Sunday, June 30, 2013

Manual Labor

Since moving back to Texas, I've been busy doing a few things to get the house prepped for our household goods sea shipment next month. I selected some new carpet, had rooms measured and then paid for it yesterday. The carpet should arrive in about two weeks and then be installed before our furniture arrives. 

That was the easy part, paying someone else to do the work. The other part - painting - is all on me. Thus far I've finished one room and have at least two more to go. It's not that painting is difficult. With little furniture in the house to move, and existing carpet that will soon be ripped out and replaced, it's pretty easy to prep for the painting. Taping off the baseboards, doors and windows isn't exactly taxing. 

However, the constant, repetitive motion of wielding the paint roller and then brush tends to aggravate my compressed cervical vertebrae. Thanks to several hours of painting, my right arm and hand now tingle. Thank heavens I don't have to do this for a living.

When I removed the light switch and electrical plug covers, I saw bits of the original lime green the coed had in her room when we moved in over six years ago. She picked out the color in 5th grade while we were building the house and we moved in during 6th grade. Then two years later, she was going into high school and wanted a new, more mature color to last her for the next four years. That's when we went with a light sky blue.

Now that the coed is heading off to college in a couple months, we decided to give her original bedroom/bath to the now 7th grader because it has a full sized vanity with great storage space. The coed will move into the pink bedroom formerly inhabited by her little sister, with its smaller attached bath. And thus that means there's another bedroom to paint. 

The 7th grader has decided that the old sky blue her sister chose just won't do. She absolutely must have Tiffany blue on her walls. Oh well - at least it's a darker blue going over a light blue and thus will only require one coat of paint with no primer. Small favors.

I snapped a quick pick as I was putting on the much better Tiffany over the inferior sky blue. Sitting on the floor to paint above the baseboards. Climbing up the ladder to edge near the ceiling. I may not be able to move tomorrow, but the result has pleased the 7th grader to no end. It's kinda bright and doesn't seem particularly restful to me, but she absolutely loves it and that is all that counts.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why did the critter cross the road?

What's up with all of the roadkill in Texas? After living in England for a few years and seeing few dead animals on the roads, I'm appalled at the squashed critters I've seen since arriving home. Squirrels, birds, armadillos, opossums, skunks, raccoons, deer and even a porcupine. 

Is the British wildlife just more road/traffic savvy? Do Texans, in their gargantuan pickup trucks and SUVs, not even slow down for four footed animals who cross their paths? I imagine I would put my vehicle in the ditch trying to avoid hitting any local fauna. I know there are always more dead deer on the roads during the fall rut when the bucks are chasing does across lanes of traffic on Interstate 10. Risking their lives for a piece of whitetail... so typically male.

One theory I have is that the heat makes the local critters a tad dazed and they're innocently stumbling across roads in search of a water source before they fall out from dehydration. They just need to shuffle along a bit faster or learn to look both ways before crossing. Run, forest critter, run!


Exactly one week ago, the movers were loading the contents of our house in England onto a 40 foot sea container for a ride across the Atlantic. It's supposed to cruise into the port of Houston in mid July to clear customs and then get trucked to our house here in the hill country. I hope the ship has smooth sailing so the contents arrive intact. 

Here are some pics of the boxes stacked all over the house as we lived through two full days of packing and one day of loading.

I asked the moving company guys about the significance of the cat logo and their slogan "the purr-fect movers". It was explained to me that the company was founded in Catford.

I love the pic above, a box labeled coats and brollies. That's an obvious sign our packers were Brits. 

We looked like squatters, holed up in a part of the formal living/dining room for three nights with our items for the plane ride, camping out on our blow up mattresses with bed linens we planned to donate.

The rose bushes in our back garden were in full bloom when we left England - just lovely. It's easy for them to thrive in the moderate temps. I haven't complained (yet) that it's really warm here in Texas and getting warmer, with predicted highs hovering around 100 for the next few days. Sweat city. Must purchase the heavy duty deodorant to keep the BO at bay. And shine blotting paper for my face.

For our last night in England on our residence visas, we said goodbye to the house and stayed at a hotel in nearby Weybridge.

