Tuesday, 8 November 2011

baby talk

I don't have to tell you that American English and British English are not the same. Sometimes you find subtle differences ("call me at..." vs "ring me on...") and sometimes they are more obvious ("elevator" vs "lift"). Ever since I obtained British citizenship, I like to joke that I am bilingual in English. I can spell it color or colour; organize or organise; curb or kerb.

There are two areas in particular where I have noticed the biggest divide: cars and babies.

Car and vehicle terminology varies widely: tire/tyre, trunk/boot, stick shift/gearbox, gas/petrol, rental/hire. Working in transportation and logistics for the past few years, I have started to adopt the local words, for ease of communication if nothing else.

Now I'm learning a whole vocabulary. While it is not yet second-nature, I figure there's plenty of time to confuse Junior later on - I might as well try to be consistent at first. Here is a glossary that I have started in no particular order (British to American). Hope it helps his relatives on both sides of the Atlantic!

  • antenatal :: pre-natal
  • Moses basket :: bassinet
  • carrycot :: bassinet
  • cot :: crib (although these seem to cross over a bit)
  • bath the baby :: bathe the baby
  • pram, buggy, pushchair :: stroller
  • babygro :: onesie (as well as more terms for each in both countries)
  • dummy :: pacifier
  • nappy* :: diaper
  • breastfeed :: nurse (some cross over, but preferences in each country)

*which gives a whole different meaning to the song we used to sing to put my sister to sleep: "it's happy nappy time..."

Aside from spoken and (eventually) written English, I would like to teach Junior sign language. My dilemma is American Sign Language (ASL) vs British Sign Language (BSL). I studied ASL for several years in high school, and while I don't remember much, it would be far easier for me to pick it up again. But would BSL be more useful in the long run? Or will it really matter if I just stick to a few basic words like milk, more, hungry, want, yes/no...?

Junior, like me, will be a dual citizen. I wonder if he will develop a London accent, which neither S nor I have. Will he be able to switch between American and British accents? Which one will he favo(u)r someday? Will he struggle with other languages? How much Japanese will he learn if I teach him?

It's exhausting/knackering just to think about it!

Invasion of teh Cute...

...or as I have begun to think about it, 'baby creep.'

Not as in 'my baby is creepy' but as in the baby is slowly creeping into our lives.

Junior with Grandma C at 34 weeks

My bump is getting bigger. I went from a small, high bump just under my chest to a beach ball in the space of about ten weeks. Amazingly, most days I don't feel as huge as I look. S compares it to boiling frog syndrome, with the gradual growth over nine months allowing me to adjust to the change. I still have enough energy to walk around, carry bags, go up and down stairs, and run errands.

I can't say that the changes to the flat have been as gradual. The remodel is now done - we have fresh paint on the walls, new carpet throughout, and we have been rearranging furniture to accommodate the small human who will join us soon. We are, or at least I am, in nesting mode now.


So I have been washing tiny clothes.


And buying beds.

Combination infant bed, changing table, and play pen to see us through the first few months while Junior sleeps in our room. Eventually he'll move to a crib/cot downstairs.

And researching every type of pram, pushchair, buggy, stroller, carrycot bassinet, carseat, and 'travel system' on the market. Our main concerns were:

  • Stairs from the front door to the hallway with very little storage space, either at the bottom or the top
  • Transportation dominated by walking, buses, and the Tube
  • No car, but times when we will need to put Junior in a car (for example, getting home from the hospital)
  • Bumpy sidewalks (pavements)
  • Inclement weather, especially since Junior is expected in early December

Originally, a pram with a carrycot seemed like an ideal solution. The pram would allow Junior to face us; the carrycot would allow for easier movement up- and downstairs; and the carrycot could also double as a bed if needed. But we would still need a carseat on occasion, and the pram would have to fold small enough to keep near the door.

Enter the Baby Jogger City Mini.


After a brief flirtation with the (expensive! but impressive) Bugaboo Cameleon, a helpful shop assistant in John Lewis suggested the City Mini with a Maxi Cosi carseat. It was not until he showed me how to fold it - with one hand! - that I fell in love with the idea.


They should market it as the 'folding bike' of strollers. For the same reason that I bought a Dahon, I became obsessed with the City Mini. Turns out, it is quite a popular model with the yummy mummy set in London. It's easy to maneuver on buses and Tubes, it's rugged enough to go to the park or push through snow, it's lightweight and simple to fold, and incredibly it doesn't cost a fortune. Where the consensus seems to be that most families start with Bugaboos and move to Maclarens after a year, most Baby Jogger owners use the same stroller for years.


