Tuesday, 19 February 2013

What I Missed Today...

People often ask me what I miss about home.  Of course, I miss my family and friends the most, but there are often foods, stores and just "things" that I miss from the good old U.S.  I have to be careful here.  I don't want to sound like I am just complaining.  Truthfully, I am enjoying England more than I thought I was going to 6 months ago.  Living away from home, especially this far, has taught me more than I ever would have imagined.  I have learned about different cultures, foods, education systems and priorities.  More importantly, I have learned about myself.  I have learned about my own strengths and weaknesses.  I have deepened my relationship with my husband and our children.  I never thought I was going to leave St. Louis.  After living in two other states and one other country, I would say to anyone who has the opportunity to live away for a while to go for it.  It will not always be easy, but you will gain so much from the experience.

Having said that, here are the things I missed today...

1. Parking lots:  I missed being able to run to the mall or a store and park in a parking lot that was free of charge.  Instead, I drove around looking for a free spot to park on the street and then walked 2 blocks to the mall to purchase one quick item. 

2. One-Hour Photo:  I missed being able to sit at home at my computer and upload pictures to a store's website and then pick them up in the store just an hour later for a reasonable price and good quality.  Instead, I waited in line at a Kodak photo machine for 15 minutes with a sleeping baby wondering if I was going to get my errands done before she awoke.  I paid 39 pence (58 cents) for each picture.  You can upload pictures online and they will be mailed to your house in about one week, but there are no one-hour photo places nearby.

3. Hobby Lobby: I think I miss Hobby Lobby at least once a week.  I miss having a one-stop shop for all of my craft and sewing needs.  I found a scrapbooking store that sells colored cardstock, a curtain store that sells fabric and ribbon and the pound store sells little Easter crafts.

4. Kinko's: I missed the convenience of having your 5 minute job done as you wait.  Even after calling ahead, I had to leave what I needed done and return 2 hours later.  Yes, that meant I had to drive around looking for another free place to park!

There are pros and cons wherever you live, but today was just one of those days where I missed some conveniences from home. I did, however, enjoy the blue skies and sunshine today.  It was a perfect day for our 20 minute walk home from school.    

Baby food in England

The food here in England is much different than in the U.S.  I figured that baby food, however, would be pretty similar.  Not so much.  First of all, they use the term "weaning" here to mean, "introducing your baby to solid foods."  In the U.S., we use "weaning" to mean, "ending breastfeeding or bottle feeding."  I learned that when a health visitor came to our postnatal group to discuss weaning.  The philosophy here is to use "child-led weaning".  They encourage you to let your child feed herself, and they say it is not necessary to puree foods.  In fact, they do not encourage spoon feeding.  The health visitors here (which are the informational specialists for babies and children since you do not see a pediatrician unless there is a medical reason) suggest that you begin introducing solids around 6 months.  With child-led weaning, you steam vegetables and cut them in long pieces that are easy for the child to hold.  You can offer anything soft and easy to chew.  The idea is to get the child to eat what you eat and be in charge of her own amounts.

 It sounded really good to me, but I started both Dylan and Amelia on rice cereal.  I was afraid if I went straight to solid foods, she would choke.  So at 6 months, we gave her rice cereal out of a spoon.  She did really well.

 I started giving her these Farley's Rusks.  It mushed up easily as she chewed on it.  You can actually mix these with water to make a rice cereal.

I started steaming veggies with our dinners and cutting them into pieces for Cora.  She did really well with carrots, sweet potatoes and green beans.  I took a look at the store just to see what they offered in baby food.  I found that most baby food here comes in glass jars.  I was fine with that, but it was a change from the plastic cases in the U.S.  They do not have Gerber here.  The main baby food brands are Cow & Gate, Hipp Organic and Heinz.  I was very surprised to find the various flavors of veggies.  My older kids ate green beans, carrots and sweet potatoes.  Check out these jars...fruit muesli, baby cauliflower cheese, my first bolognese, carrot potato & lamb hotpot, and apple & cookie crumble.

How about these...
sweet squash & chicken, pasta in a tomato & ham sauce, spaghetti bolognese....

They do sell these in plastic tubs.

 And these are great for on the go
 Cora also likes the various rice cakes.

One health visitor said not to even purchase food from the baby aisle.  She said most baby food has added sugars.  She told me to feed her what we eat.  Other than a few baby food items, Cora pretty much eats what we eat, including oatmeal, Cheerios, vegetables, chicken and meatloaf.  It is convenient, and I think she's getting enough.  What do you think? 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Snow in England!

It does not happen often, and never usually this much, but we were here for a big snowfall!  Usually 6-8 inches of snow would not be a big deal in most areas of the United States.  In an area of England where they are not prepared for this amount of snow, it was a very big deal!  The day before the big snowstorm, everyone went crazy and stocked up on groceries and petrol (gas).  The head teacher (principal) told everyone to check the website and the radio stations because they would most likely be closed.  The snow started early on a Friday morning and continued all day long.  We enjoyed our snow day!  Eric walked to work instead of riding his bike in the snow.

The view from our kitchen window that morning
The kids could not wait to get bundled up and get out in the snow!
The view from our front/playroom window

As soon as Cora went down for her nap, I took Dylan and Amelia out in the snow.

Hey Mom, let's have a snowball fight!

