Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

We were at our home in England this year for Halloween, the first time we have been at home for the evening to welcomed trick-or-treaters here. In honor of being around, we (well really Scott) carved a pumpkin to put in our front entryway so neighborhood kids knew they could come to our door. We had about a dozen kids in total - no where near the amount we ever had at our homes in the US growing up, but it is not as popular of a holiday over here as it is in America. (although it is growing in popularity I understand here)
Scott as a jack-o-latern.
Our jack-o-latern lights up our entryway area, awaiting trick or treaters!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Amy Visits England

My dear friend Amy who lives in Chicago came to visit us the other week for a break from her daily life. We had a great time exploring our area of England, drinking lots of tea, and also spent a few days in London to catch a play and eat (quite a bit) of food!
Amy at Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick. Although called a "hospital" the buildings were used as retirement homes for soldiers who were injured whilst fighting for Queen Elizabeth I or had simply become aged. The master behind the plan was Lord Leycester, the Earl of Leicester, Lord Dudley.

We went for afternoon tea and sandwiches at a lovely little tea room in Warwick.
The sights in Warwick, so picturesque.

On Friday, we traveled into London for a bit and our first stop was lunch! The location - La Fromagerie.
Of course we indulged in the meat platter and cheese platters of the day. I am not sure if the baby was really allowed to have all of that cheese but luckily it seems that the baby may just enjoy it just as much as I do!
Amy at LaFromagerie.
Saturday morning's first stop was some shopping on Portobello Road.
Strolling the colorful (and busy) streets of Notting Hill.....
Window shopping, antique shopping, and more.....
Scoping out all of the famous sellers along the way at the Portobello Market.
After all of our Portobello Road shopping, it was time for some food shopping at The Borough Market. Amy loved it just as much as I do!
We had some raclette from the food stall with the very long queue....
And a giant Brat with sauerkraut and all!
While at the Borough Market, we also visited the famous Neal's Yard Dairy Cheese shop there. The cheese selection was beautiful and the cheese sellers were super helpful and very friendly.

Back up north in the middle of England, we continued Amy's visit with a day trip to the towns in the Cotswolds.
When we arrived in Burton-on-the-Water, there was a lady riding her horse through the water in the town.
Scott came along for the Cotswolds adventure too!
Amy & me in Burton-on-the-Water.
Pretty houses in the Cotswolds....
And a stop for afternoon tea and scones at a new location of Huffkins in Stow-on-the-Wold.

On Amy's last full day in England, we decided to venture down to Windsor Castle. Unfortunately we did not get to see the Queen while we were there, but we did enjoy touring the massive castle and seeing the nice town of Windsor.
Approaching Windsor Castle's grounds.
Inside the castle walls.
Amy at Windsor Castle.
And in keeping with the theme of Amy's visit, we stopped for the full afternoon tea service in Windsor. The cakes and (crust-free!) sandwiches were delicious.
What a royal and elegant way to spend the afternoon! Come back soon Amy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Celebrating 3 Years

Three years ago today, Scott made me his wife. I am so lucky!
We celebrated tonight with a dinner at a little French bistro in our town, in anticipation of our upcoming (belated) anniversary trip we are taking to Paris. After dinner, we had homemade apple pie and made a wish for more great years of marriage to come.
The funniest part is that we seem to be rubbing off on one another only 3 years into our marriage....we bought each other the "same" anniversary cards, just the husband and wife versions of each!

I would not trade any of our adventures that have already happened and I anticipate all of those to come....Happy Anniversary!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Look but Please Do Not Touch

As I have been sharing the news that I am expecting a baby, I am astounded by the number of people who immediately touch my stomach as soon as the words come out of my mouth. I am not sure why this happens. I heard stories from friends who had such incidents happen while they were pregnant, but I did not really think it would happen to me. I was wrong. It has happened a number of times now at work (of all places!), among friends, and other places where I have confirmed that yes I am expecting a baby and then, the other person immediately touches my stomach.
I still have not mastered how to politely say this in such a situation, but please do not touch my stomach! I am constantly caught off guard when someone does this to me, and then at that point, I feel it is almost too late to respond since a hand has already been placed on my stomach. I have, however, been able to combat a few of these grabs when I see the hand reach out towards me, and I then politely try to cross my own hands across my stomach to ward off the incoming gesture.

Does sharing the news that one is pregnant make it ok to invade what would otherwise be personal space? The baby is inside of me...not on the outside and therefore I am not sure what people think they are going to feel by patting my stomach. I do find this behavior more than a bit odd....maybe it is just me and I am too proper or formal for my own good??

