Tuesday 24 March 2015

Ticking the Boxes - Week 4

Having a tenancy agreement sorted and therefore an address, meant that this week moved on to the next stage of organising and sorting.

A frustrating Monday morning on the phone with schools and city council trying to find a spot for the girls. Then we just got in the car and went to see a few, sign up and get onto the enrollment waiting lists. Schools were just back from mid-term break and we were hopeful that in the next few days we would be lucky enough to hear some good news.

The following day we sorted out some bunks for the girls and wahoo! got a call with a spot at a school for A! Otherwise lots of admin and getting the lay of the land on various fronts: school, home and day-to-day related.

A visit with the school principal was scheduled first thing on Wednesday morning. All 3 the girls loved seeing the school, classes and what lay in store. After the visit we went off to buy a school uniform, home for lunch, and then a walk into the city to find things like a waterbottle and school shoes. We were pooped but happy by the end of the day! With A getting a spot, H moved up the waiting list to the #1 spot for her year. And although she was sad she couldn't start too it didn't take long before she got that just one kid needed to leave for her to be able to join... just one...

After all the excitement from the day before we opted for an outing to a cafe for morning tea and doing more homework on our new suburb. Along with a bit of an online catchup, blogging and sorting out photos. Of course D was full steam ahead at work and getting stuck in too.

Friday came along and we set off for another afternoon walk and sightseeing adventure. Along with some more lovely streets and buildings, we stumbled upon the Birmingham Cathedral. And that evening was the first night D and I sat down and did not do any homework/sorting/organising/etc in almost 2 months. Felt really strange!

We went to collect the keys and "checked-in" to the new place on Saturday morning. We weren't in a position to move in just yet, but it was now official. With lots of boxes now ticked, Sunday rolled around with time for another trip to the cafe, a stroll around the canals and visit to the library.

We could practically touch the light at the end of the tunnel :)
L xx

Monday 23 March 2015


A: You are obsessed with the Rainbow Magic book series and last week wrote a letter to the author. You told her just how much you loved her books and Daddy and I were well impressed with how beautifully worded and written it was. You have read many of the books including the ones named after you and your middle sister. But there are none named after your little sister and you are politely encouraging her to write one named after L. The level of passion and adorableness is just too much. You are such a sweet girl and we still don't know how your wee brain copes with your level of intensity and speed. We can also see how you are growing and maturing into the next phase, though you still think it's such a treat when you arrive home to clothes Mummy chose and bought for you. Long may it last!

H: We are still patiently waiting for a spot to open up for you at school... In the meantime you and I are enjoying hanging out together and getting things sorted/done. You love playing outside. Even when your sisters aren't here you will run around and kick a ball, climb a tree or amuse yourself very happily out there. Lately you have been saying things like "gooder" and "more betterer" - cracks me up no end. Or your trend lately of "I knew that" or "yes that's what I was going to say". You like to "know" everything.

L: It is wonderful to watch you three girls play outside, you all love being out there. Creating constructions from bits of wood you find hidden away, makeshift see-saw's, "bows and arrows"... your imaginations working well. One of the most enjoyable things is seeing how different you all play and the various interpretations but then how it all comes together at the same time. In the UK lunch is called dinner... we are still getting used to it. You just call it dinner-lunch. And these canal's that look like rivers... canal-rivers (though you say "canail-river"). Very diplomatic :) Different levels are upper and downer - not just upstairs or downstairs. And I was very impressed how you held on to your mothers day kindy card for 4 days, hidden away and then appeared first thing with it on the right day. Such patience!

L xxx

Thursday 19 March 2015

Connected - Week 3

The new week dawned and I felt practically human again.  It's really strange how seemingly every 7 days, it felt like power was restored to a degree.  It also highlighted how far "below par" we were feeling!

Monday morning started with another attempt to get a mobile phone and contract so we could start operating "locally".  Again no dice - the lack of a credit history here a hindrance.  We had limited options.  So the girls and I hotfooted it to the stores we perused the day before.  Hopefully someone would take pity on a foreigner with three children ... hahaha.  Anyways, we spent a couple of hours at a shop and sorted out a phone and a laptop.  They needed to set up a couple of things so we wandered back to the apartment.  After lunch we headed back to collect the last of the items and wandered around the shops while we waited.  We now had a couple of proper devices to work from and local connectivity.  We also managed to arrange car insurance ... again no credit history making things very difficult but we got there.  No word on the house we applied for.

