June 13, 2017

Finn Turns Six

He endured a lot of changes this year - leaving behind a sweet group of little friends and a world that was familiar for a new house, new school, new country. If we were still living in the states he would have just finished up preschool and been off to kindergarten this fall, being "old" for his grade though undoubtedly still one of the smallest. Instead Finn is in Year 1 (kindergarten) here in England where he most definitely is one of the smallest in his class. School doesn't end until late July as the terms here make school a bit more year round though he will get six weeks off for the summer and we get to enjoy two week breaks in between each term. Living here will probably afford him the only opportunity to have his birthday celebrated while in school. He's adjusted well to his new school, though it took a little bit of time. But overall he's a resilient and adventure seeking little expat who now speaks with a slight accent on some words and phrases. 

He loves sports - he's currently enrolled in football (soccer) and goes weekly to his Ninja Skills class at Miles' gym (a hybrid of kids' crossfit and gymnastics). He asked for a basketball for his birthday and recently completed his first timed race and eager to do more. 

He's the self proclaimed "boss of pancakes" and eats a really impressive amount, especially given his size! He still doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, would pass on a donut if it has frosting on it (what!?), but at least requested an apple pie for his birthday (over cake which he doesn't really care for).

He can be thoughtful and sweet and infuriating and a really terrible listener. His imagination impresses us with his Lego creations and his new found enjoyment of Harry Potter makes my nerdy heart so happy.

He thinks Miles no longer has a job (fair enough) and that I should get a job at his school because some moms work there. Right now he says he wants to be in the Navy, though he gets a little motion sickness on boats, so perhaps he'll be a pilot as he is fascinated by different types of aircraft.

He is inquisitive and smart and asks unending amounts of questions. He saves his money to buy Legos and is eager to help with chores when he knows there may be a small reward involved. He can't find his shoes to save his life, but knows an impressive amount of Star Wars Trivia.

He's our rainbow, our delight, our headache, and now our six year old. Happy Birthday, Mr. Finn. We love you so much.

Finn Hidalgo: Mall Cop

Finn content with Apple Pie. Mary not content with her inability to reach the other desserts.

June 10, 2017

Trip Recap: Ireland & Northern Ireland

After traveling to Wales we took a ferry to Ireland. The ferry was a few hours, and it enabled us to bring our car. It was really great though - they had rooms for kids to play, movie rooms, game rooms, several areas to purchase food, and lots of different areas to sit and relax. When we arrived in Ireland we spent two nights in Dublin and honestly we would have been fine with just spending one night there. It's not that there's not much to do there - there certainly are ways to fill your time, but Dublin is definitely more of a college city and not so much a bring your small kids and walk around city. We did a tour of Christ Church Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse, and quickly walked around the Dublin Castle. We wished we would have known, but Ed Sheeran had a concert in Dublin during the time we were there and with the grandparents traveling with us, we could have had free babysitters! We also got to meet up with a friend of Miles who is stationed just outside of Dublin right now - small world!

The Dublin Castle is now used for government offices

After Dublin we drove to the west coast of Ireland and saw Cliffs of Moher (so beautiful!) and the Bunratty Castle (big hit for the kids).

Poor little Hidalgo kids - such a rough life.

From Ireland we drove to Northern Ireland and stayed in Belfast for two nights. We did a bus tour of the city and a visit to the Titanic Museum which is located right where the Titanic was built. The middle schooler in me was pumped! We also got to walk on and tour the SS Nomadic - a ship that was used in both World Wars and brought passengers (the unsinkable Molly Brown) on to the Titanic. We had a really nice time while in Belfast (we were there for Easter) and it was nice to be back in Northern Ireland as I visited the country once before after graduating high school. We'd love to go back and make it out to the Giant's Causeway and some of the more scenic parts of the country we just didn't have time to squeeze in on this trip.

Next stop: Scotland!


May 23, 2017

Trip Recap: Stonehenge and Snowdonia, Wales

Our big term break travel for April started with a day trip out to Stonehenge. When we moved here someone said to save our visit to Stonehenge until we had visitors because it's not worth going multiple times. They didn't mean that it wasn't neat/impressive/worthwhile, just that once you've been once, it checks the block of feeling like you need to go again. I definitely could understand what she meant after our visit, but nonetheless I'm glad we made the trip.

It would take about 90 men to move one of the stones, a random fact that Finn has not forgotten.

The day after our visit to Stonehenge we loaded up the rental car and set out on our big UK+ trip. First stop was to Wales. We had been to Wales once before, but this time went up to Snowdonia in the North Western part of the country. It was a brief stop (we wanted to break up the trip) as we just stayed one night before catching the ferry to Ireland the next morning, but I'm glad we went. Snowdonia is beautiful and reminded me a lot of the Lake District we visited in February. We went on a hike that looked like something out of Game of Thrones. It was a little chilly, but then the wind picked up on the back half of our hike and it got COLD. Mary did great for the first part, but was over it as soon as the wind hit and said, "I want to go back to the car!"

Miles and his dad went to a pub in the evening and ended up meeting "real Welshmen" who insisted on picking up the tab and I felt like most people we encountered were very friendly. Wales uses the pound since it's part of the UK, but Welsh is the national language and all the road and traffic signs are in Welsh. We learned that most people learn English as a second language as a lot of the schools still use Welsh as the primary language, at least in the northern part of the country. They are very proud of their history and culture. It's been neat to see how different areas of the UK can be from one another.


May 14, 2017

Mother's Day {2017}

Several months ago Finn had a scary dream and came into our room frightened and snuggled up next to me for the rest of the night. Now, he will wake up claiming to have a bad dream so he can scoot into our bed. He's totally making up his bad dreams because he knows I am a sucker and I'm totally ok indulging him because one day far too soon he won't want or need my comfort. 

