Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

It's been a fantastic year...heck a great four years. I'm tempted to wax sentimental, but to be honest, there's been more than enough of that around here lately!

So instead I'll show you our makeshift fridge from our hotel room in London. We have a couple of bottles of cider (one Bulmer's pear, one Kopparberg mixed fruit) hanging in a bag from our window on the second floor, ready for midnight consumption!


Except we probably won't make it that long. :)

If you've been tagging along my blogging adventures for the whole past four years (mom!) or if you're new to the party, thanks for reading and commenting and being a part of the fun!

Here's to a great 2011. Can't wait to see what it has in store!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ode to Lil

It goes without saying that the hardest part of moving is leaving good friends. Even when you know you'll see them again, losing them as a part of your regular life isn't easy.

This is Caleb's best bud Lily.


She's been his friend since he was 1 month old and she was 11 months old. They didn't know they were friends at the time, but they soon figured it out.

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For a while, they didn't really know how to play together, so mostly they just hung out and babbled at each other.

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Once they got a bit bigger, though, they liked to go on adventures together. Sometimes they were local adventures, like to the river in downtown Thetford on a sunny afternoon.

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Ely was another local favorite from the time they were babies until they became the big kids they are today.

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Other times, we'd go a bit father, like to a proper beach!

Hunstanton Beach June 10

Sometimes we'd go for a while without seeing Lily. But as soon as we did, Caleb was ready with a big hug for her.

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Or sometimes just a hand to hold.

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Caleb knows he's moving to South Carolina soon. And he knows that Lily is moving, too. But I'm sure he doesn't quite grasp that he's not going to be able to go over to Lily's house any time soon. I'm sure he isn't aware that she won't be in his classroom at his day care any more.

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His whole little world is about to shift and get toppled upside down.

He's young and resilient, and I know he'll recover. At the same time, my mom heart hurts for my little guy. To lose all that is familiar is hard. To lose the familiar comfort of regular contact with your best friend in the process is heart breaking.


All the same, I'm grateful for the three years of friendship he's banked with Lil. Fortunately she'll be moving close to some of my family in the not-so-distant future, so I know we'll see her and her family again.

And I'm glad for that. 'Cause she's a keeper. :)

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mental Packing

As our final days in England draw closer, I find myself grasping at any tangible item I feel will give me a connection to our time here. It's strange to think soon England will be a memory and not my daily life. So as I pass something I want to remember, I pull out my camera or my debit card and make sure I have a piece of it to take with me. It's as if I'm desperately trying to stuff every last memento and memory into a mental suitcase so I can pull them out later when I'm homesick for England.

That was why purchasing this silver plated tea service from one of our local antique dealers felt terribly important. When else will I have a chance to purchase an authentic English tea service from the 1860s? I needed to have something physical, something I could reach out and grab to help me remember the importance of a nice cuppa tea.

Silver Tea Service

It's also why I purchased a silly little hair clip covered in feathers today while wandering through Bury St Edmunds in search of good Boxing Day sales. One of my English coworkers had a lovely little feathery hair clip during our Christmas party that I adored, and she advised me that I must not leave England without a bit a plumage! I'm not sure she would have envisioned this hot pink piece of fluff, but by golly I love it! I have no idea what I'll where it with or what occasion will justify a bit of plumage, but when duty calls, I'll be prepared!

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It's why I was thrilled when my friend Robin gave me this gorgeously tacky mug commemorating the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Are you kidding me?! This thing is beautifully ugly, and I can't wait to drink tea out of it and remember all the media hype from their engagement.

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It's also why I took this picture of a hedge in a little town called Flempton, which lies on the A1101 between RAF Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds. A proud part of my military heritage comes from the fact that my mom and dad were actually stationed at RAF Lakenheath and lived in Mildenhall village when I was born. I had a blast taking mom and dad around when they came to visit to see what they would remember. And this hedge is something they remembered well because they flipped their VW bug (I beleive) into these hedges on a slippery day many years back (pre-Kelly.)

