Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An Evening With the Queen

This morning, as I was comparing schedules via e-mail for some Easter Break fun with my friend Anne, she dropped this bombshell, about five messages into the exchange:

"Hey, Chris met the Queen yesterday! He was at the Palace last night for some American Correspondents thing, and they shook hands. Jerry Hall was there too."

That's right sports fans: That's just a typical day of an American expat in London. You're just minding your own business, and before you know it, there's the Queen, with some amazing hat on and she wants to shake your hand!

As Thing One might say, "No, not really."

My friend Chris was at Buckingham Palace for a reception for Americans living in Britain as a warm-up for the Queen's visit to the U.S. in May.

But the funny thing was that when Anne told me about it, my first thought was, "Oh, that's nice." It's the same reaction I had when I was looking at a booking form for Charlton Athletic's (our local football club) football school and there, on the front page, was Prince William kicking around a ball with the team. It took me a moment to register, "Hey, he'll be the King of England some day!" I guess that after living here for more than eight years, the novelty of the royals has worn off for me a little.

But don't get me wrong: I would have been THRILLED to have been invited to Buckingham Palace. I'm assuming that MarathonMum's invitation got lost in the mail.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Internet Shopping

Thing One desperately wants a bird feeder and a bird house for our back garden. The plan had been for us to go to the local pet superstore-- where they have about 100 to choose from-- and buy one. However, after discussing the plan with Mr. MarathonMum, who also serves as chair of this house's uber-stringent Design Committee, he vetoed the plan. He decided instead that we could all choose one together on the Internet.

Thing One and I were driving past the pet superstore, when I explained that we wouldn't be stopping to find the bird feeder and the bird house.

"Daddy just wants to buy them on the Internet," i said.

After pausing for a long minute, Thing One replied, "Oh, I can understand why. When you shop on the Internet, you don't have to pay!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy Mother's Day. Now Get Some Sleep.

Here in the U.K., we celebrated Mothering Sunday last weekend. For MarathonMum, that meant I got a two beautiful hand-made cards, a fantastic bunch of flowers and a chocolate-walnut cake, lovingly made by Mr. MarathonMum.

But the thing I'd love most to get-- but haven't yet received-- would be a great night's sleep followed by a morning sleeping in without any interruptions. It's been a long time since I had a really, really good night's sleep. The type when you wake up and think you can conquer the world. The type where your first thought of the day ISN'T, "How quickly can I make my first cup of coffee?" (which is usually my first thought of the day).

I know for a fact that I haven't had a really good night's sleep since I became a mother. It's one of the biggest dirty-little-secrets they don't tell you in your prenatal classes. Since I became a mother, I hear every cough, laugh, wander, whisper and cry in the house. I used to be a heavy sleeper; Not anymore.

So when I saw the study by the U.S.-based National Sleep Foundation that found women weren't getting enough sleep, I was hardly surprised. The study found that half the women surveyed woke up almost every morning "unrefreshed," and 49 percent were awake a lot during the night at least a few nights in the past month.

Apparently, lots of women feel the same way I do about their morning coffee, because only 21 percent of those surveyed drank less than one or no caffeinated drinks the following day.

So what is it that wakes me up and keeps me awake? A sampling of the things that have disturbed my sleep in the last month:
• When Mr. MarathonMum is travelling, once a night without fail, I will sit bolt upright in bed and think that I haven't yet locked the front door. As my heart races away, I have to wake myself up, and think it through before I conclude that I did, in fact, lock it. Several times I'm out of bed before I'm awake enough to realize I've done it.
• (Variation on a theme, and an unwelcome new development) If Mr. MarathonMum is home, I will sit bolt upright in bed and think that I haven't taken my crucial arthritis medication. (This would be as bad as not locking the front door.)
Also in the last month, my sleep has been disturbed by:
• Thing One being so excited about a school event that he moved (in the night) from his own bed to the guest room.
• Thing Two had a bad dream and needed to come in for a cuddle and a guide back to bed.
• Odd noises in the house that I can't identify.
• Various questions that I don't have answers for, including:
"Why can't I get a £20,000 book contract after someone reads my blog?"
"Will this career break I'm on destroy my career?"
"Will I ever be able to get a job again?"
"What kind of job will I get once I do go back to work?"
"Is my arthritis medicine working?"
"Will I ever run again?"
"Will the arthritis put me in a wheelchair?"
"Does Thing One play Playstation too much?"
"When will Thing Two stop sucking his fingers?"
And on and on and on.

So yes, I had a wonderful Mother's Day. But I still didn't get a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mudlarking on the Thames

Thing One and I (along with our No. 1 science enthusiast friends Ella and Kirstin) kicked off Science Week in style, by putting on our very best Wellies and heading out to do some mudlarking on the Thames River foreshore.

