Night Football. It's the little things that keep you going at that hour, believe me.

Finally, the nurse hears his terrible cough/wheeze and deduces that it is croup. So while Barry Bonds*, who may or may not have taken performance-enhancing steroids, plays in Philadelphia, Nicholas gets his own dose of steroids, so he can breathe better.
(*the American baseball player chasing Babe Ruth's homerun record who has been accused of taking steroids)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Marathon Sunday, on its way

This Sunday will mark the 26th anniversary of the London Marathon, and my first anniversary of completing it. (Technically, that anniversary was Monday, but I was busy drinking with my friends that day, which prevented me from posting it).

Yesterday I spotted two guys in Greenwich with their TNT bags slung over their shoulders (fellow marathoners will know what I mean), having returned from the Expo to pick up their numbers. The barriers are already up around Greenwich, the pubs have their signs up, and the portaloos, yes, the ones that made me burst out crying last year, are up in the park.

While the loos still make me want to cry (thinking about the fact that I actually did the marathon, not the sight itself), it's a supremely great feeling this year. In the past, I always felt great regret when marathon time rolled around, knowing that I still hadn't crossed that goal off my life list, and trying to figure out when it would be possible. Instead, this year, I feel such pride, elation and relief that I've done it, and I don't HAVE to do it this year. I've proven that I've done it.

However, our new house is literally on the way from the train station to Greenwich Park, so the boys and I will be setting up outside, distributing last-minute good luck supplies (Nurofen, bin bags, jelly babies: essentials that they don't give out on the course). It'll be a great way to join in the fun, and I won't have to do any running to do it.

Unfortunately, the no-running thing is important, because I've done something odd to my left foot (ha! no pun intendend) which makes it difficult to walk, let alone run. I'm back to the doctor for the second time today to try to figure out what the problem is.

Last month, Paula Radcliffe announced she wouldn't be running London this year because of a foot injury. So that's something else she and I have in common. That, and the fact that we've both run the London marathon.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Some Home Truths About Moving Homes

After packing and unpacking at least 7.5 million boxes (at least it seems like it), MarathonMum is back at the blog.

For the record, Mr. MarathonMum and I are pretty good at moving. In our 10 years of marriage, this is the fifth residence we've been in (working out to a new place once every two years). But despite our skills in knowing how to pack china so it doesn't get broken, giving away copious amounts of items to the local charity shop in an effort to streamline operations, and knowing that we ought to keep the bottle opener in a safe place so we can have a cold one at the end of the first day, problems still emerge.

Unfortunately for us, this time it was the bottle opener we couldn't find. So the first night we got beer in cans, the second night we used a screwdriver, and by the third day, I thought it wasn't worth the stress so I went out and bought a new one. As soon as I got home, went to look in a box for something else and guess what I found? The bottle opener, of course! (Now we have two).

Three weeks later, we're still unpacking. Given the strains of the sale, we decided we weren't going to kill ourselves to get everything unpacked immediately. It didn't help, though, that two different friends stopped by soon after we moved in and commented that when they moved, they had everything unpacked and organized within a day. I repeated this, with some distress, to my friend's mother who looked at me and said, "Sounds like they need to get a life!" I felt much better after that.

Now on to my Home Truths About Moving Homes:

1. Inevitably, you will end up hating the buyer of your old home. The person might actually be a wanker-idiot and you have no choice but to detest him (as was our case) or they might be perfectly nice, but you'll still feel a certain amount of hostility toward them. This time, our wanker-idiot walked into the flat at 11 a.m. in the middle of the move and asked when we'd be done. "At 1:30, like it says in the contract," I told him. "Really, it says that?" he asked. "I thought I could move in at any time today." Anybody who's bought or sold a house, or even watched a T.V. program on the process, knows that 1:30 p.m. is the standard time in this country for gaining possession. As we were down a man in the crew, when 1:30 came and we realized we weren't nearly done, I made the boys a round a tea. Our wanker-idiot had to watch them drink it from his comfortable perch on the sidewalk.

2. Something will get lost. Despite the best efforts to be organized and keep things in order, something crucial will get misplaced. This time, it was half of the pegs needed to assemble our 14-year-old Ikea bookshelves. I finally found them after a very intensive search involving many boxes and several hours.

