Happy Halloween!

Top two reasons to have kids:

1. always having someone to tickle

2. Halloween

I am nuts about Halloween. It’s a good thing I have kids, because making myself costumes was starting to get a bit weird.

Three is a good age for Halloween. You’re old enough to think witches and ghosts are really cool, but still young enough to be just a little bit scared. You’re old enough to fearlessly knock on strangers’ doors and ask them for candy, and young enough to get really excited about every single piece you get. Even the gross ones. (I’ve been generously given many once-licked lollipops, so I benefit too.)

Halloween may not be nearly as big a deal here as it is in the US, but we did pretty well. The shops skip Halloween and go straight to the Christmas decorations – Americans might complain that the Christmas season starts earlier every year, but here it begins in mid-October and it’s EXHAUSTING – but we decorated a pumpkin and drew pictures of witches.

Halloween decorations

The pumpkin has a happy face on the front, and a sad face on the side.

We went to a Halloween party at the local soft play, then out for a spontaneous dinner (the tiniest member of the party slept through half of it, then woke up in time to plow through an entire child’s portion of pasta Bolognese), then even did a little trick or treating. I was really happy to discover that our street full of kids gets into trick or treating in a big way – in the way I remember from way back in the 1980s, where if there are decorations outside there’s candy inside. None of this one-street-in-the-neighborhood designated as Halloween central, or begging for candy in stores, or any of the other nonsense that characterized Halloween in San Francisco when we lived there. It was just easy.

And costumes! The baby inherited her brother’s old Batman costume, since she has no agency yet. And she rocked it. The kid, on the other hand, took his choice of costume very seriously. After a few false starts, he decided that he wanted to be an R train. (People keep thinking this was my idea. It was not. The New York subway system has left quite an impression on him. Besides, I totally would have chosen a different line. One that at least runs express in Queens.)

I told him he was the cutest R train ever. His response? “No I’m not. I’m just like every other R train.” He did look pretty authentic, if I do say so myself.

I get kind of bummed when other holidays end, but not Halloween, because that just means it’s almost my birthday! They’re really sweet about my birthday here – there were already fireworks last night, and if last year was any indication there will be all weekend too. Last year they even had some the night after my birthday, just so I didn’t feel too bad about it being over. I hope they do that again.

Scottish Independence

These are exciting times in Scotland. There’s an election coming up. If you’re reading this blog in the United States, you might even have read about it in one of a series of mildly condescending articles in the Times!

(Actually, that is also true if you’re in the United Kingdom. What is it about papers called the Times?)

I don’t get to vote – but if I could, I think I would vote yes. (For independence, that is). I quite like the idea of living in a small, liberal nation that stays out of international affairs and spends more on childcare than warfare. But I know that there are many good and valid reasons to vote no. I also know that there’s not much that’s more annoying than when foreigners express their opinions on how things should go in your country. So that is all that I am going to say about that.

It’s interesting to think about what it would mean to me if I’m no longer a UK resident. I’d have to deal with an new form of bureaucracy when it’s time to renew my visa, of course. But my job isn’t going south of the border, and while it would be frustrating to watch the pound drop in value against the dollar – which, let’s face it, is already happening just because a Yes victory is seeming like a possibility – I’m still going to go nuts at Target the next time I’m in the US.

Perhaps I need to get out more (ah ha ha, I have two small children, OF COURSE I need to get out more), but I’ve been to England only once since I moved here. And while it perhaps would have felt strange to bring a fistful of passports along just to cross the border, it seemed way more bizarre that I traveled for about an hour on the train to get off in a place where everyone had a COMPLETELY different accent. How does that even happen?

Anyway, much like I (still) feel more like a New Yorker than an American, I feel like I live in Edinburgh first, Scotland second, and the UK a distant third. Perhaps I’m quite provincial, but I prefer to think I’m simply more comfortable with a lighter load of cultural baggage.

A wee bit of culture shock

Some things make me feel so very American.

1. When I say “have a good day,” and the other person interprets it as a question.

2. Orderly bus queues.

(I grew up in New York City. At a glance, I can determine how best to position myself so I am among the first to board any oncoming bus or train. Here, the part of the brain that could be devoted to that task is instead used to remember everyone’s place in the bus queue. People track the smokers standing to one side, the friends standing together who did not arrive together, and the unruly three year olds who are swinging on the bench. And the order of arrival is politely, yet strictly, followed when boarding. So I’m learning to wait. Okay, there may have been an incident recently where I swung a small child over my head to snag an empty seat on the train. But there are always bumps in the road.)

