Wednesday, July 30, 2008

...and it begins...

I think my head is going to explode!!!!!!

For those of you who know me, you know what moving does to my state of mind--especially those moves that seem to linger on forever. As I sit among boxes packed and ready to be mailed, empty boxes waiting to filled and mailed, antiques waiting to go to storage, toys, etc. waiting to be taken to Joan at church, I want to scream and just say forget it!!!! It wouldn't be so bad if everything had one destination, but it seems as if everything is going in a different direction--and I am not sure where to begin. Along with the destination confusion, the boxes have to be packed so that the items do not break (obviously)and also so that the post office will accept it...nothing on the outside of the box, the right tape, completed customs forms,... AAAHHH!!!!!!!!!

I never thought the day would come that I wished for an U-Haul to be parked in front of my house, but if it meant this FUN would be over with in one shot, I am all for it!!!!!

Okay, the rant is over. Back to the boxes!!!!!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

renea, you are awesome!!!!

My dearest friend, Renea, painted bags for Emma's birthday guest!! They arrived just in time to put the pottery in and deliver to the girls this week!!!!! PERFECT.

Everyone loved them.

You are SUPER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!!

happy birthday steve

I am not sure how it has happened, but I am married to a 42 year old!!!!!!!

Happy Birthday, Stephen!!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

scotland--our final day

We left Helensbourgh at 11:00 and began the journey back to England. We had no definite plans--we were just going to stop whenever we saw something that interested us.
Our first stop, Dumbarton Castle, was only about an hour down the road in Dumbarton.
"From at least the 5th to the 11th century AD, this volcanic plug of basalt was the centre of the independent British kingdom of Strathclyde. For a short time in the 9th century it may have served as Viking headquarters."
There were probably 300 steps to the top, but it was a great cardio workout:) We loaded back up into the van and headed down the road! Michaela read. Emma sang. Steve dozed. I drove.
Our next stop was a few hours down the road...The New Abbey Corn Mill. Not sure why it was called a corn mill...they milled oats!!
The mill had been commercially in operation from the 1700's until 1946--with the same equipment, with the exception of the mill stones, since the 1700's. Now that is quality machinery!!! There has actually been a mill on that site for over 700 years (the abbey we visit next had maintained a mill while the monks resided there in the 1200's).

The pond that supplies the water for the mill

We bought some oatmeal flour and then headed up the hill to the abbey.

Before going into the abbey, we were able to look over the fence across the street and watch a game of lawn bowling. Emma had been asking what they knocked over in lawn bowling, so it was great to be able to show her people actually playing it. Interesting game---if only we knew all the rules! Sweetheart Abbey was established in 1273 by Devorgilla, Lady of Galloway, in memory of her husband, John Balliol. John Balliol was the father of King John of Scotland and the founder of Balliol College in Oxford. Lady Devorgilla died in 1289, and was buried with her husband's embalmed heart in front of the high alter of the church. I am not sure if that is romantic or just creepy!The Cistercian Order of monks lived there until 1560, when the reformation brought the life of the abbey to an end. Much of the cloister material was taken and used for building material elsewhere in the 'kingdom'. The abbey lay in ruin until 1779, when it was slated for demolition!!!!!! It was rescued and is now in state care.
It was now 5:00pm, and everything in the UK closes at 5:00, so we loaded back into the van and continued on our journey.

We finally were able to get a room on the base near church (we had been calling all three bases for a few days to try to get a room but they were all booked), so we headed east and MANY hours later we arrived at Mildenhall and crashed!!! We are back home.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

we are home

I really planned on uploading the pictures from our last day in Scotland and our drive home yesterday when we arived home, but we decided around 5:30pm to call and see if there were any rooms available at Mildenhall, the hotel on base near church. This added an hour to the drive (but allowed us to sleep later this morning) and then we had a detour that added another hour to our trip. So, we left the house in Scotland at 11:00am and arrived at RAF Mildenhall at 11:13pm. We all just went to bed!!!!

