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

Monday, April 29, 2013

make a move mummy

I have my second half marathon race this week. I asked Jeremy to write a little bit about what they get up to when I head out for my training runs. So I will hand over to him...

Ruth heads off running early most saturday morning's for her run camp so she is out of the house before the kids are even stirring. I'm very proud of her for getting up so early to run....and even more so of the impact she is having on Charlotte and Toby.

The kids will run into our room on Saturday morning and get into our bed - quickly realising that mummy is not there. "Mummy go running" Toby will proudly exclaim at the top of his voice.

Its my morning to "lie in" so I am always trying to think of things that will keep the kids in bed longer - so I can press snooze on my virtual alarm clock for a few precious minutes more. It never works!

One morning I decided the best strategy to keep the 3 of us in bed would be to play a game where we all had to pretend to be like each other in the morning.

So, our first move was....."Dozing Daddy" - initially my favourite move as Toby, Charlotte and I all stayed in bed and pretend to snore (or real snore :) ).

Then we did "Stay Still Sissy" reflecting that fact that when Charlotte gets in bed in the morning she just lies very still. So the 3 of us would lie perfectly still. Perfect.

Thirdly we did "Toby" whom we described as "Wriggle Bum Bum". You can imagine lots of kicking and wriggling - but at least all in the comfort of our warm bed.

Finally we did "Mummy". We talked about what would sum mummy up in the morning; Charlotte and Toby were sure there was only one thing - running! So we agreed it should be "Make a move mummy". What was so amazing was that when I called out "make a move mummy" they both got out of bed, ran round the room and got back in the bed again!

We do the whole routine, over and over, most saturday mornings. And there is no doubt, that even though it involves getting out of bed, our favourite move is "make a move mummy".

Ruth has been a real inspiration to the kids. From the morning antics to putting on their "running shoes" and pretending to be mummy running round the house. Keeping fit is so critical for this generation of kids I'm so pleased that exercise is becoming such a part of family life. Ruth has also inspired me to take up a regular yoga class too.

So to celebrate Ruth's inspiration to the rest of us we had a running shirt made emblazened with the words "MAKE A MOVE MUMMY" front and back. What a brilliant association for the kids to have with their mummy.

Friday, April 26, 2013

down on the farm...

Whilst we were in the UK, we were able to go to Peterborough to visit our new niece who lives on a farm with 2 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses and of course her 2 parents!

We haven't been able to get over there on a home leave trip yet because they live 3 hours from our home towns. Thankfully J's sister and husband have made the long drive over to us each time.

But with the arrival of the little lady and having two kids with a more flexible schedule, it was our turn, so we jumped in the car and headed over to the countryside.

After lots of cute baby snuggles - Charlotte was very taken with her new cousin and couldn't get enough of her, giggling when she stretched out and touched her face - we ventured out onto the farm to feed the horses and ride the tractors.

Toby, the fearless one, quite happily held out his hand time and time again to feed the horses pieces of apple. Charlotte chose to watch after trying once! I don't blame her - Angus really is a huge horse!

And then onto the tractors and both kids were excited! They eagerly climbed up into the cab and asked Uncle David to turn on the engine. He was great with them and even let them practice lifting the attachment on the back (Ok I have no idea what it was!).

They even climbed up into the combine harvester... Did I mention Toby is pretty fearless?!

And then just enough time to take Tia for a walk. Poor Jack is getting old and wasn't up for a walk but lovely Tia patiently walked with the kids. She is so loyal and stayed by their sides the whole time. Toby was very cute, throwing sticks for her to fetch and shouting "Drop it!" in his thick American accent. Eventually he learnt to say "Leave it!" and she understood him. They had a wonderful time together! 

We hope to see them all again soon, but until then we have some wonderful memories and photos. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

re-adjusting on re-entry

We've been back just over a week and we are still trying to adjust.

There is the obvious time change thing. When we arrived in the UK we were 4 hours different, then their clocks changed to make it 5 hours, then J and I went to France which added another hour. There was no routine so I completely lost track of the day and date nevermind time!

