A blog about me and my adventure as an ex-pat.
Because someone told me to... Thank you Gaby.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

cup of tea?

It's the little differences that you notice.

I cannot give drinks away here....

A couple of guys were at the house today doing some work outside. They pulled up in their truck and just started working. As I had seen them I popped my head out to say hi and offer them a drink but they just looked at me funny as if to say "why are you talking to us?".

I've had workmen in the house too and they never want a coffee or cold drink.

In the UK it's the first thing that workmen expect. And you make them one in the hope that they will do a good job. Here they will do a good job without a bribe!

As we were leaving the UK I was making up to 10 cups of tea and coffee at a time and probably 3 or 4 times a day, not only for the 3 men packing up our house but for the half a dozen guys outside who were digging up the road. It's just what you do and you get through a hell of a lot of milk doing it!

The American removals men who came to unpack our things into the house, did not once take me up on the offer of a drink in the 3 days they were here.

Hey ho, it saves me a job! :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

too busy laughing...

Twice today I should have disciplined Toby but couldn't help but laugh instead!

Charlotte had asked if she could dress up as a bride and 'marry me'. So I put her tiara and veil on and she was in the kitchen helping me with dinner when I heard her shout. As I turned all I saw was Toby running out of the kitchen as fast as his little legs would carry him, with Charlotte's veil trailing behind him! He had pinched it off her head, and, knowing he would have to get a head start, was running full pelt away from her! Needless to say, she chased after him and I could just about hear them arguing as I was creased up laughing!! He looks so funny when he runs away like that! I managed a "Toby that is very naughty, give it back" but it didn't sound very convincing.

Less than 10 minutes later, I am just about to serve dinner when I turn around to see Toby stood on his step (he takes that step all over the place so he can reach up for things!) and is biting into an apple that he has found on the counter. He looked so innocent, standing there, munching his way through the apple that I did not have the heart to tell him off. Of course Charlotte realised what was going on and helped herself to one too. I can hardly complain about them eating fruit but it was pretty frustrating that they only ate half their dinner, given how long it had taken me to prepare it!

But I have been left with a gorgeous image of the two of them eating their contraband as if nothing is the matter!

(Note the blue step in the background!) 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

ex-pat socialising...

I'm not sure it's necessarily all to do with being an ex-pat, as much as just being new to an area and a Mum of two kids who bring change every month but here is a glimpse of what I thought was going to be a 'boring/quiet' month:

Thursday night - MOPS Moms Night Out - dinner at a restaurant, met at least 3 new mums, chatted to a couple who I kind of know and caught up with 4 or 5 who I would call my friends.

Friday - 'reconnected' with the mums I am starting to get to know at Charlotte's dance class then headed to Gymboree where I met 2 mums I have not seen there before and chatted to one who knew me but (something which happens a lot...) I didn't remember her!

Saturday - One of Charlotte's preschool mums has organised for us all to go sledging. Only really know one Mum and have met a few of them in passing, at the last meet up and at a birthday party but am struggling to remember all of their names and their kids!

Saturday night - We have organised a night out for our neighbours as we never get to see them without the kids around. Dinner and drinks, should be a great night!

Sunday - we have started going to a new church so will hopefully start to get to know people there. It is a very popular one and I have seen a couple of familiar faces and know a few people who go there.

Monday - I am planning to join a "stroller strides" class which is run by a lady I met at the MOPS MNO. 1 hour of exercise round the top level of the local mall. Genius! Let's hope Toby helps me out!

Monday night - After dropping dinner round to a friend who has just had surgery, I am going to a bible study at Church for the first time with one of the MOPS Mums who I am getting to know really well :) Jeremy is away so I am relying on our babysitter to come and put the kids to bed whilst I am out. Sarah is great! She is a 20 year old WMU college student and we are dreading her graduating and leaving us!

Tuesday - MOPS! Yay! There are about 50 or 60 Mums to get to know... I'm getting there and having a lot of fun along the way :) Jeremy is still away.

Wednesday night - I have signed up for a training programme to help me train for a 5k run in May and this will be the orientation for it. I am going on my own but hoping to meet people there to help inspire to run in -15oC weather!! :)

Thursday night - There is a meal planned for the Kellogg ex-pats. I have only met the group twice, once with both kids in tow! Thankfully I know one of them really well and it is great to be in a group of people who get what you are going through from such a unique situation.

Phew! There should be just enough time for my regular play date, Gymboree play sessions and school runs. It's funny, sometimes when you write things down, or take a picture of something you've made... It really makes you realise just how much you achieve without even really thinking about it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

spring clean in the snow...

I think I can sum January up with movies (how much do you love curling up in front of a good movie when it's freezing outside?) and organising! 

We have been busy sorting through piles of paperwork and thousands of photographs - those jobs that there is never enough time to do so you close the door on it and hope the fairies will sort it!

Jeremy has filled two filing cabinets and I have lost count of the number of photobooks I have done - I think it is 8! The bad news is that I still have a few thousand to sort through from 2011! The downside to digital I guess.

So what movies have I been watching?

Well I have been sucked into the world of Twilight. I read the books over the last couple of months, mainly whilst we were back in the UK during Toby's naps and at 1am when I was suffering from jet lag! I thought the books were amazing. I literally could not put them down! And then I got the movies for Christmas and love them too! 