Luckily, to date, I have not been approached by any strangers in the grocery store who reach out to touch my baby bump and - often I try to keep my coat on in these situations so I do not open myself up for such grabs.

If someone told me that they had a muscle twitch in their leg or just finished a great ab muscle workout, I cannot imagine I would ever think to touch their leg or stomach area just to see if I could feel either. I find it one of the stranger behaviors I have encountered since becoming pregnant....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Maternity Leave

The growing baby bump at 25 weeks...
Today at work I officially submitted my paperwork with the notification and intentions that I will be taking maternity leave in early 2011. I had obviously told my employer that I am expecting a baby and would be going on leave, but today I took the first step towards making it official in the eyes of my employer and also to start the process to notify the government that I will be on leave. Having not gone through this process in the US, I am not fully aware of the process there, but I do not think it is as "formal" since the government does not pay for one's maternity leave in the US.

There is a big difference here in the UK on maternity leave, in that mothers are entitled to up to ONE YEAR off for leave. In the US, most women I knew took somewhere between 6 - 12 weeks. FLMA and short term disability guarantee one's job in the US for up to 12 weeks while a woman is away, although none of this time has to be paid, although many employers do pay a portion of a salary during this time. There is also a difference in pay in the UK, as there is a standard protocol in that an employer pays the employee 90% of their salary for the first 6 weeks, followed by 9 months at a government stipend (note: Government, which means the employer is reimbursed for this salary while the woman is away) which is somewhere around 420 GBP per month. Compare this scenario to the US, where it is only 12 weeks off and most of the time those 12 weeks are not all paid - there is a big difference.

The differences roughly being stated above, I have to say I am struggling with these two situations. I was very nervous to tell my employer I would be going on leave because as an employer myself, I feel a full year away from the job leaves the team and company in a bit of a lurch. They might need to bring in a replacement for me, would have to train someone new and then by the time that new person is fully up and running, I would be back from my leave and all that time and energy has just been spent on someone else who is not continuing with the job, as I would be back to take it over. And then of course what happens to women and employers when a woman has multiple children back-to-back and comes back from maternity leave for a few months, only to leave for a full year again?

However, from a new mother's perspective, I cannot say I think 6-12 weeks is near long enough to be with a newborn. As an employer, do I really want an employee back at work who is overly tired from a newborn not sleeping, feeling guilty about leaving a little baby with a nanny or in daycare, and therefore might not be fully focused back on her job? Probably not. However, from the work perspective, 6-12 weeks is a bit of a blip on the radar and others can help punt to cover the woman's work load while she is away for the short amount of time....

I realize one of the big differences here is that the government is backing the system here in the UK, which is true in so many of their services, including healthcare, benefits, etc. whereas the burden really falls on the employer in the US and is not always a given requirement that an employer needs to honor in America.

I am not sure which situation I agree with more, but I am sure I may not know until I have the baby and am on leave for myself. Only time and experience will answer this question for me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Red-Headed Step Child

At work last week I was recounting a situation and I said to a colleague, I felt a bit "like a red headed step child."
I received a very puzzled look.
He said, "I'm sorry, you've lost me. You felt like a red headed what?"

And so I tried to explain the meaning of the red-headed stop child reference. I did not realize it clearly was an American saying! Yes, upon further discussion, we could not move past this phrase because the British colleague was so intrigued by my use of this phrase.

Now, curious myself as to how this phrase came to be, I did a bit of online research where I found the following:

According to Urban Dictionary - Red Headed Step Child - A person or group treated without the favor of birthright. i.e. The boss treats this department like his red headed stepchildren. (note, this meaning was the one I was trying to use when I used the phrase in my conversation with a colleague.)

This bit about the origin of the phrase was quite interesting to me. I best watch myself and not use the phrase around any Irish I encounter! According to -
The origin of the phrase "red haired step child" dates to the 1830's & 40's when Irish emigrants began arriving in America. The newly arrived Irish were somewhere below free blacks on the social scale at the time, and lived in segregated communities. Then, like now, young men were having sexual relations with young women before marriage. Sometimes the men were Irish and the girls were not. This resulted in many out of wedlock children with that red Irish hair. When these young women did finally marry, usually to a young man not of Irish descent, the new husband was not particularly patient or sympathetic to the red haired step child and treated them harshly. The phrase is derogatory although many do not know its origin, it is still considered an insult to knowledgeable people of Irish descent, and should be avoided in polite conversation.

Another English/American conversation I found to be blog worthy....and one phrase I might avoid using for a while over here....