3. Olympic years are a good time to move. We bought our first house together in 1996, and I packed boxes while watching the women's gymnastics final in the Summer Olympics. We moved in 1998, but it was 10 months after the Winter Olympics (it still counts, in my mind). In 2000, we moved into our flat just a month before the Summer Olympics in Sydney. And finally, this year, we moved a few weeks after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics.

4. Learn to embrace chaos. It's part of the fun.

5. Cold beer is critical to the success of the move. Make sure you can find the bottle opener.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

March Madness

Any of my American readers will know immediately what the above headline means. The readers in the rest of the world, however, are undoubtedly scratching their heads.

"March Madness" is not a mental health issue, it's a phenomenom. Every year, in March, basketball teams from around the U.S. play in the NCAA tournament. It gives university students an excuse to show school pride and celebrate (or cry, as the case may be). For those past university age, it gives them a chance to reminesce about their youth while making gambling a linchpin of office activities through the office pool (when people try to predict who will be champion).

This year, my alma mater, Villanova Univeristy, is heavily favoured to do well and will most likely get a top seed. This is still true, despite having lost last night to my father-in-law's alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, in the Big East tournament. Which was a bummer, not least of all because he and I had a friendly wager on the game (I now owe him a dinner) and I'll have to hear chants of "Overrated." Personally, I think we got one loss out of the way on the Road to the Final Four.

It is a real mystery to me why a simple tournament of basketball games can become so important, fun and consuming. But it is. When I worked in Chicago, I was in charge of our office NCAA pool and we had loads of people fill out their brackets. Everybody in the office was talking about it-- even people who knew nothing about the teams that were playing. Maybe that's part of the fun. Maybe it's a way to brighten up the tail end of winter. For people like me, who have universities in the tournament, it's also a way to fondly remember my bygone days and to teach my offspring the Villanova Fight Song.

Here in London, March Madness is not quite the same. There's no office pools. There's no CBS (although in a boon to expats everywhere, they're going to broadcast the first two rounds for free on the Internet! Hooray!). I still remember March 1999, my first March living abroad, when had to buy a very expensive copy of USA Today in the Rome airport, and then I filled out the brackets (for my own amusement only) on the floor of the Rome airport while waiting for my flight back to London. This year, thanks again to the wonders of the Internet, I'll be able to participate in a pool and pay my entrance fee via PayPal. So at least I'll be able to join in on the fun a little bit.

I anxiously AND eagerly await Selection Sunday tomorrow to find out where and when Villanova will be playing. Until then, it gives me a chance to make sure my Villanova gear is clean and practice the fight song one more time with the boys.


Monday, March 06, 2006

4:26 a.m.

So after 36 posts, six comments, four and a half hours, three cups of coffee and two chocolate chip cookies that's it for MarathonMum's coverage of the 78th Academy Awards.

If you're reading this on Monday morning, you might want to go back to the beginning of the posts at 12:05 a.m. Or not.

Good night, and good luck. (see what I did there? Wasn't that nice?)

4:22 a.m.

Jack Nicholson is presenting Best Picture. I was wondering why he was there. Man, is he cool.

Crash might win Best Picture, because voters will want to split their vote between that and Brokeback Mountain, which already won Best Director.

See? What did I tell you? (And, no, I didn't go back and edit that before I posted it) There's lots of happy people over in the Crash section of the audience. Matt Dillon still looks cool.

George Clooney looks slightly disappointed, but at least he's going home with something. Don't worry, George, you still rate in my book!

Bummer, they just cut off the producer of Crash. Is that the only person who was cut off tonight?

4:19 a.m.

Tom Hanks seems to have his wild hair (it must be for a movie he's filming) under control. He's presenting Best Director. Maybe Our Man George will win this one!

As expected, Ang Lee wins for Brokeback Mountain. It'll probably win Best Picture now too.

4:17 a.m.

This is my 33rd post of the evening. If anyone wants to question my love of the Oscars, all I'll need to do to respond is show them all of these postings. Man, am I tired.

I think we only have two more awards to go.

The one good thing about the Sky Movies presentation this year is they haven't brought on third-rate British actors you've never heard of (Alan Cummings, take a bow) talk about the Oscars. They've got two movie critics who are actually saying intelligent things, rather than asking Joan Collins to talk about who she would like to win.

4:12 a.m.

Uma Thurman, who looks stunning, is presenting best original screenplay. Will Our Man George win again? I hope so.

