Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Royal Wedding - Exclusively live from London!

I could not resist a quick trip over to Westminster Abbey during my lunch break today - it was fabulous! The people who were camping out to get a good view were great - chatting with reporters, the throngs of people passing by, and generally having a great time explaining why they were doing what they were doing!

I felt very much a part of it! More exclusive reportage to come.

Union Jacks all over with the Abbey in the background...

The tents and the campers...
There were lots of signs up...
Apparently this is a BBC presenter, Louise Minchin, I think I heard someone say...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Heids!

Hope you have a great day - thanks for being a loyal reader and we are going to do our girls' night out soon!

Happy Birthday to Will!

Happy Birthday to Will...with the time difference to Australia we didn't manage to wish him happy birthday until Sunday - hope it was a great one!

Here with Raina in France last September, our Mussel Man for the night!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Alle-you-la, alle-you-la!

We had a really wonderful Easter weekend, made even better by the amazing weather that lasted from Thursday through today - the sunshine truly felt like a big hug from above.
Friday we just took it easy, and I can hardly remember what we did exactly but it was a very Good Friday indeed.

On Saturday we went to Tom and Lykke's where they staged a chocolate hunt for Emma and Blake - they found them all in the end...a neighbor said to me yesterday that the only thing the warm weather wasn't good for was chocolate eggs! We also finally got to give Noah his homemade cake that I'd been planning for ages - he loves "The Wheels on the Bus" so I decided to make him a red double decker bus cake. His face when we were singing to him was so funny - at first I thought he was going to burst into tears but then he smiled and seemed amused at the attention. Bless him. If you'd like to know the answer to how much red food coloring I had to get the bus that color, the answer is that the inside of my mouth didn't really feel quite right after I'd had a few bites of cake (or, in other words, a lot - over 3/4's of a bottle! Ugh. I don't really think anything you eat should be that color apart from tomatoes, strawberries, and apples).

The boys and I went to church on Sunday, where I discovered that Noah, as opposed to Blake, is now the one requiring my constant attention. If I had to rank the aspects about church that I enjoy, singing the hymns is probably near the top, and Easter hymns are some of the best. Yesterday, we were late so we entered as the first one had already started, I went down to Junior Church with Blake and Noah so missed at least one or two of the main hymns, and just as I got to sing a line or two of the offertory hymn, I looked up to see Noah doing his Spanish dancer walk toward the front of the church. I use that term "Spanish dancer walk" because when he walks now (as he does a lot...I'm amazed at how quickly they go from the 2 or 3 steps to just full-on walking!) he is slightly turned at an angle though moving forward, and with his arms held high and in front of him, he just reminds me of some sort of cha cha or tango dancer. He also had black pencil all over his mouth from eating a colored pencil, so he was quite a sight to behold. They also held a small egg hunt afterwards but I was caught a bit offguard and didn't know it was happening until all the eggs had been found. And Blake hadn't been one of the finders, so that was creating a bit of a pitiful situation until a kind man offered me one of his kids' eggs, which I promptly planted by a bush before exclaiming, "Ooh, Blake, I think I see something!" He was tickled.

After church we came home to have some lunch, and there was a moment which was about the most idyllic I'd had in a long time. I was in the kitchen making a fruit salad and drinking a lovely (nice and weak) gin and tonic, Matt was grilling lamb chops on our new barbecue, the boys were in the sand pit and the sun was blazing down. It was such a nice couple of moments. About 10 seconds later, one of the boys - can't even remember which one now! - climbed out of the sand pit and kicked sand in the other's face, and the tranquility was broken. It was lovely while it lasted.

I hid a few plastic eggs and some candy in the garden and we had another little egg hunt, and given that Blake's superior mobility skills to Noah, he succeeded in finding all of the eggs; I thnk he felt redeemed after the paltry success at the church hunt! We did things slightly out of order, as we rounded out Easter Day with some egg dyeing. It reminded me of last year and dyeing eggs the weekend before Noah was born. I was actually thinking that Noah has got to be one of the oldest children ever to celebrate his/her first Easter - and I have found a site that confirms that this is one of the latest Easters we're likely to have. Have a look if you're interested in this sort of thing:

And then, what has been a wonderful 4 days comes to a close and it's back to the real world tomorrow. But only for a few days, since the countdown is now on until the Big Day on Friday. I am going to have to conclude that I must have been #1901 on the guest list as nothing has arrived in the mail from William and Kate. I guess I'll have to do like 2billion other people and watch it on tv. I am very excited and now just need to find something to wear, and figure out some way of keeping the boys distracted for at least the ceremony. Chocolate may again be the answer!

