Monthly Archives: March 2009

A Fortnight

I cannot believe it has been so long.  Is anyone still there?  If you are I apologize for my absence.  In my defense, there has been a lot going on.  Janet was here for a week.  We survived all our driving around.  Yes, we all survived and yes, I did get lost a few more times, but we always had great adventures.  There will be stories and pictures shortly.

The day that Janet left, the Rocket Scientist, Doodle, and I headed for Cambridge for 4 days for a conference.  We stayed in a lovely little B&B and Doodle and I took long naps and spent our afternoons wandering the city.  I even got to do a bit of shopping.  I’ll post pictures and stories soon.

Did I mention there’s been a lot going on here?  Between dropping Janet at the airport and leaving for Cambridge our boxes arrived.  Most of the floor space of our living room and all of Doodle’s nursery were completely covered in boxes.  (Yes, I’ll share pictures of that, too)  Which of course I had to leave behind to go to Cambridge.  I practically itched to get at them.  I got a good two days of unpacking in once we returned before my neck made it too painful to move my head let alone boxes.  It’s still kinked but will hopefully be better in time for me to finish getting the house ready for Doodle’s birthday party next Saturday.

Doodle did quite well being out as much as we were, but he didn’t really get a chance to kick his cold so it’s now going on past it’s third week. I think it’s finally on its way out though.  At least I sure hope so, there has not been a lot of sleep in this house lately.  He has also been teething, what seems like all the rest of his teeth at once, if his drool, chewing, and crankiness are any indication.  We’re getting ready for his 1st Birthday!  Yay!  Stories and pictures, of course, will follow.

I am finally kicking my cold (thank goodness) and the Rocket Scientist has caught his first UK cold.  Unfortunately it has hit him much harder than it did us.  Of course now that I am finally not sick, something had to happen. I have twisted my neck and flared up an old whiplash injury.  I didn’t think it was too bad at first but it’s now three days of considerable pain and I am not a happy camper.  And it couldn’t have come at a worse time.  But don’t we always say that.  Don’t worry, this is it for that story and there are no pictures.

So that’s the fortnight in a nutshell.  There are several things I want to expound on and I hope to do so over the next few days, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t always make it.  The pain in my neck has taken the writing of this blog from a few minutes to two hours.  And now that my warm rice sock is no longer very warm and it’s time for my next dose of pills and my nice warm bed.


Life in the Left Lane

Well, I have now driven on three different continents.  Granted in Africa it was once, and probably very badly, but to be fair the truck was almost twice as old as I was.  At least it looked like it was.  This time, the car was considerably newer and I did a much better job.   Coincidence?  I just don’t know.

No, we haven’t bought a car.  I know you were all wondering.  We joined Streetcar.  It’s kind of like ZipCar in the US.  It’s a car-sharing program.  You pay a yearly membership fee and you can take one of the several cars around town for an hour or a few days.  Significantly more economical for the hour.  We’re pretty excited about this because there have been several times when we wished we had a car for just a couple hours to do a big grocery shop or get to a larger shopping centre and now we have a way to do that without having the expense of renting for a whole day.

So, my friend Janet is coming out to visit next week.  We are renting a car to do some toodling around.  Very exciting.  But I didn’t want my first time driving here to be on my way to London’s Heathrow airport with Doodle and no Rocket Scientist.  Perfect way to test out our new Streetcar membership.

Sadly there are no pictures as I was a bit too shaky to take any.  I was very happy to find that driving a manual transmission is a skill that comes back very quickly.  The only thing that was a bit awkward was of course that the stick was on the left side. Thank goodness the peddles are still in the right order.  I only stalled the car once.  Technically the car stalled twice, but I’m fairly certain that God did it the second time.  See, He knew I was about to turn down a one way street and I didn’t.  And the brakes work great.  There are these little mini-roundabouts that you don’t see until you’re broadsiding the car turning right in front of you.

