30 June 2009

Time to Go

Our plan for the next couple days is as follows...who knows if this will actually work!  Get a taxi to take us to the train platform on Tuesday afternoon, take the train (a little over an hour) to Manchester Airport and stay in a hotel near the airport, arrive at the airport Wednesday morning with plenty of time to spare (yea right!), take off at 10:50 am, fly to Atlanta and then to Norfolk, arriving at 6:50 pm.  Our bodies will be telling us it is almost midnight so we are certain to be exhausted.

This will most likely be followed by lots of sleeping and lounging around!  It may be a few days or weeks for that matter before I post again.  I think I will take some time off from the blog as I have even amazed myself at the amount of blogging I have done.  Thanks for tagging along vicariously on our summer adventure :)

Last Hoorah

Monday was our last full day in Mirfield!  I began to think that maybe one extra suitcase was not going to be enough.  The four of us went to Huddersfield one last time to get another suitcase.  This time we got a small one.  That put us at five suitcases, a computer bag, backpack, and  double stroller.  I have no idea how this is going to work!  

We did a little packing and a lot of walking around and enjoying the beautiful scenery one last time.  We said good bye to the chickens and goldfish and smelled the roses yet again.  While I can live with out the chickens and goldfish, I will most definitely miss looking at  and smelling the beautiful roses.  Below are some picture of the kids walking around the grounds.

Last Sunday in England!

Sunday means church for Chad and survival for the rest of us until he gets home.  I decided to be brave today and take the kids on the bus to the grocery store by myself.  We need just a few more things to get us to Tuesday when we leave.  I also thought this would kill some time and make the morning go by faster.  Tucker was in the single stroller and Caroline walked and was a very good listener.  You never know when she may decide to stop listening and do her own thing!

As we got on the bus I gave the bus driver my money.  In return I got a rude response inquiring as to why I did not have anything smaller.  Last time I checked, there was not a sign saying that 20 pound bills were not accepted.  I just kept thinking, "3 more days, 3 more days..."  Of course the kids were thrilled to be riding on a bus even if it was just a short ride.  We made it to the Co-op, got a few items (most importantly more diapers!) and walked back to the bus stop to come home.  On the way a man and woman stopped me and asked me for directions.  Once I began to speak they realized that I was not speaking with the same accent as they did.  This meant they stopped listening and moved on immediately once I stopped talking.  Believe it or not I did actually know the answer to their question...too bad they didn't listen!  

When we got back on the bus, I thought about my previous encounter.  I recalled that this was not the first time I had been asked directions.  In fact, I have been asked directions 3 or 4 times on this trip.  What is it about me that make people think I know where I am?!?!  I feel like most days since we have been here I have been lucky to know what country we were in!  

Here  is a picture of Caroline "sharing" her apple with Tucker.  She will not let him hold it by himself so he has to take a bite while she holds it.  At least she's sharing...

29 June 2009

Searching for a Suitcase on Saturday

We are starting to plan our exit!  This is very exciting, however, it is going to require another suitcase.  There was no room to spare in our suitcases on the way here and we have of course acquired a few items on our travels.  Caroline and I went to Huddersfield in search of another cheap suitcase.  We walked all around going from market to market and checking out all the charity shops.  We found a nice large black one that should do the trick.  I had intended to get another smaller suitcase, but once I started looking I got scared and went with the big one.  I think that would prove to be a wise choice.  Caroline did really well with the help of a candy necklace as bribery.  I took her to McDonald's for lunch as her special treat.  We even got to eat upstairs at this fancy McDonald's.  How exciting!  

