Thursday, November 20, 2014

Colin update - 5 months old

Big news, Colin is 5 months and 5 days old today, and he rolled over! He rolled over from front to back today while we were playing on the floor. It took a little cheering from mom, but he figured out how to push himself up, lean to the right, and fall over. And he was so happy about it!

But that's not all this 5-month-old can do! He is using his hands really well lately to grab at just about anything within reach. This could be one of his favorite toys, like the teething keys or his toy car from the Nustras, or the skin just behind my ears or my hair. It's fun to watch him reach for things. Tonight at dinner, he made a grab for one of Jack's rengoli colorings.

Colin is also very social now. He smiles at just about everyone, but especially his family members. His face lights up when he sees Steve, and it makes everyone else who sees it smile too. He likes to laugh and giggle. And nothing makes him giggle more than Reid and Jack putting on a show for him. Colin will even look for Jack and Reid if he knows they are around.

Unfortunately, this newly social baby does not like to be alone, or left at ground level unless someone else is at ground level with him. He likes to be held, a lot. 

As for sleep, he's getting better. He has slept through the night on occasion (and by slept through the night, I mean from 10:30 until 5 a.m. or so). A good night is only waking 2 or 3 times to nurse. He is starting to go to sleep between 7 and 8 p.m. He'll usually fall asleep while we rock him and sing to him. We're not to the point of laying him down while drowsy, though. Social baby will look for you and cry until you return if you do that. And usually he wakes up for the day between 6:30 and 7. He's also getting better about naps. He's going down around 10 a.m. for a morning nap and then usually around 1:30 for another one. Occasionally there's a third nap after we pick up Jack from school too. 

Of course, there's always the fun little things you notice too. For instance, he farts like a grown man, according to Steve (although it's hard to disagree with this).  He is still spitting a lot too, but it's still improving. He doesn't spit up during his night feedings, which is nice. The spitting usually happens when he's excited and playing during the day. 

Well, he's on the move now, so we'll see what his sixth month will bring!

Reid is 3 years old!

Our little monkey has turned 3 this month. And wow, boy is he three!

I remember when Jack turned three and thought "The terrible twos are over, so what is this business?!?" So I was a little more prepared for the second-to-second mood changes and the meltdowns over seemingly meaningless events. Being prepared makes this stage slightly easier this time around since I now have the foresight that it will end.

Reid is an incredibly loving boy. Our favorite is when he wakes up happy and spends the morning telling all of us individually that he loves us and giving great big hugs. There are also many unprompted thank yous. For example, "Thank you, mom, for making me oatmeal." Or "Thank you, dad, for putting my socks on." It's very cute.

He has also become very independent. He likes to help in the kitchen when he can. He likes to push the buttons on the microwave or pour things into bowls. He can get dressed all by himself (and his clothes are where he can reach them, so he doesn't even need help getting them!). He is growing out of the stroller and would much rather scoot than sit and ride. Luckily, we can still bribe him into riding with snacks. This comes in handy when we are exploring London or going for long walks.

Reid is a budding artist, following his big brother Jack's footsteps. He loves to make letters, especially the letter "t". "Down and across," you can hear him narrating as he makes them in his notebook. One of his favorite television shows is a program called "Mister Maker" where the presenter makes all kinds of neat art from simple things like paper and glue. The artwork he crings home from school is pretty cool. He's made pictures of fireworks and poppies and owls and bears and hedgehogs. It's so fun to hear him talk about what he's made at school!

Another favorite activity is building with his Duplos. He loves to do this with Jack, although this can cause some friction as neither boy is very good at sharing blocks while building. They do play well together when playing pretend and dress-up. They build forts and hide from or fight monsters. Just the other day Reid saved Colin and me from several dinosaurs and dragons.

Reid also loves to be outside, and going to the park to play in the sand is a favorite destination. He likes to bring his tractors to the sand pit and drive them around or make big mounds of sand. I'm slowly getting over my aversion to sandy messes... slowly.

So that's our amazing little boy at age 3. We can't wait to see what this year will bring!

Monday, November 03, 2014


I was pretty nervous about Halloween this year. Everyone here kept telling me that we would be disappointed, Halloween is nothing like in America, etc. I was also worried that the boys wouldn't be into it since we didn't talk much about costumes until a week before.

As you can see in the photo above, costumes were not an issue. And we were not disappointed. Here's what we learned about Halloween in the UK.

1. It's still a pretty new concept to dress up and trick-or-treat, so no, not everyone participates. But those who do really know how to do it. Most people (from babies to adults) who dressed up wore scary costumes. Lots of witches, vampires, werewolves, zombies, blood, etc. I only saw one Iron Man and one Batman the whole day. I almost felt bad for my boys since they were dressed up as knights and a dragon and not something scarier.

2. Halloween is a one-day event. There wasn't a lot of build-up to Halloween here. We saw a few shops decorated during the week before, but that's about it. There were a few advertisements for candy and decorations here and there, but not much at all. The pub we went to, The Lamb, was decorated incredibly well, and they did it that day. So while people did go all out, it was for the day only. I saw many people putting out decorations and pumpkins in the late afternoon.

