Monday, 30 January 2017

Sebastian is 6!

Sebastian turned 6 a couple of weekends ago.  It tricky having 2 of our children with birthdays either side of Christmas.  Seb wants EVERYTHING! and pretty much plays with anything.  Him and Isaac play so beautifully together.  He loves Hot Wheels, so he got a play set for that

He has a thing for Buckaroo, as he has been playing it at school.  So that was in his pile also

He had to go to school on his birthday, which he was ok with.  He was a bit upset the week before, as he knew his birthday was on a thursday.  He got a little confused, thinking it was the week before.... He got very upset.  And consequently VERY excited when it was finally his birthday! 

His cake was a plain chocolate one from Tesco, which was absolutely delicious

For his birthday treat he really wanted to go to a race track, or a Formula one company.  These are not the easiest things to do in January in England, so we managed to persuade him to go to the zoo instead.

The saturday after his birthday we traipsed off to Marwell Zoological Park.  We have been  there before, for Oliver's 3rd birthday, when Isaac was still a babe in arms.  It was freezing the day we went, but the sun was shining so it did warm up

Marwell has not really changed that much to be honest.  All the animals were pretty active, think the cold must have made them move around more!

Quite a few big cats, but with good enriched enclosures 

We walked the whole zoo.  We could have taken a tractor ride, but we walked it.  It was gloriously quiet, a great way to have some family time.  They are building a new Hot House at the Zoo, opening next year, so it was a bit confusing going round at times, but lovely all the same.

Sebastian really wanted to see the ostriches.  Something to do with them being fast.....

Typically we did the zoo in about 2 hours.  Marwell is good, and certainly worth a visit.  We toyed with getting a yearly pass.  But they don't do family passes, only adult and child.  It would be over 200 pounds for us...... Not worth it unfortunately.

From Marwell, it was on to the outskirts of Southampton for everyones treat....... Five Guys!  So yummy, just like stateside.  Loved it.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As  the title suggests, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! This is going to be a catch up post, prompted by photos.  I don't really have the inclination this year to do a big post on how 2016 has been for us.  A lot has happened in the last year, and most of it is documented here.  So for now, lets go on some photos from December.

I did a craft fair every weekend through december.  The photo below is from the one I did in Worthing town centre.

We used to live in Worthing, when Oliver was born.  We know the town.  This was billed as a big event with at least 30 craft stalls over 2 days.  I chose to only do the Sunday, as I could not do both.  It was a flop..... The pitch fee was expensive, the amount of people coming by was good, but there were hardly and handmade / craft stalls, more local produce.  And I had to share that gazebo with 2 other people. I wrote a strongly worded email to the organiser afterwards. Funnily enough, I haven't heard back form her.  I made more money at Sebastians school Christmas fair, than I made in Worthing.  The other fairs have done really well, particularly the Christmas items.  I am already booked in for about 12 craft fairs next year, but am always on the look out for more.  If you know of any good ones, let me know.  I am more than willing to travel.  (shameless plug for my etsy store here)

The Zumba classes attendance have tailed off a little towards  the end of the year.  It is to be expected I think.  Hoping January is going to be busier.  I have all my paperwork and forms ready to go, my new routines sorted.  I even have a new Zumba Gold class to teach out of a gym in Havant.  BodyWorx360 has been there since July, but is starting to offer classes in January.  I will be there on a Monday morning, 9.30-10.30am. Super excited.

Almost as exciting as my Christmas week at Zumba, where pretty much everyone who came dressed festive, one way or another! 

The final week of school was a busy one. Paul was away, so it was hard work.  Isaac had  a brass band concert on the Monday afternoon.  Every term, the school bring in an outside music teacher.  Isaacs year got to learn a brass instrument this term.  Isaac played the trumpet.  He didn't cry, have a paddy or get upset about having to perform.  Not sure how much actually playing he did, but the boy done good

Thursday afternoon of that week was Sebastians whole school Carol Concert in one of the local churches.  It is so good they are able to walk there.  It is a beautiful church, just about big enough to hold the whole school, and the parents.  He did sing, I think, but he also got very distracted, a lot.  Funny how my younger 2 always seem to end up sitting with the teachers..... I so love the boys schools, both of them.  They are really benefiting from being in smaller schools....