As for this title, Blake cracked me up today as he started trying to say "Alleluia" which featured in one of the songs at Junior Church yesterday. He struggles a bit with the word "yellow", instead usually calling it "lellow", and "alleluia" seems to present a similar challenge! So "Alle-you-lah", "Alle-you-lah" for the past 4 days, for glorious weather, for a lovely family - nuclear, extended, and urban, for spring, for red food coloring, for all the blessings we have. Hope you had a great weekend as well!

Easter 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boys in action

I finally logged into my YouTube account for the first time in a while, and here are a few videos that make me smile; I hope they do the same for you!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My little bunnies, or my little bullies?

Today the boys' nursery held an Easter bonnet competition. This time last year, I had somehow thought Easter bonnets were mythological accessories from English antiquity, but I managed to rustle up one at the last minute at a local cheap-o shop on Norwood Road. At the time I must have activated my inner genius and bought two of these bonnets - which was extremely helpful last night when I remembered that I needed not one, but two, of these for this morning. Even more impressive - I knew exactly where they were (gathering dust on the top of Blake's bookshelf!). Equally of note: the decorations I put on last year were partially intact!

I rummaged through a bag of Easter crafts that Mom sent back with us, and wow, was I in luck - foam Easter stickers that we were able to just stick on the bonnets! Saved me from searching for the superglue to try to concoct some sort of Easter scene of fuzzy chicks and green crepe paper for grass as I did last year.

Of course as is typical of every Lyons child of mine aged 6 months-2 years old, Noah definitively did not want the hat on his head, so my attempts at an early morning photo shoot as we rushed out the door were in vain. I had tried to persuade Blake to wear a nice-looking spring shirt but he refused, went upstairs to pick his own shirt, and came back down wearing the enfant terrible t-shirt which is pretty much too small for him, and which I'd bought when he was about 6 months old thinking it was funny. Somehow when he wasn't six months old I definitely wondered about why I'd bought it. He kept saying, "See, it fits!" as he tried to stretch it out to be less skin-tight, so I just had to laugh and let him go with it. He at least put on his hat for a photo.

Some of the hats that people had done were truly amazing, but I concluded I will conserve my creative energies for the Nativity play (I'm of course still hoping I can recycle last year's innkeeper costume for many years to come). When we got home in the afternoon I let the boys play outside in the back while I burned some dinner in the kitchen.

Matt was out after work, so after I'd made food and the boys and I had eaten it in the dining room, we headed to the living room for some coloring. I made the big mistake of thinking that I might just take a short breather on the couch and read a few lines from Saturday's paper. No sooner had I attempted to focus on a headline to decide whether it was an article worth reading, did all hell break loose in front of me: Noah tried to grab some crayons from Blake, Blake rightfully tried to protect his possessions, Noah went to bite Blake's fingers as is his tendency these days when he gets frustrated and isn't getting what he wants, and at that point I tried to intervene. Unfortunately my attempts to separate them were about a second too late, and Blake swumg his arm to hit Noah and managed to land a pretty solid punch to Noah's face. I don't think Blake had any idea where he was aiming for, but something about my trying to pull Noah away seemed to cause Noah to turn his face right where the small fist was flying into. I was so upset I just froze for a few seconds as I contemplated how to react. Blake went slightly ashen and just stared at me with wide eyes, and as it was, I think even Noah was just looking at me wondering what my reaction would be. Finally I did what I tend to do in these situations, which is not what the books that I read two hours after the incident would recommend: I yelled at the top of my voice (as my face likely went tomato-red) for Blake to go to his room. I decided it was Noah's bedtime and went and dealt with his bath, and finally after about 5 minutes the hollering from Blake's room ceased. After another 5 or so I opened the door to find him arranging his wooden pizza toppings on the floor. So he's not bothered...

