Saturday, July 10, 2010


This, our fourth and final summer in England, is the first season I would properly call summer.

When we moved here in January 2007, we heard tales of the summer of '06 being the hottest on record and the misery that accompanied that heat. But the summer of 2007 ended up being one of the (if not the) rainiest season on record, so we knew nothing of that heat.

I remember this, because it was also the summer that Rhianna's "Umbrella" was #1 on the charts for something like an unprecedented 11 weeks, and that happened to coincide with some of the rainiest weeks people could remember - floods and all. At that point, I was ready to boycott that song if it meant we'd see a slice of sunshine.
The summers of 2008 and 2009 weren't as soggy as '07, but we just couldn't seem to get proper summer temps for longer than a few days, or a week as most.

In fact, I can clearly remember there being one week of amazing weather every year sometime in April. Having lived in a comatose state of gray, damp, and cold, the weather would yawn, shake itself off, and reveal brilliant blue skies, unadulterated sunshine, and this bizarre sensation called heat.

And every year, it was as if my soul would mirror this physical change of seasons and reawaken with new awareness and appreciation for life. Every year, I'd go out and buy warm weather clothes. And every year, every year, the next week would return to cold, damp and gray, totally extinguishing any hope we had for a true change in weather.

Sure we'd get some more sunny spells, but they'd be short lived. And yeah, we'd seem some warm days, but again, they never stuck around long, and it was rarely warm enough to even justify wearing shorts.

This year, though, something weird is going down. For three weeks now, we've had proper summer weather. It's been hot, real hot. It's been sunny, to the point where my skin is starting to darken!
Hark! What is this? The beginnings of a tan? Can my skin even do that anymore?! Someone grab the SPF!

I've sent my son to school in shorts every day for three weeks! I've work skirts or capri pants myself every day except one where I decided to wear pants because it was overcast in the morning. By lunch, of course, the sun was out and blazing, and I was miserable.

I hesitate to write about this, because I don't want to be the one to jinx it. But it's just so unusual!
Unfortunately, it's also uncomfortable. Because it's so rare to have temps this high for so long, England isn't really equipped to deal with the heat. So we have no A/C at home, in our cars, or at work. We go from hot to hot. No respite for the sweaty, I guess. I spent a large chunk of this afternoon daydreaming about a cold, crisp, air conditioned home. And getting ice in my drink without having to ask for it. Ahh, some day!

But let me not whine about this. I'm happy to have the sun and the heat. I'm uncomfortable and sweaty and gross, but whatever. It's SUMMER! And it actually feels like summer! So much so that at 7 pm tonight, while walking along the River Ouse in Thetford, Caleb and his friend Lil (who was over for the day) and I did a bit of wading around in a shallow part of the river.

I didn't realize this shallow section even existed today until a local mom by clued me in. We don't normally walk this far down the river. But once she mentioned it, we set out searching for our own little piece of local paradise.

And we had a fantastic time. Totally unplanned, totally unprepared, and totally fun. Such a nice, cool respite from the sweltering day.

Seeing my little boy become a big boy this summer has been equal parts thrilling and heartbreaking for me. I'm so excited that he's not scared of things that used to terrify him just a few months ago. I'm so proud of how adventurous and brave he's become. But my mommy heart breaks a little that my baby isn't a baby anymore and won't ever be a baby again.
But he is becoming my big boy. And I'm so excited to watch it happen. And excited that he has such a great pal along for this part of the ride.

Here's hoping for more hot weekends in England! Happy summer, everyone!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy (American) Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! We spent the day out at RAF Feltwell, where they open the base up every year to Americans and Brits alike to celebrate our independence from these tea-drinking jerks! (I kid, I kid!)

A friend of mine posted on Facebook recently about how strange it is to celebrate our independence in the very country from whom we were declaring independence, and how stranger, yet, it is to open up our celebration to those very countrymen we were rebelling against. Surreal thought it may be, it's still a fun celebration every year.

Now I'll admit, there's a shocking lack of red, white and blue in this post. And no fireworks, either. They do fireworks at Feltwell, but it's not until like 9 or 10 pm, and Caleb has pretty much turned into a pumpkin by then.

But we did have plenty of fun with friends.

And Caleb and I had plenty of fun with each other while my husband worked his squadron's food booth.
At the end of the long row of fried food booths which so proudly declare our independence from caring about our waste lines was a small booth with fresh watermelon and pineapple slices. Genius! After the corndog, chili cheese fries and, yes, fried Oreos, a slice of fresh fruit was absolutely divine.

Caleb had a blast all day. Summer sunshine + hot dogs + rides + getting to sit in a helicopter, fire truck and ambulance + bouncy castles + friends = a little bit of Caleb heaven. He did have a few rough patches (not enough nap and too much sunshine trigger these things), but overall, he did pretty good.

My favorite shot of the day, and possibly my favorite pic of Caleb ever up to this point, came while we were waiting for a Battle of Britain memorial flyover from a Spitfire. We never did see the Spitfire (it was running a little late, I guess, and we were just ready to go home), but I did grab this little gem.

The bad moods and tempers are exhausting and frustrating. But these little moments of pure, unadulterated toddler joy wrapped in sunshine are absolutely the most amazing little slices of life. In those moments, you completely forget that whiny, cranky side even exists.

No worries, though. Toddlers are quick to remind you of that other side! ;)

Happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday Night Drive

The Friday night drive home from base is never fun. For some reason I still can't properly understand, the A11 backs up to London (or at least it feels that way) and my normal 30 minute drive usually takes about 50 minutes any given Friday night.

Additionally, the radio on Friday nights is just abysmal. I have four stations I listen to regularly here (with BBC Radio 1 being my favorite.) But all of them seem to pick their worst pre-club dance mixes for the Friday drive home. Now you know me. I love to shake my tail feather. But I can't stomach a solid hour of dance music. I need something I can sing along to while I wasting time sitting still.

And the last two weeks have been hot in England. And I know our hot doesn't compare to a lot of hots. I get it. But we have no respite. There's no A/C at home, no A/C at work, and no A/C in the car. So you go from hot to hot. When I picked up Caleb from daycare today, he told me, "I no wanna go in the car! It's hot!" Can't say that I blame him. Even with the windows down, it's just uncomfortable.

So sitting in our hot car in standstill traffic on the A11 tonight should have soured my already inexplicable bad mood from this week. But there was a slight breeze, and the radio mix was slightly better than normal on Friday nights. And yeah it was hot, but that means the sun is out, and having sun for the three day weekend is nice.

I was looking out my window at the breeze blowing through the long, dry grass, thinking, "I'm gonna miss this country," when I heard the jets. I looked up and saw one of our KC-135s flying overhead, coming in for a landing at RAF Mildenhall behind us.

I can't really explain it, but I had this huge surge of appreciation well up as I watched the plane descend. And I thought, "This is my life. Stuck in traffic on the A11 watching one of our planes fly over the English countryside."

That might sound a bit tedious, but at that moment I felt proud to even have a tiny part to play in the mission of our base. I'm so grateful to have had the chance to spend the last three and a half years in England, particularly in the Suffolk/Norfolk area. It's cool to be a part of a wing that can trace it's history back to a bomber group from the same region.

Somehow in that hot car, after a long week, in the miserable traffic, on a long Friday drive home, a simple jet overhead reminded me of a few things I am really grateful for.