You just had to ask, didn't ya?

For some reason, I am often asked by people I've just met one or more of the following questions:

1) "When are you going to start having kids?"
2) "Why don't you want any children of your own?"
3) "Aren't you ready to settle down and start a family?" (followed by: "You still have time to change your mind you know, you're still young!")

This post isn't going to be a rant about the people who barely even know me asking these sorts of questions, nor will it be a list of the real reasons I have not embarked on raising little mini-me's. Both are good topics best saved for a day when I'm in the mood to get really clever on your asses.

No, no... today’s post is about the ANSWERS which I'm just dying to give in response, for pure shock value. I guess I'm bored with answering the question reasonably and truthfully, so here are three gems which I've been fantasizing about using on the next lucky contestant:

The "Bore Them to Death" Approach:

(aka "The Green Approach")

"Well, actually that's an incredibly important question, thanks for asking! You see, I am a firm believer that the human race needs to focus on a more sustainable model of reproduction in order to save the planet. People should only reproduce in order to replace themselves once, no more, else we'll run out of precious natural resources too quickly. As such, I've done the maths and I believe there is a distinct imbalance in the ratio of Adults to Progeny within my extended family. Given that my sister, her husband, my sister's ex, my husband & his ex, and also my cousin and his wife have aggregately produced more children in ratio to the number of adults in our family, it's a moral imperative that I withhold from having children in order to ensure that the Adult:Progeny ratio is properly balanced.

You see, I really have no other choice. I mean, sure, I'd like to have kids but sadly everyone else in my family took up all the slots before I had a chance to get knocked up. That's life for ya."

The "Turn It Around on Them" Approach:

(Reserved for people who are especially condescending or rude when I say I don't want children)

"Actually, I'm pretty sure the REAL question here is why did you decide to have children? I mean, you're obviously dying to tell me. And honestly, I'd love to know the reasons, because for the last 2 hours all you've done is bitch about your little ones so much that I'm starting to wonder if I should call children services. I mean, I'm seriously worried that you hate the little buggers. So please, enlighten me as to your reasons to reproduce when you're OBVIOUSLY miserable."

And finally....The "Special Arrangement" Approach:

"Oh, well you see, I have this arrangement with my sister that's TOTALLY a win-win. She's got 7 kids and can't really afford to raise them all anymore. So here's the deal - she's going to send her youngest over here after he's potty trained to live with me until he's 12, at which point she has to take him back. In exchange, I pay for her husband's vasectomy and our shared-son's University education. Oh, and of course I'll cover his room and board while the little one is living with us here in the UK - wouldn't imagine asking her to pay UK prices for food and such!

Yes, I know it sounds a little odd, but it's really a great arrangement. I mean, I just cannot IMAGINE actually carrying a baby for 40 weeks or changing nappies for 2 years, and I DEFINITELY can't deal with a teenager, so this really is a win-win for everyone involved, don't you think?"


Missing the wee ones....

Today is my niece Hannah's third birthday, and tomorrow is my nephew Everett's first birthday. My family are having a huge party for the two of them at a local park today, and I'm super sad that I cannot attend. Some aspects of expatriate life really suck, and missing out on special events like this is one of them.

I spent the better half of three weeks with these two wee ones during my summer holiday this year, and it was such a blessing. I already have a fairly strong and long-standing relationship with my eldest nephew Elijah who is 11, but I barely knew the two youngest because I've lived abroad for the last two years. This year's trip allowed me to get to know them both, and it was a real joy.

Hannah is a lovely little princess who fears nothing as far as I can tell. At only three, she's already very girly, quite strongwilled, and wonderfully independent and adventurous. It takes awhile for Hannah to warm up to people, but once she does, she is chatty and fun. Hannah reminds me of everything that is special about being a little girl and of course that means I'll indulge her every whim if allowed to do so. She and I bonded during my trip in a way I didn't expect - I think every third word she spoke was 'Aunt Julie' by the end of my stay (and I only mildly bribed her, I swear!). For the first few weeks after I left, she kept telling my sister that "Aunt Julie's at work"; however I think the fact I'm in the UK is starting to set in: the other day Hammy declared that she "needs" to go to England soon. With Hannah, everything is a "need" - there is no such thing as "want", it's much more serious than just plain old desire to Hannah!

Everett, or Rett for short, has an incredibly pleasant and kind disposition. He is just a lovely, lovely baby... when he's happy at least. When he's pissed off, he sounds like a Veloci-raptor and people cower in fear for miles at the sound of his shrieks. That said, it's rare he gets upset and it's never over trivial matters. Rett really can't be bothered with trivial I think. He does everything at his own pace and on his own terms. You definitely can't trick Rett into doing something he's not keen on, that's for sure - and I love this about him. At one, he's already a discerning and thoughtful person - something most people can take decades to become. He's also the most cuddly baby I've ever been around. Rett just loves to "love on" people. He is most content when curled up in your arms. Considering that his mother's side of the family aren't exactly big on hugging or PDA (including myself), it's incredibly sweet and miraculous that Everett is such a cuddle bear.

I'm so sorry that I can't be there for your party today my lovelies. And it's likely I'll miss many, many more. I pray that when you're older this won't keep us from being close because you mean the world to me. Please remember that I love you so, so much. And the next time I see you, I promise to spoil you rotten - just don't tell Mommy!!


Healthier Living through Vodka

I will now prove to the world that drinking vodka is definitely a key component of healthier living.

(Note I say health-ier not health-y).

Will and I are on the path to healthier living. We’ve recently cut out all sorts of fattening foods, reduced our portion sizes, stopped eating out as much and are preparing more homemade healthy meals at home. I’m even baking all of our bread now using whole grain organic flours & minimal sugars. And yes, we’re cutting back on our intake of alcohol, because – let’s be honest here – alcohol accounts for a large number of the empty calories both of us have been shoving down our gullets the past 18 months.

