Saturday, March 22, 2014

Over-Protective Parenting

You know what's kind of getting on my nerves? All this hype about how kids were so much happier and better off thirty years ago when they were allowed to run wild with no supervision and eat whatever they wanted and take bigger risks. That kids nowadays are over-sheltered, over-protected and molly-coddled.

Okay. Obviously we get the idea. Kids today spend too much time indoors, on computers and iPads and watching TV. Point taken. My kids are guilty of it too - or perhaps I should say we as parents are guilty of allowing it. But what annoys me is the rest.

Kids were better off when they were unsupervised? Allowed out all day to explore anywhere they wanted and only expected home at meal times or 'when the street lights came on'. Fifirst, I'm betting this is an exaggeration and a glorified version of the truth. But even if parents really did let their kids run off on their own all day, how is that good for kids?

Good for imagination and exploration and all yes. But what if - just what if - something happened to them while they were off in the woods or at a park somewhere and you were nowhere near to know about it? I know I'm overly irrational about kidnappers (I had a serious phobia about kidnappers and burglars when I was a child and have never really gotten over it), but what if someone took my child while I wasn't around? It maybe doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen. Kids also fall and injure themselves, get bitten by snakes (my new worry, now that I live in the South again), and get lost. Glorify the idea of letting your kids go wherever they want without you knowing where they are, but god forbid something happen to YOUR child and imagine the repercussions:

- You could have a missing, injured, or dead child.
- You have Social Services at your door for neglect, and possibly have your other children taken off you.
- You are a social pariah for having been so negligent as to let this happen to your child.
- You are vilified in the media.
- You can never forgive yourself.

I'm just really tired of all this 'You're over-protecting your kids/ giving your kids complexes/ destroying their sense of wonder/ making your kids fat from lack of play' hype. Maybe I'm just protecting them to the level that I, as the parent, am comfortable with? This level is different for all parents; this doesn't make us all over-protective.

By not letting my kids run all over the neighborhood unsupervised, I am not killing their confidence or squashing their imaginations. I'm keeping them within my scope of supervision and away from predators, snakes, and dangerous areas. By not letting my kids play with fire, saws, sharp-pointed objects - unsupervised - I'm keeping them from harming themselves or someone else. Imagine your kid injured someone else's kid because you let them play with a dangerous object? Can you imagine how those parents would react? By restricting what my kids eat, I'm hopefully teaching them some form of self-control and healthy eating habits. By restricting the amount of chemicals we use in our home, I'm hopefully doing a teeny tiny part in keeping their little developing bodies a teeny tiny bit less contaminated.

CONFESSION TIME. I'm not the best parent in the world. I know I have my own irrational (depending on who you talk to) rules, and yet I'm also not the most vigilant at all times either. I probably allow them a lot more freedom than I should in some areas, and not enough in others. I let my seven- and five-year olds play outside on the street - we live at the end of a cul-de-sac - while I'm inside. I don't watch them the whole time. They are allowed to go up to the end of the street on their own. If they want to play with neighbors further than that, they need to come ask. Sometimes I go outside to check on them, and I can't see them. I panic every time. Often they've just gone into a neighbor's house to play; they know they are supposed to ask first, but sometimes they don't. Sometimes they have left our street without asking. This may sound like over-protection to insist I know where my pre-school and first grade children are at all times, but is it? Isn't it just common sense? In a world where we are so aware of the dangers, wouldn't it be negligent to NOT know where they are?

Keep in mind that bad people have always been around, and kids have always been in danger of being snatched and harmed by them. It just wasn't as widely talked about or known thirty or forty years ago. A few years ago, when visiting my mom, I let five-year-old Fifi go outside and play by herself. Mom felt uncomfortable about her being on her own. I mentioned how she used to send us outside all day without watching us. Her response was 'things are different now'. Perhaps things aren't different, we just know more?

