Monday, 27 October 2014

The boy's surprise!

After yesterdays sadness, we wanted to do something special for the boys.  Once our travel plans were confirmed, I started looking into Legoland, and the hotel.  We decided to book the hotel for the friday night, and purchase tickets for the friday.  They were doing a special on buy 1 day get the next day free, so this gave us the option of the park over both days.  It wasn't heap, but the hotel and tickets for 2 days to the park came in at under 500 pounds for all of us.

We kept it as a surprise.  The boys kept asking we where we were going.  out response 'its a surprise'. It was only when we drove up to the main gate they knew it was happening, and were very happy about it!

We got there after lunch, and this was the entrance....

Quiet, so very, very quiet.  One of the joys of going over term time.  We walked through the main entrance to the shopping area, and this was the view 

The weather was pretty good, and you could see all the way to London, absolutely breath taking.  I remember this park when it was Windsor Safari Park.  I went there many, many times, my mum used to work in a school nearby.  

First stop, Lego Star Wars.  This was all indoors, and absolutely amazing.  Dare I say it, better than Florida's.  Because it was so quiet we were able to walk round the whole display basically undisturbed.  

We walked on down the park.  We went on a couple of rides, then the rain struck.  We had left our rain coats in the car, so invested in some ponchos.  

It was raining pretty hard, so we took shelter in one of the restaurants.  Luckily it didn't rain long, so we were quickly out walking around the park. We went on a ferris wheel type thing, which gave awesome views over the whole park, then took a train ride to see what else was on offer.  I will say it again, it was quiet, so we hardly had to queue for anything.  You know I like that!

We headed to the back of the park, where the hotel was, then kept going towards Atlantis.  This was by far everyones favorite.  You get in a submarine, which takes you under water looking for the lost city of Atlantis, through reefs, with plenty of sharks.  The boys loved it.

By now, we were getting towards the park closing time, so we headed back up to the entrance to do some shopping.  Not before hitting up mini world.  Again, this was awesome, and we only did about half of it.

We couldn't leave the park before going to the Hero Factory area.  This is Isaacs favorite kind of Lego, he has a lot of Hero's, and is always making his own.  This was perfect for him.  2 big tables, each with about 6 pits full of pieces for him to make his own.  he was in his element.  Look how quiet it is, there is only my 2 in the photo!

We went to the shop, and the boys got a couple of little sets each, before heading out the park towards the hotel.  

Legoland hotel is something else.  Massive pits of Lego in reception, where the boys plated while I checked us in.  We were in an adventure room on the top floor.  The lifts in this place are awful, but we soon discovered the stairs.  

The room was amazing, absolutely perfect for us. The kids even had their own sleeping area!  

There was a little treasure hunt for them to do to open the chest for their Lego prizes.  Needless to say they loved it.  It was the little touches that made a big difference.  

We headed down for some dinner.  We choose to eat at the Skyline Bar, as I was aware we would be eating in the Bricks restaurant for breakfast.  The staff in this restaurant were not great, and there was not enough of them.  We managed to get a table at the side of the restaurant, where we could pretty much see the kids where ever they went. This was a very good idea, as there was a room upstairs containing Xbox's, where our kids spent most of the evening.  We did manage to get them to have some food.  This was not too expensive, though we were careful what we ordered, to be sure the boys would eat 

There was entertainment put on for the kids, which ours eventually decided to watch.

We took them up to the room about 8.30.  They had a great time, and were very excited about going back in the next morning.  Paul and I took turns going back down to the bar to get more beer.  The bar was pretty much empty by 9.30, as you would expect from a family friendly resort.  

We went to bed about 11.30, absolutely shattered, but happy having enjoyed our day, and knowing the kids were happy too.  

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Funeral

We all awoke about 8am on the thursday morning.  Paul Tatum was still there with his boys, so they were all able to play together till Oscar and Ethan had to leave for school.  We had a lazy morning round the Tatum's, the boys played and watched tv.   We gave them an early lunch at 11.30, then started getting them ready, before we got ourselves ready.

