14 November 2011

Overwhelmed. . .

I have been trying to play catch-up with the places we are going, but I take way too many pictures for that to be a quick process. . .but, slowly but surely, I am getting there!

I think it is safe to say that the honeymoon period of this move is over.  It's not that we aren't still excited about all that there to experience, etc, it's just that along with the dreariness of autumn and winter weather has come a bit of gloom at the Brummel house.  And I would say that Mommy gets affected the most by all of it--which is why I haven't been blogging because who wants to be bummed out by my whining?  :)

Right now, everything is just a bit overwhelming; the whole "strangers in a strange land" with three kids can be more than a little taxing.  And it doesn't help matters that even the little things are difficult.  I have been feeling as if I can't keep up with our life lately.  Which is normal for anyone, but it sometimes gets to be too much.  Like the other night when I wanted to sew a tunic for Hannah to wear to Egyptian Day at school. 

The tunic itself was really simple--I used a sheet, so I really only had a few things to sew up.  We were supposed to have had a sitter so that Keith and I could both go to a meeting about Hannah's First Communion, but Charlotte had started feeling a bit feverish, so I stayed home.  The meeting didn't start until 8, and afterward Keith went out for a pint with a couple of the other dads.  So I have to figure out on my own how to get the damned machine plugged in.  Some of our US stuff has to be plugged in to a transformer, and some of it can be plugged into the wall with an adapter.  Usually I would defer to Keith on that one, but he wasn't home.  So I finally figure out that I have to plug it into the transformer, but start over-thinking it and blow the fuse on the transformer by switching the wrong switch.  I don't know where the new fuses are, can't remember where another transformer might be, don't have any skill at hand-sewing, it's 10:00 and I'm exhausted, and Hannah still needs a tunic. 

Normally, I can come up with a solution, but it was just too much.  So when Keith got home from the pub, I was sobbing so hard that I couldn't breathe--snot running down my face, disheveled hair, frantic, wild eyes. . I was lovely.  Bless him--he fixed the transformer, got my sewing machine all set up, brought me a fresh glass of water, and I was ready to get the tunic finished.  Then the machine wouldn't sew.  Round two of sobs.  So I try to calm down enough to call my mom (who I assume wasn't fooled by me saying I was just tired and didn't feel good) to get her help.  Then the internet phone wouldn't work.  Round three of sobs.

Eventually, around midnight, the tunic was finished.  And obviously my little temper tantrum ("Nothing works in this stupid country!" and "Seriously, who lives like this--I just want to plug something into a wall!", etc) was probably about more than my sewing machine problem.  It's a strange lesson in human behavior to see where the frustrations of this move show themselves.  Keith and I are learning a lot about our marriage and about what kind of stuff we are made of.  So even though things have been a little rocky lately, I guess in the end, even that will be a good thing to come out of this.

Luckily, this weekend things started perking up again.  We had some new carpet installed which is always nice.  The sun was shining most of the time.  We were able to successfully secure a COSTCO membership, and it's amazing how 6-packs of toothpaste, free food samples, and two-foot-high bags of chips can make you feel like you are back in America again!  I am the first to admit that when I saw the People magazine and the Stacy's Simply Naked pita chips right next to each other, I got a little teary.  We were Sam's Club members in the States, so maybe they are the same at the US stores, but the carts were HUGE. . .it was hilarious!  If they are just in the UK, it just might be a social commentary on how Brits look at Americans!!

We went to church Saturday night and then, miracle of miracles. . .Keith, Charlotte, and I slept until 9:30 Sunday morning!!!  The older girls got up at 7 like usual and quietly watched TV, ate cereal, and played.  Keith and I joked that we couldn't quite remember what to say to each other when we were both feeling rested and in good moods!   Decided to take a little weight off my shoulders by saying no to participating in something, got stuff done around the house, and then because we had slept late, we were able to stay up and watch the Bears game (9:15pm start for us).

So it ended up being a pretty good weekend.  As is probably to be expected, life is up and down right now for us.  Luckily, there are as many, if not more, ups than downs. . .that's what I try to focus on when I am feeling down.  And this is a good month for giving thanks, so I am going to try and do just that!

08 November 2011

Disneyland Paris--Part Five. . .

Sunday meant that it was time to head home; we had a trio of tired girls and a full day of travel awaiting us.

Catching up with Mr. Smee at the hotel.

Disneyland Hotel lobby--and below, outside the hotel.
It should be noted that Missy was able to pack five people for four nights in only three bags!
I am getting GOOD at this packing stuff!

