Monday, December 31, 2007

Highlights of 2007

It's New Year's Eve at MarathonMum HQ and we are celebrating in style. We have already played a rousing game of Harry Potter Scene It (Thanks Santa!), Thing One and Thing Two are currently amusing themselves by watching Wallace and Gromit while I compile this short list of the year's highlights. I would have liked to have blogged about many of the things included on the list, but life got in the way, so now I'm trying to recover by including it in my Year in Review. I should say that when I was a newspaper reporter, this sort of story would have been written about a month ago so it could run today while I was somewhere else. But alas, as I had no editor breathing down my neck asking where the year end story was, that didn't happen here. But without further adieu, here's my personal highlights:

Compliment of the Year: Thing One, Thing Two and I were riding an Amtrak train from Washington to Philadelphia one rainy Friday. We were sitting in a quartet of seats, with the fourth seat being taken up by an older man who took the seat grudingly and only because it was the last available one on the train. After a bad storm, the train slowed to only 6 m.p.h. and consequently was delayed by more than two hours after lightening had hit the power station. But we endured, reading books, doing sticker books, eating the care package that Aunt Christine had made us and enjoying our portable gaming devices. As we got up to leave in Philadelphia, the older gentleman turned to me and said, "You have very well behaved children."

Story of the Year: Without a doubt, The Canoe Man. Amazing. Man presumed dead after kayaking. Walks into a police station years later, saying he can't remember anything. But ACTUALLY, he was living next door to his wife, using a secret passage between houses, they pay off their debts and move to Panama. Now here's a lesson for people planning to do the same thing: DON'T AGREE TO HAVE YOUR PICTURE POSTED ON THE INTERNET, EVEN IF YOU ARE IN PANAMA. The Interweb, and especially Google, is an amazing thing. You should also know that Canoe Man is a misnomer, but that's the nickname the British press came up with, and it stuck.

Sports Highlight of the Year: Being in a first-place tie (for one day, but still) in my Villanova friend's NCAA tournament. Very impressive, I think, particularly when you consider that I was one of two international entrants (the other one was in China, stealing the Furthest Away Crown from me. Drat.)

Trip Highlight of the Year: Has to be, hands down, getting to see the inside of the infirmary at Disneyland Paris on Thing One's 8th Birthday. This could also be called the "Maternal Lowpoint of the Year" since I kept saying to Thing One, "Come on! You'll be fine! We're in Disneyland, for goodness sake!"

Worst Play of the Year: "We the People" at the Globe Theatre. It was written by Eric Schlosser, best known as the author of "Fast Food Nation." Should we have been dubious that a play about the forming of the American constitution should have been a good one? Yes, indeedy. But I did pass some of the time looking at each audience member, trying to see if Schlosser's father-in-law Robert Redford was there. He was not. We left.

Best Book of the Year: "The Road." Incredibly haunting, and not a particularly enjoyable read, but amazing just the same.

Saddest Story of the Year: The Cutty Sark Fire. For the residents of Greenwich, it was like a death in the family. She will rise again, though, for that we can be sure.

Best Musical of the Year: I have to say that I don't usually go in for musicals, but this year I got to enjoy two: Mary Poppins with Thing Two in September and The Sound of Music with Thing One in December. I'm hoping they took away some wonderful memories from our "dates" but even if they didn't, we had a great time. Even funnier, it was the second time that Thing One had been at the London Palladium, having seen "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" there was he was nearly three. Sadly, he didn't remember it at all, not even the flying car.

Best Meal of the Year: Thanksgiving. Once again, we hosted a Thanksgiving party for 22 of our closest friends and their children, and the majority of attendees did not hold U.S. passports. But who cares. It was a great day of sublime food, and all the better if more people can learn to appreciate the best holiday of the year.

Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful 2008 full of good highlights. See you next year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in London

A faithful MarathonMum reader wrote in, wanting to hear all about Christmas in London. So for my friends near and far, here's a taste of what our past month has been like:

A visit to Santa:
Thing One and Thing Two had a day off from school on 3 December, so we took the opportunity to go see Santa at Selfridges, one of the nicest department stores in London. Lucky for us, Santa at Selfridges has joined the 21st century and we could book our time slot online. It was a fantastic experience. A snowy grotto with animatronic animals greeted us, before we boarded a TRAIN (a miniature one, but still) to go see Santa himself. Time Out London agreed with me and said it was the best Santa experience in all of London. Afterwards, I stole a tradition from a friend of mine and took the boys to the Christmas department where they each go to pick out an ornament: Thing One chose a bird in Santa's boot, and Thing Two chose a St. Nicholas. It was magical.

I thought about going to see Santa at Harrod's. But only because a few years ago I took my brother there in December and he thought it was the best Christmas display he had ever seen in a department store. Every year since, he's asked me if we went to Harrod's this year. I don't have the heart to tell him that only tourists go to Harrod's. So I did originally try to book us in to see Santa there that day. But they were booked up even when I checked more than a month before we wanted to go. Apparently, Harrods started taking reservations in August, but that just seems wrong to me. So we didn't get to see the Harrods Santa. We did have a walk around Harrods (post-Selfridges) and the boys LOVED the toy department. But I still maintain that no self-respecting Londoner would actually shop there on a regular basis.

Parties, parties and more parties
We spent a good part of the month attending parties, and we probably went to about 15 in all (which explains the paucity of posts this month). Class parties, family parties, company parties, Cub Scout parties, swimming parties, pilates parties: you name it, we probably went to a party for it. Unfortunately, going to so many parties sort of sucks the party spirit out of you. When told that Thing One had a Cub party the following day, my knee-jerk (emphasis on jerk) response was, "Not another sodding party!"

London, all dressed up
One of the nice things about having Christmas in London is all of the beautiful Christmas decorations. Here in Greenwich, they started a new Christmas tradition of Advent Windows: every day in December, a different house decorated a window (or in some fine cases, many windows) and they were assigned a day to "open" their window, like a live Advent calendar. It was wonderful. If I get a chance (ha ha ha) I will try to post pictures of some of my favourites.

Thing One and I were also lucky enough to sort-of see the lighting of the tree at Trafalgar Square. It was the night we were lucky enough to score tickets to see the "Sound of Music", and we were in the bus, passing the unlit tree, but there were scores of people surrounding it, as though something was about to happen. Sure enough, when we were on the bus on the way back a few hours later, the tree was all lit up, looking very Christmasy. (Though I have to say that the Jersey Girl in me still thinks the tree in Rockafeller Plaza is still WAY BETTER. Sorry.)

Our Leading Man
Every Christmas Eve for the past five years, our church does a children's nativity, and Thing One and Two have played a part in it since the beginning. We've had heavy experience in the role of "Shepard", but this year, the organizer called to ask (a bit hestitantly, it should be sasid) if perhaps Thing One would be interested in playing Joseph. Would he ever! He went on to tell me that the parents of the first girl he asked to be Mary had turned him down because it wasn't a speaking role. I almost told him I would be Mary, since I was passed over when I was 8. They made me head angel. Bah. It's an oversight that still stings to this day. But they found a Mary in the end, and Joseph (and one of his faitful shepards, Thing Two) did a wonderful job.

Christmas Recovery
Finally, the best Christmas tradition to be had in London has got to be Boxing Day. It's also known as "The Servant's Christmas" because that was the day the servants got their boxes with presents inside, and they also got the day off. I like to think of Boxing Day as "Mom's Recovery Day". On that day, we share our traditional Boxing Day meal of Pizza and the Standage-McKees. This year, I started a new tradition: The Two-Hour Nap. Long may it continue.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Message from Thing One

Thing One (age 8) and I were walking around town, doing our last minute Christmas errands, when I screwed up the courage to ask him the following:
"Is there anyone in your class who doesn't believe in Santa?"

After all, this is what they call in "The Polar Express" a critical year. He's old enough to apply some logic to the situation, and obviously there will be many discussions with his classmates in the playground. But it should also be said that he hasn't expressed ANY doubts this Christmas season and his belief appears to be steadfast.

Thing One replied, "Well, there's a few people that say there's no Santa, and that it's your parents who do it.

"But I told them 'That's crap! There's definitely a Santa!!' "

A Merry Christmas to all.