December 4, 2016

Thanksgiving in London

While my sister and her fiancé (!!) were here visiting we made a day trip in to London. We decided to go on Thanksgiving day as we took Finn out of school that day and figured it would deb less busy thank going over the weekend. This wasn't our first trip in to London since moving here, but the other times have been very brief and we had yet to see any landmarks.

Finn just learned about some of the landmarks in school so was really excited to go see them in person. He seemed especially fond of Big Ben (which, for the record is even taller than Big Mike, the fiancé).

Buckingham Palace:

Finn was more entertained by chasing pigeons than being at Buckingham Palace. 
Insert eye roll.

 This way to Big Ben!

Walking around London is hard. Mid day fit deemed absolutely necessary by Mary.

We did a fast sightseeing tour that day (so we could get back to Oxford for a Thanksgiving dinner), but we managed to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, and took a river taxi boat tour seeing several more monuments and landmarks. We want to go back sometime and ditch the kids with a babysitter so we can actually go in some of these building and do tours that they could care less about (especially if there are pigeons around). All in all, it was a great way to spend our first Thanksgiving here - being grateful for British History!


November 28, 2016

Proposal in Oxford

My sister and her (then) boyfriend Mike came to Oxford last week to visit us. Mike asked my parent's for their blessing to propose to Kate back in July when we all went to California so we were anxiously awaiting this special moment. He got in touch with me a little bit ago to let me know he was planning to propose to Kate while they were in England visiting us and asked me to think of a few places he could pop the question. We got a great suggestion from a friend for him to do it at the top of the tower of University Church as the views up there are hard to beat. 

In typical British fashion the weather was crummy they day the arrived and it wasn't looking to promising the following day, but thankfully by early afternoon the rain stopped and we were able to go into the city centre for lunch and for me to show Mike and Kate around Oxford. We met Miles, who had just picked Finn up at school, at University Church and climbed the 138 steps to check out the top. Mike wanted the family nearby and asked me to snap some pictures, but unfortunately the top of the tower was especially narrow (you have to walk single file around the top) so I couldn't really get a great angle on any of the pictures. But regardless it was really awesome to witness. Kate had no idea it was coming when it did and her surprise made the moment that much better.

I mean, really, this view is pretty awesome

View from the other sides of the tower:

I took a picture of him down on a knee, but you couldn't even see him in the picture. Mike asked, "I have two questions for you. 1. Can I be a part of your family? and 2. Will you Marry me?"

We had the best lighting as the sun went down. View of the tower (we were up above the clock), and the Radcliff Camera after we climbed down.


November 13, 2016

Remembrance Day

I didn't realize it, but there is a Veterans Day in the UK (known now as Armed Forces Day), but it's fairly new and I suspect not nearly as significant as Remembrance Day, our equivalent being Memorial Day. I think the holidays and their significance seem to be flip flopped, at least from my perspective. In the US the "bigger" of the holidays seems to be Veterans Day. There are often parades and events for the day whereas I don't see as much fanfare surrounding Memorial Day and of the two, honoring the sacrifice of the Veteran who died in service to our nation seems like it should be more acknowledged and respected. Alas, Memorial Day has sort of just become this kick off to summer and that's not how the holiday is treated here.

I think in general the US does a better job of honoring living and current Veterans, at times sometimes being too over the top in the hero worship, whereas here in England being a (modern day) Veteran doesn't seem to carry the same weight as it does in the states. But as far as paying tribute to the fallen, I've been impressed with the importance of celebrating Remembrance Day. We missed almost all of the ceremony and parade held here today, but walked to the city centre where we saw lots of Soldiers in uniform from different branches, and clergy from lots of different faiths, who all paid tribute. Finn said he watched a video about Remembrance Day and they talked about the Poppies and all week we've seen people and businesses displaying poppies, the symbol of remembrance inspired by John McCrae's Poem In Flanders Fields. I had to memorize this poem my freshman year at West Point and found it so beautifully somber.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Love and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders field.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from family hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, through poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


November 6, 2016

A Confident Chap

Finn started school last week. We moved a week after his school started up in Savannah so it made no sense to have him attend before moving, but we couldn't enroll him in a school here until we had an address and we didn't have an address for a month while we were house hunting. So, here we are in November and he's just now starting school.

Last school year he attended a wonderful school three days a week from 9-1. I really loved his school and was so sad to leave it. Had we still been in the states, Finn would have done five days a week of preschool. He has a summer birthday so even though he's old enough to attend kindergarten, we want him to be old for his class - not young. Unfortunately, holding him back wasn't an option here so he is in the British equivalent of kindergarten called Year 1. He's in a mixed class of Year 1 and Year 2 (kindergarten and first grade), so really he is one of the youngest (and smallest) in his class. It's not ideal, but it is what it is and we plan to just have him retake 1st grade when we move back to the states in 2018.

