Monday, 20 February 2012

Half Term a.k.a. Winter Break

The kids had "half-term" this past week so no school.  It was nice to take the mornings at a slower pace, stay in our p.j.'s for a while and hang out around the house.  The weather was in the upper 40's, but we managed to get outside each day for at least a little playtime.  On Monday, I was feeling like I had good energy.  The sun had been shining all morning.  I thought we should go for a walk to the small grocery shop in our neighborhood.  Of course it started to sprinkle rain as soon as we got ready, but we went anyway.  Amelia was in our new "pushchair" (stroller), and I put the rain cover on her.  Dylan rode his scooter and never once complained about the light rain.  On our way, we saw this "real race car" which was so exciting for Dylan.  In this picture, the store is straight ahead at the end of that street.  It was less than a 10 minute walk.  That will be convenient when we just need a few last minute things. 

Our walk to the local Costcutter store.   Dylan loved seeing the race car on our way.

As I described in my last post, we stayed busy making valentines and cookies last week as well.  We also went to a few parks for some fresh air.  Here are the kids enjoying the parks...
They love spinning each other around!

Yep, it's a trampoline with concrete around the edges.  Safety first!

Seesaws are always fun!

We spent time playing in our backyard too.  They love the playhouse!  Dylan and I decorated some of the stones with chalk.  Amelia watched for a while and finally joined in the fun.

Chalk designs in the backyard

On Thursday, I decided to venture to Bath, our nearest big city.  Eric told me about a huge park there.  When I plugged it into the GPS, it said 18 minutes.  We packed our lunches...literally the kids packed their lunch boxes on their own.  They actually did a good job choosing mostly healthy foods.  It ended up taking us about 45 minutes to get to the park.  Once we exited the "motorway" (highway), we sat in stop and go traffic until we reached the park.  Torture!  The kids were very good and patient, but they were anxious to arrive at the park.  Well, we were not the only ones with the same idea.  The park was very crowded with everyone off school.  There were NO parking places around, which is pretty common here.  We ended up parking quite a distance away.  Pushing the kids in the double stroller was more torture for me!  Dylan walked quite a bit for me, but my little princess is not much of a walker.  We ended up spending 2 wonderful hours at this park...

Amelia on the dolphin and Dylan behind in the castle

They rode the double decker bus on the carousel

The ice cream truck showed up.  Suddenly they were not too cold. :)

This park had at least 8 different play structure areas, most of which were on sand.  They even had ziplines.

It is a great park if I did not have to battle traffic to get here.  I was wiped out that evening, and even wondered if I would go into labor from all of the walking all day.  Luckily, baby stayed cozy. 

On Friday, we had a playdate with a friend from Dylan's class.  His mother is American.  She has lived in England for over 10 years now.  It was so nice to have some adult conversation.  We talked about all of the things that we miss about the states.  We went to an indoor play place, which they call "soft play".  It was a fun afternoon, and I am so happy to have a friend here!

Soft Play

They loved the huge slide!

I am full-term now.  I was 37 weeks on Thursday!  I am feeling very tired these days.  We are getting excited for my parents to arrive and for this little one to make his/her appearance!  And I will say I am excited for the kids to be back in school this week.  :)

37 Weeks

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Valentine's Day with my Sweeties

I love holidays.  To me, it is fun to get out some special decorations, make cards and do a little baking.  Of course I love to spoil my kids with little treats too.  I usually start preparing them for a holiday by getting out any books we have about the upcoming holiday.  This is the teacher in me.  I have my books categorized by holidays, and I bring them out at that time of the year so they are special and not just another book on the shelf.  We have been reading about and talking about Valentine's Day for the past few weeks.

I came to find out, here in the U.K., Valentine's Day is only celebrated by spouses and significant others.  Children really do not celebrate Valentine's Day.  In fact, I could not find one valentine card for a child or a grandparent.  They do not make the small valentines that kids exchange at school.  They do not decorate tissue boxes to collect their valentines.  There were no conversation hearts.  The stores had a very small section that included mainly just chocolates and sweets for adults.  What a difference from the store aisles in the states with valentine stickers, stuffed animals, books, and candy galore for KIDS!