Tuesday dawned beautifully bright and sunny.  Off for a walk in the sunshine and to take some photo's.  Oh sun, how we love you!  Gorgeous day it was with an amazing blue sky.  We stopped in at the library again and got a fresh supply of books.  And... dum dum daaaah... found out we missed out on the house... meh.  Back to the drawing board searching, phoning, re-visiting previous ones.

Wednesday we headed off to collect one of the cars.  While out and about we tried to see more houses but they were gone by the time we arrived.  However, we did manage to get in to view one.  The lucky one that we pursued within minutes of leaving to make sure we were in first this time!  And we got to have lunch at a favourite wee spot.  I tried out the Pina Colada tea this time too... and it was every bit as delicious as it sounds :)

Thursday we returned the rental car and set off to collect the second one.  Negotiations for the next house were underway.  We started investigating schools and coming up with action plans should it all pan out.  What was the minimum we would need for a new place, that we didn't have with us, while we wait for our stuff to arrive.  List making still going strong.

On Friday the fridge in the apartment decided to give up the ghost, and the broadband too.  Gah.  So off we went for what felt like our routine - a walk around exploring new areas of the city.  We headed off along a different canal and into the Jewellery Quarter.  Another delightful expedition.  And to top it off we had a functioning fridge, active broadband and a signed tenancy agreement upon our return!  Hoorah!

Saturday consisted of another visit to the new house to measure and plan what we would need furniture wise.  Of course we had sold most of our old furniture in NZ before we came so some things needed replacing.  We had done our homework on some possible furniture shops, sales, etc so armed with our measurements and information we went to scope out options.  As we arrived at one furniture shop the sky turned black and we were met with a proper heavy snowfall!  It lasted for all of 30 minutes and took even less time to disappear when the sun came out.  But, we were all rather delighted by this experience.

Sunday saw us drop in at a few more places for furniture, before making some decisions and doing the rounds to purchase a few essentials (beds!) to be delivered when we move in.  This took the whole day and of course was hampered again at times by the non-existent credit history.   Still, we got there one way or another in the end.  The evening, like every other evening for weeks now, was spent researching schools and kindies and other "moving-in" related homework.

Week 3, connectivity, house and some furniture - tick.
L xx

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Hunting - Week 2

D started work on the Monday (9 Feb), a week after landing.  After his full on day of mind-blowing scale and scope he came home to hear about our tales from our day.  The girls and I decided to hit the streets and explore a bit of the city around us on foot.  It turns out there was lots to see and walk to within minutes from the apartment.  We found the new library and luckily we were able to sign the girls up.  Hoorah!  We came home with some books that entertained them for a good few hours.  Nothing quite like new reading material.  While we were out we also finally found a shop that sold Birmingham postcards... it sounds random but after a week of looking and not finding any, this felt like a feat so we stocked up!

The next day we needed to find a post office. I do love how necessity creates opportunity. On this outing we found Victoria Square, the Town Hall, the Museum and Art Gallery and of course a post office.  Amazing buildings which we would come back to and pass several times over the next few weeks. The rest of the days were spent reading and researching for young and old.  Every night the girls would head to bed and we would pour a cuppa, grab some chocolate, pull out the iPad and get cracking.  Researching houses and areas, looking for used cars and dealerships, comparing schools, mobile phones, insurances, etc.

On Wednesday we set off again... for a lack of being able to do much else really.  This time we walked along a canal and ended up having a hot chocolate at a cafe for afternoon tea. The girls were completely enchanted by all the ducks and swans on the canals and would walk along and chat to the birds as they swam beside us. Terribly endearing.

Thursday kicked off as day one of two, of house-hunting with a local expert as arranged by D's work. D set off with him in the morning as we established if it would be ok to have the kids tag along with me in our rental. A bit of miss-communication later the girls and I were on our way to join the house-viewing mission. Of course as luck would have it, the GPS decided to die and D had the smartphone. A tense and frustrating hour or so later we joined up. Must have been my female sense of direction and ability to read signs ;p  D had seen 2 properties by then and after another viewing and some lunch, we continued on to see 4 more.  Lunch was our first pub meal here and at a family friendly place... quite different to the cafe culture we are used to. It was a very productive day and the girls were champs spending all that boring time in the car, in and out and seeing each new place. They loved being part of the process though and took a keen interest in the locations and enjoyed "assigning rooms" to all of us in each new place.

