The Gallery: 8am

So Tara, first of all I can’t believe the Gallery started over 4 years ago! FOUR years! It feels like yesterday and it is scaring me a little to realise how quickly years are passing by… Anyway, I couldn’t NOT join in for the 200th! So here is about my 8am.

Since we have moved, our 8am is very different to our 8am in the UK. Life starts earlier in this country and in a very funny way, when I thought that I would find a lot of similarities with England in the US, I seem to find more with France. The early mornings resemble the early mornings of my childhood, so that’s one of those similarities.

When 8am used to be about still thinking about what to wear, while eating breakfast, now 8am is my moment.

The boys hop on their bus by 7.50 and C leaves for work. 8am is generally the time I go for a walk with the dog.

I have been very lucky so far to enjoy lovely, sunny walks (I KNOW, you Chicagoans are going to mention Winter coming, but it isn’t here just yet).

Apart from that day actually… miserable and very wet… and then came the realisation that our umbrellas, wellingtons and dog towels were on a boat and probably not planning to reach us for another few weeks… shake that thought!

No today instead it was good. Sunny, crisp but not cold (yet!) and we had just the right amount of squirrels to spy on.


squirrel spotting

Dog walking here is sometime a little frustrating, not so much for me but for Jasper really. You can not walk off the leash anywhere! Except at the dog park, for which you must have a license… We haven’t sorted that out yet and it might even not work out until we chop some balls!

Until then, we walk around the block, on the leash, which seems to satisfy him enough and somehow I am quite happy about the situation as I think that I would probably lose him to a squirrel anyway.

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Back to basics

Today we took the time to discover our local countryside and it felt good. Everything was perfect: the temperature, the light, the smells, a river to throw stones into. We spotted a beehive “THIS” big (like in movies), a hummingbird and dragonflies.

It was some time very needed that just involved being us and the dog and away from all the practicalities that we have been dealing with for weeks.

**excuse my French**

Aujourd’hui nous avons pris le temps de découvrir la campagne proche et ça nous a fait un bien fout. Tout était parfait: la température, la lumière, les odeurs et même une rivière pour y lancer des pierres. On a vu une ruche grosse “COMME CA”, un colibri et des libellules.

C’était exactement ce dont on avait besoin, de se retrouver en famille sans penser aux tonnes de trucs pratiques qui nous envahissent la vie depuis des semaines.

McDowell Grove Forest Preserve







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The things I love about America so far…

Nearly two weeks on. WOW, two weeks! That means two weeks closer to being reunited with the rest of our belongings, but that’s another matter…

I know that I have sounded a bit lame in the last couple of posts but really we are super happy to be living here. Of course there are and there will always be some things missing of the picture but I want this adventure to be about all the new stuff we are going to enjoy or have the patience to learn to love with time.


So far there are many things that I love about being here, one of them being our new routine.

In the UK it felt like we barely saw each other. C would leave at the crack of dawn for work and not return before late. We rarely had dinner together let alone breakfast.

Now, we share breakfast and chat. C doesn’t leave until the boys do. The boys return from school early enough for us to have an afternoon together, walk the dog, take a snack, do homework (more on that one coming…). C returns home still early enough to have time with the boys while I prepare dinner and we all sit together again.

I simply adore this new routine. Like the lovely Metropolitan Mum describes her new life in Sweden it is like we have gained a few hours in the day.


I love the fact that I can look outside my window and see rabbits and squirrels eating apples and so does the dog actually. He spends his life staring at the same window, all day. Until he gets so wound up that he collapses in deep sleep.

dog staring at the window

I love our house. I truly do and I can’t believe our luck to have found such a nice spacious house, in such a lovely street, with many lovely neighbors, so close to the school, town and C’s work.

dog walk

We will never stop being grateful for our friends, Gill and Paul who helped us find this house, build our furniture, looked after our boys for almost a WHOLE day while we bought the whole of our local IKEA, fed us, poured us wine and introduced us to their friends.


On other notes, I love those perfectly ripe avocados, the fact that I find Dijon Mustard and Patak Korma sauce at our local supermarket and I have managed to find some real, tasty cheddar at Costco!