Paul T arrived home about 12, and we headed round to Lee's about 1.15.  Melissa, Natasha, Dominic, Laura (Dom's wife) and Owen (baby) were already there.  The cars were due at 1.45.  The Pedley's (Mike, Marie, Lottie and Milly) arrived shortly after 1.30.  The cars arrived, and Lee, Marie, myself, Isaac and Oliver got in the first one, with the others in the second one.  Seeing the coffin in the first hearse with the flowers was very hard, and tears began to well up.  We took a slow drive out of Lee's road, then headed towards Easthampstead, where the funeral was taking place.  Isaac kept the tears from coming for me, with his lovely chatter and questions.  

We took a slow drive from the main road up to the cemetery.  There were loads of people ouside waiting.  Close relatives on one side of the drive, friends and colleagues on the other. There were lots of people.  We all got out of the cars.  The boys went and said a quick hello to the Goslings, nanny, grandad, Jenny and Tony.  The main crowd filed in. The casket was carried in by the men from the funeral directors.  Close family followed in behind.  As soon as we got to the row at the front, by the casket, Sebastian burst into tears.  The emotion was too much for him.  I didn't think a three year old would understand, but he seemed to.  

The rector began with a prayer, before Mike began with his tribute.  The night before mum died, mike and her had got together to write the tribute.  It was beautiful, exactly what she wanted.  We then sang 'The Lords My Shepard'.  It was then my turn.  I knew I would be speaking, but only wrote it the night before the funeral.  I also had a couple of poems mum and I had picked out.  The first one, I had to miss, as it was being said at the graveside.  So I began.....

My mum and I have nearly always had a good relationship.  We have had our ups and downs, disagreed, fallen out, but we have always made it up.  Usually over a few beers.  She was so happy when I met Paul, and subsequently moved to Essex with him.  We got married 3 years later, with my mum and Lee getting married 7 months after.  They got married on my mums 50th birthday.  My mum was so happy when she found out she was going to be a grandma.  She wasn't so happy with my request for her to be in the delivery room, but she went with my wishes, and was pleased to be the third person to hold Oliver.  
Mum was happy to look after Oliver when Isaac was born. She was also happy to be on call for when Sebastian was born.  Good job too, as she made a mad dash to look after Isaac at VERY short notice.  Again, she was one of the first to see her grandchild.  She played a big part in her grandchildren's lives, and I will always be grateful for that help, be it financially, babysitting, or just being there.  
And that is what I will miss the most.  Ok, I have been living in America for the last 2 years, but we have been in touch frequently.  Mum came to visit us last Easter, and had a great time.  We visited a coastal island in Georgia where we saw dolphins just off shore and toured Fort Pulaski which played a big part in the American Civil War.  Mum loved the history side of it.
My mum was so looking forward to her retirement.  She had grand plans to come for Christmas, and quite a few weeks after. She had every intention of going to France this summer, and staying as long as she could. 
Unfortunately, her illness did not allow for this.  Her time in France was cut short, and her illness affected her very quickly.  I am so sad to see her go, but glad she did not suffer long.  I was fortunate enough to come and see her 3 weeks ago. I fully expected the worst, yet she looked much better than I thought she would. I feel privileged to have been able to spend six days in her company.  Saying goodbye was probably one of the hardest things I have err had to do.  But I am glad I got to do it face to face.  Going back to my life after spending time with my mum was hard, but necessary. Getting the phone call of the news of her passing was awful.  Knowing I will never be able to pick up the phone and speak to her again makes me so sad.  
Last week we went out for a local event, and had a meal beforehand.  I saw these 2 older couples come in.  I couldn't help thinking to myself ' My mum will never be able to do that', and that makes me sad.  Since being an adult, and maybe as a child, I have always wanted my parents to be proud of me.  I know my mum thought I was doing an awesome job of being a mum.  But I would always call her if I needed advice.  I can't do that anymore.  She was immensely proud of me  doing my degree in later life.  I am 4 months away from finishing, and it makes me sad to know that she will never see me graduate.  I know she will be looking down on me with great admiration.  But its not the same.
I'm gonna miss you mum....

