My Path to Dual Nationality

Flash back to 6 years ago and I was a girl with a dream of going to England and a 10 year plan to make it happen. I needed that time to save up for the fabulous, extravagant, dream vacation in London that I’d always fantasized about.

Now skip forward to present day and I am officially a BRITISH CITIZEN!! What? Someone pinch me, that surely can’t be real. Okay, don’t pinch me, it’s real. I have the certificate to prove it!

Officially, I am a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Unofficially, I am a very lucky girl! One country was my home for 23 years, it’s where I was born, where my family lives, all of my childhood and teenage memories belong to that country, it’s the place I can always call home, where I love to visit and am happy to claim as my heritage. The other country is the place where I found my first and true love, my new and future home, where I was married, where I gave birth to my beautiful babies, and where I learned things about myself, both good and bad, that I hadn’t known before.

I’ve had a very love/hate relationship with England. I’ve learned from my newly found fellow expat friends that my experience is a fairly common one. I started out with a very romantic and fanciful love of England; it felt like a permanent vacation. That love quickly turned into despair and bitterness that unfortunately lasted for quite awhile as I was missing home and all the things familiar to me. There was this moment of awakening for me where I realized that I had been living as a visitor the whole time I’d been here, rather than a resident. Changing that behavior was the key to happiness for me. And I’m pleased to now be at a place in my heart where I once again love this country, but this time it’s a realistic love. I love it for all of its beauty and its grit. I’m in the unique position of calling two countries home. For the rest of my life, no matter where I live or where I call home, I will always be missing another place. How blessed am I to have such a problem as that!

Fiancee visa: $860
Visa extension FLR (Stands for Further Leave to Remain): $952
Life in the UK test: $82
Visa extension ILR (Stands for Indefinite Leave to Remain): $1,769
2 Consular reports of births abroad: $200
2 UK minor passports: $151
2 US minor passports: $210
Citizenship application: $1,440
British adult passport: $120
Total: $5,784 (£3,510)

Security of knowing you won’t be separated from your spouse and forced to leave the country: PRICELESS!

In my entire journey to dual nationality, the final step of obtaining citizenship (not counting the cost) was probably the easiest one. In order to qualify for citizenship, I needed to be legally living in the country for 3 years (they have since changed that to 5 years) and I had to take a Life in the UK test, which I had previously completed as part of my ILR.  After then it was just a matter of filling out some paperwork and making a (very large) payment.

I got a letter about a month after my application to say that it had been approved. Next step was my citizenship ceremony! There was quite a large group of people obtaining citizenship at the ceremony. We all had to either swear an oath or make an affirmation of allegiance (difference being that an oath is swearing by God and an affirmation isn’t) and also say a pledge of loyalty. Then we were presented with our certificates of citizenship. Afterward they had cake and drinks for us and we had the opportunity to take photos.

The oath of allegiance I swore:

“I, Ashley Nicole Rayford, swear by almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.

The pledge of loyalty:

“I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”

I’ve been asked why it was important to me to become a British citizen. Honestly, it’s important to me because it’s the closest I can get to a guarantee that I won’t be separated from my husband. That’s the number one reason. Another reason is because my children are dual citizens of the US and the UK. None of us have any idea what the future holds, this whole experience has been great proof of that, and I want to have options and be able to live where my children settle if that’s my desire. The final reason? Because it’s awesome and I love this country!

photo 1

Chris and I after the ceremony. It’s hard to tell because it’s a selfie, but we took this photo in front of the fountain in Leicester ‘s Town Hall Square. This is the same fountain we posed in front of after our wedding. This town hall has seen our marriage, it’s where we registered the births of our babies, and it’s where I became a British citizen. It’s played a large part in our life together!

Being presented with my certificate of naturalisation by a local alderman.

Being presented with my certificate of naturalisation by a local alderman.

My certificate and the folder it was presented in, which includes the words for the oath and affirmation of allegiance as well as the pledge of loyalty. There's also a photo of the iconic water fountain in Town Hall Square.

My certificate (with important information blacked out) and the folder it was presented in, which includes the words for the oath and affirmation of allegiance as well as the pledge of loyalty. There’s also a photo of the iconic water fountain in Town Hall Square.

This feels a bit like I’m accepting an award, but I feel like I need to give thanks to some people here. Thank you to fellow Three Ladies author, Stephany, for coming to take care of our kids while we attended the ceremony and also getting a cake to celebrate with us when we got home!

