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Archive for May, 2012

Progress and Visits

I have been quiet here, because everything was in flux and I wanted to get some of the millions of filaments that were floating in the ether tied down before talking about them.  This post is VERY long.  I hope you like reading it anyway.  Or at least that you don’t yawn.

I went to Liverpool on May 12th, for a whirlwind trip of house hunting, school viewings, and city exploration.  DH was still working that week, although he did take off Tuesday for house viewings with me.  On Saturday, I arrived early in the morning and we spent the early part of the day letting me relax, shake off some of the jet-lag, and walked around the city center (Liverpool 1, or L1 – each area of the city is often described by its post code).  We grabbed a nice lunch, and enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t raining.  The Liverpool Hilton is really ideal for exploration of L1 – it is attached to the large walking mall, and everything you could possibly need is easily accessible.  I loved the waterfront.  They have done a fabulous job of cleaning up the old Albert Dock, and the vibe of the waterfront feels a lot like Chicago’s Navy Pier/Lakeshore Drive area to me.  The people were fabulous as well, friendly and helpful.  Essentially, it felt comfortable.  Like home.

The Liverpool/Chelsea game was going on that evening, and the city was vibrant.  We met a friend of DH’s from the Trust at a sportbar owned by Jamie Carriger (?) before heading to an Italian place for dinner. After a lovely lamb meal (I wasn’t feeling the pasta vibe), we hit all the clubs on Matthew street, including every version of the Cavern! The cavern is famous for being a Beatles venue, although the DJ they had there was fixated on spinning 70’s music instead, and keeping people from sitting on his stage.  I had my first taste of Magner’s pear cider, which is my new favorite cider.  DH was not kidding when he said people dress up there – every woman was in a dress, of the type we reserve for afternoon weddings or evening functions.  We had fun, the couple we met was lovely (M&M, I shall call them).

Sunday was spent recovering, and meeting some of DH’s other co-workers for dinner.  We went to a great place on the Albert Dock called Blue, at which I had another lamb dish which was even more fabulous.  Apparently, they know how to do lamb over there!  Despite the view out the window that we had of the waterfront and some of the ships, I was exhausted with jetlag and we called it a night early.

Monday is a haze.  I am pretty sure this is the day we first met Angela, for walking around city center and a delicious Thai lunch.  Overall very impressed with the quality of the food in L1.  Angela is FANTASTIC, and I am so glad to have been introduced to her through mutual friends.  It will be nice to have an instafriend in Liverpool.

Tuesday was the marathon day of house hunting.  We saw 4 houses and two schools that day.  After the tour of homes, one house really stood out for us as the perfect one- location, space, yard, ease of public transport, walking to our chosen school, walking to the “village” shops, etc.  We were pretty settled on this one place, but it did have some maintenance issues that needed to be addressed.  We had one more viewing on a similar place (on paper at least) set for the next day, but we were relatively in love with this place.

The school visits were scary.  The children will be advanced up to their “age level” rather than where they currently are in the U.S., their instructional level.  This will not be a big deal for Ben, as he’s at the level with the age level of his peers in the UK.  Craig and Kurt, who both have summer birthdays, fall into the grey zone and we had kept them one year back here in the US.  They just do not do that over there, for any reason.  After viewing the curriculum of the age levels and seeing the work quality in the classrooms, I was slightly nervous for Kurt, although I think ultimately he will be fine.  Craig, on the other hand – oh, the jump he’s expected to make!  I really was certain I’d have to homeschool him.

Wednesday, I went alone with our relocation agent to the other house, and for a second viewing on our preferred house.  The other house was ridiculous – plywood slabs for doors, and ragged carpets, and horrible cabinets/tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms.  It was in the same price range as our preferred house! No wonder he can’t rent or sell it.  It just hammered home how much I wanted the preferred house.  Luckily, we found out two days ago that we got our preferred house.  I introduce you to our home for the next year or two, Ashtor:

Pretentious little house.  I love her.

Craig’s schooling was still really nerve-wracking for me. I was certain he was going to be left behind in some way, and despite it meaning that my own education and career would be on hold I was preparing to homeschool him instead of putting him into a system that would make him feel inadequate and give up.  But after we had our second viewing of Ashtor, our agent took me over to the secondary school that is resourced for children with Autism.

And I fell in love.

Parklands secondary school has apparently had its problems in the past.  In 2008 they were put under a monitoring by the education trust (I hope I am getting the lingo correct!).  Since then, however, they have transitioned from an unsatisfactory school to a satisfactory school, and in 2011 had the highest scores in the history of the school.  They’ve also done some interesting things with community service, and some of their academic teams have been beating the pants off other schools in Liverpool.  But what sold me on this place was the way they work with children with Autism. The school follows the national curriculum and their students are mostly typical – there are only 26 slots resourced for Autism.  The school is fully inclusive – every accommodation done for children with Autism is done for ALL students: Visual Schedules, Daily Planners, Sensory therapy, etc.  The layout of the physical property is perfect for children with autism – the flow is Functional and Logical and makes COMPLETE sense.  It is clean, modern, and secure.  There are computer classrooms in each pod that are amazing compared to what we have in the states.  The classroom sizes are 17-2 ratio, with the head teacher and the resource aide.  They have fully planned life skills and social skills instruction IN THE CURRICULUM.  They’ve done what I am planning to do with my school when I open it.  It is FANTASTIC.

Some of the people who live here in Liverpool were concerned when I told them which school I picked for Craig.  Apparently this is the “bad” part of town. I have to say, they’ve never seen the ‘hood.  Their points of reference are skewed. 😉  Poverty over there equals the bad part of town; over here, you have to hit the gun  violence and rape spectrum to get that distinction.

Wednesday evening, we went to the Pump House with Angela and Jillian.  I can only say this: It’s a small, small world.

Thursday I had to myself!  I spent a fabulous day walking all over Liverpool in the rain, had lunch (lamb!) at a Moroccan restaurant, did some shopping, had some English Toffee, and generally enjoyed myself.  Thursday night we went to the Wirral to see M&M and meet their kids (so cute!) and see how close to the ocean they are.  I am definitely spending some summer days over there.

Friday morning, I flew back to my boys.  I missed them incredibly, but they had been spoiled silly by Grandma and weren’t so distraught about our separation.

I just wrote as much as I do on my papers, but it took much less time.

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