Living in America 2013

(381 Posts)
smartieknickers Wed 30-Jan-13 22:31:40

Howdy y'all! I was a long time lurker on the Living in America 2012 thread and in the spirit of my new year's resolution to 'get involved in more stuff' I thought I'd start a new thread, what with it being a month into 2013 and all that... So who's with me? grin

Link to previous thread

Brief introduction: I initially moved from Scotland to Houston, TX with my DH and DS (now 2) in 2011, but we moved to Dallas in September last year. We never really felt quite at home in Houston but for some reason we really like life in Dallas, even though it's pretty similar in a lot of ways. We have just today finally dispatched with the last of our Christmas visitors (we've had parents and in-laws here back-to-back for 5 solid weeks!!) so I'm feeling like I deserve a large wine and a medal

Want2bSupermum Fri 27-Dec-13 04:01:52

We had the option to have one and decided against it. For having a proper extractor fan it would have been $700 against $100 for one in the pantry. You can get them cheaper but they recycle the air so I don't consider them extractors. Very happy with our decision as DD spends every morning watching her breakfast warm up. From a space saving perspective they can't be beat.

soundevenfruity Tue 24-Dec-13 13:08:39

Thank you, peppermint. I will check what's available in UK.

PeppermintBark Mon 23-Dec-13 02:09:04

we had one in a house we rented, but I don't recall it being amazing. I don't know if they are vented to the outside, or just have charcoal filters in. I would think that if they aren't vented to the outside, they're not going to be fantastic, but it would be better than nothing. We currently have a hob with integral extractor fans and I don't like that as much as the traditional hood. Sorry not to be of more help.

soundevenfruity Sun 22-Dec-13 12:09:08

Sorry for butting in but I am trying to find out about such American curiosity as integrated microwave with extractor fan. It would be an ideal space-saving solution and Americans seem to like them but I wonder how practical it is. Has anybody had any experience? Many thanks.

Want2bSupermum Fri 20-Dec-13 20:55:27

You are a better woman than me! Happy to hear you got your belongings in time for Christmas.

wentshopping Fri 20-Dec-13 03:17:20

Yay Roselau - time to do some nesting now!

Roselau Wed 18-Dec-13 20:39:44

Yippee the shipment finally arrived today!!! baby is not here yet so I'm trying to do as much as I can.

Roselau Thu 12-Dec-13 18:20:04

want2b sorry for the late reply. thanks for thinking of me! well the container has arrived in LA on nov 29th but not yet cleared customs sad we've played the preggo card etc. but they say nothing they can do. anyways I have chilled out about it. we have everything we need. still hoping it arrives before the baby but i'm focusing on the idea of having to give birth first and foremost and trying to not let other things frustrate me.
I'm due in 9 days. want to bet the day they come deliver, I go into labour?
hope everyone else is doing well. xx

Want2bSupermum Wed 04-Dec-13 00:27:23

Rose I was thinking about you on Friday. Hope your container has cleared customs.

homeworkmakesmemad Mon 18-Nov-13 16:19:50

Thank you all!

Haven't spotted flip flops and socks yet but disappointed the weather has turned humid again ... Really enjoyed a week of boot and jumper wearing!

Homework the key to living in Houston is your family's commute. We were lucky in that DH has been working here on and off for years (and for 3 months before we left Singapore) so he knew where all the traffic jams and short cuts were before we started looking for houses. Basically, any freeway journey in rush hour is going to take time, whether you are driving in or out of town.

We live geographically central in Houston (West University Place) and DH works in Post Oak, takes about 15 minutes on average door to door for him. DDs are at the British School which is just outside the 610 loop, to the north west. I can drive them there in 25- 30 minutes in rush hour. Sometimes it can take longer coming home (40 minutes) but I figured that I was driving up to 15 hours a week on the school run.

Now they take the bus, which is about 20 minutes as the bus stop is a couple of miles up the road (less than 10 minutes). It works really well for us but I understand your DCs are younger. Ours started age 4 and 8 but they had been taking the bus to school in Singapore since nursery (aged 3) anyway. It's the norm there and was a huge deal for me, putting my baby on a bus to go to school. We got used to it quickly and the kids loved it. However, the US seems a bit scarier in that respect, especially as the roads seem less safe and the drive involves 7 lanes of traffic. However, the drivers are safe, the kids are strapped in and I guess it's part of letting them have a little independence - they both love it btw.

Check out your neighbourhood and look on google maps for route times at specific times of day (ie if school starts at 8.20, google the route at 7.45 Houston time and you'll see what kind of journey you can expect).

