Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas! And a review of 2015 :)

I hope this post finds you all snug with your loved ones and enjoying great company. We have had another wonderful year in the Barrett Family.

This year, we explored some more of Europe and the UK, we hosted more family members so they could enjoy London and England like we do, and we made progress in settling into London as a more permanent residence.

Grandma Sue and Pepere came to visit in February. And since they were able to come during the school half-term, we were able to take a family trip to Plymouth, England. This was especially cool since Grandma Sue and Pepere had just recently visited Plymouth, Massachusetts before coming to see us!

In April, we took a trip to Belgium and explored Brussels and Brugge. Brugge was my favourite by far for its simple beauty and history... and chocolate   

Then in May, we took the boys to Centre Parcs in Elveden Forest. We had a blast riding bikes, swimming, taking classes in archery and den building. It was definitely a holiday of fun activity rather than sight-seeing and history.


Once school broke up in July, we headed back to Chicago for a 2-week trip to visit family and friends. It felt like a whirlwind trip though with so many people we wanted to spend time with! Luckily, we also took a weekend in the Wisconsin Dells to play with cousins and family and relax a bit.

Back in the UK, we squeezed in one more trip up to Edinburgh, Scotland before school started. It was a last minute idea, but we managed to find a deal on train tickets and an pretty nice AirBnB. It turned out to be very lucky since it was the last weekend of the Fringe Festival, which we didn't realise until we arrived in Edinburgh. So not only did we get to explore the castle and great areas in the city, we also got to take in a play and see loads of street entertainment.


And just as school started, we hosted another visitor, Nama! We had a great week with Nama while we showed her our favourite sites around London including Hampton Court and Buckingham Palace.

We took a break from traveling as a family in the autumn as Steve had work trips and the boys were getting back in to school. However, I got to visit my friend Candace in Prague in October, and it was amazing. I'm so grateful that my path in life has introduced me to so many wonderful people, and Candace is definitely one of those! She was a wonderful tour guide and photography buddy for my weekend visit.

Then in November, I had the chance to travel alone again. Crazy! I flew back to Chicago the weekend before Thanksgiving to meet my new nephew Joseph and attend his christening. Of course, I also got to squeeze in some more family visits and a visit with my dear friend, Cindy. I even made a stop by Wheeling High School to say hi to my old friends there. Those WHS people really know how to make a girl feel loved.

Finally, December brought us to another family trip. Steve and I have been dreaming to take the boys skiing since we were pregnant with Jack. We finally made the plans and headed to the French Alps last week. While the snow and weather were not ideal for a ski trip, there was enough snow on the ground that both Jack and Reid learned to ski and love it. And Steve and I even made it out on the slopes with Jack. Colin also got his first taste of snow. He loved it, of course. He was a pretty big fan of the sled and of just generally picking up snow. On the way back home yesterday, both Jack and Reid were asking to go skiing again, so I'm sure we'll have more fun trips to the mountains in our future :).


Even though we prioritise travel, there is so much more to our lives these days than travel adventures. This year, we found out that Jack has Celiac's Disease. We are so grateful to finally know what was troubling Jack and to be able to treat it simply with a diet change! Jack went gluten-free in April, and the improvement in his health and happiness has been wonderful. School is getting a bit easier now that he can concentrate, and he's finding things he loves to do, like play the drums (and ski!).

Reid has grown leaps and bounds this year. He has made some wonderful friends at his Montessori school, including one best friend, Alexander. He loves to have play dates. He also is game to try just about anything, which makes him fun to bring to new places. He's started to write his letters and recognise letter sounds. He can just about write his name these days. He is also still playing football (soccer) in a class on the weekends.

Colin has also changed a lot in a year. He walks and talks now. Actually, he runs anytime he has the space and freedom to do so. He and I started taking a Gymboree class once a week this autumn, and it's fun to watch him climb and play. He's also another music lover. He loves to dance and will do so just about anywhere he hears music. He can sing part of the Star Wars anthem, which is ridiculously cute and a little concerning about how he learned it so quickly. It makes me wonder exactly how much Star Wars we are watching and playing. He has also started talking. His first legitimate word (other than "mama" which he said for ages in regards to just about anything) was "Bubble". He learned that at Gymboree. These days he says all sorts of things including his first phrase, "all done." He sounds pretty cute saying "please."

I have been busy this past autumn working to get my British driving license. I include this because it took four months with lots of studying and practice (thank you, Steve and Marissa!). I passed my theory test back in October and just passed my practical test on December 16. So now I'm able to drive Jack to school on rainy days, and our family can finally get back to adventuring around the UK. We've got our sights on Wales and Ireland for 2016.

I've also been busy starting my photography business, KarenBarrettPhotography. I launched the business officially in October, and I've already finished a few client sessions. I'm looking forward to building the business in 2016.

Steve has been busy with work and supporting me as I worked to get my license and start my photography gig. He's done a great job leading his group at Salesforce this year. I'm always so impressed with the way he leads and works with people. I know I only see the behind-the-scenes, but he's the kind of person I'd like to work for. He's calm, honest, and incredibly smart. Of course, now that I've cleared my plate a bit, Steve will be starting his journey to a UK license!

So that's the story for the Barretts Abroad in 2015. We hope you have had a wonderful year too! And we wish you all lots of adventure and growth in 2016!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

One full year of school

Jack just completed his first full year of school in England. And happily, we can say it was full of learning, fun, and wonderful growing experiences.

