Whirlwind Trip to the UK

This has taken much longer getting back into posting after our busy holiday than I imagined it would.  Before I get to our amazing holiday I wanted to share a PSA with everyone.  Our trip was 3 weeks long but it’s been another couple of weeks since and I haven’t posted.

I had decided a few months ago I would come off my fibro meds once we were back from holiday because I still had the fibro symptoms plus some awful side effects.  Including a brain fog that was something else!  Now I spoke with doctors beforehand and the only thing they said was to step down the dose carefully.  I did it nice and slow.  It went better than I thought it would.  But once I finished the fun really started and they never mentioned anything about this which is why I’m sharing this with you.  I know I’m not the only one going through this.  The withdrawal after the meds was horrendous and I could barely get out of bed.  I did some research and found that people can end up having seizures or have to be in hospital.  Luckily I didn’t have that but I was really upset that I wasn’t told of this prior to going on the meds and not being told this when I said I was coming off!  So if you are going to be dealing with this, do research and really push your doctor to give you proper support, otherwise it can get really miserable.

That’s the end of the PSA and on to the fun stuff!

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This year we took the kids with us to the UK, one because we were due for a family trip and two because our daughter is touring universities this year.  Surreal that she is beginning this new chapter!  We had so much to fit into this trip and hit the ground running by taking a day trip to Cardiff.  We were all pleasantly surprised at what a fabulous city it is.  The university was right near the town centre and we were fortunate to be able to speak with a senior professor who is part of the admissions.  It was a well spent half hour.  Crossing the Severn was quite the treat as well.

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Without much of a break we headed to our next adventure.  My husband’s family planned a day coach trip to the Somme because his great great uncle was killed in action 100 years ago to the day.  The cemeteries take your breath away and they are immaculate.

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Thiepval was very powerful.  73,000 names of people of unknown burial.  73,000 families had the heartbreak of not knowing what happened.  It was overwhelming for me.  I was struck by the inability of humans to learn from history and the current climate doesn’t hold much hope that we won’t see another Thiepval.

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We were treated to a gorgeous view back across the channel with the sunset.  Hard to beat the sun going down over water.

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We realised that the kids had never been to Stonehenge so it sounded like a perfect day trip.  I really like how they’ve changed the area by moving the visitor centre a mile and a half away.  It really opens up the surrounding area so you see how it was in ancient times.  It was really lovely to walk in the countryside seeing all the barrows.  We also went to Avebury which is a village smack in the middle of a very large stone circle.  A fascinating place.

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After a couple of days puttering about it was time to head north.  I couldn’t wait to show the kids the countryside up north.  University of Manchester was on the list to tour and my friend works there.  Which was fabulous as she actually gave us a much better tour than the official one.  Including getting into the Rutherford Room where the atom was split in 1911.  That was so cool.

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The next day was a gorgeous trip into Yorkshire with Skipton Castle and Bolton Abbey.  I hadn’t been to the Abbey before and I loved it.  The whole area includes the Abbey, the current church in use and the village.  Loads of walking to be done.

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The next day was a great mix of geeky stuff.  We went to see the Lovell Telescope which is an incredible bit of engineering.  You have to have your phones off or in airplane mode as you can interfere with the telescope.  The telescope can pick up a single mobile phone signal from Mars.  We also enjoyed the diesel gala at the East Lancs Railway.  We rode the rails for bit.  The door windows were popular as it was the best way to cool off on the trains!

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It was time to head to London, no rest for the wicked!  Our daughter wanted to visit the Tate as some of the art work was in her image set from her AP Art History course.  I’ll admit, I don’t get the Tate.  At all but to each their own.  It was this afternoon that our daughter got her results for her AP Art History and AP Bio.  She achieved a 5 in both, we are so incredibly proud of all her hard work.  She worked so much with the studying.  It took a lot of time after school and weekends for the heavy coursework.

