not how I envisioned ending 2009

Warning: This post is long, and full of whining. I’m sick, and this is what I’m like when I don’t feel good.

I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Dave and I were both sick while we were in England. It’s been pretty awful. For most of our time in the UK, we were both downing cold medications every four hours like clockwork, just to try to manage our symptoms.

We left Dave’s mom’s house on Sunday and drove down to London. We stayed in a hotel near Heathrow so we could be there bright and early for our 7:40 a.m. flight on Monday. I noticed that I was getting worse. My cough was so bad that it was making me dry heave. Because of my gastric bypass surgery, it’s impossible for me to vomit, but I could feel the lower part of my stomach – you know, the part that’s been surgically separated so it’s no longer attached to my esophagus – seizing up, and I knew that if it had a choice, I would be puking my guts out. That was unsettling.

Monday at the airport was a nightmare. We left our hotel at 5 a.m., trying to allow extra time because we knew there would be heightened security after that whole terrorist incident. We ended up standing in line for over an hour to get through the second security screening. And we were lucky, an airline employee came and pulled us over to the “exclusive” line reserved for first-class passengers because we had a stroller, and they needed to get all of the strollers on the plane.

Btw, while we were standing in line, every time I coughed, the old lady standing in front of me would look over her shoulder and glare at me. I started talking to Dave really loudly about WOW THIS COUGH SURE IS ANNOYING BUT IT’S A GOOD THING I’M NOT CONTAGIOUS, HUH? Translation: chill out, hag, I don’t have H1N1.

Our flight left over an hour late. The flight was pretty miserable for me. At one point, the lady sitting across the aisle from Dave passed a roll of cough drops over for me. I thanked her, took one, and passed it back. She said, “Oh no, you keep it.” Wow. I guess I was coughing a lot more than I thought I was.

The plane had a pretty bumpy descent and landing. Catie started to cry in her seat, and I leaned over to hug her and try to calm her down. Then, she puked all over both of us. And a little bit on Dave too, for good measure. Fabulous. This is why I always keep a change of clothes in our carry-on. We had to make a quick stop in the restroom for a wardrobe change before going through customs and immigration, I found a plastic bag to shove the stinky/pukey clothes in, and we were on our way.

[Side note to the person who had to clean row 29 of United flight 923: I’m so, so sorry. Really.]

Since our flight had been delayed, we missed our connection in D.C. Of course. I stood in line at United customer service for about an hour and a half, only to be told that sorry, the remaining flights from Dulles to Raleigh were all booked, but they could get us out the next day. Um, no. It’s less than 300 miles from D.C. to Raleigh, so we said screw it, we’ll rent a car and drive home. All three of us just desperately wanted to goooo hoooome. I had been fantasizing all day about sleeping in my own bed again. We found a rental car that had a compact car with a toddler car seat available, and off we went.

Three hours later, we were still stuck in D.C.-area traffic. Holy cow. It was sometime during that – when I was driving (or more accurately, sitting there with my foot on the brakes) while Dave and Catie were both sleeping in the backseat – that I realized that I had been awake since 3:45 that morning England time, which meant essentially 10:45 p.m. the night before on the east coast. And did I mention that I can’t sleep on airplanes? I kind of dozed for about 20 minutes, but that was it for the entire 8-hour flight. That’s a long time to stay awake, y’all.

We finally got home around 10 p.m. Catie was all refreshed from her car nap and SO! EXCITED! to see all of her toys that she hadn’t seen for the past 2 1/2 weeks, it took quite a while to settle her down. I finally got her to bed just before midnight and then crashed myself about 5 minutes later. I set a new record for myself – awake for 25 hours & 15 minutes straight. I don’t recommend it. And I have no desire to set that kind of record ever again.

Since we’ve been home, I’ve been really, really sick. I went to the doctor on Tuesday, he heard crackling in my right lung and sent me for a chest x-ray because he suspected that I had pneumonia. The office called me back yesterday afternoon to inform me that I don’t have pneumonia, just really severe bronchitis. Oh, and I have pink eye too. Because you know, I didn’t feel horrible enough already.

I woke up yesterday with a migraine so intense that I was involuntarily crying from the pain, and Dave almost called 911. That sucked too.

And you know, it’s not like we had big plans to party it up on New Year’s Eve or anything, but this is not exactly how I envisioned the big evening, either. Both of us in our jammies and coughing and miserable.