As we walked down the street Caroline suddenly got very excited and said "Mommy, a castle!"  It took me a minute to realize what she was talking about, for as many times as we have been to Huddersfield, I have yet to see a castle.  Sure enough in the distance there was a pink blow-up castle with a yellow slide.  The closer we got, the larger it got!  It was two pounds per child per ten minutes.  I gave the man the money and away she went.  It took a little while to get up the stairs.  I felt bad because all the older kids were passing her and she kept glancing back at me looking for encouragement.  Finally she made it all the way to the top.  It was way up there!  She turned around and came down on her belly.  It was a tall and fast slide.  The look on her face was that of uncertainty.  I helped her up and she tried again.  I would have gone with her but adults were not allowed.  This time she came down the slide really fast and it scared her!  Caroline decided that maybe this castle was not as fun as it looked.  She kept saying "It's too faster Mommy!"  The nice man gave me my money back since Caroline was only on it for a few minutes.  Back to the bus and home to the flat.

Farewell Friday

It was Friday and that meant Anna was leaving us.  Her train didn't leave until after lunch so we had one last morning with an extra set of hands.  Anna took the kids out to play while Chad and I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen and enjoyed a few final moments of peace.  The kids found a small hill to run down and did that many times this morning.  Caroline can make it without falling, but you never know if Tucker will stumble or not.  Even when he trips, he looks up and laughs because he loves every minute of it!  

There is no doubt that Tucker is 100% boy.  We can't go anywhere without him picking up a handful of gravel and a stick.  It is cute to watch him find the right stick.  Not just any stick will do.  Once he has selected a good one he is ready to go.  Often times Caroline will find a stick and hand it to him because she knows that is what he is looking for.  Sometimes he keeps it and other times he tosses it aside when she is not looking and finds is own.

Around noon we went into Mirfield and had a quick lunch at Boo's Cafe.  Chad and the kids had scrambled eggs on toast, and Anna and I had paninis.  This was a small little cafe that barely accommodated our single stroller.  However, we were hungry and there weren't too many choices.  We were just a short walk from the train platform, so after lunch Anna headed down to catch her train back to Oxford.  Caroline cried and cried.  I am not sure if she was more upset that Anna was leaving or because she did not get to go on the train.  Chad and I are convinced that our kids are going to go through public transportation withdraw when we leave.  They love the bus and train!

Back home for naps, dinner, more outside time and then bed.  We are getting anxious to get home for many reasons, one being a change of scenery.  At this point we just can't get excited about seeing the goldfish for the 20 millionth time.  The kids still enjoy it, so we go.  I can't say that I will miss the goldfish (or the stinky chickens!).

27 June 2009

Liverpool Sans Kids

On Thursday Anna graciously stayed at home with Caroline and Tucker so Chad and I could have a day off!  Yay!  We had been wanting to go to Liverpool and felt like this was the day to go.  It was just shy of two hours away via train.  It was a million times easier doing this without a stroller and "iffy" 2 year old in tow!  We made our first stop at Lewis's Department Store...had to stop there as well as get a picture!  From there we went to Liverpool Cathedral which is the fifth largest in the world.  It was massive!  We had a nice, quiet, take your time sort of lunch at the refectory...don't forget we did not have the kids!

We then wandered down to the Albert Dock area.  Of course we had to get some sort of Beatles souvenir.  The official store had Beatles everything!  We did a little more looking around and shopping and then stopped for ice cream.  This was a treat for us because ice cream is not something we encourage with the kids on a warm day.  We have avoided it all summer and Chad and I really wanted some!  Although we could have stayed away much longer, we didn't want to leave Anna but for so long.  We know first hand how tiring it can be watching the kids all day, especially when you are not used to it.

We went to the train station to check out departure times.  We had about 45 minutes so we went to the nearest pub until it was time to board our train.  We came back to the station and got on the very crowded train.  We were lucky to find seats as many people were standing in the aisle.  I am not sure how long we sat, but it felt like forever!  It was getting hotter by the minute and the train wasn't moving.  Suddenly, everyone began to get off the train even though we did not hear an announcement.  We followed the crowd to the next train and sat down and waited.  Turns out this was a no go as well.  All I could think was thank goodness we did not have the kids.  They would have been hot, tired and just plain old miserable.  So, onto the next train which was as far away from this one as possible.  It was not as crowded but still quite warm.  Shortly after the train pulled away, the conductor announced that the air conditioning was not working!  Again, I was thankful it was just the two of us.