My husband noticed before our trip that the London Transport Museum was having an open day at Acton.  Our kids weren’t overly impressed but he and I loved walking round all the old stock, maps, signs and artifacts.

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We spent the rest of the day wandering round Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square.  I have to say by this time I was tired of the sun and heat.  It wasn’t so bad in the countryside but London was pushing it!

For the last full day we headed to Cambridge for the last of the university tours.  We loved being able to walk in the footsteps of Darwin.  His room is still used by students.  Can you imagine being assigned his room?  Because most of the colleges own the river banks they charge you to walk through to the River Cam so we decided to do a punt tour down the river.  So much cooler on the river!  We got a great view of the Bridge of Sighs, named because Queen Victoria thought it looked just like a bridge in Venice.  It doesn’t but who was going to argue with the Queen?

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After a week straight of walking 4-8 miles a day, we were done in but what memories.  It was amazing to do all the exploring with the kids and spending the time with them before they went off on their next summer adventures.

 

 

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My Dad

From day one I’ve been a daddy’s girl.  Not the spoilt, get away with anything, daddy’s girl, far from it.  But we’ve always been buddies.  He just turned 70 and I had wanted to celebrate it in the proper way.  Our plan was to have our annual family get together this coming weekend.  Unfortunately we have had to cancel, well, postpone the festivities as he has to have major surgery this week.  It will be a good thing as it will get things fixed.  But I thought he should still be celebrated!  So in the spirit of the post I did about my mum I thought I would toast him as well.

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My dad always had time for his girls, something that has never changed.  Regardless of what he was doing, whether studying or working, we could be included.  It didn’t matter how long his day was he was always up for getting down on the floor and letting us use him as a jungle gym.  Many hours were spent doing row row your boat with his arms.  And pulling up his eye lids to see if he was still in there!

He’s had quite a journey in life.  He is a son of a coal miner who was the first person to go to college and continued on to get his masters degree.  When I went back to the UK for a year at university he came with me at the beginning to help me get settled.  We did a loop round the country which was a tour of his life.  He brought me to the house he was born in to show how far the family had came.  Imagine his surprise there was grass and the neighbourhood had come up a bit!  But I did get the point.

I am grateful that though he wanted us to have the world he didn’t fall into the trap of just handing it to us.  Mum and dad made sure we worked hard and never took anything for granted.  When he thought I was losing my way he wrote me a letter talking about how I was disappointing him.  I was having a bad attitude and being very angry about things.  Lashing out and hurting the ones I loved.  It was heartfelt and full of love but also a wake up call to me.  I still have that letter.

He has always seemed to know just what to say and how to be supportive.  For Senior Hooky Day I chose to go sailing with him instead of scarpering off somewhere.  It was a foggy day and it was great fun to just hang out and be outside.  He would show up to our American Football games in high school.  We had the worst team but once in awhile he would show up, bundled up to hear us play in the band.  On the rare occasion there was a touchdown he would actually hear the band play the school song.  It wasn’t often!

I get my twisted sense of humour from him.  You know the sort that gets you into trouble.  When we were in the UK there was an interview with Rowan Atkinson and he had a running gag of butt cheeks or kissing arse.  Something like that.  So the presenter would toss out words and he kept bringing it back to the gag.  They got to windscreen wipers and he just mimed kissing back and forth between butt cheeks.  I thought we were going to die.  Tears were streaming down our face.  Wish I could find that clip.  I can’t do it justice.

Of course there is the Championship of the Entire Civilised World for cribbage.  It’s quite stiff competition.  It’s just the two of us.  It’s a great way to just talk and joke about.

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I am so grateful to have a dad like my dad.  He has showed us how to be true to ourselves, set our standards high, and was a great example of what it means to respect women and treat them well.  He and my mum are a great example of what type of relationship we should be looking for.  I was lucky that I have that as well with my husband.  Dad wasn’t pleased when I wasn’t happy or treated right in past relationships.  It was a great relief, I think, to my dad when I met my husband.  One, he fits right in with my family and two, he makes me happy.