I'm also pretty lax about dangerous items and activities. I probably let the kids play with too many things that could hurt someone, and perhaps I'm just lucky that no one has been seriously injured yet. Scott freaked out when he saw Fifi carrying an axe a few weeks ago and I hadn't stopped her; I asked how that was different than him playing with a saw when he was half her age. He was probably right. A seven year old shouldn't carry an axe. But should a four year old play with a saw, even if he'd been taught how to use it? It's all about a parent's comfort zone. I let the kids climb trees and counter-tops, sometimes unsupervised (the older ones anyway, I'm much more vigilant with the almost two year old). At play parks, I let the toddler climb equipment that's probably too old for him without being as careful as I should, though I'm always watching. I don't always insist they wear helmets when riding their bikes, though I feel I really should. Accidents do happen, and I know if something happened and I, the parent, hadn't been careful enough to keep them safe, I'd have a hard time forgiving myself. The worse the accident, the harder it would be for others to forgive you too, and if the accident is really bad, you could have the entire town judging you. Maybe that's over-protection, maybe it's common sense.

Food. Cleaning supplies. Truthfully, I'm not the healthiest eater and neither are my children. We do not have a 100% chemical-free home. I do try to restrict my children's diets within reason, and we try to eat mostly healthy, but we don't always. I still use bleach at times and have recently started using normal shampoo on the kids instead of the expensive everything-but-beeswax-free stuff. I'm not perfect or rich. But am I being over-protective when I still choose to clean with vinegar instead of ammonia or choosing non-toxic options when possible and affordable? Or am I taking advantage of the knowledge and science we now have to try just a little to make my kids a little healthier and safer?

NPR did an interview with someone who wrote a book about play in this era versus play in the '70s. A man filmed a bunch of kids playing in the '70s out of interest and that footage has been compared to kids' play now. Apparently kids took more risks and really did play unsupervised. The author of the book who talked about her own childhood play was worried she maybe had romanticized the truth, but the footage backed her up. She and her peers really did 'play better' than kids do now.

All I heard from this interview was that a bunch of kids were being filmed by a stranger who was asking them questions about their lives and where their parents were, and no one noticed or cared. Parents were nowhere to be seen. Hands up if this would have made you uncomfortable?

There is some merit to the hype - SOME. Yes, kids should be allowed to climb trees, if they are physically able and it's safe to do so. Risk-taking and risk-management are good life skills to have. Kids fare well with a little autonomy and room to roam, within reason. Being able to play freely is good for teaching decision-making. It won't kill kids to eat something that isn't organic or to brush their teeth with an SLS-containing toothpaste, but it's reasonable to restrict unhealthy or toxic products. But can we stop acting as if we modern parents are dictators who are preparing our kids for therapy and career failure by limiting their unsafe activities? What is wrong with keeping our kids safe? Why does that make us 'over-protective'? And furthermore, stop acting as if kids playing on laptops or video games is going to turn their brains to mush. In our increasingly technological age, the kids who know how to use technology are going to fare just fine, if not better. Did you know playing video games is actually great for hand-eye coordination, math skills, reading and decision-making?

I just think the bottom line is to be the best parent you can be. Be comfortable with what you allow and don't allow. You, your children and your family are the only ones who have to answer for it. Unless something really horrible happens. Which, granted, is probably not going to happen. But if it did, I think you'd want to know you had done your best to avoid it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Love/Hate the Gym

Okay, to say I "love" working out would probably be pretty close to a lie. I do love going to the gym. I love putting on work-out clothes and going to the gym. I love feeling like the kind of person who works out. I love the way working out makes me feel - energetic, healthy, a better sleeper, decreased junk food cravings. I love the results - the thinner thighs, the tighter abs, the defined arms. But what I don't love so much is the actual workout.

I judge how much I enjoy a class (and again "enjoy" is fairly relative) by how soon I start watching the clock. I went to Pilates a couple of weeks ago, thinking I'd enjoy an "easy" class. Make no mistake - balancing in any pose is never easy. I enjoyed the first twenty minutes or so. Then I started glancing at the clock. As the routines got more complicated (and required more balance), I became increasingly more clock-conscious. The class may not have had me gasping for breath, but it certainly had me sweating. I was relieved when it was over.