Thank you to my parents, not only for all the financial assistance you’ve provided in this journey and for spending so much time and money to come see us since I’ve moved so far away, but also for being amazingly supportive and essentially being the ones to make this dream of meeting my “friend,” Chris, a reality. If it weren’t for you two, I fear we’d still be Skyping each day for hours on end, and instead we’ve got a wonderful life together!

And finally, thank you to Chris. He has dealt with more tears and heartache from me than any person should ever have to deal with. He has had to hear me say awful things about his home country when I’ve been down in the dumps. He had to fill out all the visa paperwork with the exception of the first fiancee visa because it was just too much of a headache for me. And he has never showed the slightest bit of annoyance at any of that and has always been my number one source of comfort when I’ve been down. You are amazingly supportive, loving, and caring and I’m so glad to be a British citizen and spend my life with you, wherever it may be! Love you baby! 🙂

Everything’s Just a Little Different

As you all know, we’ve recently moved from our home in Texas to live in England for a few years.  When Colin got the job offer and we were discussing whether to take it, our children, of course, played a huge role in the conversation.  How would it affect them?  Would they easily adapt to all of the changes?  Would they have a hard time with their new home? I have to tell you in all honesty, they are now helping me with the adjustment without even knowing what they’re doing.

My boys are only 1 and 3, so I can only speak to this young age group.  We haven’t had to deal with older children who are leaving lifelong friends or high school sweethearts behind and I imagine that could result in a totally different outcome.  I must say, though, that I am astounded by how well they’ve done.  Ian, the three year old, has had a lot of questions, and they began as soon as we got off the plane and into our taxi.  He noticed immediately that the driver was sitting on the “wrong” side of the car.  Then it was the double decker buses, the fact that we were living in an apartment, and why his favorite shows weren’t on TV.  The one year old has been absolutely enthralled with little things, like the switches on the electrical outlets and the fact that the washer is in the kitchen, right where he can reach it!  But you know what?  They’ve easily accepted all of the change.

I think it’s easy to forget how set we adults are in our own ways.  While I’m struggling with finding cheese and BBQ sauce that suit my taste buds, my boys are chowing down without question.  I’m still trying to get my normal bedtime lined back out and dealing with exhaustion throughout the day, and they adjusted after the first few days.  It is absolutely astounding how adaptable youngsters can be.  That first day, after noticing so many odd sights around him, Ian kept asking the age old question of “Why?”  I responded by explaining to him that we are on a fun, new adventure in a different country and that “Everything’s just a little different here.”  It has become our family motto and gets tossed about daily.  And lately, he has started noticing all of the similarities between our hold home and our new, like the fact that there are horses in England, just like we used to see in Texas.  🙂

We are a very routine oriented family.  Our schedules might be flexible, but our routines are typically not.  Lunchtime might get pushed to 1 instead of noon, but nap time must follow; that kind of thing.  They’ve held on tightly to their routines and treated everything as normally as possible.  In short, they’re doing great in their new home and are even appreciating the little things that make living here different, but wonderful.  They both get terribly excited when I get the stroller out in the middle of the day to walk to the grocery store and they love watching the magpies out our living room window.  It’s these little things that have helped to keep me grounded and remind me that there’s so much to see and do, and that while, “everything’s just a little different,” it’s also a fun world full of new and exciting details to take in.  It’s also a reminder that no matter how far from home we are, or how different things get, as long as we have each other everything is A-okay!

Friday Funnies

I’m about to be brutally honest. I have writers block and a lot of laundry calling my name. I’m in the beginning stages of preparing my home to be put on the market so I’m cleaning up and throwing things out. In all honesty, getting my house sale ready is consuming my thoughts.  As I’ve sat here in front of the computer thinking of something to share with you I keep coming up empty handed. So, I decided to provide you with a few laughs. Who couldn’t use that, right!?


And Now:










funny mom comic 3



I hope you enjoyed! Have a great weekend!

Book Review for I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban


Google Books summary for I Am Malala:

“When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. 

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.”

I recently read this book after seeing Malala Yousafzai on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Her story was so incredible just from the short interview on there that I knew I had to read the book. I was not disappointed.

I Am Malala starts out with the dramatic day that Malala was shot and the shooting itself. It then skips back in time and tells us the story of Malala’s family from before she was born. I found it all very fascinating, learning different things about her village in Pakistan and the struggles they’ve gone through. She dealt with things on a daily basis that I can’t even imagine. Osama Bin Laden even hid out in her tiny village at one point, although she never saw him with her own eyes.

I Am Malala is a real eye opener of all the things we take for granted. Where I come from and where I live now, women don’t have to cover their faces. They don’t have to have a man accompany them everywhere they go. They don’t have to guard what they say because there’s no such thing as freedom of speech for them. They don’t have to fight for the right to have an education just because they’re female.

