The Epic Journey 2.

Well I obviously didn't have enough fun on my first solo plane journey with the "Brothers Grim" (Archie 4 and Oscar 1) and volunteered to do a second one. It wasn't without its reward, a week in Florida was a nice fat juicy carrot but this is like the Hunger Games...with Toddlers, I survived the first round so the second round is more complicated. It thankfully had less flying time i.e. confined in a small smelly tube with strangers being strange and passing on all their germs via recycled air *shudder* but it now included every mode of transport except a boat trip.
The Grandparents live nearly 2hrs south of Tampa Airport and you need a car where they live so when we arrived we hired a car, despite them offering to take me and the boys back to the airport I had to return the car. So now I had to get Me, 2 crazy boys, a buggy, 2 Car Seats, 2 suitcases, 3 bags, 2 Teddy's (Toby and Ducky...part of the family) and.... a picnic thanks GG on a 2hr drive AND a 2hr flight. I was thinking it would be nothing compared to the first journey, dare I say confident even, but as the husband pointed out this would be like driving from home to Bradford and then flying to Spain. I'm not going to lie, Oscar braking his wrist the day before wasn't... ideal but it just made things interesting and after the Dr drilled a split in the back we were good to go, it took my mind off "worrying" which was refreshing...every cloud and that.
Stage 1 Drive from Englewood - Tampa Airport
I managed to get up 20mins before the kids and grab a shower, it was strange though unlike the first time I didn't feel like I could be sick onto my feet, I just felt pumped and a little nervous...put it this way though I managed a brew AND a bowl of Cherrios this time. So the car was packed, the cast was split, the goodbyes were done and with the sun creeping up it was time to go. Now straight off the starting blocks the first challenge came, it probably hasn't rained the whole year but it decided to absolutely down pour just as I hit the I-75, now I'm British I'm friends with rain but this is more like, I hope you can swim. Its literally like someone is throwing buckets of water on the windshield, also bad driving isn't limited to Texas unfortunately, driving on the wrong side, the inside lane is the outside lane, the outside is the inside and the middle is just a free for all (don't even start me on how you can turn right on a red light) so this all got a bit hairy. When Oscar spat his dummy out and started to cry I thought I might join him but we held it together and all of a sudden the rain was gone like it had never been. Really the roads went bone dry, so weird.
Surprise Hurdle
The car had to be returned with a full tank of petrol or they charge you $9 a gallon for them to fill it...I felt like laughing and informing them (again) that I'm British and that is cheaper but it was the principle - still cant get over the fact that I can fill my 2L Engine Car here for £24.74 (yes I worked it out) but it costs £80 at home. I had already checked though there wasn't a petrol station next to the airport so I would have to pull off before, however this was like a game of chicken because if I pulled off too soon the car wouldn't be full by the time I drove there. Not to mention you cant take a simple turn off in USA and instead of just pulling into a service station getting some petrol and a brew then be on your way you pull off, without doing anything your on a 9 lane highway to South Carolina! Anyway after this mishap, 6mile trip in the wrong direction I managed to get the "Gas" and get to the airport on time.
I dropped off the car and luckily at USA airports they have people with huge trolleys to help you with your luggage for a tip, I would always use these people it was the best $10 I ever spent they take you right to the correct desk and load it on the belt. Despite them not having Archie and Oscars tickets ...I was thinking happy days ha ha but they sorted and we were checked in. I must say this time round people were much more helpful someone put my buggy in its bag, when I went through security they were really helpful putting stuff on and off on belt...it was a bit excessive to scan Oscars cast for drugs but who am I to criticise US immigration. Then it was flight prep, first we had to take a train to the terminal, then we got a bite to eat ESSENTIAL before a flight they usually don't cater for kids and then your stuck in the air closer to heaven but feeling like hell. We then had a quick loo break all piling into the disabled cubicle, I really appreciated it when I took my quick turn for a wee and Archie shouts to the crowded toilets "Mam are you having a poo as well?!" I even heard someone laugh but that's kids.
We boarded the plane no problem, apart from us though I think everyone was on a Saga holiday so unfortunately there wasn't a single seat free for Oscar so he was on my lap again. We hit lucky again and had a nice lady next to us who was a Grandma and willing to let Oscar wallop her with his cast a few times. Archie was quick to step up as well too though by getting out the crayons and doing a few sketch's,  then announcing "Mam I'm drawing that fat women in front"....gulp. After a few wrestling match's, luckily Oscar nodded off then the i pad got us the rest of the way though the flight and once again I was beyond happy to land in Houston and to see the hubby who took us straight out for a well deserved lunch. I DID it again and I suppose I'm becoming a bit of a pro at this...but I would rather have any other hobby in the world so I wont be making more solo plans soon I cant take the wrinkles.
Ash xox
Um... sorry Mam!
Little split for pressure.
Lets do it!
Bye Grandad LOOOOVE YOU.
The road ahead.

