28 June 2011

Where's my letter from Hogwarts?

They aren't exactly owls, but I felt like a letter from Dumbledore was going to shoot out of my fireplace or in through the post slot!! 

I think they were blackbirds and were on the roof of every house around ours--felt like when the turkey vultures would perch on the roof and watch Wrigley in the backyard in Tennessee! This picture doesn't do it justice--they were everywhere!

19 June 2011

Kenilworth Castle. . .

On Saturday, we went to explore one of the UK's ruins about 20 miles from our house--Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Gardens.  It is one of the largest ruined castles in the UK, and for most of its history, it was a royal  palace.  The great tower was built in the 1120s and remodeled in about 1570 by Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester.  The great hall was built in the 1370s and the gardens were created in 1575 for Queen Elizabeth 1.

Okay. . that was some of the history--and Keith and oddly Maggie really enjoyed listening to the audio tour-- but, honestly, it was just impressive!  When I had read that it was ruins, I assumed there wouldn't be much there.  It was unbelievable to walk up winding staircases and see the girls running around like they were the princesses living in the castle and the "ENEMY!" was attacking!  Just to see buildings, even in ruins, that have been there for so very long was quite an experience!

16 June 2011

Taking a walk in our neighborhood. . .

We have this really great pathway--about a mile long-- across the street from our house called a "public bridleway."  It is there for the horses from the farm behind our house; they use it to get to their practice fields and to be able to go for a walk off the roads.  I have been attempting to run a little bit (I figured I should try before my knees go the way of Brum's).  I really enjoy getting to run down this path, and the piles of manure make it a little like running hurdles! :)

Being sick. . .

I had never really given much thought to being sick in the UK. . .who would want to focus on that?  We have, however, had a nasty virus going through our house, and it is now my turn.  And of course it started during mid-term break!  Hannah had it first and bless her, she even got a post-viral rash from head to toe.  Then Mags got hit with it and missed the first day back to school after break.  Now Mommy is laid up with it.

Going to the doctor here is a little bit different. . .we have a NHS (national health care) card and are assigned a surgery, or doctor's office.  You call between 8 am- 10 am to make an appointment; if they are already full for the day, you are put in a triage queue and a doctor calls you back.  If he or she thinks you need to be seen, they will extend their hours for the day and make an appointment with you.  You don't pay for visits to your family doctor, and I don't know the exact details yet, but I think that all prescriptions are free for anyone under the age of 18.

Unfortunately, the doctor who called me agreed that I probably did just have the virus that the girls had.  This means that I am now sitting on the couch feeling like I have the flu with a horrible sore throat and what feels like golf balls in my throat.  I don't have my tonsils, so I can only imagine how ugly it must look down there!  And in a reassuring tone, that doctor told me after 7-10 days I could expect to feel better. . .GRRRR!

AND to make matters worse, you can't get Campbells Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup here!

15 June 2011

Hallelujah!. . .

After months of prayer and good thoughts, I am so very happy to announce that Hannah will be able to attend Saint Peter's Catholic School next fall with Maggie.  (We have been sending them to two different schools because there wasn't a spot at Saint Peter's for Hannah). 

In the UK, there is a class limit size imposed on schools by the government.  On top of that, despite being part of the public school system, Catholic schools have an admission scheme imposed by the Diocese and do not have to accept any students without valid cause.  In the normal admission process, Hannah would have top priority for admission because she is Catholic, attends Saint Peter's Church, and has a sibling at the school.  Also when kids reach Key Stage Two, which is Years 3-6 (2nd-5th grades in the States), there is a little more wiggle room for additional students.  So we had decided to wait and appeal when we could be there to speak for ourselves and when there was a better chance for her to find a spot. 

The appeal was to a board of three people who were Catholic and had a background in education but that weren't affiliated with the school.   A Clerk from the Nottingham Diocese was there to oversee the details, and reps from the school stated their case.  We were then able to speak about our reasons for wanting Hannah to attend St. Peter's.  I am so proud of Keith; he spoke very eloquently about Catholicism in our immediate and extended family, our desire for Hannah to learn about the sacrements with her peers and about our commitment to all of the girls' Catholic education.  Well done, Brum! 

