Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Europe does it RIGHT!

I am very lucky in that for the most part, my children travel well.  For the most part.  :o)  They have been known to be fine in their carseats for road trips to San Francisco or Phoenix, both about six hours.  They have both flown all over America, from California to Georgia, New York, Boston, Pennsylvania and Illinois.  We have not shied away from taking our kids on airplanes.

The trip from Illinois to England was the scary one for me.  Nine hours?  What am I going to do with them???  Luckily, Maxwell was able to watch Cars three times in a row before he finally passed out.  And Darian only kicked me a few times before she did, too.  All in all, a decent flight.  I had no idea what to expect about traveling throughout Europe.  Luckily, I was MORE than pleasantly surprised!!

Well done, K Swiss, well done!!

Okay, okay.  K Swiss is a brand of shoes, but for some reason I got it stuck in my head that K Swiss was in fact the name of our airline for our trip to Spain and I can't get it out.  I can totally, 100% recommend this airline!  And Heathrow Airport was a walk in the park compared to LAX!!

You may be wondering why I am going on about this rather than diving right into what we did on our first holiday.  But I need to get this out there, because I am so impressed with how easy it was to travel with the kids last week.  I'll make it easier by writing a list rather than going on and on.  :o)

*  We walked a few blocks from our house to the bus station, to hop on the bus that dropped us off at the airport.  No hassle, no fuss.  AND THE KIDS WERE FREEEEEE!!

*  At Heathrow, our bags got priority tags so that we would be able to collect them right away when we got to Spain.  BECAUSE WE HAD TWO SMALL CHILDREN WITH US!

*  Going through security, we didn't need to take off our shoes, therefore didn't need to take off little people shoes either.  Whew!

*  With all the extra time we had, we sat down at a restaurant called Giraffe for a real lunch.  The waitstaff were the nicest, friendliest servers I have encountered in ages, either here in the UK or back in the States.  The servers loved our kids and were so nice to them!!  They had crayons (which is rare here in England), and brought the kids these little giraffe stir sticks to play with.  **Side note:  there is a Giraffe in town.  I am going to try it to see if this chain provides that experience everywhere or if it's an airport thing.

*  Our flight to Barcelona was actually two short flights on Swiss, with a short stop in Geneva.  Each flight was one hour and ten minutes long.  Up. Down.  No time for much more than a drink service, right?  WRONG!

*The pilot stood and welcomed us onto the plane and talked to both my kids.

*The flight attendants brought us toys for the kids:  two little stuffed airplanes, a book for Maxwell, a little padded picture book for Darian, a coloring book and colored pencils, and one of those magnetic sketch/wipe off thingys.

*Shortly after take off, they started beverage service.  The guy in front of me ordered a beer.  Included.

*Suddenly, flight attendants are offering all four of us a sandwich.  Nice!

*A few minutes later, a smiling lass came around with chocolates.  Nicer!

*Then back again to see if we wanted another sandwich.  ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??

*The man sitting in the aisle across from me was asleep during the service, and when he woke up about 10 minutes before we landed, a flight attendant asked him if he would like a sandwich or beverage.  The guy said yes, but that he was a vegetarian.  The flight attendant returned with the man's drink, some chocolates, and a banana, apologizing that all the sandwiches that were left had meat.

*Did I mention we all got a free bag to check included with our ticket?

*In Geneva, a playplace for the kids to occupy the layover time.

*Flight from Geneva to Barcelona:  SAME EXACT THING.  (Different toys)

*In Barcelona, most of the metro stops have elevators, so walking in town with the stroller and still using the metro was no big deal.

*On our Swiss flights home?  Same wonderful service.

Seriously.  Is this just Swiss or are all airlines that take you throughout Europe this nice?  One hour flight and we got bags checked for free, food, treats, and toys?  I know gas is just as expensive here as it is in the US, and that is what the airlines there are saying is the reason for the increase of fares and decrease of amenities.  We had a great flight on British Airlines back in May, too.  Is it because it is an international flight?  I mean, our trip from London to Barcelona was the same distance as going from California to Colorado, but it was still international.  Maybe that's the difference.  Whatever it is, I LIKE IT.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Random Stream of Consciousness

My life.  
Before Kids.
After Kids.

I was walking through town with Darian today, thinking about how much my life has changed in the last six months.  Then that led to how it has changed since we had the kids, then to since I married David, met David, moved to thoughts kept backtracking into the past and I was reliving moments that I had long since forgotten.  To people I have forgotten.  To parts of my life that seem like scenes in a movie rather than something that I actually experienced myself.

