Monday, September 28, 2009

The Flat: Before and After

This is our building.

Ewan and Isaac's Room BEFORE

Ewan and Isaac's Room AFTER

Dining Room BEFORE

Dining Room AFTER

Living Room BEFORE

Living Room AFTER

Hallway BEFORE (part 1)

Hallway BEFORE (part 2)

Hallway AFTER

Our Bedroom BEFORE

Bedroom AFTER--My wardrobe. Jon's is next to mine with all his clothes in it. Those sweater hangers are amazing. I really didn't think all my clothes would fit in this wardrobe...but they do.

Bedroom AFTER (My workspace)

Our Bedroom AFTER

Graham's room AFTER I didn't have any before pictures of his room. It is still rather plain but will have more of a look over time. We gave him the biggest room because the desk in our bedroom is attached to the wall and I needed the workspace. We thought it might make a nice guest area in addition to a play area.

Bathroom--It is hard to tell in the picture but the tub is fairly high off the ground. We are working on putting up a shower curtain because the glass "door" causes a leak all over the bathroom floor.

1st half of the kitchen. Notice the mini fridge. Somehow it works--a lot of food packages come in smaller portions here which helps everything to fit in the fridge.

2nd half of kitchen

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cookies Vs. Biscuits

This past Sunday at church our friend, Jono, was in the nursery with Graham. At one point the nursery worker said, "Who would like a biscuit?" All the kids dropped their toys and ran to the little snack table. Except Graham.

Graham was very happy playing with his toy and didn't really care for a biscuit. So he thought.

Since Jono was in the room helping his own son, he watched Graham playing while all the kids ate their biscuits. Jono looked at Graham and said, "Graham, do you want a cookie?" Graham dropped his toy and yelled out "COOKIE!" and ran over to the snack table to get one.

Thus begins the process of making our children bilingual in English.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Going To School Should Be Easy, Right?


As I'm writing this I am feeling at the peak of my emotions. Here are the events of the morning:

We had an appointment to tour the school we are hoping Isaac can get a spot in. The receptionist told Jon two days ago that it looked like there were spots available. The school offered a tour for parents interested in sending their kids there--next year. Everything here works a year in advance so you apply now for a spot in a school for next year. This morning we took the bus because it is about a 30-35 minute walk and we are trying to take advantage and learn the bus system here. The bus was almost 15 minutes late which made us late for our appointment. We went on the tour and got a feel for the school (more on that later). After the tour we talked with the Head Teacher (principal) about getting Isaac into school starting Monday. According to the Head Teacher and receptionist, they have space but because they are at full capacity according to county standards, we had to wait a few minutes to get final word from the County. The County called back and told us that we have to file an appeal with them. So, they said no he can't just start Monday--you have to file an appeal first and sort of "prove" that you should go to that school. We aren't sure how long the appeal process takes--they have to mail us the forms first.

Here is the kicker--in order to give Isaac a better shot at getting into their school this year the Head Teacher and receptionish said I could register Ewan now as a Year 2 student (meaning he skips Kindergarten and goes right into first grade). It gives Isaac a "sibling advantage" of getting into the school. If the appeal commitee sees that Isaac has an older sibling in the school they will most likely put him in the school as well. We have already bought a homeschool curriculum and I don't want to put Ewan in school just to get Isaac a spot. That would be money just flushed down the toilet---even though it is unused there is no way I could get my $$ back due to the shipping fees. We already paid to have it shipped here and the likelyhood of me being able to sell it here is vey slim.

We have 3 options:
1) Sign Ewan up for school at Neville's Cross to give Isaac a better chance at getting a spot and essentially flushing curriculum down the toilet.

2) Take our chances with the appeal process without signing Ewan up.

3)Try another school and start the whole process over.

Another little glitch in the system is that if we want to send Ewan to this school next year (to Year 3) then we would probably have to sign him up to start Summer Term--which starts in late April--as in this coming April. This is because there is a school near Neville's Cross that only goes up through Year 2 and those students need to find a different school starting in Year 3. At Neville's Cross, there are only 34 spots available for year 3. 30 spots are already taken for next year. Waiting until the Fall Term might be too late and then we'd have 2 kids at 2 different schools. So, Ewan could do a partial year of Kindergarten, skip most of the first grade year completing the 3rd term of it and then start Year 3 (2nd grade) the following year. Make sense?

I walked out of the school and burst into tears. Getting your child into a school feels so difficult. Maybe it would feel differently if we had a car and it were easier to pick up and drop off. We walked on to our bus stop and realized once we got there that we'd have to wait for an hour before the next bus came. It was almost 12 and the kids were tired and hungry. Graham was falling asleep in the stroller--which he can't do or he won't nap. Jon didn't bring enough cash/change to take a different, slightly more expensive bus so we either had to wait for an hour or walk home. We decided to walk home--which let me tell you did NOT get a good response from the boys. Ewan got up very early this morning because he had to go to the bathroom and didn't go back to sleep. He threw an enormous fit about not wanting to walk home and screamed for a third of the way. So sad that waking up early and choosing not to go to sleep means you are miserable when you need extra energy! Hopefully that consequence did some talking.

