When we got home we had cold cereal for dinner because I had a smashing headache and now the kids are in bed and I'm peacefully relaxed in my chair that reclines.
The legacy of Queen Victoria and her husband/cousin Prince Albert includes several museums, and the Museum of Childhood became the collection place in the 20th century for all things related to children and family life. We took the tube to Bethnal Green and spent THREE hours in the museum. It was a really fantastic set-up because each exhibit had an interactive space for the kids, which always gave me time to read while they played.
A sandbox in the middle of a museum? Well sure! I've learned that Europeans are big fans of importing tonnes of sand and creating artificial beaches all over the city. (They do this in Paris too I've read.) But I told Richard that I think a beach is worthless to me without water. Apparently the kids disagree.
We were all hungry and thirsty by the time we left the musuem so we stopped at a little market and got some snacks and drinks and took them to the Bethnal Green park. The kids had fun running around unrestrained- but it made for terrible timing. We ended up on the Tube during rush hour. We've done the trains during rush hour before- but only with Richard. Fortunately people were considerate and accommodating so we managed to get home without losing anyone. It was hot- but not as hot as the buses.
When we got home we had cold cereal for dinner because I had a smashing headache and now the kids are in bed and I'm peacefully relaxed in my chair that reclines.
This week hasn't felt much like we are living in another country. Monday we spent entirely at home, doing laundry and chores around the house. Sometimes on Mondays I miss work- that day away to talk to adults. Sigh.
Tuesday we met the Farmers at a cinema (movie theater) in Greenwich for a discount showing of dated movies. The movie for the day was Tarzan but it wasn't the Disney Tarzan I was expecting. It was a German version of Tarzan with the voices of American actors that was probably never released in America. Having never heard of it, I went back and read some reviews which pretty much summed up how I felt about it.
"This computer-generated mo-cap version ... turns Edgar Rice Burrough’s loinclothed apeman into a tree-hugger defending his jungle against capitalists."
Aside from an over saturation of cliches and man vs ape violence, it was nice to sit in an air conditioned theatre and relax a bit, and kids aren't usually too picky about their entertainment. After the movie we went to McDonald's for lunch and then did a bit of shopping. We rode the bus home and it was brutally hot so when we got back I let the kids put on their swimsuits and spray each other with the hose.
It was exactly the kind of summer day we might have had in Kuna. Which felt nice and familiar. Except not familiar at all because everything here - including McDonald's and movies and transportation and backyards - is totally different.
Today I planned to stay home all day in the hopes that our belongings would be delivered, but alas no such luck. When I realized it wasn't likely, I decided to go the library and run a few errands. We now are the proud owners of a rubbish bin and a broom. It's been a long three weeks without those two things!
As some consolation, yesterday I ordered a dozen miscellaneous things on Amazon and they all came today. Free one day shipping for Amazon Prime! And virtually free shipping on everything else, even if it isn't Prime eligible. That's a perk I just can't get over.
I suppose that some level of guilt is inherent to motherhood no matter where you live. I find myself feeling guilty that we aren't doing MORE to explore this amazing city. I know that two years will go by so quickly and at the end of it I will have regrets about things unseen or undone. Right now though I feel the restraints of limited energy, patience and finances. So I try to balance all those factors with my desire to maximize this experience for my children. I just don't have much confidence that I'm going a good job of it.
Our trip to Dover Castle was three weeks ago but I just hadn't gotten around to posting about it. We visited Dover Castle on our second day in Ramsgate, after we visited the Cliffs of Dover.
Dover Castle has a "Great Tower" (see below) but the name refers to all the buildings enclosed within the castle walls. There are guard posts, churches, military barracks, and several other outbuildings.
The English (and probably many Eurpean countries) spare no expense with their churches. They are all so beautiful. And I have a thing for biblical stories depicted in stained glass.
The following pictures are all from the inside of the Great Tower. It was all decorated as it would have been during the time of Henry II. The kids had a great time exploring it.
After we toured the Great Tower we took the kids to the shop and let them pick a toy. The boys all picked wooden swords and Miriam picked a crown.