In a weight-lifting class, I usually genuinely do enjoy myself. Of all the different kinds of group fitness classes, Pump classes are the most fun to me. The warm-ups are easy, and the variation in movements keep my attention. I like going from squats (get them out of the way quickly) on to my back for chest presses, then back up on my feet for triceps. Back to my legs for lunges, and then biceps and back, my two strongest muscle groups. I usually don't even check the clock until I'm about forty minutes into the hour-long class. That's a good class.

Cardio workouts are much less enjoyable. I usually avoid them at all costs, but since Lolly now has her KidFifit classes at the same time, I am sort of trapped into going to whatever is on during that time slot. On Mondays, that's Kickboxing. On Wednesdays, that's Step Aerobics. I hate both of them.

Today I went to Kickboxing. This is the second time I've attended this class. The first part of warm-ups were fine. Then I looked at the clock. I'd been warming up for ten minutes. The actual workout was just beginning. I took a drink from my water bottle. I wondered if anyone would notice if I slipped out the door and just walked on the treadmill instead. But my jacket and my handbag were with me, and everyone would notice if I gathered up my stuff and left after only ten minutes. So I pushed on, telling myself I could sneak out a little later.

Twenty minutes into the workout, I was ready to stop. But no one else was really even breaking a sweat yet, and I couldn't bear the shame of leaving after only twenty minutes. "Only fifteen more minutes of cardio to go!", the instructor enthusiastically cheered. Another fifteen minutes?! Was that supposed to be encouragement?

Thirty minutes in. My "bounce" was more like a slight knee bend. My jabs were a barely perceptible wrist thrust. My chest was tight and my sides were splitting. I was half way there. When I wasn't watching the clock, I watched the instructor to make sure I was still following along, and at all costs I avoided seeing my reflection in the mirror. Any time I caught a glimpse of myself, I saw a frumpy, exhausted, red-faced chimp in cute workout clothes. Shimmy over to behind the fans that block the mirror. That's better.

Fifinally, at forty minutes, we completed the cardio segment of the class. We got out mats for the abs workout. I always look forward to the abs part, because I get to lie down. Then the crunches start, and I remember I sort of hate the abs portion. I'm pretty good at crunches... in moderation. But ten minutes of crunches and mid-way pulses and bicycling, and worse, planks and push-ups, make my flabby post-children squidgy tummy want to cry. I think there are some muscles in there somewhere, but I only know that because they hurt, not because I can see them or use them. At least during abs, if I lie flat for a second to take a break, no one really notices.

Then comes the payoff. The best feeling of the whole class is when the instructor tells us to lie flat on our backs and stretch. Ahh, the stretches. The cool down. My favorite part of any workout. I put more effort and energy into my stretches than I put into the first 50 minutes of exercise. I think, "Thank God it's over." We take our last deep breath in and out, and then, out of nowhere sane, I think, "Hey. That wasn't so bad."

It's almost like childbirth; you forget how bad it was right after it's over.

I put my mat away and walk out the door, feeling good, with plans to return again tomorrow for another "not so bad" workout class.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

High School Musical

Last night, I took my two little girls to see Disney's Beauty & the Beast performed at my old high school. Though the Spring musical was held in the exact same fine arts building I used to perform in as a high schooler, the auditorium has been completely renovated since fifteen years ago into a genuinely exquisite theater.

My daughters and I, along with Devon and Liz, my two best buds from high school, and Devon's daughter, drove into the same parking lot I used to park in and walked the same footsteps I used to walk everyday into the building I spent my teenage life in.

The foyer is nothing like it was years ago, when the dingy carpets were brown and the three long steps crossing the foyer taking you up to the auditorium doors were perfect for sitting on to do homework or having gossip sessions, and the "box office" was just a folding table decorated with a plastic tablecloth. Now, there are real box office booths with glass windows for ticketing, and the building's structure is entirely different. Inside the auditorium, there is still the same incredibly large black stage with possibly the same red curtains, but the seats are now separated with aisles and rather than a couple of speakers and a light/sound board in the back row shut off with plywood walls, the sound booth is now a fully equipped media room in the balcony.

