Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallows Eve

So, a little Halloween digression.

I grew up with serious estate envy when this time of year rolled around. Living in the middle of nowhere doesn’t leave a whole hell of a lot of trick or treating options that don’t involve your parents having to drive you two miles up the road to the nearest “friendly” house so you can get a handful of “fun sized” Snickers bars. Kids that lived on estates made out like bloody bandits partly due to volume and partly due to fear. More houses, more candy, but more KIDS, the more likelihood of getting your house covered in eggs and toilet paper, so you’d better not be stingy or be ready to sit in the bushes all night with a garden house to deter potential vandals.

On my very last trick or treating ever, I got to finally experience the joy of Halloween on an estate. I went with some of my friends around a sprawling development in Frederick County and literally filled a whole pillowcase full of swag in between trying to scare the living hell out of each other. It was the haul of the century. Best. Halloween. Ever. (Incidentally, the Worst.Halloween.Ever was when I spent the evening in an All Saints Day service with my at-the-time Catholic boyfriend. Talk about leeching the fun out of a holiday.)

This year, I will not be dressing up, as pregnant French Maids are neither sexy nor clever. I am, however, going to play Bingo at one of England's huge professional Mecca Bingo establishments after some extreme coaxing by two other girls. (That, and Mr. DD is playing poker tonight, so it's either Bingo or siting at home on my ass by myself and watching a scary movie which will inevitably lead to many hours of sleeplessness, because I am a huge dork that takes the possibility of Freddy Kruger much more seriously than muggers and rapists.)

All fond memories of Devil's Night aside, what I would like to stress on this the spookiest of days is that those of you with pets to practice some restraint. When I was a kid, one of my favourite picture books was Animals Should Definitely NOT Wear Clothing which illustrated the sheer stupidity of trying to dress our fellow living creatures. For some reason, Halloween brings out the sadist in many pet owners and they feel compelled to propagate horrors like this:








And this.















And this. (Can you just see the burning shame on the face of the dog on the far right? “Merciful God, what have I ever done to deserve this?” he seems to be saying. “Was it what happened with the carpet? Cause that was TOTALLY an accident.” But it's the one who seems to be saying, "Whee" I'm a banana!" that really makes the photo.)













I am loathe to admit that I actually find this practice humourous, but as you can see, there's very little funnier than four dogs dressed up as bananas. But for the love of all that is holy, let us try leave the earth’s creatures as nature intended, despite the inherant hilariousness in dressing them up. Let us respect their wild heritage and remember that they all descended from monsters that would as soon feast on your intestines as look at you. Very few would naturally be found in Frankenstein or hot dog costumes. Give them their dignity. (They found out recently that elephants demonstrate self-awareness. So you wouldn't put a silly hat on one of THEM would you?)

Let's leave the trick or treating to us bipeds. Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Maternity Madness

Can someone answer this for me?

Say I was a woman of extremely ample proportions (Not that size 16 isn’t ample, but I’m talking AMPLE) and that I needed to go out and buy a shirt with which to cover my amplitude. A size 30 shirt in a high street shop costs somewhere between 12 and 15 pounds, assuming the shirt is your basic, everyday cotton top.

So why is it that the manufacturers of maternity clothes get to use the excuse, “Well, it’s obviously more fabric!” when trying to justify the unbelievably ridiculous prices (20 to 30 pounds) of their wares when your basic size 30 top is flapping around me like a military pontoon?

Our goddaughter’s christening was this last weekend, and while I hoped to save some pennies by rootling through my wardrobe to scrounge something to wear, to my dismay, all of my skirts were undone by The Bump. So, begrudgingly, I stomped off to Mothercare to find something suitable to wear inside a church.

While there are a lot of beautiful and flattering maternity clothes out there, Mothercare seems to be distinctly targeting the “frumpy, dumpy, lumpy” market, so it was a bit of a struggle, but I eventually came out with a plain, stretchy black skirt, dressy black top and, although I was trying to avoid it, I could not resist the siren song of maternity jeans, which kind of feel like wearing jeans and pajamas at the same time. All the clothes were pretty much high street quality and since I knew I had no choice in buying them, I neglected to look at the price tags.

