Monday, October 31, 2011


Today I took care of both kids all day all by myself.  That hasn't happened for a very long time.  It was a good day, though.  Overall, I felt like I was doing what I was made to do, and that is a very good feeling.  It was stressful at moments, like when I was standing in the middle of Target trying to focus on what I needed to buy while James hollered incessantly, "Cars!  Cars!  Nak-Naks! Nak-Naks!"  (That's fruit snacks, in case you couldn't tell.), and Ella said, "Mom, how do you spell Thanksgiving?"  

But overall, good.  It was all good.  We went to the library and Target.  We went for a walk around the neighborhood with all the neighborhood children (who were previously all playing in my backyard), and then I bathed the children, made and fed them supper, and took them to the neighborhood up the road for some trick-or-treat action.  Oh, my.

It was the most precious sight seeing little James toddle up to the front porch with Ella, carrying his Easter basket, because yes, I don't plan ahead or spend a lot of money on Halloween, and he didn't have any other kind of bucket.  So an Easter basket it was.  He had no idea what he was doing, but when people would answer the door he would walk right inside their houses, and after I pulled him out and they dropped candy in his bucket, he would yell excitedly, "Nak-Naks!  Nak-Naks!"  Because all candy is fruit snacks now, and he loves him some fruit snacks.  He was adorable.

My mom gave me the wonderful idea of simply putting him
in his Alabama jersey.  Wa-la!  Costume!
I bought that jersey for $1 at a yard sale.

Is he not the cutest football player ever??

I will confess that before we left for England, I spent $18 on a 
toddler-sized Yoda costume for James.
It was so stinking adorable.
But the Jedi robe ended up being too short, and James didn't
like wearing it, so I returned it.  
A $1 costume is much better.
Someday he will want to be a Jedi knight, I am sure.

My little princess bought a Minnie Mouse costume with some birthday money, but at the last minute tonight, she decided to put on her Snow White dress-up clothes instead.  She loves to strike a pose.  Tonight was fun.

We had a Skype date with KJ before I put the kids to bed.  He is feeling better and hoping to take Ella to school in the morning and go in to work.  I hope we all make it through the night virus free.

A little sickness, a little fun

Oh my, oh my, the dreaded stomach virus has come to our house.  Poor KJ got sick yesterday afternoon and is currently quarantined in our bedroom.  He did request some bread this morning, so perhaps that is a good sign.  I'm so sorry that he's sick.  

I slept on the couch last night, so I didn't have the best of sleeps.  Everyone slept in a bit, and I decided to keep Ella home as a precautionary measure.  I am hoping no one else gets sick, but I would hate for her to get hit with this at school.  Not only would it be awful for her, it would then spread around to her entire class. If we can all make it through until tomorrow morning, maybe we will be in the clear.

Meanwhile, as long as we're feeling okay, it's kind of like a mini-holiday to have both my children at home.  It has been so, so fun watching Ella and James play together this weekend.  They are so precious.  Friday night we played a family game of hide and seek.  At first, Ella and KJ were a team, and I was teamed up with James.  James loves to hide.  He stays pretty quiet but also giggles periodically and whispers, "Hide."  His favorite hiding places are in the bath tub and in dark closets.  

KJ suggested switching partners, so Ella picked James.  It was fun following the sounds of their laughter.  Here's a few other things they've been doing together this weekend:

I LOVE these children.

James said his first sentence yesterday, incorporating one of his new words.  He climbed the 18 stairs in our church and then hit his head on the rail as he stood back up, and I said, "Ooohhh," and James said, "I'm okay."  He then went full speed ahead into the sanctuary.  

I need to make a grocery list and a meal plan.  I'm also in need of some more medicine for allergy-related stuff.  My throat is a bit sore this morning.  It's that time of year!  

Today has been an unexpected start to our week.  In fact, yesterday right before KJ got sick, I was asking him about each day and what we had coming up.  Monday didn't include keeping Ella home from school and KJ having a virus, but I must admit, after two weeks away from home, I will take a day of everyone being at home, even if it involves a little sickness.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kind of like a postcard

Yes, I've been playing with pictures instead of doing housework.

But I did make dinner first; it's in the crock pot.

I loved this moment.
We walked a long way (in the wrong direction at first)
before we made it here for the sunset.

But we made it.
And then a man out of work (who later asked us for spare change)
offered to take our picture when he saw us maneuvering the camera
to do it ourselves.  And I said, "No way am I letting my camera out of my hands."