Not that we’re excessive drinkers. At least not by the British standard, if that counts for anything? Until recently, we were sharing a bottle of wine with most evening meals and hitting the pub for pints once or twice a week. I’ve done the math(s) on this and figured out that each of us have been ingesting about 2,600 extra calories per week on average – without even really getting drunk!

Here are the hard, true facts:

2 large glasses of wine/day x 4 days/week = 1840 calories
4 pints of lager/week = 760 calories

Mind you, I’m not counting any periodic binge drinking in the equation. Not that we do it very often, but there definitely are the occasional mad night outs where one of us downs 2k calories of liquor on a single night… but if I’m throwing it all up the next day, the calories negate themselves on the way back out, right?

So…. 2,600 calories per week = ~371 calories per day. I would have to run about 40 minutes a day – every single day of the week – to offset that caloric intake. Currently I only run 3-4 times per week at 30 minutes a run. And even that takes up too much of my time. So, dammit, I need another solution.

Let’s face it: I’m not going to quit drinking completely. It’s just NOT gonna happen. Or at least not without me becoming a nun and/or crack addict. And I’m not interested in either of those life paths at this point in my career. I mean, I don’t like the associated fashion choices for a start. So dear me, what is a girl to do?!

Enter vodka, my hard liquor of choice.

A large glass (250ml) of dry white wine has about 230 calories. A pint of Premium Lager has about 190 calories. A single vodka & diet coke has, on average, about 55 calories.

Yes, I said 55 calories!

That means there are only 110 calories in a double!!!!!

That means that if I replace the same number of drinks I have on the average week with double vodkas & a nil calorie mixer instead of my normal white wine and lager, I cut over 1200 calories out of my diet each week. SIGN ME UP!

Will and I have decided to give this new approach a go. Additionally, we’re not drinking as frequently as before either, so in theory we should start seeing a change in our weight as a result over the next few months.

And now I have proven that vodka is indeed part of healthier living.

Please note, however, that I have yet to do the maths as to whether or not this is a sustainable option budget-wise given that Absolut is so expensive. One step at a time my friends, one step at a time. I’ll worry about whether or not we can afford the car payment once I’ve proven my theory is correct, preferably over a vodka tonic.

Also, I do recognise that this is no exact science, and I realise there may be flaws in my logic. Just give me a break and pour me another double please?


Adventures in American Bashing

This afternoon I got into a heated conversation right in front of my apartment block with a young American medical student who exited our train at my normal metro stop.

During our train ride, said student was loudly lecturing two fellow train passengers about the glorious US health care system and openly bashing the NHS with totally inaccurate information. He was even stating half-truths about the American system, not just the NHS! One English woman tried to correct his inaccuracies (politely and quietly of course). He treated her like she was stupid and inferred that she didn't know any better because she hadn't lived in a 'capitalist system'. He blatantly stated that if Brits HAD lived in a country like the US, they'd realise how better it was than here in the UK (at the same time admitting he'd only been living here for a few weeks!). The nice English lady got off at the very next stop, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't where she had meant to go. :(

I was absolutely FURIOUS for the entire 15 minutes I had to listen to him go on. Passengers were going to the next train down to avoid him. And honestly, he wasn't a wacko by any means - he was just a cocky spoiled American rich kid trying to spread his abundant 'knowledge and wisdom' to the uninformed British. He basically was a living stereotype and it really upset me.

I told myself I wasn't going to say anything to unless he got off at my stop. I made a promise to myself that if he DID get off at my stop, I'd confront him. This was a bargain I made because I thought it was a safe bet I wouldn't have to say a word. I kept thinking, surely he won't get off at Regent Centre, why would he?!

Fuck. I totally forgot about ASDA. American students in Newcastle love Walmart's UK chain, so of course he was coming to my stop - it's the closest ASDA to where he lives. They sell refried beans and Kraft dinner there. It's an American student mecca. DAMMIT.

As soon as we exited the train, I pounced on him. I said 'you're American, aren't you?' to which he said 'Of course I am, I wouldn't be anything else!'. I asked if I could speak to him about the things he was saying on the train. I corrected his misinformation, told him I thought he should wait til he's lived here for longer and learned more about the NHS to judge it, gave him a 'as a fellow American, I feel I must tell you...' speech, etc. I think I totally freaked the poor kid out and made him feel pretty bad; however I just couldn't ignore him, I HAD to say something. He was visibly offending the British passengers with his nonsense and I don't think he had a clue until I told him so!

Anyway, I'm pretty sure he'll never get off at the Regent Centre stop to go to ASDA ever again for fear of running into that crazy Anglophile American beotch who lives across the street. I never saw someone cross the North Road so quickly before - he was dying to get away after I thanked him for listening to me.

Regardless, I feel good about confronting him, but I also feel a little bit like a bully as well. Watch out people, I think I'm turning into an American basher myself. Bah.


American Expat POV on Socialised Medicine

So, I had planned to blog about the anti-socialised-medicine-madness I witnessed while visiting the US in July & August.... but my plans have changed because many others have done the same, much more succinctly than I could myself. I will say that I was totally and utterly appalled by some of the ridiculous stories & spin that was being dealt out in the American media. I truly hope Americans can see through the BS on BOTH sides of the debate and look for a sensible resolution to the travesty which is the US healthcare system currently.

Blog posts by fellow expats which I think my (very few) readers should read and digest to help get some anti-conservative global views from fellow Americans. Be sure to read the comments as well!!

This American's Experience of Britain's Healthcare System

Socialism Fever: America Is Dying

And Here We Go Again, The National Healthcare Debate