No, George doesn't win, but "Crash" does, which also was a great movie.

4:07 a.m.

By my count, we've got the two screenplay awards (adapted and original), best director and best picture to go. I think we're in the final lap.

Dustin Hoffman seems to be cracking himself up. He leads a round of applause for all the losers. Oh, yeah, THAT will make them feel better.

Brokeback Mountain, as predicted, wins best adapted screenplay. I just had a minor panic because my cable went out for 10 seconds. Oh no, it did it again. I hope it holds up for the last 15 minutes. Oh no! Again! Again!

Heath Leger and Michelle Williams look REALLY UNHAPPY in the front row. I don't think the round of applause they just got was enough to salve the deep wound of disappointed.

3:57 a.m.

Jamie Foxx is up. Hooray! This means we're doing Best Actress. I hope Reese Witherspoon wins.

Dame Judi Dench looks really nervous. Hooray again! Matthew Macfayden is up (briefly). He's just lovely. They say Felicity Huffman is really good in her movie, too. Reese Witherspoon looks really nervous too.

Yeah! Reese wins! Her dress really is beautiful. How long is it going to take her to thank Joaquin Phoenix? Oh, finally she did it.
And she gave a good speech (and didn't thank her agent, accountant or lawyer, either).

So no big surprises yet, and no big movie sweep either. I don't think we have long to go. So I might get two and a half hours of sleep tonight, if I'm lucky.

3:54 a.m.

Scientologist John Travolta is awarding the Best Cinematography Oscar.

Scientology: the "religion" that won't allow a woman to speak during childbirth. You've got to be kidding. Oh, wait, that's right. I'm talking about Scientology.

3:40 a.m.

Best Foreign Language Film winner gives a good speech and seems genuinely thrilled.

Oh no. Another black dress. This one is worn by the star of "Memoirs of a Geisha" whose name I don't even want to attempt. Why is she, of all people, wearing black? She wore a beautiful bright yellow dress to the Golden Globes (I think, or it might have been the Baftas). People: Black is Boring! I just saw her shimmering sequined skirt, but black is still boring.

"Crash" just won something. I did like that movie quite a lot. Oh, it's the film editing award. This clown just thanked his assistant. A classic listing acceptance. But they let him get it all in.

Ooh. Hilary Swank. Another boring black dress, though it's better than the one she wore last year. She doesn't look as sad as she did at the Golden Globes.

But crucially, she's presenting an award I actually care about: Best Actor. I predict Phillip Seymour Hoffman, even though I haven't yet seen Capote. I hope he wins because (again) he's one of those rare actors who elevates whatever movie he's in. He's just fantastic, full stop.

Heath Ledger has a mustache! What's that about? Joaquin Phoenix should probably win if Hoffman doesn't. He was INCREDIBLE in "Walk the Line" and he does all his own singing too.

Yeah! Phillip Seymour Hoffman wins! Kudos to Joaquin Phoenix, though, who looks genuinely happy for Hoffman. What an actor. Maybe he should win a special Oscar for Best Loser.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman should win a SECOND Oscar for best acceptance speech, given the heartfelt thanks he gave to his mother (a win for moms everywhere) AND being able to mention the NCAA tourny in the same speech. Now that's talent!

3:36 a.m.

Will Smith is talking about "Hundreds of Millions of People Watching Around the World." Who's up in Great Britain besides me and about four other people? It's the middle of the night, for goodness sake. I think the "hundreds of millions" is a classic use of Oscar hyperbole.

3:31 a.m.

The Man of the Night, George Clooney, introduces the "I See Dead People", I mean, those esteemed Academy members who have passed, montage. George is the ONLY person who could possibly make this interesting. At least it perked me up a bit.

I've often wondered, though, if family members gauge the clapping to figure out who's the most popular dead person, I mean, esteemed Academy members who have passed, featured. I wonder who will be the last person? Oh, it looks like Richard Pryor. That's nice.

3:27 a.m.

Jennifer Garner almost fell! Now that would have been funny, and would have helped to wake me up. She's looking great, post baby. She's presenting the Sound Editing Award. Yawn. Literally.

3:18 a.m.

I just switched over to E! because this is getting pretty boring. They're doing a Celebrity Goof Up Roundup. Did you know that Geena Davis once had a sitcom? Neither did I.