Despite looking so different, I was taken back years ago (when the budget was obviously not so generous), to the countless hours I spent practicing on that stage, watching performances in those seats, hall talks in those corridors and even a tornado warning lined up against those walls with books over our heads acting as very dubious protection should the roof by blown off.

My children, of course, did not have the same flood of memories. They ran around excited through the aisles to the seats we pointed them towards. Confusion and indecision broke out about who was sitting with whom, and we exchanged seats a dozen times before the kids were happy with their seating arrangements.

Mrs Tarvin - I'm allowed to call her Ashley now, even though it still seems a bit weird - said a few words before the play began. Ashley had been one of my Forensics coaches in high school, and hearing her speak, I still couldn't quite grasp the concept that she's not still my teacher.

The student pit band started up.

New memories rushed over me.

A few years ago, in Scotland, I asked my daughter's dance teacher about the local amateur dramatics groups, and how one gets involved. Scott and I had gone to the Arts Guild to see RENT, and I only discovered they were a local drama group when I heard the woman behind me say her co-worker was in the show. I realized then how much I missed acting and decided to find out more. Fifi's dance teacher, Linda, told me about a group that was soon holding auditions for Footloose, and I gathered up some (okay, a lot of) courage and auditioned. Little had I realized until that point just how much I had missed being on stage, and, well, that was me hooked. About a year later, the Greenock Light Opera Club (GLOC) did Beauty & the Beast. I had an absolute blast dancing around as a gold fork in some scenes, and singing savagely as an angry villager in others.

As the opening music filled the CHS theater, emitting from the same pit our fellow classmates used to play in, I was transported not only back in time but in space. I was in high school, I was in Scotland and I was right there with my wonderful daughters and friends, all at once.

The curtains opened and there on the stage was the Prince, being approached by the old peasant woman. (Considering I was half in Scotland at this point, I guess it might be understandable that my first thought was, "He's awfully young to be playing the beast." A second later I realized, um, that's because I'm watching a high school musical.) Moments later, the stage was fully lit with a lovely village set and villagers in fantastic costumes in a stage freeze. Belle appeared on stage. I had wondered previously what the standard of this show would be, seeing as they were all high schoolers, but as soon as Belle opened her mouth, I wondered no more. Her voice was beautiful, sweet but powerful. From the very start, I believed she was Belle and was immediately transported to 18th century France. My memories of high school and GLOC vanished. Aside from the instinct to sing where I had once been expected to sing, and in the first soprano parts, I forgot about myself and really enjoyed the show.

All of the characters were fantastic. Maurice, Belle's father was gentle and appropriately dopey-bizarre. Gaston was incredible - great voice and commanding presence. Lumiere and Cogsworth had the audience in stitches with their often off-script jokes. Mrs Potts was sweet and motherly and very endearing. The beast was frightening at first (my five-year-old jumped into my lap when he came on stage) but genuinely grew kind and lovable by the end. The enchanted objects' costumes were dazzling. The sets were effective and realistically Disney. The singing by all the main characters was beyond what I expected for a high school production, and many of them were worthy of far greater. The choreography, especially in the Tavern song, where they all sing about Gaston, was energetic and entertaining.

My girls loved it. Keeping them in their seats was a feat and keeping Lolly quiet was impossible. Lolly even cried at the end when the Beast was stabbed by Gaston. (Was that spoiler?) The girls said to me afterwards, "Thank you SO MUCH, Mummy, for taking us here!"

After the show, the kids raced around foyer getting photos with all the characters and autographs for their playbills. They were so excited, we could barely keep them all together!

We then took the kids backstage - calling them VIP - but backstage was nothing like it was in our day. We opened the side door and found ourselves not in the short hallway separating the choir room from the two dressing rooms, but in a long school corridor with classrooms everywhere. A student, still in her actor's makeup but now wearing a Beauty & the Beast t-shirt, pointed us in the right direction. Soon, we found ourselves in that very choir room I knew so well, which still opened up into the wings of the stage.

More memories. This is where pre-show excitement electrified the air, where we were shhhhhhed a million times, where girls did the boys' make-up (especially the boys we liked), where twenty-second costume changes were somehow managed in ten. Many arguments broke out in that room, and so did many make-out sessions. It's a magical room.

