Friday, December 24, 2010

The Grinch Was Here

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring unless it's some poor mouse looking amongst the dust bunnies on the floors for some tidbit left behind by the moving company.  Seriously, it looks like the Grinch came over to steal Christmas and everything else we owned.

The house is empty, devoid of not just holiday decorations, but also furniture and decor.  The packers/movers were busy for three full days getting everything headed to storage here in Texas and England via air ship or sea transport.  Who knew we had so much stuff?  It was like a massive spring cleaning in December.  I guess that will be my Christmas present - a clutter free home in England. 

I hope everyone in the blogosphere has a joyful Christmas and blessed new year.  I imagine my next entry will be from merry old England.  Life should be really interesting for us in 2011. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is it too late to change my mind?

This week it's all about text speak, full of OMG and WTH over here.  The old ball and chain has been in England since last week and we're hanging on here in Texas... by a thread.  Who the heck thought it was a good idea to move this family and all our worldly possessions across the Atlantic Ocean?  Because honestly, it's looking like a terrible plan right about now as we live amongst the chaos.  

The middle aged mind can only handle so much, some finite amount of information on the to-do list and then you're done.  Everything after that is just a waste of time.  It goes in one ear and out the other.  It falls on deaf ears.  It sees the mouth moving but the old noggin just aint getting the message.  

Case in point:  I was upstairs in the master bedroom, busy sorting through drawers and shelves.  I decided to move the sort-o-rama down to the guest bedroom.  Since I was listening to Christmas songs on one of our digital stations through the TV, I checked to see which channel it was.  I then proceeded to mumble 930, 930, 930 all the way down the stairs so I could put it on the same channel downstairs to enjoy more holiday music while I continued working.  

Once I arrived in the family room, I mumbled 930 one last time whereupon it became 9:30 in my head.  I immediately panicked because it was after 9:30 and that time was important because I was mumbling it aloud to myself.  So I rushed into the office where I keep my planner to see what was supposed to happen at 9:30.  According to the planner, there was nothing on tap for 9:30.  So I sat down and checked my email to see if I could find any clues as to the importance of 9:30 there.  I puzzled over it for a while until it finally dawned on me it was the TV station number that plays Christmas tunes.  

OMG and WTH - do I have early onset of the "oldtimers" disease?  For now, I intend to blame all memory lapses, flubs, brainfarts and general ignorance on the stress involved with this move.  Once we get settled, I'll just have to find some other scapegoats.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas - Just Not Here!

The calendar page has turned to December and that means Christmas preparations.  J lugged all of my plastic bins down from the attic filled with Christmas decor.  My Santa collection is pretty impressive.  I really enjoyed opening up everything... and then sent it to my in-laws for storage or repacked it in bubble wrap for the trip to England.  

Right now J is over in England, suffering through some snowy weather.  The kids were given snow days and folks are lounging about at home since the commuter trains aren't moving much.  Surely it will warm up soon from these uncharacteristically cold temps so the snow will melt.  J has quite a few errands to take care of on this trip, besides getting into the office, since he'll be back over here soon.  Momma needs a gently used car so we can sally forth on wheels instead of plodding through the cold, damp, and possibly snowy weather upon our arrival later this month.

Here in Texas, we had a cold snap but now we're back up into the mid-upper 70s by the afternoons.  Yesterday I was in my Yellow Box flip flops when I had lunch with Cal for her birthday at school.  I had to discard my fave black, well worn loafers due to an unfortunate incident with cat poop.  Believe me, you don't wanna know.  

Anyhoo, this week has really brought home to me the fact that we'll have weather to contend with that we're not accustomed to here in the sunny south.  I bought a boot tray and mat for the front door a few days ago at Target.  I've got a feeling that both will be getting some serious use.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Texas Thanksgiving

In true Texas fashion, I spent the Wednesday before Thanksgiving doing my last minute shopping at Wal-Mart... in my flip flops because the high was in the low 80s.  As usual, we were headed to my in-laws over in San Marcos to spend it with J's side of the family.  Our annual offering is broccoli rice casserole.  The recipe can be found in this book.

