School Update

This morning at school drop-off, I almost cried.  This is our last week of the term and then we head into the long Easter break (3.5 weeks off!).  When the kids go back to school at the end of April, it will be their last term in England.

While I knew that was going to be hard to handle, I thought I’d make it until June at least before I started crying about it.

Turns out?  I was wrong.

Last week was the sign-up for extracurricular activities for the coming term.  Instead of jumping on the laptop that night and waiting for the activity portal to open, I didn’t manage to sign the boys up for their clubs until the next morning.  When I checked the activity board at school this morning, I saw that Quinn didn’t get into Athletics club, the number one thing he wanted to do this coming term.  He’s on the waiting list, but who knows if five children will drop out in the first week so he can participate.  I haven’t told him yet.

When I realized what had happened, and that it was 100% entirely my own fault, I felt the tears start to well up.  You see, it’s more than him just not being able to do Athletics club (which is basically like track and field – all kinds of running and jumping and throwing).  I realized that if he doesn’t get to do this club this coming term, he never will.  Cause this is our last term here at this amazing, incredible school that offers multiple free after-school clubs every day of the week.

I made it to my car before I cried, thus successfully avoiding embarassing myself or the children.  I’ll save that for later in the school year, as the end truly approaches, when I doubt I’ll make it a single week without crying over leaving this school.

I am so happy to be moving home, truly, in every way.  Until I think about schools. 

I know there’s no school like this in America.  Even the private schools that charge twice as much as our tuition here aren’t as good.  And I just want to scream because I can’t give my children everything I want: this amazing school, but in the location where we want to live permanently.  I want to pick it up and drag it across the ocean with me and plant it in the town where we’re going to live and go on enjoying the fantastic teachers and interesting curricula and amazing sports programs and afterschool clubs and school lunches better than what I cook for myself at home.  Now that we’ve had this, now that we know it exists, how do we leave?

The answer is that we have to, so we do the best we can.  And we go to our new schools with optimism and open minds and hope.  And a plan to join the PTA and run for school board. 

Spring

It’s officially spring, although the weather everywhere I look seems not to have gotten the memo.  The garden is popping up some spring-y looking surprises, but England generally doesn’t feel really like spring until at least late May, so it’s not quite time to put away the scarves and heavy coats yet. (Matt got overly optimistic yesterday though and, fooled by the sunshine, wore his spring coat to watch Gabe’s soccer match.  He regretted every single minute of that decision.)

We’re finishing up our second-to-last term of school here, with one more week to go until Easter break (which lasts 3.5 weeks!).  Then we’ve got one last crazy, full term of school to go until we move back to the U.S.

It’s going to fly by.

We’ve got four (!) more trips planned before we head back across the pond.  Plus this last term of school is always the busiest with sports, school plays, awards days, sports days, and other end-of-year activities.  Looking at the calendar with Matt the other night, we realized we only have a few weekends left with no plans.  It’s insane.

We’re going to Barcelona next week.  Venice for a long weekend in April.  Bruges and Amsterdam at the end of May.  And Athens for five days when school gets out in July. 

Then we’re flying home.

The Grand Adventure is coming to an end. A new one is beginning, I know, but man this chapter of our lives was exceptional. 

Until we get on that plane though, we’re ekeing out all the England we can.  Spring means cricket matches, school play practices, late sunsets and fire pits on the patio instead of in the living room, Easter break, flowers in the garden, and slightly warmer rain. It means bright yellow and green farm fields and baby lambs on every hillside.  The Queen’s birthday and a Royal Wedding this year! 

Long may it last.

Tooth-brushing Party

In one of my less-than-proud parenting moments, I happened to look closely at Owen’s teeth a few weeks ago and realized he had not been doing a stellar job of brushing.  Probably for a while.  An examination of Quinn’s teeth revealed the same.

Just when I think I have this mothering thing slightly in hand, the children remind me that I’ve dropped a ball somewhere.

I definitely thought I was past the parenting point where I had to teach people to brush their teeth.  But I guess a reminder was in order: as my boys in particular get older, I’m learning that hygiene issues I thought we’d covered in toddlerhood need some attention and tweaking.  I hate to gender stereotype, but these are not things I had to re-teach Bridget and that’s the truth.

I’ve also noticed that my teeth and all the children’s teeth aren’t quite as white as I’d like.  Gabe was actually the one who pointed it out a while ago.  He expressed a bit of self-consciousness over it and I agreed we could use some whitening.  I started to research natural methods, though, because I don’t like chemical treatments if I can avoid them at all.  But I sort of forgot about it without ever really doing anything.

