Friday, October 30, 2009

The end of a long week

This time last week, we were all looking forward to a quiet weekend at home and a return to "normal", with all three of us at home by ourselves for the first time in what felt like a long time! The weekend did not turn out to be very relaxing, as we were hurtled back to the days of 2:00 and 5:00 a.m. wake-ups to a crying Blake. After a Saturday and Sunday of not eating, clutching at his mouth in pain, and waking up throughout the night (with the only way to get back to sleep with Mommy beside him - thank goodness we had not yet folded up the futon from Granny and Grandpa's visit), we concluded that he would not be going to nursery on Monday and would instead need a trip to the doctor.

It was only on Monday morning that I made the connection between a few little spots he had on his hands that what he had was likely the "hand, foot and mouth disease" (a childhood virus unrelated to the animal thing!). A trip to the doctor confirmed that Blake had ulcers on the roof of his mouth which accounted for the pain and the refusal to eat, and we were told to stay at home for the week while it got better. Like on any of these days where I am torn between my work as a mother and my work in my office job, I felt extremely stressed and pondered the futility of trying to achieve this balance when inevitably our child would become sick and I (or Matt) would have to drop everything at work. In the end, I know where my priorities do and must lie, so by the afternoon I was feeling a little less anxious about having to cancel all my meetings and reschedule some appointments for the next couple of days.

Matt was off to Gibraltar for a business trip on Tuesday through Thursday, so Blake and I spent a lot - a lot - of time together this week. One positive aspect was napping together in the afternoons, which I desperately needed since I was staying up until midnight working after he went to bed in the evenings. Monday he was miserable to be with, and one difficulty with these viruses and the fact that they're contagious are that it means we're limited in what we can do, even though we have all the time in the world to do it. Monday's "activity" ended up being a trip to Homebase to buy a replacement light bulb for the bathroom, where I was treated to being hit in the face (by Blake) when I had to tear him away from the artificial Christmas tree display and a stack of chocolate coins. The gratitude!

Tuesday was better and Wednesday and Thursday brought continued improvement, and he made me laugh a lot once he was feeling better. He is absolutely smitten now with the CBeebies show In the Night Garden, something his peers having been enjoying for literally months now. Up until now he just hasn't shown an interest but something has just flipped over in him and his first words this morning were "Daisy Do", indicating his affection for one of the lead characters, Upsy Daisy. Yesterday we managed a trip to Westfield, the local shopping center, and Blake got some new shoes and an ItNG dvd. His vocabulary is coming along day by day which just amazes me and makes me giggle in equal measure.

So with Matt back home and Blake seemingly healthy again, I think now we are looking forward to that quiet weekend ahead! I got a pumpkin to carve tomorrow and we'll hope to put Blake in his Halloween costume for at least a walk down the street. At the end of 7 pretty long days, I feel we definitely deserve some rest and relaxation. Let's see if we get it...!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cindy and John and leaf-peeping in Hanover

On a beautiful fall day in Hanover, my great friend Cindy married John Stanton (D'97). The wedding was amazing and despite only getting engaged in May (on the Dartmouth rugby pitch after an alumni match, no less!), Cindy had thought about ever detail with perfection! I was on my own having left Matt and Blake back in the UK, so I enjoyed exploring Hanover on my own schedule and at my own pace. It was delightful! The wedding went off without a hitch, with Cindy's two 18-month-old nephews making it down the aisle to lots of prodding and prompting, and the bride looked beautiful and her new groom dashing. The happy couple were off on a Caribbean honeymoon, about which I was very envious! Here are the photos I took, along with a few of my "leaf-peeping" shots from the area. All the best, Cindy and John!

Cindy and John_October 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Our little talker

With the help of Karla and John ("John, John, John"), Blake's speaking has come on quite a lot since I've been away. Here he is tonight reading a very exciting book called Racers which goes into elaborate detail about different racing vehicles - cycle racing, motorbike racing, tractor racing (ha ha!), etc. He loooooves this book!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekend wrapup

It was a busy one, but as busy just seems to be the theme of our lives these days, at least this was a weekend full of nice times. Saturday we headed down Surrey-way to celebrate Lykke's birthday - belatedly - with lunch at Giraffe. Mom and Dad had ventured off to Scotland (in like a day) and were waiting for us when we got home, so it was nice to see them back and catch up a bit. Today we had a very near-miss at failing at our first Godparenting duties for William Cook by nearly being late to his Christening; after a horrendous 30 minutes at a stoplight on the A40, I said a little prayer that there would be no traffic on the M25 and must have been doing something right recently because it flowed pretty smoothly until Woking. I only wish I'd read Diane's email with instructions to the church instead of listening to Google maps, which gave the address of the site where the former church had been torn down last year! We made it with about a minute (or 30 seconds!?) to spare and all turned out ok. He was a very good little chap during his service, and Blake managed to be civil, and we were proud to be there at such a milestone in William's life.