Flempton Golf Course

It's also why I took a picture of our bizarre laundry set up in our house. For some reason, even though it was a brand new house, the builders chose not to include a way to vent a dryer. Most of our neighbors opted to put their dryers out in the garages, and some of the locals bought condenser dryers, which are quite frankly hard to explain. We vented our dryer out the kitchen window every week. Beleive me, it's as big a pain in the butt as you'd think.

Laundry Day

It's also why I grabbed this picture advocating dualing the A-11. There is a stretch of the A-11 that's nearly ten miles long which is a single carriage way (one lane each direction.) It's a dual carriage way (two lanes in each direction) on every other part of the A-11, but for some reason it's taken ages to get this stretch taken care of, and the congestion it causes can be insane, particularly on a Friday night.

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On the one hand, I'm glad to be letting go of the laundry set up and traffic drama. On the other hand, they were instrumental in shaping our experiences here, so I don't want to forget them all together. As much as I want to hold on to the great memories, I also want to remember the things that made life in England a little challenging at times.

Because I hope in doing so, it will help to ground my memories of England. I want to hold on to them to remind myself life in England wasn't all tea and castles. As most people do, I have a tendency to reminisce on the past through rose colored glasses. As lovely as it will be to remember the great experiences I've had, it's as much a part of my history to remember the ways in which it was difficult to adjust to life in England--the things that reminded us that no matter how much we loved shopping off base or exploring the local area, we are still irrevocably and fundamentally American.

So I'm putting all my little bits and bobs into my mental suitcase. The good, the bad, and the ugly mug. The time for reminiscing is just about done. It's now time to look forward to the next big adventure and all the challenges and excitement that will bring. I need to put these things away to truly be able to focus on what's on the horizon and to enjoy becoming reaquainted with the things we've missed about living in the States.

But it's nice to know that when I need it, my little mental suitcase is ready to be unpacked and incorperated in small ways into the next chapter of our lives.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

From our room in billeting (military hotel) to your home, Merry Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Just north of the Suffolk/Norfolk border is a cute little town called Thetford.

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It is a quintessential English town with a busy high street, a weekly market, and a sweet little river running through it.


Evidence of Thetford's unique history are woven throughout the streets of the town. Just off of Rampart Way is Castle Hill, which proudly boasts being the largest medieval earthwork in Britian. Used in the Iron Age and during the Norman period, the man-made hill housed a timber fort or castle, and the ramparts around it served as protection.


Not far from Castle Hill are the ancient priory ruins. An important monastary in its time, it was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monastaries during Henry VIII's reign.

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Up the road is Kings House Gardens, where Caleb and I would take regular walks during the spring.


There are three medieval churches in town, as well.


And, of course, there is the Thetford Forest to explore.

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More imporantly, to us anyway, Thetford was our home for the past four years.

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It was along Tottington Close that we'd push Caleb along on his first tricycle. Many summer afternoons were spent blowing bubbles and drawing with sidewalk chalk along our road that wasn't really a road.


Friday nights were curry nights, and our favorite take out place was Red Pepper. Sadly, before we left, Red Pepper closed their doors. Rest in Peace, Red Pepper! Your emerald curry was amazing!


Of course, not all of my memories of Thetford are fond. We spent countless Friday nights stuck in traffic jams on the A-11 where it turns into a single carriage way through Elveden. Dual this road now!

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There were times I wished I lived closer to (or on) base. It certainly would have made life a lot easier and daily transit a lot quicker. It would have been nice to be centrally located to the hub of overseas military life in many ways.

By and large, though, I'm grateful for the experiences we had living off base. I wouldn't be so foolish as to claim that we were immersed in English culture. Sadly, our lives did still revolve around the base to some extent. But I'm thankful for what little immersion we were able to experience.

This week we handed over the keys to our house and said goodbye to our neighbors. Although I have been know to moan about the parking arrangements and laundry situation in our old house, I will miss it. It was the home where Tommy finished his bachelor's degree and I began and finished my master's degree. It was Caleb's first home. We celebrated Caleb's first of many things there...first birthday, first Christmas, first steps, first words.