I did a writing activity with my students once.  I called it a stream of consciousness and wanted them to just write and write and write.  Anything.  One word leading to the next.  No worries about punctuation or run on sentences.  It was to simply get lots of ideas on paper.  For example:  If they wrote about a trip to the mall and in it used the word yellow and that made them think about the sun which in turn made them think about a sunburn that they got when visiting their grandparents in Phoenix and thinking about their grandma made them think about the cookies she used to make which brought them to the cookie cutter shaped like a teddy bear that made them remember the Winnie the Pooh bear they carried around when they were a baby and then that made them think about how they knew a girl in their old school who just had a baby...well.  You see how it works.  Random stream of consciousness.  The more subject changes the better I always said.  I normally leave out most of the middle pieces, and David will say to me, "But how did you GET there?"  Then I have to go back and explain the entire stream.  You are all getting a piece of how my brain works right now, because this entire post is a random stream of consciousness.  Good luck keeping up!

I saw a group of kids on a fieldtrip, walking down the street in their cute little uniforms.  (Side note:  I can't wait for Darian and Maxwell to be in schools where they wear uniforms and I plan to find somewhere in CA once we get home, too!  Those kids look so cute and so proper!  Love it!!)   Anyway, these kids in uniform made me think of the only time I ever wore a uniform, which was when I was in Girl Scouts.  I used to love the day I wore that to school!  So proud of all my patches!!  And think of how much work we did to sell those cookies!! Yes, my dad took the form to the police station and my mom took it to her school for me.  But beyond that Shelly and I were out there on the pavement.  Door to door!  Peddling those cookies for all our neighbors.  We didn't have a table set up outside of the grocery store; we had to find our customers on our own.

It's funny how the brain works, because then I saw a threesome of university girls in short skirts pop out of a store right in front of my path.  They were wearing short short skirts and shoes that can't possibly be good for walking around town.  At ten in the morning on a Thursday.  I never really went through a short skirt phase.  Maybe a little bit senior year of high school, but I wasn't really all that girly.  I do remember one day in particular where I wore a short little jumper type dress with white tights.  And I don't think I ever did again, because I had forgotten that it was bowling day in gym and we didn't dress.  It was not fun "trying" to bowl in that skimpy little thing.  Especially for someone who isn't much of a girly girl!!

Continuing on with the university girls...they were in front of us for a little while and I got a few snip-its of their conversation. Why is it that even a drunken tale about dancing on a bar and getting sick in the alley sounds better when the person telling it has an English accent???   Anyway, it feels like a million years since I lived that kind of life.  Really, it was only ten or eleven.  I have lots of fond NIU and Eduardo's memories that I can't really mention here (not when my Mom reads this blog!)  Just kidding.  Especially since the only time I ever got sick in an alley was the night of my 21st birthday, and my wonderful mother was there the next day for the hangover of the century and even had to pull the car over for me when we went out that afternoon.  That phrase "hangover of the century" just made me laugh and feel a bit old, because my train of thought led me to whisper to myself, "I turned 21 in the 1900s."  Okay, it was really the 1990s, but as you can tell from this blog, my train of thought is clearly random.

Darian and I then made our way to a Costa Coffee where we sat for a tea and scone with clotted cream and jam.  I really don't get the fascination with clotted cream.  It's really just butter, isn't it?  Anyway, Darian ordered a babyccino (yes, it actually says that on the menu!!), where they asked if she wanted chocolate sprinkles on it.  This is what she got!

I sat in that coffee shop, watching my little girl swing her legs and eat her scone with a big smile on her face.  She is growing up so fast.  Today she picked out a new pair of earrings all on her own.  They are butterflies.  :o)  The first few days before and after Maxwell started school I was sad because he was growing up and I missed him so much while he was gone.  Yet this week was really great, because Darian and I spent so much quality time together.  On Monday we went to Monkey Music, Tuesday to playgroup, Wednesday to Tumble Tots, and today to tea and shopping!  We have had so much fun, and I love that I am getting to know a different side of her.  She is different when Maxwell isn't around.  Or is it me that's different when I can dedicate all my attention to her?

So.  We left the coffee shop and headed to the Farmer's Market where I bought books, meat pies and doughnuts.  Random, I know.  I LOVE THE MARKETS HERE!!!  But shopping and walking through town with Darian in her stroller and no Maxwell talking to me non-stop, I had a lot of time to think.  It really is crazy how your life can change in the blink of an eye.

What the heck am I doing in England?
Where did these kids come from?
Who is this man sleeping next to me every night?

