Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2 months already!?!?

Well, as is customary when trying to start/maintain a blog while living in our busy household, I've already fallen behind two months since our last post. The fact that it was from Halloween, through Thanksgiving, on past an anniversary and Christmas might help justifiably explain the delay, but I guess it'd just be better to get on with it then make excuses.

Though we picked up the keys to our house and had our household goods delivered the next day or two, we opted to stay in the TLFs a few more days while we unpacked bare essentials and set up most of the house. Of course it was beautiful weather that week (except for the day when the movers came when it rained on most of our stuff as they brought it in!)

We were kind of bummed that Halloween was on Sunday this year. Mildenhall had trick-or-treating on base on Sunday night, but Lakenheath had their trick-or-treating on Saturday night. We picked Saturday and it worked out great because the weather was great. It rained again that Sunday night. They just had to be Mario and Luigi this year. (Must have been inspired from their new Nintendo DS games they got for the long travels from Texas to Florida to Maryland to England in September.) Actually, I think this is the first year they coordinated their costumes. They wanted Cynthia and I to dress up (Princess Peach and Toad or Yoshi) but we couldn't find any costumes at the BX in time. Next year we'll dress up and hopefully be a little more ready for Halloween.

November - Thanksgiving/London
The kids had been in school for nearly 2 months and Cynthia, in customary fashion, did a great job decorating our house. She painted the downstairs bathroom (without permission from the landlord... oh well) from a nasty, pasty green to a warm, mocha color. A definite improvement. However the rest of the house remains a bland off-white color. We definitely miss the freedom of home ownership. By Thanksgiving we were a little more unpacked. (In fact, we just finished unpacking when it was time to dig out all the Christmas decor!)

Thanksgiving was kind of surreal. Cynthia and I spent hours in the kitchen getting ready for the big meal for the four of us. She made some great pies. The turkey turned out a little dry (I blame the weird little British ovens we have to work with.) More disappointing was the way my rolls turned out... or rather didn't turn out. I've never had a problem making my dad's popular crescent rolls, but this year, the yeast rebelled and refused to rise. I threw 'em in the oven anyway and they came out like bricks. Oh well. It seemed like we spent all day in the kitchen, ate in about 15 minutes, and then had to do dishes for another 2 hours. Maybe we were missing our families a little too. =)

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we met up with some friends from my squadron to explore the sites in London. We got tickets for bus tours to take us around, but it was way too cold to be on top of an open bus for us and the small kids. We went to Buckingham Palace but got there too late to see the changing of the guard. We got to see Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey, and finally the Tower Bridge. I think the adults enjoyed the sight seeing but the kids were a little bored. Maybe they'd like the London Dungeon. Then again, they could be having nightmares until next Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving - Josh's face sums it up pretty well.

Starting the London bus tour. Brrrrrr!

Clark Griswold: Aw, there's Buckingham Palace, kids. That's where the Queen lives and works.
Audrey Griswold: She works? What does she do, Dad?
Clark Griswold: She queens... and she vacuums.

"Hey look kids, there's Big Ben, and there's Parliament."

Josh lost his front tooth a couple of days after London. His other front tooth is loose too. It's pretty funny watching him eat some things on the side of his mouth.

December pics and updates soon to follow!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our new house in England

Today during my lunch break, we went to the letting agency to sign the rental contract on our house and pick up the keys. It's a 5-bedroom, 3-story house in Red Lodge just southeast of the base and the town of Mildenhall. We loved the area and the convenience of its location to both bases. (To see the neighborhood, just throw our postal code--IP28 8GQ--into Google Earth or maps.) Also, because most of the places we saw had tiny master bedrooms (for our King-size bed), we opted for the five bedrooms. There are two small bedrooms and a bathroom on the third floor which will all basically be the 'master suite.'

The movers are scheduled to bring our household goods tomorrow. This is basically all the stuff we shipped back in the beginning of August just before closing on our house. The other items we had at the TLF for a month after moving out of the house in Del Rio is still on its way. Supposedly, this "unaccompanied baggage" from the TLF was to get here a lot sooner than our "household goods". Because of that, we packed some of the more important stuff we would need sooner (bedding, pots and pans, utensils, winter clothing, toys, etc). Ironically, it's been 7 weeks now and still hasn't arrived. Nevertheless, we'll be happy to get our stuff back (minus the damages we're expecting from our less-than-stellar packers.) We'll get some after-move pics later on as we get somewhat unpacked and settled.

House Sweet House! (It won't be home until Cynthia works her decorating magic.)

Kitchen. The fridge and freezer are located on the far right behind the upper and lower cabinet doors. Dishwasher is behind the door just right of the sink.

The backyard will accommodate our trampoline just fine!

View out one of the third floor front windows...

...and out the back.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Patch and Maize Maze

This weekend we went to a pumpkin patch and corn maze just a few miles outside the gate near the town of Undley. Jordan has been sick and missed school on Friday, but it was such a beautiful day with blue skies. (We are all actually quite enjoying the chilly weather as it's a welcome change from our last four Texas autumns.)