The view from the rooftop of the Great Tower.
The highlight of the trip to Dover Castle wasn't actually the castle for Cameron and Eli. Down the hill, closer to the cliffs there are a series of tunnels that were used during WWII. We took a tour that had some neat film/sound/wall projections that are hard to describe but were really creative and interesting. I think this was the beginning of Cameron and Eli's WWII obsession.
The tour talked a lot about Operation Dynamo, which was the effort by the British government to rescue allied forces from the coast of France after they were cornered by the German army. It was a really interesting story and if you're in the mood for a bit of history, look it up. I didn't get any pictures of the tunnels because photography wasn't allowed during the tour.
Wow Jo. A really somber and reflective post about a cemetery and memorial and then a totally superficial and silly post about fashion. What next?!
Just a post about the before-and-after-cemetery that was our Saturday.
At the beginning of the week last week Richard asked the kids if they wanted to set a goal to read scriptures and pray as a family every morning at breakfast. The kids got on board as soon as I offered crepes as a reward if we met the goal.
Richard's work week is technically a 35 hour work week, Monday through Friday 9:30-5:30. Even though he has been going in earlier than 9:30, he is still around a lot more in the mornings than he ever was in Kuna. All told, I think his commute time here is actually a few minutes shorter than it was to Boise. The point being that we can eat breakfast as a family every morning.
This is a big deal for me. One of our goals in taking this opportunity to move to London was to simplify our lives and spend more time together as a family. So far it's come together in this way even more than I imagined. I know that the longer we live here the more complicated our lives will get again, and it won't always be this easy. But for now, without friends or family to divide our time with, we just have each other. Richard pointed out last week that we ate two meals together as a family in one day, which was unheard of before.
Anyway, we accomplished our goal so on Saturday morning we took a bus to Ladywell, about ten minutes away, and ate crepes at a place Eli and I have had our eyes on for awhile.
After we got home from Le Delice we packed a picnic and loaded in the car for a drive to Cambridge. We visited the cemetery first and then we went and ate our picnic at Cambridge University.
By the time we arrived at the university we were hungry so we picked the first parking spot we found and ate on the first grassy knoll we found. There weren't many buildings in sight, just a lot of huge trees. And stinging nettle. All four kids had their first experience with it. It looked like it stung alright, and they all had little welts on their fingers, toes and legs.
After we finished eating we took a stroll to find some of the beautiful buildings I was imagining. As soon as we reached this bridge I fell in love. From where we were on the outside there wasn't much to see, but we cut through Clare College and all of the sudden we were in the heart of the university complex, like its own city.
We walked down the main drag where there were lots of shops and restaurants and art studios and people. It was a fun and exciting place and there were all kinds of people there. There were also a lot of weddings going on and just a joyous and happening atmosphere. The kids kept saying how everything looked like a castle.
We stopped and got some treats and drinks and then we found our way back to our car so we could make the drive home. I love being able to visit these places. But sometimes they make me feel so small; like such a little person from Idaho who doesn't know the ways of the big, brilliant thinkers and intellectuals. I guess I'm content to just sit back and appreciate them for their contributions to our world, all those 80-something Cambridge alumni who have won a Nobel Prize...
I've never read a fashion blog on purpose and I really have no sense for it. And I'm pretty sure everything I post here has been on fashion blogs for years. But I thought it would be fun anyway. I'm just going to post the popular trends I see as I wander the streets of London.
This is all strictly based on observation so don't take me too seriously. But I also have to admit that as I Googled these outfits I felt validated in my observations of their popularity. And to my credit there is one fashion trend I've totally nailed and that is maxi skirts/dresses. But those are just so doggone convenient and comfortable it's no wonder they are taking over the world. Watch out Crocs- the maxi skirt has moved in. (Yes, I know, the maxi skirt moved in, like so five years ago.) And kudos to my fashionable friends and sisters who actually own and wear some of these products. (Except the see-through blouse. I still think that's just tacky.)