 At the Disneyland train station waiting for our first train.
 They didn't have the traditional beanie hats with the Mickey ears, 
but the girls did like the headbands with ears that were the alternative.

Even though she never warmed up completely to the characters walking around, 
Charlotte still left Disney with a love of "Mouse" and a sweet Minnie Doll.

We had a great time at Disneyland Resort Paris, and I am very glad that we were able to get it checked off our "Time in England Bucket List."  Our first family Disney trip to Orlando will always be the most memorable for one big and many little reasons, but we will always look at this long weekend amid the magic of Mickey fondly because it was Charlotte's first time. . .and it was in Paris!!  
I can't wait to go to (any) Disney again!!

04 November 2011

Isle of Wight--Carisbrooke Castle. . .

We weren't quite sure what we wanted to do during the girls' 2011 Fall Break.  We have a "bucket list" of places we would like to visit before we move back to the States that continues to grow each time someone says "You know where you should go?"; consequently, if possible, we feel the need to go somewhere anytime that the girls are out of school! 

I was online trying to figure out where we could go for a long weekend when I went to the English Heritage website.  They are a group that manages many historical properties throughout England, and we had gotten an annual membership that would get us in free to any of their sites.  It has more than paid for itself both because there are five of us and because even the most insignificant of their properties is intriguing to us!

I noticed a link on their site for booking a holiday cottage.  It sounded like a good place to look, and it turned out that they have apartments and cottages at some of their sites.  The only one available that would accommodate all of us for the weekend we needed was at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.  I called to double check availability, found out I could get a great last-minute booking discount, talked to Keith. . and that was that!  We were off to the Isle of Wight!!

To get to the Isle of Wight, you take a ferry from the mainland; we drove to Southhampton to cross there.  This is the port that the Titanic sailed from.  The girls were pretty excited about the ferry. . so was I. . as you can see from the picture below, Keith. . not so much! :)

The trip across took about an hour. . it was dark, so the girls occupied themselves in other ways.

We had a laugh over that one. . .just wish that we could have had her voice saying it!!

We got to the castle around 10:30 Friday night, and the housekeeper met us at the gate with the keys.  It was difficult to see much of anything, but it was very cool to drive through the big wrought iron gate and stone arches.  We drove up to the building that housed the apartment and unloaded the girls--Charlotte was fast asleep.  The apartment was much more modern than the castle, and really nice with a full kitchen and two bedrooms.  The housekeeper, who was wonderful and had supplied us with some light groceries and wine, went through the specifics of things and then left.  Keith went with her to figure out how to lock up behind her and then had the spooky walk (no lights) back to the apartment. . glad it was him, not me!!

And then it was just us in a 900 year old castle!!  Hands down, one of the coolest things we will ever do! 

The girls' room.

Charlotte conked out on our bed.

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful day. . and a beautiful view!! (Maggie: "I can smell some donkeys!". . more on that below!!)

Carisbrooke Castle has been the key to defense of the Isle of Wight for than six centuries. . .and has been of "great significance in the defence of the realm." :)  The first castle built on the site was constructed just after the Norman Invasion in 1066, succeeded by one built in 1100.  Not only has it served as a defense, but also as a residence, a garrison, and also as a prison to King Charles the I.

Princess Beatrice, daughter of Queen Victoria, used the castle as a residence until 1938.  This garden was designed in 2009 via a bequest and is based on Beatrice's private (privy) garden.

Waiting for the donkeys. . .
Another picture? I just want to see the donkeys!!
Donkeys have "trodden the wheel well" at Carisbrooke for centuries, and the girls were thrilled that there are still some there each day.  Keith and I were thrilled that the donkeys are kept at a neighboring farm and brought in each morning; their stable was directly underneath our bedroom! 
All the donkeys names begin with the letter ‘J’. This tradition was started when Charles I was a prisoner at Carisbrooke. When Charles I wrote letters or was planning his escape route, he always signed his letters with a ‘J’. So for 150 years all the donkeys at the castle have had a name beginning with ‘J’.
I think this one is Jigsaw.

On the top of the keep.
This is why Charlotte and I were at the bottom of the stairs a few pictures back. . .all that was between them and falling off a castle! is that wire railing. When we visit these sites, it is very easy to realize that we aren't in the States. . no warning signs. . .no five-foot tall plexi-glass walls, etc.

Above and below: St.Peter's Chapel--added in 1270--acts as the war memorial for the island.

The Bowling Green--which "our" apartment was named after.

I am so glad that we decided to take this little weekend trip. . .I am pretty sure that this one is one that even Maggie will be able to remember years from now!!