After I had Noah down in bed, I then went and spoke to Blake. I apologized for yelling and then explained that I didn't want Noah - or Blake - to get hurt, and that's why I get upset when they hit and bite. I had Blake explain to his Winnie the Pooh why hitting wasn't nice --I had refreshed on the section about "Hitting" while Noah was in the bath, so these tips were now fresh in my mind! Of course the most annoying thing about the whole situation was how I knew that it was really my fault: everything will tell you that all kids really want when you're with them is for you to be with them, and not elsewhere (talking on the phone, checking email on your phone, reading, etc). I was frustrated with myself because I normally try to keep that in mind, and the whole thing probably wouldn't have boiled up if I had just sat down and colored too.

My little angelic Easter bunnies seemed to so quickly turn into little bullies - one biting like a piranha, the other throwing Mohammed Ali-like right hooks. Maybe some chocolate in our Easter baskets will calm us all down...


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Seeking a higher plane

As a typical Leo, I have always longed for time in the spotlight, and if what Andy Warhol said about us all is true, we're all looking for our 15 minutes of fame, whatever our star sign. It is, however, with a great deal of relief and joy that I'm writing this post as opposed to actually getting my name on the front page of the papers in the past week. Let me explain...

We had a wonderful week-long break in North Carolina. Blake spent lots of time doing early morning arts and crafts with Granny Karla, which meant Matt and I got pretty used to getting to sleep til about 7:30. We got to catch up with the Thompson clan and see how Henry has grown since we first met him back in December 2008. The Jones girls are true sweethearts, very polite and grown-up, and Davis Egerton is also a cutie. It was so nice to catch up with Lela, Kathryn and Katie...on the two nights I got to hang out with them I swear it didn't feel like we were too different from our teenage selves. We met up with the Watsons and Fieldses in Greensboro and I managed to do a bit of shopping. We explored some of Hickory's parks and Matt finally got to see Lake Hickory, which he'd thought was just a myth based on his previous 3 visits. We ate Homer burgers and Bojangles chicken and biscuits, drank sweet tea, and had several indulgences with ice cream (Noah is a fan). The azaleas and dogwood were starting to bloom and it was a lovely spring week in NC.

We were due to fly back on the Thursday before Noah's birthday, and that afternoon we had a little mini party for him. Henry and Colby, along with their cousin Callie, came over, and we had some cake and ice cream for the kids. Noah seemed to love the cake (and it wasn't homemade!). Soon after, we headed to the airport to get our flight back to London. Saturday was his actual birthday, and we had Bishy, Tom, Lykke, Emma and Maya coming over to celebrate. Traveling with young kids, you'll know if you've ever done it, is not the easiest thing, but on Thursday we were all doing pretty well. We were nice and early at the airport, everyone had had some food and we were ready....if all went well, the boys would sleep during the flight and we'd wake up in London on Friday.

We took off in early-evening mellow sunshine, but about a minute or so in, there was a loud, mechanical pop from the right side of the plane. Matt and I looked at each other over Blake's head and I'm sure the worry in Matt's face was immediately reflected in my own. Several seconds later, a metallic-smelling smoke filled the cabin, and Matt said, "That's not good." I am no stranger to the skies, but my previous scary flying experiences mainly had to do with bad turbulence, and one incident where the plane I was in was struck by lightning (they're apparently designed to handle this, so although it was terrifying at the time, it turns out it wasn't in any way a worrying situation). Trying to contain my anxiety, I held Noah tightly and gave Blake a pat. Surely it was going to be ok, I told myself. A few moments later, and the pilot came on to report that there'd be a failure in the plane's right engine. I didn't even think to question at the time, but there were only 2 engines. And now one of them wasn't working. And we're airborne. The good news, of course, is that we had only just taken off and were therefore well within landing distance back at the Charlotte airport. The pilot came on again to announce that he would be performing a "normal landing" back at Charlotte, and the way he stressed normal implied to me that it would, yes, be a normal landing - as in no emergency exit doors or slides needed, no need to figure out if the seat you're sitting on will actually double as a flotation device - but in a fairly emergency situation. He thought we would be on the ground within 10 minutes, but explained that because the plane had a full tank of fuel which would normally be used to get us across the Atlantic, our landing was going to be tricky because of the plane's being so heavy. Great, I hadn't even thought of that part! Apparently in situations like this some planes actually drop fuel, but that wasn't the case with us, I'm pretty sure.