Back to the Oscars. This has got to be a first: the name of this Oscar-nominated song is, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." It looks to me like Jamie Foxx is singing, and there's more strange dancing, but no burning car. Bring back the burning car!

Terrence Howard, nominated for Best Actor, had a really sweet white rose corsage on before, but he's taken it off. Who told him to take it off? I liked it.

No way. The Pimp song won. The Crash lady seems pretty sad about that, but Queen Latifah is happy abou it. I'm pretty sure that IS Jamie Foxx. No, wait, they just showed Jamie Foxx in the audience, so it's not him.

Jon Stewart is beside himself. He doesn't know what to say. Though he does point out that the winners were the most excited people there.

3:14 a.m.

I think I just saw whats-her-name from Will and Grace. Debra Messing, that's it. What's she doing at the Oscars? Talk about punching above your weight.

Thanks to my No. 1 fan, Noel, who seems to be the only person reading this blog tonight. Thanks for the support!

3:06 a.m.

Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep present the Honorary Oscar to Robert Altman. I'm thinking that of the fillers we've got left, we only have the Roll Call of Those That Have Gone Before (i.e. actors who died this year). Then we'll finally have all the good awards to do. Maybe we'll get to see our man George again!

Robert Altman, no doubt, is a great director. He's getting savaged by the London theatre critics at the moment, though, for the new play, "Resurrection Blues", which was the last play that Arthur Miller wrote. Apparently the play is awful. But Robert Altman has made some really good movies. He just plugged the play, but I don't think that's going to help ticket sales.

2:56 a.m.

Jake Gyllenhaal is presenting. He sure does look sad. I think he thought he would win. Poor kid. And now he has to give out an award. At least he'll get to hold one, for a minute at least.

Now would be a good time to talk about the time I saw Jake in a play in London's West End. He was with Darth Vadar/Mr. Sienna Miller Hayden Christensen and Oscar winner Anna Panquin. Jake was very good. Earlier tonight, the Sci-Fi Channel was showing his very first movie, "October Sky," which is a great film. If you haven't seen it, you should.

This appears to be the third set (or possibly the fourth, I've lost count) of self-congratulatory film clips. Again, what's with all the montages? Jon Stewart just said, "We're out of film clips." I think I believe him.

2:46 a.m.

This is my 20th post of the night. In one night I've managed to boost my Blogger posts. I know I haven't done much lately, MarathonMum fans, but I'm making up for it tonight. It's just that Blogging isn't a big priority when you're trying to sell your flat and move to a new house. I won't bore you with the sad details, but the whole process has been a trial, to say the least. However, we have a tentative date to move next Tuesday, but we'll see. We've had two other moving dates, too, and we're still here.

As a result of the potential house move, I haven't done much running, either. There was even a 10K at Greenwich Park today that I missed. I'll do it next year for sure.

Back to the Oscars: Sky Movies One actually cut away in the middle of the Original Score performance by Itzak Perleman. This brings up an important note: I know that I am misspelling some of these names and I'm very sorry. I'm just too tired and lazy to look them all up.

Brokeback Mountaint finally won something, for the score, which I did like.

The interesting thing about the acceptance speeches is how they're starting up the music as soon as the winner starts talking. Is that some sort of subliminal strategy to get them to wind it up quicker? I think it's working.

2:44 a.m.

Salma Hayak is presenting. I LOVE her dress. It might be my favorite of the night. Though I'm not sure if anyone cares.

2:38 a.m.

More self congratulatory film clips. Again, if they want to make this program shorter, they can cut this sort of stuff out. (Though I'm always happy to see Peter Finch say, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.")

Now it's the president of the Academy. Yawn. Please be quick. But this is his moment in the sun, and I don't think he's going to give up easily. I wonder if I could just take a short nap and wake up when this is over? Probably not. I'm really starting to flag.

2:33 a.m.

Sandra Bullock is presenting. I'm still not sure about the pregnancy rumor. The pockets make me suspicious, but maybe it's a comfort thing. I suspect that if I had to wear a big fancy gown like that, I'd probably like to have some pockets so I'd have something to do with my hands. I like her dress very much, though I wish it were a different colour.

2:21 a.m.

It's official: I definitely DO NOT like Charlize Theron's dress. Yuck. What was she (or more likely, her stylist) thinking?