I toured a couple of schools here and then applied to the city council who handles admissions. He is attending a state (public) school, although they do require a uniform. I was very nervous about sending him off. Sure, there was the typical apprehension when you send your BABY off to kindergarten, but then factor in that he's so young/little compared to his classmates and he's starting late and he doesn't know anyway and this is the grade Cale should be in and, and, and. . . I just was all sorts of emotional about it.

Thankfully, Finn was excited to start school. He's a very adaptable kid - I'm not sure if it's just his personality or a product of the military life (probably both), but he adjusts well to new situations which I'm very thankful for. He had no reservations about attending and was very happy when I picked him up at the end of his first day. His teacher did tell me though that he had a hard time listening and a hard time sitting still. Part of me wanted to get defensive - because of course he had a hard time sitting still. He hasn't been to school since May and certainly not had a six hour day (even Miles' schedule isn't that intense these days!) but at the same time I know he's just going to need time to adjust and he can be a crappy listener - he is five. 

Fortunately the teacher he had Thursday and Friday (he has two teachers) said he did really well paying attention, sitting still, and listening. She let me know he seems social and she sees him play with other kids (which REALLY puts my worry about him being lonely at ease), but she did say he is behind on his phonics. Again, not surprised. He knows his letters and the sound they make, but that's about it. He's definitely not putting words together and reading like some of the kids in his class (they are also doing math that's above his level - which is again why I wish he could be in preschool this year, but I need to get over it). But his teacher thinks he will catch up soon and we will just work with him at home to help him get there. She did say, "he's a confident chap!" which made me laugh. Yes, that he is!

Honestly I'm not too worried about the academic side of things - that will come in due time. As long as he is happy and wants to go to school, that's what I care about most. This week will be his first full week (he started mid week last week) so I suspect he will be totally exhausted by the end of the week. But, our five year old is really putting in the longest hours of anyone in the house right now, so I've got to give him some credit for being the most hard working Hidalgo at the moment.

Trying to ask him about his first day, but
inconveniencing Lego time.

October 31, 2016

Halloween in the UK

I asked my friend Cara (who lives in London) if Halloween was a big deal here and she said it's getting bigger, but not nearly what it is in the US. Typically kids dress up as ghosts or bats or in stereotypically 'Halloween' related costumes whereas in the states kids wear such a wide variety of costumes. When I asked Finn several weeks back what he wanted to be for Halloween he said a Police Officer and fortunately Mary was on board with being a Firefighter (a hand me down costume from a friend that we've used every year for the past three years - score!). Last year Mary wanted nothing to do with her costume, so I was so please when she actually seemed excited about dressing up this year. It helps that she thought she was Marshall from Paw Patrol and said Finn was Chase.

Since the kids were excited about Halloween (it helps that both grandmas sent Halloween care packages ahead of time), I knew we had to do something special even if Halloween isn't as celebrated of a holiday here in England as it is back in the states. So I googled things to do in Oxford and learned that for £5 a child the kids could go trick or treating at the Oxford Castle where they got to walk through the old prison part of the castle and go into different cell blocks and parts of the castle where people in costume told stories of how their historical character ended up in the prison. They did a good job catering to the age group and it wasn't very long so held the kids' attention and was something neat to do (Miles and I probably enjoyed it more than the kids).

On the bus ride back home where they
got their second wind.
 After that we cam home and the bowl of candy I left outside had been untouched so we just assumed that trick or treating probably wasn't something that happened in our little neighborhood and started to get dinner ready when we saw a trick or treater come to the door! We learned that typically only the houses with a lit jack-o'-lantern are the ones that are passing out candy, so I'm glad we had pumpkin and a candy out front. I took the kids around to all the houses we could find in a reasonable walking distance and we hit a whopping six. Had it been the states we easily could have gone to 30 or so homes within that same area. But the kids didn't mind one bit and seemed to be just as excited. I did end up having to put more candy out in our bowl out front so we did get a few more kids.

The kids' collection of candy is so small I would feel guilty raiding it. Finn grabbed toothpaste (in addition to a treat) from one of the houses! I told him I proud of him. Mary, on the other hand, just grabbed two pieces of candy (that's my girl!).

I hope you all had a nice Halloween - no matter how big or small it was!

This kid did next to nothing to help me with this
jack-o'-lantern. He said, "I don't want to touch that nasty stuff."


Halloween 2015 : Batkids/Firefighter/Bootiful
Halloween 2014: Firefighter and his Puppy Dog
Halloween 2013: Basketball Team