So we got out construction paper, scissors, glue, heart stickers and markers.  It was fun making valentines with the kids!  I love watching their creative minds at work.  They had a reason for each little mark they made or heart they glued.  Here are some of the sweet valentines they made for our family...   

Amelia helped me bake some heart-shaped cookies.  She loved putting on the sprinkles (which ended up everywhere in the kitchen, but that's what the Dyson is for.)

I kept some of the cookies plain so we could decorate them over the next few days.  What a treat!  The kids loved putting on M&M's and sprinkles!

Here are some pictures of our Valentine's Days in the past.  Wow, time goes SO quickly!







Eric and I really do not do much for each other anymore on Valentine's Day.  He has been SUCH a big help to me over the past few weeks.  He has shown his love through countless house projects, grocery shopping, and giving the kids a bath for me to have a little break in the evenings.  I probably do not need any chocolate at this point anyway.  Just more weight for me to lose after the baby is born!

Hope you all enjoyed Valentine's Day with all of the sweeties in your lives!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Snow Much Fun!

The kids were thrilled that we got about 2 inches of snow last weekend!  Can you tell we lived in South Carolina the past two years?  Dylan just could not wait to get out in it.  As it was falling Saturday evening, he rode his scooter around and made tracks in the snow. 

When we woke up Sunday morning, the light blanket of snow was so enticing to them.  Amelia did not feel well Saturday evening, but she seemed fine Sunday morning.  I bundled up both of the kids, and they went out to play in the snow with Daddy.  It was such a delight to see the joy in their eyes playing in the snow.  The best part was, I did not have to go out in the cold.  I just watched from the windows as I took videos and pictures.  It was a very wet snow.  They enjoyed making a snowman on our back patio. 

Then, they had a little snowball fight with Daddy.  They eventually threw snowballs at me in the window.  Of course I pretended it hurt when it hit the window.  It is amazing how Amelia complains of the cold just walking across a parking lot into a store, but she was fine playing in the snow for over an hour.  I think Eric had fun too!  And I KNOW Dylan had a blast!

Unfortunately, Amelia's fever returned Sunday evening.  Then I felt like a bad mom for having sent her to play out in the snow that morning.  I was hoping it was just a little cold or minor virus.  She woke up late Sunday night coughing and saying she was itching all over.  When I took off her p.j.'s, she was covered in a rash on her arms and legs.  Here is what it looked like.

There is nothing worse than having a sick child, especially when you do not know exactly what to do to comfort them.  Of course this brought me to tears, which is pretty easy to do these days.  After washing her off, applying hydrocortisone cream and giving her Benadryl, she was able to settle down and get back to sleep about an hour later.  The rash was gone Monday morning.  I learned (thanks to my uncle, Dr. Reed) that hives like this can come from a virus.  Thankfully the rash did not return, but this poor kiddo fought her fever for 5 more days.  I took her to the G.P. (because you don't see a pediatrician here unless you have a major medical issue), and the doctor said it looked like it was just a virus.  She gave me a prescription in case it wasn't better in 48 hours, which it wasn't, so we filled it.  Finally, one week later, she is fever free.  The one nice thing about free health care is there was no copay for the doctor's visit or the prescription.

See, I thought she was feeling better this day, but nope...the fever returned!
Aunt Michelle & Uncle Ron...I love my outfit and boots from you!!!

So I was pretty much stuck at home with a sick little one all week.  Every time I thought she was feeling better, her fever would return.  I did get to enjoy a nap each afternoon as she rested on the "sick" couch.  I was just praying that no one else in our house would get the virus.  Well, Dylan ended up starting a fever on Friday.  I had to pick him up from school that morning.  His fever only lasted about 24 hours. It was fierce, and he was quite uncomfortable, but thankfully it didn't last long. 

We got a little more snow overnight on Thursday.  Amelia and I made a quick 5-minute "baby snowman" after dropping off Dylan at school.  It was not that I couldn't last in the cold longer.  It was the squatting down to make the snowman that was hard for me. :)

Dylan enjoys playing with his cars every day!  He likes to line them up for races.  Here he is before school one morning with one of his favorite cars, Max Schnell.

I am 36 weeks along now.  I feel good for the most part, but more wiped out than ever.  The baby's room is ready (other than I want to make new curtains), and the baby's bags are packed for the hospital.  My bags are partially packed.  See, I have to bring everything...clothes to give birth in, towels, washcloths, sanitary napkins, nappies (diapers), blankets, drinks, snacks, etc.  I am almost prepared.  The car seat is in the car between Dylan and Amelia.  They are thrilled to be able to sit by the baby!  

My appointment with a midwife this week was interesting.  She opened to a blank page in my "notes" (file), and said, "Ok, what is your birth plan?"  Ummm...was she talking about medication, breathing, who is cutting the cord?  She walked me through what most women here do during labor.  We talked about everything from a TENS machine (which gives electronic pulses on your lower back to reduce pain) to using water to be more comfortable.  I told her I just hope to make it there and not have this baby at home since Amelia was so fast!  She told me what to do if it happens too fast and we can't drive anywhere.  Eric was a bit freaked out to hear how to deliver a baby at home, but we will pray that won't need to happen.  Midwives do not check for dilation or effacement until you are past your due date, so I will have to be in tune with my body and be ready to go at any time.  I go back again at 38 weeks.  

Both kids are off school this coming week.  It is half term here.  Their school calendar includes many more breaks than what we are used to.  That must be why they attend school from September 1st through July 20th.  I am hoping it warms up here so we can get out of the house a little.  I am looking forward to just having fun with Dylan and Amelia this week.  It will be nice to spend this time together before the baby arrives.

Hugs and love to all of our family and friends!  Happy Valentine's Day! xxxxxxxx

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Driving Miss Daisy

Almost everyone has asked me, "How is it driving on the other side of the road?"  Let me tell you, I was terrified at first.  Not only to be on the opposite side, but also to deal with all of the roundabouts.  They rarely stop here, so you just have to jump in and GO!  My first week driving, I kept telling myself, "Stay on the left, stay on the left."  I must say that you are not really on the "other" side of the road that often.  Most streets are so narrow, and you can park on either side of the street in either direction, so you end up driving in the middle of the road more than anything.  You learn to yield to other drivers and take turns going through the small openings.

I must note that I was using very careful driving while taking these pictures.  I came to a complete stop to capture these photos, and a few of them were from the passenger seat.  I promise I was not driving while shooting photos!
Here is one of the streets in town.  See how they park right on the street, in both directions.  The double yellow lines mean no parking on that side.

Most of my driving is pretty close to home.  I take neighborhood streets to drive Dylan to and from school each day.  People park right up on the curbs, so there is a lot of back and forth as you are squeezing through the streets.  The streets twist and turn quite a bit too.  Oh, and they have several speed bumps and areas where it goes into one lane to keep the speed down.  My friends Kristi and Apryl would not want to ride through neighborhoods for very long! 

A typical drive through the neighborhood with vehicles parked on the curb

One of the areas that goes to one lane and the oncoming traffic yields

See, people park right before and after these one-lane sections, making it really easy to get through at times. 

In our neighborhood (or neighbourhood as they spell it)

There are not many stoplights around other than in town.  The interesting thing about the stoplights is that they turn yellow before a green light.  They still turn yellow before a red, as ours do in the United States, but also before a green.  Everyone goes as soon as they see it change from red to yellow.  I caught it here in Bristol while Eric was driving.

The red and yellow light together...that means GO!

Just a street shot of downtown Bristol.  Double decker buses all over.

Driving into "downtown" Chippenham under the train tracks

This was the road that led to the bed and breakfast.  If someone comes from the other direction, you pull up onto the side as much as possible.  No shoulders here.

We are sharing one vehicle here in England, which has mostly been mine so far.  Eric has been walking and riding his bike to work.  I hope that once spring rolls around and the baby is here, I can walk Dylan to and from school as well.  We ordered a 7-passenger, automatic (which is rare) Ford vehicle back in October.  It took quite a while for it to get approval through all of the right people at Eric's work.  It is expected to be ready in early March.  Nothing seems to move too quickly over here.  We have a new rental vehicle now that is much better for our family.  I don't hit my head on this one! 

Dylan about to hit Amelia in front of the new rental vehicle :)

I think one of the most difficult things about driving a larger vehicle like this here in England is the parking spaces.  They make all parking spaces for tiny, compact cars.  I have impressed myself with how well I have manuvered this vehicle to get in and out of tight spaces.  It is kind of like the houses here...right on top of each other.  I just prefer a little more space.