The lights are going up everywhere, some beautiful ones in our neighbourhood too (ours are coming next week), anything else, just ask!

wentshopping Sat 16-Nov-13 05:50:57

I think a lot of people here don't have coats butterflies! Have you spotted flipflops and socks over the last couple of days? Supposed to be turning warm again now sad I have to admit I need to add a couple of minutes more to the getting ready for school routine when I have to squidge dd's arms into a sweatshirt too. (She's disabled so I have to dress her - phew its the weekend and I don't have to fight her legs into school trousers).
Butterflies - you're probably better placed than me to talk about a commute to school as you live inside the loop. With going to a local school, my dc have biked, walked and got the bus, but we could almost see the school from our old house. DD1 drives herself to school now - eek. You're right about it being an easy place to live.
Homework - are you going to look for a house with a pool? It is great in the summer.

kickassangel Sat 16-Nov-13 05:27:41

Someone upthread asked about containers clearing customs. We had a full container and it cleared within a week at New York. We were warned it could take longer, but I wonder if they give worst case scenario.

I hardly ever find these threads, but always get stupidly excited when someone mentions MI. Just waiting for the first proper snow now.

Didn't realize this thread had moved on so much! Love the weather wentshopping, although having to load the kids up with mittens and tights after 5 years on the equator! Dd2 had never worn tights or gloves (or a coat!) before, a little shock to the system grin

Homework, we moved to houston in July so can't give you nearly as much advice as wentshopping but it's a good place to live. We have 2 dd at the British school but looked a t awty (they only had a place for one dd) and village school (both were offered places so maybe not so oversubscribed). We ended up at the british school as dh works centrally and we live inside the loop so it's a fairly good location for us. There are a lot of good schools around though.

You'll find a gazillion scots here in houston, and most expats have lived in houston whether they are Scottish or not! I'm fairly new here but settled quickly, it's a really easy place to live. Just reached the end of my driving license / work permit / social security red tape marathon which is a relief too!

wentshopping Fri 15-Nov-13 18:33:45

Oh good, I am glad you are getting a visit before deciding on everything - if your company pays for private, then go for it - ours didn't. It will also help you if all your kids are in the same school in terms of logistics - at one point I had three dc in 3 different schools - meaning lots of parent-teacher night and end of year activity logistical planning. Do test out the traffic, but ignore how full the carparks are at every shopping location - Christmas shopping is in full swing here!
One thing you have to do is drive through one of the west Memorial neighbourhoods after 6pm, when it will be dark. They really like their Christmas lights on the houses smile. If I see a corker before your trip I will pm you!!
Oh and you might want to buy some uniform basics in the UK - they are pretty pricey here - I buy knee socks from M&S, for example.

homeworkmakesmemad Fri 15-Nov-13 17:38:17

You are a star shopping - thank you for all this info.

We are only looking at private schools, mainly because my Dh's company pays for it and we think it is too good an opportunity to pass up - not just from an academic point of view, but also just the resources available to them. (I also like the idea of them still having some kind of uniform - stupid I know, but it makes it feel a little more normal to me!) We are actually really excited about Grace and we are still going to look at Faith West. We love the idea of a Christian school and the kids are keen on it too.

We're coming over for a recce first week in Dec so will hopefully get the school sorted then and be able to look at houses, although we know we might not be able to actually secure one that week as it will still be about 7-8 weeks until we actually move. It will be good for us to get a feel for the place though. Flights just booked today so kids are super excited and it's beginning to feel a little more real now!

wentshopping Fri 15-Nov-13 06:58:08

Firstly, HOV lanes - yes, you can use them with children in the back. (As I discovered when I was pulled over in the HOV lane - cop looked into the back of the car and waved me on!) However, from Cinco Ranch to Grace, I think you would use Westpark Tollway and Beltway feeder road (Sam Houston Parkway/Beltway 8 - this is all the same road, just has different names) - no HOV lanes, but there are tolls.
Have you looked at Royal Oaks for nearness to Grace School?
For me, that would be a long commute, two or four times a day - assuming your children all have the same start/finish time. You might find the little ones have a much shorter day.
Yorkshire is actually on Memorial Drive (walking distance from my kids' old elementary school). That bit of Memorial Drive is going to start roadworks in the next year or so, which will make school run hellish... for Yorkshire, and the state schools and the church Mothers Day Out (like playgroup/toddlers where you leave them) along there.
Are you only looking at private schools? Katy ISD and Spring Branch ISD are very good school districts, and the local school would be very comparable to Yorkshire, for example. I will pm you a bit more detail.
Have you been able to come over for a recce visit?

homeworkmakesmemad Thu 14-Nov-13 17:28:07

Thank you shopping The schools we are looking at are Grace school on Ella Lee Lane and Faith West in Katy. We looked at Awty but not massively keen on it and knew we'd struggle to get in anyway. We have also enquired about Yorkshire and Village, but have been told we are unlikely to get in as they are always full with waiting lists. At the minute Grace is looking the most likely, but we know we'd get more for our money housing-wise in Katy than Memorial. My DH thinks Cinco Ranch wouldn't be too bad for getting to Grace - do you know at all? Someone has said to me that with the HOV lanes things are a lot quicker - would I qualify with 4 kids in the car? Def high occupancy but not sure that's really what they mean by it. wink I wouldn't mind sending the oldest on the bus and maybe even my DD after the summer, but couldn't put my DTs on when they're only 3 (or 4 after the summer) - other people I know do it, but I just don't think I could!