Malala is an incredibly courageous young woman and her story is one that needs to be heard. Run, don’t walk, to your local library  or book store and read this book.

My Goal for Me in 2014


I’m not one for New Year resolutions and frankly, life has been so busy lately that I really didn’t have time to put a lot of thought into one this year.  However, with a new year, there is always a desire in me to start something new; to really make some positive things happen in the upcoming year.  This year, like many, my goal for the year is to get healthier.  I don’t know if it has been the constant food binge of the holidays or all of the uncertainty and instability in my day-to-day life of late, but I definitely need to work on things.  So this year, my health is my goal.

I have struggled with my weight my entire life.  I don’t remember a time when it wasn’t an issue for me.  I’ve lost a little, gained, lost a little, and gained since I first became aware of my weight in the third grade.  I was able to keep it in check through most of high school, largely through starvation dieting.  Healthy, right?  Toward the end of college, I put on quite a bit and knew something had to be done.  So the spring after I graduated and before law school started in the fall, I joined Weight Watchers and lost 62 pounds.  It was a great experience for me.  My confidence was higher, I slept better, and I was happy.  I even met my goal weight and managed to keep it off through most of law school.  Since then, however, I have acquired a husband, two wonderful little boys, and a much, much busier lifestyle that does not necessarily cater to my own needs.  I have also gained all (and a little more) of the weight back.  So again, something must be done.

The primary objective this time is my health, rather than my looks.  I have a 3 year old and 1 year old and within the next few years, we would like to add number three to the mix.  It isn’t possible for me right now, though.  As most moms, I have very little time for myself.  If I get to read a book for 30 minutes before I crash at night, I feel as if I’ve done something.  I’m not complaining, as I feel very blessed to be able to stay home with my little ones, but I know I need to change this.  There is no way I can go into a third pregnancy with the weight still on.  It’s time for a lifestyle change.  And since we’re already making huge changes in the Wier household and because a new year means new goals, today is the day to start changing.  Once we move out of the apartment we are currently in and into a new home, I plan to join Weight Watchers again.  Increased exercise is also part of the plan.  Although I spend very little time sitting down these days, it isn’t the same as actually devoting time to working out.   Just as importantly, my goal is to set aside at least an hour a day for myself; just to recharge my own batteries.

I know New Year’s resolutions and goals aren’t for everyone, but if you are planning something similar for 2014, I would love to hear from you.  Maybe we can offer each other some support and encouragement along the way.  Even if losing weight isn’t your aim, please share.  Happy New Year everyone! (Hey, I’ve been busy over the last few weeks!)  Here’s to a healthier 2014!

Motherhood: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly


I had a very rough mommy day yesterday. There’s no other way to say it. In fact the past few days have been a little rough in my home. My daughter is going through a phase (oh man, I REALLY hope it’s just a phase) of extreme whining. She’s trying her limits and really wants to be able to get the things she wants from whining. It starts as a low whine and then builds to a full on tantrum. I know all kids do this, she is not abnormal, but I am working diligently to teach her there are better ways to get what her heart desires. This is a struggle for me. My patience is wearing thin. I’ve wanted to snap. And you know what? That’s ok!

I recently received an unexpected Facebook message from a friend I’ve had since I was a teenager. In the message she thanked me for sharing both the good and the bad parts of my parenting journey on Facebook. She said that she is often bothered by how people only ever post about their good times, making it appear as though their lives are perfect. This message came as a result of a picture I posted of my 16 month old daughter with the ring to her toilet around her head. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness, but it also made me think; all too often we are afraid to say that we don’t have it all together. If we admit that our children are driving us crazy then we must not be thankful enough for them. Wrong! Our children drive us mad because we do care so much for them. We wouldn’t even be bothered by their antics if we didn’t love them so. Anyway, as a result of that message I’ve decided to share a short list of the things that aren’t perfect in my house and these are all just within the last week.

  • One day I had to clean poop out of the floor…… twice! Yes we have two dogs, no they weren’t to blame.
  •  I’ve cleaned up at least 10 puddles of pee in the past week. You’re judging me aren’t you? Ok stop! We’re working on learning to use the potty here!
  • Yesterday baby refused to nap. After two failed napping attempts she fell asleep in my arms. While I should have stared at her cherubic little face and breathed in her smell, I sat and cried because holding her through her nap meant I’d missed my only opportunity for a shower until her Daddy came home.
  • Since my patience is wearing thin, I’ve had to stop myself from shouting at baby more than once this week.
  •  Yesterday I strapped baby in her car seat and went for a drive. I needed out of the house as the walls were closing in. I ended up at McDonald’s and ate my emotions instead of dealing with them.
  • There’s barely a spare inch of carpet visible in our play room right now. It’s a wreck. And cleaning it up feels pointless because for every one thing I pick up, another gets pulled out.