The good news is that Catie is continuing to do really well during all of this. She hasn’t shown any signs of being sick yet (although I’m scared to say that for fear of jinxing it), and her sleep schedule is all screwy from the jet lag, but we’re dealing with that. For the most part, she’s being totally sweet and lovely and well-behaved, and she doesn’t seem to mind at all that Mommy is phoning it in and just letting her watch cartoons all day long so I can lie around feeling pitiful.

Catie says, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!"

She’s also taking this opportunity to explore her own sense of personal style, with hilarious results.

I hope all of y’all have a wonderful and happy New Year. And I hope to be less whiny (and healthier) by my next post. See you in 2010!

Christmas Recap

Since I never followed up on this: we had fun with Dave’s dad and stepmom. This was the first time Catie’s gotten to meet this set of grandparents, and she had a great time getting acquainted with her Granddad and Grandma Sue.

Grandma Sue, Granddad, & Catie

For that matter, so did I, since this was my first time meeting them as well.

Oh, and I now have a pretty good idea of what Dave is going to look like in about 25 years.

3 generations, 1 face

It was a little creepy, to be honest. My father-in-law looks uncannily like Dave, but his mannerisms and the way he speaks are exactly like Steve, Dave’s brother. It was cool to witness it, but also totally bizarre.

We left Yorkshire and drove back to Carlisle on Christmas Eve. It was not anywhere close to being on par with our other marathon drives, it only took about two hours. Catie fell asleep a few minutes after we started driving, and she woke up as we pulled into the driveway. We told her that we were back at Grandma & Grandpa Roger’s house, and she applauded and yelled “YAAAYYY!!!” Ah, if only all road trips were that easy.

That night, we left our treats by the fireplace.

treats by the fireplace

Mince pies and milk for Santa, carrots for his reindeer. Naturally.

The next day, we opened presents.

opening presents is fun!
(Confession: I cut Catie’s bangs myself. I know they’re uneven and awful. I usually do a good job on her bangs, but I didn’t have the right scissors and she kept jerking her head away from me. The good news is that her hair grows insanely fast, so it won’t look bad for long.)

The only thing Catie asked Santa for was a stuffed reindeer that she saw at the grocery store. When she opened her presents and saw her reindeer, she exclaimed, “Hey, it’s the reindeer from Food Lion!” Yes, sweetie, I guess Santa knows where to shop.

Santa also brought her a metric crap-ton of other stuff that she didn’t ask for, which Mommy and Daddy are going to be frantically trying to cram into our suitcases for the trip home. I’m currently thanking my lucky stars that I decided to bring along an extra empty duffel bag in my suitcase. I suspected that it was going to come in handy.

Then we had our huuuuuuge Christmas dinner, courtesy of my mother-in-law, who is such an amazing chef that she should really have her own restaurant or something. That was fantastic.

Steve & Mags at Christmas dinner

me & Dave

me & Catie at Christmas dinner

And you know, no proper British Christmas would be complete without a flaming Christmas pudding.

Flaming Christmas pudding!

(And no, I don’t know why they call things pudding that are decidedly NOT pudding. Like, Yorkshire pudding is essentially a bread roll, and Christmas pudding is a type of fruitcake. I don’t get that at all.)

So, yes, it was a really great Christmas. Even though Dave and I are both still sick as dogs with this sinus infection/flu/tuberculosis/coughing-sickness-of-DOOM, we managed to rally for most of the day, and have a good time in between all the coughing fits and nose blowings. Getting to watch Catie enjoy the whole Santa Claus experience and open all of her presents was really the best part of the whole day. Although the fantastic meal didn’t hurt either.

Tomorrow we’ll be driving down to London (300 miles, not looking forward to that), where we’ll spend the night in a hotel, and catch an early flight out on Monday morning. Of course, because of that jackass terrorist, we’ve been warned that we should allow extra time for going through security, and that everyone should expect to be fully searched before getting on the plane, so “keep carry-on items to a minimum” (which, guess what? That’s pretty much impossible when traveling with a toddler!). So, yeah. Thanks a lot, a-hole.

Oh, and when I told Catie that we’d be driving down to London tomorrow, and flying back home the next day? She started to cry, and said, “No, I stay here wit’ my doggies!”