3. No one went trick-or-treating until after it was dark. I think the first trick-or-treaters we saw were around 5:30 and sunset is at 4:30 now. Most people were out between 6:30 and 8 p.m. It was awesome! My boys loved the fact that they were out walking the streets after dark. And they loved looking up for the stars almost as much as getting the candy.

4. You could tell which houses were participating by a lit pumpkin on their walk or in their window. No pumpkin, don't knock. So half the fun of trick-or-treating was finding and admiring the jack-o-lanterns. We even saw a carved watermelon/pineapple creation. The woman of the house explained she couldn't find a pumpkin anywhere, so she improvised. It was pretty cool.

5. Everyone on the streets was having a really fun time. The kids were all excited about finding houses with candy and reporting to others. And they loved explaining their costumes. It was a real community feel. One kid who came to our door even remembered us from the pub! And there were lots of people out. We went through over 100 pieces of candy. We haven't given out that much candy in all seven of the years we lived in West Dundee combined.

As much fun as we have had on Halloweens past, and we've had lots of fun with family and friends, I think we all enjoyed this halloween the most. I think the lack of build-up, the excitement of being out in the dark and knocking on doors with spooky pumpkins, and the infectious fun of the people in the community made this a Halloween to remember.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A day in the life

So after I wrote my post about Colin last night, I realized that I haven't been blogging as much lately. There are a few reasons for that, but I think the biggest reason is that we are settling into a life and a routine here, so there doesn't feel like loads of new stuff to write about. However, I should not let myself off easy like that. Just because there isn't something new and exciting doesn't mean there isn't a story.

So I thought I'd document a day in our life. And what better day than today, really. Today was a pretty ordinary day in our lives here. Nothing too special or spectacular, just run of the mill.

All three boys are waking up pretty regularly between 6 and 7 a.m. It's pretty dark still at that time since the sun doesn't officially rise until 7. This morning, Colin woke first and wanted to nurse. As we finished, I thought I might get him back to sleep when I heard the first calls from the boys on the floor below. Reid was hungry. So Colin and I came down a flight of stairs, collected his brothers, and we all descended to the kitchen to find some breakfast.

Lately, we've been choosing between Multigrain Hoops (similar to Cheerios), Scottish pancakes (microwaveable pancakes), porridge (oatmeal), or Nutella bread for breakfast. The boys also like to through a fruit in there, like bananas or berries, to round things out. Today, Jack made himself pancakes, Reid had Nutella bread, and I ate porridge. Welcome to the Barrett short-order diner.

After breakfast, and some playing around in the living room, we head back upstairs to get dressed for the day. This usually involves some fighting between the boys or between me and the boys. They don't want to get dressed yet, or someone is pushing someone else, etc. Today wasn't too bad. Both Reid and Jack got dressed fairly quickly and easily. So much so that I thought I could fit a shower in before we had to leave for school. I had a full 40 minutes after all. But as soon as I left them to play Space Astronauts in their room, the fighting began. Reid wanted to climb up on Jack's bunk, and Jack didn't want Reid in his space. Commence the crying. I brought Reid up to my room to play with Colin, and I still got to take a quick shower.

This is where things always get interesting. I get stressed for time, so I start to get irritable. I try to ask everyone nicely to come down stairs and get shoes on while I finish packing Jack's lunch. Some days it works, today it was not so smooth. Jack complained about being hungry. Reid started to complain that he didn't want to go to school. I think Colin even started to cry because he was tired then. But I got Reid and Colin into the stroller, and all four of us were out the door at a reasonable time. And off we walked to Reid's Montessori school.

It was a great morning for a walk. The sun was shining and drying up the puddles left by the rain last night. So after a quick, nice walk to the school, Jack, Colin and I turned right around and headed back home. We packed up in the car, and drove the 7-minute drive to Jack's school in Kingston. A hug and a kiss there, and Colin and I were back home to start our day.

While the big boys are at school, Colin and I choose from a variety of activities. There's always a nursing session and hopefully always a nap for Colin. Some days we clean house, others we go into Kingston to shop. Today, we met a new friend in Surbiton for coffee and lunch and a wander around the high street. It was a great morning.

After lunch, we headed back to Reid's school to pick him up at 1 p.m. This is another nice walk and back. Usually Reid is pretty tired after school, and so is Colin. Today, Reid did not eat much lunch at school, so he wanted oatmeal. I made him oatmeal. Then we all sat on the couch for a little quiet time and a television show. This is also my time to talk to Reid and hear his fun thoughts and ideas. Today, he wanted to try "squiggling" letters. There is a show on TV here where they teach children how to write letters, and today's letter was "i". I got out the crayons and notebook, and Reid practiced writing the letter i, and he did a great job! I think I'm going to have to look up other episodes and see if we can teach him how to write his name!

After a little TV, we played around the living room with tractors and cars. Then it's time to pile back into the car to pick up Jack from school.

Today, after school we had our usual snacks: apples and digestives. After a quick potty break, I got Colin into the stroller and we headed back down the road to the barber shop for hair cuts for Jack and Reid. Both boys are so good for hair cuts, I feel pretty lucky. I was a little worried about how Reid would do since in the States we always went to KidSnips with the movies and fun chairs. But I needn't have worried. He loved sitting in a proper barber's chair looking into the mirror and chatting with the barber. With a couple of lollies (suckers), we were on our way back home to make dinner.

