Geo – caching, our unknown adventure

A few weeks ago we had a whole day coming up with no work, school, social events or sporting activities. The weather was due to be good for the majority of this day so we wanted to get outdoors (After what has felt like a long Florida winter!)

Being one of the 1st hot days of the season we figured the normal sun spots would be crowded so I took to google to figure out a fun activity.

I came across geo caching as free family fun. Sounded perfect, if a little geeky. The kids confirmed they would love to do this after all 3 of them had apparently watched some kids doing it on kidsyoutube.

To start there is an app available to download that is pretty straight forward.

You can either use current location or search an area you’d like to explore. I looked down the east coast from the comfort of my sofa to choose an interesting route.

In the morning we packed a picnic and the kids all got note books to record their geocache findings. A 25 minute drive led us to our 1st planned cache.

Each cache has a location that you can navigate to via Google maps straight from the app. When you get closer you can navigate from the app to within a few feet.

Once your near the location click on the cache name.

From here you can read a description of the cache and also a ‘Hint’ if you need an extra clue to the location or description of what you are looking for.

Then simply press start and look! The activity log above helps to show if the cache is still up to date. If its been found recently there’s a good chance it will still be there. Also read some of the comments as they often give extra clues.

Once you’ve found your cache press the log button to say you’ve found it! This will mark a smiley face on your map so you know its completed.

The kids really enjoyed looking for the caches and it broke up the journey down to our final destination. It also took us to a few stops that we’ve previously just drove straight past (admired from the window).

The contents of the caches are nothing interesting so don’t expect real treasure! Most have a log to sign and a few little trinkets like McDonald’s toys. 1 of ours had a crust of bread 😂

I would say if you are doing this in florida look out as it often takes you into nature, yes really. This means possible snakes, gators etc. One of the caches we found we couldn’t actually look in as there was a snake on it!!

During spring break the kids and I will be looking for a few more caches with our free time. Leo even wants to hide his own – which I’ll have to figure out how to add.

To all my Brummie readers I checked the app and yes there are lots there too! Have fun exploring and finding “treasures” .


In England Valentine’s is a couple’s celebration. It’s not a holiday that traditionally involves the whole family. I certainly didn’t make a big deal of it with our kids anyway. Rob and I are not a big showy couple either though, a simple card and gift would be exchanged and we’d often chose a meal at home (Rob being the chef) over a restaurant.

The emphasis on couples with this holiday left me stressed and anxious through my teenage years. Would I get a card? Who from? Would my friends get cards? I did always get a card by the way, from my 1st love – my dad – every year ❤

Now over here Valentine’s is a big deal for the whole family, friends and neighbors. A day to show everyone they are loved and appreciated not just your partner. Hopefully this will make the kids teenage years a little easier!

It seems a big deal in England with cards, flowers, teddys and chocolates in every shop from January onwards. I’m here to tell you it’s nothing in comparison to the US!

Merchandise is out whilst Christmas is still being packed away. Lots and lots of merchandise!

Since moving over here we have started celebrating Valentine’s with the children. Honestly it feels like an unnecessary celebration but we can’t let our kids feel as though they’ve had no attention or acknowledgement from their parents. So although obviously we show them love all year long Valentine’s we go a little OTT for them.

$ tree (shop) for the win with this. Lots of little gifts the kids will love and doesn’t break the bank for me!

It’s tradition here to also exchange cards and token gifts with school friends. We were 1st tasked back in Feb 2017 to create boxes for the kids to take to school (to collect gifts) along with a gift for each child in their class. I’m not a pinterest mom (unless you count my fails 😂) so we do basic!

But as you can see they are generally done by the kids and they are always very proud of them!

The excitement after the annual school gift exchange is real! No tears that so and so got something and they didn’t – it’s everyone or no one! The kids like to sort through and look at each others goodies straight after school.

The Valentine’s stash gets us through until Easter at least, okay Halloween 😂 My poor sweet deprived kids!