Just kidding.
KJ told him we were getting good at doing it ourselves.
And we kind of were, but also, there was no way
I was letting my camera out of my hands.

KJ goes to Pemberley

There was no music added to this video in post-production. No, my husband just carries theme music in his pocket to make moments a little more magical. I wish I had panned a little slower so you could have taken in the full glory of Pemberley. I'm afraid I have no experience in filming landscape shots. But still, isn't it beautiful? I can't believe we were really there.

Fall Festivities

Oh, how glad I am that it's Friday!  It has been a bit busy since we arrived home.  With jet lag and homework and lots of after-school activities, it will be so nice to not have to worry about anything when Ella comes home from school today.  We love spending time with people, but it  will be good for there to be no rushing about tonight.  We just need some time to be at home together.  

I think the flurry of activities at school this week have prevented nap time in Ella's class the past couple of days.  This hasn't been good for Ella because the past two nights we've had church and then a fall festival and Bible study.  She's gone to bed crying from exhaustion both nights, and it hurts my mother's heart.  I don't want her to be that tired.  Something must have made James very tired, as well, because he is still sleeping at 8:30.  This is unusual.  He went to bed at 7:50 last night.  

There are three events on the schedule for Saturday, but I think we're going to work it where each child only goes out once.  It's easier for them that way.  

And though she was completely done-in by the time we got home last night, Ella did have some first-time experiences, her first time to pet animals at a petting zoo (I don't think she would have done that without the encouragement of a friend), her first hay ride, and her first pony ride.  She was adorable and the cutest Minnie Mouse ever.

Her spirits seemed much improved this morning after 11 hours of sleep.  She is very excited about the weekend, too, though.  She has been asking about when her "day off" was since KJ and I came home Monday night.

I suppose I'm going to check in on James.  I did hear him cry briefly about 6:30.  He must have fallen back into a deep sleep after that.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sights from Trafalgar Square

This is the National Gallery, and we didn't go inside.

We hadn't been in London very long, and I didn't think I wanted to walk around
looking at portraits of people I probably didn't know.
I'm not sure what I was thinking, because throughout our trip as we visited people's homes,
we would see a plaque that said, "The original portrait is in the National Gallery."

So next time, I will definitely stroll through those corridors.

My first sight of Big Ben.

I read in the guidebook that you shouldn't miss the view of Big Ben 
from Trafalgar Square.  It was magnificent.
It really is the most beautiful clock tower.

Lord Beatty, an admiral in the Royal Navy during WWI

One thing I took away from our trip is just how many lives were lost during the first world war, "The Great War" as it was called on so many war monuments in every city and village we visited.  I never realized before how much it affected each town, as they lost almost an entire generation of young men.  It was very sad.

Part of the fountain

replica of Lord Nelson's ship, Victory

Lord Nelson himself

I was just doing some online research to make sure I got details right and discovered that Lord Nelson actually was shot and killed during the Battle of Trafalgar.

I knew he won the victory against the French that day, 
but I didn't know he died.

Speaking of fighting the French, KJ and I started reading Dickens'
A Child's History of England while we drove.  From the time the first person sailed from France to England, those two countries fought.  
If my memory is correct, the Napoleonic Wars Nelson died fighting 
were the last fought between England and France.

Prior to that, however, those two countries were fighting off and on for 800 years.
The story became all too familiar as we read:
One king or queen decided they had a right to some part of France or England,
and they would demand it.  The other party would refuse, and they would begin fighting again,
taking breaks from time to time for various reasons.

I just found it somewhat astounding that it took 800 years for those two countries to stop fighting.  And there is your history lesson for today.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

She's my girl.

"You know what my favorite time at school is?"


"Coming home time."

Me, too, little girl.
Me, too.

This and That

This is my first time to experience jet lag.  Yesterday wasn't too bad. I did wake up at 3 a.m. yesterday morning (9 a.m. UK time).  I got up for about an hour and went back to bed and felt pretty good yesterday until about 6 o'clock.  I think it hit KJ and I at the same time.  At that point, I was finding it really hard to be patient with my children and referee arguments and listen to crying.  I got a headache and felt like I was going to be sick but made it through until they went to bed.  

I think being physically exhausted was also making me feel really emotional towards Ella.  I still wrestle with a desire to just keep her home with me.  We were sitting on the couch last night doing her reading homework, and she leaned against my arm and then sat up and said, "Is it okay if I lean on you?"

"Yes, that's fine."

"I've really been missing you, Mommy.  I'm glad you're back."

I started crying.  I'm glad I'm back, too.  