I almost choked when the register smugly informed me that I was in possession of 70 pounds worth of merchandise.

It took me back to an argument that I’d had with one of my male friends in college when I observed that products that women NEEDED (sanitary items, thrush cures, pregnancy tests, even condoms to a certain extent) were absurdly and unfairly over priced. Being a guy who didn’t like to lose an argument, he said that we didn’t really NEED any of those things and that we could just either sit on straw or use dishrags like our grandmothers during our periods, use holistic cures for thrush, (yoghurt) wait to find out the old fashioned way if we were pregnant and abstain from sex until we were a) sure we wanted to get pregnant and b) only after every sexual partner was tested for diseases various, so the companies that made these “convenient” products should be able to charge whatever they pleased. Needless to say, he was immediately jumped on and beaten nearly to death by every woman in the room.

One could argue, I suppose, that one doesn’t actually NEED maternity clothes- that one could go on wearing normal, larger sized clothes that are not as comfortable or flattering, but who wants to spend 9 months looking like a bloated whale when you could feel better about yourself by buying a few bits of properly fitted clothing, making YOU feel better and in turn, making your BABY feel better?

At any rate, 70 pounds down the drain. Hoping to be able to survive the remaining 4 2/3rds months in what I’ve already got!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Gender Bender

I’ve been doing more contemplating on boy parts and girl parts recently than probably ever before in my life, even including when I was in high school and discovering that there are all kinds of interesting and clever things that they can do.

Yeah, yeah, 10 fingers, 10 toes, everyone says that, but the REAL question is, “Who the heck is in there anyway and WHAT KIND OF PARTS DO THEY HAVE? Doo Dah or Hoo Ha? Willy or Winkie? Colt or Filly? Hamburger or Hot Dog? TEEEELLLLLLL MEEEEEEE!”

You often try to imagine your future son or daughter and the extraordinary amount of knowledge that you feel obligated to impart upon them before they move into a flat with 3 friends and you KNOW that they throw all the pizza boxes and condom wrappers in the closet before you come to visit.

A son needs to know how to balance traditional ideas of masculinity with healthy emotional practices. He needs to know how to solve things without his fists. He needs to be brave enough to stand up for his beliefs and not to take too seriously what everyone else says- to be his own man. And he needs to learn to keep his boy parts to himself (or at the very least well protected with as few girlparts as he can manage) until he himself is ready to be staring at a sonogram monitor at tiny developing boyparts that he himself had a hand in creating.

A daughter needs to know how to be a strong woman- to do whatever she chooses to even if it’s not traditionally “feminine”. She needs to know how to recognize poisonous people and how to deal with them politely, but firmly. She needs to be able to defend herself. And she needs to keep her girl parts safely hidden away (or at least interfacing with as few well protected boyparts as possible) until she herself is willing to have a tiny person with girlparts of her own sitting on top of her bladder in an uncomfortable fashion.

Of course, both sons and daughters need to embrace creativity, curiosity, empathy and a willingness to see the world in shades of grey rather than in black and white.

So today at our 20 week scan, the nature of the Prawn’s parts was naturally the question of the hour.

Unfortunately, the Prawn had other ideas.

The tech spent a good 10 minutes chasing my offspring around my belly, trying to get decent shots of all of the things that needed checking, poking and prodding along the way, trying to get the Prawn into more suitable positions. The Prawn was having none of it.

When it came to crunch time, the little bugger not only had it’s legs clamped tightly together with the cord running in between them, but also had one hand firmly ensconced over the vicinity as well. Not even born and already contrary.