I tried out a new recipe tonight, cheesy pasta bake. While I was cooking in the kitchen, the boys snacked on some crackers and watched a little TV. Then it went downhill a bit. Neither boy wanted to eat the cheesy pasta, even after I told them it was basically macaroni and cheese. Jack did eat the green beans I made, but then he threw a fit when I wouldn't scrape off the cheese or breadcrumbs from the noodles. He continued his fit when I wouldn't make him something else to eat. Being tired is hard. Reid decided to just skip dinner.

We did eventually make it to bath time. With both boys cleaned up and all three in pajamas by 7:15, I  felt like we just might make it through bedtime. Tonight was a little special though. With Steve out of town (actually, on his way back from his big trip), we got to talk to him on the phone before bed. The boys really love their dad, so these types of phone calls get them pretty excited and worked up. So we turned off the lights and calmed down a bit with a few lullabies. And by 8:30, both Jack and Reid were asleep. Colin has slept during this too. But he doesn't go down for the night until after a nursing session some time after 9 p.m.

So there you have it, a day in the life of the Barretts while living in Surbiton. Maybe next time, I'll try a day in pictures!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Peek-a-boo! Colin is 4 months old!

Time is definitely flying by. I once read a quote about motherhood that said something along the lines of "The days are long, but the years are short." In this case, that should read months, and I think that is very true. It's hard to believe how much Colin has grown and changed in 4 months. And then I look back at his 1-month pictures, and it is all too apparent!

Look at him, so tiny on the back of Blue Dog. And here's today's picture:

All chunked up and smiley! He smiles a lot lately. And giggles too! He has also started to "sing" when he is tired. I put in up on my shoulder and he just hums along until he's too tired and falls asleep.

Colin has really built up his muscles too. He does pretty well at tummy time, lifting his head and looking around. And when he's sitting in his bouncy chair, he tries to pull his head and upper body up into a higher sitting position.

He has started to using his hands more. He likes to grab onto toys and his burp clothes. He'll even reach for your hand when you offer it to him.

We have also hit an interesting mark in his life. As of now, Colin has spent more of his life in England than he has in the US. I'm looking forward to seeing what effect this has on his life, if any. After all, he has the same parents and brothers no matter where he lives!

Jack helped with the photo shoot today! Reid was at school.

Monday, October 06, 2014

They have arrived!

Our things have arrived! And we are surrounded by them.

We've made two trips to a local charity shop to donate 5 bags and 4 boxes of things we either had multiples of or just didn't need. And there's plenty more heading for the same fate.

But it is so nice to have our things, especially our furniture. Unbelievably, the moving men were able to get every piece into the house and into the rooms we wanted it in. Steve is loving having his snuggler (couch) back. And you cannot overrate having a place to sit.

But of all of our things, there has only been one type of item I've had an emotional response to having my hands on. Our books.

I was slightly surprised at how excited and relieved I was to see my copy of "The Americans," a street photography book that resides on our living room bookshelf. And my heart was so happy when Jack and Reid squealed with excitement when they saw their copy of "Stuck" by Oliver Jeffers. We've read it several times now in the three days since we unpacked it. 

So you can keep my furniture, I can easily replace that. I can (and probably will) buy new clothes. But there are certain books in our collection that I would be so sad to lose and have to replace. So I'm pretty happy to have those back in easy reach.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Three cute things from tonight:

1 - Reid read a book (Darth Vader and Son) to Colin as we were getting ready for bed.
2 - Jack talked to his friend James (our neighbor) over the fence and then ended up sitting with James and his sister Olivia on their front porch doing Rainbow Loom.
3 - Colin playing with his new playmat

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Living small

"Did you know the houses here are really small?"

We heard this from countless people when we started telling our family and friends that we were moving to London. In fact, we heard it so much, it became a joke between Steve and me. When something with preparations would get complicated and frustrating, one of us would break the tension by saying "Do you know how small the houses are there?" and we'd both laugh.

We knew when we started considering this move that the houses, and pretty much everything else, would be smaller than what we had in Illinois. We purged things constantly for months. We sold things on Craig's List, we gave away things to friends and family, we overloaded the garbage collectors. I think we still have too much.

Strike that. We know we have too much. And with the arrival of our shipment quickly approaching (next Monday or Tuesday), it's starting to keep me up at night.

When I stand in our kitchen, I look around and I am happy with the amount of space we have there. I'm actually comfortable with the small space and the lack of things filling it right now. I'm beginning to really appreciate the refrigerator that fits under the counter. We have six dinner plates, six salad plates, six bowls, four cups, two mugs, a set of silverware for six, a pot, a pan, a colander, and a few serving utensils. The beauty of this lack of things is that when you use it, you clean it up right away so it's ready for the next time you need it. Dirty things don't really collect on the counters. We run the dishwasher at night, which only holds the plates and cups and bowls, and wash the bigger pieces by hand. It's pretty easy and quick to get it cleaned up and put away. Don't tell Steve, but I think I'm coming over to the "less stuff/minimalism" side.