Friday morning was my last Zumba Gold for the year.  I absolutely LOVE all my classes.  These ladies below have been with me since day 1.  They are such a good bunch, and we ALWAYS have a laugh.  They certainly get my weekends started right! 

Before my Gold class, I have to attend a special assembly at Isaacs  school.  He had been nominated for an award, but I didn't know which one.  Turns out, every term they give 3 awards per year, as well as the reading challenge (special homework), attendance ( most of the school had a sickness bug at some point).  Isaacs award was last. He was nominated for the most Successful Learner in his year.  This is someone who keeps going, keeps trying, is achieving, and doesn't let adversity hold them back. As soon as his teacher started describing the winner I knew  it was him.  And yes I cried (I am welling up as I write this).  His face was a picture.  He is so proud of himself.  We are so proud of how far he has come. When I think back to where he was this time last year, he has done so well.  He won a selection box as his prize, and received 2 certificates.  One for his nomination, and one for his win.

And then school was over.  We had a full week between school finishing and Christmas.  It was a long, long week, but we all survived. We have seen friends, done some walks etc.  And now Christmas is done.  It was a low key affair for us. We saw my step dad and stepsisters on Christmas eve, which was really nice. A lovely thing to do.  Christmas day was spent at home relaxing, opening presents and eating and drinking too much. Boxing Day, Pauls parents came down, with the gifts from his brother and sister.  We spent the day chatting and eating.  Since then we have been swimming, bowling and had haircuts for all males in the house.  That was entertaining....

This afternoon we will be going for a walk, probably somewhere like this....

Or this.....

New Year eve will be spent at home, we will let Oliver and Isaac stay up as long as they can.  Seb will probably be in bed by 9pm......

Happy New Year! 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Isaac's 8th birthday

My middle one celebrated his birthday last weekend.  His birthday fell on a friday.  His presents were not as numerous as they were in the States, though he did not seem to notice or care. 

Isaac is difficult, yet easy to buy for.  He likes pretty much everything, and didn't give us much of an idea of what he wanted, other than Lego

I think he was pleased with what we got him.  He had a 'Secret Life of Pets' birthday cake from Tesco (big supermarket chain).

It wasn't the best of cakes.  Lesson learned.

Isaac had initially wanted a birthday party, but luckily for us he changed his mind about a month ago. When we discovered there was a Lego store opening in Leicester Square, London, we thought about going, especially as that was what hew wanted for his birthday.  So I started investigating.

Trains are always a good experience for boys, and there are plenty of train stations in the UK.  But there are 5 of us, and travelling to London and around London can be expensive on public transport.  But it beats sitting in traffic.  I came across this Friends and Family Railcard.  Using this, you can get up to a third off train fares.  I was able to use my Tesco Clubcard Points to purchase the rail card at 50% off (Note to US friends: Tesco Clubcard points are a bit like Bi Lo fuel perks, except you can use them in many different ways, not just on fuel.  For every pound you spend in the grocery store, you get 1 point.  These accumulate, and then different organisations offer different schemes to redeem your points).  We were able to get 5 train tickets, plus one day travel cards for each of us for 60 pounds.  Thats 12 each! A one day travel card gives you unlimited travel on the underground all day too.  The card is valid for a year, so I can see a few more trips to London occurring. 

Isaac wanted to go to the Imperial War Museum (IWM).  Paul and I went pre-kids and we were a little uncertain, but went for it anyway.  We got the train to Victoria, then the underground across to Waterloo, then walked the short distance to the museum.

The IWM had a refit in 2014, so was completely different from what we remember.  It is over 4 floors, with a large central atrium. Typically, It covers World War 2, World War 2 and lots of other, more recent conflicts.

