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".