Hannah's current school, Westfield Infant School, is a good school--highly ranked and successful, but I know that Hannah will find a better fit at Saint Peter's. . the environment is more warm and welcoming.  The kids seem to really watch out for one another and Hannah already plays with two of her classmates at church every Sunday. 

Hannah will have her First Confession and First Holy Communion next year; now she will be able to go through that process with her peers at school.  GOD IS GOOD!

14 June 2011

Gardening. . .

One of the things that I have been enjoying here is gardening.  We have, or I should say the landlord has, a gardener who comes every two weeks and mows and trims back the garden.  I have been puttering (easily a word I never thought I would apply to myself until I was much older) around in the flower beds.  It is really encouraging for an amateur like me to live in a climate where the plants and flowers get plenty of rain (although we are in a bit of a drought), and where a little bit of overgrown fits.  The English like their "privacy" (with a short i), so around the edge of the yard are numerous bushes and flowers and vining plants meant to keep the backyard, or the garden, somewhat private.  Here is the flower bed that I have been working on (with the help of the girls).  At the bottom is a picture of one of the pots the girls have buried--they chose their own flowers to put in them--this one is Hannah's.

Golfing with the girls. . .

Keith has started taking the girls to the driving range and to practice putting.  They have a great time with Daddy, and have even gotten to take some free lessons at a local course.  

We all went the other night, and after a shot that only went about 4 feet (sideways) into the grass, Maggie snuck out to get her ball for another shot.  As she turned around to go back to her tee, she noticed us watching her.  All reprimands went out the window when she gave us a disgusted look and said:  "That was rubbish!"  :)

09 June 2011

Charlotte's love affair with biscuits and bidets. . .

I am confident that Charlotte's first British word will be biscuits.  She is in love with them (as is evident by the massive amount of crumbs in my black upholstered car!). . .and in love with the fact that everywhere we go, someone offers her one.  And she knows exactly where to find them, too!  Here she is enjoying a Garibaldi biscuit (has currants in it). . tastes a little like a fig newton.

She loves the bidet that is in our hall bathroom (now that is a sentence I never thought I would say!). . .doesn't matter that there is no water in it--she just loves to play with the faucets and tries to climb in it on a regular basis.  Since none of us know exactly how to use it, I suppose that we will let her have her fun!!!  (FYI--it was thoroughly cleaned--I know somebody is cringing right now!)

08 June 2011

My UK substitutions. . .

Trying to find UK substitutions for our US products has been interesting.  I knew that food would be different and have been pleasantly surprised to see some brands we know like Cheerios.  But the search for equivalent items extends to everything:  cleaning products, toiletries, new socks, etc.

And the difficult thing is trying to figure out what is a good deal.  For example, you go to Tesco and a pack of Sharpie pens is 3.75 pounds.  Looking at the price tag, I think "That sounds about right".  BUT, then I realize it is actually about $7.  I love me some Sharpies, but come on.  (I will admit that it brought tears to my eyes when I opened the box that my office supplies stash was packed in!)

Some of the substitutions are basically the same packaging as in the States, but with a different name.  For example, Cottenelle in the US is Andrex (with GORGEOUS comfort!) in the UK:

I used a lot of P&G products in the US and they are equally as present here, so that has been nice.  The sizes for Pampers are a little different. . .it's actually nice because Charlotte will now be able to wear 4's for about 10 more pounds!  The types of diapers have different names, too: 

There are some companies, especially in London, that get American products and you can order from/through them.  And the nice thing here is that because England is the size of Oregon, most every online store offers free delivery!!  And now all this is reminding me that I need to go order diapers. . I mean nappies. . .and wipes or we are going to have some serious trouble around here!

07 June 2011

The little things. . .

The little things really do make a difference.  I have always went on about how Keith's brand of romance is doing the little thoughtful things that show me he loves me.  With the kids, I have learned that it isn't grand gestures that make them feel loved; it's the little meaningful things that work the best.