Lunch at the Red Lion was taken in intervals as Matt and I alternated time outside with Blake who admired several Harley Davidsons parked outside, ran around in the rain, and generally displayed the impatience associated with a 19-month-old not impressed by a truly lovely 3-course meal.
Blake's love of motorcycles is matched only by his love of wearing our shoes - here he is sporting my pair on Thursday. Makes me laugh.
I'm off tomorrow to Stockholm and leaving Matt and "John" ("Where's John?" has been Blake's quote of the week) and Granny Karla in charge. Bring on Thursday! Have a good week all...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Topsail Part 2

I happened to remember another memory card with more Topsail photos on it...
Topsail_August 09_Part 2

Blake and I enjoyed a very chilled-out day today, complete with an afternoon nap (hooray!). Blake enjoyed two separate breakfasts of Cheerios and crumpets, before we set off for the doctor's office. His cold - from Scotland - still hasn't gone, so I wanted to make sure something wasn't wrong with his chest. All ok in fact. Then to QP for some time on the swings. Blake has a very funny habit of needing to swing on every swing on the swingset, as if he's test driving cars to decide which one is best. Tearing him away from the swingset is kind of difficult these days. We're also into a very bossy stage, where he will push your legs where he wants you to go, and also commands you to "Sit down" in order to read books. The reading is good, though - I'm very pleased that he likes his books.

I think we'll all be glad for the weekend, although it will be a busy one and then the start of a hectic week and a half for me where I'm off to Stockholm and then the US for Cindy and John's wedding. Let's get through Friday first, I guess...!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

October Birthdays!

Happy birthday yesterday to Marisa - it seems like yesterday that we were counting down the days 'til your 21st so you could join everyone at Murphy's!

And Seb Hines turns the big 0-1 today...hope it was a good one!

Scotland photos

You will probably want to do some serious quick-flipping here, as a lot of these are my boring attempts at trying to get good scenic shots in the fleeting instants where it wasn't raining in Scotland. If I took this many photos in that dismal weather we had, I would hate to imagine how many I would have taken had it been bright and pretty.
Anyway, the editor will not be offended if you whiz through these at breakneck speed, especially those at the beginning when we're at Monkey Forest! I am sure those Barbary Macaques are not that interesting or attractive when not viewed in the flesh. My various attempts to get the perfect shot of purple heather are also probably less than exciting. Bonus points for anyone, however, who correctly counts the number of different animal types pictures in the set. In reviewing them I have also realised that I just lost some of my better shots of the seals (after prematurely deleting everything off my memory card of the camera!), but in general they were probably so unremarkable that I am not going to lose any sleep over it!

Scotland - Sept 09

North Carolina pictures

North Carolina in August seems like a long, long time ago, but here are the pictures which I have finally downloaded. I am not even going to attempt to do any editing or captions or else they would get posted by next August.

I still have a long way to go with my photography (a long way by the looks of it) but there are at least a couple of cute ones here, including photos with second cousin Charlotte and friends Emma Forbes, Jane Larkin and Thomas. I laugh when I see Blake in his yellow banana suit. Emma Forbes was kind enough to lend him her pink floaty vest but I laugh even more at those photos as he reminds me of a banana peel that has been wrapped in Hubba Bubba. The sequence where he can't figure out his shadow is pretty amusing too.

The first several are from when we arrived in Chapel Hill, where Mom and Dad got married 40 years ago. We went around and visited their old houses and haunts which was fun. There is a karaoke theme going on as the last photo is at the Topsail Island bar which did karaoke on the Friday nights - JF, Susan and I did Britney's Hit Me Baby One More Time to an adoring audience (ha!).