Toby and Ducky.
Hanging in there #fakesmilesx2

Well earned "Fish Finger Sandwich"
Happy to be back Texas.


Florida! #Englewood

About 6 years ago my Grandma and Granddad sensibly decided to skip the winter in England and zip off to Florida, they are not alone though there are loads of them migrating from the cold weather and are aptly called "Snowbirds". It didn't take us long to invite ourselves to stay and we have spent that last five New Years in Florida. After a few months of crumby grey weather, totally over doing it at Christmas -as you do- we always cant wait to jet away, normally on boxing day to blue blue sky's and 25C average temperature's, not to mention we have missed the Grandparents. Its not the same since having the kids, lazing about all-day not to mention the pool view has been wrecked with a safety net and my crazy Grandparents duck tape foam on any corners or hard surface in case the boys bump anything (too cute) but we still wouldn't miss it. They live about 3hrs south on the west coast in a place called Englewood and I couldn't recommend it more those wanting a non Disney holiday.

Now we are already currently stateside it seemed like the perfect opportunity for an early visit, and to be honest with the husband working 3 weeks solid and me being with the kids for 3 weeks solid the break was even more welcome than normal. We didn't plan it to be this soon as the Grandparents had only been in the country 2 days but the husband got a few days leave so we didn't ask any questions and booked up. Chris had to be back at work in 5 days but we decided it would be nice for the kids to stay on for another week so he returned to Texas half way through. I have to say it wasn't my best idea to give myself a day to pack for four people to go to Florida but champagne problems right!

GG as per usual had our....lets be honest MY suite ready complete with imported British magazines, after a few months without any family or boy help it was honestly one of the best days ever to have some home comforts and extra eyes and hands. Five years in, it really does feel like a second home, we have friends, know staff and have little traditions now. The absolute first place I have to visit is called the Spinaker, it doesn't look like much from the outside but inside it is a traditional American diner complete with red leather seats, its serves the best French Toast and Pancakes EVER. The second place is the Ice Cream parlour at the end of the street called Swirls and Curls, it has hundreds of amazing flavours like "Trash Can" and the best thing is their homemade hot fudge sauce though, I love their mismatched lawn furniture and games like hoop toss...its a struggle not to go everyday for a couple scoops and throw a few hoops. I think I prefer the more laid back life style to busier Houston and I really love all the snowbirds too, they are so canny "we LOVE your accent" and I was told 4 times I look like K-Mid!!! but we are literally the only people under 60 in the vicinity so I wont get a big head just yet.  

A beach trip, a BBQ, me and GG shopping then making Margaritas to name a few more makes it a holiday. I think Florida has to be one of the sunniest places on earth and its no wonder so many people migrate there everyday, its so bright even if its ever chilly. The worst part of it is always leaving (not for the Grandparents I bet though ha ha) last year the day we left it was 28C and we landed in the UK to -4C and blanket of snow - ouch! This year that was not a concern returning to even more humid Houston but drama does tend to follow us. So firstly, two days before we leave Oscar head dives off the sofa, even though I was standing right there and got an enormous egg on his head and a nice scrape. Not content with this later that day Oscar climbs off something just 1ft high at the park and falls on his arm, no big deal until he wont move it...when he started to sit still for more than a meal...that's when I worried. So me and GG trouped off to Hospital naturally in the night - these things always happen at night- the hospital couldn't have been better and LOVED Oscar as everyone else was over 90, the nurse even said it was a nice break from "Gods Waiting Room" ha ha ha (evil but funny).
Anyway after a little grilling about the egg, scrape....old ant bites and other general bruises the little man has broken his wrist! He has a shiny blue cast (with a little spilt in the back so we could fly home) and luckily it hasn't even slowed him down, in fact he has discovered its a weapon to clatter us all with or his new favourite is to drag it back and forth on his cot railings in the morning shouting "MAM, MAM". Secondly I don't think I put enough thought into the fact that I would have to return to Houston by myself with two boys...one now with a broken wrist. "Epic Journey 2" to follow. Anyway despite the little accidents we have had an absolutely fantastic break and after weighing myself this morning it is no wonder I have put on...lets say a few pounds.