That was the toughest part, the part that left me a little weak in the knees after an hour of driving around getting used to things.  Not the stick-shift, not even driving on the left side, it was the signs, or lack thereof.  There aren’t always signs where you expect them and half the time you don’t actually know what the sign means, so while you’re busy trying to figure it out, you suddenly find yourself on the motorway with no idea where you’re going or how to get out of the roundabout up ahead.

Well, I managed to not get lost, not drive down the wrong roads or the wrong lanes, not hit anything or anyone, and not get honked at (but only because it was a very gracious person behind me at the time).  I came home after an hour just to let my nerves settle a bit.  We had supper and then headed out to an evening service at the local vineyard church.  I did feel much better that time for having had the practice.

Now we just have to see how Doodle and I survive picking up Janet on Friday.  It’s his naptime so he should sleep the whole way there.  *Please, God, let him sleep the whole way there.*

London. Finally. *Warning – this is long (but it has cool pictures)*

So last Saturday, we all got up with Doodle at 6 (instead of the bit of a lie-in I usually get until 7) so that we could be out the door by 7:30 to give us loads of time to get to the train.  We got there stupid early, but that’s fine, gave us time to chill and have a muffin.  The train ride was nice and uneventful.  I would have liked to have a forward facing seat as it’s harder to enjoy the scenery going backwards, but it was fine.  Doodle nursed and got a bit of nap before we got into the city.  I found it interesting how as we got closer to Paddington station, the area began to look an awful lot like the train ride from New York out to New Rochelle.

Mommy left this attached to my coat, but that’s okay, I can make it work.

Some things that we noticed right off the bat.  Everything is a lot closer than you think.  I’m used to looking at maps of Chicago and what looked like very loooong blocks were in fact very short blocks.  What that means though, is that you let yourself walk a lot farther before you realize you’ve passed what you’re looking for.  Happily though, it also means that when you think you’ve gone about 10 minutes too far, you’ve actually only gone, like, 2.

So we went at first looking for a couple stores, and thinking that we were a ways from Picadilly circus we originally were planning to take a bus or the tube, but it was a nice morning and we thought if we walked instead we would get there around lunch time.  So 10 minutes later, we’re there and it’s not quite lunch time.  The restaurants aren’t even open for another half hour even though we’ve been up since forever and are just about starving.  Oh well.

We strolled around the circle and took pictures and stopped in a souvenir shop and got a union jack tank top for me and our first fridge magnet.  It looks so lonely.  I can’t wait for our stuff to get here.  We did a totally un-London lunch:  TGIFriday’s.  I know, I’m sorry, but it was kind of nice to have something familiar that we knew we liked and that was sure to have a highchair and changing table.  Don’t worry, the rest of our day was nice and British.

After lunch we walked down to Trafalgar Square and did the whole touristy picture taking there.  There was a performer by the steps who was very funny and had a big crowd.  Unfortunately we missed most of his gig but were right up front for the big finale.  There were lots of people climbing all over the lions despite the sad little railing that I’m sure had at one point been put up to keep people from getting up there.  Doodle loved the fountains and was greatly disappointed when we didn’t let him jump into the pools.

After that we walked across the pedestrian bridge to the promenade by the water and the London Eye.  Along the promenade were tons of street perfomers.  One group of breakdancers, and the rest were either characters from history/tv or those strange silver painted people pretending to be statues.  I really don’t know why this is so popular.  Some were painted silver, some were painted gold, and sure, the first time you see one you think wow, that person is standing really still, I wonder if their nose itches.  But when there are 8 dozen of them it just kind of gets boring.  There were 2 worth mentioning.  One man actually was painted up in what looked like bronze and his clothes were done really well so the folds were somewhat exaggerated and stiff.  I actually had to look to see if he was breathing or if this was a statue.  He was the only one like that and he was brilliant.  I would have given change to him if I’d had some.  The other one that was fun was the ‘invisible’ one.  It looked like the head and hands were invisible with this crown and glasses suspended in midair above a seated figure and no hands coming out of the cuffs.  You realize right away that the body is a bit oddly sized and shaped and that it’s just a person slouched down int the clothes and the crown/glasses/etc are taped to the chair, but still, points for originality.  That is until you walk another 20 feet and realize there’s another one exactly like it only painted gold instead of silver.  You get no points.  There was one other, but it was kind of sad.  It was an incredible, I would dare say authentic, Darth Vader.  His sign said, “Labourer made redundant in the London work force, trying to support my wife and two kids.”  It’s not an exact quote because I didn’t want to take a picture of him without being able to put something in his tin.  It was a bit sad.