I love my new oven. All the appliances in this house look dated but boy do they do the job well! My oven took the cake test yesterday and it passed it with honors.

I love our laundry shoot (or chute)! This is the best thing ever. We don’t need laundry baskets around the house. At the end of the day, dirty laundry goes down the hole and in the morning I go to the laundry room in the basement and all I do is wash and dry! And dry to such perfection that all I have to do is fold.
I look like that mum in all these American films walking around with the laundry basket and who folds eternally. You know who I mean if like me you have been brought up watching way too many American TV series.

Overall I love the lifestyle, the peaceful serenity here, in our street. It is green, clean, extremely well looked after and dog walking equals to my daily meditation at the moment.

We feel very lucky…


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Washed out

That’s how I feel right now. Totally washed out.

We have arrived in the US exactly a week ago today and I am not sure I am over the jet lag just yet not mentioning the emotional rollercoaster. In the same day I can go from feeling totally elated to down to the ground wanting to curl up or run away.


I have everything that matters here with me but the feeling of not belonging is tough. I no longer belong to the UK, I haven’t belonged to France in a very long time and I don’t belong here yet. It is unsettling at best and very upsetting at worst.

Yesterday we went to see the boys’ new school and I have to admit it looks amazing. The facilities and the welcome we received was great. They start on Monday and with this I hope to regain a sense of routine we are all craving for now.
The last 8 weeks have been spend completely out of routine and we are now in a foreign environment so at least having a school schedule to stick to should help us all going back to basics.


I am waiting to find out if they qualify for school bus pickup which I am pretty sure they do because I have seen our neighbour’ son waiting for it and I know he goes to the same school. I am in two minds about that. On one hand I feel my “job” is taken away and on the other hand I know the boys will love that and it will allow them to meet kids who are at school with them and live in the neighbourhood.

Our house is fabulous! The space, oh my god, THE SPACE! we have so much of it I don’t know if we will be able to fill it in a year. I suppose that’s going to be the fun part for me and I am looking forward to it. The boys have already announced that they “NEVER” want to move out… This house is 3 times the space we used to have!


I am still shocked at the heat and humidity that strikes us every time we step outside. We spend so much time indoor or in a car that when you go out it is still the same feeling of surprise. Even the dog is not too keen and by the time we have walked around the block he is happy and ready to lie on top of one of our air vent.


I am struggling with food and flavours. I know that we have to develop new habits and discover what we like and what we don’t through trial and error but some days I find it really hard.

Slowly the surroundings are becoming familiar. What used to look like out of a movie is now looking more and more how it should be. We will get there and I know one day we will wake up feeling like everything has slotted into the right places.

In the meantime we have to go through the motion…

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The final countdown…

This is it, 8 more sleeps and we will be flying towards our new beginnings. New house, new furniture, new cars, new phone numbers (after 13 yrs of having the same one)… new lifestyle, new adventures…

If it wasn’t for the sheer exhaustion I would tell you that I am doing quite OK. I do have moments when I feel crushed by the anxiety of leaving behind the people I have been the closest to for the last 14 years but generally I am quite serene.

This is the final mountain to climb and the hardest. Dealing with contract termination of all sorts, even the ones you didn’t think about but obviously count. Talking to way too many call centers and people not really listening to you but reading a script. Emptying our house of the junk accumulated over the years (do you realise how much useless junk you have in your loft until you have to move?!). All this is exhausting.

And there’s the impression that our family is functioning based on a very precise list of bullet point “I do this while you do that, then we report to each other at dinner time”. Arguments flying over the silliest of details. Energy completely wasted in useless arguments, but so necessary because sometime you just want and need to shout it ALL out!

We are nearly there, we have a flight, a house, amazing friends waiting, we have each other.

8 more sleeps!

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London early hours

Yesterday brought me back to nearly 10 years ago when I used to travel everyday to central London to work.

It was Tuesday morning 8.30am, shop not open yet, where the city is waking up and welcomes the glamorous and well dressed, the perfect hair that took ages to tame into place this morning, the click clonk of pointy heals, and the scent of freshly applied makeup and perfume they leave behind.

