So today I was thinking I’d post about the top ten things I will appreciate when we move away from the UK. That may sound like it will be a “bash Britain” post, but, not at all – we love it here! It’s just that after four years away from the Mainland US (we were in Hawaii the three years previous to this, and this certainly isn’t an “I hate Hawaii” post), we are ready to return. Call it a “God bless the USA” post, especially since tomorrow is July 4th, and everyone over there is all patriotic right now 🙂 Now that I think about it, though, I think I’ll make this a “top ten things I’ll miss about England” post instead, and will do my patriotic post tomorrow, especially since I’m about to wax eloquent about something I really value about the UK.
I did make it out to run today, thanks to Stephanie, who must bathe in awesome sauce on the mornings before she comes over here. That’s something that I will miss about England – the well-estalished principle that having really good, qualified childcare in your home is something worth pursuing. In the US it seems like if you get a nanny in the home to help you along (mother’s helper) or to watch the children while you are at work (an actual nanny) or to be with you in the weeks after childbirth (what’s called a “maternity nurse” here in England and means extra certification and such), the process is rather hit and miss. You get referrals from friends and neighbors, you find young ladies from churches you’ve been at in the past who possibly have finished school and are not in a permanent careers right now (or who are home schooled and can take off some weeks to help you), or maybe college students looking for summer jobs or jobs outside of their school hours. “Nannying,” though, in general, is not looked upon as an actual “career choice” in America, and after living here in England for a year, I must say that I think it should be. They have schools over here for training and certifying people to nanny for a living, which makes the binders of references and such that they bring to interviews much more consistent. Not everyone goes through these schools, but most have some training, and most have criminal background checks if they are advertising through the official nanny websites. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a respected profession (I am not sure how others talk about it amongst themselves), which is as it should be. After all, they are raising, or helping to raise, our very important children for many hours a day. I know a lot of people in America use home daycare centers which have training and certification processes, and that is done here as well (they are called “child minders” and often they even drive a van around to different homes in the morning to pick up their charges), but this particular person called a “nanny” or “mother’s helper” seems to be very specific to England. I’m not sure about the rest of Europe, though. In the US we have heard of au pairs, which are live-in nannies that people bring from other countries, or they have housekeepers and nannies who are also brought in from elsewhere, but this is different than the people here who have their own homes and cars and then go to their different nanny jobs during the day. Like Stephanie, they often have more than one family for which they work, filling in extra hours with additional families or babysitting. It’s really awesome.
In the past we have had different people we’ve met or heard of through our church circles come to live with us to help out. One time (Lydia and Sarah you are awesome!) was for the birth of a child specifically (baby number 4, when John lived 3 hours away all week and only came home on weekends) and was because we had had the joy of having another young Christian friend stay 6 weeks with us (hi Emily! you rock!) when baby number 3 was only a few months old, and I had really appreciated all the help! When John left on a six month deployment in Hawaii, and I was pregnant with our fifth, we figured another live-in helper (you are amazing Olivia!) would be great, so we flew another young lady out. After that 6 months I was rather spoiled, and John was coming home for a year between deployments but would be “underway” on the submarine for about 70% of that year – so we hired someone else (Christine you are the bomb!!!) who ended up being with us for a total of 18 months (with another baby coming in that time and another six month deployment.) Recently we were blessed to have the wonderful Meriwether stay with us for a bit as well, bringing bunches of energy with her for these last few months of my pregnancy!! So in the past, we had been well taken care of by people we found through friends and church. What to do in England now when I found myself a bit overwhelmed last fall and pregnant again??
I resorted to the internet, starting first with the nanny agency recommended by the Defence Academy (and finding a great lady, Karen, to come once a week for a while and then stay with the children while we went to Venice — she was in between jobs for her real deal which for her is as a live-in maternity nurse, and she’s going to be our helper for a few days when this baby comes.) After Karen had to report to her 3 month stint in London with newborn twins, we were again swamped by laundry and dishes, and I found Stephanie on the internet through a childcare website. So now we’re caught up to today, and my run! I haven’t been sleeping much lately because of having trouble falling asleep – especially if I’ve had a nap that resulted from not much sleep the night before, which keeps perpetuating the cycle. Greer has been getting up earlier now that she can get out of bed herself, so that adds to the sleep deprivation. So with John in France, I told Stephanie to let herself in with a key so that hopefully she could take care of Greer while I slept in. It worked beautifully, and I was able to sleep til 9am, all while Stephanie was here taking care of Greer and such. I came down dressed to run at 9:15 to find Greer asleep on Stephanie on the couch, and the spot next to them recently vacated by Gabriel who had also come down early and fallen asleep all snuggled in blankets. Too cute.
Greer snoozing on the couch – a first!