I had lunch with my friend Candace last weekend and she mentioned how it feels strange to be getting so close to thirty, because she doesn't feel any different than she did in college.  I feel the same way.  I wonder what it is like for my 80+ year old grandparents to look at themselves in the mirror.  Because when I am walking down the street, I don't feel any different than those three girls I was walking behind today.  Close my eyes and I am dancing on the coffee table at the apartment on Lucinda Avenue.  Then I realize that I am pushing a stroller with not one but TWO toddlers, heading to the market to buy ingredients to make my husband a wonderful dinner, while wearing sensible walking shoes and mom jeans.

Before I was married with kids I would...
     ...go to bars and whatever I wanted and know I would dance it off...drink diet coke as my caffeine hit every laundry when my closet was empty...have date nights with my David on a Tuesday just because we to Vegas to pick up  David's World Series winnings because why get them in the mail when you could go to Vegas???...have happy hours with my co-teachers because we had to get together and bash those little punks after the way they treated us all week (ha ha...we should have done it on Mondays)...coddle Griffin and spoil him and cuddle him like he was my baby...celebrate the anniversaries of the day we met, our first date, the day we moved in together...

Then we had kids and I would....
     ...only go to a bar when the wait at the restaurant was more than ten minutes...think about how everything I ate stayed put (on the belly, the tooshie, the chins)...drink coffee and diet coke and tea all throughout the day just to keep my eyes a load of laundry everyday just to keep up (how do those itty bitty socks, onsies, and bibs add up so quickly??)...have day dates for an hour and a half on a Saturday afternoon because Nana came to visit...go on vacations to IL and PA because everyone wants to see the about how I used to be a teacher, even though now more time has passed that I haven't been in the classroom than I was actually IN the classroom...sometimes forget that Griffin and Tucker hadn't been out yet...celebrate  the babys' milestones:  one week old, one month old, one year old...

And then we moved to England!
*We don't go to bars/restaurants, we go to pubs!  WITH the kids!!
**I eat more meat and potatoes than I ever have before (even growing up in Illinois!) but I have lost weight because I walk so much!
***I start my day and revisit in the afternoon with a nice cup of cream tea.
****I do a load of laundry everyday, because I have to hang it outside, and if it isn't nice enough, it needs to be inside for days to dry.
*****Dates?  Not yet. (except when Gaga and Papa were here...that was nice)  Hopefully we'll find a good babysitter.  :o)
******We have traveled to Bath, and leave soon for Spain, and have plans before the end of the year to hit Belgium and France!
*******I rarely mention that I ever taught.  I AM A STAY AT HOME MOM.  (And proud of it!!)
********I think about my puppas everyday.  Oh, how I miss those cuddly warm puppa tooshies to hug and cuddle.  They are my babies once again, and I so wish they could be here with us.
*********Think about the anniversaries of our time here:  "we've been here three days, one week, one month" of last week, we actually hit FOUR months in England.

Six months ago I lived in California.  Nine months ago I never imagined I wouldn't.  Ten months ago I became an Aunt.  And got a new sister (because of our Misters!)  Twenty-two months ago I had a baby girl.  Forty-two months ago I became a MOM.  Sixty-nine months ago I married my best friend.  One hundred and nine months ago I met the man of my dreams and started the journey towards all of the rest.  One hundred and twenty four months ago I made the move to CA that changed the course of my life.  One hundred and thirty six months ago I graduated from college....

And four hundred months ago I was born.  When you put it that way, I sure have done a lot of livin'.  Here's to the next four hundred months and beyond.

Random. Stream. Of. Consciousness.  It all started when I saw a group of primary school children walk down the street in their cute little English uniforms today.  Funny how the mind works, isn't it?

Note to my loyal readers:  Yes, that is more math than I have done in years.  And yes, I had to use a calculator.  :o)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week in Review

It has been a very busy week for the Oxford Ingham's!  So busy that it seems to have flown by, because at the beginning of the week we had a little boy in the house, and now he has suddenly disappeared.  :o(

Maxwell started preschool on Monday!!!

Our little man is not so little anymore.  Most of the day on Sunday, I went back and forth between being excited, sad and nervous.  What a big step for our son and family!  David was just excited; he knew that Maxwell would thrive in the new setting, and was stoked to see how the week played out.  I, on the other hand, was mostly sad.  I have spent everyday of this kid's life with him, for the last three and a half years!  Not only was I going to miss him during the hours that he was away, but I was sad that I wouldn't always know what he is doing.  Try getting a real answer from a three year old when you ask, "What did you do at school today?"  Good luck.