North Carolina_August 09

Haes and Jeremy's party in NYC

A belated post to write about what a good time was had by all when the Dartmouth girls (all of us minus Beth, who was caring for newborns Alex and Cecily) headed to the Big Apple to celebrate with Haes and Jeremy...they got married two years ago but were just getting around to having a big party to celebrate! It was wonderful to see everyone - our reunions are too few and far between these days - and H&J looked great. Dinner was fabulous and the festivities carried on into Koreatown ("K-Town" as Haes calls it) where we had a huge room for karaoke. The singing was off-key but memorable. Here are the photos, finally. The rendition of John Denver's Country Roads is perhaps too painful on the ears to publish...
Haes and Jeremy - Sept 09, NYC

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Just back from Bristol where we enjoyed Chris and Sarah Ballard's wedding, and the chance to see Chris and Anna, Russ and Caroline (and bump) and Simon, Naomi and Hugo. Hugo is an actual boy now (3 years old!) and not the toddler I remember from August 2007, the last time we'd seen them. Blake had a good time exploring Bristol's finest Turkish restaurants with his Granny and Grandpa, who accompanied us on the trip for some very helpful babysitting.
Life at DwL headquarters seems super-busy, with visiting colleagues from the US (Granny Karla and Grandpa John), a business trip to Paris tomorrow, and general hectic-ness, but I am carving out some time on Tuesday or Wednesday evening to do some much-needed blog updating. I need to download some photos to go along with my draft posts, so come back on Thursday for some updates!

DwL's sabbatical to the Scottish Highlands

It will give you some idea of the Scottish climate when I say that we were pleased last Saturday to cross the border into England, and feel happy to be back to English weather. Despite the grey, rainy and –I can’t use the word enough – grey days in the Highlands, we still had a nice break away as a family. Each day was a (grey) adventure; highlights below:

Day 1 (London to Carlisle, 306 miles)

We enjoyed a sunny day on the English Motorways, setting off at 10:30 in the morning headed for our first destination, Monkey Forest near Stoke on Trent. In his role as good father, Matt had researched a midway point in the drive where we could get out, stretch our legs, and hopefully provide some family-friendly entertainment for Blake (who no doubt does not consider 7 hours in his car seat as a good time!). Monkey Forest was very cool indeed, as a preserve which contains nearly 140 Barbary Macaques. We learned about their habits and watched them eat, jump around the trees, and groom each other.
We headed off into more Friday afternoon traffic to finally arrive in Carlisle at 7:30 pm that night, a mere 9 hours after setting off.

Day 2 (Carlisle to Banavie, near Fort William, about 200 more miles)
The good news about the second half of the drive was that it was a lot shorter than Day 1, although it was not without incident. We concluded that Glasgow is a dump (sorry to anyone who likes it!) with a lot of traffic jams, and it was a welcome relief to keep heading north into Lochaber, the land of the lochs. This enchantment ended shortly after, however, as my 17-year streak of not having any traffic incidents or tickets was broken when on a windy single-lane road beside Loch Lomond, I had to brake quickly – but in time – only to then be bumped by the car behind me into the mini-van ahead of me. It was not exactly a great start and I was pretty upset, although fortunately nobody was hurt and there was no visible damage to any of the cars. Still, it was such a bummer and I spent much of that evening sniffling and feeling sad, sorry for myself, grateful, annoyed, etc.

Day 3…At the foot of Ben Nevis
For anyone who knows me, you will probably know that I don’t really love hiking and walking-in-the-hills type activity (I think it stems from trips as a child to Blowing Rock, and envying Mom having a nap in the car while Dad and I went up; or it could be from my nightmare Freshmen Trip at Dartmouth which was the wet and cold start to my Dartmouth career). Matt, however, is a real enthusiast – or at least he has better equipment than I do! We had borrowed a back carrier for Blake from a friend, so we got up and headed off to the Glen Nevis visitor center. It wasn’t raining, which was nice, so we set off on the ascent to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. I was having major clothing envy, as I was wearing jeans and tennis shoes, and not one of the 70 or so other people I spied in the visitor center or while climbing were sporting anything other than breathable, waterproof, windproof, microweave fleeces, jackets, and pants, and super-duper high-tech grippy boots with built-in compasses that guided them quickly up the mountain (you get the idea…jeans and tennis shoes just made me look so amateur). We walked for about an hour, and I enjoyed watching the backs of Matt and Blake and rued the fact that I still don’t know how to use my SLR as well as I’d like. We kept hoping to see the peak of Ben Nevis on the next bend in the trail, but we weren’t sure that we were getting close to being able to see it so we finally turned around and headed down, when Blake fell asleep in the carrier which just made me laugh.
We maybe should have kept going, because in the next six days, we never did see Ben Nevis despite our cottage being less than a quarter of a mile away. Somehow not even being able to see the beautiful scenery had never entered my mind.