That final afternoon, we walked down to The Minnow pub for some refreshments and raised a glass of iconic Pimm's to toast our time in the UK. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Full Circle

Golly, this seems familiar. We're living on a few spare bits of furniture while scrambling to get things like a car to drive. Thankfully, the beauty of repatriating is that we don't have to relearn everything. I know how to get to the local grocery store, a new and improved facility since we moved to England that boasts every little thing I could want. I even know a couple different route options concerning the drive to get to the lovely grocery store where I don't have to pay for parking.

I still don't have a car, but I'm looking. Or rather the sales guy at the dealership is looking for exactly what I want in other major Texas cities since the local guys don't have it. The to-do list seems to get longer despite the fact that I'm crossing off things every day. I still haven't eaten a Tex Mex meal at my fave restaurant in San Antonio, but I'm doing the next best thing and cooking tacos for supper tonight. Finally... USDA ground beef that beats the heck outta that gamey, stringy British beef we've refused to eat for the past 2.5 years. 

Yesterday we had a lovely Sunday lunch with my sister and her family that my mother made. The cornbread salad and butterscotch pie were especially tasty, though it was all delicious. Her pugs have woofed and hotfooted it away from Ollie, but don't seem to mind him too much. It took a while for Ollie to be processed through customs in Houston Friday afternoon and he was so glad to be released from his prison kennel after an almost 10 hour flight. Every morning, I take him for a 2-3 mile walk in the 'hood and he seems to be doing fine with the Texas heat. We've had him in the pool once and he doesn't seem too taken with it, which is good since we don't want him flinging himself in for a dip every time we let him into the back yard.

I've got a few final pics from England on my UK phone, but need to locate a connector for the computer so I can include them in the next post. It's just one of the many things I need to get accomplished now that we're back home where we belong.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Only in Europe...

...would the graduating seniors get served glasses of champagne at the post ceremony luncheon.

Below is our grad with her two good friends from advisory the last couple years... and some short haired gal that got in on the pic, too.

Above is our daughter and her BFF. They're attending college in neighboring states - NC and SC - and already contemplating a road trip reunion this fall. Plus I've already been asked by the grad if she can travel to England over Christmas break to visit her high school buddies home for the holidays. As time passes, they'll all drift and find a new path, but for now I'm fine with this lovely group of young women staying in touch across the miles and meeting up for visits as their schedules allow.

Class of 2013

We are living amongst boxes since the packers have already prepped about 85% of the house to be loaded onto the sea container Wednesday. Tomorrow they'll pack up this computer and thus my blogging from England will end. But never fear - I'll continue to post about our transition back to life in Texas.

It's hard to believe that just two short days ago, our new college coed walked the stage at graduation and ended her high school career. About 30 minutes before the ceremony started, all of the graduates posed for a pic - girls in their white dresses and boys in their suits.

Congratulations to the Class of 2013 and best wishes for a bright future!

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Final Family Photo Session in England

WAAAY back in November at the school's Fete de Noel, I purchased a portrait session for our family. My grand plan was for us to have a family portrait made, with Windsor Castle in the background. But then the husband had to return to corporate headquarters right after Thanksgiving for his new job and so we never got those pics made.

Hating to just throw away the sitting fee, I decided to have the photographer come out this afternoon to take some pics here at the house. We posed at the front door of our quintessentially English home as well as in the back garden where everything is busting out in bloom and beautifully green. The senior, both girls, our family, the grandparents and cousins. Plus we got the dog in some of the shots.

I can't wait to see the proofs that commemorate this memorable time in our lives. Surely we'll find something frameworthy.

This is it!

This morning the senior attended graduation practice at school because tomorrow morning at 11:00 am, she'll be closing the door on high school and moving forward into her future.