His favorite parts of school this year were art and forest school. This is not very surprising considering the amount of drawing and painting and crafting he does at home, oh and the number of sticks he collects no matter where we are.

We love how much Jack talks about things from school. Just two weeks ago his class went on a tour of Kingston. Last Sunday, Jack repeated the tour for us showing us points of interest like where they used to tan leather with pee and where seven Kings of England were crowned. I wish I could remember all of the facts he spouts off about Kingston, or bees, or Brazil.

Jack has also made wonderful friends at school. We're always trying to schedule a playdate or hearing about the fun adventures he's had with his crew at school.

Now Reid has been in school for just about as long as Jack. Reid has also had a successful first year in Montessori school here. And just this month he has started going every day for the mornings.

Reid's favorite part of school is "drawing." It's been fun to watch his drawing skills develop over the course of the year. He's at the point now he can draw a clearly recognisable smiley face with hair. He's also made great strides on the shape inset tracing and drawing lines in those. And along this vein, he's started to write his name! He's also been very interested in letter sounds lately. He likes to imitate Jack spelling things. If you ask him a yes or no question, he'll answer "R - E - D, Yes!" It's pretty funny.

It's fun to pick up Reid from school and hear about the events of his day. He'll talk about his "best friends" that he played with and the work that he does. Reid has also made several good friends at school. When we see these friends around town, which is fairly often, Reid always waves and says hello, then turns to me and says "that's my friend from school!"

Now Reid will still go to his school through the summer, except for the times we are traveling or the occasional day here or there when we plan a fun day out.

Here's our comparison pictures from the first day this past autumn until this past Friday.

Jack - Year 2


Reid - Preschool 2


And just for fun, here's all three brothers :)


Colin's First Birthday!

We can hardly believe how fast Colin's first year has gone by. It's definitely true that the time goes by exponentially faster with each additional child. But here we are with a 1-year-old! And he's so very happy about that too.


To celebrate the big occasion, we had chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting. And Colin got lots of fun presents too.





One is such a fun age. Colin started walking on June 29, just 2 weeks after his birthday, and these days he walks everywhere.  He even has his first pair of shoes, that appropriately enough, have jets on them.

And while he hasn't started talking exactly yet, he does love to wave. We thought he started to say "hiya" with the wave, but he's only done that one day, and we haven't been able to get him to do it since. Soon enough, though, I'm sure he'll be jabbering away.

Colin loves to play. Right know his favorite things to play with are posting toys, putting balls through holes and down a ramp, putting coins through a slot, things like that. He also loves cars and the play kitchen. And he never passes up an opportunity to play with Jack and Reid. They make him giggle and laugh until he gets the hiccups, and Colin just loves it.

He's sleeping much better these days too. He usually takes a great nap during the morning/midday. And lately he even sleeps through most of the night, from about 8 or 9 until 6 a.m. We usually put him to bed between 6:30 and 7, and sometimes he'll sleep through until 5 or 6 from then.

Colin's eating habits are still developing. He loves fruit, just like his brothers. (I'm at the shops every day buying another bag of bananas or cartons of berries!). He is a carb lover and really enjoys croissants, pasta, and rice. The only meat we've gotten him to eat is bolognese sauce and an occasional piece of bacon. He's also is starting to eat more vegetables. He'll eat carrot sticks, peas and even red pepper, but he's not a fan of broccoli (which really isn't that big of a surprise). I'd say his favorite food is yogurt though. He'll have a meltdown if he's not done eating and the carton is empty.

We've also recently noticed that Colin is enjoying music. He'll dance in his seat or the buggy when we're out and there's music playing.

So it's official, we're out of the infant stage and into toddlerhood. Look out for more wild adventures to come!


And just for fun, here's the review of his monthly photos from his first year :)

One month

2 months

3 months

4 months

5 months

6 months

7 months

8 months

9 months

10 months

11 months

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fun Things From Today (FTFT) 09-04-2015

Today went according to plan, which is pretty amazing considering there are five of us to coordinate.

When I asked Jack what his favorite part of the day was, he said all of it. (Side note: this does not mean that he didn't whine and complain throughout the day about everything... He still did that).

We took a canal boat tour after breakfast. This was the favorite for me and Reid. The city is gorgeous, filled with medieval architecture. We also enjoyed the low bridges and the variety of animals including swans and dogs.

We also toured the Half Moon Brewery, the only brewery within the canals in Bruges. It was cool to see the modern brewery works and then immediately see the old original brewery machinery. We even got to go up on the roof for a beautiful view of Bruges. Did I mention we also liked the beer? They brew a nice blonde and a tripel.

After lunch at the brewery, we took a short train ride to Ostend to play in the sand and see the sea. The boys really enjoyed digging their feet in the sand and having a good play. Colin was a little jealous, but since he's still putting everything in his mouth, I wasn't brave enough to let him play too. 

When we returned to Bruges and the hotel, Colin had a great time exploring and playing around our room. There are lots of things for him to pull up on and see, and he even figured out how to get through the doors!

So today was filled with a little something for everyone. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Fun Things From Today (FTFT) 08-04-2015

We We went to Bruges today, and what a beautiful city it is!

We did a little wandering around after lunch, stopped in a chocolate shop, ate chocolates in the square. It was nice.

We also found a playground. This was by far the boys' favorite part of the day. They got to play around in the sand and go down huge slides.

For dinner, Steve got his mussels with white wine and I got to try Flemish stew. We both enjoyed our meals. Jack and Reid continue to enjoy the French fries.