Day two of house hunting and we were headed to a different area, slightly out of the city, this time. There were 11 properties lined up for the day. At least we all left at the same time and I had also managed to get the GPS to co-operate again so the atmosphere was a lot less tense ;) We all fell in love with the second property we saw and it ticked many boxes. By the time we got the 6th one we decided to cancel the rest and head to the leasing agents office to put in our application to rent, before the weekend and hopefully before anyone else. Unfortunately no news over the weekend about it but were were hopeful. Back to the apartment for dinner, feeling pretty worn out but all of us excited about possibly finding a place to live. We then spent the evening looking up vehicles and made a plan for the weekend to hopefully find at least one suitable car.

Saturday morning commenced with another visit to the bank to finally complete the account set-up process. Armed with an account number and what remained of our cash funds we set off on our planned car-purchasing journey. I cant remember how many cars we saw or took for a test drive, but there were a few. We arrived at our final destination of the day not holding terribly much hope. But... we got lucky and at a very small car yard were able to find a family vehicle and a little run-about car for D's commute to and from work. Hoorah! We were only required to pay a deposit on both whilst the necessary paperwork got sorted at the beginning of the following week. Again the girls were great - commenting on cars and colours, comparing and drawing their own conclusions. We brought the iPad with it's selection of 3 Disney movies, on each of the last 3 days' outings and it did provide a handy distraction when the boredom got too much in the car. The evening was spent finding out about car-seat regulations, comparing places and prices for purchase, looking in to a work wardrobe for D, and also some technology.

Having done our homework previously, we headed off on Sunday to find and buy some car/booster seats for the girls. Having gotten that sorted out we went back to the apartment and headed on foot into the city to do some more shopping and browsing. We were able to show D some of the sights we had discovered earlier during the week and then also found him a few work shirts. Next was some hands-on research at technology shops. We walked back to the apartment for a repeat of our evening routine.

Week 2 and some tangible progress - tick.
L xx

Monday 16 March 2015


H: You had a great time on Monday playing at L's new kindy. And the people there all fell in love with you too. Such a nice treat for you to get to be part of the environment if only for a few hours. On the other days where it was just you and I, you were a great buddy. You like to know the order of events and will number and sequence them and "tick" them off out loud as we progress through our to-do's. You patiently helped on Wednesday with deliveries, shopping and tidying all the while working toward making sure you and I got time to crack into your paper-craft book. And then you were in heaven, making all the items and constructing your town. I love the way your mind works :)

L: You started kindy this week. A visit on Monday for a couple of hours in which H was able to join you and then a couple more days. And you got to have dinner on one of the days! I was a little unsure what you meant about this dinner business but we now know that dinner here, is lunch for us! And apparently you had two helpings of the meal and of the pudding! You were clearly not going to waste a cooked meal at lunch time :) You loved your time at Kindy and then enjoyed some quiet time at home when you returned. Also, you love Brussell Sprouts - just like me! We bought some at the beginning of the week for a meal during the week and you were slightly incensed that we were having not having the "little green canonballs" that same night! You were thrilled when we finally did have them... something I can relate to ;)

A: Red nose day at school. How I managed to find my one and only never worn lipstick in our few belongings I'm not sure, but lipstick, mascara and a silly hair-do made you happy and ready to join in with the day's antics at school. You are relishing being back at school and come home every day buzzing with all you've learned and the stories of the day. All three of you have also enjoyed being able to finally get to run around outside, play and climb trees now we have moved into a house. It is such a joy to watch you all enjoy the outside space no matter the temperature.

L xx

Sunday 15 March 2015

Upon Arrival - Week 1

Our first week in Birmingham went a little something like this:

Tuesday:  Feeling quite chipper after a big sleep, good breakfast and slow start.  We headed to Brindleyplace to check out our future accommodation and have some lunch.  We ended up at a burger joint and spotted something familiar on the menu... small world :)  Thereafter a bit of a wander around, ending up at the Bullring shopping centre and discovering the Disney store... the girls were beside themselves!  We headed back to the hotel after a short dash to the supermarket for some simple dinner supplies.  Another early night for all of us.  At the hotel we had two rooms to accommodate us.  The girls had turns at sleeping with either of us, or on their own in the extra bed.  It was a lovely treat for all of us to have "ring-around-the-rosies-sleepovers" for the first week.

