June and a bit of July

In June we started to get into the swing of things here. I got my second Mother’s Day!

We celebrated Daniel’s first (ok, second) birthday in the USA. We had some adventures with the Robinson family canoeing down the Root River (no pics of the actual canoeing as I haven’t yet figured out how to download from the waterproof camera – but here are some of Lanesboro)… We experienced truly awesome thunderstorms and I took photos of the sky almost daily. We loved the heat and invested in a paddling pool and invited ourselves to our friends’ house A LOT – as they live by a lake! Daniel was awarded a commendation for his achievement at the end of Kindergarten. Esther had her school performance – on the theme of American Pride! Whistle stop tour of US history. She played a pilgrim! We attended our first baseball game – to see the town team – the Rochester Honkers. Fun and games on the sidelines.

The school holidays began in the first week of June and it was a blur after that! Esther and Dan did 2 summer camps – one at Camp Victory – a fantastic rural centre with loads of outdoor fun (including river tubing which I may not have let them do if I’d seen photos beforehand!!!). Daniel’s favourite activities were archery and B.B. guns. Ho hum. The other was at Quarry Hill nature centre. Loads of catching bugs and getting up close to nature. They had a blast at both and we are still singing the songs from Camp Victory. We went to the library frequently, went to free movies, went bowling for free… Home Depot (like Homebase) does free kids crafts the first Saturday of each month so the kids get to use a hammer! Rochester has many fun offerings for families over this looong vacation.

We went on adventures to state parks. Carley was memorable as the trails had not been maintained so we had to cross the river twice with no bridges! And slash stinging nettles down! At Chester Woods we enjoyed fishing and swimming. we We did a housewarming tea party for our neighbours and had fun preparing for that. We got hungry for a few home comforts and found the ‘British Aisle’ at a grocery store. We yearned for Brummie curry but sourcing the ingredients was laborious and expensive until someone told me about Rice ‘n’ Spice. Thank you, Priya! Now, though, I have everything Indian spice-wise I could possibly need, having seen my sister Sarah in the summer – so no excuses now!

Spotting registration plates from other states became a family pastime in the car. You should hear Lois yelling North Dakota! Iowa! Wisconsin!

We were entrusted with some Monarch butterfly caterpillars to raise and it was one of the most satisfying and incredible things I have done in a long time. We also did some pet sitting of budgies (parakeets) and gerbils. Finally, seeing fireflies was a magical herald to the start of summer and we were all mesmerized by them. I did take some video but it is just not the same! The kids got good at catching them in jars to observe at close quarters.

Tie dye fun – summer rite of passage.

The girl Lois is adorable and infuriating in equal measure and this is a picture of just some of the books that got sent to book hospital in the summer months. She has also helped herself to my makeup on numerous occasions. Foundation in the carpet. Leg wax strips on the tile floor. My google searches become ever weirder. “How to remove leg wax strip from tile floor?” Turns out you put kitchen towel over it then iron. Hey presto.

We were invited to share the 4th of July with colleagues of Andy’s and had great fun in their backyard before heading downtown to see the big display. Weird watching fireworks in summery clothes when it’s not even quite dark! (More on that in November….)

One month in, already!

Somehow (I wonder why?!) I have not managed until now to sit down and do this blog thing, so please forgive the delay and the length of this post. They won’t always be this long! It’s not every day you move continents… But, we are finding our feet and feeling more and more at home as the days go by. The tiredness I’ve felt in the evenings is similar to what I remember feeling with a newborn – to give some context! Just coming out of that phase now, I think. No idea how often I’ll manage to post. We want to say a huge thank you for all the truly lovely encouraging messages, cards, emails, WhatsApp/FaceTime/Facebook chats from our friends and family. Also, we apologise for being generally very poor communicators/repliers since touching down. We hope to improve!

We were so grateful to our amazing English friends Sue and Norm (who we knew from last time) for putting us up and feeding us handsomely for the first few days until our shipment arrived.

First night in the USA!