The technician commented that if she had to make an educated guess….she’d say it was a girl due to visible absence of obvious boy parts, but then again, said boyparts might be lurking beneath the Prawn’s anti-paparazzi capabilities and might suddenly make an appearance in 11 weeks for the next scan, so we’re sure not buying anything gender specific just yet.

The best news we got, however, is that the Prawn looks entirely normal, so that is, of course, a relief after all the nuchal translucency nonsense! Healthy Prawn! Happy happy happy!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Buyer Beware (Updated)

So, after a weekend of upheval in our housing plans, we are now back in the area closely ajacent to Square One.

Without going into a massive amount of bile-filled details, our lawyers very kindly prevented us from getting totally humped by our estate agents and seller, who told some VERY large fibs regarding the length of the leasehold on the house and are big, fat liars who will roast in hell for trying to fleece us. For probably the first and only time in our lives, we love lawyers a LOT and are eternally grateful for their warning. The disappointment of not being able to move into a new place in two weeks is heavily tempered with relief at not gettting stuck with a property we wouldn't be able to sell and the excitement of finding somewhere even BETTER to live.

Ambrose Bierce called litigation "a process that you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage." To apply that temporarily to the real estate market, we are two very grateful sausages on a renewed mission to find our dream home.*

*Actually, it's a bit early in our homebuying career to find a dream home. We're just hoping for one that doesn't suck.

Do Mr. DD and I screw around when it comes to house buying? We certainly do not.

This afternoon, our offer on a flat in the village that we live in currently was accepted. We’d always bemoaned the fact that we’d love to stay in the village, but would never in a million years be able to afford it. But call it Providence, call it Fate, call it whatever, 2 days after losing the maisonette, we found the Forge Flats.

HOW MUCH NICER IS THIS PLACE THAN THE ONE WE WERE ABOUT TO MOVE INTO? (There’s really no earthly way that you could know, but trust me when I say IT IS.)

The view from the living room and kitchen: An orchard, hills, a church and a windmill.

The view from the master bedroom: OUR GARDEN. Yes, we get our very own personal garden for our very own personal use. With trees. And grass. WITH A FLAT.

The kitchen and bathroom are both larger than the ones in the maisonette. Everything is FINISHED and finished well (currently inhabited by a builder and his wife and he did all of the improvements), so no stupid having to put floors down before we can properly move in. Walking into the place felt like…home. We were instantly besotted.

Color us pleased.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Pining for Snow

Pregnancy is all about abstinence.

Alcohol went out the window straight away. The UK doesn’t officially recommend giving up alcohol entirely while pregnant, but when you’ve had trouble with infertility, it doesn’t take a genius to see that you should probably err on the side of caution. (My mother, in the period of time before we told my in-laws about my pregnancy, surreptitiously downed most of a glass of champagne that I was supposed to be drinking along with her own and got totally whammed on my and her unborn grandchild’s behalf) I don’t smoke, so that wasn’t a chore. Nor do I eat soft cheeses, because, in my opinion, most of them smell and taste like feet. I gave up highlighting my hair, leaving me with strange half-streaks that start from my ears. None of these things have given me much bother one way or another.

But one thing HAS bugged me.

I am a clumsy fool. I run into things constantly. If there’s an uneven surface, I’ll trip on it. I’m the only person I know who’s ever fallen UP the stairs. I once gave myself a split lip by tossing a bottle of juice in the air and catching it with my face. I know I’ve garnered strange looks in the gym changing room from some suspicious bruises on my legs and butt. The other women shake their heads and talk behind their hands. I want to set them straight.

“No, seriously! When I say that I walked into a door or the side of a cabinet, I’m totally not lying! I’m a complete yutz!” I want to yell.

“Of course you did, dear,” they’d say in response and secretly be dialing some domestic abuse help line on their mobile phone on my behalf.

For someone with a coordination record like mine, you’d think that snow sports would be utterly out of the question, but believe it or not, strap a snowboard to my feet and I couldn’t be happier.