3. The time I offered my friend a peanut butter cup, and she visibly recoiled.

4. When I see a date written as, say, 5/9/14 – and I have to stop to think about which country I’m in, and which country it’s referring to, before I know whether it’s already happened.

5. Filling out any form that asks for my race/ethnicity, and there are multiple choices under White, and those choices are White Scottish, White British, White Irish, Polish, and Gypsy/Traveller.

6. When I buy vegetables, and they come wrapped in plastic, and those plastic wrappers have cooking instructions that involve boiling for at least twelve minutes.

Happy Independence Day

I bought some new underwear recently. From the Gap, so no surprises, right? But look at this:

underwear

Can you believe that label? It’s four labels long. Need to know how to wash these underpants in Hungarian? You’re in luck. Because this label contains washing instructions in more than twenty languages. (Including both French and Canadian French. The Canadian French washing instructions are considerably more complex. But I digress.)

According to the Daily Mail (don’t judge), labels like this one are a new European Union requirement. As of 2014, if an item of clothing will be sold in an EU country – or might be sold in an EU country – it must have information printed in the language of that country.

That, to me, is an incredible amount of regulation regarding my underpants. It makes me homesick for the US, where the government would never support an intrusion like that into my… um…

Yeah. Never mind.

Happy Independence Day!

Trip to Arran

We recently spent a week on the Isle of Arran. That’s in Scotland. Really.

tropical

No, really. See?

Lochranza Castle

We saw many things. The baby was kind enough to wake us up in time to see the sun rise over the Firth of Clyde. At 4:27 am.

sunrise

We also saw standing stones at Machrie Moor.

Machrie moor standing stones

And Ireland, from the top of Goat Fell.

view from Goat Fell

Here, let me help you out with that. It’s the bit of land way at the back. See?

view from Goat Fell - Ireland

Three years old

As of Tuesday, I have a three year old.

kid on bike

Some days I want to write down every single thing he says so I can remember it all forever.

Kid: “Take your face off and put it on the apple.”
Me: “But then I won’t have a face.”
Kid: “Then you won’t be able to yell at me.”

Some days I don’t.

My three year old loves trains. Especially trains with faces. He thinks toys with wheels make the best presents. But dinosaurs are pretty good too. Last weekend he convinced us to buy him a toy in the museum gift shop by saying that he needed a Parasaurolophus. He insists that he wants us to paint his walls his favorite color: red. (We’ve been reluctant.) He has a best friend. It took him 45 minutes to pick out his newest pair of shoes. And when it rained the next day, he made us carry him everywhere so they wouldn’t get wet. He can make his baby sister stop crying just by talking to her. He has excellent taste in chocolate. But sometimes he doesn’t want chocolate because it will make him too sugary.

And he’s adjusted remarkably well to a year of huge changes. (Better than his parents, we suspect.)

We’re still here!

We’ve been here a year! (Plus 5 days or so.)

I remember the days before we arrived – newly pregnant, recently robbed, and seriously questioning our sanity.

But what do you know, we’re still here.

I love this city, I really do. Although I’ve experienced it in a totally different way than anyplace I’ve ever lived before. I generally feel like the best ways to get to know a new place are to take long walks, find the best places to eat, and find a couple of great places to relax (namely bars and coffee shops). But being pregnant made all of those things far more difficult. Let’s just say I would not recommend getting knocked up as a strategy for getting to know a new city.

Now that the baby’s here, I’m taking plenty of long walks, eating a LOT (although not at terribly fancy places), and working on visiting every coffee shop within a two mile radius. And taking advantage of the fact that nearly every bar in the city allows kids in during the day. I’ve gone from barely getting out at all while pregnant to getting out constantly and ruthlessly with a small baby in tow. I have learned the precise water resistance limits of all of my jackets, let me tell you.

I’ve heard that it’s impossible to really judge a place you’ve been living until you’ve been there at least a year – because it takes at least that long just to settle in. And living here, while an adventure in some ways, is also just life. I mean, we have jobs and kids and furniture and way too much stuff and families to visit (STILL) and a mortgage and all the other trappings of being grownups. I also know that some of both the shiny newness and the crippling unfamiliarity of the place will be wearing off over these next few months. So watch this space…