Do these things make me a bad mom? I really sincerely hope not. Instead I think these things make me real. My life is not even close to perfect. Parenting is hard work! It’s a learning process. It’s ok to have bad days, it’s ok to go for a drive and eat garbage every now again. Why is it ok? Because we are real people with real limits. Becoming frustrated with our children doesn’t lessen our love for them. Becoming annoyed with our children doesn’t make us less thankful for them. We live in a world with high expectations. I think people need to hear that we are all struggling. We all have “cleaning poop off the floor for the second time” days. In my opinion, I think that’s why God made kids so darn cute. Their sweet little cheeks and giggly sounds soften us even on the hardest of days. So don’t be so hard on yourself. If you love your kids and they know it, then you’re doing a good job already! And lastly, when you catch yourself crying because all you want to do is take a shower, remember you are one of a billion smelly mamas before you who have shed tears over the very same thing.

A Review of Dell’s Customer Service

Hi there dear readers! I hope you all had a fabulous new year. I’m terribly sorry to bring you such a long, boring update fresh after the holidays, but I’m hoping this will be helpful to anyone in the market for a new computer.


Do you remember my post about Larry Laptop and all the trouble he was having? If not, you can read it here. In short, I bought a Dell Inspiron 3520 in December of 2012 and in less than a year, I had four faulty hard drives and also a motherboard replaced. They finally decided to give me a new computer in place of my old one because my laptop was still under warranty. I want to provide a timeline here of my recent experience as well as the way I was treated.

October 29: Called Dell with my latest problem (hard drive crashed). After much discussion, it was decided they would replace my laptop. I was asked if I wanted to upgrade for extra money or get a like for like replacement. After opting for the like for like replacement, I was told that they actually no longer make that type of laptop, so they’ll be upgrading me at no extra cost.

November 1: An empty Dell box was delivered to me. I was under the impression that they would be collecting my broken laptop on this day. I emailed the account manager in charge of my case to ask about the empty box and received no response.

November 4: Someone came to collect my broken computer which was supposed to be put in the empty box. Nobody informed me that this was how the collection would take place.

November 12: I emailed the original account manager to ask why my computer had not been delivered yet as the original invoice had an ETA of November 8. Account manager emailed me back to say she would look into the delay and report back to me when she had the details.

November 15: Still no follow up from account manager despite daily emails from myself asking about the status of my order. I finally called Dell and spoke to someone else, only to be told that the order had been cancelled. No reason given as to why. I was assigned a case number and told that I would be dealing with a woman named Maria from now on and that she would be looking into my case to determine why the order was cancelled and to see about reinstating the order.

November 18: Received a call from a man at Dell whose name I didn’t get. He informed me that they were incredibly sorry for the delay, but my computer will be with me within the week, along with some add-ons to ensure that I am a happy customer. He gave no details of the add-ons, but I didn’t care. I was happy to hear I would have my computer shortly.

November 19: Received an email from Maria that said: “I just would like to let you know that I am still trying to request to have this order rebook. Rest assured that I prioritize this issue now. I will get back to you again to for the status of the new order.” Meanwhile, I received a new order invoice from the original account manager on this same day. I sent a reply to the original account manager asking why there was a new order invoice from her, since I knew Maria was still working on it and I did not receive a response. I emailed Maria about this issue and about the man I spoke to the previous day.

November 20: Maria replied via email: “Sorry about that. I was not able to notice that there is a new replacement order that was processed. We have an estimated delivery date of 4/12/2013 for this order but I am now working with our Manufacturing team to see if they can speed up the order for you. I will get back to you again for further status.” Still no explanation for why the original order was cancelled and why a new order was placed with no apparent notification within Dell. Maria also had no record of the man who called me and that remains a mystery to this day.

