Friday, September 8, 2017

Activities, Activities, and then More Activities

I can't believe summer is ending!  I am looking at our autumn term and trying to finalize all the after school activities.  Last year, I didn't plan well and after school activities dictated our lives.  We didn't have any time for anything else and weren't able to have many playdates either.  The kids are begging to keep time open for playdates while not sacrificing activities.

I feel like half my life revolves around kids activities.  Sports, dance, playdates...what is useful, what makes sense for the kids, and what keeps me sane?!?!  Does it matter if they are good at it?  Is it just about having fun?  What am I expecting them to gain from the activities?  How much is enough and how much is too much?!?!  How much money are we willing to spend?  How much of my time and energy am I willing to put into each activity?  I keep tossing questions around to help me figure out what is important and what am I trying to accomplish.

My kids are having to learn sacrifices...this activity for one is at the exact same time as another activity for another one so who wins?  Who gets to do their activity?  I have had to get my kids to rank their activities from most important to them to least important.  Each of them has had to sacrifice their least important activity at one point or another.  I struggle with making them learn sacrificing for others at such a young age but then I have realized that this will be something that will be part of their lives forever.  Learning how to sacrifice without being disappointed and understand that someone else will be sacrificing for you too is a valuable lesson.

So after months and months of planning, we are going to find out if the schedule will drive us crazy!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mom and Dad Visit for Christmas!

This post is really hard to write.  I think I took a little break from blogging because I've been dreading this post.  I don't even know how to explain the emotions of Christmas.  I have been writing this blog post on and off for 6 months. It was good, fun, frustrating, scary, and sad.  On little side note, I think, we were all so worried about Mom that we don't have lots of pictures from the week or the pictures we do have aren't the best in quality.  I am going to share a few that we have throughout the blog.

We had been planning for months what we would do when Mom and Dad came to visit for Christmas.  Of course, it took Dad forever to actually commit to coming and I think the only way he got a passport was Jacklyn dragging him to the post office.  He was the one everyone was so concerned about and how he would handle international travel.   We had planned and planned this trip.  We were going to do sightseeing, enjoy some of the Christmas events, give them plenty of time with the kids, and enjoy being together for Christmas.  We were even going to have people over and have a big Christmas dinner.  Mom and I had planned what we were going to cook and how we were going to get it all done with my tiny oven.  We were so excited and ready for them to spend Christmas in London!

All the plans quickly changed.  Mom had said she didn't feel good before coming but she thought it was just an upset stomach and it would pass.  We took them to eat Thai food at our favorite pub and then we walked around Chiswick for a bit.  The kids showed Pops their schools and where all their friends lived.  We got home and mom was exhausted.

We went to a Christmas Carol sing along at Royal Albert Hall.  It is our favorite Christmas event in London.  Mom seemed to be doing much better and really enjoyed herself.  She even sipped champagne with me.  I think we were all hopeful that this was the turn and she would start to feel better.  The bad news is that Mom was so exhausted that she ended up in bed the whole next day.  We went to Kew Gardens that night to go see the lights.  It is a magical but you have to walk a long path and again it wore mom out.  She was so tired.  We were all getting more and more concerned.  We didn't know what to do or how to help her.

Christmas Tree picture at Royal Albert Hall.

Arriving at Royal Albert Hall.

Sebastian sat with Nana while we sang Christmas Carols

One of the exhibits at Kew Gardens.

The next day was the start of the end.  The few little incidents had us concerned but not thinking that something is really wrong.  The next day we were doing a Changing of the Guard tour and it was LOTS and LOTS of walking.  There are also tons of people around for the Changing of the Guards.  We had tried to reason with mom that she would probably be better not going but she refused to listen.  She got herself up and ready then we headed out.  She made it trough about 90% of the tour and then she fell.  She got dizzy and had to just sit on the ground for a while.  She was done and feeling really sick.

Changing of the Guards

We had jam packed the itinerary and at this point, Mom had probably been able to complete a fourth of the activities.  The next day, we all went to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels.  I love the Tower of London.  There is so much to experience here and every time I go there is something else that I find to explore.  And of course there is the beautiful bridge.  Mom stayed home and rested which was perfect since we were going out to eat that evening.  We were hoping a night out would help improve Mom's spirit.  We went to eat at Duck and Waffle.  The food is fantastic, the drinks are spectacular, and we love the view.  We were halfway through dinner when Mom started vomiting.  This was when the panic finally set in that something is majorly wrong with Mom.  She hasn't eaten, she has nothing in her, what in the world is she vomiting.  I remember standing outside the bathroom with Mom and I just said with tears in my eyes, "You are going home with Dad and you are going to go get help.  Something is wrong and you need help."  She didn't argue at all which told me that she has finally realized that something is wrong.