I woke up early this morning but feel rested since I went to bed early.  I've been praying for my precious girl and then looking through a few pictures.  Here are a few of our adventures on the Underground.

This was our first stop.
We had to go pick up some passes we bought
that got us in for free at several places across the country.

What is crazy to me is how the name of each stop is so familiar to me,
but what is crazier is that they are familiar names because I've read about
these places in books that are 200 years old.

I saw a picture in front of a moving subway that I thought looked cool,
so I tried to recreate it a bit with KJ.

In the background you'll notice building underway for the Olympics next year.

We stood on this street corner for quite a while trying to figure out which direction we needed to go to pick up our British Heritage passes.  This is the place where we first interacted with several local people.  Coming up these steps out of the Underground a man talking on his phone dropped a 5-pound note without realizing it.  KJ picked it up and brought it to him, and he was so grateful.  When he finished his phone conversation a few minutes later we were still standing there looking for street numbers, and KJ asked him if he knew where the building was we were looking for.  He took the time to look up a map on his phone and help us with directions.  I wasn't expecting that kindness in the middle of the hustle and bustle of London, everyone walking quickly to where they needed to be.  I think he felt he owed KJ a kindness in return.

Unfortunately for us, we were still having trouble finding the correct building even after looking at the map.  We were turning circles at an intersection when a man walking by said, "Are you lost, mate?"  

He knew exactly where we needed to go, and said he was walking that way and invited us along.  As we walked and talked we learned that he had lived and worked in Tennessee for a time where he "was a member of the NRA."  I thought it was funny that that was the first thing he told us when he found out we were from the States.  I guess people in the UK associate us with guns.

I have a few more Underground photos, but they're all from the Baker Street stop, so I'll hold out on those and put them with our other Sherlock pictures.  Writing down memories from our trip will probably be intermingled with daily happenings for a long time. There wasn't time to stop and think about them when we were gone because we were going from adventure to adventure.  I'm doing my "remembering" bit by bit now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Adventure is out there!

Ten thousand feet up in the air, I took out my e-reader and opened a book.

To all those who lead
monotonous lives.
In the hope that they may experience 
at second hand
the delights and dangers of 

[the dedication of Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary]

I laughed and shut the e- reader down, because this time 
I wouldn't be having a second-hand adventure.

The Last Day

After about 14 hours of total travel time yesterday, KJ and I arrived home.  We were greeted by our children gallivanting around the front yard.  It is very good to be home, though at the moment I feel somewhere caught in the middle between vacation and a British time zone and all the many responsibilities of home and family and the time zone of my current location.  There is a lot of settling in to be done with laundry and unpacking and catching up on school and church activities and delivering all the cookie dough that came in during our absence.  But, it's rather nice to have plenty to do.

I did take some time to go trough a few pictures from our last day in London for your viewing pleasure.  Our trip needed a proper ending.  

Sunday morning we took the Underground to this famous intersection,

where we went to this famous church.

After the service we visited a copy of Shakespeare's Globe,
where we were reminded of just how many phrases 
that man coined.  It's quite impressive.


We then visited London Bridge,
which is not like the original and was a bit disappointing.
What a nice concrete affair.

But maybe they just didn't want it to outshine it's near neighbor,
The Tower Bridge.

I discovered that The Tower of London was a misnomer,
considering it's a castle and not just a mere tower.

I liked this picture because, not to be too morbid,
surely there would have been a lot of crows about in yesteryear.
Not many who went into the tower left with their head
if you know what I mean.

Then we went to a now famous station,

where KJ asked directions to this now famous platform.

Unlike the attendant Harry asked, this lady could actually give us directions.

After dinner at McDonald's (such authentic British food),
and despite the fact that darkness had fallen,
we traveled to Abbey Road and set up the tripod.

Are passing cars cooler than the Beatles?

One last trek across the city brought us past the palace.

Then we boarded our train and went back to our hotel,
where we collapsed with exhaustion.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Few Great Men

Our trip is nearly over, and we are very ready to be back home.  We turned in the keys to our rental car tonight and checked in to a Holiday Inn close to the airport.  My only complaint is that we are forced to PAY EXTRA MONEY to use their internet.  Boo.  I think we will probably pay for an hour and then be off the grid until we reach a place with the decency to offer free WI-FI.  This was such a bummer to me at first.  I mean, MCDONALD’S offers free internet.  We’re spending a lot more money to stay two nights at the Holiday Inn than we pay at McDonald’s.  Oh, well.

