Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Thing One!

Thing One is now officially 8 years old. Time flies when you're having fun.

I don't know how, I don't know when, but sometime in the last year, Thing One changed from a boy to a young man. He can engage in interesting conversations. He likes to go off on his own and read for a bit. His interests are getting older-- climbing centres instead of the playground, real golf instead of the purple plastic set, cello (!) instad of the recorder.

Over the weekend, as we were riding the tube up to St. Johns Wood, he wanted to sit on my lap. I realized that he's now too big-- too many long limbs-- to sit comfortably there. So then he moved on to his Dad's lap, and had the same problem. He was crestfallen (a bit) that his days of lap sitting were over. So I told him when we're at home and we have more room on the sofa, he can sit on our laps there. But how much longer will he want to do that?

We celebrated Thing One's birthday by visiting Disneyland Paris for the weekend (more on that later). Thing One's favourite ride was Space Mountain-- he rode it four times.

Finally, here is a short list of the things I love about Thing One:
1. His fearlessness. His love of roller coasters (see above) and all things fast at amusement parks.
2. His ability to try anything once. Last month, I made some fish pie for dinner. I asked Thing One, "Do you like it?" He replied, "Not really. But I'll eat it anyway."
3. His enthusiasm for new things: the cello, golf, all things electronic, Monopoly
4. His continued enthusiasm for old interests: Boy Scouts, swimming, Top Gear
5. His love of reading
6. His adaptability and love of travel.
7. His ever-present smile and laugh

Happy Birthday Thing One. May you have many more.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Well-Balanced Cultural Saturday

Experts say people should always eat well-balanced meals, advice I also like to apply to my cultural life.

Last Saturday, I started the day by reading "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, and I finished the day humming the tunes of "Mary Poppins." A well-balanced day, by all accounts.

If you haven't read it, "The Road" is the Pulitzer Prize winning book detailing post-apocalyptic life in the U.S. It is bleak, bleak, bleak. If falling ash, gray skies, lack of life and total desolation is your cup of tea, go read this book. It is a haunting book that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life.

I've decided that the next time I'm really depressed, I'm going to read this novel again because I'm sure to conclude that no matter how bad I think my life might be at the moment, it wouldn't be in the same league as life in this book.

However, the book also forces the reader to evaluate their life, how they live it and what they're living for. It might also inspire some people to prepare emergency readiness kits. I took one crucial piece of advice from this novel: when you see the mushroom cloud, begin to fill up all of your tubs with water.

Having finished this bleak (but good) book Saturday morning at 10:30, I needed some sort of antidote to bring me back to normalcy. So I decided to go see "Mary Poppins" in the West End.

Mary Poppins was one of my most favourite movies growing up. London! Royal Parks! Dancing Penguins! Little did I know that 30 years later that would be my life-- other than the dancing penguins. Being an American, I had no idea that Dick Van Dyke's accent was so atrocious (though now it makes me wince). I still know all the words to "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Supercalafragalisticexpedaladocious." And since the musical is closing in early January, this was my last chance to see it. Luckily, I had young boys at the ready to drag along to the show, so I wouldn't be this sad thirtysomething sitting alone in the audience, singing along to the shows.

Thanks to my good friends at TKTS, I was able to score half-price tickets for the matinee that day for Thing Two and me. I extended the invitation to Thing One, but he was keen to go out with his dad. Our seat were in the stalls (the orchestra, for my American friends), but we only paid £30 for £60 tickets. One of the many perks of living in Greenwich is that we were only 30 minutes away from the theatre (including the walk from the train station), so getting there was easily done.

The musical was magnificent. The acting was a little wooden, sure, but you soon forgot about it when you saw Bert dancing on the walls and the ceiling of the stage-- my favourite bit-- and Mary Poppins flying over the audience. The staging alone was worth the price of admission. (Well done to my friend Pat, who worked on putting together the staging when it opened in 2004). It was a completely over-the-top musical with singing and dancing as only the West End and Broadway can do.

I loved it, as did Thing Two. And by the end of Saturday, I had managed to partake in a well-balanced cultural meal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

Ahoy mateys!
Happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

They have a website , of course. (Who doesn't these days?)