On Monday morning David and I were able to take him to school for the first time together, while Gaga and Papa stayed behind with Darian.  Maxwell was the first one there.  He hid behind my leg for a minute when all three teachers were looking at him and talking to him, but he quickly opened up and ran upstairs to play.  He jumped right in!!
Wednesday was a pretty crazy day.  After dropping Maxwell off at school I took Brenda and Dewey to the bus station so that they could hop on their ride to Heathrow.  Then Darian and I drove to Abingdon so that I knew where to go later in the afternoon for Maxwell's new tumble tots class.  Last term Darian didn't take Tumble Tots, because her class was a Mommy & Me class and Maxwell would have had to just sit there and watch.  So this week she had her first official class!!  She was amazing and so courageous and SUCH a good listener. She participated in the songs and climbed all over everything.  She is growing up way too fast!  (My phone was in the car charging, so I didn't get any photos this time).

After class Darian came home for nap and lunch, and then we went to get Maxwell.  She misses him so much when he is at school!  All through lunch, she just kept pointing at his empty chair and saying, "Maxwell?"  Of course, the way she says it sounds like "Fow-Fell" for some reason, but that just makes it that much cuter.

He had a good day at school, but his teacher said that he was pretty tired.  We went ahead to Tumble Tots, and I am glad that we did.  Maxwell had a ball, and Darian and I got in a good brisk walk while he was in class.  But with all this back and forth, I felt like all I did was drive people around all day!  I can't imagine what it will be like when they are teenagers!!!

I asked Maxwell what he wanted to do today, since he doesn't go to school on Fridays.  I asked him if he wanted to go to the playground, or if he wanted to go somewhere else fun, and he said, "I want to stay home."  :o)  What a cutie!  I bet being gone away from home for five hours everyday has taken its toll on him, too.  We stayed in this morning, playing One Fish, Two Fish and drawing, and then packed up a lunch to head into town.  We got some new library books and sat to eat lunch in a sandwich shop.  

I was stopped by a record number SIX ladies today to ask where I got my stroller.  I really think I should contact Joovy and tell them how much of a demand there would be for Sit and Stand strollers here.  Maybe they would give me a commission?  Why don't they have them in the UK?  I don't get it.  People do so much walking over here.  Odd.  You see plenty of buggies for babies, but most people with an older child are either  dragging the poor thing along on a leash, or yelling at them to "come here!" all day long.  Neither of those work for me.  I'm glad to have the seat for Maxwell!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!!  Anyone want to schedule a Skype date???

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ingham Family TRAILS

We definitely made a lot of those throughout town this past week!  I wish I had been wearing a pedometer, because we logged a LOT of miles while Gaga Brenda and Papa Dewey were here.

After our amazing weekend in Bath, we headed back onto the train to make our way back to Oxford.  David had to go back to work, so Brenda, Dewey, the kids and I relaxed at home for a bit.  Then we went to Summertown to do some exploring.  The kids had a summer holiday Monkey Music workshop, which was really, really fun!  Maxwell was a bit of a crab (probably overtired from our weekend away), but Darian had a ball.  It was really cool that B & D were able to see the kids in their class.

Maxwell picked this hat for the "trip to the seaside" song.  He's a dip.
Darian, playing with the parachute
After class we went to a pub for lunch, and much to Papa's dismay they didn't have fish and chips.  :o(  We did have yummy burgers, though!  (And I made up for it later by making Toad in the Hole for dinner...YUM!)  We walked around Summertown for a bit, and then we drove so that I could show B & D where Maxwell's preschool is, as well as the new house that we will live in after this one.  During naptime BD walked around town and went on a tour of Oxford Castle.

On Wednesday we had a day in town.  We walked around all the shops, went to the covered market, and had a nice tea/lunch in the city centre.  I headed home with the littles and BD took the Oxford City Bus Tour, which David and I still haven't done but I really want to!

Thursday was a day to explore another part of the country!  We drove about 90 miles East to Berkeley Castle.  I had purchased a groupon for the castle and butterfly farm a while back.  It seemed like a nice touristy thing to do with visitors!  It was a beautiful sunny day, and we had a great time!

Pretty girl, showing me her flowers

We finished the day with a yummy patio fiesta!!

On Friday, B & D rode the train into London to go to Buckingham Palace and do a little sightseeing.  The kids and I relaxed at home and played with our friends next door for a little while.  Then on Saturday (since we can't all fit in the car) David took everyone out for a day of sightseeing, and I got the day OFF!  I slept in, took a nice long bubble bath, got a shoulder massage, went to tea...all by myself!  It was wonderful and quiet.  I need more days like that...especially the way the day ended:  Date night with my  hubby!  We went to a lovely dinner and walked around town.  It was fantastic!!