While I’m nervous about the surgery, I know it is a good thing.  It will get him healthy and ensures we have years still to be goofy, make more family memories, and to well, have my dad around.  Because he is pretty neat in my book.

Nothing Beats Family Time!

It’s hard to believe it is that time of year again. We pack up the kids and head to Lake Champlain to celebrate my dad’s birthday. It’s been a whirlwind summer for the kids so it gives us a few days of downtime. This year we had my sister and her family join us so it was a treat for our dad.

The tricky part was there were 11 of us at the RV during the rainstorm! Fortunately the weather improved and it was absolutely gorgeous! Plus my dad got a large new grill and I got to break it in. What fun!

Per tradition we usually do something with the kids on our way back. Because we didn’t have a lot of time we decided to check out the rail trails in Burlington along the lake.

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Along the shore they have placed carved stones showing dragons, mermaids, roller skates, and the like.

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We walked about 3.5 miles round trip. It was so refreshing with the wind blowing the cobwebs away. There was even a pseudo stone henge!

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Of course we worked up an appetite so we found a restaurant that played really cheesy island music. Who knows why when there is some great music out there. Thank goodness the food was very good! And we got to enjoy the boats coming in and out. I miss the sailing my family did when I was a kid. So many memories. For now I get my fix boat watching.

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After lunch we drove to another park that led to the beach so the kids could dip their toes in and practice stone skipping.

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It was a wonderful weekend catching up with family and hanging out with the kids. Hard to believe school starts next week and then we’re back into a routine again. Wish we could slow summer down!

Are You Apple Eating or Apple Picking?

Every year we get together with 3 other families for our annual apple picking adventure.  It seems like we just did that but poof it’s time again!  Mother Nature has a habit of rain or the threat of rain whenever we plan on coming and of course it was forecast to rain.  But we planned going anyways.  We won’t melt!

It turned out to be quite the weekend.  About a week or so ago this little kitten, we’ve called her Tiramisu, decided our back garden was the place to be.

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Isn’t she cute?  Well we think it’s a she.  But she would show up during the evenings so we waited because you don’t want to take anyone’s kitty.  But we came back from our date night on Saturday night at 9.30 and there she was in our garden.  Way too late to be out.  So we grabbed her and brought her in and set her up in the guest room (aren’t we good hosts? 🙂 ).  Boy the dogs were curious!  The Humane Society opened at 11am in the morning so we planned on bringing her over.  We have two dogs and a cat.  Our cat would just mutiny if we brought another animal to stay.  Bad enough when I opened the bathroom door in the morning and she all but had her paws on her hips and a look on her face “We need to have a chat”.  She was not amused!  If I had my way I’d adopt every pet that needed a home but I do need to think of the rest of the family and the animals we already have.  So we couldn’t keep her.  But at least she was safe because that night the rain that was supposed to come Sunday afternoon swept through Saturday night.  I was up all night listening to that storm.  Sometimes it was like a very large fire hose was aimed at our house!

Come Sunday though it was gorgeous.  Such a beautiful day for apple picking.  The kids love it.  They all run round eating the apples.  The orchard know some of the goods go out in stomachs rather than bags.  Think that is reflected in the price!  Fair enough.  I joked with my daughter saying we should have weighed her going in and then out again.  🙂

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Try as we might to be careful it never fails that you pick one apple and a bunch fall off.  By the state of things I was not the only one with this problem.

At this orchard they had the oldest and I think tallest elm tree in the region and I was all set to take some really nice photos to share.  What I found instead was this:

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It died.  Such a shame.  It was like a beacon for apple picking.

This year they had a very large pumpkin patch and we came across this funny looking thing.  Someone thought it was a turban pumpkin.

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I love the colours of autumn.

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The trees were laden with apples of all sorts of varieties.  We filled our 1/2 bushel bag in no time.

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Which means baking!  We made baked apples last night for dessert.  But there is apple pie, apple cake, and a bunch of other goodies to make.  🙂  Of course a lot of them will make their way into the kids lunches.  An apple a day….

Pure Joy

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best source of joy.  Take ice cream for instance.  It would be a very rare thing that it would bring a frown to someone’s face.

I have good memories of my Grandma, she was a neat lady and I would have loved to know her more but she passed away a few years after we moved over here.  I’ll have to do a proper post as she was quite the lady.  But as summer is coming to a close and ice cream shops are closing for the season I am reminded how ice cream can make you smile.

This is a photo of her getting her first ice cream sundae stateside.

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She loved it!  🙂

Discovering Quechee Gorge

There are times when it becomes obvious that there is a lot to discover in our area.  There are so many hidden gems.  Take for example Quechee Gorge in VT.  They call it the Grand Canyon of Vermont.  Never heard of it.  About twice a year we drive up to buy 100lbs of flour from King Arthur to keep us in our baking habit.  That store is like a candy store to us.  We never get out with just flour.  So many gadgets!

When we have the kids we try to find something else around there to do otherwise it’s a long drive for a quick shop.  So a quick search on the internet for stuff to see near Norwich brought up Quechee Gorge.  The first part of it was a little shopping village where they had a toy museum, antiques, food, and ice cream.  The toy museum was a blast, talk about a flashback!  It was great fun showing the kids what we had to play with.  🙂

Then a short trip down the road to the gorge.  From the visitor’s centre we took the long trail to the gorge and it was quiet as can be.  The first thing spotted was this little guy.  I think it’s a newt?  It was about 2″ long.  This pic is the best I could get as I had to zoom in.

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Further along we came upon this fungus.  It may be an outright mushroom of some sort but I’ve never seen anything like it.  It was beautiful and striking against the dark wood.

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I loved this fallen tree.

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We came to the edge of the gorge and we couldn’t even see bottom!  But we could hear it.  So we went up onto the bridge.  Here’s the thing.  I. Do. Not. Like. Heights.  At all.  However, with kids you can’t let things hold you back.  Fortunately the sides of the bridge were good and high so I didn’t feel l would fall over.  We were very high up!  But it was a beautiful sight and well worth the death grip I had on the bridge.  I also dislike bridges.  I know they are supposed to feel a little bouncy but that just shoves my heart into my throat.

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Then just a short walk to the dam.

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The kids thought it was really neat.  My son loved running up and down the little hills with boundless energy.  It was a lovely break from routine with the family. 🙂

How To Survive as a Family

To me it is very important to tell your kids, spouse, parents, siblings that you love them and tell them often.  My family was always like that but it became an affirmation, a way to tell each other to stay safe.  25 years ago our world was blown apart when we found out that my grandfather had murdered my Grammy.  Everything shifts and nothing is ever the same again.  Somehow we survived as a family and we are very strong but it wasn’t easy.

I remember where I was the last time I heard her voice.  Something was off as we were on holiday and she called out of the blue.  But it was a good conversation and I told her I loved her.  Two weeks later she was gone.  We’ve never found her.  I think that contributes to it still feeling raw after all these years.  Because we never found her we could never get the justice we were hoping for even though we knew immediately it was him so did the police but a funny thing called law got in the way.  In Massachusetts you need a body.  I think he knew that.

My aunt was living with them at the time so she moved in with us.  We had five people reeling all dealing with this differently.  I was in the middle of my teenage years and a couple of days after this happened I had to break up with my first boyfriend because he was cheating on me and he didn’t have the guts to break up with me.  The start of my sophomore year was surreal.  I was an angry person to begin with but man I was consumed after that.

My mum was working very long hours, trying to find Grammy, get some justice, and somehow manage to keep it all together.  I’m not sure how she did it.  I mean, it wasn’t completely successful, not sure how it could be, but I think she did better than most would have.  Being a parent now I understand you just keep going, you have no choice.

I have to hand it to my dad.  He was the glue.  He listened any time I needed it and he did that for all of us.  All the while grieving as he loved Grammy very much.  They were two peas in a pod.  But he was there.  Gradually we learned how to cope and learned how to laugh.  Even though each of us dealt with this differently none of us turned away from our family unit.  The show Broadchurch is on over here now and the first episode was so hard to watch.  It hit way to close to home.  But it also gave me a light bulb moment.  We were spared the seeds of doubt.  In the show each of the parents have secrets which makes the other question.  I can see how families don’t survive.  I don’t know what would have happened if it happened in our household.  We never had to question where the other was coming from.

We survived because we loved each other.  There was forgiveness many times in our journey.  Just not for him.  I hear people say that a lot.  I don’t understand it.  To me it is releasing them of any responsibility.  While being angry a lot isn’t always healthy it seems better than the alternative of letting him off the hook.  That, to me, would be letting Grammy down.  And you hear some daft things.  One of my mum’s cousins said in front of me and my Grammy’s brother it was God’s will.  Excuse me?  Who says that to someone.  That she was supposed to die a horrible death.  That did not go over well.

We all think about her often.  Mostly now it is fondly and we can laugh about her adventures and the memories we have of her.  It is hard when there is a life event.  Leading up to getting married, my husband and I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  I had seen it before and loved it.  This time round though it was like a knife in the heart watching the scene with the grandmother and they were looking at heirlooms.  She should have been there.

We have an amazing family now that has grown from the 5 of us to 12.  We get to see all the quirks passed down as well as the traditions Grammy and others introduced.  Homemade mac n cheese at Thanksgiving is something I remember from her groaning table!

As we figured out how to move on and continue with life we know how much we’ve changed.  I deal with anxiety when something bad happens.  If anyone of my family is within an hour of it I stress until I hear from them.  We became even more street smart than we were before.  My husband will at times sigh when he sees me locking up the house like Fort Knox.  Me?  I think why invite trouble.  But hey, I told him I had quirks!  I wish he could have met her, they would have gotten along really well.

She is sorely missed but her memory lives on and she will never be forgotten.

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Our Annual Trek

My dad’s birthday is in August and every year we load up the car and head to Lake Champlain for a few days of getting away from it all and to celebrate his birthday.  The kids love it as they get to sleep on the RV and we love it as it is a great break from everything.  We’ve fallen into a pattern of traditions which gives us something to look forward to.

Because the RV park is on one of the islands my husband and I have to take a ferry in the morning and evening to get back and forth from the hotel and my parents.  We start our days with this view.

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It’s hard to  have a bad day when you are surrounding by this.  🙂

My dad loves to golf.  So last year I asked if we could play a round.  Now, I haven’t a clue how to golf outside of mini-golf.  I had to go buy a collared shirt as there is a dress code.  And they are strict about it!  Of course I don’t have clubs so I just used my dad’s which are left handed.  I actually did pretty well with them.  I think I’m able to play right handed or left handed.  Saves me buying some clubs as this is a once a year thing.  We went out again this year for a “lesson”.  It’s really just an excuse to hang out with my dad.  I had some good shots and some shots that well, ahem, there are no words.

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The wind brings all sorts of cloud formations and it is fun to just relax and watch it go by.  My parents have a lovely spot that is shaded and near the course at the park.

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Another fun tradition is bowling!  We had such a blast playing a few games.  And we were proud of our son who played the first time without bumpers and even got a strike.  The ball slowly rolls down towards the pins, suspense builds like crazy, and the pins are gently knocked down.

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I get a little bonding time with the two little fluff balls we call puppy dogs.  It’s so funny actually having lap sized dogs on my lap.  Our dogs think they are lap dogs but when they get on our laps we can’t see over them!   This one is Tommy, he was sniffing my phone as I took the picture.  🙂

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Of course there is plenty of time to enjoy good food and wine.  🙂  Time slows down for us a bit and the kids just enjoy being silly and we enjoy hearing them laugh.