A quick look at the windows shops where they will probably come back to to kill a lunch time hour to take a closer look at the beautiful handbags they’re walking past. Maybe try on a bit of the latest fashion and leave behind the best part of their monthly wage.

For a minute I missed this badly. The morning commute holding a paper and a hot coffee, staring at the window, the sun shining at the London skyline as if saying welcome.

I am not sure I would do it again though, not now with young children anyway, but it felt good and envigoring.


The reason we were there mixing with a crowd that’s not used to a family sharing the pavement with them so early on a week day was because we were heading to the US Embassy for our visa interview. In itself it was quite an experience and a lengthy one…
But four hours of bureaucracy, armed with UNO game, books and colouring pens we left feeling empty but relieved and happy to be granted the outcome we were hoping for.

So the first things was to celebrate while trying to realise the enormity of what had just happened and how it was now official that our life was set to change.


Finally we are able to put a date in the diary, book flights, a removal company, find a house… and approach a whole new world the other side of an ocean.

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Breathe in. Breathe out.

Each time I watch this TV ad I can’t help thinking that it doesn’t just apply to our roads but also to our everyday life. Everywhere. Anywhere.

Why is it that all of us feel it’s okay to judge and teach lessons. We see the surface of events and assume someone is on a mission to spoil our day. We spoil our own day ourselves by the way we react.

We discount the fact that maybe some actions are the results of someone’s bad day. Bad news received? having to deal with the hardship life may throw at them? Maybe someone else has been unpleasant to them already and you are taking the consequences…

Life is so much nicer when we share considering thoughts, peace and care for one another. Arguments die with a calm response. Stress levels lower with a smile shared.

**that was my wisdom hour for you**

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I have spent the last few days with my sister and nephew and it has been awesome.
We have been miles apart for such a long time now that it is starting to really hit us how different our lives have become. I am feeling very grateful that it hasn’t separated us even if at times it makes it hard to understand each other.

Only the Channel seperates our two countries (and there will be an ocean soon) but this is enough to make us feel very different. Sometimes it takes a lot patience and tolerance for both of us to not blow fire in each others face but with age comes wisdom and we are becoming rather good at holding it together.

Thankfully what there is most of when we are together are secrets shared, laughter and silliness. It never takes us very much to go back to being teenagers doing each others hair, pinching makeup, painting nails and swapping shoes and handbags.

The new distance will be feeling huge at times but hopefully we will be able to visit each other regularly.


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Their last day of school…

Today is the boys last day of school before the Summer and probably, if everything goes according to plan, their last day at this school.

Today is a difficult day.

I am trying to hold on to the idea that good things are coming. All the opportunities that the boys will have in Chicago, the sports they will have access to and just the lifestyle in general, but today my heart is heavy.

I am looking at who and what we are leaving behind, at the lovely school that the boys adore, the friendships that have evolved and grown tighter since Reception…

Today all I am seeing is this chapter closing.

The home, our home, where I have had my babies with the floors that have seen their first steps, this home is in the process of being purchased by another family. I am selling what we can’t take with us and handing over our belongings to someone else is truly painful. All this bits and pieces have a piece of our family history, like the lamp I purchased for E’s nursery even before he was born…

So I know this is the beginning of something good and exciting but today I am only seeing the end of something that has been amazing and life defining.


The boys at the end of Yr1 and Yr2

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Random things I noticed while in the US…

Since we came back from Chicago, random little things that we have come across while in the US have been popping to my mind. Those little things will no doubt become the norm after a couple months spend there but for now here is what I noticed in Chicago…

– Toilets or restrooms offer next to no privacy. Maybe someone will give me a good enough reason why every single toilets I have visited while there have this gap of about half an inch all around the door? Not that I am worried people would stop and peek through the hole but you don’t even need to be obvious to see all you don’t want to see! It didn’t take me long to catch a sight I really didn’t want to catch, right in the mirror reflection while washing my hands. Enough said!

– The Police at passport control are not willing nor happy to grant a smile, not even when an over excited 5 yr old puts a cuddly bear right in their face, shouting “look at my new BEAR!!!!”