It's hard to say good-bye to Thetford. I've really enjoyed our time there. I hope I'm able to find as many adventures in Columbia, albiet of a different nature.

The good news is, Thetford ain't going anywhere. It calls itself the Ancient Capitol of East Anglia. Who knows? Maybe we'll be back to visit again some day.

Until the, thanks for everything, Thetford!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Best of Times

I'm sleeping in my snowball.

Less than two weeks till we leave England, and this snowball keeps picking up momentum. It's not a bad thing. It's the natural way things go. And although it's been stressful, it hasn't been a bad move, so far. Not everything has lined up exactly the way I'd like, but then again, I'm a bit of a perfectionist sometimes. Enough things have lined up closely enough, that I'm pretty comfortable about this move.

And the snowball keeps picking up steam.

On this side of the ocean, we are winding down. Finishing up work, training our replacements, attending our own farewell lunches, hugging people when we run into them because we might not run into them again before we go. There are checklist items that still remain, but it's hard to slow down this kind of momentum. Things will get done.

On the other side of the ocean, things seem to be falling into place. I hesitate to stay that, because I know there are so many variables that can still complicate matters. But, so far, so good. The seeds we've been planting seem to be sprouting tiny, delicate buds. There's no promise in those buds, I am hopeful.

It's hard not to reflect on our arrival here in England four years ago as we wrap up our time. Somehow, the beginning and the end feel a lot a like, although they are so different.

One of our last nights in our house, I was staring up at the bare walls and ceilings as I tried to fall asleep, and I remember our first night in the house. I remembered laying on our mattress on the ground (because our box spring wouldn't fit up our narrow stairs) and thinking, "This doesn't feel like home." I remember an almost suffocating sense of homesickness pressing down on my chest, and wondering if I'd ever feel like this house was our home.

Last week, I looked up at the walls where there was once furniture and pictures and mementos from our life, and I thought, "This doesn't look like the home we spent four years building." Back to the basics. Back to essentials. The important things are here: my husband, my kid, my health, and the promise of a new adventure. But it's hard to lose your home, even when you've been preparing for it since Day One. Even when you've know all along it was just a temporary home.

The beginning and the end magnify the differences between English and American life. I was amazed at how slowly things seem to move over here. Setting up Internet took over three weeks. We couldn't establish our satellite TV until we had a land line, which also took a few weeks. And as we leave, I'm reminded again of how long it takes to get things done. Thirty days to cancel my phone line? How hard is it just to turn it off? Three weeks notice legitimately isn't enough?!

The past few weeks have been hectic with Christmas parties and major moving hurdles. These next two weeks are a little more calm, with more time to reflect and say good-bye. Tomorrow we hand over the keys to our little home on Tottington Close for the last time. We will be officially homeless for a short period.

It's hard to roll all these emotions into this big snowball I'm sleeping in. The excitement of new possibilities and the sadness of losing what's familiar. The appreciation for excessive American options and the loss of these unique travel opportunities. The anticipation of being closer to family and the despair of losing...well, losing England.

It's been the best of times.

And I am grateful.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Just Keep Swimming

The countdown till the movers come is on. In the mean time, I've got two lists going. One is of things we need to do. The other is of things I don't want packed.

I have to admit, it's a lot harder coming up with the Do Not Pack List this time. When we packed out in Georgia, we were pretty much done there. We took about a month of leave to visit my family and my in laws, and then left for our new adventure. So when we packed, we packed to leave.

We'll be taking leave this time, but not until we get to the other side. So even though the majority of our stuff is getting packed out next week, we'll still be here for another three and a half weeks or so. During that time, we have two holiday parties to attend and we're both still working. We also have a mostly potty-trained toddler to consider as well, which means lots of changes of clothes and plenty of items to entertain him.