Coming back we are now hungry at funny times... Usually starving in the morning and around 3pm so we have been snacking a lot since our return! I still don't know what the date is and keep panicking I have missed an appointment!

There have been sleepless nights, potty accidents and tantrums over leaving friends' houses after a play date.

It was just so hard to say goodbye this time. And I think the kids just don't want to say goodbye another time.

They are older and understand that it will be a long time before we see our friends and family again. They got to play with kids their own age almost every day for over 2 weeks. They got to live at Grandma and Grandad's as well as with their cousins. We made the most of the soft play, comfort food and big shopping centres. To be honest I can see where the kids are coming from and it's hard to explain that we wouldn't live like that if we lived in the UK all the time.

Five cousins (two and a half years apart in age) teaching Papa 'Wind the bobbin'! 

There were lots of tears and every day I have heard "I don't to live in America" or "I don't want to go to Preschool" or "I want to go to Auntie Becky's Church".
Charlotte is my sensitive one. Toby is pretty easy going but follows his sister. He laughs when she laughs and cries when she cries. She is old enough to tell me who she misses and it breaks my heart.

I have tried to talk to them about it but it's hard to hold a conversation with a 3 and 4 year old who just want to play.

So we are slowly trying to settle back into life here and the cold wet weather is not helping. The promise of sunshine and sandy beaches by the lake are not holding much weight at the moment... Maybe another trip to Dunkin' donuts or the ice-cream shop is in order? Bribery gets you everywhere right?!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

vive la france

During our home leave trip, we were lucky enough to be able to visit friends who recently moved to France. And my parents agreed to have the kids for us so we could go on our own. Bonus! Sorry kids but it was our only chance for a weekend away on our own so we took it, dropped the kids at their Grandparents Friday afternoon and headed off to Manchester airport!

Our friends live about 30 or 40 minutes south of Geneva airport, near Lac d'Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region of France. And it is beautiful. They are living the dream!

I would describe our trip with 3 Fs... friendship, food and fresh air.

We ate amazingly good food, probably half my body weight in cheese and sausage, washed down with plenty of red wine and served with fabulous fresh bread. And not forgetting the most delicious pastries I've ever had. I thought I didn't like eclairs but tasting the chocolate filled ones from the local boulangerie has changed my mind!
They made a delicious tartiflette which is a regional dish from their area made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions. I asked how they made the sauce to discover it is just melted cheese.

And yet I swear I lost weight that weekend. We walked and walked and walked some more. And I loved it.

We walked round the local food market, then round the lake and into town for lunch (I had duck and goats cheese crostini salad) then J and I walked up the 'hill' to the kids' school. Man o man that was a hill! I took some photos but appear to have lost them. Anyways the view was stunning, even though it was foggy. I have no idea how those kids walk up that hill... I would be carrying ours after 2 minutes!
And the next day we headed out to another part of the lake - Sevrier, for a walk and picnic. The kids happily rode their bikes or ran round the busy cycle path. I see why French people are all so skinny!

They have a pretty healthy take on life. Lots of exercise and big meals which take a long time to consume rather than fast food and snacking all day which I am extremely guilty of!

I am so proud of my friend. She is so much more adventurous than me! I have it easy moving to a country where I speak the language (well kind of) and driving is really easy.

We had a wonderful time and hope to go back again before too long. Two years was too long between visits with that lovely family!

Top left: The view from our room.
Top right: Our friends' apartment. They have the top floor. 
It is so French with shutters on the window and tiled floors, including the stairs. 
Bottom left: Walking through the town.
Bottom right: I could have taken photos of every single building in the town 
- they were all so beautiful! 

A feast to be had at the local market. 
Artichokes, the most beautiful tomatoes, cheese anyone and oh la la olives!! Yummy!! 

