Monday, October 30, 2017

After Half Term Chaos

I love half terms because it gives us time to reset.  By the time we make it halfway through a term, the kids are begging for a break.  We usually try to get away for a bit of it and also do things around London.  We each work on one thing that will make us better people.  This half term was similar to the rest - we went to Dubrovnik in Croatia (blog post to come soon, it was amazing!), bowling in London, Roald Dahl museum, dinner with friends and even squeezed in a pajama day.  Sebastian worked on being more of a helper, Jillian worked on going to the toilet on time, Taryn worked on being more giving, and I worked on my patience.  It was a great week and accomplished so much.

But then comes Monday morning and back to school, all the rest and the becoming better people flies out the door.  The kids have melt downs, they forget 10 things as we are trying to get out the door, their is yelling, there is frustration, and there a tears.  The kids start complaining about going back to school as I start counting down til the time that I get to drop them off at school!

And then we start talking about how we want to be more organized and how to make the mornings go smoother.  A tough lesson for the kids this morning but one I needed reminding of too.  You can't change the past but we can better the future.  I can't go back and change the way this morning went.  I can't make us more organized or calmer, I can't stop the yelling or the tears since they have already fallen.  But I have tomorrow morning, where we can be more patient and figure out how to get out the door without frustration.

I am NOT a morning person and it is not lovely to be anywhere near me in the morning.  I don't wake up happy and I don't bounce out of bed and I don't talk and I definitely don't smile in the morning.  I tent to bark orders in the morning and I can be quite rude.  I am not a coffee drinker so there is no help there.  I keep telling myself that I need a morning routine that will help me get up and go.  So for the next few weeks, I am going to try to come up with a morning routine.  I am going to smile more in the mornings and be thankful in the mornings (I'm usually only thankful at night as I'm drinking my wine).

Each morning, this is going to be my mantra.  Wish me luck as I transform into a nicer me in the mornings!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Sunday Roast and New Traditions

Sunday roast has become a family tradition that we adopted from the British.  Every Sunday at the pubs and several restaurants, you can find Sunday roast.  You usually get the choice of chicken, pork, or beef with vegetables and of course Yorkshire pudding.  It is an amazing meal that usually means we are sitting together reflecting on the week as a family.  I have even gotten much better at roasting my own chicken.  I now treasure these moments.

We also have our favourite pub that is around the corner from our house called the Smokehouse.  Most of the time we go out for Sunday roasts, that is where we go.  We even had Jason's 40th birthday there.  We take my mom to eat here every time she comes to visit as well.  We have spent many holidays there too.  We have used it as our pub to celebrate Thanksgiving and Easter.  We walk in and everyone knows us and everyone is so sweet to the kids.  They have a lovely garden for the kids to play in as we enjoy drinks.

I am extremely thankful for being able to experience traditions from another country.  Sometimes I forget that I live in a foreign country and then other times I am uncomfortably aware that I am a foreigner.  But there are so many things that make me stop and remember how living in London has impacted my life and has changed my family.  We have new traditions and new ideas.  I want to continue to grow and treasure this experience and enjoy learning so much over here!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Growing Pains

Over the last couple of weeks, Taryn and I have experienced growing pains.  We are both growing and learning.

Taryn is now in upper primary school here which is called Key Stage 2.  When you start school in nursery and reception, it is labeled early years.  Then you go to Year 1 and 2 which are Key Stage 1.  Then the big jump to Key Stage 2 which is Year 3 to 6.  The expectations are higher for Key Stage 2.  The learning is much more independent and larger projects start instead of homework.  They are expected to be responsible for their learning and keeping up with their books.  They even have their own drawer which was Taryn's favorite (I almost spelled it favourite, yikes!) thing about going into Key Stage 2.  I knew in some ways Taryn was ready for this and in other ways she was going to struggle.

Part of being in Key Stage 2 is that they watch the news every morning.  She now is seeing about the Las Vegas shooting and people dying.  She has watched the hurricanes destroy populations.  She has learned that volcanos could erupt and people have to evacuate where they live.  She has learned about the fires burning many houses in California.  She comes home and asking lots of questions about evil in the world.  My gut instinct is to hug her close and shield her from the scary and gut wrenching events in the world.  I want to tell her to focus on unicorns and rainbows, to keep dreaming big, happy dreams and to not worry her pretty little head about the evil in the world.  I want her to believe in the good of people and the kindness that is shown in so many ways.  I also know that this is not the reality of our world today.  I also know that evil is in the world and that she is going to encounter it.

I went to hear the Christian testimony of a engineering designer who redesigned the bicycle chain for the British Cycling Olympic team.  He was very interesting to listen to and he gave us so many nuggets to think about as we live our daily lives.  He talked about knowing that God created the world because of all the beauty in the world.  He talked about God being the perfect designer and as you look around you can see His masterpiece all around us.  He even used us as an example of God's master design.  There is comfort in knowing that God created the world as a beautiful masterpiece and even as we are surrounded by evil, we can always seek the beauty around us.  We keep the faith in God and his plan for our lives.   I still struggle with helping Taryn handle the evil that surrounds us, how to understand it, how to move on from it, and how to always look for the beauty.  It breaks my heart to realize that a special innocence is being slowly replaced with a deeper conscientious of the many aspects of life.