Packing our suitcases is one thing. But I keep thinking of things I don't want packed that I'm making a list of. Things like toilet paper and dish rags and kitchen towels. I've heard stories of movers packing bags of garbage, so I know they'll pack pretty much anything (except items that are not allowed, like cleaning materials.) So as I go through my day, I think, "What am I using that I can't live without?

There's a lot to accomplish in the next few weeks. We're just trying to stay on top of it. I just keep reminding myself that it'll get done, with or without manic organizing. My coworker used to tell me, "The Air Force is a big machine. It's going to keep on rolling, with or without you." That might sound a bit harsh, but it was a good lesson for me to learn. Not just in the Air Force, but in life in general. I'm not the lynch pin in every plan. Most things will happen with or without me. I'd like to think that I can improve some of the processes I'm a part of, but even if I'm not there, chances are, it'll still get done.

I find that very relieving.

So we just keep moving forward. Checking things off of one list and adding things to the other. Trying to stop and enjoy our last few weeks here in the process. Looking forward to a work kids Christmas party this weekend. It was one of the highlights of my holiday season last year, and this year's promises to be amazing, too. The weekend after that is my husband's Christmas party. The weekend after that is my Christmas party. The weekend after that is Christmas. And the weekend after that, we'll be leaving.

Unbelievable. It's so easy to swing from, "I got this!" to "Holy crap! Slow this train down!" in a matter of minutes. In the mean time, don't mind me if I channel Dory to get me through this hectic period.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The End is Near

Holy smokes. We're down to six weeks.

In approximately six weeks, we'll be exchanging pounds for dollars and boarding a plane from London to the east coast of America. It's startling to realize how quickly the end is approaching, even though I've been preparing for it almost since the beginning.

I remember driving through the Thetford Forest the second year I was here thinking, "Some day I'm going to miss all this."

Some day is almost here. And as predicted, I know I will miss it all.

I'll miss the fall colors changing in the forest.
I'll miss being able to take the train just about anywhere on this island.
I'll miss the castles and cathedrals.
I'll miss pretending to be Elizabeth Bennett anytime I walked into a Regency era house.
Shoot, I'll even miss those rock-strewn English beaches that almost never seem to have any sun hanging about.
I'll miss English friends who can brew a proper, good cuppa.
I'll miss the adorable accents on my neighbor kids.
I'll miss Tesco like it's an old friend...and old friend who provided me with interesting flavors of chips and unique types of sweets and very reasonably priced, cute clothes.
I'll miss Norfolk Lavender Farm.
I'll miss LaHogue, a really cool local farm shop that recently introduced me to Breckland Orchard, a really awesome local soft drink producer.
I'll miss downtown Thetford, which has always been a great place to walk the dogs, entertain my kid, grab an ice cream cone or a piece of cake, feed the ducks, and just generally enjoy the hum of English life.
I'll miss greasy fish and chips and greasy kabob take out shops.
I'll miss the many Indian and the sole Thai take away joints in town that regularly delivered to our house on Friday nights.
I'll miss my job, which is been probably the most pleasant surprise in this journey.
I'll miss my military spouse friends, who have been my extended family and solid support being so far from my home.

I'll miss our base, which is truly the first base I've really felt a part of. Sometimes you get super lucky and hit the jackpot in an assignment. And you know what, kids? Mildenhall is the jackpot.

I know a lot of Americans come over here expecting England to be Little America. When it isn't, it's easy to get disappointed and frustrated. And no kidding, moving overseas (even to a country where they speak the same language and have McDonalds and Friends on reruns all the time) is hard. Don't let anyone tell you it isn't.

But if you get stuck in the mentality of mourning America and miss out on the amazing opportunity of living in England and getting stationed at a base with such a cool mission and really great leadership, than you've got no one to blame but yourself when you are miserable. Nobody can make you see how incredible this chance to be here is but yourself. So if you're new (or not-so-new) to England and still find yourself hating it, I'd encourage to you a.) open your eyes, and b.) get out and experience English life for all it's worth.