As I was heading out the door to run she woke Greer up, and while I was gone did some kitchen cleanup and fed the kids breakfast. This was all before her job from 11:30am-7pm where she nannies for another family Tuesday-Friday. I came in from the run just in time for her to be leaving for her other job, to the smell of eggs and sausage she had made me (some leftovers from our mac and cheese with kielbasa last night, and scrambled eggs) and which was sitting there on a plate ready for me to crash on the couch with it. I MEAN REALLY, HOW AWESOME IS THAT?? There was laundry going in the washing machine, and all the five kids were happily playing here and there, and I was able to relax on the couch with breakfast and the huge cup of iced tea she had also made me. Alas, then she had to leave, but I think I will make it through the day now that my basic needs have been met 🙂
The run went better than I had anticipated – since each time I run I fear it may be the last, and I keep thinking I’ll get started on the run and will just not be able to complete it. Still didn’t have to walk any of it this time, though, and the pace was 11:49/mile, for 3 miles. I cut off the last .2 miles in favor of walking because it’s all uphill (not that super steep hill after the 3.2 miles, but still considerably uphill), and I knew it would slow down my average pace a lot, and I had already run 3 miles. I had considered turning around at a mile to make it a 2 mile run, but I felt well enough to keep going and did 3 miles instead 🙂 Stephanie snapped this when I got back – I know I should just have pictures every week, but I just don’t know when it will be “the last run” of the pregnancy, so I try to get them every time 🙂 So here it is…38 weeks and 4 days:
I still continue to be blown away by the fact that I have a rough time even rolling over in bed, I practically crawl up and down the stairs, and I hobble around for the first few minutes after getting up from a seat each time, but I can still run! I just don’t get it! Definitely my legs are getting a great workout (and one with lots of variation, since their position relative to my pelvis and the rest of my body keeps changing), and so is my mind!! I am having to use a lot of mind over matter to get out there and to keep going at this point. Especially in the rain, like today (although just about anywhere in the US at this point it would probably be too hot for me to be running anyway, so the gray drizzle is quite welcome.) Maybe it’s the shoes that keep me going? (I love my Newtons!!) Maybe it’s the cute running clothes. Definitely it is the music to which I sing along under my breath the whole time. Also I think it is envisioning the future – goals I have for running, labor and delivery, our upcoming move, those sorts of things. Whatever it is, my mind is working hard with each step to make me keep putting one foot in front of the other.
So on to “the list” in no particular order:
Top Ten Things I Will Miss About the UK
1. All the cute Union Jack stuff you can buy everywhere – for every room in the house, outdoors, or apparel. (Probably more around than usual due to the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, but I’m taking advantage of it!!)
Last week with Claire in my British maternity shirt.
These containers are for the bathroom but I use them in the kitchen.
A drink frother and cook’s measure, and that’s a baby toy (the bus.)
Magnetic memo board
fun shoulder bag
bowls and a placemat, and plates below with a tray
A napkin holder and ashtray (not that we smoke) and salt and pepper as a phone booth and mailbox (yes, I decorated my kitchen with British decor!)
2. The home grocery delivery – shopping online (I know there are some places in the US where you can shop online and then drive up to the store to pick it up, but I have researched a few areas and found very few – okay none really – stores that deliver there.) available from all major grocery stores and even the awesome organic Abel & Cole which doesn’t even have a real store. (The coolers that they send stuff in are boxes insulated with sheep’s wool!)
3. The old buildings everywhere – that are hundreds of years old but are still used for businesses and homes, like they’re no big deal.
4. Driving around the area where we live – where there are farms everywhere and livestock (sheep, cows) but the “big” city of Swindon ten minutes away and the cute old village of Marlborough 15 minutes away and the stones of Avebury 20 minutes away. Everything is so rural, yet close to the cities and ancient sites.
5. The feeling of being “closer to the land” seems to permeate everything here — people eat a lot more “seasonal” vegetables rather than always picking up the worldwide produce at the local Super Walmart (not that there’s a Walmart here anyway – but their version of it, Asda, is definitely not the grocery store of choice). Many people also have small “holdings” – either vegetable patches all in a central area of town or even land out in the country – where they go to raise their own animals and vegetables.
6. The cooler weather that is allowing me to continue running through the pregnancy! It does occasionally get hotter, and when there is direct sun it feels great, but the persistent cloud cover definitely helps keep it cool. Not my ideal “summer” place for sure, but ideal for this summer!
7. As mentioned yesterday, the way British people openly sing – from silly things to patriotic things – as if it’s not super embarrassing to them 🙂
8. My pipe band! I will miss their professionalism combined with their humor and ease. I will miss how they were so welcoming to me and ready to let me jump in on everything as long as I was willing to put in the effort. I will also miss all the European travel they did (other than the trip I took to Nice with them, since I’ve been here they’ve been several other places – Germany, Spain, France, to name a few .) I will miss wearing No. 1’s, even though they’re a pain in the neck, and all the good tunes we played 🙂
9. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention this one in the list! The existence of the nanny underground as described above! 🙂
10. Scones with clotted cream. Nothing like the scones in America, and clotted cream is something that completely doesn’t exist there. So yummy with jam!!
Okay, that’s all for today! Just finished my bowl of mussels for lunch and am going to lie down on the couch while I work on inserting a few photos into this post 🙂 Greer is napping so I need to take advantage of the down time! I already went through and did a bunch of grading on the kids’ schoolwork (some of their computer lessons have teacher-graded responses, and I’d been getting behind on those), and made their lunch and cleaned up, so I’m feeling pretty accomplished and deserving of a rest 🙂