Taryn had a weird rash that appeared on her legs that turned to a lot of small bruises.  Everything is fine but she had to go through lots of tests to make sure nothing serious was going on in her body.  She was so brave as she had several doctors poke and prod her.  She answered the questions and let them evaluate her.  Then it came time for them to take the blood.  This bold, confident girl fell apart and turned into a sacred little girl.  The fear was so clear in her eyes as she was begging me to stop them for taking blood.  I had to sit her on my lap and bear hug her to allow them to take her blood.  Her need for reassurance and protection so clear as I looked at my baby girl.

Last week, I went on a field trip with Taryn's class.  They are such an impressive group of boys and girls.  They listened well and participated in everything.  They successfully took a train, bus, and then walked to get to the workshop.  The kids listened to their teacher and obeyed everything she asked.  It was quite the sight to see.  But what really stood out to me is how grown up this group of 7 and 8 years are compared to Taryn.  She was definitely the most immature one of the group and much more awkward.  She sometimes talks like a much smaller girl or she whines more than 7 year olds or she is quick to tattle.  The first thought that crossed my mind is that I should really work on this and help her grow up quicker.  I was thinking of ways that I could help her hold more mature conversations and how to problem solve much more maturely.  I was thinking about how I need to help her talk with confidence and to start solving problems for herself.  Then I felt an ache in my heart.  Do I really want my baby girl growing up faster?  Is a little immaturity a horrible thing?  Can I treasure these last few innocent moments before she really grows up?

Taryn and I have come up with a list of ways that a 7 year old should behave.  What are realistic expectations and what responsibilities are acceptable to her.  These are the areas that we are concentrating on for now and the other will come.  I don't have an answer and I'm sure that I will continue to struggle.  I want to help her grow up and I want her to find maturity but at what cost and how quickly.

Our list:

1. Talk like a big girl by using manners and not interrupting.
2. Communicate when you have a problem and try to come up with a solution on my own.  If I cannot find a solution, then ask an adult for help.
3.  Follow the rules at school and home.  I know the rules and I understand that they have a purpose so I should follow them.
4.  Help my brother and sister recognize when they are doing something wrong.
5.  Don't boss people around but instead work with them to accomplish the goal.

I know this post is all over the place and thank you for letting me share with you.  It helps to write out my thoughts and struggles.  All I know is that I love the little girl behind these eyes.  I also see eyes that are exploring the world, that are curious, that are innocent, and that are a window into her emotions and soul.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Visiting Texas!

This summer we got to go home to Texas for a couple of weeks!  The trip was focused around family and friends.  The quality time we got to spend with people who have missed dearly was priceless.  There is such a comfort of being surrounded by loved ones in a country where you know what to expect and know the cultural norms.  In London,

I'm constantly on edge about not offending people or making a mistake.  I have conversations in my head before I speak them aloud to make sure there is nothing that I am about to say that will offend anyone.  I'm constantly trying to quiet my kids and find myself trying to speak softly.  I say I'm sorry at least 100 times a day even if I didn't do anything.  I'm constantly looking for the queue and where it ends to make sure we don't cut in front of anybody.  No matter how hard I try, it does not come naturally for me and I'm constantly trying to read body language to make sure that I'm doing ok.

It was so nice to have a couple of weeks where I just had conversations without playing them in my head first.  I laughed loud and talked loud a few times.  The kids could run around and get a little loud themselves.  We blasted music in the car as we drove.   I could speak my mind because my family and friends know me and they know how to respond to me.  The 100s of hugs and the words of affirmation and encouragement were cherished.  It was like a recharging trip and we loved every minute of it!

Thank you Texas for recharging us and allowing us to spend time in your glorious sunshine!  Lots of love until next time!


Friday, September 29, 2017

Little Bird

When I moved to London, I was dreaming about designer shopping.  I imagined all the cute clothes that my kids would wear.  The one thing I forgot to take into account was how expensive these adorable clothes would be to buy.  

But one day, while walking through the mall, I stumbled across this retro brand called Little Bird.  I was fascinated with it and bought a couple of pieces.  I started doing research and found that the clothes are designed by Jools Oliver.  She is married to Jamie Oliver, the chef.  They have adorable children with great names who constantly wear these clothes.  

The best part is that Little Bird clothes are affordable!  They are full of colour and have lots of rainbows!  The t-shirts are super comfy too.

There are also other Little Bird fanatics and they have pages where they talk about the clothes and the new releases.  People go searching for older pieces.  There are also several but/sell/trade groups in Facebook too!  I belong to 3 Little Bird by Jools Oliver Facebook groups!

Here is a collage of all the Little Bird that we wear!  It is a staple in our house!

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!