Then I thought I would do them tonight. It is only 9:30 now, so I should have plenty of time!!! BUT... we drove straight to a birthday party after church and we have only been home for a few hours. The suitcases are unpacked--in the middle of the floor; UGH!!!--so I should really attend to the piles of dirty clothes before I take a shower and crash.

...It is amazing how tiring driving is. Because I feel more at ease when I drive (Steve's driving scares me and I have a slight control issue:):)) I drove the entire 1500+ miles of the trip and the drive back home today after church services. I have felt fine the entire trip, but about an hour into the birthday party, I felt like I could curl up and fall into a deep sleep. So I think that is what I will go do now!!!!

I will definitely add pictures tomorrow!

Friday, July 18, 2008

scotland--day five

Into our lives, a little rain must fall!!!
We woke up this morning to the pinging of rain on the roof. We got ready leisurely--hoping the rain would pass. Around noon, we headed out to Loch Lomond. The rain lessened, so we decided to go on a boat trip around the loch. (our friends did this on Sunday--when the sun was out:) so they went to the Aquarium). Loch Lomand is the largest expanse of fresh water in Scotland. It has 24 islands sprinkled throughout its 27.5 miles--the largest 'housing' Scotland's oldest nudist colony. Luckily it was cold outside!!!! Along the loch is also the Highland boundary fault; this separates the Scottish Highlands from the Midland Valley.

Ben Lomand is out in there somewhere in the fog and rain

The rain continued throughout the hour long trip. As we departed the ship, it began raining even harder. So what do you do when you do not want to explore Scotland in the rain.... you drive to Aberfoyle and go shopping at the Scotland Wool Centre:):) We are packing up tonight and will head home tomorrow! I am sure there will be a stop or two on our 6.5 hour drive home. I will share whatever historical gems we explore!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

love these pictures!!!

scotland--day four

We began our day with an hour drive to the town of Stirling to visit the Stirling Castle. The Stirling Castle has been a key stronghold for many kings and queens since the 13th century. King James and Mary Queen of Scots are two of its most famous residents.
Across the landscape was Wallace Tower; a memorial for William Wallace--better known as BRAVEHEART!
We explored the castle for a few hours and then decided to head back to the house. David and Stephanie and the boys headed to a brewery to see if they could take a tour and we headed back towards Helensbourgh and Inchmahome Priory .
Inchmahome Priory is located on an island on Lake Menteith. We took a 7 minute boat ride over to the island and enjoyed reading about the history of the priory and walking around what remains of the building--the earliest portion being from the 1200's. The sun was shining. There was a breeze. It was truly a glorious few hours. This has been our favorite part of the trip!
Steve and the girls tried to skip rocks. Michaela and Emma will keep working on it:)The girls are in bed. Steve is about to fall asleep on the couch. I am going to go to bed and get ready for tomorrow!!!!
*** Knowledge we obtained today... Loch is the Scottish word for Lake! Lake Menteith is the only lake in Scotland--only because they are the only ones who changed the name from Loch Menteith to Lake Menteith!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

scotland--day three

Today was our day of rest!!!

We all slept in and just took it easy in the morning.
The girls wanted to try some of Stephen's coffee. Michaela obviously was not impressed! Emma said she liked it, but I am not so sure her expression is depicting enjoyment!!!!

Around lunchtime, we headed down the hill to eat at a local deli (No haggis or black pudding for us though!!!). After lunch we hit the boardwalk.
The kids rode some rides on the boardwalk.

We walked on the beach and collected seashells.

And then we all headed home.

Michaela read her book. Emma watched a DVD. I read a book--until my eyes closed:) I believe the same thing was happening at the Ostrowski home.

Steve and David went to play 18 holes of golf at a local course. They said the views were great and the course excellent!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

scotland--day two

Yesterday we explored the magnificence of the mind of man at the Falkirk Wheel. Today we spent hours surrounded by the majesty of God's creation.

We packed coolers with food and loaded up into the vans to head towards Loch Ness to find Nessie!!

Our dinner guest--A Highland Cow

It was a gorgeous drive! We were surrounded by mountains and lochs for the 3 hour drive. We stopped and had a picnic for lunch and dinner. Pictures do not do the beauty justice!!!
The picture above is of Loch Ness. Even with Emma calling Nessie's name, we never saw her. Emma is sure she saw Nessie's trail as she swam around the Loch.

