Happy Fourth of July! Things I miss about my country…

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Not much going on today here in England, just another normal day!  They don’t seem to celebrate July 4th for some reason….?  I started with a visit to the hospital for the appointment I made last week because of the low platelets while Stephanie watched the children, fed them, got their teeth brushed, etc.  I waited a while for my appointment (3o minutes) before I went up to say that if my doctor was the one with the “40 minute wait” recently written beside her name on the board, then I couldn’t wait and would just be leaving now.  Apparently it wasn’t just a blood test as I had thought but was an appointment with the ante-natal clinic there that is held only every Wednesday, to discuss the low platelets.  So they wanted me to rebook for next Wednesday (I needed to get home for Stephanie to leave by 10:45am, which is why I couldn’t stay any longer for my 9:45 appointment.)  This was just laughable — I said I’d either be in labor or have already delivered by next Wednesday and that I certainly wouldn’t want to come up to the hospital for basically nothing if I was about to burst.  I asked if this was something I needed to pursue after the baby’s birth and the midwife said, no – just the next time I’m pregnant to have my platelets watched, but that this wouldn’t matter once I delivered and was home again.  They were just concerned about my ability to clot right after labor and delivery.  So I said I wouldn’t need to come in next Wednesday and if all they were going to do was talk to me again about the fact that they’re low and can’t do anything about it between now and my labor, then I was going home.  She went back to ask the doctor about this – did the doctor want my blood taken again then? So they took blood again, and that was it. Could have had that done thirty minutes sooner, but oh well.  It was just such a waste of time and so typical of my experience here with the NHS (that they only have certain services available on particular days – even at the main hospital for an area of about 100 miles around here.)

Another National Health Service experience happened after that — dentist appointments for the children.  Here, dental care is “free” (included in the NHS services) for children under 18 so I figured I’d get any dental work they might need done before going back and had an appointment for the younger 4 today since Patience recently had a filling.  Turns out Gabriel needs one small filling in a baby tooth and Claire needs a small sealant — so it’s nice to not have to pay for that.  But no cleaning was done like in America — semi-annual exams and cleanings are covered by our current dental plans in America through the military, just not the dental work (which can be pretty costly).  But here, dental cleanings are considered “extra” and are only done through private dentists for which you pay out of pocket.  So I don’t know which I prefer, but there it is, another difference 🙂

So, speaking of differences, there are many that I hadn’t expected between the US and here and also between the mainland US and Hawaii.  When we return to the Mainland next month there are quite a few things to which I look forward, so here’s a list of ten in honor of the Birthday of my awesome country in no particular order  🙂

Special thanks to my friend Katie Shanahan Schneider who brought these shirts for us when she came over to England last month!

Top Ten Things I’m Looking Forward to about the U.S.

1. I would be amiss were I not to mention the food first – in both the stores and the restaurants – just to name a few…Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, GOOD MEXICAN FOOD, Waffle House, Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fa-la, Panera, and then the foods we regularly buy that I can sometimes find in the US Commissary here, but not always (things I can’t get here – Raisinets, Dark Chocolate Chex Mix, nitrate-free lunch meats – maybe available at a higher price in British higher-end stores but normally super cheap at the commissary, more organic cereal and cracker selections, organic produce at the commissary for less money, Costco favorites, more selection of everything really.)  Some foods are missing entirely from this island — great American donuts (they do have some Krispy Kremes at rest stops on the motorway – not my favorite if they’re not heated, but better than nothing, albeit almost completely inaccessible in every day life), BISCUITS (the southern kind like what you get at Cracker Barrel or KFC), decent Mexican food of course, decent hamburgers.)

2. This one is a double-edged sword — I miss the plethora of fast food restaurants that surround everywhere we seem to be stationed.  You can’t go a mile without at least one place to stop.  The only time I really lament this here is when I’m on my way back from the hospital, usually returning in a hurry to get back to the babysitter, and usually starving.  I always think that were this the US there’d be at least three choices for drive-thru places that I could have stopped at in the 5 miles between my house and the hospital.  The thing is, when we first got here we were pretty happy about this fact because it makes us eat healthier by usually having to always prepare food at home.  Even when there are places to stop, very few are drive-thrus, and with five children in the car, or very far along in the pregnancy, I don’t want to get everyone out of the van, or even myself out of the van.  There are very few Starbucks around, too, something I miss, but probably something good for me as well!