Happy Valentine’s to you all ❤


Our 3 week England trip began 16th December 2018. We were travelling back to the UK to renew our current immigration visas. The kids schools longest break is the summer and by then the visas would have expired, so the Christmas break was the next best time to go, even though we were fully expecting to freeze! Happily we didn’t aside from a few frosty days at the end.

The kids had been on countdown for weeks beforehand, excitedly counting down the days each morning at breakfast. Talking about who they were going to see and where they’d be going.

The last few flights to the UK we’ve flown with Thomas Cook. As a budget airline they’re about all we can afford with a family of 5! Our flight out was full and we did see other expats heading back to blighty for the Christmas holidays. Flight was good, kids behaved great. All happily stared at various screens, ate some rubbish airplane food/ snacks then even squeezed a quick nap in!

( I do have a blog about travelling with a special needs child – )

Landing time was 6am so around 90 minutes later we were stood in the car park at Manchester airport. It was pitch black, cold and drizzling. Izzys first comment about the UK was “Does it ever get light here?”!

The first of many random comments and questions about England from the kids. Leo in particular struggled to remember much about England since he was so young when we left. He had a lot of opinions about where Rob and I grew up! It’s a strange feeling when your kids don’t see the place you grew up in the same way as you do. As ex Pat’s I suppose it’s to be expected, the same with our American friends who change state.

Arriving at our first stay the kids did remember exactly where the toy room was and took around 4 minutes to empty cupboards and cover the floor in legos! This was the state of play for the next 5 days.

It was rainy for a few days but the kids still went out playing in the woods and the playground. They watched films and baked with nana and spent hours playing with cousins round the house.

Whilst with Robs parents in Leeds we got to do 2 Christmas days and present exchanges. Food wise there was the traditional roast Christmas dinner and also a buffet style feast! Yummy.

We also took the kids to a panto as a Christmas present – Rock & roll Cinderella. Leo adored Cinderella and Poppy was a bit in love with Dandini. Izzy loved all the singing and dancing. They all got into the shouting and foolery of a pantomine!

Next was Birmingham, my hometown. First up elf the musical. Kids got to go on a train which was really way more exciting for the Florida kids than it should have been! Passenger trains aren’t around in our beach town though so was a kind of novelty for them.

We took the kids for a traditional English meal on Christmas eve – curry. They shared a huge naan with chicken curry and rice, all happily dug in.

Christmas day was spent at my parents with family. Lots of presents to open and food to eat. I actually took myself of for a jog around the woods to get some fresh air before dinner. The kids walked with nanny and explored in the trees and bushes without the fear of snakes or gators!

During our time in Birmingham the kids got to go to soft play – they only waited 18 months to go back to Funky Monkeys 😃, enjoyed the Lego discovery centre, the cinema and toured the old police lock up. They also rung in the new year at midnight for the first time – we paid for that the next day with a hangover and 3 grumpy kids. Back to fake 8pm new year for 2020!

Lots of English treats were ate – party rings were a favourite along with frazzles! Food was definitely a hit with the kids especially sausages and Heinz baked beans!

Whilst we were with family Rob and I took advantage of free babysitters. We got to visit London after the Visa interview, Bristol and Liverpool plus obviously a night out in Birmingham with friends. It was great to have some adult time and not worry about finding family friendly places or bedtime. We walked for miles exploring the cities (not looking for primark each time, honest), ate at posh restaurants, visited museums and lazed around hotels and cafes. We even had pretty good weather so didn’t freeze while out and about.

Overall we had a great trip. The kids are still talking about the fun they had with family. It’s funny to be going on our ‘big’ yearly holiday to our old houses but we need that dose of home every now and then.

Showing our kids there is a world outside of nocatee where sometimes houses are “stuck together” as leo says, not everyone has a garage or palm trees in their garden and there isn’t a gang of kids waiting to play in a cul de sac. We live in a bubble which we are extremely grateful for and happy but we don’t want it to spoil our kids.

Till next time England……

I’m Back!

So it’s been a while since I last blogged! The holiday season here in the US kept me busy for a good while and I started a new job!