I'm really excited for Cameron and Eli's new passion about WWII because they are pouring over books and movies about history. But I've been worried that they are glamorizing war. I know it's normal for boys to get excited about guns and tanks and courage and heroes, and that's even okay with me. The other day I told Richard that I wanted to find a way to help them understand the horrors and tragedies of war without traumatizing them. Then I remembered that there was an American cemetery near Cambridge where American's who were killed or missing were memorialized and buried. We had a Saturday afternoon with nothing on the schedule and a tank full of petrol, so it seemed like a perfect outing.
I had heard of the cemetery from a story I read when we visited a museum in Dover. The story was just on a yellow piece of paper slipped inside a sheet protector and taped to the wall, but I took a photo of it because I never wanted to forget it.
It would probably be worth my time to type it up so it's easier to read, but I don't have time to do that right now. If anyone would like a copy send me an email and it will motivate me to get it done! (And hopefully it wouldn't be illegal.) If you have the patience and good eyes, I highly recommend reading it here.
We packed a picnic and made the drive up to Cambridge. It only took an hour to get there once we got out of the city. And it was a really pretty drive.
The cemetery is immaculate, just as the story described. It was also very peaceful. Richard gave the kids a little pep talk about reverence and respect and the hallowed ground of places like this.
There was a Visitors Center that had a short video about WWII and the cemetery. It explained who was buried there and talked about America's involvement in the war. There were other displays and photos and a lot to read about America's relationship with the British and I was quite touched by the gratitude and respect the locals in Great Britain had for the American servicemen.
There are 3,812 men and women buried in the cemetery, including military personnel and American civilians who lost their lives while working in England during the war. Then there is a wall of the 5,127 missing men and women who died at sea or whose bodies were never recovered. (Including the brother of John F. Kennedy.)
It was a really sacred and meaningful experience for me, and I think it had the desired effect on the boys too. There were nearly 70 million people around the world who lost their lives during WWII. That number is impossible to comprehend for a 7 and 9 year old. But to see 3,000 headstones gave them a somber realization that war has a heavy price. I didn't want them to be depressed, just aware.
I'm personally grateful for the bravery and self-sacrifice of the men and women who lost their lives during this and other wars. I was also moved by the examples of unselfish service and genuine love and brotherhood that motivated many of the men who died. Richard and I talked about how military service can be rough around the edges. The men sometimes have a reputation of being vulgar and reckless or arrogant. But they exhibited levels of charity neither of us could claim to have and we were honored to read their stories.
Mindy asked if we would be interested in swapping kids for a chance to go out and that sounded fantastic so last night we dropped off our kids at their flat and walked to Greenwich for dinner.
It had been pouring rain all afternoon so it was misty and muggy but the view from the top of Maze Hill was still beautiful. We walked down the hill and into Greenwich Village and chose a Mediterranean place called "Papa Charlies". We tried to pick a place that looked the least family friendly, to really capitalize on our freedom. There was a family that came in though, with adorable tow-headed twins, a boy and girl just around John and Catie's ages and we sighed over them.
Richard had Guvec and I had Mousaka and they were both delicious. Our server was a sweet and gentle girl from Italy, working in London for the summer, with a rhinestone in her lateral incisor that sparkled when she smiled and I wanted to ask her to sit with us during dessert because I wanted to know her life story.
Richard was feeling left out since the kids and I had been to Greenwich park twice without him so we decided to walk back to the Farmer's flat by way of the park. It was so quiet and serene at dusk. Sometimes we can't believe this is our life. (GAG.) But really.
As we were leaving the park Richard started to tell me about the Royal Post letter boxes throughout the city. I love postcards and have been trying to send them off to my dearly beloveds across the ocean so Eli has made a game out of finding letter boxes for me when we are out and about.
Richard explained to me that he had learned that each letter box has the cipher of the reigning King or Queen from the time it was built/placed. Richard said he had seen quite a few already from Queen Elizabeth II, which is no surprise seeing as how she has been queen for the last 60+ years and Richard spends most of his time in Canary Wharf, a more recently developed part of the city. But no sooner had we left the park then we saw one- and this one has the cipher of King George V, who ruled from 1910-1936. Pretty old letter box, eh? Much to our delight, after we'd walked a block or so we came across another one. We didn't get a picture of that one because it was getting dark, but it was Queen Victoria, who ruled until 1901, which was the first year the letter boxes existed. A letter box that was 113 years old. We told Eli about this new discovery as soon as we picked up the kids and his eyes lit up. His game just became much more exciting.
