Howdy strangers!

Argh – once again, I went AWOL for a while.  It turns out that I’m fairly useless at this regular blogging lark.  This time, however, I can lay the blame firmly at my husband’s feet, after he ruthlessly killed my laptop.  Microsoftee renders Apple Macbook useless – coincidence?  I think not!

I have about 5 minutes before the monster-shaped toddler awakes, so a quick rundown on the Pepper family happenings of the last 10 days:

We went to the zoo!

Well, Evie and I did, anyway.  On what was promised to be the last day of nice weather before “fall” well and truly sets in, we thought we’d better make the most of it and headed across the water to Woodland Park Zoo.  At first, I must admit, we were underwhelmed – we obviously chose the wrong entrance (there are two – South and West), and kept finding endless birds and bugs.  Yawn!  However, thanks to Evie’s incredible map-reading skillz, we finally found the good stuff…

This zoo is actually pretty amazing.  The animal enclosures would really put many British zoos to shame, particularly the various monkey “habitats”, with waterfalls, trees and hammocks galore.   There’s the African Village, a reproduction rural African village, complete with school, alongside the African savanna home of giraffes, hippos and gazelle. I won’t list all the sections of the zoo, but we could definitely have spent several more hours there and still not seen everything. We didn’t dare venture inside the Zoomazium, as I feared we would never come out, but maybe on a rainy day (of which I hear there will be many) it will be worth a revisit.   Evie’s most favourite exhibit by far though was the Humboldt Penguin exhibit – I couldn’t tear her away!

Check out these penguins, mum!

We went back to the hospital

This time to the Maternal Fetal Medicine department, for our prenatal screening tests.  Because I am going to be so very ancient when Ickle Bean comes along next year (35 years makes this a “geriatric pregnancy” – holy crap, better get the Zimmer frame on order right now!), they recommend the nuchal translucency scan and blood tests to check for any chromosomal abnormalities.  Once again, I just cannot fault the care we received.  The ultrasound room was complete with pregnancy magazines, twinkly starry sky lights on the ceiling, and they even blimmin’ well warmed the ultrasound gel!  Rather than the “Wham, bam, thank you m’am – job done!” experience I had expected, our technician spent a good 30 minutes on the scan, explaining absolutely everything she was doing and measuring, and pointing out various parts of our baby’s anatomy.  Like this:

GOT to be boy parts, right???

Baby even gave us a nice topical Halloween grin, just to finish off the scan nicely.

 And then we got to take a DVD of the whole thing back home with us – amazing!

A few minutes after the scan was over, we were taken to meet the Genetic Counselor,  who very comprehensively talked us through all the various anomalies they were testing for, and what they might mean for our baby.  She informed us that our risk factor was now low, from the results of the scan, but recommended a finger-prick blood test just to get more accurate information.   She even had a basket of toys in the corner to keep Evie occupied while we talked.  I think the overwhelming impression I get from my new experiences of using a “paid’ health system is that Money = Time.   There is no feeling of being rushed because the next patient is waiting and they have 30 more to see that morning.  Ickle Bean was not playing ball at all, he/she kept lying on his/her side and jumping around, making his/her neck hard to get to, but there was no question of giving up, or being sent away to drink a sugary drink or walk around the block – Caytie (yep, that’s how she spelt it!) just said we’d wait for the baby to fall asleep again.  The same thing with the counselor and the blood test – we felt like we had all the time in the world to ask questions, and when I felt lightheaded after seeing my blood dripping onto a sheet of paper (can I blame my new incredibly low blood pressure and not be labeled a total wimp?), I was brought a cup of fresh orange juice and told just to sit tight and not leave until I was feeling 100% again.

I would just like to point out that I am not at all on some kind of NHS-bashing mission here.  I know that the majority of the Drs, nurses and midwives you come across as a pregnant woman in the UK are doing the very best they can with incredibly limited resources.  But the whole purpose of this blog was to talk about the new experiences we come across through our move across the pond, so I can’t possibly fail to mention the very obvious differences in my experiences so far in this pregnancy, versus my pregnancy with Evie.   My midwife in Brighton was absolutely lovely, a very funny and very experienced lady.  But she had 10 minute appointment slots, and 10 minutes only.  There is only so much information you can share in 10 minutes, once the usual blood pressure, weight and urine checks are all done.

And so anyway…..what else?

The Dream House had its inspection

And she’s still so pretty!

Oh, but now she has RATS!  Argh!  But they might be squirrels. Because, according to Mike, our inspector “Let’s face it, squirrels are just rats with better PR guys!”.  Oh, and maybe a few mice.   Nice.

Actually, overall, the inspection went pretty well for a house that has been lived in by the same family for 18 years.  The only major finding was quite a lot of water in the crawlspace under the house, along with evidence of rats (droppings and demolished insulation, where they’ve taken it for their nests).   So we had to get a contractor in (the lovely Victor Wu, who came to the house to crawl around in the rat-infested dampness on a Sunday morning – that’s dedication for you!) to give us a quote to fix that, and the next step is to send that quote to the vendors and ask them to either pay us to get it sorted out, or to sort it out themselves before we move in.  I feel quite sorry for the vendors really – not only have they accepted an offer $20k under the asking price, but now they have to pay 6% in realtor fees (3% to their own realtor, and 3% to ours – versus our 1% total in the UK), and are being asked to fix all the major faults our inspection found before the sale can go through.  But they can’t pull out of the sale, and they can’t look for any other buyers who might pay more.  Oh, and all of these fixes still must be done before the 16th November closing deadline!   It’s a mental system – thank goodness we’re the buyers in this scenario, that’s all I can say.  This had better be the forever home we think it is…..

We took Evie to her first ever pumpkin patch

It was awesome!

And finally…..Evie and I developed a bit of an addiction to Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups.

 Ohhhh noooo – step away from the amazing peanutty chocolatey goodness….

Th….th….th….th….that’s all folks!    Back soon with your Peppery updates.  This week we have our driving test to look forward to (in The Beast – help!), Evie and my first Stroller Strides experience and an afternoon enjoying Microsoft’s version of Halloween.  Oh, and we might get round to carving those bloody pumpkins at some point – who’s dumb idea was that anyway?  Ahem….


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