So I'm now up at night thinking about all of the kitchen things we packed up from home... and why on Earth I decided to bring them. Our plates and cups were older and discolored from years of use. The baking dishes and other cookware are probably too big to fit into our oven. The only things I really can't wait to get are the kids dishes and our mugs.

Then I start thinking about the items we had stored in our basement, like my wedding dress and our camping gear. I doubt we will have room for half of our holiday decorations. Ugh.

So next week, when the large truck manuevers its way onto our tiny road, we will be incredibly excited to see our things, to have furniture to sit on, to have our pictures of our loved ones. But it will also renew the process of shedding unnecessary things...

and making our "small" London townhouse a home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Colin is three months old!

Colin is getting pretty big. You can look at him and see that. And if you hold him long enough, your back will tell you that too. But that might have more to do with the fact that we don't have any chairs or other places to sit. He's also growing lots of hair. And I think he's slowly realizing how his arms and legs work.

He's also developing quite a fun personality. He loves to smile and coo when you talk sweetly and smile at him. He loves his brothers dearly, and you can see it in his eyes when either of them come into his line of vision. 

And I think we're finally sliding into a baby schedule. There's nothing set in stone, but he does seem to wake up, eat, play, then fall back to sleep. He'll take a pretty decent nap in the morning, especially if we're out walking around. And in the evening, after he eats, he gets pretty fussy before he'll go to sleep for the night. Now he doesn't sleep totally through the night yet, but he does do good stretches. He usually wakes up once during the night, after midnight, and then again in the morning around 5:30, then he'll usually sleep until 7 or so. 

He still spits a ton. We go through a few outfits each day, and when I say we, I mean both Colin and me. Today, I was putting him in the Moby wrap to go into the grocery store, and he proceeded to burp and then spit up all down my front and his. We wiped up, got Reid, and then continued shopping. I figured he was covering the spit up anyway, and I didn't plan to be close enough to anyone at the grocery store for them to smell us.

Right now, our favorite thing to do is go for walks around town and take the big boys to the park. He also likes to lie down on his back and just move and wiggle around. We're still learning that he likes this, so sometimes he gets pretty mad at us for holding him too long during his awake time. I'm thinking it's time to get a playmat/baby gym for this little guy.

On to month four!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A short update

We moved into our new home last Monday afternoon, and we've been without internet and reliable cell service since! We can get a little bit of a signal from the upper floors of our townhouse, but it's nothing great. This has made keeping in contact with our friends and loved ones quite a challenge this week. I don't think I've spoken with anyone in that entire time, which is a new record I'd rather not have set.

Things are good though. The house has lots of space (all things considered) and we have wonderful neighbors. Marissa and Preston have three children as well, so they understand our craziness. So far, Marissa has loaned us two buckets of train toys for the boys to play with, invited us to the park, taken me on a tour of Surbiton and had tea, and Preston and Marissa have taught us about radiators. I need to find a really nice bottle of wine to begin to repay their kindness.

Since we are also without television, we've spent a lot of time at a local park or, like today, exploring the area. We took a beautiful boat ride down the Thames to Hampton Court Palace and played the day away there. 

Jack has started school too. We found a nice small private school in nearby Kingston. It's not Montessori, but it does operate on a multi-aged classroom philosophy with kids having lots of choice about learning with lots of one-to-one adult interaction. So far Jack is not totally convinced he likes it, but his teachers say he is adapting well and he has had great stories about his days when he gets home. The school is called Educare Small School if you'd like to look it up.

I also have pictures from his first day, but those are on my good camera, and therefore have to go through my computer, so you'll have to wait until I get internet to see those. I'm posting this from my phone. 

So I'll end this now, before my finger falls off, with a few photos from this week (they were all taken on my phone)

Take care!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


I've spent a lot of time here talking about the struggles we are having. I've done that somewhat on purpose. It would be very easy to "Facebook" this experience and make it seem completely amazing all of the time since we are getting to see and do some pretty amazing things. But I wanted to have an honest record of what we are experiencing, and that means writing about the struggles as well as the cool stuff.

Tonight, I want to talk about an aspect of England we are all enjoying – the food.

Yep, we like the food here. I'd even say I love it, although Steve won't go that far. We have only eaten macaroni and cheese once, and it was from a can. It wasn't too bad, but it wasn't nearly as good as some of the other things we are eating.

First up, the sausages. There is a complete section in every grocery store dedicated to sausages. Steve cooks them up in a pan on the stove, we make a little mashed potato and veggies, and it's a dinner we all love. They even make sausages in flakey pastry rolls. We had to try two different brands of those to find ones we liked, but they make for a great breakfast!

Not only are the sausages great, but all of the meats here have been good (save one package of chicken that did not cook up well). My boys are particular fans of the meatballs. Again, we just cook them up in a pan, then simmer them in sauce and eat over pasta. Fantastic. To be fair, the pasta sauces here would not pass for pasta sauce at home. Papa Pete and Vita would be appalled. But once we are in our house, we'l be able to make our own great sauces from all of the fresh vegetables available here.

The fruits and vegetables are wonderful here. We ate an entire container of grapes today just because they tasted so good. The apples, blueberries, pears, bananas are all the same.