The museum is free to get in, though you can give a donation if you wish.  It was really interesting going over the levels.  They had members of staff giving talks in very places, but ours are still a little young to stand and listen.

The IWM is definitely worth a visit.  Paul and I would like to go back again in the future to actually take our time.  We didn't take the kids to the Holocaust area.  We are not sure they would understand (or behave).  In the future, we will.  It is important for them to learn about.

From the IWM we walked towards the London Eye, in search of some lunch. I spotted a row of restaurants nestled by London County Hall, near the river.  Fortunately, they all seemed to hav loads of kids in them.  We chose Troia restaurant.  Very glad we did.  A Mediterranean style restaurant, they had mini chairs and tables for everyone. The service was, good, customers were coming and going constantly.  It was a very busy saturday lunchtime! The food was delicious.  The boys had nuggets and burgers from the kids menu.  Paul and I indulged in kebab style meals.  It was a great little stop, I would highly recommend to anyone passing by. 

Next stop: The Coca Cola London Eye. Again, planning in advance I was able to use the Clubcard vouchers again.  Per person, I used a 2.50 voucher, then paid 10 per person, so effectively we rode the London Eye for half price.  We booked our flight tickets for 2.30pm. 

We arrived about 1.45, and a good job we were early.  The queue was a good size, though it was moving.  We to into our pod about 2.20

This was an awesome experience.  Paul is not the best with heights, so spent the first half sitting in the middle.  Towards the top he got brave, and started venturing nearer the edge. We were lucky to have a beautiful semi cloudy day, so we were able to see for miles.  The pods have helpful screens in them which you can use to find land marks 

The pods could do with a little bit of a clean.  From the Eye, we got the tube to Leicester Square.  That was busy.  Getting out of the tube station was crazy, super, super busy.  Keeping track of 3 boys was tricky, but at least we did it with our wallets intact too.  We headed towards the Lego store.  Then we saw the queue. They had been open 5 days, it was Leicester Square, there were going to be queues. But we joined the queue.  We had to wait about 30 minutes.  I think it was worth it.  The boys were able to pick something each.  It was very busy, but the staff were very helpful.  We had a quick look in the Nickelodeon store, but it was no way as good!

Then it was time to head back for our train.  We had a good 90 minutes before our schedule train back to the coast.  We got to Victoria, looked at the departure boards, and noticed there was one leaving in 5 minutes.  So we ran for it.  And made it.  The train was really busy, but we were able to all get seats after about 4 stops.

It was a great day out.  Everything ran really smoothly.  The boys were really well behaved.  It is good to know we can do London with the boys. I look forward to doing it again (and I don't even like London!)

Monday, 31 October 2016

Half term is over

Okay.  It has been a while.  I am sorry.  But I have been super busy.  This is going to be a catch up post with what has been going on and how we have been handling it / adjusting to life back in the UK.

The boys started school at the local Juniors (Oliver and Isaac) and Infant  (Sebastian) Schools.  These schools are just over the road from each other and just a little bit too far to walk in a morning.  We have walked home, but not for a while.