Grandpa Roger & Catie petting Zack the puppy

Sorry, kiddo, you’re not getting a dog. If there’s one thing your Mommy doesn’t need in her life, it’s another thing whose poop she has to clean up. If we bring one more pooping creature into our house, it’s going to be because I gave birth to it.

(And no, that wasn’t a hint that I might be pregnant. Not even a little. Being in a thin-walled house with one’s parents across the hall does not inspire The Romance. Neither does the feeling that both you and your spouse might hack up a lung at any given moment. So, no. No announcements here. But who knows what lies ahead in 2010?)

Christmas 2009

There’s a lot that I want to write about, but I haven’t really had a chance with all of our traveling, me being sick, iffy wifi connections, and getting all caught up in Christmas celebrations.

So, merry Christmas to all of you from the Butchee-Wilkinson gang. Dave, Catie and I did a little choreographed dance just for you. No, really. It’s all for you.

My brother Chris and my sister Tracy even made a special guest appearance, which is no small feat since they’re currently in Mississippi and we’re in England.

(A big thank you to my sister for creating this. It is the greatest thing I have seen in a LONG time.)

Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Hope you all get exactly what your heart desires.

my experience with socialized medicine

One thing from last week that I forgot to mention: I brought Catie’s nebulizer with us to the UK because she’s supposed to take Pulmicort twice a day during the winter months for her asthma. The asthma specialist she saw at the hospital last year recommended it, and we’ve found that it helps, so this is what we do. I have a spacer and an albuterol inhaler in case she has an asthma attack while we’re out & about (or, say, on an airplane with no electrical outlets), but she hates the spacer and freaks out every time we use it, so I try to avoid it. Since we only do the Pulmicort first thing in the morning and before bedtime, it didn’t seem like a big deal that I only had it in nebulizer form. (cue foreshadowing)

The hotel we stayed in near Heathrow had one U.S.-style outlet, so the nebulizer worked fine while we were there. Once we got to my mother-in-law’s house, though, not so much. I don’t know what’s up with the nebulizer’s voltage, but it shorted out no less than THREE different power adapters. I was starting to panic because Catie had gone a few days with no Pulmicort, and December is never a good month for her asthma, so I really didn’t want to let it go for too long. I figured that the next best option would be to get a Pulmicort inhaler; I already have the spacer, so it would just bypass the need for electricity altogether. She’d hate it, but you know, desperate times, desperate measures.

So last Tuesday, before we left for Scotland, I called a pharmacist and explained what was going on. I asked her what would be the fastest way to get an inhaler for my daughter. She said that if my mother-in-law had her own doctor, getting Catie an appointment as a temporary patient would probably be a lot quicker than going to the ER. Mags called her doctor, and got us an appointment time less than 2 hours later.

We checked in, and they didn’t take my U.S. insurance card or ask for any money. We overheard someone say that there was only one doctor working that day, so there might be a long wait. I suppressed my internal groan, thinking that we were about to experience one of these nightmarishly long waits that I had heard about the UK healthcare system.

About 20 minutes later, the doctor himself came out and called us back. I thought it was odd that it wasn’t a nurse who came to retrieve us, but it was nice. We went straight into his office, even though I had to carry Catie because she was already starting to cry (my poor girl sees way too many doctors, she’s now scared to death of them). The doctor had a fish tank in his office with a couple of clownfish in them, so that immediately diffused Catie’s fear as she started getting excited about “Nemo! Mommy, it’s TWO NEMOS!!”

I explained to the doctor about Catie’s asthma, the blown-out nebulizer, and the medication I needed in inhaler form. He wrote me a prescription on the spot. The end.

The whole appointment took less than 5 minutes, and cost NOTHING.

We wanted to hit the road for Scotland after Catie’s appointment, so we ended up getting her prescription filled in Inverness. That took another 5 minutes. And here’s the kicker: in the US, Catie’s inhaler would cost us $40 *after* our health insurance coverage kicked in. In the UK? Because Catie is under 16, all prescriptions for her are FREE. The pharmacist actually looked confused when I tried to give her my credit card. It’s funny, I expect a fair amount of culture shock when visiting a new country for the first time, but that was the first thing here that honestly made my jaw drop.

I learned that prescriptions are also free for pregnant women and senior citizens. Huh. I can think of more than a few people who might find that helpful, if not life-saving.

