Thursday, January 26, 2012

Things Going On

This picture has nothing to do with anything, I just thought it was cute. Brad and Charlie, sitting up at the bar at The Warrington, the pub in our neighborhood in London. Until recently it was owned by Gordon Ramsey, but has apparently improved a lot since he sold it. Insert Kitchen Nightmare joke here. 

Anyways, Charlie is all about bar stools these days, since when he goes to have lunch with Brad in London, that's where they sit. At the bar. And this is okay in London. In fact, on this particular day, there were about 3 other kids crawling/toddling/mayhem-causing in the pub. 

But I digress. We are not in London. We are still in Richmond. Lovely Richmond with it's sunshine and 60 degrees today. Thank you Global Warming, I owe ya one! 

Brad went back to London on Saturday and we've heard from him sporadically. They are working him pretty hard right now while he tries to get over jet lag. This weekend he is moving all of our things to the New Afartment. 

I have started ordering things for Charlie's room and Brad is going to get it all decorated and cute and ready for him. We get there on Valentine's Day. So help me if he has to work until 4am that night like the last time we arrived in London. 

Charlie and I have fallen back into our routine here and it feels so nice. He is sleeping beautifully again, thanks to the Crib Tent, also known as the best $50 I have ever spent. He's enjoying preschool, is better rested and I am remembering why I love staying home with him. 

I was really questioning during our 2 months in London if I had what it took to stay home anymore. I was just so exhausted, had no patience and was constantly being tested by an overtired 2 year old. After over a year home with Charlie, it wasn't fun anymore. It just felt so hard. On more than one occasion I thought (or said to Brad) that I am not cut out for this, I need to just go back to work.

We get back here and what do you know - I love it again. This tells me something: routine is key and so is decent sleep. 

These two things tell me a couple of other things (are you keeping up here?): we need a routine with preschool (Mommy break) and we need a crib with a crib tent. In London. Without these, we are set up to fail.

The crib and crib tent are no problem. Ordered and on their way. And yes, I realize he is a bit old to be in the crib, but it is comforting to him, and I think we are doing enough major change right now. It is also a lot safer, because when he gets out of bed and sneaks past our room, dangerous trouble can ensue. It scares me to think about what could happen. So we will work on the transition to the bed at another, more sanity-filled time. 

Preschool on the other hand... well let's just say that thumping sound you hear in the background is me beating my head against the wall. 

I've got three I'm talking to, which are really our only options in our neighborhood. The others are small or booked for months or, how do you say, undesirable. Each of these three has, right after I'm convinced we've found our best option, emailed me to drop some sort of bomb that changes everything. 

One just casually mentioned today that they expect him to be potty trained. And if he's not, they'll see him in April instead after I potty train him. Because that should be easy, given all the other change in his life. 

Another told me they had availability now, but when pressed said they don't know, we'll have to talk to this person and it might be June. Maybe. We'll see. Oh and they are sure someone will get right back to me. Still waiting on that one. 

Our third option talked to me about morning preschool at length on the phone, but when I submitted the paperwork told me they only have 2.5 hour afternoon sessions (during his nap) and don't anticipate any morning availability. 

Thump, thump, thump.

One thing is for certain: I do not want to step foot in that country without preschool confirmed. Not that they (or anyone else but Brad, for that matter) care. But Brad is taking the tours next Friday and then we will decide what to do. I think going there in person will help. Trying to arrange it via email is not working out very well. 

That's enough on that rant. Just stresses me out.

We are heading to Dallas in week to visit my parents and sister. They are very thoughtfully throwing Charlie a little birthday party while we're there. Looking forward to seeing some friends, enjoying the nice weather and spending time with my fam. We're scheduled to go to London straight from DFW 10 days later.

I'm just kind of in denial that we're leaving in a week. I love being home so much! I don't wanna go! I'm going to try and locate my big girl panties by then and put them on. I really am planning on being more positive about all this London stuff soon. It's like a new year's resolution of mine. If preschool was settled and I knew we were covered, that would be a HUGE weight off. I wish that wasn't such a giant IF. 