They have taken to it quite well.  The juniors have parents evening (parent teacher conferences) tomorrow, and the infants the week after. Here is my thoughts...... 
Oliver is flying.  We always knew the boy was academically minded, but he is doing really well.  He gets to go on a residential school next June for a week of outdoor activities. I He can't wait! 
Isaac has had his issues, though they have not been as bad as expected.  Given that the school only received his ADHD report the day before school started, he is doing well.  He began not wanting to do any tests ( and not risk failing) in anything.  6 weeks later, he has passed his times tables tests in 2, 5 and 10 times tables.  And he knows them like a pro.  Spellings is a different matter...... His teacher is great.  She is so laid back.  She has had kids like Isaac before, and knows her stuff.  In fact, the whole staff have been great.  They don't tend to punish in the juniors school, as they don't really need to (crazy I know), but make a big deal out of the positives in school and life.  We have had 2 postcards from the head teacher about achievements that Isaac has done.  Not huge ones, but big for him.  I don't doubt we will have more issues, but so far so good.  He even told me couple of weeks ago that he actually likes school now.....
Sebastian, ah Sebastian...... We are weeks away from reading.  He is fortunate in that even though he has the biggest year group (grade) it is split over 3 classes, so only about 24 in each class.  In this country, that is great.  He has a teacher and a teaching assistant (TA).  The TA tends to work with small groups who need the most help, so she has got to know Sebastian quite well.  Her words "I've never known a boy like him".  His parents evening will be interesting, but he is getting there.  He practices his spellings for homework, even if he doesn't necessarily do the tests.  He is still very social.  Everyone knows him, in all the years, and he knows everyone..... He has also gone into the Silver Book at school, which means he got a certificate for trying hard and doing well.

We are still finding our way around the island, but loving it very much! 

The kids are pretty tired from school so we don't tend to do much at the weekend.  We went to the Italian Breakfast Club at the Goodwood Motor track. This is an event organised so people ca bring their Italian cars to the race track for people to look at.  Pretty cool. I imagine we will be at more Breakfast Clubs in the future.  Think Cars and Coffee in Greenville, but with particular types of cars 

We have been swimming, and a few other things in Portsmouth, but thats about it.  As I say, we are tired.  The kids aren't interested in any extra curricular activities, and we don't push them.  If they decided they want to do something, we will certainly look into it. We have just finished half term here, where the kids get a week off school.  It works quite well, and they seemed to enjoy being off school! 

Paul has been working super hard, and has been away Monday to Friday for the last 2 weeks, and this week also.  This has been a big adjustment for us, but we are getting there.  We have found some babysitters, as I now work in the evenings.

After finishing my degree, and doing my Zumba trainings, as soon as we moved into this house I set up as a limited company.  There are 2 arms to my company, Zumba classes, and craft items.
I am fortunate with the Zumba, as the instructor on the island left a couple of months before I got here.  I teach Zumba on a Monday night, Thursday day and night.  I teach Zumba Gold on a Tuesday and Friday daytime.  It has been such a great way to meet people.  I average about 20-40 people across my whole classes in a week.  Some people just do Zumba, some Gold, and some both!!!! I have changed my music a couple of times, as I like to keep it fresh, but there are definitely some favourites in there!!!My Zumba ladies are lovely.  This has been the first time I have taught Gold, and although it is a very steep learning curve, I love it.  No 2 classes are ever the same.....

The crafting has been quite good too.  I have done a couple of craft fairs, and although I have not made a four tune, I have made my costs on the events back.  I have also had a sale on Etsy here, and am doing well networking on social media and in person.  I love the island, there are so many wonderful eclectic people here, and a real sense of community.  I hope we can stay a while.....

Next time, I will not wait so long to blog.....

Monday, 17 October 2016

300th blog post!!!!

Woohooo!!! This is my 300th blog post!!

I started this blog originally back in June 2012.  The idea behind it was to give family members an insight into our life, as we made a big chance and moved our family to America on a temporary working contract for my husbands job.

4+ years, thousands of miles (and vacations) later, and we are back in good old blighty!  Sometimes it feels like we have never been away.....  Other days we remember the awesome times we had just driving down Main Street, Simpsonville. 

Having this blog has been like a diary.  I am able to go back and look at events that happened in our lives.  And there have been so many.  Some happy, some very sad and some surprises along the way.  This blog will always give me a means to reflect on what our life has been.  But it can also give me guidance, as to what our lives could become.  I hope the boys don't end up hating me for documenting parts of their childhood in the public domain.  I don't think they will.  If they were girls, it might be different!