Don't let the cover fool you, with all of those fresh looking vegetables.  Every other recipe contains sour cream and a stick of butter, which is why we love it!  Broccoli rice casserole is a standard at any holiday meal.  For Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, you will always find it on the menu.  It's highly versatile and can be paired with turkey or ham.  The best part is that you don't have to season it at all because it contains cream of mushroom soup and a jar of Cheez Whiz.  These two highly processed foods are staples in the southern/Texas diet and contain enough sodium to give an elephant a serious case of water retention.  Can you say belly bloat?  The recipe does contain broccoli, but any health benefits provided by this vegetable are cancelled out by the other ingredients that shoot straight to your arteries and get stuck along the walls to form blockage.  Mmm, mmm, good!

I may have to get my mother or in-laws to ship some other Texas staples we just won't be able to live without over to England.  The list will probably contain the following.

1.  Rotel tomatoes - you just can't make yummy queso without it, or King Ranch Chicken, either

2.  Velveeta cheese - I bet they have that fresh stuff over there and you really need this dayglo orange cheese paired with your Rotel to get it just right

3.  Pace picante sauce - my husband loves to pair this with his tortilla chips and will do in a pinch for your queso if you find no Rotel in the pantry... it aint made in New York City, but right here in Texas

It will be interesting to see what other differences we find in the aisles of our local grocery store in England.  Maybe visitors will need to "pay" for their stay at our house with packets of Ranch dressing mix or Tex-Joy seasoning.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes

Baby, it's cold outside.  London, that is, not Texas.  The high today was in the upper 70s.  I had on a pair of jeans, t-shirt and flip flops.  After my pedicure at noon, I had to crank up the AC in the car because it was stuffy.  My youngest daughter was running around in knee length shorts all day.

This next week it's supposed to reach up into the low 80s here in the Texas hill country, turning cool just in time for Thanksgiving on Thursday when a front blows through Wednesday night.  Take a look at the Thanksgiving forecast for the London area.

Scattered Clouds, High: 39 °F 
Thursday Night
Chance of Snow, Scattered Clouds, Low: 30 °F 
Clear, High: 33 °F 

The girls and I spent this balmy Saturday at a few local stores stocking up on boots, sweaters and jeans.  After seeing the above forecast, we may need to go to the local sporting goods/hunting superstore to invest in some long underwear and pocket warmers.  Nothing says redneck like a bit of camo in the wardrobe.

Everybody is gearing up for Thanksgiving and it's so odd to think that we won't be celebrating it in England.  The kids will have their usual 5-day school week.  It will be just another Thursday on the calendar.  No deep fried turkey, mother's homemade dressing that was granny's recipe or my mother-in-law's yummy cherry salad... no broccoli rice casserole or pumpkin pie.  No Cowboys or Longhorns v. Aggies game to watch on the TV while we teeter on the edge of consciousness in our food induced comas.  

And the worst part (insert gasp of horror here), no Black Friday to kick start a crazed holiday shopping season with every other Texan who woke up at the crack of dawn to scout out the good deals.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cats and Comforters

We had three cats, but now we're down to just two.  Calico was adopted by my husband's secretary and she's living the good life, with her own private collection of catnip stuffed mice and private litter box.  We adopted Calico and her sister Tabby (yes, we're incredibly unimaginative when it comes to pet names) seven years ago.  They were born to a stray cat at the middle school where I was teaching at the time.  A club on campus looked out for local animals and the sponsor fostered the momma and her kittens until they were old enough to be adopted.  We had them declawed/spayed and they've been with us ever since.

KK is the old crotchety granny cat in our household.  We adopted her from the Ft. Worth Humane Society back in 1998 when she was supposedly 3-4 years old.  Of the three, she has always been the most personable.  She always comes down to investigate folks when they come to visit, unlike the other two who cower under the nearest bed until company leaves.  The one downside to KK is that she retained her claws.  Since we moved into our current home, she has destroyed the back of my Pottery Barn sectional sofa and frou-frou master bedding with her claws.  She's arthritic in her old age, so she jumps up as far as she can and then digs in to pull herself the rest of the way onto the bed.  

With our impending move to England and the fact that KK will not be making the trip with us, I decided to purchase some new bedding.  And the winner is...