I know we are used to the American system and how it works--and that there are many, many people in the world who walk miles and miles to school just to get some education. I get that. I'm sure in a year's time I'll even like the system. I just need some room to dislike something that feels so difficult.

In the meantime, I have no idea what to do. I feel too cloudy in the head, and frankly--angry, to hear what God might be saying. Any prayers are welcomed!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Best View of the Cathedral and Castle

This is a better view of the Cathedral taken from Wharton Park. Jon's department office is right next to the Cathedral (where Sting recently performed). How cool is that? I haven't been there since last week--which means that I also haven't brought my camera there yet to take some close ups.

Monday, September 21, 2009

British Phrases Etc...

Some things I've noticed....

*Parking lot=Car park

*Basic tv service= "Freebox" except you actually have to pay for it. The channels are free but you have to pay about $240 a year to have access to basic tv channels. I think we've decided not to pay the tv tax in lieu of using that $$ toward car costs. We brought our movies and bought a dvd player. Other things we can see on the computer if we want. I don't think we'll miss having access to regular tv too much.

*Doctor's office= Surgery If you have to go to the doctor's office you say, "I'm going to the surgery" or "I'm going to surgery" or "I'm going to the surgery center"

Here you can either go during "open surgery" hours without making an appointment or you can call ahead and schedule an appointment to be seen by someone. The latter is recommended for us because many of the undergrad university students are assigned to the same center we are and open surgery hours tend to have a long wait.



Megan was telling me that instead of police waiting in hidden areas and pulling over people for speeding they have hidden cameras everywhere looking for speeders. If you get caught you get a ticket sent to you in the mail. Our GPS beeps at us when we go through an area with one.

*Vans=People carriers

*England is VERY green conscious. You can recycle a lot of things here. Keeping things out of landfills is encouraged. In our building we can recycle cardboard, paper, glass, and plastic. I saw a box that I think you can put lightbulbs in but recycling bulbs is also highly encouraged.

*England is also promotes products that are FairTrade. I bought bananas this morning that were fair trade, Fair Trade coffee and tea are easy to find, and even the church we visited this past Sunday mentioned in the bulletin that they are a "Fair Trade Parish" and provide FT coffee and tea during refreshment hour after church.


*We have an information packet for a school that we are hoping Isaac gets a spot in.
Uniform requirements:
red sweatshirts, sweatcardis or jumpers (with school logo)
grey trousers or shorts
white polo shirt (with school logo)
fleeces or reversible coats (with school logo for outside use)

For indoor PE:
red shorts
white t-shirt
For outdoor PE:
tracksuit top and trousers
old trainers

For swimming:

Words in italics are clothing items that are new vocabulary. We aren't sure what some of the things are.....plimsolls (a particular kind of shoe but we don't know what kind), tracksuit top and trousers. The rest we can figure out in context (i.e. for swimming a swim suit is obviously called a costume)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brown House Farm

Jon brought back some incredible pictures from the farm he went to this afternoon. What a place! Being able to drive here easily might just make it worth getting a car so we can get there. You can't really get there by bus and it is too close to take a train. It is FREE and there are some really fun things for the kids to do while they're there.

I'm posting some of my favorite pictures although I wish you could see the slide show I can see on my computer because seeing all the pictures together give you a better idea of how great this place is.

Isaac jumping from hay bale to hay bale

Isaac pretending to be the tower guard

Ewan playing soccer with Jono
Isaac burying horses in the sand to protect them from pirates
Here little piggy!
Jumping from hay bale to hay bale
Cobblestone wall
Ewan pretending to be the watchman in the tower
Sheep tic tac toe
More soccer
Isaac hiking
Ewan and Isaac
Playing King of the Hill
Fields of England

One thing that is striking about being here is that there is no suburban sprawl. You can look on Google earth and see that farmland and fields surround all the cities. Makes for a beautiful drive.


We went to our first church experience this morning and I couldn't help but think of this Mr. Bean skit. The church we visited, St. Johns, was a small for US church but the people seemed very warm. We are interested in visiting 2 other churches before making a final decision. The children join the congregation for worship and then go to their own classes. Apparently it is pretty rare for a church to have any kind of nursery or programs for children in the UK. So few people attend church and there aren't enough resources to have the kind of programs we have in the States. Ewan and Isaac did well in their classes (a miracle) and there was a nursery for Graham until Eucharist. Then all the families come back together for communion. The diocese of Durham has decided to only serve the bread for Eucharist in order to help prevent the spread of Swine Flu.

Jon and the 3 boys walked to church while our friend Jono and his son, Liam, showed Jon how to get there. I rode with Megan in her car (she is very pregnant). It is about a 30 minute walk to get to that church.