We entered the wings and walked onto the stage. Devon joked that she could feel our stage ghosts, but silly as it sounds, I kind of felt we could. I saw myself fifteen years younger standing behind that red curtain, with the hush of the audience, the pit band playing, all of us making silent, exaggerated faces to warm up, noiselessly shaking out our hands and arms to build up the energy, and waiting for that breathless moment when the curtains would be pulled and the full bright lights would blind us and we would turn into fiction.

As I watched our kids run around the stage, making lots of noise, and trying to climb all over the set (which we put an instant stop to), I wondered what passions they will discover as they grow and what experiences they will remember years later. I wondered where each will end up, and if they will have high school memories worth returning back for.

I may find it extremely difficult being back in my home town again after so many years away, but one thing I can say without reservation is that I have a lot of great memories of this place that have been worth revisiting.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Cabin Fever

I have some serious cabin fever going on right now. Except for two very short excursions, I've been stuck in my house since Sunday. It's Thursday. I feel like I'm under house arrest.

Sunday morning, Scott's mum and dad took the kids to breakfast and then to church while Scott and I slept in late and had a quiet morning together. That afternoon, my dad, stepmom, brother and an aunt and uncle from Pennsylvania (here for my big brother's wedding the day before) all came over. Sunday evening is when 'thundersleet' hit Arkansas. It was the second* most amazing storm I've ever seen. Sleet, freezing rain, thunder, lightning, all at once. It was incredible.

(*Second to the time we came home from Scotland for a visit and witnessed fork lightning touching ground so close we could see where it hit, and the flashes were so bright, the street lighting kept turning off, thinking it was daylight!)


Not surprisingly, given the six inches of ice topped with an inch of snow the next morning, school and Scott's workplace were both closed on Monday. It was actually a little blessing, since that was Mum and Dad's last day here in the States. The roads were a sheet of ice, so I stayed in all day with the kids. Scott's parents ventured out in the afternoon to get some last minute things taken care of, then we had t-bone steaks for dinner (mmmm) and put the kids to bed. We drank whisky. It was a good day to be 'stuck in'.

But come Tuesday morning, it was time to say goodbye. School was cancelled again, and Scott's office didn't open until noon, so Scott took his parents to the airport, while the kids and I said our goodbyes here at home. It was a sad goodbye as always. The children cried; I had to control my own tears to cope with theirs. The house felt very empty without them. Even though we didn't see much of them the last couple of weeks (they didn't even stay with us for the last two weeks!), it was still nice knowing they were somewhere nearby. I even ran into them a few times at the gym and Walmart, which made it feel like we actually lived close to each other again. Knowing they were officially going back home though made them feel very far away again.

So I kept myself busy. The house was a tip after so many guests - we'd had our Seattle friends Jonathan and Sarah and their daughters staying with us the week before - so I cleaned Jaguar's room (had been the 'guest' room), the girls' room (what a disaster!), the hall closet (just because), the kitchen and the living room. The kids bustled about, inside and outside, sometimes playing, sometimes fighting, and I really hoped they'd be back at school on Wednesday. Despite how bad the roads were, I'd have liked to have ventured out a little, but unfortunately Scott had driven to work with Jaguar's car seat still in his car.

Tuesday night, I managed to sneak out for a couple of hours to buy groceries. Saturday would've been grocery day, but we were at my brother's wedding in Hot Springs. Then the weather killed the next three days' shopping opportunities. We were eating weird stuff from the back of the cupboards by Tuesday night.

Speaking of eating, we noticed lots of birds pecking around the ice, trying to find some food. So we scattered birdseed all over the back porch for the hungry birds. We were very popular on Tuesday with the feathered community. And I got some lovely shots.

"Hey, guys, over here!"