The first three weeks were solid admin – signing for our house on the day we arrived, sorting out a car and insurance, signing the kids up for school, taking our driving tests, getting everyone registered with a doctor and the kids getting their necessary vaccinations… What else? Oh, unpacking, enlisting house painters and a builder to make an ‘unfinished’ basement room into a study. Buying beds. A lawn mower. Sorting out phone, internet, banks…

First meal in our new home

Empty rooms are great for wrestling and cartwheeling

Unpacking kitchenware

No leaves on the trees when we first arrived!

Our house is the only one on the street with dandelions in the lawn. We’re letting the neighbourhood down! Lois and I are trying our best but we’re fighting a losing battle. I think we may need to resort to some chemicals. But I am told we are being bee-friendly. So, there is an upside.

We still have lots of boxes of books and toys yet to unpack but you get to a certain level of functionality and you feel comfy, so then inertia sets in. At least that inertia is also working for some good as we’ve yet to purchase a TV and the kids don’t seem too distressed (nor do the adults, though I need it by August when Poldark restarts).

Here we are looking a little more homely:

The ‘pantry’ cupboard is an excellent choice of hiding place

Friday treats


Before we’d even bought a bed or done anything sensible like that, Andy and the kids had their priorities sorted out and they got busy making the cupboard under the stairs into a hidey-hole complete with carpet offcuts and rope lights. I am told the aim is to have bookshelves, a radio and pictures on the walls in due course… It recently got used as our ‘safe place’ during a tornado alert while a pretty big storm was raging. The kids had been making mud pies in between thunderstorms, hence Daniel is sporting a towel tied sarong-style.


The kids have thrown themselves into life at their local elementary school with such impressive enthusiasm and flexibility. We are extremely proud of them! Daniel is in Kindergarten (but only for another 2 weeks!) and has had lots of fun especially with music classes and PE. The Kindergarten classes did a very ambitious end-of-year Programme for parents and friends and the theme was My Town, My World. I cried my eyes out! All about being a good citizen locally and globally, too. None of us can stop singing the songs.


Esther is enjoying the tail end of 2nd Grade and has a wonderfully enthusiastic and fun teacher who is great at inspiring her students to do their best. She is encouraging Esther to read read read, and meanwhile, we have introduced Ms. T to the dubious delights of Horrible Histories. Esther’s made some firm friends already and had a birthday party invitation soon after arriving here. She was also honoured to receive a very special invitation to the end-of-year ‘ice cream social’ held in school for classmates who have autism.

I got to accompany her class on a field trip to the park right by our house, where they learnt about the life cycle of trees, took a little hike, and released the butterflies they’d hatched out in class.


Esther and Daniel are getting used to riding the bus to school and there is a very friendly and kind bunch of children who wait at the same bus stop for the same elementary school. We did have one hiccup on the third day in, where poor Daniel forgot to jump off at the right stop on the way home and big sis temporarily lapsed in her duties. After a few frantic phone calls to the bus company we got them to do a loop and he had a slightly longer ride that day but other than that, no harm done! I don’t think he’ll be in danger of repeating that mistake again any time soon. Bless him. Their accents are already wobbling between Brummie (Lois’s voice is frequently heard mournfully whining “that’s MOINE!”) and beginnings of American twangs – especially Daniel – he can’t say the colour purple without giving the ‘r’ a bit of a twist. “Where” has taken on a two-syllable twang (“WHEyurr”?). But for all that, their accents are still the subject of much discussion among their classmates which makes them a little self conscious. Esther has a performance coming up where she has to act out the role of a pilgrim father and although she’s very aware of her difference, her teacher encouragingly pointed out she’ll have the most authentic accent of the lot! This wonderful lady has also been flexible about Esther’s British spellings which is helpful. As you can see I’m sticking to British spellings here! It’s a safe space!

The yellow bus!


The kids have had loads of fun playing scooters/bikes/skateboards/tennis/chalks/tag out the front of the house. Many of our neighbours have dogs which the kids adore, and one has a granddaughter who is a lovely playmate. The neighbours have been so welcoming and warm, and have lived up to the US stereotype of bringing round cookies and treats and just generally looking out for us. We feel so blessed in this. Living in a cul de sac is awesome for the kids – they’re safe from fast traffic and it’s just very sociable!