I realize this post is too late in the (British) day for anyone to actually spend a large amount of time singing sea shanties while wearing black eye patches, but perhaps you could mark your calendar for next year.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A New Car Game

I am attempting to clean up my desk, which is no small feat, let me assure you. But while I was recycling old dress shop receipts, magazines, business cards, and scraps of paper I don't need anymore, I found an intriguing slip of paper. Last year, when we went to France for two weeks, I kept track of all the country car stickers we saw. It reminded me of the classic American car game when you try to see the most state licence plates, and then have bragging rights to the back seat. So this is my list from last year:

B Belgium
S Sweden
D Germany
NL Netherlands
F France
I Italy
DK Denmark
E Spain
L Luxembourg
CH Switzerland
CZ Czech Repulic
IRL Ireland
A Austria
GBJ Great Britain-Jersey*
(that's like seeing Alaska or Hawaii)

and finally, on the back of our own car,

GB Great Britain

In case you're wondering, yes, I did have bragging rights for the front seat, but it didn't mean much because I was the only one playing. Now back to the desk....

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Back at School

Thing One and Thing Two returned to school Tuesday. It was a sad day all around. They were sad because they knew it was an end to the lazy days of summer where normal operating rules do not apply. I was sad because they were gone and I missed them.

A week before, I kept thinking, "Hooray! Back to school! Two whole hours a day to myself!" But this morning, I kept thinking, "Back to school ALREADY? Summer was too short. Please, can't we just have another week?"

The sadness really surprised me, but the real shocker occurred when Thing One left me at the school door. Now that he is a Junior, and all grown up in the school's estimation, I drop him at the door and makes his way to his classroom. Previously, I left him at the door of the classroom, which enabled me to see his classmates, chat with his teacher if need be, and confirm that he made it to where he needed to be.

Thing One happily gave me a kiss, told me to have a great day, and he was off. I almost started to cry. It's such a small thing, having him go upstairs to his classroom, but all of the sudden he seemed so grown up to me. And all of the sudden, I could almost see all sorts of scenes from his short life flash before my eyes. I could hardly believe the cute curly-haired boy who taught me how to be a mother was now going off on his own.

When my boys were babies, it seems as though I always thought, "Faster. Faster. Faster," as I struggled though the monotony and hard work of looking after them. Now that they're older and more independent, I find myself thinking, "Slower. Slower. Slower," because I know soon enough they will both be more than happy to run ahead, and go off on their own.

Note: To see how much they've grown in the last year, go here.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Absurdity of Living in London: Example 2,472

When Mr. MarathonMum and I wanted to celebrate our 12th anniversary last night, I had to make reservations at two restaurants: one we really wanted to go to, and the second as our "safety" in case we didn't get into the first place.

Perhaps I could have been more organized and tried to book it at the beginning of the summer, rather than three weeks before. I'm not a London rookie after all. I know how these things work. I should have known better.

After several calls and e-mails around London being told there were no tables available, we got put on the waiting list at Locanda Locatelli. Then, much like applying to university, I found a "safety" where we were guaranteed a spot, but it wasn't our top choice. (I'm not going to name the restaurant because I'd still like to eat there some day.)

Being a fan of Georgio Locatelli and his cookbook, Made In Italy, and all things Italian, I really, really wanted to eat at Locanda. It's also known as a stomping ground for Madonna, Gwenyth Paltrow and others, so I thought we would some value-added celebrity spotting thrown in for good measure. As a lowly commoner in London, I decided the only way we were going to get a table would be to use my best talents: persistence and humour.

I shamelessly kept calling the reservation desk to see where we were on the list, and always threw in a few jokes to help our case. Honestly, I wasn't far from asking some people to write us some supplementary reference letters to help us get in. By Wednesday, she told me we had made it to No. 1 on the wait list. Woo-Hoo! By Thursday, we were still No. 1, but no one had cancelled their reservation. By Friday, we got the call we were waiting for: We Got In!

A tip to our not-rich and not-famous friends: Persistence and humour works.

We went last night. While it was perfectly lovely meal, it was neither the best meal we've ever had-- that honour goes to Angela Hartnett at the Connaught for our anniversary dinner in 2005, nor the best Italian meal we've ever had-- that honour goes to Antico Arco in Rome in 2003. It wasn't even the best Italian meal we've had this year-- that honour goes to The Silene in Pescina, Italy.

Don't misunderstand, we had a nice meal. We weren't disappointed exactly, but it didn't seem to be worth all the trouble to get a table. And we didn't see anyone famous.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Best Mother In The World

Friday marked the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death. The most moving part of the memorial service, attended by dozens of royals, prime ministers past and present, and a few celebrities, was the most simple.

Prince Harry, who was only 12 when she died, said in his eulogy, "To us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world."

Being a mother is the hardest job in the world. But isn't that how all mothers want to be remembered by their children?