Tower of London

Tower of London

We cancelled the rest of the activities.  We showed Dad around Chiswick, introduced him to Gail's, played with the kids, and changed Mom's plane ticket so that she was going home with Dad.  (A funny side note, I think my dad will come back to visit us in London because he loves Gail's that much.  It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the pastries there.)  I remember riding in the cab with Mom and Dad, begging Mom to quit fighting Dad and just make it home.

As I said goodbye to Mom and Dad at the airport, I remember hugging my mom tightly and telling her to go get help that we all need her.  As I watched them walk through security, I sat there and cried.  I honestly thought that might've been the last time I would see my mom.  By the grace of God, she made it home and got to the hospital just in time to be operated on.  If you've read my other blog posts, then you know that she had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and she is doing remarkably well.  God knew that we needed her and that her purpose on earth wasn't complete.  She makes the world a better place and definitely a more organized place.  She tells us all what to do and showers her love on us.  I am so thankful and blessed that I have my mom on earth with us.  I don't want to take any moment with her for granted and I cherish every moment we have together.

I am hoping that now that I have finally finished this post and have cried through it for 6 months that I'll be ready to blog again.  I am sorry for taking such a long break but I knew that I needed to write this before I can move on.  Thank you for being patient with me as I get back to blogging.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Christmas Parties

What is the holiday season without lots of parties?!?!  We had quite a variety of experiences with each Christmas party.

The first Christmas party was Rackspace.  The theme was Ibiza and one article of clothing had to be white.  Of course, I had no clue what an Ibiza party was so google to the rescue.  It's a beach party in London in December!  Trying to plan what in the world are we going to wear was quite comical.  I don't know if I've already mentioned but our wardrobes are small, like really small.  We have clothes out for the current season and the others seasons are packed away in the attic.  Our tiny, pain to get to attic.  So even if I have a white article of clothing that would work, there is no way that I'm climbing into the attic to go through my summer clothes to find it!  Jason is a little easier and can of course wear a white button down with his jeans.  So, I check the Next clearance section on their website and find a off the shoulder white dress for 5 pounds!  Yes, done.  Oh wait, it is a summer dress and its December.  How am I going to get to the party and home from the party (which is an hour and half away from Chiswick) without freezing?!??!  I decide I can wear the dress with my skinny jeans, fringe boots, and leather jacket.  I am now feeling excited about the party and have an outfit that will fit the theme, totally proud of myself.  I did mention it was December which means that it is wet, cold, and we don't own a car.  Walking in December, guarantees that you will suffer from several colds, sore throats, and any other virus that comes when you are wet and cold all the time.  I came down with a horrible cold and laryngitis right before the party.  There is no way that we are going to make it.  There goes all my perfect planning and the white dress was put in the attic with all the other summer clothes.

The next Christmas get together was the moms from Sebastian's class and the other reception class at Grove Park. The idea was to get together and drink wine and hang out.  The get together was at a one of the parents' house and there were about 8 moms total.  A couple of dads showed up briefly.  We ended up sitting around the reception room and talking.  It was a tough night and I actually left crying.  I started wondering if we would ever fit in here.  The experiences that the moms were sharing was completely different than mine.  Conversations included first concerts and movies they watched growing up and secondary school and traveling as a child.  I couldn't find a way to connect with them.  Sebastian has had a hard time fitting in with the boys at school too.  I was hoping this gathering would help bridge some gaps but instead I feel like it has made it wider.

I didn't have much time to feel sorry for myself because we had the Year 2 (Taryn's class) Christmas party at our house.  We turned our house into a Christmas Grotto.  Of course it ended up the way all parties do, everyone hung out in the kitchen.  It was very lighthearted and was able to meet several new moms and dads that we had seen in passing at school.  The group of parents from Year 2 are very social and love to have a good time.  It makes it much much easier to fit in.  We had a dance party and singing in the kitchen as many bottles of Prosecco and beer were consumed.

The hardest and probably most emotional part of living in London so far from our family and friends is the ups and downs.  I feel like I'm on a roller coaster and there are lots of great days but there are tough days.  There are days were I wonder if I will ever feel completely comfortable here and confident in what I'm doing.  I realize that no matter where we live there will be good days and bad days.  I try to remember that this is an experience and you have the good and the bad.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Kick off Christmas with the Toy Parade

We have avoided taking our kids to Hamley's ever since we have moved here.  Our kids have no idea that the world's largest toy store is in London.  We still avoided the store but went to the Toy Parade.  To kick off our Christmas, we bundled up and headed to the Hamley's Toy Parade.