I’m happy to say I have a cozy job round the corner in the Noc at a wine market and tasting room. I know many of you will be reading that and knowing how well suited I am to a job that involves wine 😄

The job is more than serving wine though, it’s about being part of a team, building relationships with guests, building my knowledge of wines and getting some time off from the kids 🤣 with the added bonus I can now afford to get my nails done on a regular basis again, yay!

Queue new Hill household routine. I love a good routine and I also even enjoy organising and planning the new routine 😀 Allocating days for laundry, food shop, cleaning and factoring in extra curricular activities, work, socialising and family time. The 1st few weeks are always hard to get into though, then throw in halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas with all the extra volunteering and commitments. Follow that up with a 3 week trip back to the UK and my poor blog got left behind.

Happy to say my routine is now under control (touch wood!) We are all working together to be a two parent working household. Showing the kids the benefits of mommy working has played a big part in the easy transition of spending solo time with daddy. We try on weekends to treat the kids to a meal or snack out, a new toy or game occassionally. The girls are cheerleading thanks to my wages and now Leo can also finally do an activity too, baseball (He’s eagerly waiting to start this next week!)

Since my work is evenings Rob and I are not with each other as much. Rather than this being a problem though it’s turned out to be a positive. The evenings I’m home are spent actually being with each other instead of absent mindedly scanning instagram and playing silly phone games on the sofa. A nice perk of the job is getting to enjoy a good bottle of wine together!

So I’m going to get the blog, instagram and facebook active again with a few things to look forward to in the coming months….

England trip recap

Valentines US style

Spartan! I crazily signed up for a spartan sprint – 5k with obstacles. Happening Feb 24th

Poppy’s birthday March 6th

Family trip to the California mountains in March

The PPP2r5d family conference in San Francisco also March

Happy reading and don’t forget to comment any feedback please!

Turkey Day

Hi, I have to blog about Thanksgiving now I’m living in the US! Its the start of the holiday season here.

Living in the UK I didn’t know much about thanksgiving. I’ve been in New York on the day, watched the Macys parade and shopped the black Friday deals. I didn’t take in much about the meaning, traditions or the food though.

My education on thanksgiving has come through Izzy and what she has learnt at school (honestly so far most of my American learning is through Izzy so primary school level!)

What Izzy and google didn’t teach me though is how everyone loves to celebrate Thanksgiving. The last 2 years we have spent the day with friends who have hosted and cooked for us. There’s no better way to spend an American holiday than being immersed in it with friends! So much food, drink and fun both years.

People travel for hours in the car or plane to be with family for Thanksgiving. It really is a holiday where everyone wants to be together. Friendsgiving is real here too, when you don’t have family you can be with, head to friends instead. They’re your chosen family anyway!

This year we are doing our own Thanksgiving! We’ve been invited to friends but I feel we’ve been so busy recently with me starting work, my trip to England and visitors we wanted to chill and be together. (Edit to add its been 5.5 hours of together and the kids driving me mad 😂)

I started off thinking we’d just have a normal day maybe chicken nuggets for the kids dinner but as I thought about it more I realised I have to do Thanksgiving. Our kids are English but they live in the US and enjoy being involved in all the events and traditions. I could hardly send them back to school Monday without having any Thanksgiving stories.

So I last minute prepped a menu and shopping list. There is no thanksgiving traditional meal in England so I am going American style. Cooking food that is not my norm including adding condensed soups to vegetables.

I enjoyed the meal prep the day before. Its fun to try something new. Then went off to work Thanksgiving eve. With a steady flow of wine buyers and lots of happy Thanksgiving wishes. We even prepped for the black friday wine blowout – will be my first black friday here not getting up at 3am to shop! I’ll be the other side this year and selling. Although I’m sure my credit card will get used still, the wine is tempting!

Appetizers and dinner went well! My pink bubbles helped the cooking process. Even the kids had red grape bubbles. Poppy apparently got drunk 🤣 The food although good isn’t really to our taste but I’m pleased I did a traditional dinner for the kids.

To end our Turkey day we headed out for a walk with Teddy. Let the kids run off some energy and get some fresh air.

Fundraising Fun!

I’ve wrote about Poppy our eldest child before .