I think the difference is that the food here seems to be fresher. And you would expect that since most of it comes from local producers. The ice cream Reid had yesterday was made on a farm only 8 miles away from the park where we bought it. And it tasted homemade, and I dare say better than the Cadbury DairyMilk bar that I had (which is similar to a Haagen Dazs ice cream bar).

The boys have also become pretty big fans of Nutella (or as Reid calls it, Tella). They have it on bread for breakfast along with yogurt. And we've had Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch,

The only bummer about the food (and it really isn't much of a bummer) is that is does spoil quickly. But I think that's a sign that it's not chock full of preservatives. So we shop every few days, which isn't that hard since the grocery stores are quite convenient.

Now I mentioned earlier that Steve isn't in love with the food here. That's because everything is fairly bland. He ordered a burrito from the only Mexican restaurant in the country (presumably) and ordered it medium spicy. He should have gone hot, he said. But this lack of spicy hotness is probably why Jack and I like it so much. Give us a plate of buttered noodles and a good breaded chicken and we're happy!

Of course, after all of these meals, you need to have dessert. We have been having loads of fun trying out all of the different chocolates and treats. So far the boys love the Cadbury chocolate buttons best. I like all of them best. It's a good thing we're walking all over the place here so we can afford to indulge in dessert!

I think we're looking forward to having a fully stocked kitchen so we can really explore the food London has to offer.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A few more steps forward... while dragging an elephant through the mud attached to tractor trying to drive backwards

I am in total awe of immigrants. Even though I know I am technically an immigrant myself, I don't count myself among those of whom I am in awe.

Steve and I both entered into this move across the ocean thing knowing it would be difficult. What we didn't realise was where the difficulties would come from.

First, money. We are very fortunate, through hard work and lots of planning, to be financially prepared for this move. The banks, however, are doing their best to keep us from our money. I have always been a fan of Chase bank... until now. They have done everything possible to make it as hard as possible for us to get our money into our account in this country. We have had to do three separate wire transfers over three separate days because they have rules that don't allow us to transfer as much of our money as we would like in one transaction. And then they charge us $40 for each wire transfer. When we call to talk to people/supervisors about this, there is nothing they can do. Steve has spent hours, yes hours, on the phone with them just to get us access to our own money. I now hate Chase.

The bank here in London is a little better (they pay a much better interest rate and allow us access to our money just about instantly). But they haven't made it easy either. We had to wait a week to get our debit cards, then an extra day to get the PIN numbers to use them. They send everything through the mail and each thing comes separately. In order to get this account, we had to sit through a 2 1/2 hour meeting with all three of our children, and I still have to have another meeting (luckily over the phone this time) to discuss our accounts and options further. However, now that the account is setup and we have our cards, the banking system here works way better than in the States. Did I mention the interest rates? We've earned more interest here in the two weeks we've had an account than we have at Chase in the last 5 years.

Next, housing. The housing situation here in London is tight, to say the least. We researched at least three different areas as far as demographics, schools, safety, train lines, etc. We really like St. Albans. We will not be living in St. Albans. In fact, we will not be living in any of the areas we researched thoroughly. See, we couldn't find a rental place available before the end of September (some not available until November), and when we did, they were either snatched up before we had a chance to see them or the landlords didn't like children. (Seriously? It's a 4 bedroom house, how can you not rent to children? And you haven't even met my boys yet!).

But it does seem to be working out in the end. Steve and I have dreamed about moving closer to the city for a while, and now we have found a five bedroom townhome in Surbiton, in London, to rent. We are going through the process now and hopefully our references check out and we are approved.

Then there are the schools. We couldn't look for schools until we had a house. So once the landlord accepted our offer, I immediately called the local council to see about schools. They start tomorrow. The woman I spoke with not-so-kindly informed me that all of the places for Jack's grade year are filled, and even if they weren't, I couldn't apply for a space until we were moved into the property anyway. Ugh. I don't know enough about the school system (nor do I have the time with school already starting) to figure out how to fight this. So now we look at private schools or hope that the relocation group that is supposed to be helping us will be able to find Jack a place somewhere close.

Like I said earlier, I am in awe of immigrants. The stories I knew of immigration involved people who did not have the resources we have (a relocation company and strong financial base to start). I have no idea how those amazing people found a place to live, found a job, found their children a school, and thrived under those circumstances and without hurting anyone.

Now, I don't want you to think that this is all struggle and hardship. Luckily it is not. There are days like today which make this place fun and exciting, exactly what we dreamed about when we decided to make this move.

Today, Steve had to go into the office, so the boys and I were left to our own devices. I got a load of laundry in, got the kitchen cleaned up, and we were out of the house by 8:30. We spent the morning down in the open-air shopping area playing at the park. Reid made a friend, Jack climbed on stuff, Colin took a nap in the stroller, and I had coffee and a piece of lemon loaf.

We followed our morning fun with a little British television and lunch in the apartment. Before the boys could fall apart, I loaded them into the car and we found the Verulamium Park in St. Albans. I was able to park our new car in the smallest parking spot I have even parked in (we all had to get out through the back tailgate; it was great fun!). We played on the playground, ate ice cream, checked out the Roman ruins, and enjoyed a walk around the immense grounds. We even found a spray park we are going to try out tomorrow (when we are prepared with our swimsuits). We had a great dinner of chicken and vegetables, and now all three boys are asleep. Steve and I were even able to get a little bit of work done (more papers to fill out and issues to deal with).