Love you loads GG and Granddad Max. 
Ash xox
That will do me!

Best view...despite life saving net!

99c Raybans!


Coolest kid in town.

Dolphin Watching.

If you insist.

Food Porn.

Little Chef.

Safety Foam...still broke a wrist.

 Hoop toss.

Blue cast.


Veterans Day...

As I had to get up at 4.30am this morning to drive the husband 2hrs to the Airport, I wasn't asleep as I expected for the 2minute silence back in the UK which was 6am here. As we were driving I noticed the time at that exact moment as its always something I take part in at home and it really annoys me if people are talking its only 2minutes to show a little respect for lives we have now. I usually buy several Poppy's too and consider it a tradition to stab myself with the pin a few times too, but this year being in the states I have noticed not many people have Poppy's here which at first I thought was a shame. However as I was leaving the airport and driving about it was hard not to see people in Military Uniform today, as was it yesterday and actually you often see people in Uniform here on any given day. The reason is today named here "Veterans Day" anyone in Military Uniform can get tonnes of things for free and for their family just to say thank you for serving the country. From free: Meals, Starbucks Coffee, Krispy Crème Donut, haircuts, free admissions and much more. Not to mention people serving in the Military past and present get discounts year round on things like food shops, car prices etc.
I was explaining to some people yesterday that its nice here to see people in uniform and how well people treat them too, there are huge permanent signs outside most airports saying "Welcome home to our troops, we thank you" and the other day in a shop called Lowes random people were saluting a man just doing some shopping in his uniform....they give 10% off all year to Military. I was explaining that our British Military are also immensely proud but apart from maybe Military Towns you don't see people in uniform, they don't get any discounts, home coming parades have been famously boycotted by Muslims living in the UK but protesting our troops and further more just a few months ago a Soldier called Lee Rigby was walking down a London street in his Uniform (which as I said was rare anyway but he was returning from working at the Tower of London) and he was ran over then had his head cut off with a cleaver in broad British day light by two Muslims living in Britain, they said they did it to "Avenge the killing of other Muslims by British Soldier's in Afghanistan". Private Rigby had been on his way home to his wife and 2yr old son which he will never see grow up and these two men will probably go to Jail for life which again vs here which means life actually only means maximum 25yrs in Britain. At this point the people I was talking to couldn't speak, their troops are so loved and respected, they even did that fish thing by smacking their gums a few times but nothing came out, they literally couldn't believe it and eventually one said "Are you f*cking kidding me?!"
I am proud to be British and although I don't always agree with war especially when innocent people get hurt or soldiers for that matter, but this is the world we live in and I would rather have our Military protect us when darkness knocks at the door because sadly as I read on one of the plaques at the War monument in Washington DC "Freedom isn't Free". I was thinking about our same day named "Remembrance Day" and its so important to remember the fallen, if your ever in doubt just watch the incredible series about WWI and WWII by Steven Spielberg "Band of Brothers" I bawled my eyes out several times about how much they sacrificed and went through for us. However I think its even more important to honour the current serving Military, they should be receiving the same freebies and discounts for putting their life on the line, to protect and serve our country, not to mention sometimes spending months away from their own family and for a salary a footballer could make in about 2days! I'm pretty sure they would appreciate it  more than people wearing Poppy's and doing a 2minute silence a lot of people don't even honour.
So step up Britain, I will certainly be doing some saluting of my own.
Happy Veterans Day and Lest we forget the fallen.
Ash xox 




