Well, in short we are now in the USA! It feels like we have been moving for months, which I suppose is sort of true. We took the fairly rash decision of sending our gear to the States early enough to try and guarantee its arrival shortly after ours. This meant most of the girls' toys and equipment (high chair, cot etc) left us mid December, along with our computer, bicycles etc. It is staggering how many "essential" items you can make do without.
Next came a fairly hectic Christmas period preceded by both girls contracting chicken pox. I am glad we have been through that evolution, although it didn't turn out to be as bad as I anticipated. Anyway, that meant we missed out on most pre Christmas events, which wasn't all bad as we seemed to have a lot of sorting out to do. Relatively poor excuse, but this is one of the reasons why so many Christmas cards were so late. The other reason is complete disorganisation!
Christmas was spent at Bourton again with most of Nick's family. Yet again our girls were spoiled rotten and loved every minute of it. Nick had a bad knee from a game of hockey (he broke ribs in a game of rugby a year earlier - maybe there is a message here) and consequently received lots of attention and sympathy, probably more than if we were at home. I just enjoyed being away from the disaster zone at Fig Tree. We left Biddy and Nick's on the 28th after waking up to a white vista of snow everywhere. Beth thought the snow was lovely until her hands got too cold. We moved onto Millbrook at Salisbury for a few nights, spending some time with Kate and Nicola and getting a night out for our 4th Wedding Anniversary without the children, which was a huge treat.
The next drive was to Oxford to revel yet again in the Hoyland's hospitality. We had another lovely New Year's Eve with the Hoylands, Morgans, Marshes, Rowes and Collier-Bristows, and all the thousands of children. Last year Jess was about to arrive, this year Arthur Marsh was introduced to us all. Also this year, the older children joined the adults in a black tie dinner. The boys all looked very handsome in their dinner jackets, especially Eddie Morgan who clearly loved every minute of it. The girls looked much too gorgeous for a family party!
We started the New Year trekking across country again back to Fig Tree Farm. By the time we arrived, the snow had all melted and to our surprise (?) it was raining again!
Jess' first birthday was spent at Crealy Park - an adventure type of park that has a huge soft play area for big and little kids. My nephew Oliver and Beth had really enjoyed it (as did Ashley - Olly's dad - I seem to recall). Nick was still on holidays so he came along and the girls loved showing Daddy all the play areas.
We had one day of excitement when we were snowed in at Fig Tree. Fortunately it was not a problem as we had no pressing engagements, but I wouldn't have enjoyed it 12 months ago when Jess was due!
Nick's return to work for a week started the home stretch to our departure. He did his handover and we started saying our farewells. We tried to organise our lives a bit, but ended up giving it up as an impossible dream. Tried to sell both cars - another impossible dream it seems. Then all of a sudden it was M day and the packers arrived and Fig Tree Farm became this packing, tea making and cleaning frenzy and it rained of course. After less than 48 hours, our 18 months at Fig Tree Farm came to an end. We were very sad to be leaving as we had a lovely time there, especially during the summers and met some great people. However, we were also sort of excited about the next adventure. So, with both (unsold) cars packed to the hilt, off we drove into the sunset (well sort of- it was 3 in the afternoon).
There were tears at the girls' nursery - Beth was one of the first children there and had obviously made her presence felt. Even now Beth talks about Young Ones and Carol and Joe (two of the carers) and Frankie (the 3 or 4 year old dictator) and Katie. I don't think she quite realises that this absence is a bit more permanent than previous ones.
We stayed with Nick's mother for a few days to do final banking, family farewells etc. My task was to try and fit everything we wanted to take into as few bags as possible. This was no small challenge as we had two cars of stuff to get into one car for the trip to the airport and then onto the plane. We ended up with only (?) 11 pieces of luggage including two amah bags containing car seats. By this time the girls had worked out that something was going on, especially as they were allowed to watch back to back videos for two days!