So then we come to the Eye.  The line to get tickets was longer than the line to get on, go figure.  I think the Rocket Scientist was in the ticket office for almost 45 minutes and it took us maybe 10 to get on.  But I didn’t mind, this was my whole reason for coming to London.  I know, there are far older and cooler things to see I’m sure, but for me, it was the Eye.  I want to go back now and do it at night.  Or maybe sunset.  It was an awesome view and we took a bazillion photos up there, half at least of Doodle walking around the pod hanging on to the lower railing and charming the pants off all the other passengers (very embarrassing in mixed company).  I managed to not freak out too much at the height, I have a mild phobia of heights.  I got a bit nauseous in line and had to work at not hyperventilating as stepped onto the still moving pod. But it’s big enough inside to not really be an issue.

As I sat on a bench beside the Thames, looking out at Big Ben with the Eye beside us, nursing Doodle, I realized how much I missed the big city.  London isn’t all the skycrapers that Chicago is, but it is a big city, with all the hustle and bustle and traffic and people that that implies.  And I miss it.  I was instantly more comfortable in London that I have been in Oxford.  And it’s not that Oxford isn’t nice, because it is, and the people are nice and there’s nice stores and good public transportation. It just…moves at the pace of a smaller town, or suburb maybe.  London has a different energy to it.  One that I miss.

So after our stop to nurse and have a snack, oh, and change Doodle in the McDonalds basement from hell, A) it was hot, B) it was crammed with people and you could barely walk let alone maneuver a pushchair [stroller], C) it was stupid hot, D) there was only one baby changing room and no place to queue [wait in line] except right behind the door which left you doing a strange dance when the door had to open and you had to change spots with the person on the other side of the door, and E) OH MY FREAK, it was hotter than the bowels of hell down there.  Anyway, after all that, we crossed over the river again to take our pictures of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

By this time, I’m looking at my map thinking we have quite a ways to walk to get back to Trafalgar Square to catch a train back to Paddington so we should really get going.  And of course, 15 minutes later we’re suddenly there.  I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to that.  Of course I’m sure I will and then I’ll be back in Chicago and I’ll be like, oh it’s not far, lets just walk, and 2 hours later I’ll realize we’re still not even halfway there and I’ll likely just say screw it and go home.

We got back to the train and would have been in plenty of time if it hadn’t been for trying to find change to use the toilet.  That’s right, 30p to use the toilet in Paddington station.  As it turns out, we needn’t have searched so vigourously for exact change as the attendant was pretty much letting anyone in if you at least looked like you were trying to find it.  Nice bathroom though.  Unfortunately by the time we got to the train it was close to departure and quite full.  We found a seat for me facing forward but it was next to other people, there was a table, the Rocket Scientist was sitting across from me, so we were both sitting next to someone strange.  The people next to us were irritating me, especially the guy who insisted that he and the person he was saving a seat for sit across from each other and not side by side.  I don’t know why, he clearly wanted to get into her pants.