Mary woke up super early this morning and Miles went in her room to get her to go back to sleep, but he said she refused and said she wanted Mommy and wanted to go downstairs. So he brought her to bed and the four of us crammed into our queen sized bed for a few more hours of rest. We've never been a co-sleeping bunch. Nothing against it, just that it's not our thing. The kids typically sleep well in their own beds, and Miles and I certainly get better sleep without little feet and arms poking us all night. But waking up (at nearly 9am I might add!) on Mother's Day with these little babes hogging my space and stealing my pillow was the best way I could have asked to start my day. 

I'm so glad Miles snapped this picture. It's by no means flattering, but I treasure it all the same.

Mother's Day is so complicated and heavy for so many people, myself included. Hope it was at least gentle for those who needed it to be. 


April 30, 2017

April: A Marathon of a Month

Oh, that blog title is so cheesy. But really, April has been crazy and I now have a lot of catching up to do on all we've been up to this past month. The month was book ended with marathons with a whole lot of travel in the middle. The month started with a trip to Manchester, England where I ran the Manchester Marathon (the race village was in the Manchester United stadium area for those of you football fans). We stayed for just one night, but it seems like a neat city and we were glad to be able to visit if only briefly. Marathon went well and we came back home for Finn to finish up his last week of school before term break and a couple days after we got back, Miles' parents arrived.

After Miles' parents arrived, as in the following day, Miles and I flew to New York for a few days. He had a conference to attend for the scholarship he is on and spouses were welcome to attend as well (meaning, spouses travel was paid for so OF COURSE I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity while we had grandparents available to watch the kiddos). 

The fist day Miles was in a conference and meetings at West Point so I spent the day visiting with several of my friends who are living there. It was SO nice to see them and get to catch up. We also got to swing by the cemetery and have a beer with Daren.

The following day we toured the 9/11 memorial and museum. The last time I was there was in 2003 when it was still "Ground Zero" and they had only just begun construction. It was as powerful and emotionally draining as I suspected it would be and absolutely worth the visit.

We returned to England after three nights away and a few days after returning we took off on a big UK (plus) trip. I'll share pictures and do a blog from each of the places we visited in due time (hopefully not another month!) 


March 22, 2017

Our British Home

We've been in England for six months now which is over a quarter of our time here! Crazy how fast it is going. I wanted to share pictures of our house here, mostly so years from now I'll have a record of it and can remember what it looked like, but also because I took pictures of rooms only when they were clean so needless to say it took awhile...

We looked at several places when we first moved here (we stayed at two Air BnBs for a month total until moving into our home), and this house was definitely our favorite so I'm glad it worked out. We are only a half mile walk from Finn's school, a ten minute walk from the grocery store and a few shops, and we are lucky that we don't live directly off a busy street (like a couple of the others we looked at). Plus we have a driveway which is a big deal here. A lot of places have street parking only and that would have just gotten old. We live only two miles from the city center which makes Miles bike commute very easy. It's funny though because even though we feel super close to everything a lot of people have commented how we live "so far away." Living right in the city center isn't really ideal for a family, so we are happy with our part of town.

Out back we have a nice little garden and patio area. The pole to the right of the below picture is a clothes drying rack which I have never used because it rains too much and has been chilly since we moved in. But maybe I'll get some use out of it later this spring/summer.

Once you enter the house, we have a little entry way (with raincoats always at the ready) and a hallway that leads to the kitchen/family room.

The kitchen (and several other rooms) was completely remodeled prior to us moving in (in fact waiting for the remodel is what our move in date was based around). And the room next to the kitchen that we've made a family room was an addition to the house. The family room used to be upstairs (called a sitting room here), but that would have made things a little too tight and we already left a good bit in storage, like our big farmhouse table which I love, but we were worried about it fitting through doorways here. We bought a cheapie little kitchen table which works just fine, but it certainly feels small when we have company over (first world problems).

Even though I don't have my gallery ledges, I was able to use these wide windowsills to my advantage.

When you go upstairs our room is what used the be the sitting room. It's an odd shape and because of the windows it makes furniture layout even more bizarre. A full bath was added, but this room doesn't have closets, but because of the size, it made the most sense to make this the master bedroom. Miles uses the closets in the office and I use the closets in Mary's room.

 Across the hall is the office/guest room/Miles' yoga room. There is a full bath in it as well. It's another oddly shaped room, but it can fit an air mattress if we need it, though usually when we have company we give them Mary's room and Mary and Finn share a room.

The third floor is the kids rooms on either side and a bathroom in the middle. Finn's room is the largest bedroom in the house, but we didn't want to make it our bedroom as then we'd end up having the kids on separate floors and with the bathroom layout it made sense to have them sharing a bathroom. So we put the playroom stuff in his room, which he was SO excited about when we first moved in, but the novelty has worn off. For about a month or so when we had people over to the house Finn loved to show off his room and on more than one occasion asked our house guest, "is my room bigger than yours?" He's very humble, that one.

We also have a messy garage (not pictured) which is mostly full of bikes, scooters, storage items, and the washer and dryer. Another very British thing we discovered is that most places have a washer/dryer combination, meaning it's one machine that does both, but we found it does both rather poorly. Thankfully the Air Force Base nearby, which has been so good to us, has some dryers that they lend out to people free of charge for the duration of their time here. They also hooked us up with a table, beds, and a kitchen starter set until our furniture arrived which was so great.

So there you have it, our little British home sweet home.