I was so caught up in the emotion, and trying not to cry, that I forgot the second poem.  My tribute ended with 'The Frog Chorus' by Paul McCartney.  This was one of my favorite songs growing up, and I have many memories of my mum and I dancing around the house.

My Uncle Robert then read from John 14, a beautiful piece, which my mum would have loved.  We the listened to one of her favorite hymns, 'Lead, Kindly Light' before conclude with 'The Lord's Prayer'.  The funeral directors then carried the casket out, while 'Wind Beneath My Wings' by Bette Midler played.  Then the tears flowed.  We walked down to the cars crying our eyes out.  The boys went to the Goslings, while we began the walk to the graveside.

The rector spoke a few words, then I read the poem 'Miss Me, But Let Me Go'. This was one of the poems I had wanted to read, so I felt honored to be able to do this for my mum.  There was then Psalm 121, followed by the Prayer of Committal ad my mum was lowered into the ground.  My mum had requested 'The Soldier' by Rupert Brooke to be read at the graveside.  Marie read it beautifully.    Millie and Lottie then stepped forward with a basket of beautiful white roses to be laid in the casket.  The girls were dressed in their school uniforms, looking smart.  Mum would have loved this little touch.  We all took turns in laying flowers in the grave.  All family and close friends were able to say their goodbyes this way.  There were even enough for some of her pupils to lay some in.  Mum would have loved this, and a big thank you to Marie for arranging this.

We said a quick hello to family members, before heading on to the wake.


The wake was held at a local pub.  It was so lovely to see so many people turn out for mum.  She would have loved it.  There was good chatter all round.  Lots of friends, family, colleagues and pupils new and old, all come out to share memories and love of my mum.  

Paul took the boys home around 7.  The Tatum's helped with the bed time.  A big thank you to them, we could not have managed this without them.  So many people did so much for us, and my mum.  Words cannot describe how thankful I am to all that helped any way they could.

Paul came back and got me at 9pm.  I was taken home, and put straight to bed.  It had been a long, emotional day......

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Coral Reef and meeting relatives

The boys awoke in good time on the wednesday morning.  Again we had plans for them.  We wanted to try and make the trip to England as fun for them as possible, given what would be happening the next day.

We got to Coral Reef at about 11.30 am.  This is a water park that has been in Bracknell for about 25 years.  I remember going as a small child, aged 7-11, pretty much every weekend.  It was always packed and always fun.  Oh the joys of being there when everyone else is in school.  Because it was counted as off-peak, and Sebastian was free, it cost us less than 20 quid to get in, always a result for a family of 5.  Ok, the big slides weren't open, but only Oliver would have been able to ride them anyway.

We spent a good 2 hours playing in the pirate ship, the  hot tub around the rapids, and generally just having fun.  It was so worthwhile going for the boys, they had a great time.  People watching was also fun, some of Bracknell's finest were out.  Then hunger struck.  we thought about just getting a snack at the pool, but it was already past lunch time, so we decided to go for a full on meal.

We headed to the local Harvester, about 10 minutes down the road.  Their grill was broken.  WHAT?  how can a Harvester have a broken grill??? The only food they could offer us was fried or salads.  We quickly exited, and started heading towards Wokingham, when we came across a Beefeater.

This Beefeater (Downshire Arms) has been there for donkeys.  I went there as a kid, and as an adult when I worked over the road.  It was about 2pm by now, so we missed the lunch rush.  We were given a nice big table in an alcove, which was perfect for us.  The boys got diet cokes to drink, while Paul and I indulged in beer.  The waitress was very friendly and prompt.  Paul and I both went with the 6oz flat iron stark, cooked exactly the same.  Oliver and Isaac both had a pizza, while we ordered the popping chicken for Sebastian.  All with fries of course, but beans for Isaac and peas for the other 2.  I really think Isaac misses proper baked beans. Our food didn't take too long to arrive. The steaks were tasty, exactly what you would expect from a Beefeater.  Oliver finished everything, will not be long till he is on to adult meals.  Isaac ate about 1/2 of everything, and Seb only touched his fries.