Upon arriving, we grabbed a wheelbarrow and the boys went to work on finding their pumpkins. Joshua wants to carve a skull pumpkin, so he found a nice oblong pumpkin wider up top rather than below. Jordan would find one, put it in the wheelbarrow, and then keep looking until he found one slightly larger to replace the last.

After loading our over-priced pumpkins in the trunk (we could've gotten 'em cheaper at the commissary... but hey, we're paying for the pumpkin patch experience, right?), we decided to hit the corn maze. It was the first corn maze for all of us. I had imagined that the stalks would be taller, but it actually worked out because we could let the kids run ahead and still keep tabs on them. Another cool thing about the maze was the theme: the 'Mildenhall Treasure.' (Back in 1942 a farmer ploughing his field found some silver Roman treasure from around the 4th century AD.) Anyway, rather than just doing the maze to get out, there were clues along the way to answer 10 questions about the treasure. In the middle of the maze, there was an area cordoned off where you get to place a stick with an attached number that corresponded to a number on your quiz. The person with their stick stuck in the ground closest to a buried prize (and getting 100% on their quiz) would win £100 (about $159). We're all keeping our fingers crossed! Regardless, we all had a great time at the maze and look forward to carving our pumpkins later this week.

Cynthia found a keeper...

...Joshua, not so much (at least not these 2).

Jordan found one with 'crazy hair.' A little too crazy...

Which way?

Another clue for the treasure!

Almost finished!


Last weekend, we went down to Cambridge to check it out. Finding parking was kind of a pain and there are pedestrians and bicycles everywhere! We found the Grand Arcade mall and home of our nearest Apple Store. (We would get to spend several hours here later in the week for a Mac Genius to swap out my faulty 2-week old iPhone 4). It was a pretty relaxed afternoon as we strolled around for a couple of hours to see some of the sights in the center of town. Next time, we want to see the town via a 'punting' tour. Punting is riding around in a flat bottom boat using a long stick to push off the river bottom. You can rent them and do-it-yourself or get a tour guide.

Cynthia with the typical British phone booth.

Josh and Jordan's Excellent Adventure.

Just a few bikes...

Dan and Josh in front of King's College.


Cool clock we saw with a feaky looking locust on top.

Starting School

Josh and Jordan started school on October 14th. We wanted to put them in a local British school, but since we don't have a house yet, we decided to get them started at the DoD school on Lakenheath. Both of them are in Spanish immersion classes where their teachers speak Spanish about 50% of the time. Jordan's in Kindergarten and Joshua is in 2nd grade. They ride the bus and it's convenient that the stop is right outside our TLF. The buses here aren't your typical yellow school buses. Rather, they are the touring coach buses contracted by the school... talk about riding in style.

Just before heading out the door to go to school.

The boys outside Lakenheath Elementary on their first day.

Josh in his classroom.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Arriving in England!

On September 28th, Tyler and Shelly dropped us off at the airport in Baltimore. We flew to Chicago where we had a four hour layover prior to boarding for London. (Thank you Air Force for making sure the cheapest ticket was also the longest travel time.) We put the boys together near the window and they did outstanding! They would have stayed awake the whole (like Cynthia and I did) except I finally switched seats with Jordan and we made them each lay down half on their seat and half on our laps. They slept for about 2 hours just prior to us touching down in London at 5:30 am (London time). So, from the time we arrived at the airport in Baltimore until the time we deplaned in London, we'd logged about 20 hours.

We were allowed to skip the line at immigration... probably saving us a couple of hours! We then got all our luggage without delay and only waited about 25 minutes until my sponsor actually picked us up. Most people have to transfer to another terminal to catch a bus to the base. My sponsor was conveniently already at the airport to drop off his wife and kids who were returning to the States during his upcoming deployment. Fortunately, he brought his "MINIvan" (extra emphasis on the mini-), but we were all able to fit. It took about an hour and a half to get back to Mildenhall where he dropped us off at billeting to check in and catch a few hours of sleep. Later that afternoon, he picked us up and showed us around the base and local area and helped me get hooked up with a rental car, cell phone, and Sterling bank account. Unfortunately, he had to leave the next day for his deployment but other friends in the squadron that I met in previous assignments have helped fill in for him. Next up on the list... finding a house and a car! Stay tuned...

So long America!

The boys enjoyed sitting together watching movies,
playing DS, and of course... eating!

Safe in England... and exhausted after we had to fly
from DC to Chicago, and then to London.

Dan's first time driving on the wrong side of the road.

Look what we found! Despite the slight variance (TK Maxx),
Cynthia was quite content to start shopping right away. Josh
definitely did not concur.

Road Trip - Part II

After hanging with Disney, we spent about five days with Cynthia's uncle near Miami. During this time, we helped Cynthia's mom get settled with bank accounts, auto registration, insurance, etc. The beach was fun, but I think the best part of this all the Latin food. I think we had Peruvian food three times (my favorite!)