Until we leave for Dallas we are just going to enjoy one more week of preschool, seeing friends, playing at our usual haunts and having fun staying home together. 

Here's another random shot. Charlie at the counter of the Brass Rail at Selfridges. They have some mean looking beef sandwiches there, I must try some time. We were just waiting around this time.

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The New Flat

Or as Charlie likes to call it, The Afartment.

I got photos of everything but the kitchen because Brad and the realtor were talking in there and I felt weird snapping a photo. It's a whole separate room. No open living plans here.

Now if you were me, what would you do to make this place cozy? Welcoming? A home away from home? All the little tchotchkes, decorative items, etc. will be gone - they are just leaving most of the furniture. We can rent furniture as well.

Debating moving the sofa out of the living room and putting a sectional in its place so there's a place to curl up and watch tv. The furniture is lovely here, but not very practical. There's nowhere to really curl up and watch a movie or read a book. That's the main thing that I've been thinking about because it was bothersome at the last place, too. We love our big fat obnoxious American sectional here at home. Soooo cozy.

They are also taking the bedding and we are bringing our own. Still picking out bedding for Charlie's room. There will be TRUCKS. Or dinosaurs. Perhaps a train. I can't decide. But not a silk bedspread, that's fo sho.

If anyone has thoughts, I'd love to hear them. You know, out of both of you who are still reading this blog because I so infrequently update it!!

Living room...
 Dining room...
 Master bath, but no shower, so let's just call it Charlie's bath....
 Hall bath, thankfully with a shower
 Twin beds in Charlie's room

Charlie pretending to go to sleep in his new room. That was more effort than he ever put into going to sleep at the other flat, so I'm hopeful that's a good sign!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coming Up for Air

Or at least, we're trying to! I'd like to dedicate this post to being Dramatic and Whiny.

So we flew back to the states on January 4th by way of the Longest Flight of My Life. I think I can say that both literally and figuratively. It was 8.5 from Heathrow to O'hare, then customs and a layover and then a flight to Richmond.

Charlie wasn't bad or anything, it just takes superhuman effort to keep him entertained in a seated position for such a length of time. By the time it was over, it took superhuman patience to handle the O'Hare Temper Tantrums because someone was tired and would not nap on the plane. I have to say, I much prefer the red eye - it was an easier flight for us.

It was SO GOOD to get home. I don't think I've ever been so happy and relieved to walk around my own house and sleep in my own bed. To see my friends and watch Charlie see his. To drive my car to get somewhere. Especially after what was, probably, the Longest Two Months of My Life. I am more committed than ever to being a spoiled American.

I mean, don't get me wrong. It wasn't all bad. There were a lot of times it was neat to be in London, and we saw some amazing things and met some interesting people here and there. But the combo of Brad working ridiculous hours every day of the week, the cold dark climate, isolation during the holiday season, getting sick and Charlie abandoning sleep all together.... well, it sucked a bunch of the fun out of the experience.

I think the isolation was the hardest part. Back home in Richmond I have my support system, my dogs (never underestimate the power of a puppy snuggle), the comforts of home. Things get hard, I have a friend over and bake something. But having to deal with the challenges of a toddler and Brad being gone so much with no support system really sucked, for lack of a better description.

And Yet. We're going back. I probably should have dedicated this post to Being Insane.

Brad got offered a great opportunity to continue working on his project until August and we made the decision to do it before things got really hard there. While I'm not sure we would make the same decision today, he signed the contract and is now committed. He flies back this Saturday and Charlie and I will follow him a few weeks later.

The house sitter has agreed to stay on and take care of the dogs after we leave. But I can't really talk about them because I missed them a lot more than I thought I would. I wish we could bring them over, but I think it would be selfish. They love the house sitter, they will be in their own home, they will be fine. It's just my selfish missing them that makes me want to take them with me.

In the spirit of making the most of the situation we are in, we have been trying to figure out what we are going to do to make this round of things easier on all of us. For one thing, Brad is going to try and not work so many weekends and late nights. That would be huge for Spooner morale.

