24 April 2007

seeing double

My poor Blue. My poor confused girl.

We went over to my brother and sister-in-law's last night to hang out and eat carnitas. It was really fun, very mellow. Just me and Jonny and George and Leila and Leila's twin sister, Karen, and her husband, Jack. And all of our offspring.

Leila and Karen are identical twins. It's something I never even think about, since Leila and Karen have been part of my family for so long. And, really, to me they look less and less alike the longer I know them.

Anyway, Blue sees Karen and Jack all the time. I think. At least, we see them every couple of months, I think.

Anyway. So we were there last night and had a nice time and today, I'm washing dishes and Blue is sitting at the kitchen island, coloring and talking to herself:

George and Layda. Emmy. George and Emmy and Willum. George. Two Laydas. Lots of Laydas.

And it hits me. I don't think we've ever really explained to Blue that Leila and Karen are identical twins. Does she think she has two Aunt Leilas?


home sweet home

I am slowly settling back into my routine here at home. It is so wonderful being with Blue and Lion again. I can't stop kissing them.

The babies had a great time while we were away. Jonathan's mother took excellent care of them, and the rest of the family came by often to visit and play with the babies. But I think they are very happy to have Mommy and Daddy back.

Blue was stuttering pretty badly when we first returned, but it has gotten much better over the past week.

And Lion, my Lion cub, is walking! He walked all the way across the room the day before Jonathan and I returned. Both of our moms were here to witness it, although they both confess they were talking and paying no attention to him whatsoever at the time.

He has been walking all over the place ever since, practicing. He still looks a bit like Frankenstein, I think-- arms up and out in front of him, and not moving his hips--but he is trying so hard, bless him. Sometimes he purses his lips like a fish, he is concentrating so hard. This determination reminds me so much of Jonathan!

It is amazing to me that our trip is now behind us. We waited, counting days for over a year, and now it is over. It's sad. Now we have to think really hard about what our plans are for the future. What Jonathan wants to do career-wise. What is best for the children. What we really want out of life. Do we want to live here in this huge house with a large yard and lots of pretty things? Or do we want to trade it in for a more compact space, less material things and be able to travel more?

21 April 2007

London - Day 7 - 17 April

the following is from my journal:

I am trying to eat a croissant while I write. Is there a tidy way to eat a croissant?! I am really dying to turn the TV on and hear more about what happened at VA Tech but Jonny is still sleeping. Oh, forget it, it's 9:30, I'm turning it on!


Our last day in London was very low key -- I think we are both ready to be home.

We went to Bunhill Fields Cemetery this morning. I had read about it -- it started as a plague cemetery and then was sort of a cemetery for Non-conformists. It was very beautiful.

And I am so glad we went today. The weather had turned very cool at last, so the sky was very grey but there were such beautiful trees and flowers -- daffodils and lupines and cherry trees... It was comforting somehow, peaceful, to be there with so much tragedy on our minds. My heart just breaks for all of those families back home.

After the cemetery, we walked to Brick Lane to find another place I had read about, the 24 hour Brick Lane Beigel Bake. That place was awesome! I got a bagel with cream cheese for 70p. Jonny and I are terrible because as soon as we finished our bagels, we got right back in line. (I was actually still eating mine in line -- so pathetic!) Mmmm...

We took a train to St. Paul's and crossed the Thames to explore a bit more on the south bank. We went back to the Tate Modern (the scene of our ridiculous fight!) and wandered around for awhile in there. The building is amazing, but most of the art in there just left me feeling confused. I felt like I wasn't "in" on the joke, or something. Maybe I just don't "get" Modern Art. How is a canvas with a single, straight cut in it art? How is a big canvas painted solid orange art? It's orange. It's big. You could hang it on your wall. Is it art? I didn't feel anything looking at it. I just looked at it and I walked away and I thought, "Wow. That person bought a lot of orange paint to cover that big canvas. They must like the color orange or something."

So I left the Tate feeling pretty stupid and completely lacking in artistic sensibilities, which was sad because I had really wanted to go there -- and we went to see the new Globe theatre and the site of the old Rose theatre. (Disappointing -- there is just a plaque on the side of an office building that says "site of the Rose Theatre." No wonder it took us forever to find!)

Then we walked to a fantastic Spanish tapas restaurant Jonny had read about. So we finally had our tapas! And we had the best sangria. Which I had never had before. Which I now love. Jonathan drank most of it, and he got a little rosy cheeked and silly.

