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).