Aside from our one hour dates at IKEA when the kids played in Smaland this was our first chance to be together in a couple months. It was nice and the kids had a really good time playing at someone else's house for the first time in a couple months as well. In fact we laughed because when we dropped them off they were gone lickety-split without so much as a good-bye.
I still wake up sometimes in the middle of the night and feel completely disoriented. What is this place? What day is it? Where am I? Why am I so sweaty?
In Kuna when one of the kids would wake me up with their wailing in the dark of the night, I could recognize the voice, check with the child, and be back in bed without hardly opening my eyes. My subconscious is having trouble making the transition here.
Our house is so hot. Very few buildings have central air conditioning here. And I don't think many homes do. People are telling us that this is an exceptionally hot summer, but it seems like people are saying that everywhere, and they are saying it about the winters too. Anyway, we sleep with the windows open and the curtains up to let the air come in. But that means the room is in full sunlight before 5:00 am and we get the pleasure of the morning noises. I actually don't mind the noises so much, particularly the sound of women's heels clicking down the sidewalk, or the new birds I've never heard or the chit chat of the neighbors. I can also recognize the sound of suitcase wheels rolling down the concrete. Nearly every day someone on my street is leaving or returning from travels.
Anyway- this post is really supposed to be about the museum.
On Friday morning we met the Farmers at the Greenwich playground again. We let the kids play for awhile but rain was on its way so we headed toward the National Maritime Museum which is right next to the park.
The museum was full of interesting things but we had trouble keeping the kids interested. Fortunately they had some interactive/playful galleries. I told Richard we will have to go back with just Cameron and Eli. Museums are hard to appreciate if you can't read.
As we left the museum I was stressed and tired and frustrated. The kids were getting wild and losing control of themselves, as was I. At the bus stop I lost my cool and told Mim and Si that they would not get ice lollies when we got home and they fell apart. So Miriam threw fits the whole way home. I had opted for the bus because the bus stop was right outside the museum, but then the heat and humidity from the rain just made us all more irritable. Public transportation loses some appeal when you can't let your child have a tantrum in the privacy of your own vehicle. I didn't get any dirty looks though, even from the patient man sitting in front of Miriam when she kicked the back of his seat in fits of four year old rage over ice lollies.
We survived the ride home and as soon as we walked through the door I hosed Mim and Si's sweaty and puddle-jumping bodies off in the bathtub and put them down for naps in their underwear. Cameron and Eli were banished to the garden and I came down from the ledges of my mind in peace and quiet, vowing to never take the kids anywhere ever again.
This poor blog is horribly neglected when I become a gluttonous reader. I've read two books in the last week, which is exactly the same number of books I read in the last year. Yesterday I finished The Fault in Our Stars and if I had any book reviewing skills at all whatsoever I would offer my two cents. I'll just say that I read it gluttonously so I must have liked it. And as soon as the movie is available to me (don't ask me how or when that will be seeing as there is no Redbox here) I will watch it alone.
On Wednesday we met up with our American friends, the Farmer family, at the Greenwich park playground. We live near the southwest corner of the park and the playground is on the north end of the park so we took a bus this time. But I told the kids we were going to walk home, back down through the park.
After all those shenanigans and we drug Cameron away from the game, we began our journey to the other side of the park. It was really hot and humid and I had some cold drinks and cookies in my bag that I used to bribe the children up the hills.
In the center of the park is the Royal Observatory which is the location of the Prime Meridian. But it sits on top of the highest hill in the park and I figured that was best left for a day when Richard could enjoy it with us.
My friend Alison told me about these benches around London that have been painted "to represent a major landmark in literary history." I had forgotten all about it until we saw this one. It is the first one we've seen. It depicts We're Going on a Bear Hunt and it made me really excited to try and find more.