Lord Cardinal

Lady Cardinal

Wednesday morning, school was back in session and the roads were more or less clear. Fifi got all dressed up for Dr Seuss day... and then threw up. Sigh. I called the school. Fifi would not be in today. And we would not be going anywhere as planned. No gym for me, KidFifit for Lolly or library Dr Seuss party for any of us. I stayed in all day yesterday. I had errands to run, but even if Fifi could have been trusted in the car for half an hour without the threat of vomit, I had to wait home for two deliveries, which of course, didn't arrive until 4pm. (But they were worth waiting for - my new laptop and my Pampered Chef order!) My head hurt. Lolly refused to listen to a word I said. Fifi was puky and pathetic and feeling sorry for herself. I watched far too much H20 on Netflix with the kids. It was my first day back on keto too, which made me even more irritable. I wanted to cry all day. The highlight of yesterday was dinner. In honor of Dr Seuss week at Fifi's school (which due to ice and illness, she has missed all of), we had Green Eggs and Ham for dinner. 

I would like them with a fox. I'd even like them in a box.

Exhausted, though I had things I wanted to do, I went to bed super early. I slept like a log. I felt awesome waking up this morning.

However, I still couldn't send Fifi to school, since policy is to be symptom-free for 24 hours (back in Scotland it was 48), so here we are again. In the house. I can't take Fifi anywhere because she might still be sick and/or contagious, so no gym for me again this morning. I still needed to run those errands, so we paid some bills and bought a few keto life-savers from Kroger (bacon, whipping cream, Truvia for low-carb cheesecakes) and came home. Now the girls are on 'their' computer (my old laptop), Jaguar is watching a little Charlie and Lola before his nap, and I'm fiddling with my new laptop. My fingers are crossed that Fifi will be symptom-free all day, so she can go to school tomorrow. Not only am I desperate to get to the gym and to have an easier day, but she's got a field trip tomorrow I'd hate for her to miss. Plus, I just need to get out of the confines of this house!! (Lolly, Jaguar, myself, please do not catch Fifi's bug.)


Aside from 'cabin fever', I've got a few more updates. Since I didn't blog (or write at all for that matter) much over the last six weeks, here are a few things I'd like to remember.

Number one, Jaguar got his first haircut. I cried. Well, I cried when I got in the car; I held it together in the salon. He had such gorgeous long blonde wispy hair, that flew out to the sides like helicopter blades when he shook his head no. But it was starting to get too long, and he was to be the ring bearer in my brother's wedding, so I took him to get his 'big boy haircut'. I have to admit, as much as it saddened me, he looks adorable (and big) with his new 'do.



(My phone takes crappy pictures.)

He looked so grown up with his new haircut, his new dress shoes and his kilt in the wedding.

A suit, a kilt and a uniform walk into a bar...

Which segues perfectly into my brother's wedding.

Fifirst, I took it upon myself to make the flower girl dresses for the three flower girls. I opted for making the dresses instead of buying them to save money. Paying $100 for a child's dress seemed ridiculous, and multiply that by two children and it's outrageous. To make sure all three dresses were the same, I made my niece Ava's dress too.

It was slightly more work than I expected. They turned out beautifully, though, if I do say so myself!




Then, amidst the last minute rush to finish the dresses that I'd been taking my time on, my sister-in-law's bridesmaid broke her foot, and the couple asked me to step in last minute. Which meant finding a bridesmaid dress that matched last minute. Christie (my new SIL), her mother and I went shopping for a dress on the Tuesday before the Saturday wedding. In the dress shop, there were only about five long, navy dress choices, and none of the cash-and-carry dresses were even remotely in my size. Except one. ONE. It was really pretty on the hanger, but a size too small. With no other options, aside from finding another store, I tried it on. It fit perfectly. It matched perfectly. I LOVED it. So I bought it. Twenty minute bridesmaid dress shopping, from walk-in to carrying dress home, must be some kind of record. 

(If I'm being literal, it wasn't twenty minutes before I walked out the shop with it. I had it held to the next day, which was pay day.)

I didn't get really any full length photos of me in the dress at the wedding, but here's one taken when I got home.

The wedding was beautiful and sweet. I'm so happy my brother has married such a lovely girl, and I'm delighted to have Christie as my new sis-in-law!