This blog is essentially about her too. When you have a child with special needs, a condition, a syndrome or an illness it can turn your life upside down.

Rob and I knew no different, Poppy was our first and what we thought “difficult” baby.

When I look at how our life has turned out we are better people because of her. We are a strong family unit, as a couple we have worked through difficult times and decisions. We are raising two other little humans that are incredibly open minded, show amazing awareness, they are compassionate, caring and sympathetic because of their sister and the role they play in her life.

The repercussions of having a child with special needs goes further than just our house. A family member wrote this for me, so you can read someone’s opinion other than mine!

We all want our children to be ok. When you realise that things are not as you thought, your life is turned upside down. Anger, guilt, despair. Rob and Michaela have been fantastic going on to create a wonderful family and have made sure Poppy is involved in everything. Poppy is very special, she remembers people, the whole family only get together occasionally and she has always been very excited to see us all. She is very sensitive, caring and loving. She sometimes has a meltdown for no real reason that we can see, but sometimes her frustration is about us not understanding her communication. I find that distracting her from the meltdown is often the best thing but sometimes you just have to ride the waves. Although she cannot always communicate with us properly, she totally understands what we say to her. When Poppy was diagnosed with Jordan’s syndrome it was a relief to finally put a name to the problem. However, because it is a very rare genetic disorder, we don’t really know what the future holds. Because of Poppy I am more accepting and give much more time to people with special needs. I realise we are all too busy getting on with our lives that we don’t always see what extra time people like Poppy need. We love her and treasure her.

We were given Poppy for a reason. We now need to raise awareness about her and her friends, our PPP2R5D family.

So a little history before I go into the fundraising details… I stumbled across a facebook page around 2 years ago when I’d googled (Again!) to find some information on Poppy’s gene mutation.

The page was titled PPP2R5D Families.

Simply, a page of families that also had children with Poppy’s genetic condition. I was so excited to find the page I called Rob and we both joined the group straight away.

Fast forward and we have got so much from that group. Seeing and reading about the other children, all their similarities and their achievements.

We are so looking forward to meeting the majority of the 72 families in San Francisco March 2019 at the 2nd family medical conference!

The conference is being arranged by Jordans Guardian Angels (JGA) The charity set up by Joseph Lang in honor of his daughter Jordan, one of the 1st children to be identified as having gene mutation PPP2R5D.

Finally meeting all of these children that we have watched grow over the last 2 years will be an amazing experience! Being able to see them all together is so exciting!

We are being given the opportunity to talk and bond with parents in our situation and for Izzy & Leo they get to meet other siblings with a sister or brother just like their Poppy. This is an invaluable experience for us and all the other families.

Whilst we are at the conference we will learn about the research that is underway to try and find a cure for this gene mutation. Poppy will have the opportunity to give samples to be used as part of this research. Imagine being 9 years old and helping to potentially cure not only her gene mutation but also some forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s!

We are so grateful that the charity are paying for families to fly from around the world and providing us with accommodation for 3 nights to attend.

Now JGA have been doing an amazing job of finding grants and funding to start their medical research but the money will go quickly. We want to repay their kindness and raise the funds back for our flights.

Hence our fundraising efforts! Rob completed an obstacle run at the beginning of November with a friend on behalf of JGA. So far a total of around $1600 has been raised with some match funding from Deutsche Bank!!

Next up a little party with Poppy as the VIP guest. I decided to do an event in Nocatee since Poppy is pretty popular round here! This event will be a fun few hours for friends to have a few drinks, sample some food, hopefully win a raffle prize and bid on our silent auction items. All the items we are giving away have been donated after a simple post on a local facebook page – our community has been amazingly generous!

What feels more important to me about the event though is the information and the awareness that people will leave with. Poppy has an extremely rare and some what invisible condition. Unless people ask, they don’t know the details. So we will inform our community about Jordans Syndrome, about the gene Ppp2r5d and the research being conducted.

Halloween!! 🎃

Now I can’t live in America and not include a blog about Halloween on my stateside page!

It is the beginning of the fun holiday season here. (My satellite radio has started christmas stations today – 1st Nov!)