Emma calling for Nessie--OVER AND OVER AND OVER!!!

On the way home, Steve, Michaela, and I (Emma was in the Ostrowski's van) stopped to enjoy some scenery. While we were pulled over this lovely deer was eating the grass. We were no more than 3 feet away from him.

Monday, July 14, 2008

scotland---day one

We made it!!!

We left yesterday evening after Steve got off of work. I drove for about 180 miles and then stopped for the evening--we saw a hotel and did not want to take a chance of not finding another one.

We loaded up the van and were back on the road at 8:00am. I drove the final 200 miles through fog, cloudy, gray skies, but arrived to beautiful blue skies in Helensburgh. We collected the keys for the townhouse we are renting, unloaded the van, and then when over to our friend's townhouse (they came up on Saturday) to see what the plan was for the day.

30 minutes after arriving, we loaded back into the vans--the guys in one with Emma and Mason and Stephanie in with me along with Michaela and Michael. We drove towards the Highlands to see the Falkirk Wheel--the world's only rotating boat lift. This engineering marvel was opened 6 years ago to link two canals that are at different levels so that canal travel could be completed between northern and southern Scotland. The engineering behind it is extraordinary.

Above the boat lift is a section of Roman defense wall, the Antonine Wall (same use as the Hadrian's Wall in England.)

The Antonine Wall, begun in AD 142 during the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius , consisted of a turf rampart set on a stone foundation stretching 37 miles across central Scotland. A broad ditch was dug in front of the Wall as part of the overall defenses, and the fill from this ditch formed a low mound to the north.

Everyone is sleeping--resting for our adventure tomorow searching for Nessie at Loch Ness!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

seriously...last post for today

This week was full of activities and crazy time juggling, but we have survived.

We are off to spend a week in Scotland. I guess I had better get packed so we can head down to Alconbury to spend the night with Steve and be closer to church in the morning. Emma is bursting at the seams to leave and wants to pack everything she sees. Michaela is making sure she has enough books for the time in the van. I wonder if either one of them thought to pack their toothbrushes:):):)

Look for posts with gorgeous scenery and hopefully a sighting of Nessie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

royal academy of dance examination


Today was Michaela's dance exam. She has been dreading this for many weeks now. The RAD requires the dancers to do the preparation and bar work, a ballet dance, and a character dance for a RAD examiner. The dancers are scored and move up to the next dance 'grade' if they score within the necessary range.

She has worried and worried about this and probably would have chickened out--if she thought I would let her. Of course, when I picked her up after the exam ( we were not allowed to wait here for her) she had a big grin on her face and came running up to the van. The examiner was nice (some of them are very stoic, serious British women) and Michaela felt confident in her performance. (which was why I made her do it). If only she would remember the good feelings she has after she does something she has feared--she would probably not fear the next thing quite as much. But.....what do I know:)

a 'wicked' night out.

Friday night, Holly, her sister Alison, Chris, Jeanne, and myself went to London to see the absolutely phenomenal show, WICKED. It was a great evening out.
We actually found a Mexican restaurant to eat at before the show. (that was actually Mexican--not an easy task in this country) The food was good--not Margarita's in Kentucky good, but good!
The show was excellent. Chris had seen it in New York and said it was a little different than this one. So now we are going to try and find out if it is a 'country' thing or if the show has been changed for variety. Ga-linda had me laughing during the show. What a great character to play!. The set was fabulous and the girl playing Elphi was brilliant. I am just glad it wasn't as boring and awful as the book!!
All in all a fantastic night out with my friends.

a moment to brag.....

I had Emma's first conference this week. Ms. Hirons went over the report with me of Emma's progress (This was the same day as Emma's birthday party, so Stephen got to take the 7 little girls up the hill and load them into our cars--lucky him!!!) She showed me the portfolio that had been kept since Emma began school in January of 2007--fun to see the changes in her language development and her drawings! She told me Emma was a joy to have in class, ( I was pleased to know that they NEVER saw Emma acting ugly or hard-headed...glad to know she saves that for us:) she was a great worker, and that she was well prepared for Kindergarten--she may actually be bored in 1/2 day Kindergarten. You go girl!!!!

