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!