3. Favorite clothing stores – Motherhood Maternity, Gymboree, American Eagle, to name a few 🙂

4. Driving is just a bit more relaxed in the US (although, personally, I like all the roundabouts here) — seems like in places where we are stationed the roads are better lit and wider usually…and there are normally  multiple ways to get places (different from Hawaii where the traffic was horrible, and often you just couldn’t go some places at certain times of the day – I am sure the traffic is awful in other places as well – like DC – but we’re not going there as far as I know :))

5. Usually when we are around the military, we are around people who line up more with our particular political and moral views on life, and over here, I would say that our views are pretty radical, even compared to those in their armed forces.  It will be nice to not be surrounded by people who have only had the American media to tell them the “truth” and have made their judgments about our country and  its leaders based on that.  The people we regularly hang out with, though, which is not really that regular since we mostly only see them on Sunday, are pretty like-minded to us, but the regular British populace  around town and at John’s school is pretty different from us.  It was the same in Hawaii, though, where everyone except the military was pretty liberal, so I’m used to it by now.  It just gets annoying when people assume that everyone in the US thinks that way, when actually, an entire half of our population thinks like we do.  I’m tired of being in the very small minority.  You’d never know that by reading or listening to American media sources, but if you look at election results and voting on issues all over the country, it becomes plain that the country is pretty evenly balanced in its beliefs, and we are not all that strange for being so conservative.

6. Speaking of who we are surrounded by — we live in a bit of a rural area, and we don’t really hang out with anyone.  Our church is 45 minutes away,an hour and fifteen minutes sometimes in bad traffic, so most of the people we “know” live too far away to really get together that often.  Especially since I’ve been pregnant – sick at first, then okay, now huge and ready to deliver – it’s been tougher to hang out with people.  It will be nice to be back around more people – friends for us and for the kids – I think without all the visitors from overseas we’ve had it would have been a pretty lonely year!

7. Being closer to family and friends – since even in Hawaii everyone was many time zones and a trans-oceanic flight with bunches of small children away from us.  It will be SO NICE to be able to hop in our giant vehicle and to drive to see family and friends – even if it’s all the way up the coast from us (14-15 hours driving) or halfway across the country (to Texas, or Michigan from the East Coast), or all the way across the country from coast to coast.  Epic road trips are a part of our being now with all these children, and we’ve continued to do them here in the UK to sightsee, so we’re all geared up for them to visit all our loved ones 🙂

8. Speaking of road trips – I can’t wait to get back into a more comfortable large vehicle!! We are very thankful for the one we were able to buy here – our 9 passenger VW Caravelle with a long wheel base so we can actually carry things for 9 people (unlike most people here whose card have NO space in them), but there is something to be said for a few modern luxuries.  Like seats that recline (even our front split bench doesn’t recline at all), a front passenger seat that moves forward and back (I mean, I’m not asking for leather or heated seats here – just practical things that make it easier for someone to sit in the car longer than an hour!), reasonable cup holders, a CD player or a place to plug in an MP3 player (just have a tapedeck now, which doesn’t do a lot for us in supplementing the crappy radio stations), air conditioning, shoulder belts in every seat, and I could go on…

9. An American kitchen (I generally like the “open layouts” in the homes there as well, but in a 300 year old home like what we are in now, I knew not to expect that, and I’m grateful for the chance we had to live in this neat old place.)  In case I have any British readers who haven’t seen a typical American kitchen in a single family home (I can’t speak to apartment dwellers, since I’ve never lived in one, but I’m just comparing apples to apples here), well, go online and check one out.  Or, better yet, don’t. It will just make you sad if you’re someone who likes to cook and loves to have company in the kitchen.  What’s different in an American kitchen that I love so much? Oh my goodness. Where to start?? I like the double sinks, and the fact that they’re deep enough so that washing things with high pressure water won’t cause you to splash everything outside the sink – here, when I do splash everything outside the sink, the main thing in the splash zone is the dish strainer which takes up the other spot where your second sink should be.  Every British sink I’ve seen is like this – one shallow sink, one teenie middle sink with a food catcher (because there are no garbage disposals – another thing I miss) and then an area with ridges on it where you put your strainer for dishes to dry.  So try not to splash them!!!  I also miss the sprayer that is on a hose that we’ve had in every sink in America.