I am so anxious to be home again with the children, though it has been nice to be on vacation and enjoy stress-free, responsibility-free time with KJ.  I’ve enjoyed it so much.

Today we drove to Bedford, where John Bunyan preached the gospel and was imprisoned and wrote Pilgrim’s Progress.  There is a museum there where they had several items belonging to him, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside.  The most valuable thing they have is his will, written in his own hand.  It was found in the chimney of a house that was about to be torn down in the 1800s. 

We drove from Bedford to Olney where John Newton preached and William Cowper lived.  Cowper’s house is now a museum.  They, too, had an impressive number of both Newton and Cowper’s belongings.  We were able to run our hands over Cowper’s desk and walk through his garden, looking inside the small building he called his “Poetry Factory,” where he wrote.

John Newton died and was buried in London, but his body was moved to Olney in the 1800s so we were able to visit his grave and walk inside the church where he preached.  It was beautiful, of course, built in the same style as so many of the churches we’ve been inside during our time here.

We have a pretty full day planned in London tomorrow, and then it’s time to come home.  I can hardly wait to be with my children again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Beyond the Sea

At our first stop this morning, The World of James Harriot, we had a delightful surprise.  

We alighted from our  car and were studying the parking instructions on the street sign when a man approached us.

"I think I'm supposed to be meeting you.  Are you the Americans we're expecting?"

"Um, we're Americans, but I don't think anyone knew we were coming."

"Yes, you're here for the interview?  I'm Jim Wight."

We weren't there for any interview, but we told him we'd love to chat because I recognized his name immediately.  This was James Herriot's son!  He was on holiday with his family in the Lake District but had come into town for an interview regarding the release of his father's books in digital format.  The people he was supposed to meet with weren't there yet, so we had a lovely little talk about his father and his father's books and got a picture in front of the real Skeldale House.

KJ had bought me Jim Wight's biography of his father a couple of years ago for Christmas, so I was happy to be able to tell him I'd read his book.  I later told KJ I thought that was a really nice thing to be able to add to the conversation when you met someone.  :)  Our meeting him was a completely unexpected turn of events that gave us a nice start to our day.

After our tour of the home and veterinary surgery we drove to Scarborough for a brief stop.  As we were driving away I made KJ pull over so I could get pictures of the English cliffs over the water.  The sea feels so different here, and I think the cliffs over the ocean are quintessential England in my imagination.  

We then made a visit to Wilberforce House before ending our journey for today.  

Only two days left on our journey.  It feels like we've been here for so long, and it has been lovely.  I told KJ today I was so ready to be back in my own little domain with my children, but I did so hate to leave this place.  I like being here where we drive on the left side of the road, eat biscuits instead of cookies and chips instead of fries.  I like how every church is at least 500 years old and how every place is rich with history, good and bad.  I like being told, "Cheers!" as I leave a restaurant and feeling the misty rain on my face.  KJ said the only solution would be to bring our children here with us.  I believe that would work.  Cheers.


A Yorkshire Cow

I thought James might enjoy it.

We're visiting the home of the late Alf Wight this morning.
If you've read All Creatures Great and Small you know him as James Herriot.
He spent a lot of time with Yorkshire cows,
and if you enjoy good stories, you should read his books.

You will laugh and cry and enjoy them immensely.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

There and Back Again

The view from Peveril Castle yesterday

It was lovely.
We saw so many lovely views today as well,
driving through the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District.

I don't really want to leave this beautiful place.
I feel like I belong here.

But every night I see two precious faces on my computer screen,
and I know I must leave for now.

But, oh, how I love this place.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The North Country

Here are a couple of pictures from yesterday.

One of I don't know how many bookstores

A rainbow as we left Wales

Richard Baxter's church and statue 

A house where Baxter lived as a young curate
before he became pastor of the above church

This morning we got up early and caught the end of the sunrise.

We saw a lot of cows and even more sheep.

I love the way they looked at me.

After our sunrise journey and breakfast the first order of business was buying me a cozy, warm jacket.  Success!  Apparently the winter is so long in Derbyshire, they have sales on fleece and cashmere in October.  I was so thankful to feel warm again.  I didn't pack a lot of overly warm things because before we left I was only able to see the forecast for the first week.  The first week was cool but mild.  We just heard the forecast for tonight, and it was 0 C.  I can't remember what that translates to Fahrenheit.  32?

