Tag Archives: family

US Trip


It’s official. My children are now Junior Park Rangers in Grand Canyon and Death Valley. They’ve got their certificates, their badges and their patches. And you had better do what they say.

We just came back from America and it was a wonderful trip. After visiting my parents in Washington, DC, we took our kids out West. Showed them hot and spectacular Death Valley, the Hoover Dam, the no-words-can-really-describe Grand Canyon, and the majestic saguaro cactus of Arizona. (We also, unfortunately, showed them Las Vegas—which was a pornographic cheesy dump—don’t believe their family-friendly ads)

I also showed them around Venice Beach where I used to live when I was young and wacky. See, this is where Mommy used to live, this is where she used to eat sushi, this is where she used to drink extra large margaritas, this is her old boyfriend…

I don’t think the trip was the life changing experience for my children I had hoped it be (My god, America is the chosen one!) but I had a great time. The landscape is amazing, the people are incredibly friendly—“Y’all have a great day, now,” and there’s nothing more invigorating than driving down an open road, racing coyotes and eagles.

Anyway, we’re back in London where they tell me it was beautiful while we were away but where it is now nippy and raining. It’s good to be home though. And when we get over our jetlag (up wandering around all last night) it will be even better.

photo by Uncle Paul T “Birdman” (flickr)


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No Buy

no-buyI just finished reading another book. And being very topical for this G20 summit in town, it’s called Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine.

It’s an interesting read specifically because it was published in 2006 bang in the middle of our consumer rush. Reading it now, in our credit crunch, is like watching a Ferrari fly by you at 350 miles per hour, knowing there’s a 100-car pile-up ahead.

I must say I picked it up feeling slightly smug. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a miser: My gifts tend to be small. I make fun of my husband’s wide range of shoes for every subtle change of terrain. ( I shouldn’t, he’s a much better gift-giver than I am). My poor children are still riding first bikes so small their knees touch their ears.

I once even tried a moratorium on shopping: I forbid my family to buy anything for six months.

I don’t think we lasted two hours.

Turns out, I burn money like Shell drills oil. We always seem to need something: more underwear, a zebra patterned swimsuit, art books, children shoes, a piano book, endless birthday presents, peppermint scrub shower gel.

And yes, I did desperately need that Boden flippy spring skirt in that enticing shade of peach.

But Judith Levine and her significant other, Paul, have showed me the way. You can live without buying most things. So I’m going to start. I’m going to impose a serious, no-buy-except-for-food-and-real-necessities-ban. (OK, maybe new bikes).

After our trip to the US.

photo by reebob (flickr)

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Multinational Family

easter-bunnyI’m chewing my nails waiting for my daughter’s American passport to arrive. I suddenly noticed it is due to expire right in the middle of our Easter trip to the States.

To get her another one I had to round up her birth certificate, her Consular Report of Birth Abroad, her social security card, her, my Australian husband and his passport, me and my passport, and present us all at the American Embassy on Grosvenor Square where we had to wait at several security checks, stroll by men with very big guns, pass through the bullet proof door and present ourselves at the window.

And this was just for a renewal.

I’m not going to complain here. Did enough of it already.

But that’s the problem with a multinational family. We have passports coming out of our ears. My husband has an Australian passport. I’ve got an American one. My daughter, who was born in London, has a British and an American passport. My son, who was born in Singapore, has an American passport and an Australian passport. It’s funny, two passports from countries he’s never lived in. But he is not eligible for Singaporean nationality and we haven’t gotten round to getting him British citizenship though I think he might be eligible by now for having lived here at least five years.

Needless to say, passport control officers cringe when they see us coming.

Anyway I hope it comes in time. We have grandparents to snuggle with, friends to visit and an American Easter Bunny to find.

photo by Scott Kinmartin (flickr)

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Having it All

having-it-allThere was an interesting article in The Times by Zoe Lewis about having it all. She regrets not settling down earlier to have a family. I feel for her. I was lucky. I found love, marriage and viable sperm at the ripe old age of 37.

While I’m not the most patient of mothers, “If you don’t do what I say this minute I’m throwing all your toys out of the window,” I can’t imagine living without my children. They have made me grow up. They have made me, occasionally, put others before myself. They have also placed me at the center of their universe which is not a bad place to be.

My mother once said to me when I seemed to be in no hurry to take marriage or beginning a family seriously, “It’s about time you take your place in society.” It has a quaint Austenian ring to it but it does make you think. And it is true that I have a place in society that is not extended to single childless women or men.