Since it had been a long time since they had eaten, we ordered dessert. Oliver and Seb had a plain ice cream, Isaac had chocolate sauce.  I ordered profiteroles, and Paul had the chic fudge brownie.  Again, there were served in good time.  Paul and I went half and half, and man, were these desserts good.  The boys even had some of the brownie, which they loved.  We got the bill, it came to about 45 quid with tip.  Pretty reasonable for a family of five.  We then realized that the kids were able to eat for 1.99, due to a promotion they run between 3-5 every week day.  Even without realizing, I stumbled onto kids eat cheap!

Beefeater on Urbanspoon

We headed off to our friends the Tatum's, where we were spending the next 2 nights.  Our boys were so pleased to have somewhere to play, with loads of different toys. They were even more pleased when Oscar and Ethan got home.  It was so lovely to see them playing together again.  

About 6.30pm, I got a phone call from Lee to tell me my uncles were at the house.  We bundled the boys into the car and drove the 5 minutes round the corner to Lee's.  It was so good to see my uncles again, I swear they have barely aged in the 9 years since I last saw them.  It was good for the boys to be able to meet them too, before the emotion of the next day came into play.  We spent about 45 minutes chatting and catching up before heading back to the Tatum's to get the boys into bed.  

Thursday, 16 October 2014

First part of our trip back to England

So we got on our airplane on time on Saturday night.  We went through pain to get seats together, and on a direct flight.  I am grateful to Paul's department assistance for putting her foot down, and basically doing the right thing.  We were so displeased with how the travel company expected us to travel.  I will name and shame them once our time here is done.

Anywho I digress.  Saturday afternoon at Charlotte airport really is quiet!!!! No queues and through security in no time.  Defineatley the time to travel with small children.  The flight was slightly delayed, but still arrived at Heathrow on time.  Terminal 3 is awesome, and also not too far from the car hire place.

We got our hire car, a Citroen C4 very quickly, again the joy of it being first thing on a Sunday morning.  We headed up the motorway to Paul's parents.  First thing I did was go to sleep.  Paul and I spent most of the day drifting in and out of sleep.  We put Isaac and Seb to bed at about 5.30.  No one slept for more than 3 hours on the plane, so they all needed it.  Oliver fell asleep on the sofa about 6.15 and was put straight to bed.  Typically Paul and I were up till about 11 talking to Keith, Paul's dad.  

No one was up before 9 the next morning.  Oliver even slept till gone 10.  The boys were certainly trying to catch up.  We had a rough plan for the day, but first an emergency stop.  Everyone said the weather in England was lovely before we got there.  If was chucking down on the Monday.  So we stopped to get some rain coats, and look for 3 pairs of black shoes for small children.  I got one....

No trip to Oxford would be complete without a trip to Grandads bike shop.  Last Easter there was a fire that destroyed most of the building and stock inside.  The shop recently reopen in the same location.  We couldn't have picked the worst week to be in Oxford.  It was threshers week, and anyone who know Oxford would know how many bikes there are on the street.  A big proportion of these come from grandads bike shop.  The boys have always loved going there, and having a little ride around.

From there we headed to the science area of the university, where the museums are. It was already after lunch, so we had a snack on the way.  Oxford wasn't too busy at this point, and we were able to get parked within walking distance of the museums (once we had got change for parking of course).  

We started at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.  Despite Paul living in Oxford most of his life, he had never been to the museums.  

The museum is perfect for small kids.  Not too much going on, but the right level of info and interesting stuff to hold them.

There were rocks, dinosaur bones, various skeletons, taxidermy animals, the evolution of man..... I could go on.  Have some photos instead.

Had to geta photo of this one, Wicked Tuna all the way!!!

Isaacs absolute favorite.


After killing a good 45 minutes to an hour, we ducked into the Pitt Rivers Museum, attached to the back of the Natural History Museum.  This collection is epic....