We have a new flat, one that will hopefully be more comfortable than the serviced apartment we were renting with the odd office managers who seemed to take pleasure in torturing us about the stupid white carpet we didn't want and weren't expecting to have (all the web site photos show hardwoods). $100 USD to remove any stain, no matter how faint. And walking right into our apartment whenever they felt like. That was always fun. I'm not even scratching the surface of the problems we had, but it's not the point of this post.

Buuuut, since it's my blog and I can write what I want, I'll go ahead and leave the name of the property (Europa House), as I wouldn't want anyone who reads this blog to stay there (at Europa House) whilst in London. I'm sure for a week or two it would be fine. For 3 months... not so much. Moral of the story: don't stay at Europa House. I will be ruining their Tripadvisor rating on Feb 1 (when our lease is up) if you'd like to watch the carnage.

Anyways, back to our plans.

A big one is getting Charlie in preschool - a routine that will both socialize him and tire him out. And provide me some kids to invite to his 3rd birthday party. He is all about birthdays lately and it kills me we won't be in Richmond for it so I have to make it fun for him, no matter what. Hopefully we can get some people to come.

Since preschools are very competitive in London and most children are on waiting lists since birth, finding a school is requiring quite a bit of effort. But I think I've found a couple, maybe 3 that are at least willing to talk to us and might have a spot for him. We will see. I'm in the process of sending back application forms and deposits and arranging tours for Brad to take when he gets back.

Brad and I have agreed that I am not bringing Charlie to London unless he has a preschool to attend. I am already in Mommy burnout mode from being with him 24/7 the last trip. Let's not stoke the fires.

Our new flat faces a garden and is very quiet. It's furnished and lovely. We have some funds to personalize it a bit and buy what we need, so I can actually cook.  That's huge for me, being able to cook. Makes me happy. I need a homey place to nest in.

Charlie will have a new child-proofed bedroom with sheets that have trucks on them and a baby gate at the door to keep his behind in there for naps and bed time. One of my insanity drivers has been his refusal to sleep since he's mastered the art of climbing out of the crib. I left for London with a beautiful sleeper and returned with a horrible one. I can't tell you how frustrating that is.

To get him to go to bed or take a nap, I have to sit in the room with him until he finishes fighting sleep. This takes upwards to an hour. On the nights it takes 2 hours I'm really boiling. I think he will go back to sleeping better when he knows there's no other option. At least I hope.

I know part of this is the effect of this chaos on his life. I know children are supposed to be adaptable, but he did not adapt well to being there. He missed his friends and talked about preschool and our neighbors almost every day. He missed the dogs and our house. And I was right there with him. Made me feel terrible to hear him talk like that, like he wasn't happy. I hope with more structure and some new friends for both of us, we will both adapt better.

So what will I be doing while Charlie is in preschool you ask? Trying to get my head straight again! Exercise (huge priority), errands (which are NO fun with Charlie), perhaps some sightseeing to places I can't take Charlie. In other words, some calm to follow the chaos and to balance out the challenges of being away. I hope.

If we crash and burn and everyone is as unhappy as we were last time, Charlie and I will return home and we will just have to figure something else out. I hate to even think of us all having to be apart for so long like that, so I'm just going to be hopeful that with some more planning and better weather, we will all be happier.

We'll come home one more time in the middle - April or May? And then my parents are coming to visit in June. After that, we'll be on the home stretch and Charlie and I can either come back early or stay until Brad is done in August. Preschool ends in July, so we'll see. :)

So that's a long overdue post about what's going on with us! Complete with dramatics, whining, insanity and Unnecessary Capital Letters! More cheerful things to come, I promise. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Charlie's Photography

Santa put a camera in Charlie's stocking this year. He did this because Mommy was tired of having her camera hijacked by Charlie! 

Some of the photos he took with my camera, though, turned out to be kind of funny. There's also one of me trying to show him how to take a photo of himself in the mirror.

The new camera takes photos that look like they are from an indestructible $30 camera for kids, so this may be the last of Charlie's work posted to the blog for a while. :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Our Christmas

Well I sure have taken my sweet old time writing up this post. I'm not going to lie, it has been a rough few weeks - all three of us have been sick and two of us have been sick twice! We did manage, however, to have a very nice Christmas. 

Brad and I realized when talking on Christmas day that this may be the only Christmas we ever spend just the 3 of us. I'm very ok with that, because I missed my family a TON that day. But it was also kind of neat to just focus on each other, especially given how little time we get together. 

Christmas Eve day we spent running around doing last minute errands. I was buying groceries and going to the butcher and wine shop. I also ran out and found Brad some last minute Christmas gifts. And he Christmas Eve shopped for me too! Just so hard to find the time, and the shops are hella crowded around here in the Big City.

Finally in the late afternoon we got all gussied up and went to church. I found a children's service at a nearby church that sounded very low key. This was important because Charlie is not a big fan of sitting still and being quiet. Like, even when his favorite show is on. He doesn't attend the service when we go to church in Richmond - they do kids' Sunday school during the service. So had to be something where other children were being loud!
It ended up being very nice. They had some horses out front we were able to check out and pet. That one on the left was not pleased I didn't come bearing treats. 
Inside there were lots of different costumes and LOTS of singing. I thought they were crazy for passing out candles to a congregation of small children in an old wooden church, but nothing caught on fire! Charlie helped me hold the candle and really did not want to blow it out. He was fascinated with the kids sitting behind us - I think because one was wearing a Cookie Monster t-shirt. And that's cool.
We came home and cooked dinner. My dad had sent me some simple recipes to try for Christmas Eve and Christmas day since I had limited supplies in the apartment kitchen. I made duck with a port and cherry sauce and some parmesan polenta. Charlie wouldn't touch it, but he's in a phase where he eats majorly at one meal of the day and won't eat at all the other two meals. 

Afterwards, we put out the cookies and milk for Santa and read our Christmas books. The stockings were hung on the TV stand with care. And then I began the horrible night time routine of trying to get Charlie to go to sleep. 

Meanwhile, Brad wrapped Charlie's gifts. Like, all of them. And since he has almost no toys here in London, there were lots of them! I was so happy he did that. It had been such a long day at that point! 

I fell asleep more excited than I had been in years for Christmas. I was so excited thinking about Charlie waking up in the morning and finding all the gifts under the tree. And then opening them and being so thrilled. Speaking of the tree, here it is, our little homemade decorated Christmas tree. Popcorn, cranberries, ribbons, a few ornaments and.... pictures of the poodles our house sitter sent us. Yes, I poked holes in them and hung them on the tree. 

In the morning, Charlie was of course up bright and early, and seemed a little confused and overwhelmed by everything. In fact, he mostly seemed perplexed that the cookies we left out were gone and can we have some more cookies over here mom? They are not, after all, Santa's cookies. Cookies are for Charlie.

We did stockings and I was getting all ready to go start some coffee while Charlie played with the contents of his stocking... and then I heard a giant rip and Charlie had torn into one of his gifts. It was a big cement mixer and he was so excited. In fact, it was a very transportation themed Christmas. Airplane, helicopter, fire truck, cement mixer. The Bruder trucks came already assembled, but Brad spent a good chunk of the morning putting together the PlayMobil ones.
After presents we had breakfast. I never did figure out how to put together the monkey bread with so few kitchen tools, so I just picked up some pastries at a bakery. The breakfast casserole didn't taste quite right, either, but was still good. I think we're going to need a breakfast do over when we get home to Richmond.
After breakfast it was just a lot of playing with toys, relaxing and watching movies. We managed to talk to some family, too, even with busy schedules and the time change. And we made a nice Christmas dinner of Chateaubriand, mashed potatoes and green bean bundles. YUM.
I was actually feeling sick again all day, so was trying to rest and drink as much water as possible. Brad left for a bit and walked a mile each way to try and find a pharmacy that was open. Everything here is seriously shut on Christmas. No CVS or Wal-mart for emergencies here. I thought that was so nice until I really needed some medicine! But I survived and I'm sure all the employees were very happy to not worry about working.

So that was our Christmas! Different, but still very special. Like everything else over here, makes me appreciate home, which I can't wait to get back to.

I hope everyone reading this has had a very nice Christmas and New Year's! Or as they call it in London... the Festive Season!