The majority of October is all about fall and halloween. Especially the last week where there are a lot of activities, even school work is about pumpkins or spooks!

Last night was our 3rd Halloween here in Nocatee, Northeast Florida.

I did more DIY with our costumes than I ever have before, take a look at Leos amazing hat! There was also lots of input from the kids about what our family theme would be and who would be each character. They had fun deciding on and helping choose their ourfits.

I feel 2018 was a record in both sweets and adult beverages! Trick or treat here is so different to the Uk. Obviously its not dark, freezing and wet which makes it a much jollier occasion for everyone.

The houses are all done up with lights, figures, music and even projected film or animations. Every child from 0 to teens are out happily filling buckets with treats.

Its a great way to meet people in the community. Even houses without children dress up and sit on their driveways handing out treats.

Over here, adults are not left out. Some houses have a special mom & dad treat box. A few shots and beers were had last night along the way! What’s not to love about that?? Mystery shots 😀

The lead up to halloween always has plenty of activities and opportunities to dress up. My 3 like to switch it up with costumes.

The 2 activities we’ve done here and not in the uk are trunk or treat and haunted houses.

So trunk or treat is often done by schools and churches. Families park their cars and decorate the boot, or trunk. Then hand out their treats!

Haunted houses pop up around the communities. My kids have been too scared to try it out until this year when we went through the nocatee haunted house at splash…. watch if you dare!

This was just the tame little kid version.

I like how this year we had a halloween event for the ladies. The witches ride for charity was so much fun and is already in planning for 2019. Yay! Great excuse to get dressed up and shout “Come on witches” repeatedly 🤣

We do still miss the fun we had indoors at halloween back in the UK. Mainly because of the company we had doing it.

I’d definitely recommend that company come to us for Halloween now.

So till next year, already planning adult treats and even better 2020 is a Friday night!

#Bridesquad – My how to!

The trip to Birmingham is done, I’ve got the jetlag eyebags to prove it! So that means my bestie is now a Mrs and I spent the day being her wonderful bridesmaid 🙂 along with 2 equally amazing ladies!

My bridesmaid journey with Emma started before I’d even left to live in Florida. Visiting wedding shows and venues. When I left I promised to carry on helping and of course be there on the day.

Through messages and video calls the 4 of us in the ‘bride squad’ helped with dates, function rooms, menus, table decor, dresses, make up, hair, suits, music ….. and we had an indecisive bride!

The only thing I really missed out on was the hen party. Which I was gutted about but moving away you know they’ll be things you can’t do.

The few days leading up to the wedding I was in Birmingham so able to be more hands on with the help. Had a lovely make over at Estee Lauder to choose foundation and did some underwear shopping in Primark!

Then the night before was setting up the venue. Ceremony room, wedding breakfast and night time reception all sorted by the bride squad.

By the night before the wedding the bridesmaid role changes to one of excitement and support. Get the bride to bed full and happy, get her up with bubbles and in our case a full English breakfast! After hair and make up the dress is an important job. Getting it on, zipped and sat right. Then the veil.

This job continues all day. I was picking leaves and ladybirds off the dress during picture time and constantly fanning out that train and straightening the veil!

During the day bridesmaids not only keep an eye on their bride making sure she still looks amazing, they have to be aware of what’s going on around the venue and with other guests. Be sociable & chat to others in the wedding party, check up on the parents and kids. Be the first to clap at speeches, in our case first to get up and dance with the singing waiter! Generally lead the way for the rest of the wedding party.

I am so so pleased I was able to be there for the wedding. Everyone looked amazing and the day was so fun!

I most definitely have to thank the hubby for that because not only did he finance it, he stayed behind to watch the kids. Thanks to Robs mom too who organised her trip to be around to help with the kids.