It is basically a collection of artifacts to do with humans.  There is all sorts; weapons, worship, craft, jewelry, clothing, pottery.  I could go on.  We dragged the children around all 3 levels. And when I say dragged, I really do mean that.  The lack of lunch was starting to show, and although Pitt Rivers is a good museum, it is definetley more suited to adults / school trips.  But somewhere to go if you have some time to kill in Oxford, like we did.  Best thing, the museums were free.

We both really enjoyed the museum, and the kids seemed to get a lot out of them too.  We took a short walk for out planned late lunch / early dinner.

Brown's on the Woodstock road has been a firm favorite with the Goslings for many years.  At 2.30 on a Monday afternoon, it is also empty, and the fact you have 3 small, starving boys doesn't seem to bother anyone.  We were seated promptly and served by an awesome waitress, who was obviously used to dealing with kids.  Plus we were within seeing distance of the toilets, meaning we could let the older 2 go, without us having to go to.  Bonus.  Paul and I had a Perroni each, yum, and the boys had diet cokes, which they mullered as soon as they arrived. The menu is a good, a little pretentious maybe.  I went with steak frites, while Paul decided on the wild boar and chorizo burger (pretentious, right?).  Oliver also went with a burger, and we decided on grilled chicken with fries and an extra side of fries for Isaac and Seb to share.  The food came relatively quickly (there was only about 2 toilet trips in the time), and it was delicious.  Really tasty, just want we all needed.  Admittedly my steak was a little under cooked, but I don't mind it like that. Paul's burger was meaty and flavor some, as was Oliver's.  The other 2 barely touched their chicken, but polished off all the fries available.  We decided not to get a dessert.  We had a good meal, at a fairly reasonable price in quite an upmarket establishment without the kids being a nightmare.  Success! 

Browns - Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

We spent Monday night at the Goslings before heading to see my dad briefly, with a quick stop for more shoes.  Success was had at Tesco at the Meadows for Isaac.  I love this Tesco.  It has one of the best clothing ranges, and I always like to take a little look when I am in the area.  I had to go to the Marks and Spencer for Seb.  I don't miss those prices.

We headed to see Lee and Melissa (his daughter) for dinner, bringing with us a curry from Tesco.  I miss those easy meals, stick 'em in the oven and off we go.  It was nice to see them, and so good for Lee to spend time with the kids.  I think he needed it.  

We went back to my dads to spend the night, hoping for another good sleep from the boys.


Thursday, 2 October 2014

10 years

Its our wedding anniversary today.  10 years.  Last year I wrote a lovely post about our marriage so far.  I have just re read it, and it all still holds very true.

On honeymoon in Kenya

Things have changed though.  Given the recent passing of my mum, I have come to rely on Paul even more, and this reliance will probably just get greater as we move forward.  He really is my rock, and I honestly don't know what I would do without him.  We share everything, and he has to put up with my constant moods (particularly at the moment).

I am not overly inspired to blog much at the moment.  This blog was originally begun to keep people back in the UK informed with what we are up to.  It has crossed into cooking, homeschooling, travel reviews, restaurant reviews and many other areas.  I don't know where to go with it now.  I am hoping I will be inspired to keep writing it, but things sen very hard at the moment.

We are flying back to the UK on Saturday.  My mums funeral is on thursday 9th October at 2.15pm at Easthampstead Cemetery and Crematorium.  Lee went with my mums friend Marie, and picked out a beautiful burial plot.  She originally wanted to be cremated and for us to have a massive party afterwards.  Lee wanted to bury her.  I am with Lee on this.  I want to have a place I can go for quiet reflection, somewhere to go and think about her.  Not that she is never in my thoughts.  Every little thing reminds me of her.  Seeing a Mazda driving on the road, certain TV programs, and songs.  When the kids are playing up, my thought is 'I want to speak to my mum'.  And I can't.  And that is hard.  We may not have seen easy other much recently, but she was always there with me.  I know she always will be, but that doesn't take away from the pain that myself, Lee and others close to her are feeling right now.  She is missed, so missed.....

I, being pragmatic, have to think of the positives.  I have 3 beautiful children, thanks to my gorgeous loving husband.  For that, I am exceptionally grateful.  We are lucky to be living this kind of life, and I thank all those around me for everything they have done for me, ever.