Going forward, I am not sure the best way to use this blog.  In the past it has been used for recipes, holiday guides and days out and about.  I still make a load of recipes, but haven't been on as many holidays! Or days out come to think of it, but I am sure that will change! I am working now, albeit not full time, but enough that I am certainly occupied! So I will probably fit the blog in with updates on kids, days out we do and vacations.  And any major life changes that happen.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you have enjoyed following our journey so far.  I will do another post very soon as an Update style post! 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Camping and Monster Jam

This weekend we went camping.  We discovered a couple of weeks ago that Monster Jam were coming to Cardiff on their world tour.  Sebastian loves Monster Jam, the other two like it a lot also.  We looked into tickets.  It was at the Principality Stadium (formally the Millennium Stadium).  Having seen Monster Jam in Greenville, we knew what to expect.  Given the size of the stadium in Wales, we were hoping they would really cut loose and go wild.....

We left mid morning on Friday.  The weather was not looking too great for the saturday, but we would be in Cardiff all day, so not have to worry about being bored around a tent.  The roads were pretty busy, but we reached the Severn Crossing in good time. Six pounds sixty it cost to enter Wales via bridge.  Thats about 4 dollars.......

We had booked a pitch at Heritage Coast Campsite, about a 45 minute drive from Cardiff.  The campsite was fairly quiet when we arrived, though it did start to fill up.  In the states we invested in a lot of camping gear.  We had a nice little set up.

Once we were set up, we took a little walk to the coast.  This area is in the Vale of Glamorgan, and has part of the path we took on the Wales Coast Path .  The lady in the reception at the campsite was very knowledgable, and gave good directions to get to the coast. 

Along the way we went past this derelict house.  We can only imagine it was a mill or something, as it was right next to a stream.

We kept going.  Can't remember the last time I went over so many styes.  It was the boys first experience of them  They were made of stone / slate too.  Good job no one took a tumble....

A stunning view awaited us once we had passed through the woods.

The foot path was pretty muddy, which the boys loved. The beach was stunning to look at, but very impractical.  All the same, beautiful.  The tide was on its way in, so we stopped for a bit and threw some massive rocks. 

We headed back to the campsite and had some dinner.  Spaghetti Bolognese, pre made at home, reheated on the stove, with garlic bread slices, cooked on a toaster rack.  It was yummy.  The boys even made friends with the boys next door, playing football until it got dark.

We awoke on Saturday morning to a beautiful sunset, early.  The boys thought 6am was a good wake up.  Think the rest of the campsite would have disagreed....... The sunshine didn't last either.  By 9am it was raining on and off, so we decided to head to Cardiff.

We took a little drive through Barry on the way.  Home of Gavin and Stacy (popular BBC comedy), it would have been rude not to!  Nice looking seaside town, would definitely like to come back once the weather is better......

Cardiff traffic was bad, but not as bad as I was expecting it to be. We manages to find somewhere to park right in the centre.  We were getting hungry, but were a little early for lunch.  We found a Harvester in the centre of time, and decided to sit it out until lunch service began.  The restaurant started to fill up, mainly with families who had been to Party in the Pits at Monster Jam.  

We enjoyed lunch, but had to take a walk round, as we were still to early to get in the stadium.  It was really raining by now.  We got into the stadium as soon as the doors opened.  It certainly was something.  Huge, much bigger than the one in Greenville. 

There were 12 trucks taking part in the spectacle.  The boys loved it.  Personally, I found the racing bit a little boring.  The Extreme Motocross riders in the intermission were awesome.  Then there was a wheelie competition.  Again, a little boring. The freestyles were good.  2 of the trucks did back flips and wrecked themselves in the process!

All in, the Principality Stadium is awesome.  Prices for refreshments reasonable.  The Monster Jam was a little under whelming to me.  But this wasn't for me, it was for the kids.  They loved it.  I can understand why.  I think the TV coverage and commentators really hype it up, but when you see it in real life, its just not the same...... It seems Monster Jam come to the UK every 4 years or so.  If they come again, we will probably end up going! 