It has probably taken me about 10 minutes to write the above, and in my daily life 10 minutes just passes by in a flash. Let me tell you that those 10 minutes on that day were surely the longest I've ever lived. The atmosphere on the plane was calm - apart from a screaming baby in the row behind us - and I would have to say that I was trying to project a calm exterior for the boys but on the inside I was just running through all the horrible possibilities, and I'll be honest, fearing the worst. To think that we put so much faith in some pieces of metal and forces of physics which I'll admit to not ever really probably wanting to learn much all suddenly seemed crazy. The fact that Noah was wondering why the lady he'd been playing Peekaboo with had suddenly lost interest was heartbreaking - I just kept thinking, "Two days before his birthday...please let him get to see this birthday and many more...please..." Blake was being somewhat quiet and pensive, and Matt explained to him that the plane was "broken" and that we were going to have to turn around. Blake seemed to accept that but I do wonder if he didn't think that was strange.

Finally, it was time to land, and I held Noah as tightly as I could while Matt gave Blake a reassuring cuddle. I remember feeling helpless that I couldn't manage to hold all three of them at the same time. The landing was smoother than many landings I've had, so we were thankful that that portion of the situation didn't present any issues. Applause rang out in the cabin and the sense of relief was palpable. We had to stop on the runway while the brakes of the plane were examined, to check they weren't damaged by the heavy landing, and then the good engine was shut down and we were towed to the gate.

In the queue where we then stood to be re-booked onto different flights, there was a range of emotions on display. A woman behind me who had been headed to the UK on vacation with her friend had decided just to cancel her trip, saying that she wasn't a "good flier" and that she didn't think she could do it again. Fair enough, but not really an option for those of us who were trying to get home. Her friend said that she had been scared, but that she couldn't imagine how awful it would have been for those of with kids. I smiled dumbly and nodded: it was pretty awful. Some people seemed annoyed and irritated, and although I think I probably felt some of that, the overriding feeling I had at the time was thankfulness to be alive. Gratefulness that it had happened when it did, and not 5 hours into the flight over the darkness of the North Atlantic. Relief that we'd had a competent pilot and crew who landed us safely, in relative calm. Relief to be on terra firma...

After being rebooked on Saturday's flight (one direct flight a day to Gatwick, and Friday's had filled up by time we got to a ticket agent), we had to take all our bags and try to find the van to the hotel where we would stay for the night. Matt had thought we should try to get back to Mom and Dad's but by the time we were through with the re-booking, it was so late and I thought it would be safer for us to just get somewhere nearby and let Mom come for us the next day. By this point it was 11:00 at night, and we were all pretty exhausted. We waited for the van for a bit, but then finally gave up and went to get a cab, but then had to deal with the hassle of waiting to find one that had not one, but two, carseats. In the end the boys rode in the middle seat of a mini-van in these folded-down seats with kid-sized straps on them. I couldn't imagine what would happen in an accident, so I sat behind them with my arms over each of their chests. They were asleep the entirety of the 15-minute ride.

In the hotel room, our musical beds for the night and trying to predict what configuration would give us all the best night's sleep meant that Matt slept with Blake, and I slept with Noah. Lying in the dark, I could not stop my thoughts. I kept imagining how awful it would be to hear reports of what the black box had found, and how I just couldn't imagine anything happening to our precious boys. Finally, eventually, I fell asleep.

There were some good things to come out of our delay. The next day we went back to Hickory, and that evening I finally got to see The King's Speech, something I'd been wanting to do for at least 8 weeks. On Saturday we got to see my cousin Amy who had been in the area on a work trip, and we had a really nice breakfast with her and her friend Carol. It was a sunny day and we made the most of being outside and trying to again remember why we were thankful. We said goodbye to Dad at the house and got back in the car with Mom to go back to the airport. After a few jokes with the check-in staff about surely being able to get out that night, we went through security, had some food and got ready for departure. Only, about half an hour before we were due to go, there was some horrible weather in the area and they actually closed the airport due to lightning and reports of tornadoes. That situation didn't help what was apparently an uncertain status with regards to the health of our plane, and our departure time came and went before they cancelled that flight, again due to "maintenance". This time we were more savvy, and I phoned immediately to a hotline they had opened; we were able to get booked on Sunday's flight. By an hour after the flight had been cancelled, we were safe and comfortable at the hotel and ordering room service for dinner. Much, much better. Still, not that comforting that they couldn't find a plane to get us to London, though [and for those who are wondering, we were flying with US Airways, not that I think they did too badly a job throughout everything]. At some point we recognized the fact that nearly the whole day had passed and we hadn't sung "Happy Birthday" to Noah, so while he was in the bath, Matt, Blake and I stood in the bathroom and sang to him. The grin on his face summed it up: he didn't care if he had a homemade cake or a party, as long as the three of us were with him and loved him. It is an image I don't think I will ever forget.