Monday, August 25, 2014

It finally rained... And we're doing laundry

Today marks the end of our first week in England, and it really was a beautiful week weather-wise. It drizzled here and there, but for the most part it was sunny and clear every day. But today, we finally got the weather we expected moving to London: rain. 

We didn't let it stop us though. In fact, we had a pretty good day because of it. We started off at Starbucks for coffee and muffins. Then we stopped at H&M so I could purchase a coat suitable for the weather here. Then we continued to walk through the shops exploring in the rain. We picked up some diapers and umbrellas and enjoyed the weather. 

We had lunch back at the apartment before we headed out for a drive around the county in the rain. I drove most of it, and it was great practice. I'm definitely feeling more comfortable behind the wheel on the left side of the road. I even avoided an accident when a car tried to pass another car by coming into my lane directly head-on at us. 

We finished our road trip with a stop in Letchworth Garden City where the boys played in the rain in the fountain while I fed Colin. They loved it. And Jack was so soaked he rode home pantsless. 

We've also finally figured out the washing machine here. And my dear friend Mary was right about the drying function - it's not much. So we're also learning about drying racks for full loads of laundry in a very small space. At least we have clean clothes.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stinky apartments and jet-lagged Barretts

I've been sending lots of fun pictures home and posting them to Facebook. And we are having fun as much as we can. The problem is there is just too much we have to do, and that definitely cuts into the fun.

See, we need to get out of this corporate apartment. We are on the eighth floor, and the lift closest to our apartment doesn't work. So we take the one across the building, which only goes to the 7th floor, and then walk across the building and up the last flight of stairs. You can imagine the fun when everyone is tired at the end of the day. Steve and I need to find a chiropractor here from all of the carrying we are doing.

Then there is the space, or lack there of. We knew space would be tight; we knew it was only a two-bedroom. However, the lack of space for over a week is taking its toll on all of us. The boys are great about sharing a room. The bathrooms are very nice. But there is nowhere to put our suitcases and other bits. So we are constantly moving things around to do whatever we need to do next. Dinner time? Move the stack of papers that is our life to the couch. Bedtime? Move the stacks of clothes that need to be washed. Kids in bed? Pull out the computers and papers and try to get something done. I can't wait to have designated places for our things.

Of course, there's also the smell (hence the title of this blog). Steve cleaned out a pipe under the sink the other night trying to get rid of it. It's a mildewy, musty smell that permeates the kitchen. It made me a little nervous to do the laundry (the washer is in the kitchen), but that turned out not to be the issue with the laundry. So every time we return to the apartment, the boys walk in and say "It smells". Yep, it does.

Okay, I think that is enough "Woe is me" for tonight. The bright side of the last few days has been the parks and the treats. The boys love the old school parks here with the metal slides and wooden obstacles. We actually saw a kid get a bloody nose today. That's how playgrounds should be done. We also love the chocolates and treats. It's pretty fun to go into the store and pick out a new chocolate to try; they are all so great. Yesterday, I found a Cadbury Oreo chocolate bar and it was as good as it sounds. The boys had a great time at a restaurant chain called Pizza Express. The food was good and the waiter even taught the boys how to throw pizza dough and let them try it out.

So there you go, while we are having fun and it's a little like vacation (or holiday as I need to learn), moving across the ocean isn't exactly easy. We're making the best of it. Now, I need to get some sleep because I have some serious roundabouts to drive through tomorrow and we have to find a house and a car.

Since we miss our family and friends terribly, here are a few pictures that we like to look at when we are feeling sad.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We are here! We are here!

We made it to England!

And so far, we're all extremely overtired and jetlagged!

The 8 hour flight was fantastically uneventful. There were a few extra seats near Steve and the big boys in coach, so Jack and Reid got to stretch out and sleep. Steve didn't sleep much since he was worried about the boys though.

Colin and I were treated extremely well in business class, so he returned the favor and didn't make a peep the entire time, One of the flight attendants even accused him of being a fake baby since he was so good! He was the hit of the section. And he even nursed twice! So I was able to enjoy my beef short rib dinner and hot fudge sundae dessert! If we could afford it, I'd fly business class every time!

Once we arrived, we made our way slowly and awkwardly to our rental car, a Volkswagen Sharan. We did end up getting everything packed, but we had a lot of stuff: 6 suitcases, 6 carry-ons, 3 car seats, and 1 stroller. I thought for sure we'd have to split up for the ride to the apartment so I could take a taxi to bring whatever didn't fit in the Sharan. Turns out we fit better in the car here than we did in limo on the way to O'Hare! We even had a little room to spare!

We had a little trouble getting in to the apartment, but after a phone call or two, we figured out how to get into the building and met the guy with the keys. Steve and I got the boys (all 3) down for naps, and even got a little sleep ourselves.

We finished our first day with a trip to Harpenden for dinner and a grocery shop trip. We bought the basics: eggs, bread, milk, nutella, Digestives, and Cadbury chocolates. We should be set for breakfast! And while we didn't get fish and chips for dinner (we had pizza at a pretty nice restaurant called The George), Steve did take the boys by the Chippy and bought a box of chips for take-away. They were delighted.