The happy part of our trip back was the other couple sitting across the aisle (the people that were sitting over there were nice and let them have their own side of the table unlike ours, but whatever).  They were also heading back home to Oxford with their 18 month old daughter.  We got to chatting and found we have quite a bit in common.  They are also crunchy, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, attachment parents.  We talked slings and cloth diapers and playgroups and what neighborhoods were the most fun (ours being on the somewhat ‘bleak’ end but oh well).  Doodle and I were going to drop into a toddler dance/play group on Wednesday but then his ear infection happened so I’m hoping to get together with them next week.

So all in all, it was a very good day.  We had our moments of starving long before lunchtime and trying to maneuver the bowels of hell disguised as a McDonalds and maybe I had a minor meltdown getting onto the train because it was so cramped and the seats were sucky, but we really did have a great time.  And hopefully made some friends along the way.  Granted I was pretty sore the next day and the bike ride to church just about killed me, but I’m sure I’ll do it again.  Soon in fact.  My friend Janet will be here in just over a week and we’ll likely do a couple days in London, we’ll visit Stonehenge, we might even make it out to Cardiff the Doctor Who fans that we are.  But I’ve learned my lesson.  Post it right away, while it’s still fresh.  Maybe even make it stretch over a couple posts.  You can always put pictures up later.

By the way, if you’re still reading, A) congratulations and B) I’m really sorry the pictures are all stacked on top of each other like that, I couldn’t figure out how to make them go side by side and it’s now 11:49 and I’m so going to pay for staying up this late tomorrow.  And I’ve totally remembered like three cool things that should have gone in the story but it’s too long and too late, so now I’m going to have to do a London II and by that time I’m sure I’ll have gone again and will have more cool stories to tell.  Ugh.  It’s now 11:51.  Good. Night.

My little man is 11 months today!

Yay! Doodle is just one short month away from being 1 Year Old!  So exciting I don’t know what to do with myself.  Seriously, I don’t, if I think to much about it I’m going to have to put my head between my knees.  This is like, epic.  Do you realize he’ll soon be going off to school and getting married and having my fifth grandchild and putting me in a home just so I stop coming over at 3 in the morning to bake muffins.  I know, that’s a little extreme, even for me, but I forgot to have my diet coke with lunch today so I thought I’d have it with dinner.  In retrospect, that may not have been the best idea.  Anyway, on to what we did today.

I’m hoping in lieu of London, you’ll settle for a few pictures of Doodle at the play center and park.  Sadly there are no pictures of Doodle playing with actual children because they all left as soon as we got there.  Apparently they’d all been there since 9 but the coordinator may have just been being nice.  I’m pretty sure I remembered deodorant this morning.

These ladybug things are weird…

Can I ride the puppy instead? (and he did, but with my help so no pictures but trust me it was uber adorable)

And then he discovered an entire wall of fun twisty-turny-spinny things.

Very serious business this, it has to be just so.

And then we stopped at the park on the way home.

Very pleased with himself.

Okay, we slid down this thing, now how do we get back up?

I just adore my little man, in case the numerous pictures I’ve been subjecting you all to didn’t give it away.  I love watching him discover new things and interact with people and situations he’s never come across before.  He is this wonderful mix of brave and cautious, outgoing and shy.  He crawled right up onto the couch beside one of the coordinators, bold as you please, and then leaned against the far arm, suddenly shy.  He never fails to win people over wherever we go.  I can’t wait to see him grow into the man God has created him to be.

My son is afraid of grass

You know that we are city folk when our little man hasn’t really seen grass since the 4th of July.  Oh, yes, we are totally urban jungle people.  It’s not like he’s been indoors since then, he played on our deck during summer BBQ season, we would go out for walks to meet Daddy for lunch at the Chinese Kitchen or meet him on his way home from work to play on the swings, but the parks are not grassy, we had no backyard, and none of our visits with friends included yards for the rest of the summer either.