November 21: I called Dell to try to speak with Maria about the status of my order and whether she was able to expedite it as she said she would try to do. I spoke to a very disrespectful man named Ken who said, among other things, that he could not connect me to Maria. I sent an email to the customer service complaint department about the rest of my experience with Ken:


My name is Ashley Rayford. I currently have a case open with your company, reference number (Removed reference number for this blog post). Maria has been handling my case and she has been very kind throughout the process. However, today I called to get an update on my case and I spoke to a man named Ken. 
I explained my situation to Ken and how I have been told that my replacement computer order has been placed and Maria told me she would work on expediting my order so it could be with me as soon as possible (this was after someone whose name I don’t know called me Monday and told me that the computer would be with me THIS week…turns out that was false information). Ken explained to me that they’ve already put a request for expedition in and that there is now nothing further they can do. He said I will have to wait for my computer to be built in China and then wait 7-10 days longer once it is shipped from China before I will receive it. I was not happy with that information, naturally, since I’ve already been waiting for 3 weeks to receive a replacement laptop for a faulty one I had before. The original order was cancelled with no notification or reason provided by yourselves. To be told that I’ll have to wait 1-2 weeks longer for my computer (which I need for my job), does not make me happy. What made me even less happy was the way Ken spoke to me. Ken spoke to me in a tone of voice that I felt would have been more appropriately used with a child. When I told him that I didn’t appreciate being spoken to that way, he apologized, but did nothing to change his tone or his attitude. I asked Ken if I could speak to a manager, at which point he told me, quite rudely, “A manager won’t tell you anything different than I’m telling you.” I told him that I didn’t care, I wanted to speak to a manager. He said, “There’s not one here.” I said, “You mean to tell me that there’s nobody there higher than you that I can speak to?” He said, “No.” All of this was said in a rude tone of voice. I finally told Ken that he could have Maria call me back because I was done talking to him, goodbye, and I promptly hung up the phone.
I called back a few minutes later and spoke to someone named Mia. She told me that unfortunately the information Ken gave me is correct and there’s nothing further they can do, but that they’ll keep me updated on the process. She was very kind about it and she even explained things further to me by saying that when Maria told me she would try to expedite my order, she meant she would try to expedite the manufacturing process, not the shipping process, which I was unaware of. 
You’re a large company and I think it’s a shame that someone as rude as Ken is dealing with your customers. I also think that the way this entire situation has been handled is appalling. I will not be buying Dell products in future, although I will be using this replacement computer that is owed to me until it no longer works. I’ve already purchased a further 2 year warranty for this computer before I found out how appalling the customer service could be. I’ve had plenty of experience with your technical support team and they have always been lovely and helpful. I can’t say the same about everyone handling this situation. 
I am a very unsatisfied customer, I will be sharing this experience with family & friends, as well as blogging about it at my personal blog which receives a high volume of traffic. I sincerely hope to receive my computer in the new time frame that’s been given to me. I also hope that customer service representatives like Ken will be trained properly in future to not be rude to customers who are just trying to find solutions to their problems.
Thank you,
Ashley RayfordNovember 22: I received this very short email response from the customer service complaint department:

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for sending us this detailed experience when you called our hotline and spoke to Ken. I want to assure you that all measures will be taken to correct the behavior and retrain if really necessary. Please be assured that Maria will continue to be in touch with you about the progress of your order.

 Kind regards,

 Hazel Teodoro
Care Manager | Dell Customer Service, UK and Ireland  

Also on November 22, I received another email from the original account manager which contained yet another invoice for a new computer. This is the third order since the beginning, and still I received no explanation as to why. I emailed Maria to query this. I received no response from Maria this day.

November 25: I received a call from a man named Paolo from Dell on behalf of Maria who was out of the office. He explained to me that my replacement order was cancelled, yet again. For the first time since all of this started, he finally explained to me why the original order was cancelled. The first time it was cancelled because they didn’t have the correct parts. Then the reinstated replacement order was for the same computer, and again, they didn’t have the correct parts. Apparently the missing part was an LCD screen that’s on back order and they didn’t know how long it would take to arrive. So they cancelled the reinstated replacement order and placed another order on November 22 for an upgraded version. I was told that this new order would be shipping from the factory in China the next day, but that they wouldn’t be able to provide me with an ETA until it arrives with the courier in the UK. I asked Paolo to please make sure my new address is on file as we moved to a new house in the middle of all of this confusion. This was the third time I requested the address change to be noted and he assured me it was in the system. He said that they can’t note the address change until the package has arrived in the UK with the courier, but that they would notify the courier ASAP.

November 26: I received this email from Maria:

I am happy to inform you that the order has shipped out today and is now in transit to the carrier. Since the package will be coming from China, this would take within 7-10 business day before it gets delivered to you. You might receive the order by next week but will let you know if there’s progress.

I will track the order to ensure that your order is delivered and I will contact you to verify if it was delivered in good condition.

Thank you for choosing Dell and have a good day.

November 28: I received a call from someone at Dell informing me the order will be with me the following week, either December 3 or December 4.

December 2: I emailed Maria to confirm the address change again.