The next six weeks will be stressful. There's the usual holiday stress of parties holiday shopping. And we're adding to it the stress of preparing to move, packing up, out processing, and living in a hotel over the holidays. In my own mind, I'm also adding the stress of leaving what has turned out to be one of the best assignments of my military dependent life.

Of course, there is the silver lining of returning back to the States: being closer to family and friends, and the ubiquetous food and shopping options. It's not all doom and gloom, surely. But in spite of the rewards on the other side of the ocean, I can't help but begin to mourn a little for the loss of England.

I just have to remind myself not to get so caught up in the stress and sadness that I forget to actually enjoy my last weeks here.

So here's to you, England, you beautiful, overcast country! I'm gonna miss you, old gal!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

International Pet Relocation, Part II

Once upon a time, I shipped my dogs to the United Kingdom. We were embarking on our four year English adventure, and I couldn't imagine doing it without my fur babies, Zeus and Zoey. So in spite of the complications and cost associated with shipping our pets into the UK (and oowee, it is complicated!), we took the plunge, found a pet shipping service, and met our dogs at Gatwick Airport in London the day after Valentine's Day.Align Centre

Now that we are wrapping up our English Adventure, it was time to start thinking about getting the Z's back to the US. Since the US has more lenient restrictions on bringing in pets ("They got rabies vaccines? Cool."), I expected to be a bit easier.

As it turns out international pet relocation is no fun no matter how you slice the pie.

Okay, let me retract that statement for a minute. It actually could have been a LOT worse. Most of the anxiety and stress had more to do with all the preparations leading up to the shipping and less to do with the actual shipping itself.
Since I decided to fly back with them myself instead of using a pet shipping service (cheaper, and gives me a chance to house hunt on this side), I had to really up my game, do my research, and make sure all my I's were dotted and T's were crossed.
In spite of my preparation, it seemed a lot of little issues cropped up last minute.
  • I lost the health certificate my vet issued ten days prior to shipping.
  • I forgot to get their vaccine card updated with their most recent rabies shot. (Rabies doesn't exist in the UK, so they hadn't had a rabies booster in years.)
  • The low temps in our final destination (Columbia, SC) was just below the airline threshold of 45 degrees, which meant we needed a cold weather acclimation certificate. But our own vet wouldn't issue one, so we had to go to another vet.
  • I couldn't find all of the mandatory dog dishes that must be attached to their kennels and had to order some from a UK site and have them overnighted.
  • I needed to get enough of Zeus' seizure meds to last until we actually move in January so my in laws wouldn't have to worry about it.
And due to my own wired personality, I began to envision every possible thing that could go wrong. What if they won't accept them on the flight? (American Airline's won't book pets as checked baggage until two hours before the flight.) What if our plane was delayed and we missed our connection? What if the customs personnel didn't like the British vaccine card and demanded a rabies certificate? What if I forgot one tiny piece of information and we're stranded in Dallas-Fort Worth? WHAT IF THEY TELL ME TO TAKE MY DOGS BACK TO THE UK?!

I know, I know. I'm a real worry wort when it comes to these things. I plan and plan and still worry that I didn't plan enough. And I give myself pep talks. I try to remind myself that all I can do is prepare. I can't control all the circumstance, just be prepared. I tell myself it's going to be okay.
Unfortunately, my brain doesn't always buy that. I remind myself, "The eyes go where the car goes." (It's a racing metaphor from a book I recently read, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Really good. Go read it!) No point in envisioning the crash, 'cause the eyes go where the car goes. Envision the finish line!

In spite of all my pep talk, I was still a little nervous Wednesday morning when we arrived at Terminal 3 at London Heathrow Airport.

As it turns out, all my preparation paid off. Everything went great! The American Airlines staff were super helpful. One of the BAA (British Airport Authority) security dudes was SUPER awesome. After I checked in the dogs, he took the crates, but let me keep the dogs for about an hour and half before I needed to go get ready to board the plane. So we walked all over Terminal 3, letting them take care of business (yes, I cleaned up after them!), and just letting them get a bit of exercise before they were penned up.