A Few Random Wedding Photos
Groom and Bride (Photobombed by Lolly)

Ava, Matt and Charity

My bros

My main man

The Reception

The Groom's Cake (Star Trek in case you have no idea.)

For more wedding photos: Daniel & Christie's Wedding

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Another Old Unpublished One

I found this post while clearing off my desktop. I wrote it long before Scott and I announced to the world that we were moving to the US, but I couldn't of course post it at that time. I think it's safe now. This is what went through my head regarding the prospect of leaving Scotland.

I have to write this in a Word document because I’m not ready to publish it out there yet.

So Scott and I are thinking very seriously about moving back to the United States. Like, next year.

This is seriously mega huge for me.

See, ever since Scott told me he ‘loved me properly’, I knew that my new life was going to be in Scotland. I am sure that I must’ve experienced some grief at leaving my old life behind (and probably if I went back through my blog posts of that time, I’d find the evidence), but I don’t remember it much. Mostly I just knew that my life was about to change big time; I was going to marry a Scotsman and live the rest of my life with him, there.

So how is it that 9 years later, suddenly that is looking likely to change? How do I face that?

I can’t figure out if it’s pride or if it’s genuine ambivalence. See, part of me does feel pride. I was a 22 year old newly graduated university student who made the decision to move to another country and live another life. I was and am proud of that. I have changed so much because of that decision. I was a young girl who in under one year navigated through all the craziness of immigrating and made it. I saved up money, I filled in all the paperwork, I flew to Los Angeles to interview for my visa, I got married and I immigrated to the United Kingdom. Then I went through another crazy process of applying for my Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. I birthed my children here. I started three home businesses here. I got my UK driver’s license here. I re-learned English grammar to comply with British rules instead of American.

And I created a life here. I took that first lonely, scared, uncertain year and built a confident, fulfilling, exciting life for myself. I made irreplaceable friends. I have risen to challenges. I have overcome so many of my childhood fears and insecurities. I have become a woman here, a mother, a wife, a business owner, an actress, a supporter, a mentor, a nationalist, here, in Scotland.

I would even go so far as to say, I have become Scottish.


As I let that last thought sink in, I wonder, How could I ever revert back to being... American?

It sounds so plebeian now. It sounds so teenager. Americans, with their lame politics and mainstream religion and lack of humour and bad accents... How can I go back to that? Is it even possible? Or is it possible to go back to that place but not to that person? Can this ‘me’ live in that place and still exist?


I’ve been trying to figure out what the difference is with this decision and all the other ‘life’ decisions I’ve had to make. I mean, I know people who move constantly, in and out of the UK, all over the States, all over Europe, and they are happy and carefree. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I just up and move like so many other people do? Well, for starters, that’s just not me. As much as I appreciate excitement and love to do things the not-done way, I am still just a homebody who wants to be settled. I don’t need upheaval to get my kicks. I like to do outrageous things, as long as they are from the comfort of a background that I know and that knows me.

I’ve made ‘big’ decisions before; of course I have. I once had to decide where I would go to university. I once had to decide a major. I once had to decide to quit my job to become a full-time mum. I once had to decide to become self-employed.

I once had to decide to get married. I once had to decide to immigrate to another country. I once had to decide if it was time to start a family.

The difference between these ‘big’ decisions was permanence. If I decided I didn’t like my university, I could go home or transfer. If I didn’t enjoy my major, I could switch. If I realised we couldn’t afford me staying at home to be a mum, I could go back to work. If self-employment didn’t work out, I’d just go back to into employment.

But, um, if marriage wasn’t what I expected (and it wasn’t), I was stuck. If Scotland wasn’t as dreamy as I imagined it (and it wasn’t), I was stuck. If having children wasn’t all sunshine and roses (and it wasn’t), I was stuck. These are the BIG life decisions. These are the things that changed my life... forever. For good. For better or for worse.

Moving back to the States? It’s for better or for worse. If I go back and hate it, I’ll be stuck.

We’ll have sold all our belongings. We’ll have spent thousands on greencard applications, citizenship claims, passports, flights, and other various yet unknown expenses. Scott will have no job still waiting for him back here in Scotland. If we make this decision, we make it forever. For good. If it doesn’t turn out how we expect it, we will still be stuck.