As we rounded the corner this morning, preparing ourselves for the glory of Pemberley, we were disappointed to see the entire front of Chatsworth House covered in scaffolding and tarps where they've been cleaning the stone.  It was a disappointment not to be able to capture the stunning house with my camera, but the grounds were beautiful.  It truly is a most happily situated house.

After lunch we drove into the high peak district.  It was so amazingly beautiful (and cold!).  We took a little detour at a castle and then traveled to Yorkshire.  Tomorrow we're driving through the Lake District into Scotland to visit the birthplace of John G. Paton.  If you haven't read his biography, you should!  It's very exciting.  

We really are having such a wonderful time together.  It's been amazing every day.  I am missing my children so much, however, but I think I would be perfectly happy to bring them here to live for a few years.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Today's Travels

We are in Derbyshire!  Hooray!  

After breakfast this morning we checked out of The Old Black Lion, an inn built in the 1560s where Oliver Cromwell stayed during the English Civil War, and visited the book shops we didn't make it  to yesterday afternoon.  We then picked up some ready-made sandwiches at a local grocery store and began the drive to Kidderminster.  Richard Baxter preached there from 1641-1660, and it was a beautiful old church.  I'll have to post pictures tomorrow, because our internet connection is sketchy here in the Dales.  

It was an absolutely beautiful day for a drive but VERY COLD.  The worst thing, of course, was the wind.  I'm sure the wind chill was in the 30s.  I do have one picture to share, though.  As we were leaving Hay-on-Wye we saw a beautiful and long rainbow.  We braved the bitter winds to bring you a picture of a rainbow over the River Wye.....Only, I just waited patiently for several minutes, and it was only about a 1/4 of the way through loading it.  I'm afraid pictures are going to have to wait.

The very fun thing was that not long after we drove into Derbyshire we saw another rainbow!  It hasn't rained a drop today, but the clouds have been tinged with darkness against a bright blue sky.  It's been so lovely (and did I mention very cold?).  

We have arrived at the hotel where Jane Austen presumably stayed, and the town of Bakewell (aka Lambton) is very quaint and lovely.  We are planning to wake up early to make the sunrise and explore the town before we visit Chatsworth House (i.e. Pemberley).  I am hoping to get pictures of all the sheep, cows, and horses we passed driving in, grazing in the green fields.  The grass is an amazing green for October.  It looks like May.  

Tomorrow afternoon we plan to drive up to Thirsk in Yorkshire where James Herriot (Alf Wight) practiced veterinary medicine.  I am hoping for a beautiful, albeit cold day. It's not so bad if we stay down between the peaks and out of the wind, but I'm not sure where our travels will take us.  I wish I'd brought a warmer jacket.  :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Into the West

Our first stop today was at Hanham Mount, right outside of Bristol, where George Whitefield preached his first open-air sermon.  He also brought John Wesley to this spot to preach on several occasions. It was a very special place to be.  

The signs also informed us that the Baptists used to swim across the river to preach at this spot.  We also learned that John Wesley traveled a quarter of a million miles on horseback preaching the gospel, enough to travel to the moon.

We then headed west and spent the late afternoon popping in and out of bookshops in Hay-on-Wye.  I'll try to share some pictures of those tomorrow.  It is time for bed on this side of the ocean.


I've just finished another English breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast.  I don't think I can take too many more mornings of eating such a full breakfast.  My American economy doesn't like to NOT eat it since it was included in the price of the room, but my waistline might not thank me when I return home.  It was quite delicious, though.  I do love everything English.

I spent my breakfast time preparing a few more pictures to post since I didn't share any from Bath yesterday.  I knew my mother would be excited to see a few sights such as...

A sedan chair 
This is how ladies would be carried about the city.

The Pump Room
(The water from the springs was pretty disgusting.)

I'm sure it did feel like a medicinal treatment to those seeking cure for their ailments.
I couldn't stomach down a full glass.

Here is the inside of the Pump Room,
where they would have promenaded about,
seeing and being seen.

Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon

We are heading out this morning for Wales, looking forward to the book shops.  Yesterday there was actually a book fair being held in the Assembly Rooms, but these books were WAY out of our price range.  Every rare book dealer in England (at least it seemed like it) was there with a booth.  I saw second editions of Jane Austen's works in 3 volumes and illustrated, priced from 5,000-8500 pounds.  We saw a copy of Foxe's Book of Martyrs from 1578.  My goodness.  There was also what appeared to be a first edition of Winnie the Pooh.  It was amazing.  We're looking forward to prices more in our range today.  But I was really thankful for a chance to see all these treasures.  England is definitely a country where you could find such things.