In Dallas, I went through immigrations and then picked up my luggage and the dogs and headed for customs. Everything was smooth there, except the customs lady "confiscated" the two Ziploc bags of dog food I had taped to the top of their crates. No biggie. I just had about a days worth of food in case we got separated at DFW. Take the food, just don't confiscate my pups! The AA desk let me take the dogs for about a ten minute walk again, which I know their bladders appreciated!

They arrived in Columbia safe and healthy and happy to see their Nana (my mother-in-law) who came to pick us up from the airport. We dropped them off with their doggy cousins and Linda and I went to grab some 1 am breakfast at IHOP. (God bless the overnight shift workers at IHOP and their delicious omelets! That tiny puddle hopper from DFW to CAE was gonna charged me $4 for a pack of pretzels! I slept instead.)

The Z's are currently settling into life with my in laws. It didn't take them long to reacquaint themselves with the old dogs and introduce themselves to the new ones. (Yes, there was some bottom sniffing going on.) They seem no worse for the wear and ready to just move on to barking at the neighbor dogs and sleeping all day long.

Over all, it was much better than I could have even hoped for. They were a hit wherever we went. (Well, who doesn't love a dog in a personalized hoodie?! Crazy people, that's who!) They behaved themselves beautifully, and held up fabulously after a ten and a half hour flight to Dallas. (Remind me not to make that flight again. WAY too long. And no personal TVs on that particular plane. Say WHAT?! At least they played new episodes of 30 Rock on the overhead TV!)

Now I can take a deep breath, revel in the relief of having successfully gotten my dogs back to the US, and focus on looking at some houses and cars while I'm here. Good times!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Big Tower

For weeks now, Caleb's been saying this exact line, or some version of it: "Guess what, Mommy? I'm going to go to the big tower."

I kept thinking it was something they were doing at school. Maybe a book they were reading? A song they were singing? I couldn't figure out what tower Caleb was talking about. I meant to ask his teacher, but never remembered when I was at his day care.

A few friends have suggesting that maybe he's talking about the air traffic control tower on base. But to be honest, Caleb is almost never on that side of base, so I didn't think that was it.

(P.S. This is totally not my picture. I nicked it from the Mildenhall website, which by the way, was the best in the Air Force last year! Way to go 100 ARW Public Affairs, and let me give credit to Sgt Tracy DeMarco, whose photography skills clearly exceed my own.)

Tonight on the drive home, we passed the Elveden War Memorial on the A11. We pass have passed this giant statue almost every day, often twice a day, for nearly four years now. I always wanted to stop and grab a picture, but for many reasons have never gotten around to it.

However, with a potty training two-year-old, I've found many occasions to stop on the side of the road recently. Not long ago, his need for a roadside restroom found us stopped in the layby next to the memorial, so I took the chance to snap a few pics. Yay! Mission accomplished. :)
Tonight during the usual Friday night stop-and-go on the A11, Caleb pulled out his standard line, "Guess what, mommy? I want to go to the big tower." And I gave my half-listening, "Yeah, baby. That sounds good," response.
He must have picked up my on less-than-enthusiastic response though, because he started freaking out. "I want to go to the big tower! I want to go to the big tower! I want to go to THAT BIG TOWER!" His little finger was clearly pointed at the memorial.
And suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks. So that's what he's been talking about all along! Even before we actually stopped there recently, he's been begging to go to the big tower he's passed nearly every darn day of his little life.
I can't even imagine how huge that monument must seem to him.
I remember as a kid going to New Orleans to visit my grandparents on my dad's side. Outside of the house he grew up in, there was a baseball park with a small stadium. My dad would always say how small it seemed to him in comparison to his memories of the place. It seemed strange to me, because it was huge!
Then a few years went by before we could get back to New Orleans to visit. I came back as a teenager and was shocked to discover it wasn't the huge, Major League Baseball stadium I remembered. It was just a medium-sized neighborhood baseball park. Sure enough, it was nowhere near as big as I remembered.
The Elveden war memorial, on the other hand, is proper huge! And I'm saying this as a girl whose been living in England for a few years and has seen her share of war memorials. It ain't no tiny tater.
But if it's this big to me, how mammoth must it be to my two-year-old? How much of his life is defined by our thirty minute drive into base, and weather or not we've passed the memorial yet? What does that giant "tower" mean to him? What does he think it is?
More importantly, will he have any memory of it in two or three years? Chances are, probably not. Sadly, this marker of his daily life will probably be nothing more than a picture on my computer that he'll see on a screen saver slide show one day and ask, "What is that?"
Ah, just another reminder of things I'll both miss and not miss about England. Passing the war memorial every day? Yeah, I'll kinda miss that. Stand still traffic on the A11 on a Friday night? Well, not so much that.
But at least I know what the big tower is now! As Winnie the Pooh would say, "This mystery is history!"