This was our second mudlarking trip, and we were hoping for some good finds. It is truly amazing what you can find during the low tide of the Thames. The last time around, we found some interesting fish net tags, as well as loads of oyster shells, some old bones and a few broken bits of china. This time, as you can see below, Thing One even found a bike, but as we thought it wouldn't attract much interest on eBay, we left it where we found it.

The reason why the finds are so varied and plentiful is simple: people used to-- and sadly, sometimes still do-- throw everything away in the Thames. Broken crockery, animal remains, the last bits of dinner, industrial garbage: it all wound up in the Thames. During the Great Fire of London in 1666, some families threw their valuables in the river in the hope they'd find them later.

Mudlarking turned into a job-- of sorts-- during the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s when children and old woman would search the shores for things of value. Occasionally, the Great Fire valuables would turn up, but more often than not, they'd be fighting over a single lump of coal. It truly was one of the worst jobs in Victorian times.

While tripping over these old bits of china and oyster shells, I found myself thinking, "What in the world were they doing: throwing all this garbage in the river? Didn't they know any better?" But then I looked ahead 100 years when I'm sure there will be people thinking the same thing about how we live our lives.

By the end of the session, we found some great things: part of a tankard's handle from Medival times, the bottom of a pot from Tudor times, and some pretty pieces of blue Victorian china. The best find of the day, though, was made by someone in our group who found a perfectly preserved piece of a bottle's neck, made during the Tudor period [see above]. The man pictured is Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, a 17th-century Jesuit who abhorred drinking-- as well as King James I-- so his face was put on to alcohol bottles as a joke. You could consider it an olden-times-anti Surgeon General's Warning.

After a very muddy afternoon, we headed home with our Thames treasures.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

MarathonMum's Sons Take the Torch

As regular readers of this blog will tell you, running has not featured much in the past year. That's simply because I wasn't doing much, given the excruciating pain in my left foot (and no, I still haven't seen the movie). After several X-rays, one MRI and dozens of doctor visits with a variety of specialists, my problem was finally diagnosed by Google, who told me it was arthritis. Go Dr. Google! In any case, my rheumatologist told me in November that because of my arthritis, and fears that it would spread to other parts of my body, I'd never be able to run again. I was absolutely gutted.

So it is time to pass on my love of running to Thing One and Thing Two. As they are still both in single digits, age wise, it's still early days, but I hope they will love it as much as I did. On Sunday, we had a chance to race together (shh.... don't tell my doctor) in a 2K Fun Run around Greenwich Park. On the day our numbers arrived in the mail, both boys jumped around the house yelling, "Our numbers are here! Our numbers are here!" In the days leading up the race, both boys kept asking, "Is today our race?"

As you can see from the picture above, both boys already looked like champions-- or at least organized enough to get their numbers on correctly (with help) -- before we left the house. Now Thing One is a race veteran, having done a one-mile race 17 months ago. But Thing Two had never done one, and as he's only 3 3/4, just over a mile is a considerable distance for him to run. But he was psyched, so off we went. I figured he'd be one of the youngest racing, and I was right: I saw only one little boy younger than him.

We got there just minutes before the start, so we had enough time to find our friends, exchange some pleasantries, and the gun went off.

Thing One was quick to run off with his friends, and the next time we saw him was at the finish. With runners in front, behind and beside us, Thing Two was happy, excited and thrilled to be racing...Not to mention inexperienced in the art of dodging around people at the starts. So with 30 seconds of the race elapsed, I looked over to see Thing Two....

Do a face scrape across the pavement.

Needless to say, hardly an impressive beginning for his first race. But with a tenacity that would impress even the most seasoned professional athlete, he dusted himself off, took some "I'll make it better" kisses from Mommy, and we continued on our way. When he realized that we weren't going to win the race, he was unhappy, and then when he realized his face really DID hurt quite a lot, that only made him unhappier still. But we forged ahead-- running, walking, running, walking, running.

"This is a long way," Thing Two kept saying. "I'm getting really tired." Then, for added emphasis, "My head hurts!"

Finally, I did what any self-respecting mother would do when she wants to see her son get his first running medal: I promised him that we could go to McDonald's, a restaurant we make a point of visiting only once a quarter (four times a year). "I'm happy now!" said Thing Two, as he raced to the finish line.

I know that the Sports Gods will not be happy that I promised McDonald's in exchange for finishing the race, but I also know that the Mothering Goddesses would fully endorse my approach and understand why I did it.

So now Thing One and Thing Two are race veterans. For the record, Thing One finished in 12:40 (118th), and Thing Two (remember, he's 3 3/4, so his legs are VERY short) finished in 18:15 (159th, and crucially NOT LAST!).
Here's the face of tenacity (when promised lunch at McDonald's of course). The picture, unfortunately, doesn't do the injury justice.