She's presenting Best Documentary. I hope the Penguins win. They do! Hooray!! That was a great film. Just ask Nicholas.They all bring stuffed penguins up on the stage with them. Nicholas would like that, too. So, at last count, our two sons have seen two of the Oscar winners this year.

Now Jennifer Lopez comes up. I like her dress. I wasn't sure about the colour, at first, but now I think it's much better than boring black. Someone made the point on one of the pregame shows that she always makes an impact at the Oscars.

Now the singer for the "Crash" song is performing. Is it safe that they would have a burning car on the stage? I think that's a Health and Safety problem. It's a good song, but I can't keep my eyes off the fire or the dancers who are nearby. Is it fake fire? I think the fire was superfluous, not to mention unsafe. What happens if it goes out of control and George Clooney is at risk?

Now they're breaking for commercial. Presumably so they can put out the fire. Time for more coffee.

2:13 a.m.

This is bad. Legend Lauren Bacall is either having telepromter problems or a senior moment, but she seems to be struggling. Mightily. I'm not sure what she is introducing, but I do think it's one of those filler moments that makes this award show run for 17 hours. If they wanted to shorten the show, they could just cut out this stupid stuff and just give out the Golden Men.

This is boring. I'm starting to wane, slightly. Perhaps I should go get some more coffee.

I still have no idea what she was talking about.

They just did a funny bit with fake commercials for women campaigning to win Best Actress. I thought it was funny, but I'm not sure Reese Witherspoon did.

2:02 a.m.

Morgan Freeman is on. We must be about to award the Supporting Actress category. Yes, I'm right! I hope Rachel Weisz wins, though Catherine Keenar is one of those actresses who's good in everything. Even the 40-Year-Old Virgin. Michelle Williams looks really nervous, but I don't think she's going to win.

Hooray! Rachel wins. And she looks beautiful, even heavily pregnant. Oh no, it's one of those listing acceptance speeches. Not listing, as in moving side to side, but listing, as in name everyone involved in the movie. Again, kudos, for not thanking her agent, accountant or lawyer.

2 a.m.

Now they're talking about the Technical Awards ceremony. Now I can see who Rachel McAdams is. I had never heard of her until she recently refused to be photographed naked by Annie Liebowitz for the cover of Vanity Fair.

"I'm glad I could be a part of it," McAdams said, speaking of the Technical Awards show, NOT the Vanity Fair shoot.

1:56 a.m.

Best Makeup Award. Kudos to the presentation, Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell are very funny.

Narnia wins. Saw that one, too, though my enjoyment of it was somewhat marred by the fact I had two young boys climbing all over me in fear through most of it.

1:46 a.m.

Just had time to make some coffee and have another chocolate chip cookie.

I missed some categories, but nothing major. They're doing Animated Short Feature.

Now here comes Jennifer Aniston. She's doing Best Costume. I wonder if she made the Academy promise that the Pitt-Jolie juggernaut would not be in attendance before she said she'd present? I've actually seen the majority of nominees in this picture, except for Memoirs of a Geisha and Mrs. Henderson Presents. Memoirs wins. I liked the book, but I'm not sure I'd like to see the movie. Maybe on DVD.

1:38 a.m.

Everybody seemed to like Dolly Parton, she's getting a rousing round of applause. You've got to bet, though, that they're all talking about her horrible suit she wore once she gets off the stage.

Now, REALLY, I'm going to make some coffee.

1:31 a.m.

Reese Witherspoon is presenting for Best Animated Feature! The one category where I know all of the nominees. I'm keeping my fingers firmly crossed for Wallace and Gromit. They're the best! This is the first time, in a couple of years, that I haven't actaully seen all of the nominees, but I'm still sure Wallace and Gromit will be the best.

I like Reese's dress. It's beautiful.

Yeah! Wallace and Gromit win. Nick Park and his co-director seem to be wearing VERY LARGE Paul Smith bow-ties, and they brought little ones along for their Oscars. Very funny. Poor Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace, is ALL THE WAY in the back. Though I notice that Helena Bonham Carter is just one row ahead of them, so maybe it was the Animated neighborhood of the audience.

1:25 a.m.

Ben Stiller is doing something strange in a lime green jumpsuit. Why won't they ever let that nice man wear a tuxedo to this show? He always seems to wearing something odd.

It's the visual effects award. Yawn. King Kong wins. NOW I can FINALLY make some coffee.

1:16 a.m.