I know it would be the right decision for Scott. He would be so happy with his second chance, his turn to become a new ‘him’. His health would be so greatly improved, his career opportunities would open up. He could get back into the things he is passionate about - music, creating. I know he would be happier and that is half what this is all about. I then wonder if it’s the right decision for our kids. Right now, they are in a school that I couldn’t love more. Fifi’s class size is eleven kids – and that includes three different year groups. She is becoming bilingual. In fact, after hearing her little ‘puppet show’ she did for me this afternoon, I could easily say she is bilingual. She has a teacher who has the time and ability to get to know her personally, who knows her likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, her quirks and what she is capable of. She isn’t grouped into an age category or a personality type. She is known for who she is – in a classroom! I couldn’t love that more. Is it really right to take her out of that, and to deprive Lolly and their soon-to-be-born brother of that pleasure?

Or should I be looking at the bigger picture – maybe what will matter more when they are grown are memories of playing outside, living in the sun, growing an outdoor instead of windowsill garden, freedom of safety... countless other benefits to growing up in America that I have forgotten because I’m so acclimated here. It’s not as if there aren’t great schools in America, and it’s not as if bilingualism is the end-all-be-all of education.

If I can be made certain that this move is right for them, then I will not care what it means for my own personal ‘identity’. My husband and my children mean more to me than I mean to myself. I am the wife and the mother, and in my heart, that makes me the enabler. Scott, bless him, sees it the other way around; me and his children mean more to him than he means to himself. So he won’t say outright what he wants to do, because he sees himself as the enabler. He will enable us to stay here if that is what we all want to do. I will enable us to move if that is what they all want to do. I have to say, that is a good place to be in, in the long run! I also have to say, that means one of us has to stand up and make the decision, and I think I know who that person should be and what the decision is.

I need to give Scott the chance he gave me when we got married; I need to let him have a fresh new start and do something life changing.

This means we need to move back.


Millions of people grow up in the UK to be intelligent, well-adjusted, happy people. Millions of people grow up in the US to be intelligent, well-adjusted, happy people. My kids can be amongst those millions wherever we live, because they have us to help them along the way. They have sweet friends here that they love in their childlike ways, but they have the ability to make and love new friends just as easily. They have grandparents here they adore to the very deepest places in their souls, but they have grandparents there that they would grow just as attached to and love just as deeply – without losing their deep attachments to the ones they’d have said goodbye to.

My husband could be happy living in Scotland the rest of his life. Or he could be liberated moving to the US and taking control of his life. He could make the most of his life here and be happy watching his children blossom and his wife thrive. Or he could actually enjoy the days and weeks of his life, with the ease of his newfound health, the prospects of a new career at his fingertips, the freedom to indulge in music like he once did, and be surrounded still by the four deepest loves of his life.

Lest I sound like I’ve suddenly somehow re-idealised America, I haven’t. But I can see it through his eyes. It’s the same sort of eyes I saw Scotland with before I came here. Scott couldn’t see the magic and promise I saw in this country, but it was there all along right under his nose. So while I can’t see the magic and promise of America, I can look through his eyes and see what I have become blind to.

I know I could be happy living in Scotland for the rest of my life. I know I have friends here who will be friends for years to come, maybe for life. I also know I could be happy in America, because I used to be happy there. I had friends who came and went, just like I have here in Scotland, but I also have friends that are still there, always ready to take me back into their lives and help me re-adjust. I can reasonably assume that some of my friends here would be the same – ready to welcome me when I come back for visits, never ready to fully release me from their hearts. I have family I love so deeply in both countries. No matter where I go, I will have people I love and yet people I miss. That is just the way of it. So I know what the answer for us is. The answer in the end comes fairly easily.


What lies ahead is the hardest part – the slow, painful unravelling of the fabric of this life as I start to let go of what holds me here. The gradual release of possessions, unstitching the tiny squares that formed the quilt of my home bit by bit. The telling people, the lengthy beginnings of goodbyes.

The unavoidable process of detachment.