I love red and this duvet cover from Pottery Barn looked nice in the catalog.  It should arrive with the supporting cast of items I ordered by the end of this week and I hope it's a keeper.  Assuming this ensemble works, I'll be looking for further linen options in Callie's room as well as the two guest bedrooms.  Our pack date with the moving company is a month from Saturday, so I need to get busy making some decisions!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yep, You're Gonna Need a License for That

Here in America you need a license to drive, to operate heavy machinery, to teach children, to practice law and to dispense medicine - all necessary precautions to safeguard our citizens.  But a license to watch TV...  

If the mood strikes, we could have a TV with cable in every room of our house.  We could put a flat screen on each and every wall.  With our DVR's, we can tape multiple shows and play them back while barbecuing on the back porch or taking a bubble bath.  And we don't need no stinking TV LICENSE to do it, either.  Some countries require that you have a license to own and operate a TV.  Step away from the remote if you don't have proper licensing. Maybe I'll apply to be a TV cop.  The cable and satellite hackers would fear me and I would be called hero.

I could totally understand a license for something like the washing machine or dryer.  I can't tell you how many times I've been guilty of shrinking and maiming poor, innocent clothes.  Honestly, I didn't intend to turn those white undershirts a pale shade of pink and have no idea how that red item got in there without being apprehended.  And it's not like I purposely lose those socks in the dryer.  There aren't enough milk cartons in the state of Texas for all of the black dress socks that have gone missing on my watch.

Here are a few licenses I think might be useful in most countries.

1.  a license to procreate because your gene pool can't be watered down anymore without that whole theory of humans constantly evolving getting debunked

2.  a license for anyone over age 80 to go shopping on Saturdays or Sundays when parents are crowding the stores because, geez, you're retired and can shop during the week when the rest of us are working

3.  a license to act like an ass at any youth soccer, football or baseball game when you heckle the other team's players as well as the ref and then try to act all innocent when folks stare at you in disgust - in my opinion, this license needs to be astronomically expensive since it means you're probably dooming your child to numerous therapy sessions once they reach adulthood

And finally, we might need to institute blog licenses because it seems that just any raving lunatic can post her stream-of-consciousness ramblings on the internet these days.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Poor Planning

I was gung-ho and ready to go.  All it takes is a pair of running shoes and a little effort.  How difficult can it be to complete a half marathon when you see all of these other ordinary folks doing it so effortlessly?  

I started training in the summer, building up my distance and stamina until I could jog 7 miles without really feeling the burn.  Sure, the blisters slowed me down, but that was fixed with a better pair of shoes.  Silly me was wearing a neutral shoe when I needed a stability shoe because my feet roll inward when I walk/jog.  Thanks, father, for the terribly flat feet.  And a good pair of padded socks - can't forget those, especially when three pair cost almost as much as the shoes.

So I get myself all psyched for the training schedule and then find out we're moving to London.  Seriously, who can focus on logging laps when I've got to plan for a new life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean?  I've done my best ostrich imitation, trying to ignore the fact that I'm supposed to walk/jog 13 miles on November 14.  

My just punishment will be huffing and puffing while trying to keep up with my amazingly motivated friend that is up to 12 slow, steady, nonstop miles... while teaching middle school, getting a second graduate degree and single parenting her two daughters.  Run, Marla, run!  Forget finishing it in 2.5 hours.  Forget getting in better shape along the way.  My new goal - to cross the finish line without anyone having to dial 911.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First of the Goodbyes

As my mother will attest, I've always been the strong one, the one with the stiff upper lip, the one who can hold it together without getting all emotional or sentimental.  I'm the one who sucks it up and keeps going.  What I've realized about myself is that I do this out of self-preservation.  It's a control thing.  If I don't hold it together, I'll be a puddle on the floor.  I don't know why or when this developed - maybe I was born this way.  All I know is that this inherent part of my personality will be put through a marathon of gut-wrenching emotion when I end this chapter of my teaching career.

I gave my principal a letter of resignation on Friday.  My last day in the classroom will be Tuesday, November 23.  My students think I'll be leaving them over the Christmas break as we originally planned, but I had to peel off the rose-colored glasses and admit that just wasn't possible.  No way could I quit teaching on Dec. 17 and then have my entire house packed up for a sea voyage to England just three days later.  