So Junior has his first set of wheels now. We chose a carseat instead of a carrycot after all - we can use it with a 3-point seatbelt in virtually any car, which will be useful for minicabs, rental cars, and (gasp!) our own car if we ever feel a need to buy one.

We are not quite ready for Junior's arrival just yet. There are still a few key items we need to prepare (primarily nappies/diapers and bathing gear - oh, and a name!) but we are getting closer, at least in practical terms. Mentally I'm not sure we'll feel ready for parenthood until ... ever? ... but I'm enjoying letting this little boy creep into my life.

Monday, 7 November 2011

irish wedding

It is unlike me to wait so long before blogging about a trip, but here it is...

Our friends C&S tied the knot over the August bank holiday in C's native Ireland. Knowing that it would be my last chance to fly before the baby arrives, and our last chance to get away for a while, we decided to make it a mini-break.

We flew to Shannon and rented a car; then drove to our B&B just outside Tipperary in the scenic Glen of Aherlow.




 We spent our first full day exploring the area and taking advantage of the well-signposted walks (between rain showers!)




outstanding in their field



The wedding took place on Saturday in C's hometown of Hospital, near Limerick. Try googling "hospital, limerick" for directions to the church... I promise that what you are looking for will be the last link you'll find. But as it turned out, the route was fairly easy and we found seats with all the cool kids.




Perhaps as could be expected at an Irish Catholic ceremony, there was an emphasis on C&S's new married life together and encouragement to procreate. Inwardly, we wondered what their one-year old daughter thought of being excluded from the references to the joys of future children, but the three of them took it in their stride. Maybe words matter more if you place importance in them. The correct sentiments were there in any case, and C&S couldn't stop smiling - which is all that really matters!

The reception was held at the beautiful Aherlow House Hotel, overlooking the valley.

lucky private moment with the bride and groom

We indulged on scones and jam with tea and coffee while the other guests arrived and the bride and groom mingled. Sitting down to dinner later with nearly 250 other people showed just how happy we all were for C&S, and there were very few dry eyes when the bride's father sang her the loveliest song... (S will have a hard time topping it when their daughter gets married someday!) Gradually tables were moved, the band set up, and the dancing began. I'm sad to report that we didn't last long after midnight, but the party continued until at least 4 AM.

The following morning, we woke up late and had given up the idea of breakfast when the phone rang. Our wonderful Irish hosts would not take no for an answer: 'come down and we'll give you breakfast. Go on, go on, go on...'

We continued exploring the area, heading first to Cashel where we found the local brass band playing (practicing?) in the town square.


We walked up to the famous Rock of Cashel and enjoyed the views from above, although restoration efforts meant that it was not as picturesque as usual.



From there, we proceeded to Cahir Castle. Maybe it was the presence of blue sky, or the absence of scaffolding, but I preferred Cahir Castle to the Rock of Cashel. Fortuitous timing also meant that we got there just in time to join a free tour.





On our final day, we drove back toward Shannon Airport via Cork.



Driving in Ireland was remarkably easy but danger never seemed far away. Big trucks rush down narrow country lanes. Speed limit signs of 100 km/hour are posted just before tight curves (how?! and why?!). The slow lane is for passing...or for parking... And there are signs and reminders everywhere to stay on the left.


I could understand it on our rented car (many tourists come from parts of the world where you drive on the right) but presumably the locals should know? Entering Cork was harrowing, only because we ended up right inside the city centre with no real idea of where to go. Fortunately we were able to park the car and walk around.

After lunch, we got back in the car and drove to Blarney. Here are some facts about Blarney and the Blarney Stone that we hadn't anticipated: they charge 10 euro for the privilege of kissing a (presumably unhygienic) rock that has been kissed by strangers for years...and there's not much else to do in Blarney.


So we went along to Bunratty, (immaturely making fun of the name: 'Bunratty, heh heh') but got there too late to go inside the castle.


All that was left to do was have dinner at the local pub, check in to our hotel, check out a mere 12 hours later, and fly home...

We had a lovely trip. Ireland is comfortingly familiar from both an American and British perspective. Born as a Cassidy, I feel an automatic affinity for the Irish. And now that I live in the UK, Ireland's rolling green hills and full breakfasts are similar, though not the same. Looking forward to our next trip to the Emerald Isle. But maybe Northern Ireland for a change?