On Sunday we went on a nice walk down the river to a pub for dinner.  We were joined by our fabulous neighbors, the Price's.  The kids were great on the two mile hike, we stopped to feed the ducks, and generally just enjoyed the fabulous view!

Monday was Maxwell's first day of preschool (I'll write a separate blog for that big event!!) and B & D's last day in Oxford.  While the kids were napping they went back to town to do some more sightseeing and shopping, and then when David got home we all walked back to town for one last pub dinner.  It was raining on us, but what better way to end a trip to England, than an evening stroll through the rain?

We had a fantastic visit with Gaga and Papa and are so grateful that they came to stay.  Hopefully they are the first in a long string of visitors that will join us while we are living abroad!  Actually, second!  My Bestie Renee' came to visit for about 36 hours in May when we had been here about two weeks!  ha ha!  You need to come back, Renee'.  We are much more settled now!!  :o)  And we definitely need more time to show you the sights.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bath Time!!

My friend Jamie said, "Why would you want to spend a whole weekend in the bath?"  Well, first and foremost, she is a big huge DIP.  :o)  Second, who wouldn't?  I love getting in the tub with my bubbles and a good book and relaxing my worried muscles.  But no, I fear my pruney fingers and toes would never recover if we spent the whole weekend in the bath, so instead we went to the CITY of Bath.  And it was WONDERFUL.

This was our view from the apartment we stayed in for the weekend.

But let's start at the beginning, shall we?
We packed on Friday night, so that all we needed to do on Saturday morning was eat breakfast and head to the train. I LOVE TRAINS! It was so easy to walk around the corner and hop on for our hour long ride to Bath. No car, no carSEATS. Me likey. The kids are free, so it's a great way to travel!! And of course, Maxwell loved it!
After we walked to our apartment and relaxed for a few, we had a nice pub lunch by the river (Avon). Mommy was feeling incredibly spontaneous, so as we walked down by the water after lunch, we all hopped on a boat and took a nice, two mile ride down the river. There was some nice scenery to see and it was a lovely, warm sunny day.

Darian, showing us her money and "ticket"

After our boat ride we were all pretty tired, and David, Brenda and Dewey were still a bit jet lagged from their trip from the US. We went back to the apartment and all had a nice nap.
That evening, David and I helped get the kids in bed, and left the kids with Brenda and Dewey and went out alone for the first time in MONTHS! We walked hand in hand down by the river and headed to town to take a walking tour of Bath. It was called Bizarre Bath and there was no historical or factual information relayed. It was, in fact, a comedy show. Just our style! It was a nice way to see the city, and instead of sitting in a dark room with a two drink minimum, we were able to get in a nice evening stroll along with quite a few laughs. It was a really funny show! After the show we stopped at a Moroccan restaurant for some hummus and pita and dessert. All in all, it was a great "first date" in the UK.

On Sunday we toured the Roman Baths and walked around town, taking in all the sites. Bath is a beautiful city and we were so glad that we stayed for several days to be able to take it all in.
We had another yummy pub lunch and then headed back to the rooms for naps. I was disappointed to learn when we woke up that the champagne hot-air balloon ride that David and I were going to take over the city was cancelled due to high winds. We were really bummed, and we still don't know what we are going to do to reschedule. Instead, we went to a movie and out for ice cream for our second date night.

Monday was our last full day in Bath before heading back to Oxford. It was the summer bank holiday here in the UK, so David was off work. We went for a nice walk to see more of the city and checked out some of the amazing architectural masterpieces.

We then ended up at Royal Victoria Park, which is the biggest playground that I have ever seen. I would never venture there on my own with the kids; it was huge! And of course Maxwell immediately ran in one direction and Darian in the opposite. They did reunite on the carousel, though!

David enjoyed the playground, too!
We walked back to town and ended up going through a really cool market.  We saw lots of food stalls; rugs made out of alpaca hair, candy bins, giant tubs of paella, every kind of stuffed olive you could imagine.  Papa Dewey like the one with the chili pepper inside!

We made it back to the apartment, where our exhausted family chilled out and took naps.  Then Brenda, David and I went to town to have our first offical tea.  We went to Sally Lunn's for a famous Sally Lunn bun and tea.  I had scones with clotted cream and jam.  I'm hooked! YUM!  It was a wonderful teatime!
That night we were all too exhausted to do much else, so we hung out at the apartment, packed our things and ordered a pizza.  The next morning we got up early to be on our train by 6:45.  (David had to get home and changed for work!)  All in all it was a wonderful holiday weekend and I am SO glad we went.  And I highly recommend a trip to Bath.   

I even took a bath there.