Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another staycation near London

Scott surprised us with another mini-vacation. This time, instead of going towards London central, we went away. We drove south of London to Leeds Castle. What an amazing place to see! It was such a beautiful place. The kids enjoyed the footpath through the woods to get up the the castle. The inside was interesting and antique and fun to walk through. Perhaps the neatest part of the day was the English maze we made our way through. Finally making it to the middle allowed us to go up a small hill to see where we had painstakingly made our way through. After the hill, we went down some steps to an underground cavern which was appropriately dark and spooky and fun to walk through. I of course appreciated that this was the easy exit since we were able to walk right out of the maze this way.

The kids' favorite part of the castle trip was the incredible playground. I can't describe it adequately, but suffice it to say that it was by far the most fun playground I had ever seen.

The highlight of the very cool day was going down the street to the hotel where there was an indoor heated swimming pool. The kids wore themselves out and then we had a quick in-room dinner. They passed out. Beautiful sleeping kids. (Perhaps the most beautiful when they are sleeping!)

A nice escape to our hectic high-energy life we live. Bring on Friday for our trip back to the US for 3 days!

The video highlights:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey day 2011 in London

Thanksgiving in England worked out quite nicely. Scott of course made a giant Thanksgiving feast and we all ate too much. Our gathering was atypical in the normal American-kind-of-Thanksgiving way. It was only our family and Marisa, and then we had our two Italian friends who own the restaurant next door come by to sample pumpkin pie.

Of course we are thankful for everything: our health, our family and friends (who we can't wait to see next week), our jobs (for both of us the most demanding, frustrating and overall satisfying of any before), our homes and our overall ability to travel and see this side of the world. Indeed a successful Thanksgiving. We can't wait on the adventures between now and next year's turkey day...

Monday, November 21, 2011

So close, yet so far away...

Before Scott left for trial, I arranged a little stay-cation for the kids and me. The requirements were easy. First, it had to be close. Second, it had to have an indoor pool for easy entertainment. Third, it had to have breathing room for me once the kids were asleep. Mark one up for the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. It had it all. Bonus was that it was across the street from Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

As it turns out, Scott ended up coming home due to a continuance, so the whole family went. We swam, we ate, we drank, and we generally felt pampered for about 24 hours. The room service sushi of course helped the cause.

Of course the kids thought the actual travel to and from on the underground was as much fun as the stay-cation.

The only way it could have been better was if the break had been longer... We hope to do another one soon. Perhaps we'll venture outside of London for the next one. I always did think it would be great to stay in a castle!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

English as a second language

I have spent a great deal of time on the tube this week observing these lovely British people. While they obviously speak English, it is the "Queen's English" as opposed to American English (which is quite different from Texan English). As a side note, I heard someone ask if someone spoke English or British. It's a fair question if you ask me.

So for any friends that are considering or already planned a trip over soon, I offer here a crash course in what I refer to as British (instead of English).

If one throws their rubbish in the bin, they are throwing the trash into the trashcan.

If someone asks you for a rubber, they would like to erase a pencil mark.

They may ask what is on the telly, at which point you should know which tv shows are on and at what time.

Trousers are of course pants, but it seems harder to understand when it is pronounced like trous-ahs.

If you hear someone say (and I did) "I do believe I have been firmly slapped upon my buttocks", they mean they just got their ass chewed by someone else. This too sounds even more fun in British.

If someone would like to have a go, they really just want a turn to try whatever it is going on.

If you happen to be driving in London and you go into the congestion charge zone in your car, you best go online and pay your £10. If not you get a ticket for almost £80. The congestion charge zone is the center of town where the City is doing everything possible to discourage vehicular traffic. Just going once is deterrent enough for me.