Huge parking spaces...if you drive a miniature car.

At least I am learning how to get around town.  Thankfully, I have my GPS to guide me.  Just like most things, driving is different here, but I am adjusting.  I am taking things day by day and learning as I go. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto

We thought the people in South Carolina had a strong accent.  That sweet southern draw seems like nothing compared to what we have here.  The British not only sound different due to the accent, but they also use English words in different ways than we do.  Yes, we both speak “English”, but American English is different in many ways.  We just passed our one month mark, and I will say, I have learned a lot about British English in the past 5 weeks. 

For the most part, I can easily understand what others are saying.  I will admit, I occasionally have to ask them to repeat what they say.  One of the first weeks we were here, we went to McDonald’s for dinner.  When we went up to the counter to ask what kinds of ice cream they had for dessert, the lady looked right at Dylan and told him the “flavours” and toppings.  He looked up at me with those big brown eyes like, “What did that lady just say to me?”  Sometimes the accent alone makes it too hard to understand. 

Dylan has come a long way in just a few weeks.  We have always known he is a fast learner, but he has astounded us with how quickly he is picking up on the British accent!  (Sorry, Uncle Mike…nothing I can do to help this.)  He is surrounded by it from every day at school.  He does not really pronounce the words like they do yet, but his intonations have changed.  His voice goes up at the end of each statement.  I will have to put up a video sometime so you can hear him.  We just laugh. 

I do not hear the accent as often since I am at home.  I have met a few other mums that I chat with before and after school.  I am learning the basics of casual conversations.  It is a learning process though.  When one of the mums walked up to me and said, “Are you alright?” I thought I must look like something was wrong.  Maybe my mascara was running.  Maybe the bags under my eyes looked extra heavy.  But I came to find out, that is how they say, “How are you?”  I have definitely been an observer, taking it all in and listening each day.  Here are some of the words and sayings I have learned so far…

British English                                                American English
hi-a                                                                 Hi or hello
cheers                                                             thank you/goodbye
cheerio                                                            goodbye
bits and bops                                                    all of your belongings-bag,coat, etc.
fortnight                                                           two weeks
trolley                                                              cart
boot                                                                 trunk of a car
buggy or pushchair                                     stroller
hob                                                                  stove
wellies                                                              rain boots
motorway                                                         highway
biscuit                                                               cookie
jacket potato                                                    baked potato
lemonade                                                          Sprite or carbonated citrus drink
plasters                                                             bandaids
jab                                                                      shot
come over for tea                                            come over to play/eat
go out for tea                                                   go out for dinner
anti-clockwise                                                 counter-clockwise
tick the box                                                      check the box
toilet                                                                 restroom
sledging                                                            sledding

Amelia has only been in preschool for one week, so she has not picked up on the accent yet.  She does keep saying, “Things are sure different here in Angland (as she says it).”  She did tell me that instead of saying “good job”, her teachers say, “well done”.  She also learned to say “tidy up” instead of “clean up”.  Amelia did surprisingly well this first week at preschool.  It helps that it is only 2 ½ hours.  She hung onto my leg for about 10 minutes, and then she was ready for me to leave.  She went on the laptop on Wednesday and printed out 2 pictures.  On Friday, she received a certificate for doing an excellent job on work for her folder.  I hope she continues to enjoy it.  Oh, and it’s FREE!  There is a preschool grant that allows every child up to 15 hours free each week!  Dylan’s school is free as well.  That is a nice little portion of the budget I don’t have to worry about anymore.

We are connected to the Internet at home, and I would say we are just about settled.  The baby’s room is all set.  Everything is washed and ready…some pink and some blue.  I am 35 weeks, so I am working on packing my bags for my big 6 hour stay. J  I will post some new pictures of the house in the next week.  A big thank you to those of you who keep checking in by posting on Facebook, sending e-mails, mailing letters and calling.  I feel the love!  

Amelia under the rain cover on a morning with snow flurries.

Amelia enjoying her special treat after doing a great job on her first morning at preschool!

We love making brownies...or at least we love licking the bowl!