This whole move is a huge thing, but the barometer of each day's feelings is affected most by the little things.  That was illustrated in a big way this morning.  Hannah has been feeling lost, and most of her days have at least one blue moment when she misses everyone back home and expresses in a lot of different ways her worry that she won't find a way to fit in here.  But this morning at breakfast, there was a knock at the door.  We opened to find Leah, the girl from next door, holding a little gift for Hannah.  Leah had to run on to school, so Hannah opened it on her own.  Inside the carefully wrapped (and heavily taped) package was a little plastic container with a small string of beads that Leah had made for Hannah.  Such a small thing, but the light that filled Hannah's face showed just how much that little gift meant to her.  It meant friendship.  It meant acceptance.  It meant that someone in England other than her family was thinking about her.

As she exclaimed that she "would treasure this forever" I thought about the little things that have been affecting our family in these first six weeks in the UK.   Charlotte and her love of biscuits.  Maggie and a day where we just stay home.  Hannah coming home excited about gardening at school.  Keith watching Antiques Roadshow and marveling that everything the Brits presented to be valued were the caliber and age of that one good thing that shows up on the US version! 

I know that the little things affect me--most times those that know me best would say that I focus too much on little things.  But the little things are what make life so wonderful. . .and so chaotic and sad, too.  I have trouble going on Facebook because those little posts make me miss all that we have left behind.  The little messages starred in my Inbox that I can't seem to sit down and answer because many of them are from the people I am missing the most.

But there are great little things here, too.  Shopping on Castle Street with a Costa latte in hand.  Driving through a little English village that has been there since long before America was born.  The shopkeepers that wave at me and say "There goes the American lady!" Finding a great Spanish red wine.  Keith making me a cup of coffee for afternoon tea. 

Now I am paying more attention to the little things. . .after all they mean a lot, as the old song goes.  And as we continue to explore here, I hope that all the little things I share in these posts give all of you an idea of how we are doing.  And it does make me happy to know that this blog is a little thing that makes my mom and mom-in-law smile!

03 June 2011

Paddling pools. . .

On the radio this morning: "It will be sunny today and 21 degrees (about 70 F). . time to get out the paddling pools". . .I can't imagine that the water is pleasant in the least bit, but the girls are having a blast!  

Leah, who lives next door, is over playing.  She is 10 and Hannah is thrilled to have a girl close by.  AHHH. . .the sounds of summer. . and of normal!!

02 June 2011

Harry Potter

Keith and I have decided to watch all of the Harry Potter movies. . and I have to say that I am so glad that we decided to wait until we had moved here to watch them (I have seen them all, but he hadn't).  It is really cool to see things in these movies that we recognize from our weeks here! Some of the neighborhoods around ours look exactly like Privet Drive. . . the curbs and gardens are manicured in the same way. . and the streets curve in the same way. . .even the street signs are the same.  When we did our house-hunting trip, we took the train from Heathrow to St. Pancras train station which is the same station that the students take Platform 9 3/4 to Hogwarts.  And of course, although it's not quite as large, I have my Harry Potter closet!!  (no children are living it. . .for now anyway! :)

01 June 2011

Frustrated. . .

Our first Christmas in Tennessee, we got our mail on Christmas Eve and then opened it on Christmas morning to find that someone had charged $9000 to our Best Buy card.

We've just had our first bank holiday in England, and have discovered that someone made 900 pounds (about $1500) of fraudulent charges on my debit card from the bank here AND that our Discover card has some small charges that we didn't make. 

Luckily, we weren't held responsible for the Best Buy charges and it sounds like we won't be held responsible for the new ones.  Small comfort when so much of our info is online.  Don't tell my hubby, but I am fairly certain that internet security might just be impossible.  :)

Oh, and the worst part?  The charges on my debit card were from a swanky department store that I would love to be able to justify dropping 1500 bucks at!!  I feel like Monica when her card gets stolen and she pretends to be Monana!  I will keep you posted if I decide to take a tap-dancing class!!