The first award of the night: Best Supporting Actor. Nicole Kidman is giving out the award. It'd be nice if she could give it to her friend, George. Why didn't the actress who won Best Supporting Actress last year giving out the award? Who was that? A quick check while they show the clips....

No time.

Yeah! George wins. "OK, so I'm not the winning director," is the first thing he says. Oh, so funny. He seems to talking off the cuff, but doing it very well. I'll give him extra points if he doesn't thank his agent or accountant. And he doesn't! Good for him. Now THAT was a great speech. Well done, George!

Poor Matt Dillon and Jake Gyllenhaal look REALLY disappointed they didn't win. Maybe it won't be a Brokeback Mountain juggernaut afterall.

Now I've got time to answer my previous question: Cate Blanchett won Best Supporting Actress last year. Why couldn't they bring her in? (I remember the other three acting awards from last year, though: Hillary Swank, actress; Jamie Foxx, actor; and Morgan Freeman, supporting actor. (Note to self: I still need to see "Ray.")

1 a.m.

Ooh. It's starting. Hooray!

It's some sort of CGI compilation of all sorts of movie clips. I bet Jon Stewart, a William and Mary alum just like Mr. MarathonMum, is really nervous right about now.

That introduction was hilarious. How lucky is John Stewart to be in bed with George Clooney? I was wondering what he would do without a desk for his monologue, and now I know: he's going to stand behind a podium.

Charlize Theron has something growing on her shoulder. Has anyone told her that?

Kiera Knightly is sitting next to Jack Nicholson. Is he dating her now? I like her dress, though. It's Vera Wang, apparently. In case you're wondering, Vera Wang is who I'll wear when I go to the Oscars. Someday.

Matt Dillon is looking great. He was good in Crash, too, though I haven't picked him to win. I think my man George will be the one to beat in that category. We saw Syriana on Saturday and he was pretty good, though I think Matt Dillon was better. But I think George will win in acting because he probably won't win in any of his other categories. But only time will tell.

I feel for Jon Stewart. His monologue doesn't seem to be going so well.

12:46 a.m.

Now might be the time to make coffee. There's nothing on either channel. Mariella Fostrup is yammering on Sky Movies. Yes, I know, American fans, you have NO IDEA who she is. Welcome to Sky Movies coverage: When the most marginal of British stars sit down to talk about the movies. She's talking to a casting director and a movie critic, and I've never heard of either one. And I live here!
Hey! The momentary lull is over, since there's George Clooney. Yeah!

"We've been unburdened by success at these award shows," George said. "I'll be the drunk in the back."

This is why people (me especially) love George. Not only is he gorgeous and a good actor, but he's funny, too! Godspeed, George. I do hope you win something. It would be a crime for you to go home empty handed.

Jennifer Aniston is on now. Isn't that great that she's been able to dust herself off and be out on the town. She just finished her interview with someone or other and made the FUNNIEST faces, as in, "Those were the stupidest questions I've ever heard." She's wearing black-- which seems to be the color of the night-- but didn't say who did her dress. It's nice enough, I suppose, but really boring.

Reese Witherspoon and her husband Ryan Phillipe are being interviewed right now. She's wearing a silver dress, but I didn't get a good look at it. I do hope she wins, though. She was amazing in "Walk the Line." You couldn't take your eyes off of her.

12:36 a.m.

Neither Sky Movies One or E! seem to be covering the Red Carpet right now. What's up with that? I think it's time to make some coffee.

12:22 a.m.

Sandra Bullock came with Keanu Reeves. I like her dress, though black is such a boring choice. There's now some speculation that she's pregnant. It doesn't look like it to me, but who knows: they might have sewn her into the dress. She seems to keep stuffing her hands in her POCKETS though, in her dress, so maybe she is pregnant. Why in the world would you put pockets in a beautiful couture dress?

Nicole Kidman looks gorgeous, but I worry that they haven't let Nicole have a proper meal in a long time. Come to think of it, we could say that about a lot of the actresses on the red carpet tonight. I, on the other hand, have just enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie. Yum.

Some of you may be wondering what your host for the evening is wearing. I really made an effort for you, my faithful fans. While I was tempted to wear my very special Circus jim-jams, I decided to push the boat out. I've got on my red Gap sweats and one of Tim's sweatshirts. Damn, do I look good. I am definitely the best-dressed awake person in the house.