We left Florida on Tuesday and headed for Maryland to visit Tyler and Shelly for a few days. Again the drive was uneventful (thankfully.) After so many days of eating out on the road, we discovered the healthy goodness of Panera Bread in South Carolina before stopping for the night. The next day, we finished our drive to Columbia, MD. Mom and Dad were in town on a business trip to DC and were having dinner with Ty and Shel when we arrived. We only got to see them for about 2o minutes before Tyler had to leave to take them to the metro station. We didn't see them again until Sunday.

On Thursday, Cynthia and I took the boys down to DC. Having been born in Virginia and living there until 3 years old, I'm sure I'd been there before... I just don't remember anything. As such, this was all our first time! We hit the Mall and headed to the Washington monument first. Following that we meandered to the WWII memorial followed by the Lincoln memorial and the Vietnam memorial. I was humbled as Joshua asked so many questions about President Lincoln, the history of slavery and emancipation, as well as the way he reacted to seeing the names of so many casualties (58,000+) on the wall. Because it was such a warm day, we opted to take a bike taxi over to see the White House... best $10 we spent that day! Finally, we finished up the day at the National Aquarium. It wasn't that big, but we all enjoyed it quite a bit.

Friday was beautiful weather as well. Since we did monuments and memorials on Thursday, we planned to do museums today with Tyler, Shelly, and Logan. First, we hit up the Smithsonian Museum of Natural history where we spent most of the day. The kids loved the insects and the dinosaurs. I don't think you're supposed to eat in there, but we found a nice corner near the live butterfly exhibit to take a break and nibble on some snacks. Either no one noticed or no one cared. Following that, we walked down the mall to visit the Air and Space museum just before it closed. I don't know why, but I'm fascinated with the World War II era aircraft. The kids really enjoyed going into the rocket and playing in the science section.

On Sunday, Mom and Dad came back up from DC and we all had lunch before they flew back to Utah. It was good to see them too, but we wish we could have spent more time with them. Despite all the fun and historic places to go and see, the best part of this trip was just being able to hang out with family. Josh and Jordan sure kept Logan and the dogs busy and entertained! We enjoyed playing games (Killer Bunnies, Scene It, Carcassonne, Halo: Reach, MW2, etc.) watching football, eating out, eating in, and just spending time together. We even got to help Shelly with an early surprise birthday for Tyler with their friends. (Thanks again you guys for everything... Now you guys need to come see us in England!)

Messing with the geese near the reflecting pool.

Outside the Lincoln memorial.

I watched Joshua for several minutes as he sat quietly reflecting before taking this picture.

Josh, Logan, and Jordan on our way to DC.

Chillin' in the Natural Histroy museum with Tyler and the boys.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Road Trip - Part I

After finishing at Altus the first week of September and returning to out-process from the base the week after, we were finally able to hit the road. As Cynthia's mom, Julieta, had been living with us for nearly two years, helping out with the boys while Cynthia went to school and I was working/deploying, we needed to help her move. She decided to move to Florida rather than returning to Canada for several reasons. Since the decision wasn't made until shortly before we left, I opted to have our tickets to fly to England leave out of Baltimore. Upon Google-mapping it, I found the distance from Del Rio-Ottawa-Baltimore only varied about 100 miles from Del Rio-Miami-Baltimore. The plan was coming together...

(Saying goodbye to our house in Del Rio.)

On Friday, Sept 10, we rolled out of the gates of Laughlin Air Force Base. I drove the Odyssey with the boys and U-Haul trailer full of Julieta's stuff followed by Cynthia and Julieta in the Passport. Fortunately, the drive was uneventful as we stayed overnight in Lake Charles, LA and Tallahassee, FL. During the time between, we decided to visit Disney World and were able to score a room at the Army's Shades of Green military resort just outside the gates of the magic kingdom. With a great deal on park passes, we visited the Magic Kingdom on Monday, Animal Kingdom on Tuesday, and Hollywood Studio on Wednesday. (We actually tried to do Hollywood Studio on Sunday evening after we checked-in. That was a major FAIL as a large thunderstorm hit; we got soaked, the park closed early, and everyone was freaking out as we stood in the open and waited for the buses to take us back to the hotel. It was a good laugh afterward.)

Token Disney shot outside the front of the Magic Kingdom on Monday.

The boys with Stitch.

The boys' hero shot after conquering the "Yeti"
roller coaster at Animal Kingdom on Tuesday.

Jordan was the first in this group of the Jedi Training Academy.

Josh rocked his Jedi training!

Leaving Texas!

After 4 long years in southwest Texas, we received orders to move to England. I will be returning to fly the KC-135 Stratotanker after having been an instructor in the T-6A Texan II. The 'Texas Years' will always be memorable: We built and loved our first home off base, Cynthia earned her LVN/LPN, and I deployed twice to South America (Peru in '07-'08 and Colombia in '09). I think we are all happy to be moving on, though, and look forward to our new adventures in the United Kingdom. This past summer was particularly busy as we had to prepare for the move. I spent most of it TDY in Altus, Oklahoma, while Cynthia and the boys remained in Del Rio as she finished up her school and testing while showing the house to sell. We were fortunate to be able to sell the house in August, but had the worst movers ever (and this was our 6th time!)

Monday, September 1, 2008