After a few false starts with hire cars not arriving and then being too small, we headed off on the 25th amidst a few hugs and tears.
We spent the night in an airport hotel - 7pm saw Nick and me sitting in the corridor outside our room toasting our next adventure with champagne as the girls screamed themselves to sleep in an interesting symphony.
Australia Day saw us lumber up to the check-in desk (in two taxis as they wouldn't let us on the hotel shuttle bus with all our kit) only to be told that we didn't have any special baggage allowances. At this point I agreed with Nick that I will cry and make one of the girls cry if necessary to get everything on board. No need - all 184 kgs of luggage was allowed, as the plane was less than half full - PHEW!
All seemed to be going OK - girls coping. Jess happy when kept on the move, Beth happy when eating. No worries - we divide resources. Board plane - still OK. Stewardesses all charming - even provide us with a special booster type of seat for Jess. Then Jess starts to cry. Next the pilot announces take off is delayed. Jess starts to scream and so began the downward spiral to being THAT family.
After an hour delay, the plane takes off, Jess has her bottle and falls asleep. Beth is in heaven watching her own personal TV. Wow, all is going pretty well - dare we believe we might have a good journey? Lunch is served - Beth only wants bread and chocolate. Fine if it keeps her happy. I eat my lunch. Jess wakes up. Nick gets his lunch. Jess starts to moan. I placate her, she then starts to cough and whammy - she shows me her milk and her breakfast and all the other contents of her stomach. Everywhere. Over the groovy seat, over Nick, over the floor (not over me as I managed to duck). We are THAT family! Can it get any worse?
We decide to move as far away as possible from the mess and chaos and move to the back of the plane and take up 8 seats. All calms down. Jess has something for her temperature and goes to sleep. Nick manages some shuteye and Beth lies across three seats and goes to sleep. I sit there all neurotic - why was Jess sick? Will it happen again? Was it something I gave her? Will Beth follow suit? Are we all going to arrive ill? Etc etc. Then Jess has a febrile convulsion. Well that was almost it for me. I prodded Nick to go and get towels and water to cool her down - he is half-asleep and mumbles something about ice to someone - I wanted tepid water. Jess is out of it at 40 000 feet and Beth is fast asleep. This is when I started thinking our stateside tour was doomed for disaster. Half an hour later though, the panic had subsided: the Calpol had kicked in and Jess' temperature was slowly dropping.
By comparison, the remainder of our journey was uneventful. We landed, collected all of our luggage, met our host and got to our hotel comparatively unscathed. Since then all has been considerably better and brighter. We only spent 8 days in the hotel and have now moved in to our house. Naturally it snowed for the few hours the movers were here and then stopped when they did. The house is big and only about 2 years old. We are pretty well sorted with most of our pictures hanging up and photos around the place. The girls are very happy with their old toys back and lots of space. Beth loves her room in the new house.
We found out the day after we moved in that we have to move out by 1 June, but as this was always a possibility, we are simply getting on with finding somewhere a bit more permanent. The alternative was to spend 2 weeks in the hotel and try and find house in that time. I definitely prefer this option.
We are surrounded by restaurants, fast food outlets and one of the biggest shopping malls in the world. Naturally this is all taking a lot of reluctant (?) getting used to, particularly after our comparative isolation at Fig Tree. You have to drive everywhere here. Nick was walking less than a block to meet me at work and someone was so surprised to see him walking that they offered him a lift! We have bought two cars - both people movers can you believe it. What has happened to me? Nick has a beaten up one, which looks more like a van, and I have a flash one-year-old one. Both have snazzy children seats built in (didn't need to bring the car seats - that would have made only 9 items of baggage!) Driving has been pretty easy to get used to, except the speed limit is so low we felt like we were crawling at first. Probably a good thing really.
Everyone we have met seems really nice although we haven't done a great deal of socialising yet - first priority was to get the house sorted and the girls into their routine.
All in all, we are pretty happy with our lot and can't wait for you to come and visit!