So, based on my experience, I have to say that if that is what one should expect from this evil “socialized medicine”? Then, hell, go ahead and sign me up as a socialist. Because that was freaking awesome.

Note: I wrote this post a few days ago, thinking that’d be the end of it. Now it looks like I’ll actually have a two-parter on socialized medicine, because Dave and I have both come down with some sort of Evil Sinus Infection of Doom That Won’t Die, and we’re both going to see my father-in-law’s doctor this afternoon. I guess we’ll see if I’m still as impressed with the UK medical system after this.

A Day at the Beach

Here’s the thing about 2 year-olds: if you make a promise, you’d damn well better stick to it if you ever want to hear the end of it. We’d been promising Catie ever since we got to Scotland that we were going to take her to the beach. Friday rolled around, and it was our last day at the cottages, so… well, off to the beach we went, even though it was ridiculously cold outside.

at the beach!

We managed to get to the beach during a brief dry interval, in between rain storms. Of course, dry does not necessarily equal warm. Because believe me, it was effing FREEZING out there.

Dave & me on the beach
Tip: If you see me standing like this, it means I’m really, really cold. Or I need to pee. One of those two things.

Catie on the beach
Quite possibly the best picture I’ve ever taken in my life.

See those black clouds on the horizon? They moved in a lot faster than we expected. We were only there for maybe 15 minutes before we got caught in the freezing, pouring rain and had to run as fast as we could back to the car.

Still, that might be one of the most fun experiences we’ve had yet here. Catie had so much fun running around on the beach, picking up seashells and throwing them back into the surf. She cried when we left, even though it was pouring rain on us. I promised her that we’ll try to take her to the beach next week when we’re in Yorkshire, visiting Dave’s dad & stepmom.

Catie on the beach

I have to say, Catie has been amazing on this trip. We’ve asked an awful lot of her with all of this traveling and driving. We’re never in the same place for more than 3 days, and we’ve driven hundreds of miles since we got here. The poor kid’s entire routine has been shot to hell. And overall, she’s doing fantastically well. She’s had a couple of meltdowns here & there, sure, but mostly she’s been completely sweet and delightful and fun.

Catie & me at the cottages

And sure, it helps that she’s got the undivided attention of four adults. I think I’m just amazed because I always talk about how she doesn’t adapt to new situations quickly. And clearly, this little girl of mine is just full of surprises.

In Scotland

On Tuesday, we left Carlisle (Dave’s hometown) for Scotland. I knew that we were in Northern England – whenever anyone asks Dave where he’s from, he always says that Carlisle is “up near the Scotland border.” However, I didn’t realize that we were literally 7 miles from the Scotland border. So we were in the car for 10 minutes and oh hey, welcome to Scotland! Which, wha? We just entered a new country like that? It’s odd because it’s all part of the UK, but Scotland is definitely its own country. Even the light is different here.


I’ve never seen so many rainbows during the course of a single road trip in my entire life.

We drove up through Glasgow to Inverness, and then on to a tiny seaside town called Nairn. It was dark by the time we got there, so we stopped for the night at a hotel.

The next morning, since we were in the area and I have yet to do a single touristy thing since arriving here, we stopped at the Culloden Battlefield.

memorials at Culloden Battlefield

It’s odd that even though the battle happened in 1746, if you walk around the place, it’s sort of creepy, and you get the vibe that something really awful happened there. Maybe it’s just the nature of Scottish moors, but the whole area just feels very sad.

From there, we drove the rest of the way up to the cottages. I’m not sure how to describe where we are. Dave described it as the middle of nowhere, but I pointed out that the middle of nowhere is a thriving metropolis compared to where we are.


The last 40-50 miles of road up to the cottages is literally a single lane road. There are places along the way where one side of the road will have a wide shoulder, so if you encounter a car trying to come the other way, you have to pull over and let them pass (or vice versa). That was… well, it sucked, quite honestly. It made the trip twice as long, and made us all twice as carsick, with all the stopping and going. We’ve been here less than 24 hours and I’m already dreading the trip back to Carlisle on Saturday.

The cottages themselves are fantastic. Dave’s family owns two cottages that are next door to each other. So we’re staying in one, while Mags and Roger (Dave’s mom and her partner) are staying in the other. We opted for the newer cottage, based solely on the fact that it’s on one floor, and it has a bathtub. The other cottage is probably the nicer one in its old-timey cottage-style charm, but the loft bedroom is accessed via a metal spiral staircase and there’s only a shower stall. Neither of those features seemed particularly toddler-friendly, so we chose this place instead.