– The suburbs of Chicago where we stayed for the week looks like Disneyland. The grass is manicured perfectly, no bush is not under strict growth control, no pond is not perfectly gorgeous, no duck is looking frumpy, no one is walking in the street which is also probably why everything is so clean everywhere. Oh and their street signs are out of Sesame Street.


– There’s a drive through for every occasion: chemist, cigarettes, Starbucks, ATM, school drop off and school pick up… There is no need to walk anywhere and if you want to walk somewhere then why would you?

– US citizen are extremely patriotic and they wear reminders of their country, states, etc, everywhere. They are proud to be American and you can see it on their tee shirts, jumpers, car tags, hats, flags…

– Food portions! Food portions! A plate feeds at least two and considering you don’t walk anywhere I may just double my size overnight!


– They love the British accent and they are happy to interrupt and tell you “Love the accent, too cute!” And this can simply happen when walking in the street (or while I am teary and hugging my husband at the airport saying goodbye).

– They are very friendly. I was told that, but really they ARE really friendly! They are smiley and enthusiastic. Nothing like the British gentle nod of the head when saying thank you. That’s a proper, forward thanks, smile and all.

– They never talk about the weather. Seriously one day we went to the zoo with the boys. The thermometer went to 37 degrees Celsius that day. It was hot and sticky and the day ended with a storm like a firework (I nearly cried so much I was scared) but not one person said at any one time “God it’s hot” or similar. And I was dying to share this simple sentence with someone, anyone but no, nothing was said at all!

So, is this the beginning of the culture shock?

**version francaise**

Nous sommes rentrés de Chicago il y a quelques jours et plein de petits détails me reviennent en tête depuis ce retour. Des détails mineurs certes mais cependant qui laisse un effet surprise que je vais sûrement perdre l’espace de quelques mois passés là bas alors je tenais à en faire une liste…

– Les toilettes… Ils n’aiment pas garder ces moments privés que pour eux ou on dirait. Tous les toilettes, TOUS les toilettes dans lesquels je me suis rendue ont un encadrement de porte qui ne correspond pas à la porte. En gros il y a un espace d’au moins un cm tout autour ce qui laisse à qui veut bien la possibilité de partager ce moment d’intimité avec de parfaits étrangers. Degueu.

– La police au contrôle des passports n’est pas la pour plaisanter et mêmes pas un enfant surexcité qui leur met un ours en peluche en pleine face en criant “T’as vu comme il est beau mon nouvel ours Madame!!” ne leur fera décrocher un sourire.

– La banlieue de Chicago ou nous nous trouvions s’apparente à Disneyland. La pelouse est parfaitement tondue partout et il n’y a pas un voisin qui déçoit les autres et oublie de tondre la sienne. Les maisons sont faites pour apparaître anciennes mais apparaissent faites en plastic (et se chiffrent en millions de dollars). Les mares a canards sont propres et entretenues et on dirait que mêmes les canards sont millionaires.

– La taille des assiettes! Il faut le voir pour le croire, c’est tout a fait incroyable.

– Il y un drive in pour tout et pas simplement pour MC Do. Il y en a pour retirer de l’argent, pour commander un café, pour la pharmacie, pour acheter des cigarettes… et même pour déposer et venir chercher les mômes a l’école! Et si on pense qu’on ne marche nulle part et que les portions servies sont le double j’ai peur de doubler de taille l’espace de rien…

– Les américains sont fiers de leur pays, ils sont patriotiques jusqu’au bout. Entre les tee shirts qui indiquent le pays ou l’état, la voiture ou la maison avec les drapeaux, les serments…

– Ils adorent l’accent anglais et n’hésitent pas a vous arrêter dans la rue pour vous le dire. Ou même de séparer une étreinte comme à l’aéroport alors que je disais au revoir a mon mari, simplement pour vous dire que c’est “trop mignon”

– Ils sont sympathiques et enthousiastes ce qui je l’avoue me change du flegme anglais!

– Enfin ils ne se plaignent jamais du temps qu’il fait. Notre journée au zoo c’est faite sous 37 degrés et pas UNE seule personne n’a voulu se plaindre avec moi. Bonjour la frustration!

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