Our house is crammed full of folks from afar who have come to see her get her diploma. This afternoon we are taking some pics here at the house, then we will attend the senior banquet tonight. I don't think it has hit me yet, this momentous event in our oldest daughter's life, because we're wrangling guests and trying to prep for the big move back across the pond. A week from today, we will already be en route on our flight to Texas with the new college coed accompanying us. I'm still trying to figure out how I got old enough to be the mother of a university-aged daughter.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sunbury Antiques Market

Yesterday a friend and I went over to Kempton Park in order to snoop through the Sunbury antiques market. Almost immediately, I spotted several sets of salt cellars. My sister collects them and so I thought it would be fun to buy a pair for her. According to the sweet little old lady vendor, this pair in the original box was made in 1906.

I ended up purchasing a few other odds and ends - a chicken shaped candy mould and a few advertisement tins. 

I really wanted an old royal mail post box, but it weighed a ton and cost a pretty pence. I'm not much of a collector, but I do wish I had discovered this twice monthly market earlier during our time in England. No doubt there were some great finds and deals to be made.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Urge to Purge

We've been in our English rental for 2.5 years and it's amazing to me that I'll be making a couple trips to the tip to get rid of things before the packers arrive next Monday. Tip is slang for the Shepperton Recycling Centre, the European version of the town dump/landfill back in Texas. Over here they reduce, reuse and recycle while back in the states we tend to either dig a big hole and bury it or burn it. Or maybe a little of both.

Today I went through both the kid and adult home offices to purge old items we no longer need, A4 sized paper, folders and binders that won't work back in our 8.5x11 world. I also went through the winter boot closet right off the entryway. We're donating about ten pairs of fuzzy Ugg knock-offs that won't be necessary in Texas until at least Thanksgiving, and that's only if we get an unusually early cold snap.

The only other places left for a final purge are the clothes closets of the 6th grader and senior. The younger daughter doesn't mind letting go of things she has either outgrown or doesn't like to wear. The senior is another story. She will hold onto a shirt she hasn't worn since freshman year with the tenacity of a terrier because she MIGHT have need of it in the future. Maybe she'll get back to Texas, or off to college in South Carolina, and all of a sudden that three year old garment she has been hoarding for several years will be just the thing. Sure, it has dust on the shoulders and is permanently stretched from hanging off the same hanger it arrived on from Texas to England and back again, but I'm the one being wasteful by taking old clothing to the tip. 

I've decided to nip these hoarding tendencies she has obviously inherited from her father in the bud. If she already has a closet full of clothes she intends to wear, then there is absolutely no need to add any further items to her wardrobe. It's all about fighting the senior's brand of illogic with logical conclusions. Wednesday afternoon, once the senior completes her final exam, we'll see if my little purging scheme works. The only downside of finally getting the senior to purge her closets for the move is that I'll be forced to take her shopping for more clothes. It's a sick and twisted cycle, I tell you.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Ollie's favorite spot to nap is the back of the leather loveseat that sits in the bay window of the family room. It's also his preferred spot to stand guard over the back garden, always on the lookout for birds as well as his sworn enemy, the squirrels. One day last week, the 6th grader joined him to see what had caught his attention and I had a chance to snap this cute pic of both backsides while they were peering through the glass.

The Golden Girls Go Abroad

On May 31, my mother, her cousin and two of their friends (a total of four retirement aged ladies) arrived here at our house. They are using it as a base for a bit of local sightseeing, while also taking little sidetrips to France and Ireland. They leave tomorrow for Dublin, but will return in time to attend the senior's graduation on Saturday. I've dubbed them the golden girls.

So how have I entertained the ladies thus far? Last weekend I took them to Hampton Court Palace.

They returned mid week from France, so I took them over to Windsor Castle on Friday.

We had a couple interesting things happen at Windsor. While we were touring through the state apartments, my mother and I chanced to look out a window and spied one of the queen's corgis on a private lawn taking a potty break. It happened so quickly that we didn't have time to snap a pic of our royal canine sighting. 

A bit later in the gift shop, we were standing in line to make our purchases and saw a gentleman who appeared to be in his late 50s run up a bill totaling almost £14,000. When he was paying with a credit card and confirming his shipping details, the ladies behind the counter asked about this huge ring he was wearing and he took it off to show them. It seems he played for the Green Bay Packers and it was his team ring. 

Yesterday, I took the golden girls into London for a visit to Harrod's. Once again, everybody bought a few souvenirs and we had tea in The Georgian, their lovely restaurant on the 4th floor. 