Life is full of transitions and I've always enjoyed ours, whether it was cities, schools or houses looming on the horizon.  I always looked forward to the next adventure just around the corner.  This is the first time I've had a hard time letting go, leaving behind the people and places that have come to mean so much to me and my family.  

So the chin's gonna tremble and the tears will flow.  I'll try to put on a brave face and look towards the future.  But I won't kid myself that it's going to be easy leaving and can't deny that my heart will break a little bit. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Spelling Shmelling

The field of education is prone to the winds of change, and whim.  The pendulum is swinging back from the whole language approach in order to embrace, or at least include, phonics in the past decade.  Thanks to this lack of phonics in the early years, I've seen students land in 5th grade with some atrocious spelling skills.

Honestly, teachers have to stop telling kids to just do the best they can or spell it the way it sounds because this is what happens...  Many cokarochs crack hores in the crakers house.  This was SUPPOSED to be an alliterative sentence with an October or halloween theme.  I don't know about you, but I'm glad I don't have any disease carrying bugs doing illicit things at the corner where the living room meets the entry hall.

Another student wrote in his personal narrative last nine weeks about attending the local fair a few months ago, enjoying animals in the petting farmyard such as the sheep, rabbits and phones.  I'm thinking that AT&T must have been the corporate sponsor for the petting farmyard, trying to work in a plug for their services or cell phones.  Then I start wondering if kids were allowed to play with the phones or show them to their parents and how this whole advertising ploy worked.  Then it dawns on me... the kid was trying to write FAWNS.  Duh!

Remenember - awlays us yur spelchek!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

An Accident Waiting to Happen

Take a look.  There's something seriously wrong with this picture other than the fact that it has a pale cream interior that's terribly impractical when you're driving kids hither and yon in a country that has rain 200 days out of the year.

What the hell am I gonna do with the steering wheel on the wrong damn side of the car?  That's right, John Q. Public, I'm using some choice language here because I'm that freaked out about it.  It's not like I was planning to ship my land yacht of a Yukon to England.  No doubt I'd soon be jailed for involuntary manslaughter after mowing over lots of innocent folks in itty bitty compact cars that get fabulous gas mileage.  Who really needs those side mirrors anyway?  We'll be investing in a slightly used British car once we get on our feet in Surrey, or rather once we're tired of walking everywhere in the cold January weather.

Bring on the fast talking, elitist, crumpet eating, hot tea swilling folks who may be wont to look down their noses at simple Texas folk like me.  I can handle the damp climate, long winter nights and the fact that I'll always need to have an umbrella handy.  You don't scare me with your hogshead cheese or steak and kidney pie.  Your roundabouts, AKA traffic circles, are NOT the stuff of nightmares.  I'm made of much sterner stuff than that.  

Just please don't make me drive on the wrong side of the car... and road!

Falling for Fall

It's October in Texas, so that means we're finally getting a break from the hottest of hot temps we've been enduring for the past several months.  Seriously folks, I don't know that the AC has kicked on in quite a while and that's nice.  This year we've had ridiculously beautiful weather for several weeks.  Mornings have been in the 50s while afternoons get up into the low 80s.  It has been picture perfect lately, blue skies with nary a cloud to mar the perfection of a crystal clear day.

And what's it doing in England, our soon-to-be new home, at this time of year?  According to weather reports that I check weekly, it's even cooler... and rainy.  I guess more along the lines of drizzly would be a more appropriate description.  I've started looking online for one of those things we don't need in Texas, a hall bench storage critter with hooks attached, where you sit to drag off your wellies and then hang up your trenchcoat.  I've never needed to buy a serious footwiper for the front door or entry, but I'm thinking it needs to be added to the list, too.

Here are two of my faves in pics below.  

I like the first one best, thought I think the second one below it is also nice.  The practical side of me just thinks the solid back will keep the wall from getting filthy behind the seat.  My husband is as bad as the kids when it comes to keeping things tidy and clean, meaning he doesn't pay one iota of attention to this.  He's the one who's guilty of tracking shoe debris across the floor and leaving his dishes in the sink.  That white padded cushion on the top would soon be relegated to the trashbin once my own little pigpen sat on it a few times.  