We stopped and ate our cookies and drank our juice at the top of the hill. Then we stopped a few other places so the kids could play and I could find some shade and attempt to cease the perpetual sweating. No one told me London would be so hot!
The park is beautiful. We saw a flower garden and a gazebo but we still have yet to see the deer reserve and rose garden. So much to explore!
By the time we got home we were all thoroughly exhausted. We licked ice lollies and lazed around and took naps and then went to dinner at Bucket Mouth because Richard had to work late. I'll write about Bucket Mouth another day.
POST EDIT** I usually go back through my posts and read them for errors and flow and such. But this one was so boring I couldn't even read it a second time. Sorry.
Part of Cameron and Eli's induction was a school tour, given to us by two "Year Fives". Bless their hearts, but as I bombarded them with questions I only became more confused. But this is what I've learned.
Nursery: For children who are 3 years of age when school begins. Nursery is comparable to a first year of preschool except it is government funded. Most or many primary schools (think elementary school) have a nursery too, but there are also a lot of private nurseries/daycares. The government sponsors 15 hours of nursery each week for children who are three years old. Some schools are flexible about which hours your child can attend, but at Lucas Vale it is run in AM/PM shifts. I decided to put Simon in the morning shift at Lucas Vale so he will attend school from 8:45-11:45 every day. He also has to wear a school uniform. I'll drop off all four kids at school every morning. !
Reception: For children who are 4 years of age when school begins. At first I thought Reception was comparable to Kindergarten, but it's really just a full-time preschool. It focuses on imaginary play and less structured curriculum and learning. Miriam will be in reception, which means that when we come back she will in fact be in the same grade/level as she would have been if we had stayed. Reception is a full school day, 8:45-3:45. Miriam doesn't start school until the end of September and the first week is just half days. They also give children the option to stay on half days for a longer transition period if the full days are too difficult. Miriam wears a uniform and also has PE once a week. The sad bit for Simon is that he will have a year of Reception (full time/all day school) and then come back to the states and go to part-time kindergarten. Poor kid. Or not. Poor me?
Nursery and Reception are part of the "Foundation" category and operate under a different learning model than the subsequent years. I'm not exactly sure what that means but I'm just learning the vocabulary. Levels 1 and 2 are called "Key Stage 1" and levels 3-6 are "Key Stage 2." Like I said, I'm not exactly sure what it all means.
Level 1: Children who are age 5 at the beginning of the school year. This would be the kindergarten equivalent. So the number of my kids level/grade doesn't match up with the number of the grade they would be at home.
Level 2: First grade equivalent.
Level 3: Eli will be a level 3.
Level 4: Third grade... you get the idea.
Level 5: Cameron will be a level five. The primary schools go up to level six, so thankfully all four kids will all be at the same school for the two years that we are living here.
This is all really boring but maybe grandparents are still reading.
The school year is divided into three terms, Autumn term, Spring term, and Summer term. They get a week of holiday at half term, and a longer break between terms. (Two weeks at Christmas, etc.) Their summer break is only 5-6 weeks. At the induction the school made it very clear that students are not allowed to miss school during term without a Dr. excuse or funerals. Sadly, we are scheduled to leave London in May of 2016 and so the kids will only get to attend two terms next year. I kind of have a knot in my stomach over this. I guess it can't be helped but I wish we had planned better.
The uniforms consist of black or gray shorts/pants/skirts with a white polo or collared shirt and black shoes. They are required to wear the school sweatshirt every morning and they also have to have a matching blue backpack with the school logo. We went back to the school to buy the kids sweatshirts, PE kits, and backpacks and it was a pretty penny. And that doesn't include the actual uniforms. (Five days worth of pants and polos for four kids.) But they are all going to look so smart!
I really liked all the teachers and staff I've met at the school so far. During the induction we had an interview with two members of the "inclusion team" who were really kind and answered all my questions. I don't really know what to expect, and I think all the kids (except Simon) are a little nervous too. But the opportunity for all four of my kids to attend the same school for two years will surely have some fantastic benefits.
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