Michaela brought her report home this week also. The grading system is nothing like the States, but she did very well in everything-scoring at National level or above in everything. Her lowest score was in Gym??? The teachers all typed a paragraph or two about her and her progress. The consensus...she is an excellent worker who puts a lot of time and thought into her work. She had so many teachers--18 in total!!!!, crazy schedules, and classes in two different school sites (they walked through town to the lower site for various classes--the trick was getting back to upper site on time if you were let out late from your class!!!!!) I am sure she will be able to handle Grey Middle School when we return.

I wanted to share the comments made about Michaela by Ms. Teager, Michaela's Form Tutor (i.e. home room teacher) and English teacher:

Michaela is an outstanding student in every respect, in the effort that she puts into all her work, in the determination that she possesses to always produce her best whatever the task, the quality of the work she produces in all areas of the curriculum. She is intelligent, thoughtful, and articulate. Needless-to-say, she is an excellent team player because she is willing to share ideas, to realise the ideas of others, to be supportive, and being sensitive to the needs of others, is willing to lead or to be lead. She is an absolute pleasure to teach. I have really enjoyed Michaela's company this year, especially her sense of humour and gentle "teasing". I will be very sorry when she has to return to America: it will not only be a loss to our form but also to our school.

Could this be about the same young lady who was petrified that she would not fit in in British school and that she would be the 'oddball'? I am so proud of you!

last day of school

Friday was the last day of school for Michaela and Emma Shea. We pulled them out a week and a half early because (a.) I am soooooo tired of school days (and I am sure they are too.) and (b.) we are leaving Sunday evening for a week in Scotland.

Emma was ready. She brought in an ice cream cake to share. She said good-bye, gave hugs, and never looked back. She is very excited about coming back to the States. Steve and I find this very odd since she remembers no other life besides the one in England, and only has a memory of three weeks she spent in the States last year.
Emma Shea with her teachers, Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Hirons

Michaela on the other very sad about leaving and would easily stay for many more years. This is the same child who for the first three month we were here cried that she wanted to go back to Kentucky. They announced in assembly yesterday that it was her last day at school and to give her a big hug. Of course, she cried, her friends cried, I cried when she told me about it. I am positive these are the beginning of many more tears to flow!

The uniforms have been given away--or will be burned in Michaela's case ( I am actually not sure if her pants will burn. I think they will probably just melt into a pile of goo!!!!). The lunch boxes packed. SCHOOL IS FINALLY OUT FOR THE SUMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

5 years ago today......

well I was still miserably pregnant.... but tonight Emma Shea celebrated her 5th birthday!!!!

Because we will be moving back from England a few days before her actual 5th birthday, we decided to have her party now so she could celebrate with her friends.
The theme was butterflies. Of course!!!!! Alison, who is visiting from Texas, made the great butterfly cake for the party!!!! It was YUMMY!!!!!! Thank you Alison!

We rented a tent, table, and chairs and set up in the backyard (it has been raining for days, so the tent was a necessity!!) There were butterflies everywhere! Katy, from Pottering About, brought bowls and butterflies for the guest to paint. She will take them back to the shop to glaze and put them in the kiln. All the pieces will be returned next week!!! I cannot wait to see them--there were so many interesting color combinations being used:)
We played statue in the living room--because of course, the weather was gorgeous all day while the girls were in school and began raining as soon as the party started--so the bouncy castle had to be put on hold! When the rain lessened to a drizzle, we set up the bouncy castle. 13 children on a bouncy castle=Total mayhem!

Next was dinner, cake, and present opening, and a game of Pass the Parcel until parents arrived at 6:30.

The party is complete--clean-up is next. But we survived the 3 hours with ten 4 to 5 year old girls and 3 boys (I was babysitting this week, so the boys crashed the party), and after the hug and kiss and thank you I just got from Emma, it was worth it!!!
****She will be starting Kindergarten in Kentucky on her actual birthday--She is already talking about the cupcakes she is going to take in!!!!****