It was brilliant and one of the kids favorite activities from Christmas.  We saw so many toys from Barbie to Fireman Sam to R2D2 to Ghost Busters to Elmo.  There were marching bands and dancers.  Our kids learned the art of maintaining their front row position as they had to push and elbow other kids from pushing them out.

Jillian started off the morning as happy as the other two but started getting sick as the parade went on.  By the time we got home, she was running a 102 fever and took a 4 hour nap.  She recovered in the next few days but we felt horrible for dragging her out when she was sick.

Enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Quick Trip Home

2017 was a rough start for me.  I lost my patience, cried a lot, and was exhausted.  My mom went home early from London because her health was deteriorating fast.  I felt helpless and scared.  I was also extremely frustrated.  I'm too young to lose my mom and my kids needs more time with their Nana.  I lost my grandparents early want nothing more in the world but for my kids to have LOTS of time with all their grandparents.  Sorry, I got a little sidetracked.  It was a glimpse into a harsh reality of a world where my mom didn't exist.  

My mom went into the hospital New Year's Eve and had major surgery on New Year's Day.  The surgery took 4 hours and recovery was up to her body.  The doctors weren't sure what to expect but with each new day came more and more positive news.  We serve a mighty God who was with my mom and every decision that was made in the last few weeks.   Every prayer was felt and surrounded our family.

London never felt so far away as it did those days my mom was in the hospital.  I always said today's world is so much smaller but all of a sudden it felt enormous!  I was forced with the decisions of do you go or do you wait?  Do my parents need me?  Are they ok without me and am I ok over here?  I found myself on my knees more in those days then ever in my life.  I then saw it clear, I'm going home.  I haven't been back to the states in a year and a half but I can't stay here.  I knew it was the right thing when I found a plane ticket for 700 USD!

We have the best friends in the world as the helped me prepare for leaving.  Friends referred temporary nannies and we found the perfect one from Jillian's school.  She has loved my kids, taught them, and has been there for them this week.  The kids had sleepovers and dinners and lots of hugs.  I had coffee dates with many friends talking to me about their experiences with their loved ones and words of encouragement.  I had phone calls and texts from friends back home offering prayers and love.  Jason had about 25 contact numbers as I boarded a plane to head home.  I have never felt so blessed with so much love surrounding us in London and The States.

I had a peaceful and quiet 10 hour flight to Houston.  I watched 3 movies, read a book, sent emails, chatted with friends and had no interruptions.  It was amazing and just what I needed.  I also ate chic fil a at the airport...chicken nuggets and waffle fries have never tasted better.  Then I finally boarded the plane to El Paso.

I'll never forget seeing my dad sitting there waiting for me.  The tears in our eyes as we talked about Mom and how she is expected to make a full recovery and it doesn't look like she needs chemo.  Praise the Lord!  

I spent the next week with my mom and dad.  It brought healing to my heart and clarity in my mind.  God works in amazing ways and at times you don't expect it.  I went to help my parents and they helped me.  I watched my mom try to regain her strength by walking laps around their house.  I watched my dad do ALL the household chores and could see the exhaustion in his face.  I was able to write spreadsheet formulas to make my mom's work more efficient, I cooked dinner, did laundry, cleaned the kitchen multiple times, help dad put up a pantry, and help mom with her long to do list.  I am grateful that I could go home and help them for a week and that was great but the other moments are a treasure I will hold onto forever.

My mom has been so sick for a while that I had forgotten what her smile was like when it reached all the ways to her eyes.  I have missed her laugh and her witty humor.  I loved those moments when my mom was happy.  I loved listening to my parents banter.  I loved the smiles and laughs.  I loved the open and honest conversations that led to healing tears.  I loved sharing of fears and future dreams.  I loved talking about my kids and how my parents see them.  I loved getting and giving hugs any time I wanted.  There is nothing better than when your daddy takes you into his arms for the best hug in the world!  I loved drinking margaritas and shopping at Target for the first time in a year and a half.  I loved every moment of the past week and I'm so grateful to the many people who made that happen!

Friends, hug your loved ones tighter today.  Call someone who knows you better than you know yourself and share what is on your heart.  Tell your friends how much they mean to you.  Smile so big today that it reaches your eyes! 💕