Tuesday, February 28, 2012

School Days

For the past couple of months, David and I have been going back and forth with deciding whether or not to put Darian in nursery (pre-school) a couple mornings a week.  We knew it would be good for her, so of course David wasn't the one having reservations.  He misses the kids while he is at work no matter what they do during the day.  But leaving BOTH my babies behind while I sit at home by myself???  I really struggled with the decision.  David left it up to me, and finally I decided to just go for it!  I knew that seeing other children her age besides Maxwell (without me around) and receiving instructions from other adults besides Mommy and Daddy would be good for her.  I thought that being in that environment would help her language development, social skills, independence, etc.  

So today, Darian had her first day of preschool!!  She is with Maxwell at a Montessori Nursery here in Oxford.  We really like this school , and for the last six months Maxwell has really thrived there.  Originally we thought we would send her to the other Montessori that the principal runs.  We wanted them each to have their special place, to make their own friends, and to have a few hours a week where they didn't have to share everything.  But the other nursery had children from 1-5 years old, and part of the reason to send her a couple mornings a week would to be around other kids and learn by example.  I decided that spending those hours with all those babies may distract from that.  And of course, it is a lot easier on us to have them dropped off and picked up at the same place!!!

Darian had a great first day!  She was so excited to go this morning she barely ate any breakfast.  She wanted to put her new school shoes and backpack on right away!  Maxwell was really excited to have her go, too.
When we got to school they held hands down the sidewalk and walked in together.  Once inside she knew exactly what to do, having watched Maxwell get dropped off so many times.  She took off her coat and put her indoor shoes on like a big girl.  Then she was ready to go upstairs.  Maxwell was so excited to show her everything, even though she sees it everyday, that he hadn't put his shoes on yet.  She was standing on the stairs saying, "Come on, Maxwell!!" 
It was awesome.  Upstairs he got her set up with a puzzle and the sat side by side to play.  Seeing she was fine David and I said our goodbyes.  They both waved and blew kisses as we left, and Mommy held it together until the door closed behind me until the tears came.  It was hard to leave him the first day, but I had her to go home and play and cuddle with.  Today was hard to leave my baby girl behind.  

But then I went grocery shopping BY MYSELF, which I have done maybe 5 times in the last four years!!!  :o)  I washed and vacuumed the car and then had coffee with my friend Debbie.  When I picked them up, they were sitting nicely side by side in the kitchen singing songs with their teacher, Rose.  They both got up when they saw me and ran over for hugs.  Darian had a huge smile on her face and said, "Mommy I go to school!"  What an awesome experience for her!!

The teachers said that she did GREAT for her first day and that they were surprised at how happy and quickly she just jumped right in to do everything.  Rose was pleasantly surprised that Darian already holds her pencil correctly and seemed interested in writing.  :o)  We do a lot of that around here.   About halfway through the morning, when they were outside to play she got a bit upset and cried for me, but Maxwell came to comfort her and they were able to distract her and then she was fine.  We are so proud of our big girl!!!  She had the orange plate at dinner tonight to commemorate this special day!!!

(To see a few more cute pictures, go here)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Guest Blogger: Daddy Weekend

Jennifer has been saying for a while that she would like a weekend to herself. Being with the kids all the time can be a little draining, and even though she loves it, needs some time away. Also, Jennifer likes saying that I don't know what it's like to take care of the kids all day, implying that if I tried I might lose one (or parts of one).  So we finally decided to address all of these things and the kids and I went off for an overnight!  We selected Belgium since it's close and we needed to go shopping there anyway (mommy needed Speculoos Spread and daddy needed beer).  :-)

We started early on a Saturday morning and drove to Dover to catch the ferry to Dunkirk, France.  The kids were very good on the 2.5 hour drive, but they did alternate between wanting to listen to the Glee CD (Maxwell) and their Monkey Music CD (Darian).  It's a cliché that kids want to listen to and watch the same things over and over, but they really do, and it's cute at first and then annoying shortly after.  We got on the boat without incident and the kids proceeded straight to the play area where they stayed the entire time.  They played with a couple of French kids for a while and it was cute to watch them 'talking' to each other.

Do you see her all the way in the back?
'I'm on a boat!'
5 hours and 2 countries into the trip and I still had 2 kids with 10 finger and toes each.

The first stop was at a monastery/brewery less than an hour from Dunkirk.  It has just snowed the day before so we carefully drove through Belgian farmland, dodging tractors on small back roads until we arrived at our destination.  Along the way we passed a few bread vending machines that were in farm towns too small for a shop.  I guess the bakery fills the machine every morning so the townsfolk don't have to make the long drive to the next town.  At the monastery we had a beer (me) and ice cream (the kids-although the ice cream was made with some of the beer), before playing in the snow.

The brewing facility.

Maxwell and Darian

Playgrounds are great even when covered in snow.
After the kids were sufficiently frozen from playing in the snow (Jennifer almost was right, we barely survived frostbite) we were off to our next destination....The Hotel!  We were staying in a town called Ieper/Ypres, a town destroyed during WW1, but was rebuilt immediately after. After a pizza dinner we messed around the hotel room.  

Nice face Darian.

That's better.

Shower cap monster!!!
(guess who took this picture)
In the morning we had a great breakfast (Darian ate the frosting on top of an eclair and Maxwell had a pain au chocolat) before going to the supermarket for our shopping trip. I always like doing normal stuff in a different country.  It's one thing to go to tourist locations where you just see other tourists, but a grocery store is a different experience.  Also, here I was not in a tourist area and away from major cities, so English was not very prevalent.  But a grocery story is a grocery store, so even though I didn't know what the lady was saying I just imagined she was asking me for my club card and if I had any of my own bags, normal stuff.  In the end my chip and pin card worked so I left with my beer (case and a half) and speculoo spread (12 jars). 

We then made our way to the final stop, a small beer distributor on the French/Belgian border to get a few more cases.  Darian slept through this part and Maxwell liked the owners dog that was roaming the aisles.  

Hop Farm near the store.
After a quick lunch we drove back to Dunkirk and boarded that boat back to England.  Maxwell and Darian played the entire time again, and wore themselves out.  However, we did have a significant loss, Maxwell's stuffed airplane 'guy' was left on the boat to forever travel the English Channel.  On our final approach to Oxford we again switched between the Glee and Monkey CDs, and came home to Mommy waiting patiently for us...happy we were gone, but ecstatic to see us!  She didn't count their fingers and toes, but believe me, they were all still there.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Speaking English

Since we have been here for nine months now, I think I have gotten the hang of the differences in my American English vs. English English.  Or at least I thought I had until the other night when I rode my bike to the store for some milk.

There were three cyclists in front of me; two were going my speed, one was very slow and wobbly.  The two fast people passed the slow guy, so I did the same.  Except when I went to pass him, he yelled at me!  And you wouldn't believe what he said:  "You wiley cu**!  You almost ran me over!"  Now, at first I was pretty shocked to be called this, but then I realized the wobbliness was because he was drunk (pissed!) and looked like he was probably homeless.  It made me wonder if he had just "acquired" that bike recently.  Anyway, I came home and told Dave that story and he busted out laughing.  I am wondering if in England the term is more common?  Like calling someone a bitch in the US isn't really all that insulting anymore??

Then for some reason, something has changed in Maxwell this week.  He has slowly been developing a bit of an accent for months, but this week we have really noticed a difference.  You can really hear it in the inflection when he asks questions.  It's not something I can express with the written word, so I am going to do my best to capture a video of it!  And of course because I spend all my time with him or other moms, teachers, and kids, I am starting to do it, too.  Dave thinks it is hilarious and makes fun of me, but also thinks it is awesome because I don't even realize I am doing it.  And for some reason I only do it when I am talking to Maxwell or other children.  The biggest changes in Maxwell's vocabulary are that he occasionally now says wee and toilet (instead of peepee and potty), rubbish (garbage), bin (garbage can), bit (piece), as well (too), and biscuit (cookie).  He is also saying today and story weird.  Today sounds like todah, and story is suddenly stor-ay.  And of course, much to my dismay, I get the occasional Mummy.  Yuck.  Of course, these words always sneak up the most the couple hours after I pick him up from school, and on the weekends he doesn't do it much.

Then there is my spelling.  I bought my laptop here so it is set up to UK English and the keyboard is all weird.  I think I am getting used to it.  When I first got it I always had ## at the end of everything because that is now in the place by my right pinky where the enter key should be.  It is weird seeing words that I know I am spelling correctly get underlined all the time, though. Color?  No, colour.  Neighbor?  Nope.  Neighbour.  Favourite.  Favour.  What's with all the extra "U"s?  And apparently I am only supposed to hit the spacebar once after I finish a sentence, although I was taught to use two.  Hmmm...

So, just in case you come to visit or call us on the phone or skype, here's a quick reference guide to some of the new words we are using, due to the fact that if we don't people look at us like we are a little dumb.  :o)

Garden = backyard
buggy or pushchair or pram = stroller
nappy = diaper
pants = underwear
trousers = pants
lorry = truck
trolley = shopping cart
motorway = highway or freeway
slip road = exit on the motorway
queue = line
cinema/film = movie theater/movie
ring = call on the phone
call = visit your home
diary = calendar
boot = trunk
holiday = vacation
proper = actual or real.  I used this a couple weeks ago on my Facebook page without realizing it.  "David and I went on a proper date."  ;o)

These are the terms that have crept up into our vocabulary over the last nine months.  There are a TON more differences!  It took me years of living in California to start saying soda instead of pop, so I am pretty surprised that these changes have happened so quickly.  Do you think we'll all have accents by the time we move back to the States??

Man.  I just heard that last question in an accent in my head.