And while I get cranky and desperate for time off from the endless drudgery that is part of motherhood (I dream of a week in a cabin stocked with chocolate and silence) I know by the end of that time I’d be eager to get back if only to toss around a couple of new threats: “If you don’t practice piano this minute, I’m nuking the Nintendo!”

I have a lot. The trick, of course, is remembering that.

photo by loop_oh (flickr)

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See how little girls grow?


This is my niece, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, playing croquet with me, in the 80’s. She was 4 years old. She is now the designer of my website: www.ninakillham.com. I think she’s done a fabulous job. It’s so hard coming up with an image of a writer. The real you, in sweats and greasy hair, with the dish of cookie crumbs beside your computer is not very palatable. So it does take some thinking. It also can be very frustrating working on something like this long distance. Hannah’s in Wisconsin and I’m in London. But she was a dream to work with.

She’s also an amazing photographer: www.stonehousephoto.com. She does weddings but also events and portraits too. Her portraits of couples are beautiful. She really captures all the hope and drama of love.

Which all reads like an advertisement but it’s really about how fascinating it is to watch the young people in your family grow. You remember them as toddlers, children, teenagers and then suddenly in a blink of an eye they’re older than you were when you first met them. My brother once said in surprise after he hadn’t seen Hannah for several years. “She’s become a real babe, hasn’t she?”

It also happens to be her birthday.

So see how little girls grow? They become extraordinary women. So play with that little niece of yours. You never know when she’ll be the one calling the shots.


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Lice, baby, lice

liceCan we talk? Our school has a lice problem. Or rather nit problem as they say here. My children keep bringing home nit alert notes from school. The note says if your children have nits keep them home. But that’s ridiculous. They are getting the nits from school. What is this? Paintball? Wham, you’re down. Time to leave the arena?

I do my best, I check regularly. I’ve spent a fortune on treatment. Nothing seems to work. So now I condition and comb so much my children’s hair has lost its will to live. It lies lank and listless against their skulls.

I feel like I’ve done my bit. They go clean to school and yet they come back with hitchhikers clinging to their roots.

So now I jump on them the second they walk through the door. I’ve got a range of combs. White plastic, metal, the superlative Nitty Gritty. I personally like the white ones because the lice show up to my huge satisfaction. I repeatedly comb through my children’s hair, deaf to their screams. And out they come. The little suckers. Actually large suckers. Big massive juveniles with ipods sticking out of their ears. A couple of smug mom types wearing BabyBjorns. And their itty bitty eggs, quaking with potential.

I have become obsessed. I’ve taken to telling my children not to sit too close to others. I’ve taken to hugging them with my head stretched back so far away it’s barely attached to my neck. I’ve taken to leaping on any tiny black spot in my house.

Personally, I think our entire neighborhood needs to be fumigated. But with this credit crunch I just don’t think it’s in the budget.

picture by alvaro tapia hidalgo (flickr)

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R.I.P. Hamlet

rip-hamlet1I feel awful. Hamlet died yesterday. He had Wet Tail. We didn’t notice the gooey tail until the night before. I told Lara I would call the vet first thing in the morning. But in the morning we found him curled up, dead.

We missed all the signs; the excessive pooping, the hunching, though at one point Lara said she heard him groan. Otherwise he seemed fine. He was quite perky. He let Lara hold him for which I’m immensely grateful.

Wet Tail is the result of stress. From leaving mother, living in pet shop, coming home to new owner, being handled…a lot. We loved Hamlet to death. I feel just horrible. I should have protected him.

At least I didn’t have to discuss the bottom line with my children, i.e. the cost analysis of going to a vet and paying £100 to fix a £10 hamster. The thing is, I would have probably done it.

I miss the little guy. I miss stroking his little paws. There is something comforting about a house full of pets. At bedtime I go around the house, tucking sleeping kids back under their covers, filling budgie water bottles, making sure Testtube alien lights are glowing red and until last night, saying good night to Hamlet as he nibbled on his honey/egg treat.

So good bye, Hamlet. I am so sorry. May you rest in peace now.

The budgies on the other hand live on and on and on…

Photo by Special (flickr)

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School Run



I’m up again at an ungodly hour. Even if I get very little writing done my sanctimonious level is high enough to choke a frog.

The problem with getting up early though is that by the time I get everyone else up I’m so caffeinated I’m a little scary. The glee I take in tossing everyone from their warm covers is not attractive.

It’s a full hour and a half from the time I get the kids up to when I push them into their classrooms. They don’t have school buses in London so the onus of getting your children to school falls on you. And so the mornings are a marathon.