So I’ll leave you with my top bridesmaid tips, since I think we did a pretty good job of being ‘maids’ for the day:

  • Do as your bride tells you 🙂
  • Give an opinion when requested, but, think about the answer the bride would like to hear
  • Answer all messages for help in a timely manner
  • Be as enthusiastic as your bride, about everything – including the size & colour of pumpkins 😉
  • Embrace their planning style. Important decision making the day before isn’t for everyone but if it works for your bride, go with it
  • On the day expect to walk a lot, miles maybe
  • Rally guests to smile during photo time
  • Remember you are representing your bride, look good, smile and chat to guests
  • Feel free to start the consumption of food and alcohol at the wedding breakfast
  • Enthusiastic cheering for all speeches, especially when the bride is mentioned
  • Spend time searching for guest items, drinks, bags, trading cards
  • Use the dancefloor, don’t let it be empty!
  • Drama? What drama?
  • Most importantly have fun with your bride and fellow maids. Your a team for a reason

Being a Brummie, my week so far

I’ve spent 3 whole days back in Birmingham and I already feel myself changing.

I greeted my bestie (Who I’ve not seen since July 2017) in the middle of Primark underwear section with “Alright Bird” to which she replied “How am ya?” 😂 I’ve got used to hearing “Hey girl” over in Florida. So quickly I slipped back to my old ways!

I’ve had about 12 cups of tea , ready for my 2nd Greggs lunch, chippy dinner, a curry, visited 4 pubs, drank pints of lager and some pink gin. Only worked out 2 hours as opposed to my usual 6/7 a week, my feet have been trapped inside actual shoes everyday and I’ve worn 4 jumpers so far!

I’ve actually been pretty lucky with the weather the sun has been shining and temperatures haven’t been too bad. Spent some time with my littlest niece in the park, its rare I get her to myself since my 3 usually bring her into their gang!

I got the bus and walked round Birmingham like a tourist then went to John Lewis for free makeovers 😀

Squeezed in a trip to my parents old neighbourhood to meet my uncle AKA Arthur Shelby for you peaky blinders fans!

Today I’m heading down to the local High street for a browse and treating myself to gel nails with my mum. Hoping it stays mild for the wedding Sunday so I’m not shivering in pictures!

Being here without my hubby and kids is hard. I miss them and I’m constantly wondering what they’re doing and waiting for the time zone to catch up so I’m able to call or message them. What it has done though is allow me time with my family and friends where I’m not distracted by what the kids are doing. I’m grateful for the time and knowing they will all be here in December enjoying their family time too makes me happy.

We’ve had some good video calls though 😂

Next blog will be the wedding weekend!

The Big Trip

I’ve been banging on about my trip back to the Birmingham for months now and today is finally the day!

I’ve had very mixed emotions about leaving. Obviously mega excited to not only see my family and besties but I actually get to help my oldest friend walk down the aisle and marry her fella, at last!

Then there’s the feeling of leaving behind the kids and Rob. Of course I’ll miss them immensely but its also the fact I am a control freak. I’m having to let go of them and hope their world continues as normal. Simple things, will they have the right school books, enough outdoor time, too much tablet time?? Being a stay at home mom I’ve controlled what they do or don’t do for years now. Like running a small sometimes manic business 😂

But don’t worry I haven’t left them to muddle through, oh no no no. Rob and his mum (who kindly booked her annual visit to coincide with my holiday) have a manual. Raising little Hills. A full schedule and info pack, including Teddy info!

Will they read it?? Who knows. Fingers crossed someone, even if its Izzy may glance at it just so they know at least after school activities and pick ups. I have also stuck post it reminders around the house 😁

I do know my kids will be well loved, thoroughly exhausted from role playing and will have full bellies. So I am going to try and let them be. I’ll enjoy myself whilst they get to see a bit more of daddy and having nanny Jen for company.

I’m sat at Jacksonville airport writing this and it’s dawned on me I won’t have anyone to talk to for almost a whole day. Such a strange feeling! As I sit here I see people mingling and hear conversations. When you travel with 3 kids you see & hear nothing outside your bubble. Too busy watching & entertaining kids to care what’s going on around you.

I’m going to take the time to sit and relax while I can. Lots of catching up to do in Birmingham and fun with friends then before I know it I’ll be back in the chaos with Rob and our kids ❤

Stay tuned for more Brummie blogs when I land.