On Sunday, Mom drove back to Charlotte and we spent the day at Discovery Place, truly the best way of spending the extra hours we had. The place was amazing and we could have spent longer there, but as it was, we needed to get back to the airport. Through security again, same places for me to get hot water and milk to make now it felt exactly like Groundhog Day. On the drive to the airport we'd said that surely 3 times would be a charm. Surely. There were some delays with boarding, which was not making me feel reassured. The agent at the departure gate made an announcement about delays with the catering for the plane, but by this point I was wary. Turns out that was partly true, but there were also some mechanical issues at play. Nonetheless, we boarded eventually, but then sat without air conditioning for over an hour while they tried to get the auxiliary power unit which starts the engines to work. I was so nervous by this point and just desperate to get home. I spoke with a flight attendant who assured me that it was nothing to do with the plane, but only an issue with the external unit that was needed to start the engines. I sat down. Finally, we felt some cool air and could hear that the engines seemed to be running, and then some ten's of minutes later, we were finally in the air.

It wasn't helpful that we had turbulence for a good portion of the flight. Blake fell asleep really early in the flight, but Noah didn't seem to want to close his eyes. We gave him another bottle, and he threw up the entire thing all over me a few instants after he had the last drop. Despite all my attempts to pack with an eye to being prepared, I didn't have a change of clothes for myself (just 3 each for the boys!). I had to go mop off my lap, change Noah, and then swap my drenched shirt for the jumper that Matt fortunately had with him. Eventually Noah dropped off too in my arms, and I started to read a book and try to enjoy the wine I'd ordered. My nerves were so frazzled that I finally just had to let all my emotions of the past 3 days out, and had a pretty big blub midway through the flight as I observed the peaceful slumber of the two most beautiful children in the world and pondered what it had taken to get us back home. I have never been so happy to smell that early-morning-but-really-middle-of-the-night breakfast service on the red-eye flight which signalled that we were getting closer to London. Finally, we were home and could put the 72-hour-delay in the history books. All that mattered was that we were safe, together, and finally back home.

Since then I've had some pretty philosophical thoughts about what I've done to this point in my life and reflect on what legacy I would leave, and ponder how unremarkable (or remarkable) my achievements thus far have been: I have made and kept fantastic friends, I have been a good daughter and a good wife, I've produced two children for whom I couldn't find enough words to say how wonderful and amazing I think they are, and I've tried to chronicle much of my thoughts in this blog. I haven't climbed any high mountains, or discovered any cures for diseases, or had my time in the spotlight. And right now, that's ok, because fortunately, even though it seemed iffy on that plane just over a week ago, I've got more time to make my mark in the world. I thank you for reading this blog, for caring about what goes on in our lives that helps give an air of significance to them, for being a friend to me and my family.

As for our vacation plans for the rest of the year, come and visit! I don't think we'll be flying anywhere for a while...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Our baby Noah is 1!

It was one year ago today that Noah Thomas "Brother" Lyons arrived into the world. Here is he on his first birthday...still in North Carolina (that story to follow in a later post). Although I feel compelled to say that the year has flown, I do also remember some long days in the past year so it didn't always feel like it was flying by! Our sweet baby has had a great first year and we look forward to more fun ahead. We love you, sweet brother Noah...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Happy Birthday, William!

Our Godson, William Cook, is 2 today - Happy Birthday, William! Hope your chicken pox has cleared up so that you can celebrate the big 0-2. We are wrapping up the last day of our week-long trip to North Carolina. I just heard Blake say in the background, Where aah mah socks? so I think we have given him and Noah a good introduction to Southern culture and speech. Detailed report to follow when we are back home...