Oscar Morning, 12:05 a.m.

Oh, the Oscars!! One of my most favourite events of the year, combining my loves of the movies, superstars and fashion.

You have to know how much I love it if I've roused myself from a warm sleep to get up and watch it. In the U.S., being a devotee of the Oscars doesn't require a mid-afternoon nap and the need to get up in the middle of the night.

This year, I was pondering how I would be able to stay up through the whole broadcast. Two years ago, I used the time to create a mail and document filing system that is still in place to this day (I used to just pile things up). Last year, I took notes throughout the broadcast for my next-day blog. I was wondering what I could do this year to stay awake and I realized, "I shall blog throughout!" Now, through the wonder of wireless broadband, I can stay awake and entertain all three of you who happen to be reading MarathonMum.

OOh. George Clooney! Doesn't he look lovely! I hope he wins.

I've switching between the coverage on Sky Movies One (for which I had to sign up specially) and E! (and how great is it that I finally have E! even if Joan Rivers isn't on it anymore).

There's Naomi Watts. Is she pregnant? I don't like her dress, though. It's a terrible, terrible colour: biege. Why in the world would you wear beige to the Oscars. She says it's Givenchy, but yuck.

Now Paul Giamatti is talking. Isn't he witty? I think the airhead woman he's speaking to doesn't fully appreciate his intelligence. She seems a bit befuddled by his answers. I don't think he's going to win, though.

Hey! Helena Bonham Carter with Tim Burton and she looks great. usually, she looks slightly off, in some strange way, but she looks beautiful. I'm guessing she's wearing Vivenne Westwood, flying the British flag and all that.

Now the couple of the night: Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams. Heath is all gushy about the greatest thing about Brokeback Mountain was "Meeting this lovely lady here." She's wearing yellow, but I didn't get a great look at the dress. That'll come later.

Monday, February 13, 2006

MarathonMum Roundup

There's lots going on at MarathonMum headquarters, which is why the posts have been less than frequent lately. Here's a quick roundup of all the things going on with me right now:

1. British Real Estate Transactions: Having bought and sold a house in the U.S., I can say the following with authority: The British real estate system is downright bizarre. We are in the midst of trying to sell our flat and buy another house (just down the street from this one). The important thing for my American fans to realize is nothing is definite until you get to the pre-closing, which is called the exchange, and happens about a week before the closing (called the completion). Consequently, you get to experience a new kind of hell, like we are at the moment, when you are days away from the exchange and the buyer wants some major last-minute concessions. We've already packed boxes and mentally moved into our new house and now it might not happen at all. Things are much more guaranteed in the U.S.: once your offer is accepted and you've placed your deposit, which happens three days after the offer is put in, it's much less likely that the transaction won't occur. I hate British real estate laws, I really do. We're trying to stay positive about everything at the moment, but it could easily go either way.

2. Running: I have been running, albeit not nearly as frequently as when I was training for the marathon. Last week I actually voluntarily did a hill workout, even though I have no races planned at the moment for the spring. Greenwich Park is great for hillwork, you can't believe the variety of hills from which to choose. Anyway, I was starting up one of the more perpendicular ones, when another bloke was starting as well. "Do you want to do them together?" Now, MarathonMum fans will know that I really hate running with anyone else, but I thought why not. When we finished the first one, he said, "Wow, you're really strong!" and then we went on to do four more. At the end I was ready to pass out and throw up simulataneously. Good times, let me tell you.

3. Go Nova! My alma mater, Villanova University, is currently ranked fourth in collegiate basketball in the U.S. Yeah!! They're having one of their best seasons ever. They're playing so well, I'm tempted to fly back and see a game, but of course, I have to contend with British Real Estate Laws and the possibility of moving. Tonight, Villanova plays Connecticut, who are ranked No. 1, so it'll be a Battle of the Titans. I'm trying to figure out if I can watch the game via the Internet, but I'm not really sure that I have the stamina necessary to start watching at 1 a.m. and stay up until 3 a.m. I might just have to read the recap tomorrow and cheer in my sleep.

4. Chicken Little: MarathonMum's family went out in force to see Chicken Little over the weekend. It got positive reviews all around, though Nicholas thought it was, "A little bit scary."

5. Finally, to all my family and friends who are buried under two feet of snow on the East Coast, remember the final rule: Have fun!