Thursday, October 25, 2012

7 Quick Takes (vol. 28)

#1 - So this week has been a turbulent week in several respects. Busy just because it's time for parent/teacher conferences, and when one has seven children in grade school or higher, that means seven parent/teacher conferences to squeeze in. Plus several doctor appointments, which take up time (and always seem to be at rather inconvenient times!). In addition, Friday is the last day we have with our Busy Bee for at least a few months. She is going somewhere else for awhile to see if they can help her out. So we've spent the week dealing with a very melodramatic Bee--always exhausting. Its hard to see a kid go, but in this case, maybe they can help her in ways we can't?


#2 - The other complication of the week has been that our personal cell phone is dying. Its been having issues for awhile, but its been getting steadily worse and worse the last few weeks. I can't talk unless I use the speakerphone option (awkward if you're trying to have a personal conversation!), texting seems to be in and out, the camera no longer works, and lately its taken to turning itself on and off at random times! New one coming soon, hopefully, but in the meantime, good luck getting hold of us on that phone. Really it has done very well. It's an OLD phone, and has been chewed on, dropped, dunked in water, and toddlerized (similar to terrorized but occurs by toddlers) on a regular basis.

#3 - 
So I woke up this morning with the following advertisement streaming through my brain:

Who needs drugs? Simply get pregnant and you too can experience psychedelic dreamland without the addition of dangerous cocktails in your body. Technicolor, 3D, movie like experiences come featuring adventures like being on Survivor, turning into a shark and having to outlast and outwit the other sharks (or be eaten), getting kicked off survivor to be on preggo survivor (don't ask--I ran out of time on that one), or being a gangster and stealing items that you purchased from a souvenir shop, being chased over invisible bridges, shooting up Vienna, and getting lost on the moon.

Need to go to the bathroom? That's okay. Hit pause, you can get up, be awake for a good 15 minutes, and the second you go back to sleep you'll just jump back in where you left off!

Ah, pregnancy is fun.


#4 - I ran across this last night. Was trying to get through some shredding that has been piling up for longer than I will admit in writing, and so was catching up on my blog-reading at the same time. Found this fantastic recipe from Seriously great stuff. And the reviews are even better :)


#5 - Another challenge from this week has been Blueberry and nap time. Its taken her awhile to readjust to nap time after our vacation. Lots of protestations regarding having to take a nap at all (the problem being that if she doesn't take a nap she because rather beastly to deal with from about 5pm on). Finally seems to be settling back into the concept of taking a nap--to the point where she took a beautiful two hour nap yesterday afternoon. Parental bliss.


#6 - We are seriously putting some thought into getting Blueberry a Kindle for Christmas. Now, I know that on the surface this seems like a bit of an over the top present for a 2 year old; however, she LOVES my Kindle. We have games on there she enjoys playing (puzzles, number games, animals, coloring, you name it), as well as being able to download (in color) children's books for her to read through. Apparently Kindle is coming out with this new thing called FreeTime which is a way to lock and limit access time to the Kindle in general for kids. It also locks down internet access better than what is currently on my Kindle. Plus, it'd be nice to actually be able to use my own Kindle sometimes instead of hunting down where she's squirreled it away at this time! The whole trip to the UK, I brought one book. And a bunch of books on my Kindle. Problem--reading was hard when you can't get hold of your Kindle at airports, etc because it's keeping your tired and cranky kid quiet.

I've done some research into the cheaper kids options, but the problem that I immediately identified and have had confirmed by other people is that kids like the better quality, higher graphic, wider variety offered by something like a kindle than what is available through these "kid reader" type things. I like the idea that she has access to lots of books, without having to drag a huge bag of toys with us. And if the Kindle will just shut down after x amount of time, that will keep her from getting on there overly much as well. I don't know if we will, but its a thought. I can't fight the fact that my kid is a child of the 21st century. She "texts" on her play cell phone, she takes pictures and expects to see the immediate result, she's rapidly understanding computers and e-readers. It's a little frightening!


#7 - One of my APs sent me the following poster a few months ago, and I find I keep going back to it. For those who aren't introverts and want or need to understand how we work, read below. For those who are, take comfort--you aren't alone!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Journal: England Trip 2012 - Part III

The problem with visiting an area of lush green beauty is that there has to be some natural reason for the lushness and the greenness. Namely--rain. And if you insist on traveling to that land during the fall, one has to be prepared for rain. Lots of it.

Our third and fourth day in England and the Lake District could best be characterized as wet. Very wet. Floods happened elsewhere in the country, shutting down a major highway for a few days. Remember the lovely river Greta that flows through the town? What I didn't mention earlier is that the banks of that river have been built up with high walls, flood gates, and other such items because of several very bad floods that have caused major destruction in the town (incidentally, including getting my grandparents boated out of their house one very cold winters day because the flood waters had risen so high!).