Jonathan: I'm so glad you like sangria. Um, sorry, I drank it all.

Then we had profiteroles for dessert -- cream puffs covered in cream, chocolate sauce and then whipped cream too -- with delicious cappuccino and then stuffed -- absolutely stuffed -- and satisfied, we took the tube back to our hotel.

Now we are just packing and watching tv and eating crisps. It's nice to really, really relax finally.

I cannot wait to see my babies! I doubt I will sleep a wink all night...

London - Day 6 - 16 April

the following is from my journal:

Big news. Big, big news. Prince William and his girlfriend have apparently split up! I must get some cheesy tabloids to bring home for the DWAFS to pore over.

We had such a nice leisurely day today. Poor Jonny's feet are very blistered from all of this walking. So today we tried to do slightly less of the meandering.

We went to Harrods again first thing because we realized we missed the tacky Diana and Dodi memorial on our first visit.

So click! we took a quick photo of that and then headed for Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard. After racing to the palace and weaving through a massive crowd of on-lookers, I saw nothing. I heard a marching band approach and I heard some shouted commands but saw nothing. Disappointing.

So we headed across the circle to St. James Park, bought a couple of ice cream cones, and I guess there was still more guard swapping to come, because here come some more guards up the street, on horse-back, decked out in red uniforms, marching along toward the palace. So Jonny swallowed his ice cream cone whole, ducked under a fence and snapped some nice photos. Perfect.

I finished my ice cream while we walked through St. James Park. We came here with Andy on our first day in London. It is definitely my favorite of all of the parks we've seen. It is just beautiful. We saw a pelican today, just sitting on the path by the water. Jonathan took his picture!

For lunch we bought sandwiches and ate them on the steps of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. I had tuna with cucumber. It's so funny -- I know that cucumber sandwiches are an English tea tradition and all, but the English really put cucumbers on almost all of their sandwiches, the way we use lettuce over here. I rather like it!

Then we went into the National Portrait Gallery so I could see Anne Boleyn's portrait. What an incredible museum! I saw portraits of Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Catherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth, Henry VIII, etc. etc. So incredible. You see these same portraits over and over in books, but to really see them up close... Incredible. I just stared at Anne Boleyn's face. She really was so beautiful -- you really can see it.

I also saw the portrait of Jane Austen, drawn by her sister, Cassandra. It is the only picture of her drawn during her lifetime, and the sad thing is, the relatives who saw the picture said it didn't look anything like her. So we have no idea what she looked like, really.

Downstairs they had a section for modern portraits, and Jonny was so excited they had the cartoony portraits of Blur from their album cover. I could almost see the excitement shimmering off of him. He was like a little kid. So cute.

After the Portrait Gallery we just walked and walked. (So much for nursing our feet!) We always seem to wind up in the Leicester Square/theatre district. Today we found this wonderful little area of neat vintage shops called Carnaby. We had a fantastic time poking in all of the shops.

This was too funny though: We sat at a cafe to rest our feet and had some cakes and cappuccino. We go to pay and --uh,oh-- they don't take credit cards. So I had to stay there and wait while Jonny trotted all over trying to find a working ATM. So classic. Like a sketch from an old movie or something.

Once we had paid our tab, we walked some more. We came back to our hotel to freshen up and went back to the patisserie for dinner. I had a pizza (they were cheap) and Jonny had curry. He is such a great traveller -- always ordering things he can't get at home. Like, he keeps ordering Fanta because you just can't order a Fanta in a restaurant in Fredericksburg. Whereas I just order whatever is cheap and sounds good to me at the time, so 9 times out of 10 it is something I could eat any day. I am way too timid.


We just got back to the hotel room and when we switched on the TV we caught the end of a very confusing segment on the news. Something horrible happened at a school in Virginia. A university. There was a caller on from Virginia, so it was eerie to hear an American accent so suddenly, and we learned there had been many deaths. But we couldn't tell from the pictures which university...

Jonathan just called his mom and we learned it was Tech. How horrible. How horrible horrible horrible.

London - Day 5 - 15 April

the following is from my journal:

Today is supposed to be another hot day -- so I think we are planning to hit some museums. We were saving the British Museum in case it rained, but it looks like Jonny's luck will hold out until we leave Wednesday, so maybe we will go there today...

We need to consult our book and make sure we squeeze anything else we'd like to see into these last 3 days, and I want to make sure we have souvenirs for everyone who should get one... Cheers!