We had a nice day and really appreciate Anna's willingness to hang out with the kids.  I think everyone had a good time!  Thanks a million, Anna :)

Mary outside of Lewis's Department Store.

Grave stones leaning against the wall outside of the Liverpool Cathedral. Elizabeth was a very common name!

This may give you some idea of how massive the cathedral is.  Huge!

This is one of the car/boats.  I could never just drive down the ramp into the water, and hope the boat kicks in!

Albert Dock is filled with shops and restaurants.

Beatle central!

HMS ship with the armed guard.  We stayed long enough to take a picture and then moved out of the firing range!

Leeds Again

After a relaxing day, we decided we were up for an adventure on Wednesday.  We went back to Leeds and it was much easier this time around, thanks to Anna.  Caroline was her buddy all day!  We first visited Leeds Parish Church.  It was a beautiful church with the most amazing needlepoint cushions and kneelers.  I included a picture of the hydrangea cushion below.  It was interesting to me that some of the needlepoint cushions were actually advertisements for schools, tailors, The British Gas Company, and more.  I was very impressed by all the needlepoint cushions!

We ate lunch at a Thai restaurant.  I actually had a really good lunch even though I was very hesitant about eating here.  Caroline did not like the food and Tucker tried a little bit of everything and seemed to like it.  We have yet to find something he doesn't like.  The prawn crackers were a big hit.  You will probably notice a big scratch on his cheek.  That was courtesy of his loving sister.  

We did a little shopping and made a stop at Starbucks and then headed back to Mirfield.  Chad had to go to Halifax that evening so we needed to be home sooner than later.  While he was gone Anna painted Caroline's fingernails for the first time.  Amazingly enough, she sat still!  Caroline even had her toenails painted.  The pale pink shimmer was the perfect shade for this little princess.  (Yes, I said princess.  She is very into princesses these days.  My fingers are crossed that it is only a phase!)  Painted nails was her reward for letting me cut her fingernails.  After the gash on Tucker's face, we decided that her nails had to be trimmed!!  

Hanging Out

Tuesday was going to be a great day because we had an extra set of hands to help out!  Anna had been on the go most of the summer and we were wearing down, too, so we decided to stay close to home.  We did walk into Mirfield to get some groceries and show Anna around.  The weather was great so after naps we spent some time outside walking around the grounds.  The roses are beautiful and I couldn't resist getting some more pictures.  The pictures below are just a sampling of the pictures I have taken.  I must say, it is nice that the roses don't try to run away when you take their picture.

Chad fixed us an English dinner of chicken and roasted vegetables.  Anna added a salad with homemade caesar dressing.  I can't say that I contributed anything other than watching the kids while the chefs were hard at work!  Dinner was great and we were loving every minute of having Anna around.  Caroline was especially excited she was visiting!

24 June 2009

Monday, Monday!

It is Monday and thus begins our last full week in England!  We had a great plan for how this day would go.  Chad and I would take the kids to play in the funhouse for an hour and then we would eat lunch in the pub attached to the funhouse.  Well, what we didn't realize was that nothing opened until noon.  So we arrived at the funhouse with kids that were ready to play and unfortunately it was not open!  Thankfully, there was an outdoor play area so we played there for an hour until the funhouse opened.  We only stayed in the funhouse for about 30 minutes because by that point the kids were tired and ready for lunch.  We had the special, Chicken and Gravy Pie with Mash for lunch and walked home.

Chad and Caroline then began their adventure to York for evensong.  Taking a child was the only way Chad was able to go.  Tucker settled in for a long afternoon nap and I got some much needed alone, quiet, free time.  Around dinner time Tucker and I went to the train stop to meet our friend from Virginia who was coming to visit for a few days.  There was no way to know for sure what time Anna would arrive.  We knew it would either be between 5:30-6 or 6:30-7.  So we waited at the train stop and waved and pointed to every train that passed by until a little after 6 pm.  