There are several unwritten rules to mass transit as well. The most notable one is during rush hour (also referred to as armpit hour), it can become so crowded that the normal rules of social engagement and space no longer apply. It is perfectly acceptable to use the person next to you as a support during the sometimes chaotic movements of the train. Falling into the person next you happens so frequently that it is just accepted. No embarrassment, no shame, just a simple "oops, sorry" is sufficient. One thing that is not allowed is phone conversations. While most people make no eye contact (which is almost physically impossible during armpit hour), you will certainly be stared down if you dare speak on your phone.

As I slowly understand and appreciate many of the locals' customs, I am beginning to understand why there exists a certain pride in being a London girl. The city is massive, the sights are never ending, and the place seems to never sleep. It is beautiful and fast paced. Everything is here. The costs are outrageous, but I understand why people pay them. This is a great place to live.


Monday, November 7, 2011

One weekend down, three more to go.

Scott is gone for the next few weeks, and the kids and I are slowly overcoming all the things that he does everyday without ever mentioning it. The TV has already died, as has the VOIP, as has the wi-fi, as has the heater (and it is COLD out there!). I am proud to say that most of it is up (poor Netflix) and running. I did cop out and only took out the rubbish instead of also the recycling. Lazy? Perhaps, but seriously, it was a long weekend with the kids by myself!

I, on the other hand, have turned to music, work and wine to keep me running. I don't have any worthwhile stories to share, so instead, here's a great tune that keeps playing on my iPad.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Moving on up...

Caden went yesterday to a birthday party for one of his classmates. The party was held at a rock climbing facility. Walking in, I wondered who in the world thought a bunch of five and six year olds would be able to climb the giant walls in front of us. When you look at the above picture, you see his black eye that he got at school a few days ago. He ended up with a black eye because he ran into a wall. Literally. He was running and "forgot to turn" and ran straight into a wall. With that information in mind, it is clear why I questioned his ability to climb the rock wall.

However, always amazing to me, see pictures below of him scurrying up the rock wall with ease and gracefulness (two words that I have never used in the same sentence as Caden). Maybe those future chess lessons and math clubs will be traded for an occasional rock wall climb!

He's the one on the right side in the dark purple shirt and blue jeans almost to the top...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The in between time.

Before the next adventure of Scott being gone for just over a month, I thought I should share the fun stuff we have recently been up to. While we have been working ridiculous hours during the week, we have managed to do some fun stuff on the weekends here in London. In addition to going to Hyde Park (with an obligatory stop for delicious hamburgers at Hard Rock) and seeing Buckingham Palace, we have also taken the kids a few other place, including the M & M store. One of the coolest was going to a Safari Park. This ended up being extraordinarily fun. The only way I can see this having been cooler was if the monkeys jumped on our car instead of all the cars around us.

We also had an adventure and took the kids to St Albans in far north London to see some of our friends from Amsterdam that moved to London just before we did. It was really nice seeing friendly faces. While we have greatly enjoyed our stay in England, we have found it a bit more difficult to meet people that we want to run around with. Most of this of course if our problem -- too much work and not enough play.

The kids had their week out of school and started back on Monday which happened to be Halloween. We had a good time although it proved to be quite different than the proper American Halloween escapade. We had quite a lot of children show up at the door dressed up. Most knocked and then said "Happy Halloween!". This seemed fine until we knocked on a door and our kids said "trick or treat!". The man looked confused, paused (uncomfortably long), and then said, "Treat is I guess my choice." Random, but funny. The British kids were uncomfortable grabbing more than one "sweetie" at a time, even when encouraged. So polite of them. So British of them. A stark difference indeed from an American Halloween.

Mary-freaking-Poppins has been great. I finally asked her if I could use her name and pictures on this blog, and she kindly agreed. So Mary-freaking-Poppins will now be known as Marisa. The kids love her. We love her. She is an equal in our house and we no longer have three children. Such a good place to be.

Scott left this morning for the airport to go to the States for a month. I'm sad to see him go, but it will be nice to see what happens with his trial. He has lived and breathed this case for five years. It will be hard on everyone in the family, but this should be the last long trip we have.

Wish me luck as I navigate this country, this family and this next adventure without Scott!

A video of the last few weekends: