Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peep! Peep! A Day with Thomas

As you may or may not know, Graham LOVES trains. The train museum in Strasberg, PA, was -- and I believe is -- his favorite place to be. The only big toy we packed for him was his train stuff, because he keeps himself entertained with it for hours.

Our first night in Leeds, we had to stay in a hotel, rather than moving straight into our house. But I think there's a lot to recommend spending the first bit of time (if not one's lifetime) being a tourist wherever you live. Being at the hotel meant we had a full rack of local-interest pamphlets to browse and we learned that there would be a "Day with Thomas" event in a nearby town on August 23rd. We didn't tell the kids about this adventure, just in case something went wrong. But, things went right.

Talk about happy kids. We got to ride the local bus, the regular train, the antique double-decker bus with the open roof, and then some antique trains. Four hours weren't long enough for Cami & Graham. They would have stayed forever, I suspect -- as long as there was food.

Although I thought the trains were nifty, the best part for me was getting to see the English countryside. So beautiful. So truly calming. And traveling through villages with charmingly tended gardens and narrow streets makes me long to move out of the suburbs. Especially when I saw a modern electricity-generating windmill up on a hill -- crunchy out in the country.

The Blessings I Don't Need

Warning: This post sounds entirely self-centered and occasionally petty, but it isn't meant that way.

I posted a couple days ago about Balloons of Hope, a balloon launch organized to support Christian and Stephanie Nielsen. Jason commented that if we were in an accident like this, he doubted that we'd receive this level of support. We just aren't that popular.

Jason and I have often felt very lonely. And I, at least, often watched Stephanie both in person and via her blog ( with the same irrational dissatisfaction with my life that the geeky seventh grader watches the popular cheerleader. Jason would sometimes come home from teaching a late-night class & ask how the night had been. I'd respond by telling him that the kids had been difficult & so I'd decided to make myself feel worse by looking at Stephanie's blog.

I've spent the past nine days thinking about things from the standpoint of the things I can do right now that Stephanie can't. I can get up in the morning & hugs my kids. I can walk through the park & smile at the sunshine & enjoy the gentle English rain. I get to kiss Jason and tell him I love him. And I get to launch balloons to honor an amazingly vibrant woman who doesn't get to do those things right now.

It took me a couple of days to find the silver lining in not being popular. And it's this: I haven't had a tragedy of this magnitude. Something so utterly life altering that it requires the love and support of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. My needs are met by a relatively small group of true & close friends that love me & support me when I battle my challenges of insecurity and depression. I'm not popular, but I don't need to be. Stephanie & Christian are because the Lord is meeting their needs.

And we get to help. Design Mom has declared tomorrow, Thursday, August 28th, NieNie Day. Lots of bloggers are hosting silent auctions with the proceeds going to the Stephanie & Christian Nielsen Relief Fund. So, if you feel inclined, surf over to Design Mom & get the list. You may find something you love and join the pool of people the Nielsens need.

Baby Smiles

Grandma Jeanne requested photos of the kids, specifically of a smiling Baby Rose. So, here we are. Again, the quality of photos is weak & will be for a while, since everything will be done with my phone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Teen Already

We took our first adventure on Saturday, taking the train out to Ilkley. The train was the nicest and most modern I've ever been on. Each car was set up with LCD boards which told you the next station, as well as an automated voice which reminded you. So, we heard the disembodied voice tell us two or three times, "The next stop is Guisley." Cami asked after a few minutes on board if we were almost to Ilkley and Graham responded, "No, Cami, the next stop is Guisley."

Jason and I grinned at each other. "You understand how things work, don't you, bud?" I asked.

In a little voice he responded, "No."

Jason followed up, "Is the world a confusing place?"

World-weary at three, he said, "Yeah."

Where the Heart Is

Graham and Cami were up before 6 a.m. Cami came into the kitchen and said, "I'm getting up if it's after 6." I looked and the clock read 5:59 -- so back to bed for the kids.

As I was laying with them (I put the mattress from Graham's room into Cami's), Graham said, "Mommy, I want to go to Eegan."

"Graham, this is England."

"No, Mommy, this is home."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Balloons of Hope

Many of you already know, but some of you don't, Christian and Stephanie Nielsen, a couple we knew in New Jersey were in a private airplane crash last Saturday. Last night balloons were launched in celebration of their life & as "Balloons of Hope" for good things to come for them and their family.

The scheduled launch was for 6 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time, which is 1 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. So, here are some photos of our balloons making their way home & then joining others throughout the world in the launch.

(Forgive the poor photo quality -- our camera died a couple days ago & I took these shots with my phone.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Here we are

I've been trying to figure out what to say. We're here. Obviously. If the photos posted correctly, there may be some shots of the beautiful park just three blocks from our house. I was there yesterday with the kids after a family trip to the library to get our cards. The kids are making sure that I speak to people, because Graham found a friend at the library. He joined a little boy named Van in reading a story about "Tippers" -- what we in the States call dump trucks.

We've been really blessed the last couple of days. We made it to church with ample time yesterday & received a much warmer welcome than I ever would have anticipated. Lots of people said "Hi" and I was asked by more than one person why they already know me -- or who I look like that they should know. My mother-in-law says I sometimes resemble someone noteworthy (anybody want to take a guess?) and so I told everyone to let me know when they figure out why they think I look familiar. We'll see if Jeanne's theory holds true.

Anyway, not only were we warmly welcomed, but we got adopted. An amazingly warm family invited us to lunch. It turns out that the Bowles-Taylor family live about a five minute walk from us, so they not only had us over for lunch and a couple hours visit, but they also walked us home and their 10-year old stayed to play for a while. Our fears about being isolated were short lived. Cami already has a friend -- as do I.

So, because the park is so close our friends also went to the park with us. I like having friends. And, for those of you who are reading this, we miss you, too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Life in the Fast (?) Lane

I didn't grow up with taxis. Suburban Missouri just doesn't have them. The only time I'd ever ridden in one was when I was on a layover in Salt Lake City, ran to Temple Square to see some people I loved there, and missed my shuttle back to the airport.

And then this move happened.

Jason and I left NJ on 31 July. We thought we'd finally done everything right by scheduling a driver to pick us up & take us to the airport at 5 a.m. to catch a 7:45 flight to St. Louis. When our 4:30 wake up call didn't ring, Jason phoned the dispatcher who assured us that our driver was on her way. At 5:05 the dispatcher called to say our driver had overslept -- and was in Philadelphia. I spent the next thirty minutes waking up taxi dispatchers, trying to find someone who could manage getting a family of five with two weeks worth of luggage to Philadelphia. When our "taxi van" (Cami's description) arrived, we got everybody in as quickly as possible and were on the road by 5:45. And then flew down the NJ Turnpike at speeds topping off at 90 mph.
Thank goodness for heavenly protection & no police interference.

Then yesterday happened. We arrived in Manchester, England, and couldn't find our driver who was supposed to meet us at baggage claim holding one of those little signs with our last name on it. Jason used his UK cell phone (anybody want our US cells?) & we finally made connections, but it's really hard to navigate a (literally) foreign airport with two stacked luggage trolleys and a double-stroller. A sweet young lady, probably about 20 years old, stopped us and took over the stroller. . .an absolute angel.

Once we were all tucked into our second taxi van, I spent a good deal of time watching the countryside pass by us. It wasn't so unnerving to be driving "on the wrong side of the road" when on the highways, because the median is in the way. But here's the English driving rule that I'm trying to figure out: is the left lane the "fast lane" or the "slow." My guess is that it's the latter, because we spent most of our drive to Leeds there. Or, more accurately, we spent a significant portion of the time on the left shoulder of the highway. . .the van kept overheating. The bottle of Harrogate Spa water I'd almost drunk when we got in the van, but felt I needed to save, got poured into the carburetor and we limped along the M(otorway) 6 a bit further. When things got really bad, the driver actually stopped the van & walked to a nearby farmhouse to get water. In the end, we got to Leeds, having stopped for three water breaks.

But we are here. Whether fast or slow, we have arrived.