I noticed dark clouds quickly approaching and heard thunder.  This was the first time I have heard thunder since we have been here.  I decided that it probably wasn't the best idea for Tucker and me to sit in a metal and glass building while we waited a little longer.  We made the short walk into town (I carried him because Chad had the single stroller) and had a pint while we waited for the next round of trains.  The storm passed quickly and we went back to the train stop and found Anna.  Yay!  How good it was to see a familiar face!  We came back to our flat, put Tucker to bed and waited for Caroline and Chad to get home.  

Happy "Fires" Day

Caroline told Chad "Happy Fires Days" about 30 times on Sunday.  She was very excited to give him his cards and gifts.  He had to go to church in the morning and then we spent a lot of time outside playing in the sun.  We fixed a yummy tortellini dinner and went outside and played some more.  Caroline picked out her outfit, as I think the skirt and pink tights are quickly becoming the favorite new outfit.  Tucker has about 10 new teeth coming in!  He has been pretty happy, but there are definitely times that he has been crankier than normal.  Thank goodness for Tylenol!

23 June 2009

So So Saturday

On Saturday we went to Huddersfield for the 20 millionth time!  We wanted to look around the open air market and needed a few groceries.  All four of us went to the market and Chad found a few good finds.  We then went to McDonald's for a quick lunch before Chad took the kids and went home.  This worked out quite well as I was very excited to have some time to myself!

I did a little shopping, but mostly just looked around.  I did get a pair of earrings.  The fashion in this neck of the woods is not exactly my taste, so clothes were out.  I did not feel the need to relive the 80's with neon leg warmers.  It is also frustrating because most places around here do not take our debit cards.  We do not have a chip in our cards so we have to buy everything with cash.  We have probably spent a small fortune on ATM fees.  If we had only known...

I decided it was time to go to the Tesco and get a few groceries.  I figured this would be a fairly simple task since I was alone and on my own schedule.  Wrong!  This was not easy or even remotely enjoyable.  I felt like I was getting dumber every minute I spent in the grocery store.  Seriously, I hope I never have to go there again!  I won't bore you with the details of this trip.

I got my groceries and made the short walk to the bus stop.  I only had to wait a few minutes and then I hopped on the bus and went to the first available seat which was towards the back.  Once we neared my stop, I stood up.  I did not press the "stop" button because there was still one stop before mine.  Apparently the bus driver thought I was getting off and stopped before I was ready to get off.  He then looked at me and asked me if I was getting off.  I told him that I was the next stop and he fussed at me for standing up too soon.  Once I got home, I came inside, put the groceries down and informed Chad that I was over it and ready to go home!  It's been fun, but I am ready to have my own car and drive to the grocery store myself.

Friday's Dancing and Singing

The video below is of Caroline singing Sugarland's "All I Want to Do."  We have watched this performance on YouTube over and over and over.  We spent lots of time on Friday watching Sugarland and Taylor Swift, two of Caroline's favorites.  Tucker even gets excited and dances with us when he hears the songs.  I cannot even begin to imagine how many times we have watched these music videos!  Caroline loves to hold the jump rope and pretend it is her microphone.  She is obsessed with the "Hoo Hoo song."

Chad had an appointment on Friday so the kids and I hung out in the flat.  We played games, read books, took naps and watched YouTube.  It was a long day!  Thankfully Chad brought dinner with him when he came home.  He fixed bacon wrapped salmon on watercress with a side of rice.  It was very good and was the perfect ending to our day.

19 June 2009

Edinburgh to Durham to Mirfield

Thursday morning started the same way as the day before...Chad had his Scottish breakfast and I had cereal.  We packed our suitcases and made our way back to the city and to the train station.  We got of the bus a few stops away from the train station so we could walk around Edinburgh a little more.  We had our suitcase with us this time so we didn't do much walking, but we couldn't resist soaking in a little more city!

