Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hello! I have been working on this post for three whole days. I do it every day in the afternoon, after 4 o'clock playdates, thinking the kids will like to look at the pictures for a couple minutes, and Mat will get home so I can crank it out. Then every day at 6:30, instead of ramping up my productivity, I crash hard, jetlag style, and barely manage to keep my eyes open until 8 in an attempt to adjust just a little bit to our time zone. Oh well. The good part is I can be the morning person I have always aspired to be, even if it's just for a few days.

Aaaaand, we're back! This may have been the best vacation of my whole life. This despite 2 transcontinental flights with small children (they were awesome, slept the whole way there, colored for 8 hours on the way back), strep throat for 3 members of the family, meaning navigating the British medical system as a foreigner, a fever so high I hallucinated the wallpaper moving, and penicillin (which Simon is allergic to and must be basically hermetically quarantined from) schedules to rival a space shuttle launch. I tried, I really did, to keep on keeping on, but apparently strep throat is not just a sore throat. I spent 36 hours in bed, and Mat, also getting over The Strep, gamely took the kids out, with no car, in a strange city, to all kinds of crowded tourist sites and hunting for any morsel of food that sounded appealing to me, all by himself. What a mensch.

And now I can focus exclusively on how amazing and wonderful the trip was. Claire Helen really didn't want to come home, which did absolutely nothing for my "I want to live in Great Britain" bug. We spent a couple days in London, a couple days in Edinburgh, and then took off for the Scottish Highlands. That is hands down the most gorgeous place I have ever been, and I have had the good fortune to go to a lot of pretty places in my life. I kept trying to take pictures to memorialize places, but even as I saw them on the viewfinder, I knew they were wrong, wrong, wrong. We have places like that in the states, and I've visited them abroad, beautiful waterfalls and vistas, some of them. You either have to hike for 3 days to get there, or maybe they are along the road, with guard rails, interpretive plaques, and tour buses all in a line. In the Highlands, you just pull off the road any old place, and wander up a hill, and there you are. 200 foot waterfalls, sea cliffs, and nobody but you and the sheep. As far as you can see, as far as you can imagine, it's just you and the sheep, as though people have never existed. Pure awe. I got to watch my children frolic through Highland grasses looking for fairies**; huddle up together against the vast Atlantic Ocean, all of this, for 4 days.

But it's really done better with pictures.

Outside St. Paul's cathedral, in London.

At a pub after a long day. The kids were so great out and about. We got compliments in almost every place we went and at every meal about how sweet and well behaved our kids were. This warms the cockles of my uptight little heart, as I am definitely one of those people who thinks there are appropriate and inappropriate ways for kids to behave in public.

St. James park in London, after a visit to the prime minister's house, and assorted other important governmental places. Note the themed shirt.

Elephant sculptures in Hyde Park.

The top of a double decker bus in Edinburgh. They looooved all the public transportation, and got to be little experts at hopping on and off the tube/bus. My little urbanites.

Simon and the penguins at the Edinburgh zoo. They have the largest penguin pond in the world, and every day at 2:15 let the penguins out for a parade. How cool is that? I wouldn't know. I was in bed. But it sounded awesome.

In the background you can see Edinburgh, but the picture doesn't do it justice at all. It's 100% gothic and cool, no poorly thought out 60's architecture at all.

The Highlands!

I tried the whole trip to get just the right picture of sheep, with just the right sheep-y expression in just the right light, showing some of the isolation of the area. I failed, but after taking all those pictures, how could I not post even one?

Okay, maybe two.

Fairy Glen, with all kinds of lichen covered rocks and mossy hillsides and whatnot.

Caterpillar hunting on some random hill just off the road.

Simon next to some sea cliffs with a pretty rainbow you apparently cannot see. Nana nana boo boo.

Our hotel room in York, on the way back down to London for the flight out. Someday I'll tell you about how the whole freaking country was booked up, and we went from town to town on the train to find a room for the night. We got really lucky, and ended up in this rockin' spa with the best breakfast ever served, and as you can see, great beds for jumping on.

Not in any way above bribery for good behavior while traveling.

**Not actually, as when pressed as to whether we were going looking for fairies, Claire Helen replied, "Well, I don't think so. Fairies are only real in books." I checked later, and THANK THE LORD, Santa Claus is still real. Not the elves, though. How ridiculous.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First day of preschool!

Well, it's old hat by now, but we took pictures anyhow the first day. She is so attached to her teacher from the previous year that she wants to get littler and go back to her class, which I am taking as a sign that the place she goes is fantastic, if they can arouse such passion in little hearts.

Excerpt of an e-mail to a friend who asked about Claire Helen's and Simon's personalities*:

For CH, creative and inquisitive, probably. Her imagined world is very complicated, and very complete, and she demands her knowledge of the world to be similarly complete. She throws herself more fully into her imaginary play than the average bear. She's into cool stuff- meerkats and prime ministers, not the princesses and dinosaurs of her peers. I dig that. Claire Helen is very, very slow to warm up, according to those little quizzes. She does not like it AT ALL when everyone in the room is looking at her, and it's a rare grown up (and frankly a rare kid) she bestows her favor upon. But I am kind of surprised to learn that she is a leader, once she gets her bearing, generally the architect of whatever 3 year old plans are afoot. But a surprise one- other moms are always telling me their kid doesn't let other kids boss them around, right before Claire Helen successfully bosses them around. She doesn't really get het up as often as other 3 year olds; has a great sense of perspective for her age. She's insanely stoic- BROKE HER HAND and wouldn't cry about it, for god's sake. I think these things are kind of linked, because she has always really *gotten* social cues- a stern look is enough to get her to stop behavior; she stops a rare performance the nanosecond someone looks bored. She can tell when you're trying to pull one over on her. And now she is learning to use that skill to get her way. She is in no way meek, but the force of her personality gets underestimated, at least by grown ups. I think that will come in handy for her, actually.

I would say she is like me, but she's not as much of a pleaser as I was, and I wasn't as creative as she is.

Simon is too young to write an exposition, but something about social and perpetually sunny. Is convinced in a very fundamental way that the world is his oyster. I think it's going to be very easy for him to be happy in life. He assumes that everyone is delighted by him, and so they are. He likes PURPLE and SPARKLY and BUBBLES. Flashy.

*A totally self absorbed and narcissistic little exercise, but what else are blogs for, than narcissistic ramblings about your children? Nothing, I say.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Claire Helen and I agree this is the perfect little girl's dress. Green corduroy, good for running and climbing, not too pricey. My way of demonstrating affection is to buy it, though we don't strictly need another dress. Her way is to wear it 5-6 times per week.

Running with feathers, and Mat's Aunt Jane and Uncle Mark in the background. We had a great visit with them, and only wish we'd gotten more non-blurry pictures.

Hiking in the cascades this weekend. Kind of a trippy sideways picture, yes? Kids did a great job, not fazed at all by the fifty billion mosquitoes, and even walking on their own 50% of the time. Go kiddos.