Wednesday:  L slept for 15 hours!!  A slowish start with the girls having Wheetabix for breakfast.  A has never eaten breakfast of this type so quickly - it seems having an "a" in the name makes all the difference :)  Off to the bank to open a UK account... sort of.  More on that another time.  After our appointment we tried to find more lunch... different burger joint followed by a drive to Bournville for a bit of a look-see.  We arrived at Cadbury World to find a few mounds of snow from the previous week - hope for A!  Wearing a little thin we decided to head back and do the tour the next day. 

Thursday:  We left in good time for Cadbury World and as we arrived light snow flurries were falling.  Again all lovely moments of promise especially for A.   The tour was great fun and we learned lots, the girls and D ate lots and all of us enjoyed the experience.  It was a bit frigid but that didn't stop the girls from being desperate to go on the outside playground.  Afterwards we headed to a local cafĂ© and had a lovely wee lunch.  Back to the hotel afterwards with bedtime now a bit later than those first few nights.  The mornings and afternoons/evenings at the hotel usually saw the girls reading, drawing, playing with lego or pretend play.  We spent a lot of that time making phone calls, doing research and making decisions - cars, areas, schools, systems and processes, rules and regulations - for many aspects of life here.

Friday:  Still feeling a bit worse for wear we decided to have a bit of a suburban sightseeing venture, to start getting a feel for the different areas and locations around Birmingham.  We drove for about 10 minutes from the city centre and suddenly found ourselves outside the big smoke and in the country!  So quick!  We drove around the "green belt", ended up in Bromsgrove and then proceeded to find some yummy lunch.  A winding drive through the suburbs back for our final night at the hotel.

Saturday:  After the morning spent visiting some car dealers, we had lunch, packed up our hotel rooms and headed for the serviced apartments that would be our home until we found a more permanent place to live.  Our new digs were lovely - 12th floor overlooking the city with plenty of room and a kitchen where we could actually cook!  Hoorah!  And cook we did - that same night!  And put a load of washing on too!  Amazing how much one longs for these things when you cant do it on a day to day basis. 

Sunday:   I woke up and felt a whole heap more human than the last week - we all did I think!  The fog had lifted a little.   We had a "home-based" day and only ventured out to do a small supermarket shop.  There was still a lot of paperwork to be done and of course finding a house to live in also takes a bit of time - especially when you have limited knowledge of an area.  A quiet day and D's last day before starting work.

Survive week 1 - tick.
L xx

Saturday 14 March 2015

Nine & Ten/52

A: We got lucky and got a spot for you in a local school and you started the following week. Excited would be an understatement for how wired you were about starting school! After almost three months of having you and your sisters with me every day, and now having to send you off to a school in a "foreign" and new environment was a bit hard on your old mum... You may as well have been 5 and starting school for the very first time... I actually think this time was harder! But of course you and your sweet, optimistic and super keen nature were away. Happy as larry and having a blast! You love your new uniform and you love your school. You were slightly weary that you were in Year 2 over here but thank goodness for seasons and celebrations to help explain how school is structured here! And on your first day it snowed on the way there! Heaven!

H: You cannot wait for your place to become available at school so you can start too. You were a bit gutted that a spot opened up for A, but not you. Though you grasp that because A is in you are now #1 on the waiting list for your year. In the meantime you and little sis have been having a ball. I love watching the different relationships you all have with each other and the different kinds of interactions and dynamics the various combinations create. You are so lovely and in such a unique position having a younger sister to dote on and guide, and an older sister to look up to. So special. And you love it. We had a lovely outing showing Daddy some of our canal walks and also the library... you of course being all about the detail and sharing all the steps and information you've learned from previous occasions. You simply love knowing what's what and it gives you a sense of control in life.

L: The way you look up to your big sisters is adorable. But at the same time you are completely in control of just what you want and how you want it to go. Such a force. You were excited about visiting kindies and trying to find one that appeared just right. You loved having H to yourself for a week and loved all the school visits, shopping trips and getting to be part of the whole experience. You are every bit as interested and involved in all the happenings in your big sister's worlds, as you are about your own. Watching you play hop-scotch at school was a hoot. Hands in your pockets whilst at it :) The three of you are always a sight being so bright and colourful and full of personality. Watching you stroll down the yellow road was just too cute not to capture.

L xx