Day 4….Why does it always rain on me?
The Travis song was to be our theme tune this day, as the skies seemed to have limitless amount of rain to pour down on us. We drove over to Mallaig via Glenfinnan (where the viaduct that the Hogwart’s Express passes over was filmed) where it seemed to rain even harder. We stopped in a tearoom to dry off and warm up, and we overheard the waitress say that they’d had 10 days in a row of sunshine, and that the current weather was evidently the payback for that. Right…just our luck.

Day 5…4 and 20
During my days in the Dartmouth Women’s Rugby Club, we sang a lot of songs, the lyrics of most of which are completely obscene and not fit for reprint on a family-friendly site such as DwL. One of our favorites was one which started “Four and twenty virgins, went up to Inverness, and when the ball was over there were four and twenty less” (I can’t go any further into the song as I know my mother reads this blog, and that will probably be bad enough!). Anyway, that was the tune in my head as we set off up the A82 to Loch Ness and further into the Highlands. We stopped at Urquhart Castle, and we got lucky on this day that it was NOT raining. I was literally amazed at the effect of sunlight on everything – the color of the sky, the color of the hills, the color of the water (which up to this point had all been GREY!). I vowed to research more the scientific effects of light and color because I was literally seeing how different a landscape can be with sunlight!
Blake scampered all around the place and then we continued on to Inverness, which frankly was not very exciting. We carried on to Culloden, the site of one of the worst battles in UK history, and then it was back down past Loch Ness (no sightings of Nessie).

Day 6….Over the sea to Skye
I had heard that the Isle of Skye was one of the most beautiful places in the whole of the UK, and I can say that I can only imagine that it might be. As it was, it was raining when we went, so we only got to see glimpses of what it could look like. I was definitely of the opinion that rain is a 4-letter word.
We got a few patches of clear skies, during lunch at a pub which also hosted perhaps the UK’s most scenic playground in the front of it. Blake threw an absolute howler of a tantrum at lunch, nearly screaming the pub down because he wanted to go play on a driving video game (he has a new obsession with cars, and in fact if he were able to answer what the best part of the week was for him, I am sure he would say it was getting to sit in the driver’s seat of our car when we were parked at the cottage, pretending to drive. This usually happened at least once, if not twice a day!). After lunch we went to Davegham Castle, where the boys let me go on a short motorboat excursion to look at seals up close – which was kind of cool. I asked the boatsman a lot of questions, including one which I knew at the time was very stupid, which was what was the difference between an otter and a seal.

Day 7…The fire’s nearly out
As a very amateur photographer, I always get excited about a vacation, that I might be able to take some cool pictures of which I could be proud, print some and frame them in my home, and have them be admired by visitors. By day 7 of our holiday, I gave up on even taking my good camera out and just decided my little point and shoot would do. That’s a sad state of affairs! We took a nice, but damp, walk along a small loch, and Blake and I admired Matt’s skipping-stones skills.
That night we watched the Dixie Chicks documentary, Shut Up and Sing, which I really enjoyed.

Day 8…A very forgettable day, I believe...

I am pretty sure it was raining though.

Day 9…Bye bye Scotland – Banavie to Sale, 344 miles
We woke up pretty ready to vacate our little cottage, and vowed to the owner that we would return when we could see a last-minute forecast of 10 days of sunshine! Matt negotiated the tricky A82 without incident (he is, admittedly, a better driver than I am), and we detested Glasgow’s roads once again on the return route, having to make several detours to avoid being stuck in a parking lot of the M8. That afternoon we stopped in a lovely little village called Penrith, Blake got some time at a soft-play center, and that evening we stopped off to stay at Claire, Tim and Seb’s place in Sale, near Machester. We hadn’t seen Claire and Tim since April 2007, and not met Seb (who turns 1 next week), so it was really nice to catch up with them.

Day 10…Wrong place at the wrong time
We woke up and went for a nice walk with Claire, Tim, Seb, and their dog Kaibo. Blake was a bit overwhelmed at times by all the dogs in the park, but I still think he liked them (but perhaps he just likes them more from a distance). We headed off just before noon, and as we made our way back to London I remarked on the sunshine and the high temperatures (turns out the weather in London last week was very good, much better than normal at this time of year). It felt really good to be back home.

So overall, we could consider ourselves lucky that we were able to do anything with the weather we had, however, being a quarter of a mile away from the base of the UK’s tallest mountain and never seeing it in 7 days because of cloud is not the type of luck I’d want to take into a casino. We can say that we enjoyed our family time, but I think we’d both agree that we’ve done Scotland now, at least for the next 10 years or so (if not more…it was very grey!). You just can’t predict or control weather.