Unable to resist, the 6th grader and I snooped through the 3rd floor Toy Kingdom at Harrod's in search of the Sylvanian Families display. We discovered these on our first trip to London in Hamley's Toy Store on Regent St before we moved abroad. We have collected a few more along the way as precious little keepsakes since the 6th grader is years beyond playing with them anymore. When I saw the little set below, I just had to purchase it for my long time friend Missy's daughter Josey. Their family loves to camp and I thought it was super cute. Plus the 6th grader bought a final Sylvanian badger family because they were just irresistible. Now we just need to see about getting a shadow box to hold all of the darling little critters.

A Coke and a Smile

I read the newspapers and watch TV, so I stay fairly up to date on pop culture. However, I missed the latest Coke ad campaign explanation about why they're putting first names on Coke bottles. 

Yesterday, in our local Sainsburys, the 6th grader found an individual Coke for sale with her daddy's name on it. She showed me and we agreed it was way cool. However, if Coke is doing this to get folks to look for and purchase drinks with names of folks they know on them, then it was a fail because we took the pics below and then returned it to the shelf to continue our shopping.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Another of the Last Times

Today is the last "regular" Wednesday of the academic year at the American school the girls attend here in England. Next Wednesday is the last day of finals and school year. Therefore, this is the last Wednesday the girls will be able to squeeze in an extra hour of sleep thanks to weekly late starts.

It really is a cool idea. Every Wednesday, the faculty holds their weekly meetings during the first hour of a typical school day. Therefore, the students don't need to be on campus until that ends. Instead of the bus picking the girls up at 7:40, they don't leave the house until 8:40.

From a teacher's perspective, this is lovely. Back in Texas, faculty meetings have always been held the hour before school begins (on 2 campuses where I taught) or the hour after school ends (on 3 campuses where I taught). However, I don't imagine that would work in the US. Public schools are bound by laws that dictate how long the school year must be. 

Luckily, it appears our current school doesn't have to abide by the same number of instruction days. I would love for our school district to be able to adopt an academic calendar that includes a week off in October as well as February for travel. We have thoroughly taken advantage of this every year since moving to England, filling that time with various cruises and trips. Back in Texas, the kids get off a day in October but teachers have staff development. In February, teachers get off with the kids for President's Day. Ooh - one whole day. With the bro-in-law's ski condo located way up in Red River, that's a lot of driving for very little snow time.

We're staring down the last of the lasts - a party for both girls this weekend, final exams early next week, a goodbye sleepover for the 6th grader and graduation. No doubt it will sting a bit as we get immersed in the bittersweet of putting our expat experience in the rear view mirror. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Who Woulda Thunk

After teaching strictly English or reading for over ten years, I found myself in the mind-boggling situation of being offered a 6th grade science position Thursday afternoon. I dig novel studies, not the nitrogen cycle. I enjoy grammar rules, not taxonomic groups. I know all about the six traits of writing, not safety in the laboratory.

But the bottom line is that I love, love, love teaching. I adore those a-ha moments when you can practically see the lightbulb flash on above a child's head. I'm thrilled when they get excited about learning something new. And I've decided it doesn't matter if it's energy resources rather than editing and revision.

Right now I'm still in a bit of a daze and don't know where to begin, but I'll remedy that pretty quickly. No doubt the other 6th gr science teachers in the district will unfriend me and change their email addresses by the end of the first grading period since I intend to pick their brains. I don't want to just teach vocabulary and concepts with the boring old state approved textbook. I want to incorporate cool, hands-on activities that really allow the students to touch, feel, know and show what science is all about in 6th grade.

It's going to be a wild ride this summer as I gather resources and get ready to meet the challenge of science, a subject I haven't taught since I was a self-contained 5th grade teacher during the 1999-2000 school year. At that time, science wasn't even a state tested subject. I've got a long way to go as I learn the ropes and try to stay at least a couple steps ahead of the kids, but it will be fine. I'm gonna hit the ground running, dig in for the long haul and do everything in my power to make sure the students have a great year. Science is gonna be way cool in my classroom!