I started out with skiing in high school. Growing up near the mountains in Western Maryland, it was only an hour to the nearest ski area, so it was inevitable that I was going to end up on waxed planks at some point. I went twice. The first time, I stabbed myself IN THE EYE with a ski pole, jarring it in it’s socket, although not doing any damage more lasting than a black eye. The second time, I ended up in the emergency room with a dislocated thumb in a bed next to a guy who was so drunk, he tried to pee on the nurse. After that, my skiing partner at the time refused to take me again, which was fine by me.

Fast forward 11 years to when Mr. DD’s band got a gig playing in the winter resort town of Banff, Alberta and a group of 14 of us decided to go for an extended 2 week holiday. Seeing as how there was little to do that wasn’t snow related, (although the hot chocolate at Evelyn’s Coffee House alone was worth the plane fare for. Can you say home-made chocolate whipped cream?) most of us opted to hit the slopes. As I’d not had much luck on skis, I thought perhaps I’d give snowboarding a go.

It was hard. A LOT harder to pick up than skiing. It's a totally different motion more akin to surfing than anything else. Although it was a rather embarrassing 5 days of falling alternately on my ass or my head, by the last day, due to some very good coaching from one of the guys in the group who had got the hang of it, both Mr. DD and I were actually starting to have FUN.

Strangely enough, we happened to live only 40 minutes away from an actual snow dome in Milton Keynes, so over the next year, we tried to visit once a month to improve our skills on the closest thing to snow you can find in this particular part of Europe. (It’s wise, however, not to get it in your mouth because it tastes like the stuff that the highway agency spreads on the roads when it gets cold. Or so I imagine.) With the new learning under our belt, we took a long weekend in March to Chamonix, France and had a blast riding slopes that we wouldn’t have dreamed we’d be able to tackle a year ago.

My brother-in-law, his girlfriend and another fellow who accompanied us to Chamonix are now making plans for this winter’s slope trip and I find myself exceedingly jealous that I can’t participate. It’s literally the only thing that I’ve found that I’ll miss while pregnant and absolutely can’t compromise on. Technically, as the season lasts until early May in some parts of the Alps, we COULD go, but somehow I don’t see living with myself myself after leaving a 2 month old infant at home so I can go on a jolly.

So I will have to stare longingly at my beautiful board for another year. This kid is going to have to like snow.

So what do/will you miss most?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

T Minus 38EE and Holding

Sorry I haven't been around for a while. Most of my free time has been taken up with finding new and creative ways to scratch my breasts.

This is one of those things that no one tells you about and then when you mention it, they all go, "Oh, yeah! I had that too! It was awful." Thanks for the advance info!

Since puberty wrapped me in it's spotty, hormonal arms, I have never been flat of chest. In fact, I was the first girl in my 4th grade class to sport a training bra, something which got me no end of grief from the male contingent on the playground and the highly juvenile nickname "Mushroom Boobs." which, once started, caught on BIG TIME. (I could have stabbed that little fucker Jason Smith for that, only 2 weeks later, he asked me to go with him) In high school, I was idealized by my less endowed compatriots as fairly shortly after arriving in 9th grade, I became a 36C.

I personally always thought tits were a nuisance. They kept me from doing well in track (which I hated. Too much bounce.) and swimming (which I loved. To much drag.) and I didn't really enjoy having them stared at by all and sundry. (I wasn't an exhibitionist until college when I attended a small, religious liberal arts school where streaking could have been considered for a minor. Religious repression tends to make people want to get naked pretty bad.)

Since getting pregnant this time around, there have been startling developments in the bra department once again, which I expected to a certain point. BUT NO ONE TOLD ME IT WAS GOING TO ITCH SO BAD I'D WANT TO STICK A HAIRBRUSH DOWN THERE AND JUST GO TO TOWN.

I have no earthly idea of my cup size now, but I'm willing to bet it's at least 2 or 3 letters down the alphabet from where I was in June. They are monsters growing from my chest at an alarming rate.

Please tell me they can't possibly get any bigger!