We did not exactly have proper snow gear for Amelia, but we layered up and made Dylan's old pants work.

Our driveway leading out to the street, which was never cleared. 

Making snow angels

Walking in fresh snow is the best!

This is my favorite picture.  Dylan was giving Cora a kiss.
Cora loved watching the two of them throw snowballs at the sliding glass door.

They spent the next day, Saturday, outside with Daddy.  The snow was perfect for snowmen, snowballs and even a snow slide!

Amelia and Daddy pushing a huge snowball in our garden (backyard).

They were proud of their snowman!

Amelia enjoyed the swing while the boys worked hard.

The early stages of the snow slide

The snow slide was lots of fun!

On Saturday, I drove to the little market just a few streets away from us.  Nothing was done to the neighborhood streets, so they were very slippery and icy.  The main road was salted, so it was not too bad.

I made it to the market.
Lots of people were out walking, as usual, but many of them were walking in the streets since the sidewalks were sheets of ice.

Yep, I was driving on ice.

Most cars were covered in snow for several days.
I only saw one person shovel his driveway.

I made it home!

Sunday morning, I went into town to run a few errands.  
The neighborhood streets were a complete sheet of ice!  Salt?  Anybody?

At least they salted the streets and sidewalks in town.
Not many people were out shopping.

The River Avon looked pretty with snow around it in downtown Chippenham.

On Sunday, Dylan built this snowman all by himself.  We were so impressed!
I wondered if the kids would be back in school on Monday since the neighborhood streets and sidewalks were a sheet of ice on Sunday.  Despite the fact that most students walk to school on those icy paths, they had school on Monday.  Here are some pictures of the conditions that morning.

I nearly bit the dust getting the pushchair (stroller) out of the boot (trunk).

Getting ready to walk on the icy path across the street to school.

We made it to school safely!  The students who brought wellies (boots) and hats and gloves were allowed to play in the snow on the field at recess.  There were about 15 snowmen in the field at the end of the school day.  I think it is great that they allowed them to play in the snow.

Cora was bundled up for the snow, but she did not want to smile for the camera.
Someone was sleepy!

There's my happy girl!

Here is Cora enjoying her bottle on Thursday, almost one week after the snow. 
Most of the snow melted, but our snowmen were still standing.  It was fun while it lasted, but I am glad it's gone.

First Class Trip Back to England

What a way to start our new year, with all five of us being sick during our visit to South Carolina.  I was exhausted.  When we woke up in the hotel the morning we were leaving, both girls got sick again, and Amelia was still running a fever.  The van was loaded, so I was already going through spare clothes for the girls.  In tears, I told Eric we could not fly back in that state.  He spent twenty minutes on the phone with the airline, only to find out that they give very little breaks for changing your flight due to sickness.  The man would waive the $250 per ticket change fee, but we would have to pay almost the full ticket price for each of us due to the change in fare price.  We had no choice.  We had to fly back to London.  I was prepared with medicine, plastic bags and extra clothes.  I prayed to God and we were on our way.

Eric is amazing when we travel.  He handled 6 suitcases and 2 carry-ons.
I had the big kids in the double stroller with Cora in the carrier on my chest.

 Yes, the top suitcase did fall off once, but we just had to laugh and keep going.

To top off our rough start to a long day of travel, our suitcases were too heavy.  This had never been an issue in the past due to Eric's status with Delta.  He does not have a weight limit on luggage.  The man who checked us in, however, said we could not have so many suitcases over the limit for an international flight.  Yes, they were jammed with Christmas presents!  To prevent paying the ridiculous charge on each suitcase, Eric went and purchased another suitcase.  Luckily, in the Atlanta airport, they have luggage stores before you complete your check in process.  Yep, we were "that family" by the check in with our suitcases open on the floor taking out the heavy things and repacking.  Somehow, we both stayed calm and smiled.

Our first flight to Boston went well.  The kids were troopers even though they were not feeling the greatest.  Finally, some good news came when we arrived at the gate.  We were upgraded to FIRST CLASS for our flight to London!  I could not believe it!  I have never flown in first class.  I did not even know children were allowed in first class.  It was such an answer to prayers for us.  We had so much space, and we were treated like royalty.  The seats could lay completely flat, so the kids got some much needed good rest.  I put my feet up and enjoyed a glass of wine.  The 8 hour plane ride seemed to go by very quickly.  No one got sick, and we were able to keep Amelia's fever in control.  

So much space!

Dylan enjoyed his orange juice and a movie.

My view

My feet could not even touch my bag on the floor.  Well, I had them up most of the ride.

A tired, but happy mommy and baby

Amelia loved the fancy glass, the small water bottles and the bag of toiletries just for her!

Enjoying our drinks

Such a good big brother

The flight was great.  The big question was, how were we going to fit all of the luggage into the car with TWO extra suitcases?  There we were again being "that family" with suitcases open on the ground of the parking lot. We emptied one suitcase and put the items on the floor behind the seats and placed that suitcase into a larger one.  Eric moved all of the seats forward to make enough room for the new suitcase to fit.  My knees were on the dashboard, but we made it home with everything.  It took us almost one week for the kids to adjust back to the time change and get over the flu.  Our time with family and friends made it all worthwhile.  Now it was time to get back to life in England....