Sunday, November 18, 2012

The New Normal

 We have been living in the UK for almost 8 months now and it is hard to believe how the time has flown by. We have crammed in a lot of trips, visits from friends, sightseeing England, the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee. I think we can all agree that this was a great year to move to England and we feel fortunate to be able to experience all these British treasures.

Besides all the exciting adventures we have had, we also have to live here. We are not on vacation. I make lunches, drive the kids to various sports/events, go to work, clean the house, cook dinner, squeeze in exercise, have date night with Pete and then get up and do it all over again. It's Issaquah in England (and if you saw where we live, it really is Issaquah in England-cul de sac, kids playing, middle class families). Amazingly enough, we have all adapted well to the British lifestyle-the kids especially. We walk more, drive less, use the train as much as we can, shop more frequently due to refrigerator space constraints, and have become real experts at queuing and finding new pubs. But, I had a great friend of mine ask me if everything is as perfect for us as it seems to be from my blog and more frequent Facebook posts. And the answer of course it is not always so great 100% of the time. We have our homesick crying jags, we miss our friends and family, we miss our dog, we get sick of queuing, drinking warm beer and not having enough freezer space for all the steaks I would like to buy at Costco! Doing laundry here takes a while and our kitchen is as big as a shoebox...but you adjust and make the best of it. There is a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork to do any little thing here...currently our passports are with the "DMV" of England so we can get a provisional driver's license, so we can take the written test and then take the driving test. It has taken 2.5 months of phone calls, appointments and more phone calls for us to get our vaccinations lined up for our trip to Kenya in December. Once we get our passports back, it will be more paperwork, queuing and waiting at the Kenyan Embassy for our visas. I know, I know, really rough stuff. Bad problems to have...blah blah blah right?

But the experiences we are giving our kids far outweigh the annoying daily "life" stuff we deal with here. It's just a new normal for us and will make each of us stronger, adaptable and further define what we want out of this one life we have.

Which leads me to our Autumnal recap... school started again, I started my job as a Teaching Assistant, I did a 21 mile walk, Halloween came and went and we had great trips to Stonehenge and Rome!

Always some "nutters" at the Henge...

Avebury Stones
On a lovely Sunday in September, we joined our friends, the Grimsteads, for a lovely afternoon at the Ham Polo Club. Think divot stomping, champagne and picnicking. Ahhh, British life!

Lord of the Glen poppin' bottles!

Dina Fab, Gabs and Hunter "hamming" it up at the Ham Polo Club

Channeling Julia Roberts...

My PIC (partner in crime)...gonna miss her come December 10th
 when she moves her fabulousness back to Seattle

Henry started secondary school here at The Piggott School. Secondary school in England is basically middle and high school combined -11-18 year olds. It is big and scary! After a few bumps along the road for him and me (losing things and organizational battles), he has settled in and doing quite well. He has 16 classes over a two week period that consist of maths, English, history, geography, french, German, PE, religion, life skills, design technology, art, food technology, science, drama, music and technology. I got carpal tunnel just tying all that! He is keeping it together for the most part and looking forward to a class trip to Normandy in the Spring!

May is the BWOC at Polehampton as she is a Year 6! May has really come into her own self since we moved here. She has diversified her athletics by adding cross country and a bit of swimming to the mix, along with her 12 hours of gymnastics training a week. She had her first meet this past weekend and came in 1st on bars and 3rd on beam! All the while, still being an excellent time manager and getting her homework done! In September she decided to run for House Captain of her "house" at school. She wrote a speech and presented it to the entire school and was voted Vice Captain of her house (against 7 other girls)...not too shabby for the new American kid. When she told me she got it, I was in shock! She said "Why Mom, you seem surprised?" I replied, "Well actually I am surprised. You are new here, you only went to that school for 3 months." Never been prouder!
Thames Valley Gymnastics Club

First back handspring on the beam...nervous but she stuck it.

1st on bars!

My job as a teaching assistant at the Infant school could be an entire blog post, so I will make it short. Teaching anywhere after teaching at Red Gate was bound to be tough. A 5 acre farm with classes of 16 vs. a class of 60 4 and 5 year olds? Shut the front has been an adjustment. The kids are darling in their little uniforms and accents, the women I work with are awesome and the curriculum is similar to Red Gate. I will say that in my 12 years of teaching, I have never had such bad behavioral problems - it is only a couple of kids but they manage to suck all of our time and energy. My original contract was only from this first term through December. They were able to extend it through Easter, but I decided it was in my best interest to decline the extension. It was not how I wanted to spend my time in England. So starting in January, I will be a full time Mum, get back in shape a little and have some full days to get into London and do some more exploring.