Today we went to two museums -- the British Museum and the Museum of London.

The British Museum is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever been in -- definitely the most beautiful museum -- and it is verrrry overwhelming. There is just too much to see -- you can't take it all in. We saw lots of Greek and Roman and Egyptian artifacts and I finally got to see the Elgin marbles. Amazing. Just stunning. We spent a good deal of time in the Elgin marble rooms (they call them the Parthenon sculptures -- because of all of the controversy, I'm sure) just looking at them, soaking them in, and Jonny took some amazing pictures. We saw the Rosetta Stone. By then we were just literally mentally exhausted, so we left.

We got some lunch -- Jonny had fish and chips and cider and I got a cheeseburger and a coke (I know, I know).

For some reason I was just so tired today. I have been walking around like a zombie, plodding along behind Jonathan...

So what did we do next? Another museum, of course! We went across to the Museum of London, which was a really neat little museum, with artifacts going back to Roman times, even back to prehistoric London. There was a bit about the plague and a lot about the Great Fire and Jonny was being a little silly in there -- perhaps he's a bit tired, too! But it really would be a wonderful museum to take the children one day -- lots of the exhibits are hands-on, very child-friendly.

Next Jonathan and I got some McDonald's (today was our thrifty day -- trying to compensate for the crazy expensive Chinese food from last night) and went to Hyde Park to see Speakers Corner. Verrrry interesting. More like Shouting Corner. Bring your own soapbox, basically.

Jonathan: Did you see that guy?
Me: The one over there with the tusk sticking out of his head?
Jonathan: No. The rabbi with the lobster around his neck, carrying a ladder.

Actual conversation.

After a while, I started to get a little nervous, wondering if a fight could break out. Tempers were getting very high. It is just so crowded, I said to Jonathan, "All it would take is for one person to punch someone else and everyone would start swinging away." He laughed at me, but then stopped when I pointed out that he wouldn't be laughing if someone accidentally punched me -- he'd start throwing punches, too!

We walked back.

I was just so tired. Jonny brought me back to the hotel and I am ashamed to say I took a nap. While I slept, he went for a walk down to the Thames alone. I feel so guilty about that, but I was just so tired and I think he enjoys exploring on his own sometimes.

By the time he got back I was awake and ready to walk again. So we went on a long walk together. It was night by then, so we walked along the Thames so I could see Tower Bridge at night. It was amazing -- and I especially loved seeing the Tower itself all lit up. I will never forget it.

We managed to make it back to the tube station in time to catch one of the last trains of the night. Jonathan was so proud of me for hoofing it back to the station -- he took a picture of me on the train! I told him, I could be really fast if I was promised food in the end!

We went out for some fish and chips to celebrate, but after being so tired all day and eating such greasy food all day, I made him buy me a chocolate-filled croissant, too, to help me feel better!

London - Day 3 - 13 April

the following is from my journal:

Today we are going to mail my postcards and visit Westminster Abbey. I think we are going to plan each day this way -- one major, breathtaking attraction a day because I just couldn't handle any more excitement!

After the Abbey we are going to wander around Notting Hill and have some lunch.

Tonight I would like to go to the Tate Modern because it is open late on Fridays. We think it would be a fun date. Tomorrow night Jonny is taking me to see "The Mousetrap" at St. Martin's Theatre. I can't wait!

We just realized that it is Friday the 13th today so we may have to go on a Ghost Walk -- maybe a Jack the Ripper Walk or something -- just because.

London - Day 2 - 12 April

the following is from my journal:

What an unforgettable day! I am just in awe that I finally have been to the Tower of London. Unbelievable.

It was a lot like the first time I saw the Colosseum -- stepping out of the station and seeing it right across the street.

I am afraid Jonathan thought I was not as impressed as I am because I was so quiet, but I was literally speechless. I don't know if I have ever felt that way before.

But I have now seen the place where Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth were held -- seen carvings in the walls made by prisoners -- seen the site where Anne and Jane Grey and Catherine Howard were executed -- and I have seen where they are buried.
Jonathan in front of Traitor's Gate

It is amazing. Jonathan and I were amused to find out how wrong we were -- we had this notion of rough stone walls and open spaces for windows while servants of kings and queens of old climbed the spiral stairs by candlelight! The stairs and candlelight were correct, but the walls inside were plastered in those days and the windows were full of stained glass so it was really quite civilised!