I also got "One Day" for Christmas. I thought it was a great book but was disappointed with the movie. For a start, Anne Hathaway's British accent drove me crazy! One minute she had a posh English accent and the next she sounded like she was from Yorkshire! If you could get over that, it was a pretty good adaptation of the book but lost the sense of passage of time and their relationship. 

We have also seen "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" which was good, I think... They did a pretty good job of following the (very complicated and detailed) story but if I hadn't read the books would I have kept up with the story? I'm not sure. So the Harry Potter movies cut out a lot of story line but they were still amazing films. I am not sure I would say that about TGWTDT! 

I am looking forward to seeing Breaking Dawn on dvd and I believe the Hobbit is due out this year too... I think it is going to be a good year for movies :)

Christmas highs

So I just wanted to log a couple of special memories from Christmas.

This year was so special for the kids. The first year they started to understand what it was all about. Watching their little faces light up when they were told they had an email from Father Christmas (thanks PNP) and as they watched Father Christmas talking to them on the video.

Watching him feed his reindeer in the snow (thank you reindeer.com!) and meeting him at the mall. They were fascinated but too scared to sit on his knee!

There were also special moments like driving through the Winchell housing estate on Christmas Eve after they lit all of the luminaries. Every street was lined with candles in paper bags. I hear that it is even more stunning when there is snow on the ground but we still found it absolutely magical.

Taking a walk through the Al Sabo reserve, with the sun shining in the bright blue sky.

Sitting in Church on Christmas Eve, they turned all of the lights out and then row by row people lit their candles. The light just began to fill the room and it was amazing!

It was a very different Christmas in some ways. New Year was not the same without the Whytes and Dunns and all of the other people we missed over the holidays but we were so pleased to have some of our family here to celebrate with us.

Monday, January 2, 2012

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!

It snowed last night! Big time!

We knew there was a snow storm coming - everyone has been talking about it. Our neighbours said they have only had one 'green' Christmas in 14 years so it was a big disappointment when there was no snow on Christmas Day this year! It did snow a couple of days later but only an inch or so.

Last night it started to snow and the wind got up. The roads were pretty icy and cars were skidding at the traffic lights... Even the locals need to remember how to drive in the snow and ice. I'm quite nervous about driving in the snow. I am still learning my way round town, the kids are quite distracting and then I have to watch that someone doesn't rear end me skidding on the ice!

We went to bed with a light covering of snow over the ground and the promise of more in the weather forecast.

And then at 3:30am we heard the snow ploughs. They are contracted to come and clear the drive after 2 inches of snow has fallen. Jeremy jumped up out of bed and ran to the window to see them in action. We found out this morning that his parents did the same! I on the other hand was far too comfy and snug in my bed to be excited about a couple of snow ploughs! Not only did our company clear our drive and nextdoor but another company was up the court clearing a drive and then they came and ploughed the road. It was quite a lot of commotion in the middle of the night... Oh joy we will have this for another 3 or 4 months!!

But then the fun began! After breakfast and showers we got 'geared up' - a performance in itself! Over the top of our normal clothes we put on our snow trousers, coats, boots, mittens and hats.  Well worth the effort though - I was very snug in my get-up!

The snow is beautiful!! Soft, light and fluffy! We think we got about 4 inches over the last 18 hours. It certainly came up to the kids' knees is some places. Everything was covered and it seemed such a shame to disturb it. The whole street has been transformed into a white winter wonderland.

We have been talking about the snow since we decided to move here but I really didn't think it would happen. It's surreal to stand out in the street, deep in snow, talking to the neighbour who is clearing his drive with a snow blower, when just a few months ago, we were stood out there, in the heat and humidity, enjoying a cold beer!

So we enjoyed our time outside, shovelling the snow away from the end of the drive where the snow plough had dumped it, sledging and making snow angels. I learnt a valuable lesson - keep your head up when you land on the snow as I managed to bump my head on landing. But I was very impressed with my first attempt at a snow angel!

After 30 minutes or so, the kids were tired and cold and then the tears began. It's going to take us a while to get used to all of the snow and the cold temperatures. It's -4oC outside today which apparently isn't that cold! Great, can't wait for anything colder!

But for now I am snug and warm indoors, watching the Princess and the Frog with Charlotte and enjoying looking out of the window and seeing heavy snow falling. Goodness knows how much will have fallen by tea-time and how many times we will see the snow ploughs today!!

tis the season to be jolly...

and boy did we have something to celebrate this Christmas!!

After the latest TURPT, the tissue samples were analysed and Dr Hafez said he could not find any more cancer cells in the tissue of Jeremy's bladder or anymore tumours... Phew! ... Hooray! ... What next?!

Next is a waiting game. Waiting for the cancer to "show it's hand". Waiting to see if the cancer returns. Jeremy will go back to UofM every 3 months for check ups.

So now we need a concerted effort to get his colitis under control (diet, exercise, destress, medication) which they think is connected to the cancer in his bladder. There is a link with inflammation and cancerous tumours so if he can reduce the inflammation in his colon and hopefully his bladder we have the best shot of living cancer free.

And so we celebrated Christmas, New Year and hopefully a new start with family and a glass of bubbly!

This was our first Christmas in America and it was a great one! Though we felt like we had already 'done Christmas' in the UK as we had seen friends and family, exchanged gifts, visited the European Christmas markets and even had a full turkey dinner at my Mum's, we came back to Michigan to start celebrating US-style!

We have had an amazing month of festivities and I wanted to capture them here to try and preserve the memories. We have tons of photos too but writing it down is a great way to add to those.

So more to come...