At the end of September, myself and 4 other American gals did a 21 mile walk through the Five Valleys of Stroud. In one day. It was a great opportunity to get away for the night, stay in a "silly cute" hotel in the country and then walk with 4 amazing women through the gorgeous Cotswold countryside. One thing I have learned about being an expat is that "most" of them are like me...outgoing, easy to talk to, fun and up for anything. You have to be if you want to survive in your new environment. Ironically 3 out of 4 came to live here from Seattle so we constantly are having small world encounters and a taste of home.
Silly cute B & B in Stroud

Molly and Dina Fab

Gettin' our GRRRRR on...

Lookin' fresh at mile 2

Golfers just playin' through cows and walkers!

Quaint much?

Backdrop of one of the check in points-how cute is that?

Being American and loving everything about Halloween, I decided it was our job to throw a killer Halloween party for the kids and their friends. It sounded like such a great idea at the time, but when I added in my energy-sucking job and how the new normal is here in the UK, it might have been a bad idea. I had all sorts of aspirations (from Pinterest of course!) to make cute crafty Halloween decorations, darling, delicious Halloweeny food and play lively tween-age party games . FAIL on so many levels! Baking here can be tricky with all the milligrams, milliliters and Celsius oven temps. Crafting can be tricky when they don't have the supplies you need like liquid starch and cheesecloth. You get the drift.
Pinterest FAIL!

 Of course, when it came down to it, the kids all had a ball. They didn't care that the cupcakes were from Costco and the decorations didn't look like they were suppose to look. They played half of the games I set up and would rather chat with their friends and play in the street. All the British kids said it was the best party they had been too. So mission accomplished. The best part of the night was that it was the same night as the Twyford Bonfire so after the party, we all walked over to the town park and watched a great firework show and a HUGE ass bonfire!
May and her spooky friends

Can you get the cookie from your forehead to your mouth with no hands?
Pumpkin Lady Gaga and a Spooky Scarecrow

The boys loved the pumpkin seed spitting contest and Pete
 loved showing them the proper spitting techniques!

Minute to Win It games

A couple of days later, after a 3 day visit from our friends the Bices, it was actual Halloween. We were leaving early the next morning to fly to Rome (kids had the whole week off for half term), so I really tried to downplay Halloween. It was pouring buckets of rain and super windy so it was not the most inviting night to go out T or T-ing. Pete took one for the team and the kids were classic when they got back - they got about 12 pieces of candy! Their expectations were a tad high!
Tom Bice and Pete at Sketch

Michelle Bice in da house
Trick or treating disappointment

The next morning we were off to Rome for a long weekend! Because of the busy week before hand I was not quite "on it" when it came to the schedule of sightseeing to be done in Rome, restaurant reservations and even picking up a guide book! But it was a spontaneous weekend full of yummy gelato, amazingly old sites, delicious wine and loads of carbs! The weather was fantastic and we walked miles and miles through this remarkable city. We definitely want to go back (maybe adults only) soon! Hopefully more pictures will be coming laptop died on me and all the pictures from the past two months went with it. We are going to try and recover but not holding out hope.
Trevi Fountain


Coliseum was fantastic!

Birthday lunch! Best truffle pizza ever!

Very patient perro!

Birthday cocktails at Hotel Minerve!

Cool torches in Travestere

Breakfast croissant from our hotel balcony!

View from our hotel

Opposite direction

The Forum...May and I thought it was summer. The Italians did not.

Ciao Pope!

Big man, piccolo auto.
Love this pic of Henry!
Modern attire at the Forum
Castle de Angel
First gelato stop!

Spanish Steps at night!

More gelato...

The Forum

Birthday dinner!

Keepin' up with Italian fashion...

Trevi Fountain at night

Last gelato of the trip!
In prep mode for American Thanksgiving this coming weekend! Cooking a turkey and all the trimmings for 18 Americanos! Preceded by the 1st Annual Twyford Tour de Turkey Tennis Tournament for the mums and some sort of combo American/British football for the kids and dads! Then the Christmas rush will be upon us with loads of Christmas fayres, lights of London, pantos (a Christmas play?), and holiday parties! Then the King and Queen of Idaho arrive, accompanied by their entourage of Lord Fruehling and Little Lord Ryebonesjones for a magical Christmas in Kenya!