Out the back, aside from Andy and I enjoying snoozing on a picnic rug one Sunday afternoon for approximately 4 minutes until the kids found us, and enjoying rolling down the grassy hill (all of us!) and running through the sprinkler when warm enough, the main attraction has been the fantastic wildlife we’ve been thrilled to observe. Our photos are pretty appalling so far but we have deer, rabbits, chipmunks, turkeys, blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, bright blue birds, bright yellow birds (we need a bird spotters’ book, methinks!) and Andy even saw a peregrine falcon about a mile from our house while out on his bike. We’re hoping for hummingbirds now we’ve got a feeder. It is still a jolt waking up in the mornings to a very different chorus of birds; a reminder of how far from England we are.

Blue jay

Cardinal


The ducks are funny – I heard an almighty crash at the window one day and went to look. On my way I then heard knocking at the front door – turns out a duck had flown into the glass and then its friend was actually tapping on the door! They stayed a while to recover then pootled off. There’s a park with a lake half a mile away so I guess that’s where they came from.


Lois and I try to work our way through a list of different ‘activities’ and family admin tasks each day, some of which take longer than others, and some are more fun than others. Potty training has been dire but we’re now making some headway so, as well as mopping the floor lots,  we’ve had some sweet reward dates too! We’ve all enjoyed exploring the local playgrounds around and about. Here are some pics of our antics:

Aimée looking particularly shattered while the kids look brimming with energy!



We have so enjoyed reconnecting with ‘old’ friends and making new ones, too. It takes time and effort to build lasting friendships, or so I keep needing to remind myself and the kids! So we haven’t yet managed to see everyone we’d hoped to, but hopefully we’ll get there. We’ve done some fun trips at the weekends when weather has permitted. Oxbow Zoo and Park was our first weekend here and it was really HOT! But the weather sort of went backwards after that. At Whitewater State Park the kids were desperate to swim but it was just a little too chilly.

At Famous Dave’s, where the food comes on a dustbin lid!

Esther’s first sleepover guests! I’ve learnt my lesson about feeding sugary treats too close to bedtime…

Maple syrup is just too good to waste

Making pancakes – serious business

Learning a new tradition – secretly deliver a May Basket to someone to brighten their day

More bird seed on the floor than in the feeder!

We visited nearby gem Oxbow Zoo on our very first weekend here and had a great time in the Spring sunshine getting acquainted with the indigenous Minnesotan flora and fauna.


Then Whitewater State Park was our second weekend outing.

Get your chops around that one, girl!

Esther and her lovely friend – they were pen pals these past few years

We were so, so pleased to welcome Christine and Joel (Birmingham church friends) with their twins for a weekend. We were inspired by hearing their intrepid travellers’ tales and seeing pics, and we just loved hosting and having company in the evenings. We took them on a whistle-stop tour of Mayo Clinic before heading to explore some local limestone caves and do some stream paddling. I really had to force myself not to run down the street and beg them to stay when they drove off into the sunset!

Remind you of a certain team building game?

Andy in his element

Bat!

View from the 19th floor (where Andy is based)

The twins picking their favorite Warhol animal

Dan does a great line in reading bedtime stories

We’re very happy to be back at the church we joined when we were here before, and the kids did a few weeks of the midweek club before it stopped for the summer break. Lois is not managing to be left in the crèche yet – my clingiest (yet feistiest?!) child.

They only have a few days left of school and then the summer holidays stretch out ahead of us. A couple of summer ‘day camps’ are booked and we’re looking forward to doing more exploring together. Hanging out at the outdoor pools, too, I bet. I am trying not to fear the impending heat too much! We’ll be back in England for a flying visit to see family for a couple of weeks; a thought which has kept me going in the tougher moments.

Andy had the first two weeks here to concentrate on setting up home and then started work at the hospital with a comprehensive orientation Programme. Now he is shadowing different consultants to get used to the Mayo way of doing things.  This phased start is welcome as it’s always going to be a big step making the transition to consultant, let alone a different way of practising medicine. He is very excited to be here in his professional capacity though.

We’re enjoying a Memorial Day three-day weekend here just like the U.K. so finally we’re getting round to putting a few pictures up and making the house feel more like home. We wish you all a wonderful weekend! Well done for making it to the end!

Sarah (right) – thank you for all you and Brian have done to make our move easier!