Alas, you need to be single if you want things looking clean and in their proper place on a regular basis.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Here it is - the home we'll be leasing in England.  After riding around in the back of a VW golf with the relo agent, my husband and two kids for three days looking at houses, I was ready to take up residence in ye local pigpen.  Yes, yes, anything to get me unfolded from the backseat so I can breathe again.  I wouldn't have cared if it was built atop a curry shop or on the fringe of a nuclear landfill as long as I didn't have to climb into the backseat once more.  Thankfully, we stumbled upon this home the second day and decided it would suit us just fine.

I've never lived in a "character" home before, at least not as far back as 1935.  We owned a home in San Antonio and rented a home in Arlington built in the 50s.  It was all about the pink tile bathrooms.  Both of them were due for major overhauls in their various systems and I'm glad we weren't forced to suffer that.  Nothing makes me more cranky than when the water line to the house is turned off.  

This home appears to have retained a lot of its charm.  The original hardwoods downstairs are fabulous - wide planked and in a warm tone.  Thankfully, the kitchen and baths are no longer circa The Blitz when Churchill was running the show.  I love the fact that the walls are plaster, not the cheap and easily damaged sheetrock in our current home.  And radiators... what a funny little bit of the past that's unique for us.  I'll be disappointed if quaint dooms us to drafts and cold extremities for eight months out of the year.  

Next up - figuring out how to furnish the new digs.  

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What's In a Name?

We just returned from a week in London, touring schools and house hunting.  Let's just say the system is WAY different over there and a bit of a pain in the arse since they don't have MLS.  Thank heavens someone else was in charge of arranging all of the showings with the various letting agencies.

One thing I found to be quite interesting was the fact that most houses do have a number, but also have a name.  Instead of looking for a numerical address, we found ourselves crawling down the street at a snail's pace, looking for the house name because we weren't provided with anything else.  Some of the houses we toured included Hallingwood, Greensleeves, Grassholm, Merton House and Frogmore.

Our favorite location, but not top choice, was built on the canal and connected to miles of tow paths that are now used for walker/bikers.  It was very picturesque, but the Texan in me was immediately suspicious of the still water.  Let's just call that one Mosquito Manse.  Another house had a very expansive garden, English speak for backyard.  You could tell the folks living there had a dog, and it must have been the size of a Shetland pony because he did his business multiple times across the flagstone patio.  It should be dubbed Casa Caca.  There were a few houses obviously built in the 70s that haven't had any current updating other than some paint and carpet.  I'm thinking Partridge Family Palace might be appropriate.

The good news is that we did find a lovely home within our budget that will meet our needs - not too big, not too small, but just right.  We're headed for the burbs of Surrey since central London's offerings could be  aptly named Coat Closet or Cracker Box. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hunting Trip

This week we are on a hunting trip, and I don't mean the dove season that's going on in south Texas. We are in London for the week, touring three American schools and house hunting. Today we took a break from that madness to see J's office on the Thames. The view of Tower bridge is amazing. We have been blessed with sunny weather and moderate temps, about 20 degrees cooler than in Texas right now. Today we were walking through Mayfair and had our first celebrity sighting... Anthony Bourdain.

Our overall mood is one of excitement, with this little bit of England whetting our appetite for the move in a few months.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Figuratively Speaking

Busy as a beaver.  Chasing my tail.  Running around like a chicken with its head lopped off.  Burning the candle at both ends.  My life is best described with similes and idioms these days.  Seriously, I can't wait to get to London so I can relax a bit with that whole foreign culture thing where they drive on the wrong side of the road.  

I recall a book that was published a while back about not sweating the small stuff.  Isn't life all about the details?  That's Martha Stewart's mantra, right, and she's a successful woman, albeit one with a prison record.  Heaven help me if I start speaking with a Connecticut accent and buy a few French bulldogs!

I can't just let things slide.  I have to try and stay on top of them.  I feel compelled to go above and beyond.  It's a sickness, I tell you.  Oh how I envy the slacker... the lady who lets things go to hell in a handbasket without a backwards glance.  She's the one with her head on straight, the one who can sleep like a baby at night.  She has no aspirations to be superteacher, superwife, or supermother and isn't that refreshing.  Funny how that works, her getting paid the same as me for the same job, only she's not running around tying herself in knots to make sure the proofreading marks page is on pastel paper in the writing folders (so it stands out from the plain white copy paper) separated by class periods and table groups in color coded tubs.  She's the one cutting loose while I'm cutting out reward bucks to encourage the children to make positive choices - teacher speak for do what I say so I can keep my sanity.