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Traditions are a good thing….

What is Home?

I’m an independent woman.  Spent years before meeting my husband and kids being self-sufficient traipsing about the world, taking care of my house, and comfortable being on my own.  I’m still very independent and my husband would never dream of calling me a wallflower.  But it is amazing when you find the love of your life and two amazing children how things change.  I have a wonderful home that is filled with love and laughter.

My husband is now on his way back from a 10 day business trip.  I don’t like it when he travels, not because I begrudge him for his job.  But because it isn’t home when he’s not here.  I feel like I’m rattling round our big house.  It loses it’s warmth.  Luckily I had the kids this week so it was only last week the major rattling was occurring.  Kids keep you on your toes!

There is a lot of anticipation today as we get things ready.  He will get quite the homecoming with me, the kids, and two extremely excited dogs leaping about trying to lick him.  Only our cat will be hiding.

Our dogs will look out the window a lot but this pic kind of represents how we are feeling waiting for him to come home.

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So in a few hours our home will be complete again.  🙂

The Birthday Girls

40 years ago today my mum spent her birthday having me.  We would joke that I was the gift that kept on growing and never went away!  I think the number of birthdays we haven’t spent together is in the single digits which given how busy we’ve been over the years is pretty remarkable.  Sharing it with my mum is what makes it special.

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I have been extraordinarily lucky to have her as my mum.  From day one she has been fiercely on the side of her daughters.  She has kept me alive when I turned blue from asthma and she was told she was a panicky mum.  Let’s ignore the fact she’s a nurse!  She never let anything hold us back.  My mum always put her family first.  Whatever decision she made it was with an eye for doing what was best for us.  I honestly can’t think of anything she did when we were growing up that was a just for her thing.  I am happy to say that now if she wants to treat herself she does.  A blow for freedom as she likes to say.

Throughout her career she worked long hours to make sure our family never went without.  I know she has wondered from time to time if it took away from us important time.  I don’t think she realises that the time she spent with us was quality time and we never felt cheated being latch key kids.  We never resented her having to be on call or work crazy overtime.  Because she did that we had a roof over our heads and got through college without any debt.  She was also the major reason why kids flocked to our house.  There was a good chance of homemade cookies and milk.  Let me tell you, her baked goods are hard to beat.

Mum and I are a lot alike.  We share so many of our traits both good and bad.  We can be stubborn, we like to be in control of the situation (though good luck getting either of us to admit that too often 🙂 ), we can be pretty fierce when we stand up for ourselves or our family.  I have to say she does that better than me.  I’m all fiery and she comes across as cool and collected but you know you stepped over that invisible line.  We share the same thought that our kids are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  After all, without family, what’s the point.  We love to dance in the kitchen while cooking.  If there weren’t books in this world we’d be a bit lost.  We cheer for the underdog.  Ginger is the first line of defense against illness before medicine.  Homemade gifts are the best, especially from your kids.  Food is one way we show our love.  She used to bring me lunch when we worked together.  Leftovers from the night before.  It was awesome.  When I was away at college I would get homemade cookies and congo bars.  I was the envy of the TV lounge.  🙂

Being a parent I find myself acting like my mum a lot.  I’ve even stopped myself in mid-sentence with the kids and say I sound just like her!  When they giggle I tell them to just wait until they have kids.  But you know, mum was right on a lot of things.  Chewing gum is not attractive!  Making me wait until I was 12 to get my ears pierced was the right choice.  It’s ok to use tough love.  There is a long list.

I guess I was trying enough as a child because when I started parenting my children they were 3 and 7 and I was bewildered or exasperated at something and my mum just burst out laughing and said “I have lived to see the day!”  Thanks.

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So thank you mum for being our cheerleader.  For being there for all the ups and downs.  You are an incredible woman and I am so glad you are on our side.  And I am so proud of you for all you’ve accomplished in life, it would make for an amazing story.  Happy Birthday, Lady.  🙂