Get out of bed, now, now, NOW. Eat, don’t whack your sister, leave your brother alone, eat, drink your milk. Aren’t you dressed yet? Brush your teeth, brush your hair. Stop teasing your brother. I don’t care if he started it….Get your coat on, and your gloves, and your scarves. Shoot me. Book bag, violin, swim bag, water bottles. Shoot me again. Get in the car, get in the car, will you get in the CAR! Oh, no, the car is covered in ice. Get the spatula. It’s in the kitchen. Scrape. Scrape. Great, the defrost not working. I can just see if I lean down like this…. Where did that car come from….Oh, there’s the bell, get out of the car, get out of the car, will you get out of the CAR! Hurry hurry. Hi! Hi! Great weekend. Yes, you too. Smile, smile to other mothers, ha ha ha ha ha, threats muttered under breath to kids. Get in the classroom, get in the classroom, will you get in the… And they’re gone.

A sigh of relief.


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By Crispita

By Crispita

All this Facebook ruckus reminds me of my breastfeeding days. When I took a breastfeeding course before the birth of my daughter, I spent most of the time chortling in the back row. The idea that I would ever put a babe to my half-pint breasts was ludicrous. My husband, I’m afraid to say, found it particularly funny. But when I finally did give birth and offered my virgin nipples to my daughter, I wasn’t laughing. And poor Lara squealed with frustration and hunger.

I tried the experts but they all seemed to have memorized the same mantra: drink more liquids and rest. Well, I was drinking enough liquids to flood London Central and hadn’t budged from the couch in so long I had begun color-coordinating my clothes with it.

I had hoped to breast feed for about twelve months (any longer and I worried the kid would walk up to me, grab a breast with a sticky hand and flip it into her mouth like a petrol pump). But I didn’t last past four. The day I finally gave up and switched to bottles, Lara fairly had a party to celebrate.

So when I gave birth to Ben three years later in Singapore (my husband was on sabbatical) I wasn’t in the most optimistic of moods. But I hadn’t bargained on the Chinese and their reliance on cuisine for disaster remedy. The Chinese are real apothecaries when it comes to ingredients, most of which you can either get fresh at the markets or dried and curled obscenely in large clear jars at the Chinese medicine stores. Cooking becomes prescribing. Clogged arteries? Try a tablespoon of black vinegar. Windy? Have a bite of ginger. Nasty complexion? Treat yourself to some dried scallops. I could go on. Sesame oil promotes blood circulation. Fish enriches milk glands. Squid will improve mental energy.

In short, food delivers. It’s an idea most Chinese have taken to heart and they are quite vocal about it. Taxi drivers driving me to my pre-natal check-ups swore by bean curd for a baby’s smooth complexion. One restaurateur warned me away from crab, saying my baby would be born too mischievous. And the teacher at my daughter’s Singaporean nursery declared that an expectant mother should always eat what she craves otherwise her baby would never stop drooling.

So after the first dissatisfied yowl from Ben shook our apartment block, my Chinese neighbors were ready. They gathered around me at our communal playground to peer down at my son’s pinched face. They shook their heads and told me exactly what to eat. Stewed fish maw, they said. Stewed hairy marrow, kidneys stir-fried with wood fungus, pig’s trotters with ginger and vinegar. I see, I said and dashed home to my diet of peanut butter, cheddar cheese and gallons of ice cream. Motherhood had made me do a lot of things I’d never in my most horrific dreams seen myself doing–like giving birth for example–but it was not going to make me eat trotters, pigs’ or otherwise.
Plus, I didn’t believe a word of it.

My neighbors were insistent. One arrived at my doorstep with a bowl of pig trotters floating in a clear soup studded with small red dates. Eat, she urged. Oh, yes, soon, I murmured and placed the gift far in the back of my refrigerator.

Finally, Elena, my Filipina maid (yes, I know, I just lost the sympathy vote, but I don’t have her now. I’m back in London and do my own laundry, cooking, cleaning and baby bottom wiping, thank you very much,) unable to watch my poor child’s distress, decided to cook me a milk producing soup from her village; chicken with green papaya. Her mother drank it and practically drowned her children. “Of course, she had big breasts,” Elena remarked staring at mine, unimpressed.

She went off to shop and returned with arms filled with green papaya and bunches of pepper leaves. She simmered and sprinkled like a witch and then sat me down with a firm “eat.” It tasted rather bland but felt warmly nourishing. I downed two bowls full and sat back skeptically.

The next morning was complete and glorious havoc. My breasts ballooned and opened like taps. They leaked everywhere. My baby gulped and dribbled and then fell back, rolling his eyes upward in ecstasy. I drank that soup on and off for the next four months and never again had any trouble. I ended up breastfeeding for fourteen months. It almost makes me wish I had tried the pig trotters sooner.


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