I loved walking around the grounds, imagining all of the people who walked there before me. And looking out of the window in Beauchamp Tower, wondering how many prisoners had looked out the same window.


We spent our lunchtime just outside the tower walls, eating sandwiches by the Thames, admiring the view of Tower Bridge.

After leaving the Tower, we went up in the London Eye. Really incredible views of London and it was amazing to see how enormous Westminster Abbey is. I mean, it is just massive. And it looks massive from land, while you are walking around it looking up at it -- but to see it from the air and compare it to the rest of the city was amazing.

(Jonathan was proud of me, looking around up there, but I think you must. As scared as I get, it was comforting being in an enclosed space like we were and I really was alright as long as I looked out over the city and not down! Besides, when will I ever have that view again? How could I not look?!)

We spent the rest of our afternoon wandering. There is so much to see really and I was a little quiet, just so overwhelmed by the Tower, that we had no itinerary. We shopped a bit in Covent Garden, which was fun, and then we came back to get changed for dinner.

We ate dinner at a lovely Thai restaurant and had the most delicious calamari we've ever ever had. But poor Jonny had to finish his dinner as well as mine because mine was so spicy my mouth literally hurt. He looked very red and sweaty after and he did admit that my meal was really hot -- much more than his. Dear man!

Then we came back here to the hotel and crashed. It was nice walking back through Kensington. It really is very posh -- so I liked looking in all the windows of all the crazy expensive shops that I would never dare enter during the day!

London - Day 1 - 11 April 2007

the following is from my journal:

I am in London!
I am in London!
I am in London!

Good night.

Haha I wish! I am so tired. I just sprawled across the bed in our hotel room (Jonny is in the shower) to write and my feet are throbbing. I keep asking him, "Was it some kind of cruel joke to bring me to Lincoln first and make me walk up and down that steep hill a few times before taking me to London?!"

Today Andy drove J an I to London, to drop off our bags at our hotel (carry them up 3 flights of stairs) and then walk. He showed us the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Chinatown.

What a whirlwind!

And then he left us to eat dinner in Chinatown while he headed home to Gabriella and Teresa. Jonny and I were so tired we started our dinner very quietly ... remarking only on how strange it felt to be on our own and how delicious the food was.

But the meal gave us more energy to start talking -- my Jonny and I almost never run out of things to say unless we are very tired -- or very angry!

I cannot believe I finally finally saw Westminster Abbey today -- and it was such torture to just look at it from the outside and not get to go in. But we wanted Andy to get to see as much as he could, since he was only here for a few short hours and we are here all week.

All week.

Another week without my Blue and my Lion. I miss them. So much, I ache inside. I can never be away from them like this again. Not while they are so little. I am constantly looking at my watch, calculating what time it is there, what they may be up to... It has been 6 days since I held my Lion or heard my Blue call me Mommy. And I have 6 more to go.

But I don't want this to be a sad journal.

Tomorrow we go up in the London Eye. And I finally get to see the Tower!!!!!

I am signing off now -- so I can read up more on the Tower for tomorrow. Cheers!

the obligatory photo with the guard, 11 April

20 April 2007

things i love - #20

being with my babies again

Lincoln, England

*WARNING: If other people's vacation photos bore you to tears, do not bother reading the following!*

We spent the first 4 days in Lincoln, with our friends, Andy and Teresa and their beautiful baby girl, Gabriella. Jonathan is now officially a godfather. He is very proud and excited to be a godfather. And little Gabriella really seemed to like him!

The christening was very moving. And Andy and Teresa threw such a nice party to celebrate afterwards. It was in their garden, and they had rented a large tent, complete with outdoor chandelier. Everything was pink--there was even pink champagne!

After the christening and its party were over, Andy and Teresa focused their energies on showing us around Lincoln. We were really looking forward to checking out the city, because this is where we are hoping to move! There is a college there, that Jonathan is applying to, and since Andy and Teresa live there, they could help us get settled. So we were very anxious to have a good look around.