PeppermintBark Thu 14-Nov-13 17:27:41

I think our cold front can trump your cold front grin. It didn't get above freezing on Monday here up in MI. warmed up a bit now, but my mood is not helped by DH travelling to places much hotter than here over the last three weeks - NC, FL and Brazil - and posting pics of sunny places on sodding Facebook.

wentshopping Thu 14-Nov-13 15:13:28

Get proof of no claims bonus to help ease the pain of car insurance premiums. It's so expensive.

Waves to Butterflies - how are you liking this Houston weather? Isn't it beautiful? We have a cold front, so it's not humid! Last night's cold should have killed off the mosquitos!

Went to see my new house, and the kitchen is in!!! Woo hoo!

wentshopping Thu 14-Nov-13 15:07:52

I live in west Memorial smile
Immunisations. Do them now - there are required Texas state ones, and I assume private schools are bound by this.. if they are so bound by the grade level thing. The last thing you want to be doing is getting here, scrabbling round to find a doctor, and proof of insurance so that you can get the shots done. Some are a course of three - get the first one done now. (HepA/men C??)
I can recommend good paediatrician, excellent paediatric dentist.
People get to work very early here - to miss the traffic... but if you are based in energy corridor, those locations should be 20-30 mins at worst. Rents should be cheaper in Katy/Cinco Ranch as Memorial has high local taxes for Spring Branch ISD - my local school district. All great places to live.
Often there is a school bus with a central pick up point for these private schools. I wonder if Awty is one of your choices. If you live Katy, Eldridge etc, then Awty is going to give you a lot of time sitting on the freeway in traffic. If you live close to Awty (more expensive end of Memorial Drive) then your DH will sit in the traffic. On the plus side it's right next to Ikea smile

homeworkmakesmemad Thu 14-Nov-13 14:52:01

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!!! This is exactly the kind of info I need to back up our case!

The British School have said they would put her into 1st Grade, but have no space for her - helpful wink Interestingly they would also move my DS up a year. He is in P4 here in Scotland, but as his birthday is in March he would be a year ahead everywhere else in the UK and as they are based on the English system they would put him ahead. I understand all the differences between equivalent year groups in the UK and different cut-off dates etc but the people we're speaking to just seem so confused by it all!

So far we have 1 school confirmed with spaces for all 4 kids and it is the one which will consider putting DD into 1st Grade so hoping we can secure places there and get it all sorted out. Just stuffed about a million envelopes with different forms their current school need to fill out so have put in the teacher recommendation forms for her as if she was going into 1st Grade as it is much more relevant to where she is actually at.

At the minute we're looking at Katy (probably around Cinco Ranch), Memorial and Lakes on Eldridge. Dh will be working on the energy corridor and school we're hoping for is in Memorial (I think!) so hoping for not too long a commute to school and work. (we currently have a 60second walk to school!)

wentshopping Wed 13-Nov-13 23:32:42

ps, just googled TEA (Texas Education Agency) age to start school, and it sent me to a pdf "Frequently asked questions about Kindergarten"
qu 15 Can a 5 year old child be assigned to first grade? Answer = Yes, if they have already completed Kindergarten in another state - so I think your educational advisor is wrong - sorry I couldn't copy/paste it as it wasn't a webpage - maybe this shortcut will work?
www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CD8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tea.state.tx.us%2FWorkArea%2FDownloadAsset.aspx%3Fid%3D5921&ei=wwmEUq6-E9S_kQeV84GwBg&usg=AFQjCNE-97vVwvi7MIKyKzqboCmCmT1lIQ&sig2=42wuezi-vYbIB5WRqZVLkw

wentshopping Wed 13-Nov-13 23:20:46

Hi homework - I'm in Houston. We moved here many years ago, but dd1 was in P1 (also moved from Scotland), and she finished that school year in K, and moved on into 1st grade. It's my understanding that you start 1st grade at age 6, so you have to be 6 on Sept 1st - is that where the difference is coming about? I agree if she is in p2, she might find K a bit boring. Can you explain to them that Scotland has a different cut off date? (it used to be March when we lived there). I do know of a child who was placed a year ahead - not an expat, just a regular kid - in our local state school - I don't know anything about private schools here. I also have a September dd, who is usually the oldest in her class.
Since mine were in early years, the curriculum has changed a lot - not much playing, more "discovering", early reading, individual worksheets, working in "centers" etc - eg when dd2 was in K they had afternoon naps, but that had disappeared by the time dd3 was there, as they had work to get through.
Do you know where you will be living?
Good luck with your move and feel free to pm me with any questions.

PeppermintBark Wed 13-Nov-13 22:07:19

No, we are not in Texas. KY first posting, MI now.

Sounds like Texas state law, in regards to this, sucks.

You could try posting on www.Britishexpats.com to see if anyone there has anything to add. I haven't used the site for ages, but from what I recall there were a lot of Texas based posters.

Good luck with sorting out your relocation!

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