Halloween Week

One word for this week AWESOME! Its had a few blibs including fire ants for Oscar, a big toe nail being ripping off for Archie but these boys have literally turned insane, just tonight Oscar has walked up to the husband and said "Ta" then handed him a huge poop...still undecided where its come from! The things they are getting up to, I don't what goes through their minds, they have no fear either and now look like two abuse victims covered head to toe in bruises, bumps and cuts. For example the other day I went into the shower for about 7 minutes, when I had left the boys they were happily settled with milk and watching cartoons...when I came out I was terrified; It was like that hotel scene in "The Hangover". It looked like someone had poured a pint of milk on the sofa then held the carton of milk above their heads and spun round and round, whilst also projectile vomiting cereal and stewed fruit...don't even know how they got that off the top shelf?! Someone had also switched the waste disposal on in the sink, it was nearly burning out, there was somehow now toys and cereal everywhere. Both of them had climbed onto the dining table, Archie was prodding the speeding ceiling fan with a mop which I might add he had to go into a closed cupboard to find and Oscar was just jumping beside him copying his actions!! I seriously didn't know what to go to first and what should I do now when I need a shower??!! Child cages? I cleaned and Febrezed the sofa as best I can but it stinnnks of Babybels so I had to wash the covers and praying they don't shrink. Honestly I know I moan about mess a lot but I just want to straighten up 1-2 times a day not industrial clean 3-4 times a day...I mean actual furniture is being moved by a 4 and 1yr old?!

Its not just the small boys though the big one is as much hassle at times Ive had an incident involving sunglasses this week too thanks to the husband. I am just going to copy and paste my facebook status here in case you missed it....

So my hire car had a fault and needed to be returned and swopped over for a new car, which after I fully cleared it out, I did. Then Chris informs me that he has left his £250 Raybans in the CONSEALED sunglasses case...naturally my fault though. He has had my life for 3 days and today I had to cancel a soft play date to drive over an hour round trip to the dealership to pick them up. They didn't h...ave them and the car was now at the workshop, which I then also found and thoroughly searched the car including the hidden sunglasses case but obviously they weren't there either... I then spent 30mins on the phone back and forth with the dealership saying someone must have stolen them, they are now calling back tomorrow when the manager is in.

Chris has just found his £250 Raybans in his swimming bag.
If you manage to catch the blog regularly you will know this isn't an isolated incident where the husband is concerned. Don't get me wrong though I don't mind this one at all, this in marriage is what I like to call "leverage", in fact the more people that know the better...it grows the "leverage" *whispers guilt* and now I can save it for a moment when I need it...ok I'm weak I mean the next shopping trip! As I can no longer answer my phone in case its the dealership calling me AGAIN to say they still cant find the sunglasses and are looking into the theft.... I can smell Diamonds on this occasion I think! It might be a double whammy though if I'm lucky we have an anniversary coming up, now do I remind him so I get a nice present on time like Mothers Day?...or I could just leave it and get a bigger present later after the "leverage" of forgetting has grown. Now pipe down men folk he knows the dates just as well as me, he has a whole year to prepare, I've got my card and pressie sorted, so get with the programme boys or pay the price....this will be interesting. 
Anyway onto the Awesome bits, Halloween was as immense as promised along with a visit to a Texas/USA tradition a "Pumpkin Patch". There were a lot of options for Halloween and just locally alone the house decorations were unbelievable, I saw this one house with a tree swing complete with a family of skeletons on it, but Chris's friend from work invited us out to their house in the "burbs" for a pizza party and to partake in some Trick or Treating. Their neighbour hood decorations were also incredible, one house was like a real haunted house with sections to visit and be terrified. The goodies on offer were also off the chain...as they say here, anything from full bars of chocolate, toffee apples, toys and loot bags, but the best bit was there were goodies for the adults too, you start off with your plastic wine glass and as you troop after the  kids you say "Drink or Treat" and you get your wine topped up on the way I AM STARTING THIS AT HOME. As the kids are little they got tired after one street but it was just as well we had already swapped over to a bin liner as their pumpkin bags had so much stuff in. It was quite funny though because on the news there was a lady handing out notes that said "You are to fat and will get diabetes so don't need any candy" and another house with a Dentist who was handing out floss...weirdos.
Then the Farm/Pumpkin Patch was by far one of my favourite things I have done here and we had to drive over an hour into cowboy land to get there, amongst the Pumpkins, rides and animals there was a Corn Maze....which was fun at first but I actually started to panic when we literally couldn't find the way out. Anyway enough of my gassing I'm going to let the pictures talk.
Ash xox
Attempt at Halloween Decoration

Round one for nursery party

Think I over did the red in red velvet.

Seatbelt Selfie...only chance I ever get!
...I meant it to be blurry #gutted


1 street....
The Pumpkin Patch

Sand pit?! Not in Texas.

The rejects.


Obviously Archie wanted a mouldy one.

Cowboy lunch...that's a Jacket Potato not just sour cream.


Children of the Corn!


Back away slowly.