It’s beautiful here. From the front door, there’s a view of huge, craggy mountains, and from the back door, there’s a view of pastures leading down to the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean.

(Note: this is where I’d insert pretty pictures of the scenery for y’all to see, if only Flickr wasn’t being a pain in the you-know-what.)

I’ve promised to take Catie for a walk on the beach to look for seashells later – we even packed her galoshes for the occasion. If this cottage had Internet access, I could probably be happy staying here for a while. But I don’t do well with feeling cut off from the rest of the world. I cannot imagine what it’s like for the people who live here.

I have never been this far north in my entire life. It’s worse than Seattle in winter, sunset is a little before 3:30 in the afternoon. My mother-in-law says that around the time of the summer solstice in June, there’s sunlight for 24 hours straight. It’s insane. I told Dave I can’t look at the ocean behind our back door, and wrap my head around the notion that it’s the same Atlantic that we swam in a few months ago, on our trip to Wilmington, NC. It’s completely surreal. It feels like we’re on another planet here.

But, you know, at least it’s a really beautiful planet.

(Note: I wrote this post 2 days ago, on Thursday. I’m only just now getting around to publishing it because that’s how long it took me to find a reliable wifi signal.)

one thousand

This is my 1,000th blog post since I started this site back in August 2003. It’s strange, thinking about those first few entries, which started about nine months before I met Dave. If I could have imagined my life now, I’m sure that my imaginary future most certainly would not have included spending Christmas in England with my husband’s family, sitting at a cozy warm kitchen table with a cup of tea and my laptop, and looking up to watch sheep graze in the pasture behind my in-laws’ house. Meanwhile, my husband and our 2 year-old daughter take a nap together upstairs.

It’s not what I would have expected, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, yes, obviously we made it to the UK in one piece. Catie did phenomenally well on the plane until the last half hour or so, but even with the one meltdown at the end, she did far better than we expected. We went through the border (where Dave got to through the fast & speedy UK/EU passport line, and Catie and I had to wait in line with all of the other “foreigners” – aka Americans, since I think most everyone else in line was on our same flight from Dulles). The very nice immigration lady told me that next time, Catie & I can go through the UK line with Dave, since we’re a family, even though Catie & I don’t have UK passports. Good to know!

We got our bags, got a rental car, and spent the night at a hotel near Heathrow. The next day, we got up and drove to Carlisle, where my mother-in-law, her partner/boyfriend (Grandpa Roger, as he’s known around these parts), and my brother-in-law Steve all live. It’s about a 300-mile drive from London, and it was probably too much to ask of Catie with the previous day being all travel as well. She did great for the first half of the trip, but the poor kid was just exhausted and bored, and she decided she’d had enough. We ended up pulling over and rearranging suitcases so I could sit in the backseat with her to calm her down, which (surprisingly) worked.

Also, from the backseat, I was able to effectively ignore Dave’s driving, which helped. I mean, he’s an ok driver, I just kept involuntarily reaching for a steering wheel that wasn’t in front of me, and almost screaming, “LOOK OUT!” because I kept panicking that we were on the wrong side of the road and the other cars were going to drive straight into us. It’s much easier to ignore the fear of your certain impending demise from the back seat.

We’ve spent the past two days just recovering from jet lag and not doing much else. This morning, Catie & I watched the UK version of the Wonder Pets. As in, the voices of Linny, Tuck & Ming-Ming are done by entirely different child actors with British accents. It blew both of our minds. (And, before you ask, no, the British version of Ming-Ming can’t pronounce her R’s either.)

Tomorrow, we’re driving up to Scotland – we’re spending one night in Inverness, then heading up to the Highlands to stay in our cottages. It feels weird to say they’re “our” cottages – like, oh so casual, “why yes, we own some land up on the northern coast of Scotland, doesn’t everyone?” But now that Dave, Steve, and their mom have made this a joint business venture, those two cottages really are ours, and someday they’ll be Catie’s.

I understand the cottages are near the cliffs and the ocean, and it’s supposed to be really beautiful there, so I look forward to taking a LOT of pictures.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites that I’ve taken so far. The rest of the set is here.

ready for take-off

Catie & I in the bathroom mirror

sheep pasture