December 3: Maria emailed me and assured me she would provide the courier with my new address. Later in the day I received an email from UKMail saying that the package would be delivered the next day.

December 4: I received an email from UKMail saying there was an unexpected delay in my order and they are unable to provide me with an ETA at this time.

December 6: Emailed Maria asking for an update. No response.

December 9: Sent Maria another email, this time a rather angry email, asking for an update. No response. Called Dell and spoke to someone named Richard. Richard called UKMail while I waited on the line to find out what the delay is. UKMail did not have my change of address. They said they will have to change the label on the package to reflect the new address and that this will take 1-2 business days. I expressed my displeasure to Richard and he apologized and said he would stay on top of it until I receive the computer, but it will take 1-2 business days for them to change the label and then another 1-2 business days for me to receive the package. Richard also supplied me with a tracking number. When I logged onto the website to look at the tracking number, I could see that they attempted delivery at my old address on December 5, despite numerous reminders from myself for the address to be changed.

December 10: Laptop was delivered.

As you can see, it’s been a long and stressful process. I have never experienced such horrible customer service in my life. The original order was place on October 29 and I didn’t receive it until December 10. Meanwhile, they wasted no time picking up my old computer. The same time I placed the replacement order, I also ordered a further 2 year warranty for the computer. I was told by the original account manager that all I needed to do to get it transferred to my new computer is email her with the service tag once I received it. I’m currently in the process of trying to make that happen. I have had no confirmation as of yet that it’s been done.

Please remember that Dell’s customer service department is different than their technical support. The technical support team have always been extremely prompt and helpful. Not so with the customer service department. I know this was a long post, but I wanted to get this out there for anyone who may be thinking of buying a laptop and is unsure what brand to purchase. I won’t tell you not to buy a Dell, I can only tell you my experience and let you decide for yourself.

Wier Family Update: We Made It!

Hi everybody!  We three ladies have been gone for a while with Christmas, New Years, and all the travelling we’ve done.  I hope you had the merriest and happiest of holiday seasons!  Here in the Wier family, we are definitely ringing in our new year with a bang.   We have made our move to England and are currently all set up in our furnished apartment in Oxford.  A lot of people have been asking how things are going for us, so today’s post is just an update on everything in our family.

Where to begin?  It’s been a crazy few weeks.  We moved out of our house in Texas in the middle of December and it was much more bittersweet than I had expected.  We had wonderful neighbors (seriously…the kind you get once in a lifetime) and after 2 ½ years, we had started to become part of the community.  After the movers came and took all of our things away, we loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies and headed to my Mom and Dad’s in Kentucky for a couple of weeks to celebrate Christmas and New Years.  It was the perfect stopping point.  We were able to spend time with our friends and family and it was incredibly relaxing after the weeks and weeks of move prep we had been doing.

January 1st was move day.  Declan woke us up at 5:30 that morning and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise since that’s when we got the notification that our first flight from Lexington to Chicago had been cancelled.  Colin quickly got on the phone and we were able to rebook flights from Charleston, WV to Washington DC to Heathrow.  It was a very long travel day, but I have to say that the boys both did great, considering how exhausted we all were.  Colin and I didn’t get much sleep on the flight over, but the boys slept the whole way.

We were picked up by a driver and arrived at our apartment in Oxford around 1:00 PM on the 2nd and spent the evening unpacking our eight suitcases and four carry-on bags.  We got more than a few odd stares in the airport, but were able to bring all of the boys’ Christmas gifts with us so that they would have plenty of toys to play with until all of our other things arrive at the end of January.


All of our luggage. 🙂


Colin squeezed in with all of the luggage on the way to our apartment.

After we all slept between 12-14 hours Thursday night, we woke up on Friday and the real fun started!  Colin picked up the rental car and successfully drove back to the apartment on the “wrong” side to pick us up.  Then it was off to the grocery store.  That was quite the experience.  Did you know that the shopping carts go sideways here?  In the US when you’re pushing your cart it goes forward and backward.  Here, the wheels pivot and you can push it sideways, even spinning it in circles if you’d like.  This is incredibly convenient, but it also means that it can get a little out of control if you aren’t careful.  I almost lost the cart twice on our first trip out.  It was difficult to find anything in the store as I’m not used to where things would be found on the shelves.  The eggs, for example, were not refrigerated.  This threw me, as I was looking for them in the refrigerated section.  When you’re checking out here, there is a cashier sitting behind the register.  She scans the food, but then you have to bag it yourself.  I had been warned of this in advance, but I wasn’t prepared to find only three bags on the counter.  I had $300 worth of groceries and three bags!  I had to act like the American that I am and ask the cashier what to do about the bags.  It turns out that as you use the bags on the counter, she reaches underneath and pulls out a few more for you.  Good to know!