So now we start the process of adjusting to the time change and trying to make this place a home. Baby steps. The boys only asked about Grandma Sue's and Nama's houses once today. I only cried once today about missing Chicago (and I attribute those tears to sleep deprivation). Keep your fingers crossed for us that these next steps are as smooth as our flight!

P.S. pics to follow. I'm working on getting a new phone and coordinating all of my technology!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Too much stuff

Movers are incredibly efficient.

I am not.

Today, the movers finished packing up our house and loading it onto a 40-foot container. It took them a total of 12 hours over two days to do the job. It was an amazing thing to watch. They had to take apart all of the furniture. They wrapped everything that wasn't boxed in brown paper. And everything is labeled. Just incredible.

In that same amount of time, I needed to pack 4 suitcases and carry-ons for our flight. I'm still not done to my satisfaction. Right now, there is no way we will be able to get everything on the plane; there's just too much. So tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday, I will be fine tuning the packing to make sure the essentials make it. Everything else might have to find a closet at a family member's home (Mom? Kathy? Cathy? Susie?)

I think I know what is holding me up though. I'm afraid of what we will "need" for the next six to eight weeks before our shipment arrives. I'm also afraid of how much things will cost in England. So I'm trying to take everything from here so I don't necessarily have to buy it there. And I want the boys to have comforts from home, so of course I need to pack that blanket.

The worst part about all of this is that I tried to keep the things we liked most out of the shipment so we could have them right away in England. Now these items are mostly clothing items, and I should not be so emotionally attached to them. But it's an emotional time, so yes, I do care deeply about Jack's gray and white striped shirt, and Reid's monster truck shirt, and Colin's frogs and dogs pajamas. But I really need a place to put my camera bag and the blanket I am crocheting for Jack. Something will have to go.

So tonight, I will go to sleep. I will dream about getting stopped by security for over-packing, or about the taxi driver in London telling me I have to leave something behind, or my camera bag telling me I'm a horrible person for not packing it first. I have problems.

And I'm not efficient.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Checking off the list

Today we christened Colin with all of our family present. It was a beautiful day. Colin had mixed feelings about it. He cried a lot at the start of the ceremony until Steve got him to sleep. After that, he slept soundly through all of the oils and water and candles. He even slept pretty well once we got home.

And with that, we check another thing off of our "before we move" list. We've been able to check quite a few things off this week. We sent off our visa applications. We got rid of some more furniture we aren't taking with us and no one wanted to buy. We cleaned up our bank accounts. We sold our Jeep and our patio furniture.

This week has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. I cried a little when the people came to pick up the patio furniture. The screened-in porch is by far my favorite place in the house, and I loved sitting out there whenever I had the chance. I have lots of good memories sitting out there by myself reading, or enjoying drinks with Steve, or talking journalism with friends, and so on.

But I also get excited. I had a great time exploring Hemel-Hampstead and Harpenden through Google Maps. Seeing the appointment for the bank in London on our calendar is pretty cool too. And then we booked our flights. That was pretty exciting.

I think what hasn't hit me yet (and mostly because I just won't let myself think about it too much) is the saying goodbye to family and friends. Colin's christening party was lots of fun. I have some great pictures of all of the kids, and it's so cool to see them playing together and having fun. It's hard to explain the joy of seeing the boys and girl running around with masks on or screaming at the suggestion of going outside to play.

But today, we did start planning our last days in Chicagoland. We started talking about how we will get to the airport. And I realized that this goodbye stuff isn't just about us, it's also about all of these people we hold dear. It's time to start saying "see you soon".

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lasts and firsts

Today is my 38th birthday. It's been a wonderful day, lunch outside, a trip to the pool, Lou Malnati's for dinner, and hugs and kisses from my boys all day long. I even received several homemade presents including flowers, drawings, and books.

Birthdays always getting me thinking about the past and the future at the same time. Today is no different. In all of our cleaning lately, I came across some pictures from my 30th birthday. At the time, Steve and I were married but had no children. I was blonde, he had hair. We celebrated my birthday at the Nustra cottage with my dear friend Amy, who was visiting from Atlanta. We all look so young and energetic in the photos. Great memories.

And then I started to think about my 39th birthday. I will probably celebrate that one in England. So my 38th birthday is probably my last birthday in the states for a while. Kind of strange.

And that's been my way of thinking a lot lately. Our last trip to Santa's Village, our last get together with good friends, our last doctors' visits.

Of course, these are just lasts before we move. I know we will get together with our friends on trips back, and we might make it back to Santa's Village too.

There's no escaping it, the countdown is on for our move to London. Three weeks to go.

But with that comes many firsts. The boys' first passports, our first car in England, our first places to visit in Europe. And these are pretty fun to think about.

This whole experience is a bit of a whirlwind. With only three weeks to go, you would think we would be all set and organized. The truth is, we still don't have our plane tickets booked because our visas aren't finalized and we haven't scheduled the movers yet. These things are all in the works, and I have complete faith they will all get done in time. It's just a lot is happening at once, a little like lasts and firsts at the same time.