Then winter struck and it struck hard.  There wasn’t even really a decent time to introduce him to snow with the awful weather we had for most of this winter.  Then we move to Oxford where we do have a back yard (garden here), and it has grass to boot.  It’s not like they really have winter here except for that week and a half of snow that shut the whole country down, but the garden has been wet and it’s been pretty cool for the most part so I haven’t felt like venture out that way with him.  Today was quite warm and even sunny in spots and the Rocket Scientist thought it might be fun to put him in his grubbies and let him crawl around on the grass.

Great!  I’ll get my camera.
Now at least I didn’t go back and actually take pictures of what happened when we sat him down and let him touch the grass, but you can get a pretty good idea of what it was like on this youtube video.  Only it was more screaming as opposed to the whining that kid does.  Let me backtrack a bit and set it up for you.

The Rocket Scientist walks Doodle down the little path to our patch of grass in the back.  All is well and good until he sees the grass.  He does a dead stop at the edge of the path.

Won’t move.  We manage to coax him a little farther onto the green stuff.

Okay, he hasn’t died yet, but he’s really not comfortable with how this is going.

We gently sit him down on the grass.  There are no pictures of what follows, I couldn’t bring myself to.  He put his hands down so he could crawl away and found that he was now touching the grass, so he tried the other side of him and there was more grass.  By this time he’s screaming like those menacing blades are attacking him.

So we scooped him up and promptly began torturing him by waving bits of the frightening stuff in his face.

And touching his hands with it.  Poor little man tried to scramble out of my arms at that.  So we decided to stop being such horrible parents and try to salvage ourselves from going to hell for cruelty to the innocent and rescued him from the green monster to the indoors where he could feel more secure.

He much prefers helping me do laundry.

“I love you laundry machine.”

London! but first…pots and pans

We finally did it.  We’ve been living here in the UK for over a month and we finally made it into London.  Very exciting stuff.  But since I’m behind on posting about a few other things that were happening this week, you’ll just have to wait on that.  That, and I have to figure out how to pick only a few pictures to show out of the 216 that we took.  Ridiculous.  You may wonder how you can possibly take so many pictures in just a few hours in London when we only saw a small section.  Well, I’ll tell you.  200 of them are of Doodle.  And not like, Doodle in front of Big Ben (although we do have one of that) but mostly just Doodle.  Doin’ his Doodle thing.  Anyway, that’s coming soon.

Today we have for you:  pots and pans.  Yes, my son has finally discovered that wonderful place called the pot and pan cupboard.  To be fair, he’s discovered it a couple times before but it either bit his fingers and made him cry or everything shifted all at once and made a really loud noise that he wasn’t expecting and made him cry.  Well, third time’s the charm I guess.  He has conquered his fear of the cupboard doors that bite and the piles of shiny metal things that make noise (currently terrified of the vacuum cleaner but that’s another story) and discovered the joys of taking everything out of the cupboard and banging them around.

The Rocket Scientist finds this somewhat irritating as our Doodle can make quite the racket.  For me however, it is music to my ears.  It is currently a minimum of a half hour where I can sit in my chair, watch him, smile and nod every once in a while as he looks up in pride at some particularly loud noise he has just produced, and enjoy my tea or read a book or a blog or maybe even write a blog or download the kajillion pictures I’ve taken of him and his pots and pans, whatever. I. want.  Glorious.  I’ll worry later if he’s strong enough to actually dent anything or if he’s putting scratches in the teflon as he slides a pot lid around my favourite frying pan, it doesn’t matter, it’s all just stuff.  Stuff can be replaced.  Time to sit and relax can’t.

So without further ado, here are a few pictures I took before I realized I could be sitting down with my tea and my laptop:

Hehe, I have a pot

I wonder what else is in there…

…just gotta get a better look…

…maybe if I just crawl inside…

And then later on that day:

Next blog:  London!  Actually not really, I’ll likely do a little blog about dancing with Daddy first and a few other thoughts…and then, London!  I’m actually buying time to go through all my pictures, actually London may take a couple posts if I can’t decide which are the most adorable Doodle shots, you understand.