After finishing up at the grocery store, we drove out to meet our estate agent (realtor) and view a house.  We were so pleasantly surprised.  The house was amazing. It was very large, with plenty of space and exactly what we needed.   However, it was 23 miles away from Colin’s work.  With gas prices being so expensive here ($9.58 per gallon as of this morning), that’s a long haul for Colin to drive everyday.  It is also a good possibility that there will be more houses built just behind the house while we’re living there, meaning lots of noise to contend with during construction.

Following that, we drove back to Headington, the part of Oxford where our apartment is located, and were able to set up our bank accounts.  I’ve heard over and over that this would be difficult since we don’t yet have a permanent address, but thankfully, it was not.  Within an hour, we were all set up and the boys had charmed all the ladies at the bank.

Saturday morning, Ashley came over with her family and we finally got to meet Chris!  That was really nice as we’ve felt like we’ve known him forever already.  They watched the boys for us while we went with the estate agent and viewed six more houses.  We found our number one pick and immediately put an offer on it.  It’s less than two miles from Colin’s work , a mile and a half from any shopping we could want, and two miles from what will hopefully be Ian’s school.  We are hoping to know something definite by this evening.  When we came home, the kids were all happily playing and Chris and Ashley didn’t seem to be pulling their hair out, so we all ordered pizza and hung out for a few hours.  It is so wonderful to have family nearby and was like bringing a piece of home to us.

Me and Ashley on Saturday.

Me and Ashley on Saturday.

On Sunday we drove into Oxford.  It is a beautiful, old city that dates back to 900 AD and is home to the world-renowned Oxford University.  We walked around the city for a bit and took some pictures and then headed back to the car to head off for a few more grocery items.  When we got home, we had a much needed lazy afternoon and I cooked a real supper for the first time in what seems like ages.


One of the many beautiful buildings in Oxford.


And another. Forgive the poor quality. A photographer I am not. 🙂

So here we are.  We’re all settled in and starting our new life in the UK.  Colin is back at work this morning and me and the boys are settled back into our daily routine.  It has been an exhausting month, really, and the relative normalcy is actually very welcome.  It will get crazy again when all of our belongings arrive and we move into a house, but for now, we are enjoying learning our way around and just being together.

Below are a few fun items I’ll throw at you from the perspective of a brand new expat.  🙂

Things I Have Found Funny/Didn’t Expect.

The thermostats in our apartment are found in every room.  Each room has a door, including the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, etc. so that you can set the heat for the rooms that you are using and you don’t have to worry as much about the other rooms.  The oddest thing, though, is that our thermostats range from 1 to 10.  We still aren’t sure what our “number” is.  I thought these numbers might be the temperature in Celsius, but that’s not it because the range would only be from about 34 to 50 degrees.  We’ve ended up turning them on about 2 in the main rooms and then sometimes opening a window to let more cool air in.  It’s so hard to get the temperature right!

Weird thermostat.

Weird thermostat.


The boys are completely enthralled with the outlets here.  Not only do they look different than what they’re used to, but they also have on/off switches on them.  Once you plug something in, you have to turn the outlet on.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught Declan playing with these switches.  I’m not sure if they are like that everywhere, or just in our apartment, but it’s a bit maddening!


The outlets.


A few notes on the bathrooms as we’ve been house hunting.  The master bathrooms are usually not very big and they have no storage in them.  I’m talking not even a medicine cabinet.  And a double vanity, which is standard in most new houses in my area of the US, is extremely rare.  The light switches to all of the bathrooms are outside the room and there are no electrical outlets in there either.  All of our toiletries and hair products are currently parked in a set of plastic drawers right outside the bathroom.  This is fine, but was definitely a bit of a shock when we got here!

Speed limits

Colin has been doing a great job with the driving.  He’s even gotten really good at the notorious round-abouts that are so difficult to figure out.  As we were driving home from viewing the house on Friday, however, we realized that we had a problem.  We had no clue what the speed limit was!  In the US, if you’re not sure, you can typically just keep driving and soon you’ll find a sign.  Not here!  We drove for miles and miles on what  we would consider a highway and never saw the speed limit!  We’ve since had Chris explain to us how it works.  Apparently, there are “national speed limits” on certain types of roads and if nothing is posted, that’s what you follow.  Good to know!