Monday, September 06, 2010

Brighton, Day 2

On our second day in Brighton, we woke up to rain and clouds. Very disappointing after the fantastic weather we had the first day. However, if there's one thing you learn quickly while living in England, it's that you can't let a little rain stop you. For one thing, if you did, you'd never get out. For another thing, chances are the rain will let up soon anyway!

Fortunately, by the time I had finished my full English breakfast (fried egg, sausage, non-streaky bacon, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms and a tomato), the rain itself had stopped, even though the clouds were still hanging around. So with full bellies, we ventured out to see some more of Brighton.

I was super excited to be checking out the Royal Pavilion. It's unlike any other palace I've visited in England, with its very Indian design. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the house, but it was as beautiful inside as it was out. We had to take a few detours for Caleb for potty breaks, but the staff was very accommodating.

After the Pavilion, we went in search of a Boots (pharmacy) as we had just run out of the potty bag liners for Caleb's Potette. We found a massive, two-story Boots that had the liners we needed (yay!) plus a sale on No. 7 cosmetics! (No worries, Tommy. I only bought one thing!)
On our search for Boots, we began to get a little more familiar with the town, circling around its shopping areas and peering in windows. We also encountered this statue of Queen Victoria. I'm actually reading a biography of Queen Victoria right now, so I was happy to see her. I'm a nerd like that.

I had decided early that morning that I needed to keep with my English food trend for the day and find a Sunday roast carvery for lunch. It took a bit of walking, but I finally found a family-friendly pub that had a roast on. And let me say, it was worth the walk! Roast beef, fried stuffing balls (what?! yeah!), fried potatoes, yorkshire pudding and veggies. So good! Caleb had a child-sized chicken roast dinner and ate all his veggies! Atta boy!
After lunch the sun had come back out, so we headed back to the pier. Turns out all the big rides are at the very end. Caleb was just on the borderline for some of the height restrictions (for smaller rides). Some guys let him on, and other guys turned him down. He was heartbroken not to go back on the bouncy castle he had been on the day before. But we made up for it with some trampoline time and a driving ride!

We also hit one of the two arcades on the pier and spent some change "playing games." This was actually the first game we played, I put in 30 pence and was trying to show Caleb how to play. I wasn't even paying attention to what I was doing and got the jackpot! Out spit 101 tickets, which we combined with more tickets later to get a Lightning McQueen mug.
We hit the beach after the pier, but the sun was hiding again. It was definitely cooler and windier than the day before. Caleb spent some more time relocating rocks while I read.
We finished up our day of traditional English food with some fish and chips from a restaurant across the street from the pier. We sat in the window watching the pier light up as the sun went down, ending our last day in Brighton.

Our trip back was uneventful. I have to say, I was super impressed and humbled by the kindness of strangers while venturing out on this journey sans-husband. Particularly in the tube stations!

If you've never been to London, the tubes are attrociously poor at accessibility, and lugging a stroller, a suitcase and a backpack up and down stairs while trying to keep track of a two year old is a headache, at least. But every single time I encountered stairs and escalators, some stranger would help me with the stroller or suitcase while I tended to Caleb. I never expected the help, but every singe time, it was offer. Thanks, London tubers!