Well, we didn't quite get that bad. But it would be accurate to say that the water rose a good couple of feet in one day of rain and showed much more ferocious tendencies than it had the day before.

 River Greta on Sunday
 River Greta on Monday afternoon!

So what does one do when one is in England and it rains? Go out in it of course!

Day 3 we climbed in the car and went for a drive over hilltops and past sheep. Originally it was a ploy to find a sheep show that used to exist and then it turned into an attempt to find an animal farm for Blueberry, but eventually it wound up just being a drive through beautiful--if soggy--English countryside as we found neither of the first two options.

We did find the hills streaming with what are known as sour milk gills. They are literally these streams of water that appear when it is raining. And the appearance of them looks rather like a giant has taken a bucket of sour milk and overturned it, sending it sloshing down the mountains.

We stopped near Lake Buttermere to stretch our legs and Blueberry managed to at least be introduced to sheep. One even obligingly baa-ed at her, forever convincing her that sheep really do "baa."

Lake Buttermere

Sheep say "baa"

Following our short and wet excursion, we drove through what is known as Honister Pass through Borrowdale (which incidentally holds the distinction of being the wettest spot in England) to get back to Keswick. Incredibly beautiful views, this area has a mining company that mines beautiful green slate for which the Lakes are also known. My parents also spent their honeymoon in this area of the Lakes and was where my dad first fell in love with this spot in the world (fortunately Mum loves it too; otherwise, there might be quite a competition there!).

Honister Pass - sadly due to the rain, I didn't get many good pictures of this. 
Go to the previous link above for better pictures.

We warmed up from our wet morning with a lunch of fish and chips....ah the glories of Gluten Free in the UK! More about that later!

As the following day dawned wet and soggy again, we decided to brave the shops in the shopping district of Keswick. Spent an enjoyable morning avoiding the rain drops, browsing fun things that I couldn't afford, and picking up some presents and other items that I could. 

As the day progressed, the rain slowed, the sun finally began to make a weak appearance, and the river Greta began to recede. We made our way down to lake Derwentwater to enjoy a, well, I'd call it a sunset but to have a sunset one has to have more sun. So perhaps just to enjoy the growing twilight.

A hint of fall. Sadly the trees had not really begun turning colors yet, but we did see tantalizing bits of color here and there.

 Gates and doors...I find them fascinating. And why do so few American houses have names while so many European ones do?
 Derwentwater - at the water's edge
Incidentally, I have discovered that Derwentwater apparently means "water thick with oaks." I don't know if they are oaks or not, but it could certainly could be called "water thick with trees."

My Mum and Dad, or for the Dicken's fan, my APs.
Me, Blueberry, and Nana

All wrapped up for the cold, wet day. 
Blueberry styling with her ladybug (ladybird) raincoat and panda bear hat underneath.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Journal: England Trip 2012 - Part II

Day 2, Sunday morning, dawned bright and clear and chilly--but NOT raining (very important!). Sadly, Nana woke up not feeling well, so she stayed in bed while the rest of us got ready for a church service at King's Church. Blueberry decided that the amount of rough and tumble boys going to the children's service was a little much for her, so she stayed in the main service with us--and wound up taking a nap on mommy's lap instead.

Blueberry charming the world in her tweeds. 

In the afternoon, Christopher decided to brave the heights of the Lake District and went on a gentle (ha ha) seven mile hike up Walla Crag with my dad and Steve. Blueberry and I stayed home and had an hour long battle of her refusing to swallow her food (really?!) eventually followed (battle was a draw) by a walk downtown Keswick. The number of beautiful dogs of every breed imaginable in Keswick is extraordinary, and thanks to Blueberry's incredible powers of observation, we did not miss seeing one of them if they were within half a mile of us. 

Our night was punctuated by Christopher and I both having bad jet lag and finding ourselves awake at 2am, unable to sleep (8pm US time). Watched an interesting show on some musically talented kids who have Tourette syndrome. Still would rather have been sleeping!

 Left: Steve, owner of Primrose Cottage, former fell runner turned fell walker when his knees gave out. Definition of fell runner: one who literally runs up the mountains (fells) of the Lake District rather than hiking up them as most sensible (read: "less fit") people do. Right: My daddy, in his favorite place in the whole world--on top of a Lake District fell.

 Keswick is located on the banks of lake Derwentwater.
 Keswick from the top of Walla Crag.

 Walla Crag as seen from Ashness Bridge.