Bye Bye Scotland and hello Durham.  Durham was on the way back to Mirfield and one of the last things on Chad's list of things to do.  Durham was about an hour's train ride from Scotland and the Cathedral was just a short taxi ride from the train station.  Again, we had all our stuff so we couldn't do much exploring.  We really enjoyed going to Durham Cathedral where I was informed by Caroline that "we have to be quiet in Daddy's church."  We got a quick snack in the cafe and Chad and Caroline made a short trip through and adjoining museum where they saw "treasures!"  Durham  appeared to be a nice little university town.  If we did not have a suitcase but instead more energy, we would have stayed longer.  Caroline was doing all she could to keep up with us as we walked back to the train station.

It took another couple hours to get back to Mirfield.  We then caught a bus that dropped us off right outside our door.  Tucker was very excited to be home while Caroline cried and cried because she wanted to go back to "restaurant house."  Below are a few pictures from our quick pit stop in Durham.

Edinburgh in a Day

Wednesday morning started with a full Scottish breakfast (for Chad) at the hotel.  This breakfast included a fried egg, tomato, ham, potato cake, sausage and beans.  I probably left something out, but that is all I can remember.  Those of you that know me well can understand why I had cereal for breakfast!  There was a bus stop just outside of our hotel and it was about $10 for an all day pass for the four of us.  This was a great deal considering we paid almost $50 for our taxi ride.  It took about 45 minutes to get into the city, but thanks to Tucker we had an early start and got there before 10 am.  Since we had no idea where we were going, the information center was our first stop.

We explored Princes Street and went in several churches and gift shops.  The kids were starting to get hungry so we found a pub that allowed children.  We had a quick lunch and hit the streets again.  While waiting for our food, we had a chance to check out the map and see where we needed to go.  It was cool and rainy so I did not want to just blindly explore the city without some direction.  We decided that the Royal Mile was the best place to be.  Edinburgh Castle was on one end and the Queen's Palace was on the other end with a million shops between the two.  Tucker fell asleep in the stroller so this was our prime time to do stuff!

We went to another church (can't remember the name...will fill it in later when Chad gets home) and Chad let Caroline pick out a "special treat" in the gift shop.  She picked out the biggest chocolate bar she could find!  Chad and I just had to help her eat it!  We then began to walk up to the castle.  We went in the castle and looked around a little and then went to the gift shop.  Caroline immediately found a crown and then she tried on the Viking hat.  Needless to say, she wanted the princess crown (and got it!).  From there we went to a Tartan Museum to see the million different patterns and how they were made.  It was really neat to see, as I had no idea there were that many patterns.

We picked up a few scarves and blankets, a couple t-shirts for the kids, and the cutest little kilt for Caroline.  I just didn't foresee Tucker wearing a kilt, so we did not get him the matching one.  Caroline was starting to get tired and Tucker was waking up so we took a break and went into an old church and did some brass rubbings.  There were some toys for Tucker to play with while Caroline and Chad did their brass rubbings.  The finished products turned out quite well!  Now it was time to go to the Queen of England's Palace in Edinburgh.  We did not go in because it was almost closing time but we did get some pictures from the gates.

We were all getting tired at this point so we figured it was time to go back to our "restaurant house" as Caroline calls it.  The ride back to the hotel seemed to take longer than normal this time around.  I guess it was because we were hungry and tired and just wanted to get there!  We finally made it and dropped our things off in the room and went back downstairs to get a quick dinner and then bed.  Tucker only slept for about an hour and Caroline slept for about ten minutes on the bus, so we were certain it would be an early night. Unfortunately, a party of sixteen had just been seated before us and dinner was not going to happen anytime soon.  

Unless we wanted to get on the bus again, there were no other options.  We realized the kids were not going to be able to wait so I took them up to the room and tried to get them ready for bed.  I was successful as far as getting jammies on, but past that I had no luck.  They were literally bouncing off the walls.  I think they figured out a way to drain the energy from Chad and me and take it for themselves.  Our dinner was ready and Chad ate downstairs by himself and then we traded.  I had hoped that maybe Caroline and Tucker would take Chad seriously and go to bed.  They managed to have more energy when I returned after inhaling my dinner.  It was about 10:30 by the time they fell asleep.  I think Chad was already asleep at that point and I was not far from it.