So that's pretty much it! We're both pretty knackered from the weekend and glad to be home. But I'm very happy to have made it to Brighton finally and would definately recommend a weekend trip to anyone around here!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Brighton, Day 1

Happy Labor Day weekend! In the days leading up to our three day weekend, I began to think about getting out of town. I knew it would be tricky with Tommy unable to go with us. But with summer quickly fading and our time in England slipping through my fingers, I decided it was time to check something off of my list of things I still need to see.

The coastal city of Brighton has been on my list for ages. It's often mentioned in Jane Austen pieces, and the train line to Brighton was the scene of a lost baby in one of my all time favorite works, The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde. Additionally, I had a pal on Flickr (back when I was active there) from Brighton whose beautiful pictures sealed my desire to come check out the city.

Saturday morning, I juggled the stroller with Caleb in, a small suitcase that turned out to be missing hair gel and a hair brush, a small lunch tote, and a book bag full of the ever important Potette Plus and plenty of changes of clothes for my quasi-potty trained punk.

The trek to Brighton wasn't bad. It took four trains (include a tube train) to get down. We pre-booked online, so we knew where to get off. While navigating the tube, several people were very helpful and offered to help with the stroller or my carry on suitcase on stairs and escalators. Caleb enjoyed the train ride, and the packed lunch came in handy, since we didn't have much time between trains.

It took about 3 1/2 hours to get down to Brighton. We checked into the B&B I found online. They had upgraded us to a nicer room, which was great! The downside is, it was closer to street level. I didn't realize how close we'd be to a few clubs, and it was loud for a while.

Actually, it wasn't even so much the clubs. You kind of get used to the constant hum of MMch! MMch! MMch! But the morons in the streets meeting up with their friends were so loud! I actually got out of bed to check to make sure the windows were closed. I did manage to get some sleep, though.

Anyway, after we checked in, we headed down to the beach. Brighton is a pebble beach, which seems to be the most common beach in England. Don't quote me on that or anything. I'm just going from my own experiences here. Caleb didn't mind, though, as his favorite beach activity is relocating all of the rocks back into the ocean.

Although the temperatures were mild and beautiful, the water was still pretty cold, so neither of us put more than our feet in it. Again, Caleb didn't seem to mind. He was just happy to be there!

After the beach, we went to Brighton's Sea Life Center. We spent way more time there than I had anticipated (about two and a half hours), but that was partially due to a fire alarm that went off in the middle of our tour. I took our forced evacuation as a cue to go eat malt vinegar-soaked french fries from a beach joint. Caleb took it as a cue to have a public accident in an eatery. Most embarrassing accident to date! Oh, well. What can you do?

Back in the aquarium, Caleb really enjoyed the sharks and the giant sea turtle. There was a an underwater tunnel he couldn't get enough of. (Seriously, we had to go through twice.) He loved looking at the sea turtle's belly. There was also a glass bottom boat tour we took, which he thought was super cool.

When we were finally done with the Sea Life Center, we hit the pier for the first time. Having seen pictures and even done a little research before we visited, I was still amazed at how huge the pier is! It's lined with vendors, restaurants, arcades, bars, and rides for 1,722 feet. We didn't even make it down to the end of the pier the first day. (This was primarily due to the fact that Caleb hadn't gotten a nap and was getting a big punchy.)

After some time on the pier, it was evident that we both needed to eat. We walked through town looking for something that wasn't fast and greasy but also wasn't too posh. (Two year olds and posh just don't jive well together!) We found an Italian joint called Pinocchio's, where Caleb got a pizza and I had a delicious plate of gnocchi Gorgonzola.

After dinner, we went back to the B&B where Caleb pretty much immediately crash. I stayed up reading for a bit and listening to the clubs getting warmed up. Eventually, though, I had to just try and sleep in spite of Brighton's nightlife. I had another full day in town, and I needed to rest up!