It is absolutely beautiful. There is a castle, built by William the Conqueror, and a cathedral right next to each other on top of this massive hill in the center of Lincoln. And then these very lovely, very old shops and restaurants line the streets down the hill toward the more modern downtown full of more shops and restaurants. I had my first ever Cornish pasty in a shop there, and ohmyGodddd, it was so delicious! I loved it. Jonathan said, "You would. It's like a big Hot Pocket." Yeah, I love Hot Pockets. Whatever... This was way better.

the obligatory red phonebooth photo
downtown Lincoln

a very English photo of the castle

The castle has a fascinating history. There is a copy of the Magna Carta kept there. It was brought back by the bishop of Lincoln, who was a witness to the signing. The castle was a prison in the 1800s, and one of the towers is a graveyard where they buried the unfortunate men who were executed there.

me looking very queasy up on the castle wall with Jonathan
that's the cathedral in the background

view of the square and the cathedral from the castle wall

Teresa and me at the castle, back on the ground, thank God

graffiti in the graveyard at the castle
we just had to take a picture
how strange to see her name there

the remains of one of the Eleanor crosses by the castle

I was so excited to see part of one of the Eleanor crosses. That was very thrilling for me. I just think this is the most romantic story:

Charing Cross was one of 12 "Eleanor Crosses" erected by a disconsolate Edward I when his wife Queen Eleanor of Castile died in 1290. Eleanor bore Edward 16 children in an unusually happy union for that period of arranged marriages.

When Eleanor died at Harby, near Lincoln, in November 1290, a grief-stricken Edward ordered her embalmed, and her entrails were buried at Lincoln Cathedral. Her body was then carried in a somber procession to Westminster Abbey in London.

At each place where the procession stopped for the night, Edward had built a memorial cross in her honour.

The locations of the 12 crosses were as follows: Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St. Albans, Waltham, Westcheap, and Charing.

Andy, having tea outside the cathedral

So we really loved the history of Lincoln. We even went on a ghost walk on Tuesday night with Andy, which told us a lot of the local history and legends surrounding the castle and cathedral. It was very fun, but sadly, it was uneventful.

a test photo of me on the walk
as you can see, no paranormal activity

Afterwards, the boys and I went to a pub for a pint; my first time in an English pub:

the boys looking jaundiced because I forgot to use the flash

Jonathan is a better photographer than me

Andy also showed Jonathan the school where he works. That was really nice to see, because Jonathan is hoping to teach in England, afterall, so we were very curious to see a primary school there. What an incredible school! I think Jonathan would be such a great teacher! And this particular school seemed like such a wonderful place to learn. Very colorful, stimulating classrooms. The school even has a camera set up on the roof with a TV monitor in the main hallway so the children can spy on a family of birds who have a nest up there. So cool. I would have loved something like that as a kid. I think Jonathan got very excited, walking through the rooms, looking around at the tiny little tables and chairs...

On Tuesday, Andy and Teresa took us to the horseraces with Teresa's family. That was so much fun! It was a very blustery day, and I must have looked very cold, because Teresa's parents bought me a coffee. But we had such a great time. It was nice to see Jonathan hanging out with his best friend. It's hard for us both that our best friends live so far away from us. I mean, we both have wonderful friends here in Fredericksburg, and scattered around northern Virginia, but you know what I mean. That One Person. Your best friend. We bet a couple pounds on each race, and we actually won on two races! So I think, even with paying for entrance and parking, we managed to come out a few pounds ahead in the end. I picked the horse that won the second race, and it was a long-shot--an American horse racing for the first time, so I was really excited when he won.

the boys at the races
Andy is not short, by the way, he is sitting down

I kept thinking, the entire vacation, should we do it? Should we move here? And every place we went, I imagined showing it to our family when they would visit us. That day at the races was really fun. I kept imagining my dad there, or my brother, George. I think they would really like it.

The only part of Lincoln, where I have to laugh and say everyone would not like it one bit, is the steep hill leading up to the cathedral and castle. I felt like such a fat, lazy American struggling up that thing. And Andy and Teresa were pushing a stroller up it! Seriously, I was getting passed by all these English people, not the slightest bit out of breath who were probably twice my age. It was very embarrassing! Luckily, you can always drive to the top and park, and I think there are even buses that go up for tourists. Seriously. I could just picture the look on my dad's face, looking at that hill! I think the only members of my family who could survive it are my step-mother and Leila, my sister-in-law. On Jonathan's side, I think his dad and sister could handle it, probably jog up the damn thing, but his mom would look at me like Are you crazy? The rest of us can take the bus. Have a nice cup of tea and wait for them to reach the top.

the hill leading up to the castle and cathedral
the hill that almost killed me

home again

06 April 2007


...is currently out of the country! Posting will resume once I am stateside. Cheerio!