After lunch, Jono and Jon took the older boys to a nearby farm to play for the afternoon. Graham is napping and I am avoiding dishes (Oh, how I miss our dishwasher!!!). I was a little jealous that I didn't get to go see the farm but I'm also thankful for a very quiet house. I think our place will be easy to keep tidy but it also seems a little louder without so much space to drown out the noise.

Next week's tasks are to do something "fun and touristy", get Isaac a spot in a school that is nearby, hopefully get the rest of our boxes we shipped so I can start homeschool with Ewan, and decide whether or not we want to buy a car.

Jon talking to some peeps after church

(Above) Jono and Liam playing leap frog
Graham (below) playing on a sculpture outside the church

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What it's like in Durham, England

Wow! We made it!

Our travel day went better than we anticipated. The 9 hour flight was long, but tvs in front of each seat kept the boys entertained for a long time. There were some kids movies available and we knew to bring kiddie headphones for viewing fun. The funniest thing that happened on the plane was when the kids were telling knock knock jokes. Graham's favorite knock, knock joke goes like this:

Graham: knock, knock
Ewan: who's there?
Graham: chicken!
Ewan: chicken who?
Graham: (the answer varies but usually we can't understand what he's saying)
Graham: hahaha! (total fake laugh)

It is very cute but this time when Graham was answering Ewan's "chicken who?" he said something that sounded like "chicken chit". Ewan yelled out very loud, "Grahammy said CHICKEN CHIT!" Of course Ewan had NO idea what it REALLY sounded like Graham was saying--he was just celebrating Graham's joke. Ewan is very good about celebrating Graham and this time he did it rather joyfully. No intentional harm on his part, but somewhat embarrassing to us since it sounded like maybe Ewan DID know what it sounded like Graham was saying. Or worse, that Graham was actually saying that word! What do you do in those situations but laugh? And share the story with your friends.

We almost missed our flight from London to NewCastle because once we got into the London area we had to circle the city for 20 minutes. We were at the back of the plane and because we were flying a giant 777 it took a while to actually get off the plane. After getting off the plane we had to go through customs, fill out several pieces of paperwork, answer some questions, go back through security and make it to our plane on time. Going through security was more difficult the second time around because the kids were very tired and we had to pull out Jon's laptop, my desktop, the Wii, all of our liquids (of which we only had some OTC fever reducer). We noticed the time and that it was very close to the time our plane was supposed to leave. We then had to repack all the things we had to pull out and run to the gate where our plane was leaving. As we were running through the airport we heard over the intercom "Last call for Parker, Last call for Parker". Aye! Pick up the speed we did and we made it to the gate just in time. We were seated in the VERY last row which meant that everyone on the plane was watching 5 tired and very frazzled people get on board. Ewan had a difficult time (aka melt-down) when he couldn't sit in the middle seat. He really wanted to be by the window but it wasn't possible with Graham's carseat. Thankfully it was a short flight and everyone was happy that we were almost done with all the plane flying.

After landing in NewCastle, we collected our bags and then realized that our 2 red crates and Ewan and Isaac's carseats were not coming. The baggage customer service told us that our crates would be on the next flight in and we would get them by the end of the day. She gave us two booster seats for free so the boys could ride safely to our new home.

Our friend Jono, and his friend Peter, came in 2 cars to pick us up and take us back to our new house. Jono and his wife Megan also went to Trinity and live in the same building. Having them help us has been HUGE!!! Jon and I were laughing that they were our official bridgers at Trinity and here they became our unoffical bridgers.

We got to the flat (apartment) and unloaded our bags. I can't remember exactly what we did right after that--I think we unpacked some of the basics and put sheets on the bed. We went down into the city to see the Cathedral and get a feel for what Durham looks like. I didn't bring my camera--I was kicking myself for that. I need to bring it EVERYWHERE with me right now because I am seeing so many new things with fresh eyes. I keep seeing so many different photo opportunities for amazing pictures and I want to take advantage. For dinner, we went to the Linebaugh's flat for dinner and met some other people in the building. After we ate and mingled for a while we came back upstairs and crashed. We all slept for at least 14 hours the first night we were here. Sleep never felt so good.

The past few days have been going grocery shopping, Ikea, unpacking, signing up for our NHS cards, rearranging furniture, exploring our new city-- you know settling in.

view from the living room of our flat

another view from the living room of our flat

Exploring a park by Durham City Council. The pond had some ducks and other aquatic birds.

Jon posing in Wharton Park. Durham is across the river in the background.

Walking up a very steep hill to get to the park.

Gate entrance to the park.

Graham telling me to STOP pushing him on the swing. He wanted daddy to do it.

Funky exposure of the Castle.

Closer look of the Castle.

Ewan learned how to slide down a pole and I caught it on camera!

So did Isaac!

Church cemetary.

An old church. (I can't remember the name of it right now).

I have some pictures of our flat but I'm holding off posting pictures until I get it a little more put together. I have to put some bookcases together and do a little rearranging before I take the "after" pictures.

Coming soon:
A post on transportation
A post on some of the differences here