Did I mention all the great food?! 
Top left: My duck and goats cheese lunch.
Top right and bottom left: Pastries! 
Bottom right: This delicious bottle of wine cost about 6 Euro / £5 / $7.50. 
No wonder he refused to buy French wine in England when it costs £14 there!! 

Out and about round the lake and town. We saw a lot of these odd looking trees. 
And we will have to go back again on a clear day to really see the spectacular views! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

home leave 2013

We are back in the US!

After 18 wonderful days in the UK we are back are raring to go. Well we are in mind but our bodies are still taking a while to re-adjust!

We visited over Easter so we were a little nervous on re-entry, hoping that customs wouldn't discover our bag full of chocolate! But a quick sweep of the customs form and a friendly "Welcome back" and we were through the doors and back on US soil.

This home leave was the easiest one so far. We were living in a friends' house (whilst they sunned themselves in Florida) so the kids had their own rooms and it was a home from home. A beautiful, welcoming home.
And jet lag was not an issue going that way. Toby was so tired on the first night that he took himself off to bed and slept for 15 hours! We were delayed by 4 hours on the way there which actually worked out great because the kids slept on the plane. I 'got Toby' (we take it in turns to have the kids and let Charlotte decide who she wanted to sit next to on the way out) on the way there and having fallen asleep in the terminal, I transferred him asleep and was patting myself on the back for an easy job... Until I was just about falling asleep when I spotted a little figure standing next to me. I closed my eyes again and hoped he would just go back to sleep. Ha! Fat chance! Oh well, I'd had some quiet time and did manage to close my eyes for a while when he finally fell back asleep. Charlotte also passed out quite soon into the flight and stayed asleep for most of the journey. Bliss!

I spent weeks planning the trip so each day we would catch up with a different family and their little ones. Our kids had a blast... new play mates every day! Most of our friends and family have kids around the same age so every day was a party!

We spent a couple of weeks in Manchester then headed over to the Wirral to spend time with J's family. And we also got to meet our beautiful new niece. There were tears saying goodbye to her. It is so hard to think that the next time we see her she will probably be crawling and yet she had barely opened her eyes in the 4 hours we were there. Another little niece or nephew is due by the end of the year... You can chat to the adults on the phone and not feel too far away but some days you could want to fly over the pond for a baby cuddle!

J worked most days so we can save his holidays for a trip away in the US. We love that we get to travel back to the UK once or twice a year but we haven't really seen much of the US yet (and we've been here 2 years already!) and as wonderful as home leave is, it is quite exhausting and quite frankly we need a holiday when we get back!

We are not sure when our next trip will be so until then we hope to see our friends and family on Skype, keep in touch with emails and I even hope to put pen to paper a few times and send mail the traditional way! Now the kids are older, I am hoping they can start being pen pals with their UK friends!

Easter egg hunt at Grandma and Grandad's

Cheeky monkey snuck off quietly and came back into the dining room, 
walking backwards so we wouldn't see that he had found 
and had started to eat one of his Easter eggs! 

My beautiful brown eyed girl. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

See ya!

Expat life is hard.

And home leave is exhausting physically and mentally.

There are the good times. The emotional reunions, happy tears in the airport, hugs after 18 months of not seeing each other, fun with friends, special times with family, shopping trips and afternoons filled with tea and laughter...

But then it's time to say goodbye. It takes no time at all to slip back into step with good friends but all too soon the clock says it's "see you soon" time.

It's never easy but today Charlotte broke my heart. She's been sad every day that we've had to wave goodbye to friends she has happily played with, family she has bonded with but today she had to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandad after spending the weekend with them. She refused to get into the car then burst into tears saying "I won't see them again! I want to live in England!". My poor little girl is starting to understand how far away we are.

The kids have been so good over the past two years and made ex-pat life so much easier for us. They were practically babies when we left and have made us so proud with how well they have settled into life in America, how good they are on the journeys over the 'pond' and adaptable they are in many different situations.

This whole experience is making us stronger as individuals and as a family. We will take the ups and the downs but today was hard.
I gave my little girl an extra big snuggle at bedtime tonight.