When I saw the state of the younger boys’ teeth, though, I decided that an overhaul of the tooth-brushing and whitening situation was long overdue.  So I instituted a nightly tooth-brushing party.

The fun in this house is just non-stop, you guys.

But in all honesty, calling it a party DID make it more appealing to everyone involved.  It seems dumb, but that sort of thing can make a difference when you’re forcing your kids to go up to get ready for bed twenty minutes earlier than normal in order to complete a multi-step tooth brushing process every night.

Here’s what we do for our “party”:

We set a timer, brush for two straight minutes making sure to hit fronts, backs, sides, and all around.  Previously I had just been sending the kids up to brush on their own and I think they must have been giving it about 20 seconds without supervision because the first night we used a timer they were SHOCKED at how long two minutes lasted.

Then we floss.  I cannot tell a lie, I have flossed more in the last two weeks than I probably had in the previous two months.  The tooth brushing party is good for us all!  I do have to help Owen and Quinn get each and every little space, but that’s okay with me.  The more they do it, the better they’ll get at it.

Then we do the last step in the party process: tooth whitening.  I researched some natural tooth methods and found one that I had all the ingredients for already in the cabinet so that was the one we tried.  I used this recipe and it’s kind of weird – it looks like tomato paste but smells like peppermint (I added peppermint essential oil to make it a more familiar tooth-brushing flavor for us all).  But despite it’s strange appearance, it absolutely has made a significant difference in the level of whiteness of all our teeth in the last two weeks.  I wish I had done before-and-after pictures! It was noticeable even after just the very first use.

We brush with it for two minutes, making sure to concentrate on the teeth that really need some whitening in the front.  Then before we spit it out, we swish it around in our mouths for a minute, kind of like oil pulling.  The kids all use it without complaining, which is all I can hope for.  Because of the turmeric in the recipe, it will stain clothes and skin, though, so we are really careful to clean it all up really well when we’re done.  

That’s it.  The whole thing lasts less than 10 minutes, which is certainly a time-investment we can easily make.  And we have been doing it at least 3-4 nights a week. (On the other nights, we just brush with a 2-minute timer.)

An added side benefit of this tooth brushing party is that we do it at about 8PM every evening before the younger boys go to bed, and since I’ve already brushed at that point, I am doing far less late-night-snacking after the kids are in bed!

It’s funny, I thought this new process was going to be a pain when I first realized that I really needed to be more involved in how the boys were taking care of their teeth.  But in truth I’m really enjoying it!  Over the past few years as our kids have gotten older and more self-sufficient, Matt and I have been less and less involved in the sort of bedtime routine we had when the children were all little.  It’s sort of lovely to feel like we’re needed again.  And it’s a calmer, happier bedtime process too I think.  Plus all our teeth look much healthier, cleaner, and whiter.

Viva la tooth-brushing-party!

Sunshine

Last week I found out that I have a vitamin D deficiency.  I’d been feeling crappy, just tired and achy and random pains all over, and finally went to a doctor.  Blood tests came back and the result was a vitamin D level that is less than half the minimum healthy amount.

The primary source for vitamin D is the sun.  In England, apparently most people take a vitamin D supplement (or at least my doctor recommends they do) because there just isn’t sufficient sunlight in this country, especially in winter, to maintain healthy levels without assistance.

It was a total relief to have an answer, and especially one with a relatively simple solution.  Finally, months of random worries were explained: I’d had tooth pain, my fingernails were constantly breaking and peeling, my joints were achy, and I was exhausted – often to the point of tears – just all the time.  All of that is related to a vitamin D deficency.  I’m on a big booster dose now for a few weeks, then I go on a daily maintenance dose.  Everyone else in the house does too – cause we’re all getting the same lack of sunshine.

And even though it may not be enough to solve the problem, I’m making a point of getting outside for at least a half hour or so a few days a week.  I figure it can’t hurt and it’s good for me to get some fresh air no matter what.

It was odd to me, though, to think that for the nearly three years I’ve been living in England, I never knew this was a thing I had to think about.  I wonder if there are other things I don’t know I should be doing cause I didn’t know to ask.  It makes me even more ready to go home to a place where I know the drill.

And it definitely makes me excited to get back to place where the sun shines more regularly; I feel like this is a perfectly good justification for a few days spent lying on a beach soaking up all that vitamin D I can get.

Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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