 Ashness Bridge


Part III coming soon.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Journal: England Trip 2012 - Part I

After a year of planning, 7 months of sitting on tickets waiting to be used, several unexpected twists and turns--the biggest being the discovery that this trip would occur when I was going to be 5, almost 6, months pregnant--a week of insanity trying to get everything set up and done as far in advance as possible to help out our wonderful Relief House Parents, and experiencing a tearful farewell from our cottage girls, September 21st finally dawned and we left on our adventure.

Our flight left Little Rock around 10:40am. Flew to Chicago. After a layover of several hours (during which Blueberry was running around the airport and crashing into poles to "fall down"), we finally boarded for Manchester in the evening. Seven and a half hours later (Saturday morning UK time), Blueberry was still awake. She had taken one 15 minute nap on top of me, but that was it.

We were met at the airports by my parents (who had arrived a few days earlier, done some grocery shopping, and rented a car), and we drove another few hours to Keswick in the Lake District. Due to my tendency for severe car sickness (and my ever-burgeoning waistline!), I sat up front in the car during this trip. Which meant I was quickly set to helping navigate the trip. For the record, Internet directions are a lot clearer in the US of A than they are in England.

For those unfamiliar with Keswick or the Lake District, you have my pity. Keswick is found in the Northwest of England, very near to the border of Scotland.The town itself is located in the Lake District of England--the land of inspiration for Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome, Shelley, Keats, and many others. Its easy to understand how the natural beauty and yet complex landscapes are so inspirational to any writer or artist who is a lover of nature.

On a personal note, my grandparents, now both deceased, retired and lived in a house there for many years. My family used to stay there for weeks at a time when we would visit my UK relatives, so for me, the memories extend through my whole childhood.

Upon arrival we did a bit more grocery shopping (getting some essentials but realistically waiting for the right time to go to our stopping spot for the next week), met up with the owner of Primrose Cottage which we were renting for the week (owned by an old friend of the family), and after lugging in a very full car of suitcases, food, people, etc, I finally crashed for a nap around 2:00pm. Woke up an hour and a half later, and wandered down the stairs to find my husband and daughter. Found my husband comatose on a couch.

Freaked out upon not finding my daughter. Finally discovered her buried by the side of the couch, nestled up to one of daddy's shoes (yuck!), sound asleep.  

In returning to the Lake District after so many years, I had been haunted by the thought that surely it could not be as beautiful as I remember it being. After all, the last time I had come was when I was 16. Fortunately, it took only the drive to Keswick and a short walk that afternoon to convince me that my memory was not faulty and the Lake District truly is the land of beauty of my memory.

 Walking along the river Greta with Nana and Papa, notice the sleepy face of the Blueberry. 

 View of mountains from the Keswick Park. I have a lot of memories of this park as a child--walks here with my grandparents, playing on the playground. It was a shortcut from my grandparents house to the towns central shopping area, and I have frequent memories of playing Pooh Sticks from several of the bridges in the park. 

Speaking of her Nana and Papa, Blueberry's memory of them has been limited primarily to Skype video calls and photographs. Her concept of them has been more of a single entity: NanaPapa. So she spent the entire first week figuring out who was who. For a few days she attempted to resolve this conundrum by simply saying, "Hey!" whenever she needed/wanted one of their attention. Eventually though, she did sort through the confusion and hopefully will have a better experience even with Skype in the future with her better understanding of who they are.

Part II to come.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jog

I'm home. Been home since late Thursday night, actually. Mostly over jet lag, but definitely still catching up on everything that's happened since we left.

The house was still standing. All of our girls are still here. Just lots of emails and things to do and some behaviors to address and definitely some love and attention and reassurance to give. The girls were very enthusiastic about our return, which is nice as I would hate to think they would prefer us to not be here! Our relief house parents (the couple who filled in most of the time while we were gone) were also definitely enthusiastic about giving us the house back!

Since coming home, Chris and Blueberry have both had colds. Hope those are beginning to clear up. Blueberry has had a hard time settling back down at night, but appears to be happy to be home. Calista was so excited to see us that she was literally whining in her joy. Rather hysterical to behold.

I'm okay. Had a definite increase in contractions since our final journey home; however, saw my midwife today and everything checks out well, so keep up the fluids, rest, and all should be good. Baby Q himself is bouncy and kicky and most definitely growing.

I now look ahead to the looming holidays and the rapidly approaching arrival of Baby Q himself into our lives. The to-do list stresses me out, so I'm just taking it one day at a time, one item at a time, and I figure we'll get there one way or the other.

I shall be looking backwards to our trip over the next few days with photos and journals and other thoughts, so keep reading for all our trip news!

One Year Ago Today

On this day, one year ago, we completely changed our lives. We drove away from jobs and home and loved ones to a new adventure of the very m...