Thanks, nature and nurture, for my fabulous work ethic.  I wonder if there is some sort of support group or twelve step program for nitwits like me.  Hi, my name is Carrie and I'm a Type A, micromanaging control freak.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We Have the Technology

Honestly, the miracle of technology is truly amazing.  I've really enjoyed scouting London housing on the internet.  As expected, the language differences are becoming more clear as we progress through the relocation process.  

Like every other Tom, Dick and Carrie, I've heard the obvious words/phrases that distinguish American English from the UK version.  Everyone knows the loo is the bathroom.  But did you know that a guest cloakroom is really a half bath?  And the local catchment area is referring to your school district?  A character home is some old house that has been updated. And you'll most likely find your washing machine in the kitchen.  Forget about a tumble dryer in the city.  Only rich folks can afford those.

Happy 7 September 2010!  Don't get me started on the whole date writing format that throws me for a loop.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ramping Up

Immigration paperwork isn't exactly my idea of a good time, especially after coming home from a day of wrangling 109 fifth graders.  I do believe I've memorized my passport number.  And no, I'm not some crazed terrorist attempting to sneak into your country.  My girls can be a threat to your sanity, at times, but no risk to national security.  

Excellent - I get to go take a flattering passport sort of photo to attach to my paperwork.  The good news is that they haven't asked for my weight... yet!   

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The First of the Lasts

It's ironic - I found out we would definitely be moving to London on the day I went in to start setting up my classroom for the next school year.  I must admit that it's a bit difficult to really throw myself into the spirit of things since I know I probably won't make it through 'til May.  Is it possible to slack off in the classroom with 10 and 11 year old kids?  Not if you want to keep your sanity!

I LOVE my team and campus, so this will be a bittersweet experience for me.  I feel a bit like Goldilocks in regards to my teaching experiences.  Some campuses, administrators, or fellow teachers were too this or that, not just right.  My current campus has been the perfect fit for me, due mainly to the fact that my fellow 5th grade teachers are just amazing.  One in particular has been my unofficial mentor and sets such a high standard for herself that it has inspired me to emulate what she does.  I'll never be able to accomplish the miracles she seems to pull off in the classroom, working her magic not only on kids but also parents.  I will miss seeing these fabulous ladies on a regular basis, but hope they'll come visit me in London at some point.

As the new school year kicks off tomorrow, I'll begin documenting the first of the lasts for us.  Time to make sure I've got plenty of AA's for the camera.  Need to keep the video battery charged.  It's all about remembering the people, places and experiences that we have been blessed with here in Texas. Let's hope the future holds a whole slew of grand new memories as we begin to prepare in earnest for our move across the pond.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Are We Really Gonna Do This?

Thanksgiving 2009 - family trip to London

I've read lots of blogs in years past.  I'm a touch voyeuristic in that respect.  It's like rifling through the pages of your sister's diary without the risk of getting caught.  With a big change in our lives looming on the horizon, combined with the probability that I won't be teaching for at least a while as we transition, it appears to be the right time for me to begin a blog in order to document the process.  

And talk about a transition... My family has lived in Texas since the 1850s and sometime during the current school year we will be relocating to London.  I know, I know - we'll be sticking out like the cliche sore thumb.  Jeff Foxworthy's tag line, "You might be a redneck if..." starts running through your head.  Cue the "Deliverance" banjo music.  To say that it's a bit intimidating to this small town Texas girl would be a huge understatement.  Reality is setting in as we begin to investigate schools, housing and all of the requisite items on a checklist involved in moving a family of four across the Atlantic Ocean.  It will be bittersweet, indeed.  However, we plan to make the most of this opportunity that has landed at our feet.  

Despite the demands of full-time teaching and the herding of my 9 and 15 yr old daughters, I hope to keep friends and family abreast of our ramblings that will take us to England and then some.  Hang on y'all - I think we're in for one heckuva time!