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

October 27, 2016

Millets Farm

We took the kids to a pumpkin patch and corn maze today. My hopes at getting any good family pictures were quickly shut down when Mary started whining nonstop and had to be bribed with Pez for the few decent pictures I did take. This farm was only about fifteen minutes from our house and had a very large pumpkin patch which (was my first time going to an authentic one at a field), a corn maze with puzzles and games that were a bit above the kids' level, trampolines, a scary house, a pseudo petting zoo with reptiles (bleh), and a large restaurant and store area.

We did leave with a pumpkin, a few good(ish) pictures, and some apple crumble, so I'm calling it a win.


October 19, 2016

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It used to sit a little heavier on my heart, and while this month will always hold a tender spot in my heart, the 15th especially, the emotions surrounding this month have just changed over the years just as my grief continues to evolve.

I want to always do something to acknowledge Cale and talk about him a little more on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day/Month, but this year was the first year that we really didn't do much. In the past we've participated in walks to remember, balloon releases, and candle lighting ceremonies. I've made candles for family and friends to light, and made a bigger deal in the past about inviting others to join us. But having just moved to a new country, move in to a new (empty) house, all we did this year was include specific thanks for Cale in our prayers and light his candle. It felt a little odd - like it wasn't really enough, but I'm also at a much more comfortable and aware point in my grief where I understand that the small gestures and the big ones can hold just as much meaning.

When we flew to England I carried Cale's urn in my bag that went on the airplane with me. Unfortunately at some point it got a chip in the bottom of it. It's a very soft stone (I don't entirely remember what we ordered - I think it's marble, but maybe not). His name has had some wear to it over the years as the engraving probably wasn't super easy on a gentle stone. And there is a little more wear on his name after our recent move. 

I was pretty upset about it, and had emailed with a few friends, but my friend Brooke made me feel better when she wrote, "I know that it's his so you want to keep it pristine and perfect and protected, but I kind of love that it's a bit damaged. Because it doesn't just sit in one place untouched--it's moved and carried and loved on and traveled with. Like how many people can say their urn is so well loved that it gets chipped?"

And that helped me look at it a little differently. Cale isn't with us how we ever imagined or wanted. But we can still do our best to ensure he is a remembered and loved part of our family. Even if that means just lighting a candle and sending him love.


October 7, 2016

Our First Few Weeks in England

We have now been in England for a little over three weeks, so I'm due for some updates and to share some pictures. We moved here because of a really great opportunity Miles was given through the military after he was awarded a scholarship last fall. The scholarship enables him to attend a grad school of his choosing so long as he studies something in the realm of counter terrorism (meaning, he can't just use it as a chance to get an MBA). He applied, and was accepted at, some good options stateside, but also wanted to apply to Oxford and fortunately for our family, he was accepted and the Army said, "sure, we will move you guys there! You just owe use a few years in return for paying for your school" and Miles said, "deal!"

We took an overnight flight leaving Savannah in the evening, connecting in New York, and then had a six hour flight to London. The kids did really well traveling and both slept a little on the flight, but it definitely took them a few days to adjust. We rented a car for a bit as we didn't want to have to schlep six suitcases, a stroller, and two carseats on public transport. Miles did a great job navigating the other side of the road and driving a standard transmission. We are only about an hour outside of London and we stayed in a two bedroom flat (an Air BnB) just north of the city center when we first arrived. We have since had to change to another flat, in a different part of town, but both places have been nice and made living out of suitcases very tolerable. 

This was our first flat. 

We knew we would only want one car while we were here so started looking right away at options. We went to several dealerships and looking online and at postings on Gumtree (Craigslist equivalent), but as we were driving home from a Ford dealership I saw a small used car dealership and we found a car that met our wants (automatic transmission! space for kids and bags for traveling) at a good price so ended up coming back to test drive and purchase the car. Miles also go a new set of wheels and picked up a hybrid bike. We have road bikes that are being shipped here, but it's much easier (and safer) to commute on the streets on a hybrid.

While we haven't done much exploring outside of Oxford, it's been really nice getting familiar with this lovely little city.

We've taken a bus tour, visited a museum, walked through the city center numerous times, and visited over a half dozen parks and playgrounds.

We started house hunting the day after we arrived and looked at lots of houses and found a good option in a good location, but it is not ready for us to move in until next week. Fortunately, the Army covers our lodging expense for 30 days and we will use all 30 of those days. I look forward to moving in to a space we can call our own, but we still are looking at at least a couple more weeks until our stuff arrives.

Miles has had some events to attend (registration, orientation, etc.), and tonight he and a dinner at his college, but his official first day of class isn't until Monday, so it's been nice to have a few weeks here to just ease in to life on the other side of the pond. His facial hair is officially the longest it's ever been and the civilian life seems to be suiting him, and us all, just fine.