We are blessed enough to have a dishwasher, but most others don’t.  Next to our dishwasher is our washing machine.  Every home I’ve been in has the washing machine in the kitchen (taking up valuable cupboard space), and then of course the dryer isn’t in there, if they even have one. (We are thankful to have one provided for us by the US government which was delivered shortly after we arrived.)

Two other things under our counters taking up valuable space are the fridge and the freezer.  They are both tiny, and I of course have to bend down to get into them.

Again, we were given a more “modern” one by the government, and between them we are able to have most of the food we need around, but with our once-a-month trips to the commissary which is an hour away, it’s really hard putting all the groceries away.  Apparently most of the people here shop more frequently than we do, but that is just not practical with 5 kids at home and homeschooling.  It’s not a lifestyle that lends itself to frequent grocery store trips.  One last thing – not just particular to our old house but the same in every kitchen I’ve visited – is that the kitchen is tiny.  It’s like you’re meant to be sequestered in there all alone fixing food for people and family while they all chat in the other room.  And that’s no fun.

10.  Which leads me to the last thing I can think of – appliances/fixtures in the houses in general.  The TOILETS in America have more water in them and are shaped a bit differently.  Not going to explain why I like this, but let’s just say they stay cleaner and smell less, and they have some different flushing mechanism that even children can operate.  Not so here.  Also our dryer.  Which most people don’t have anyway (how they get their things dry in all this damp weather, I have no idea) so I’m just happy the government gave us one of these, too.  Ours here is a “condenser” dryer, meaning it doesn’t vent to the outside but collects the water in a tray underneath that you empty between loads.  Great idea because otherwise we couldn’t really have a dryer installed in this house with an external vent, but still, it’s annoying that it’s in the basement nowhere near my washing machine and that we have to empty it.  I know. Small thing, but I will appreciate SO MUCH having an American washer and drier, possibly located in a laundry room, when we get back.  When looking at real estate online here, I saw some homes with utility rooms just like that – and with more modern kitchens – but they were rare, and were often new construction even further out in the middle of nowhere or in really unattractive developments.  Now I’m ready to admit that I don’t care what the neighborhood looks like (coming here I didn’t want to live in the typical American looking cookie-cutter neighborhood, but now I don’t care.  I just want my modern conveniences!!)  I can’t wait to have a washing machine that also hold more clothes than what my children wear in one day and that doesn’t take 100 minutes for a load.  Our internet here is pretty bad, too, as is the cell phone reception.  Which leads me to my last “appliance” issue — my iphone!!  We weren’t able to use them here because you have to have a British iphone to use it (not just a matter of a sim card).  We also weren’t able to get on a contract here with a provider because we had no “credit” established in England (even though we had a bank account set up through the school ahead of time) and would only be here one year instead of two – so if we wanted to use iphones we would have to purchase them outright – and then they’d be British and not American.  Once you get used to an iphone, it’s really hard to go back.  Any time I want to upload pictures I have to take them on my camera and put them on the computer, when it used to be so easy to just snap it on the iphone and upload it.  We have some sort of HTC phones that are “smartphones” but the internet is so bad in the house that I can’t upload pictures from the phone very easily.  I usually have trouble anywhere else as well due to frequent poor cell reception.  I hate texting from it or emailing because there’s a button near the keyboard that keeps sending you back a screen that I often accidentally hit.  It’s just an overall annoying phone, and I can’t wait to get back to use an iphone again 🙂

Okay, so that’s my “ten best of the US” list – probably I could come up with some more, but I’ll leave it at that 🙂  Oh look! It’s been pouring all day and is now sort of blue outside and has stopped raining!  There’s even a sunny spot on the lawn! Yippee for July! Heeheehee



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