Getting out of Cardiff was not to tricky.  We stopped for some fast food at the nearest big town before heading back to the campsite.  It was windy and wet when we arrived.  It was not a pretty sight..... Water had got through the tent and we had a swimming pool in the tent.  It would have been great, except all the bedding, clothing even the towels and food were soaked.  We weighed up out options, as it continued to rain.  We had no dry bedding or clothing, so we decided to cut our losses and pack up and head for home.  The kids were pretty upset, more about their wet teddies than the fact we were heading home.  We managed to get everything packed and in the car in under an hour.  

We arrived back home just before midnight.  It was a long old day.  The weather has been dry and windy here today, so we have dried out all the equipment.  We are all really tired after a super long day yesterday! 

We will give camping another go, but possibly get out other tent back from the inlaws.  Its a lot bigger, and hopefully more water proof........

Thursday, 1 September 2016

September already......

Wow, I can't believe it is September the 1st. We have been back for 2 months.  Its funny, in some respects it feels like we have never been away.  We have got ourselves in a nice little rut.

The house is working for us.  My dad recently moved, so we were able to take a whole lot of his furniture.  This has enabled us to make better use of the space.  My craft area is set up, and beading has begun.  The living room works ok as a living space and office/ craft space.  Paul has his iRacing set up in our bedroom.  Its not ideal, but the room is big enough to handle it.  The boys rooms work, just.  We took a trip to ikea to get some draws for their clothes.  The toys are a bit of a mess, but as they are constantly being played with it doesn't really matter.  The boys can even be pretty helpful at tidying them up too (sometimes)

Pauls racing set up

Paul is getting on ok at work.  Adjusting to being in a much smaller plant. He has a few trips away between now and Christmas, but I think I will survive......

The boys. Ahh the boys.  Nearly 100 days the older 2 will have been off.  60 for Sebastian.  I am so ready for them to go back to school.  So are they, they just don't realise it yet.....  School starts Tuesday. They are very happy in the house, and they love Hayling Island.  We all love Hayling Island.

I am busy! I have taken Zumba, and run with it.  Fortunately, the lady who did instruct on the island has moved away, so I am hoping it is really going to build once school goes back.  I have 3 different places on the island I will teach at, and have just been told of another one to look into.  I am still teaching in Havant for Activ8 Minds.  I really hope to continue this, as the ladies there currently are lovely! I also have a great group on the island on a thursday evening.  In two weeks time I will be adding another Monday evening class, a Zumba Gold on a Tuesday and a Friday Morning.  Then in 3 weeks time, a 45 minute class on a Wednesday evening.  Busy.... But I think I can handle it. It is 6 classes a week, 4 Zumba (one is 45 minutes), and 2 Zumba Gold.  I love it. I am so happy I am able to work at something I truly love.  Lets hope I can break even, so I can continue to do it.
The crafting is going good too.  I have signed up for 3 craft fairs between October and November, so once the kids go back to school I will be making again.  I have even set up a new etsy store, due to banking complications with the one in the US.  I am currently having a go at beaded christmas ornaments, as these may sell well in the next few months!  I do a lot of networking online, which also helps.

And the island.  Hayling Island is stunning.  It is like a little time capsule.  It is one of those places where everyone knows each other and people have lived here a long time, or all their lives.  There are some great characters.

The west of the island has what is called the Billy Trail.  This is an old railway line which was decommissioned in the 1950's and had since been turned into a bike / walking trial.  We have walked some of it, and Paul and Oliver have ridden some of it  It is very picturesque, and very popular.

Down on the seafront, right in the middle of the island, is Beachlands. My kids call this Kids Kingdom.  It is like a mini amusement park, aimed at kids aged 3-12 (roughly).  We have taken them once, and they loved it.

We have had a couple of stormy days, one when my dad came down.  Being near to the explosive power of the waves is awesome, yet dangerous too.  But the waves look so cool......

Thats all for now.  We are actually going away this weekend.  Camping.  To Wales.  Not like the remnants of a hurricane are blowing through or anything....... Wish us luck.....