Most Annoying Thing

Laundry.  Hands down.  We have a very small washer/dryer in the kitchen.  I expected this and immediately started washing when we got here.  The dryer is kind of a joke and we have resorted to air drying everything.  It’s working, but it means that I am going to be ironing Colin’s clothes every day until we move into a new house and can figure out a different solution.  This is annoying, but I really expected it, and we’re living with it; just a minor inconvenience.  🙂

Best Thing So Far

The food!  I’m not talking about restaurant food.  Aside from ordering pizza (which was delicious), we haven’t eaten out yet.  I’m just talking about the groceries.  Plain old sandwich bread is SO much better here.  It tastes like someone baked a loaf of bread, sliced it, and just put it in a bag.  I love it to the point that I’m going to have to watch my intake.  The meats and cheeses are just as good.  It has all just been regular grocery store items that I would buy every week, but it tastes so fresh!

Okay.  That’s a very long post.  If you’ve stayed with me, I’m glad!  Next week’s post will be less rambling and a more fun topic, I’m sure.  I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Happy Holidays From Three Ladies and Their Babies

Hello, readers. It’s been a pretty great year for us Three Ladies. It’s had its ups and downs like most years do, but overall we’re all extremely blessed and thankful to live the lives we do. In celebration of that, we’ve decided to take a little time for ourselves and our families around the holidays. You won’t be seeing us here until after the New Year, but we plan to come back bigger and better than ever and we hope you’ll join us.

We’ll all be celebrating Christmas in our own special way this year. Stephany and Lisa will be together at their parents’ house with Stephany leaving for her new home in England soon after. Ashley will be celebrating with her family in England. So for now we want to say whoever you are, whatever you celebrate this time of year, and wherever you’ll be, we truly wish you the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year.

Here are a couple of fun Christmas links for you to enjoy in our absence. See you in 2014!


22 Crock Pot Christmas Recipes
(click the image to view)


38 Clever Last-Minute Christmas Hacks to Make Your Life Easier
(click the image to view)


Smoky Mountain Opry Christmas Show


This past weekend my husband and I had a little getaway. We left our daughter in the care of her grandparents and spent Saturday and Sunday in Pigeon Forge, TN. We’ve both been there numerous times in our lives and as such we usually end up feeling like we’ve already done it all and seen it all. So as we were wracking our brains for something Christmas themed to do, we passed a billboard advertising the Smoky Mountain Opry Christmas show. We felt pretty confident that the show would already be sold out, but just to be certain I called the ticket office and to our surprise they had two seats available for us.  So we purchased them on a hope and a prayer that it would actually be entertaining and worth the money.

It was! I absolutely recommend that anyone in the Smoky Mountain area visit this theater during the holiday season. From the second you drive up to the building you are greeted with the Christmas spirit all around. The grounds are decorated beautifully! There are giant evergreens covered in beautiful lights and a nativity scene set up in front of the entrance. Upon entering the building you are warmly greeted and they put extra effort into keeping the crowd occupied while waiting to enter the auditorium. The walls of the common area are lined with displays of country music memorabilia. Also, the particular night we were there they were showing off one of the big cats used in their regular shows. People could pet the cat and have a photo taken with it as a souvenir. In this same area is the concession bar where you can purchase various candies, popcorn, nachos, drinks and more. The concession items are rather pricey, but that just goes along with the territory of a show of this nature.

When the gates are open to enter the auditorium, each party is stopped to pose for a picture with either Santa Claus or Raggedy Ann and Andy. These pictures are brought out later in the show for purchase if you wish. Then you are ushered in to your seat. My only complaint of the entire show is that the seats are really small. You will be rubbing arms with the person next to you. In fact, my husband sat with his arm around me throughout the entire production in an effort not to be touching the person next to him. We are pretty average sized people, so this should not have been an issue.

Once the show starts it is fun from the very beginning. It begins with a laser light show and includes a juggling act, figure skating, tons of singing, dancing, comedy skits, and more. There is something for everyone in the show! The songs range from more classical Christmas carols to the fun and modern ones we hear more often now. There are constant costume and set changes. It would be impossible to get bored. I really appreciate that the producers of this show put such an effort into making the show a mix of Santa Claus and Jesus’ birth. There is a fun scene with Santa and his workshop that will bring out the child in any adult. Then, there is also a tear jerking scene of the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth that includes cast members flying out through the audience. It is beautiful!

I absolutely recommend that anyone see this show. It is well worth its price and is good clean fun for the whole family. I will certainly be seeing it again sometime. In fact, the Christmas show is such a treat, I’d like to see the regular show as well. If you’re thinking of seeing it, you can find a link to their site below.  If you’re looking for something fun to do, then check it out for sure. It would be virtually impossible to leave the show without feeling in the Christmas Spirit.