So instead of getting caught up in the crazy, I'm trying to focus on the little important things. Like how I will stay in touch with all of our wonderful family and friends. FaceTime and Skype will be essential. You can find me on Skype at karbarrett11. We taught our moms how to use these this week. I've also become much more proficient at texting using WhatsApp. And of course, I'm trying to blog a little more so I can keep track of all these wonderful crazy things happening for both myself and anyone else who's interested in reading about it.

I'm really looking forward to the last time I drive on 90 through construction and the first time I get to drink proper tea.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Welcome Colin George!

On June 15, 2014 at 12:23 a.m., we welcomed our third little boy into our family.

Allow me to officially introduce you to Colin George Barrett

And now he's almost a month old. Time is definitely flying by, but we are making the most of it. Having a summer baby is definitely different than my two winter guys. Steve and I joke that Colin has done more in his first four weeks than Jack or Reid got to do in their first four months. Colin has already been to several restaurants including Panera and Red Robin. He's been to the zoo, the pool, several parks, Target, Nama and Papa Pete's house, Grandma Sue and Pepere's house, and lots of other little adventures. He's a real trooper.

One of the first questions people ask is how he is sleeping. He sleeps great, lying on my chest or being held, and sometimes in his bouncy chair. Steve has gotten him to sleep in the crib for a few hours, but Colin is not a huge fan of lying on his back. I'm not complaining though, he does sleep, and as we get to know him better, we're learning how to get him to sleep better without being held (so we can get some sleep too!).

Now, just so I remember, here's his birth story.

After giving birth three times, I am completely sure that I am better at giving birth than I am at being pregnant. Even though all three births were different, all three pregnancies were very similar. I spent nine months feeling very sick and not myself. As soon as each boy was born though, I was back to feeling like my normal self (more or less). The nice thing about Colin's birth was that that normal feeling came pretty quickly.

I spent the last month of Colin's pregnancy experiencing contractions. In fact, I was pretty worried that he was going to come super early, while Steve was in Europe on business. Luckily, that did not happen. The last week before Colin arrived, the contractions became more frequent. Pretty much every night I'd have contractions and they would be five minutes apart, but they would only last about an hour or so and then go away. So on Saturday night (June 14), the same thing. Contractions started around 10 p.m.-10:30. I figured they would go away, so I waited. These contractions were a little more painful than normal, but nothing crazy. I decided to time them. They were about 3 minutes apart with the occasional weird 7 minutes or 2 minutes. The contractions started to get a bit more painful, so I woke up Steve and decided to call the doctor. My favorite doc was on call, Dr. Blazek, and after a short conversation mostly about how I didn't know if I was in labor or not, we decided we would wait 30 minutes to see if the contractions went away again. I lasted 10 minutes before I told Steve we needed to go to the hospital and get checked out. It was about 11:15 and I was getting pretty uncomfortable.

So Steve threw on some clothes, grabbed the bags and packed the two big boys into the truck. I made my way to the garage and felt a little sick to my stomach, but I got myself into the front seat and we were on our way. The boys were fantastic. Reid was a little upset at first (he doesn't like to be woken up) and Jack was a little concerned about me. I imagine that's a strange experience for a kid, to be woken up out of a deep sleep to get in a car with your mom acting very strangely. And I was definitely not acting like myself. I was able to make a phone call to my sister Cathy to meet us at the hospital. And I started a phone call to my mom, but had to pass off the phone to Steve after a minute or so because I could no longer speak. The contractions were pretty intense  and coming pretty quickly. I'm pretty sure I didn't actually sit on the car seat for most of the ride since I was holding myself up with my arms and doing my breathing to keep myself "in control" on the ride there. Steve was pretty awesome talking to me the whole ride even though I wasn't responding.

When we arrived at the hospital (at about 12:05), Cathy was there waiting for us. Apparently, so was my brother-in-law Mike, but I don't remember that. I'm pretty sure Colin could have been born right there outside of the emergency room had I realized what was happening. As I stepped out of the truck, Cathy held me up as I tried to ride out a contraction. At this point, the contractions were coming so quickly I couldn't catch my breath between them, so Cathy went inside to get some help to get me into the hospital.

By 12:15, Steve and I were up in the labor and delivery unit. Jack and Reid helped Cathy and Mike park the truck and then went to the waiting room. I feel a little bad for the poor tech who had to take me upstairs. She came down expecting to bring me back upstairs to triage, but as we made our way upstairs, she realized that I was going to need to go directly to the labor and delivery room. She was so nice. By the time we made it to the room, I was having trouble doing anything but focusing on the contractions. The tech tried to tell me something, and I told her I had no idea what she was saying. At that point, she and Steve got me in the bed and the nurses arrived. There was some talk about an epidural, but we all soon realized that was pointless. I was already fully dilated and Colin was on his way. Poor Dr. Blazek didn't make it to the hospital in time. In fact, the hospitalist almost didn't make it to the room in time. The nurses told me I could push, so I did. The water broke. I think I yelled a few times about how I couldn't do this. And Colin was born at 12:23 a.m.

Colin was the biggest of our three guys at birth. He weighed 8lbs 4oz and was 21 inches long. It was definitely a great way to start our celebration of Father's Day.