30 June 2010

Currency Exchange

Owen and the missing tooth

So, do you think the tooth fairy will pay in dollars or pounds?

26 June 2010

A Comment on the National Health System

I generally try to refrain from passing judgement on things I have not experienced first hand. It doesn't always work out so well, but I give it my best effort. That being said, today I was given the ability to comment on the National Health System here in England. 

Laney's gash

This morning, just as Sam and I sat down to go over our summer plans - bam.  Laney hit the wall - literally. She ran right into the corner of a wall that juts out into the room.  Unfortunately at the time she was trying to show us how fast she could run.  She can definitely run fast.  In hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to run in tights in the house and perhaps she should have listened when I told her to be careful 30 seconds earlier, but all of that became quite irrelevant when her head started gushing blood. 

As I played nurse with my kitchen towel and pseudo-steri strips, Sam called the NHS doctor and he said go to the hospital in the next (less desirable) town over or to the minor injury clinic that is a bit farther away.  Still unfamiliar with the system here we headed for the clinic.  We got all of the children dressed, piled in the car, programed the navigation and hit the road.  Sam and I thought we had hit our heads when the roads we were taking were not highways or freeways, but tiny little lanes that meandered up and over hills and though farmland leading us away, far away, from the city we live in toward this little village.  A half hour later we arrived at the clinic.  We were a bit leery taking Laney to be seen in this place that looked more like a prison than a health clinic, but figured we could always leave if it was awful.

So, we headed in and here is what happened:  we handed the receptionist Laney's NHS card, ok'ed the sharing of information with her GP, and 35 minutes we were out the door having received more than adequate medical care.  Not once did I sign a piece of paper, swear to pay if the insurance wouldn't or show a photo id.  The facility did not have big picture windows, there were no tanks of tropical fish and not a magazine to be found, but it was clean and seemed to be equipped with all of the basics.   

the self-portrait

So my comment on a national health system is "no comment" - you really didn't think I was going to touch that hot topic did you?   No, really, so far our needs for health care have been limited and straightforward and for that it has been great.  But, I have heard plenty of unhappy people call up the BBC radio shows to voice their complaints, so it is not perfect.  Hopefully, we will continue to have limited and straightforward needs.  But gash or not, we will be returning to that little village - not only is it darling, it has a great pub.  Just what the doctor ordered!

16 June 2010

A Tell All (of sorts)

I am not going to tell you that having 4 children under 8 is easy and I'm definitely not going to tell you that moving to England made life easier.  I will tell you, as any parent would, there are those all important moments that shine through the chaos and frustration to melt your heart, split your sides and make it all worthwhile. 

Since this isn't really a "tell all",  I am not going to show you pictures of what the chaos and frustration has really done.  There will be no pictures of my gray hair and wrinkles, I'm not going to explain how a brain really can atrophy, or tell you what brand of wine I religiously drink, but I will share some recent pictures of my "isn't it great to be a mom" moments. 

They were clean - the diapers, not the kids.  Gotta love half-term. 

story time
Both disappeared just before bed time.  Not good.  I went upstairs and found Laney in her bed looking at a book like I asked.  AJ was not around.  Bad.  Very bad.  I asked Laney where AJ was and as soon as I said his name, his big noggin popped up from under the covers.  She was reading him Thomas books.

all 20
This is what usually happens when these two disappear - all 20 were applied. If that smile doesn't scream guilty I don't know what does.

AJ bandaged
I think his face may have been what prompted the band-aid bonanza.

bean boys
Owen was sharing the bean love and for Owen that is really saying something.

What every ballerina needs
Laney introduced a little femininity to the Nerf game. Or, maybe, she was being a rockin ballerina?  I have no idea, but whatever it was it was funny.

Sometimes they are just so sweet.

laney 05_edited-1
Oh, oops, how did that get in there?  Seriously, this was so fake it made me laugh.  If you could have seen her 30 seconds before this picture...so dramatic.

jedijedi battle 1jedi battle 2
Then there was the Jedi battle.  Spencer escaped this time, but the princess at the bottom of the picture did not fare so well. Do you want to see how this cliffhanger ended?

Jedi battle 3
I didn't do it - really.  Okay, perhaps I did. You probably don't know this, but if you put on these glasses and say "pyzam" they all collapse and fall into a deep sleep.  Definitely worth it in my opinion.

Such a good guy. 

Pirates Matey
Picaroons for sure, but they are my picaroons and they really are a good crew (most of the time anyway). 

So, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

06 June 2010


the big picture

During the last term break we took a trip to Normandy. We decided to take the ferry over because AJ has been so crazy about boats. Although it takes longer than the train, it was nice to be able to have lunch and walk around a bit and it made the little guy happy.

AJ on the boat

For a while anyway.

The boat

We decided to stay in Honfleur and rented a typical house in the center of the city just around the corner from the harbor.

Honfleur street 5

Honfleur harbor 1

Honfleur harbor 3

Honfleur harbor 2

Several of our days were spent just walking around looking at the buildings,

Honfleur street 3

honfleur street 2

Honfleur street 4

shopping at the art galleries,

Honfleur street

a whole lot of time was spent watching this boat dredge the harbor,

Hinfleur harbor 2

and, of course, our trip would not be complete with feeding a few pigeons; however, this time they got a bit more than they bargained for when AJ started pelting them with French fries...

They have them in Honfleur too

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is grocery shop. Because we had a kitchen we ate most of our meals at home and were able to try some of the local favorites. The house was right around the corner from a bakery, so we "sampled" quite a few things. In fact, by the third day, the woman on the bakery knew us and sent Sam home with a bag of goodies for us to try. Spencer ate three baguettes a day and all the kids loved the ham so I didn't feel quite so bad about all of my "tasting". Well, that and Sam probably ate 3lbs of cheese.


While there, we toured the beaches and visited the American memorial and I will never forget the expression on Owen's face as we came up the knoll and saw the graves -with his eyes wide and mouth hanging open, he just stopped. The whole D-Day tour was very moving, but the magnitude of the battle did not overpower the coolness of the tanks and boats until they saw all those headstones. Judging their reaction, they will not forget.


From the beaches we headed to Mont St. Michelle and had a great time exploring the tidal island.

Mt St Michele

streets of mt st michelle

draw bridge

The back of Mont St. Michelle

The next stop was the walled city of St. Malo. We had dinner at a cafe on top of the wall and watched an incredible storm.  Walking back to our car we were treated to a rainbow over the city. 

rainbow in st malo

We spent one day driving around the immediate area and visited the resort cities of Deauville and Trauville and we stopped at a beach in Villerville that was covered in mussels that were left by the receding tide. The kids were amazed and Sam hungry. 

April 1, the opening day, we visited Giverney. I have to say that Giverney was not at all what I expected. I liked Monet's house more than I thought I would (the kitchen and dining room are to die for) and the gardens were smaller than I thought they would be. Don't ask me why, but from his paintings I expected them to be bigger. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful place.


From there we followed Monet's path to Rouen to see the Notre Dame cathedral. Rouen was not at the top of our list, but were glad we decided to stop - it is a great city.  We toured the Notre Dame Cathedral and while there the boys saw a sword on an alter.  When I explained it was dedicated to Joan of Arc and when they learned she was burned at the stake right in Rouen they were amazed - I think we talked about Joan of Arc the whole way back to Honfleur. 

It was one of those memorable trips where everything went right - the sun came out every time we stepped outside and rained, even hailed, like mad the rest of the time. It seemed like all of the trees were in full bloom. There were no crowds and if there ever was a line we managed to miss it. The wine was fantastic and the Calvados better. Even AJ was well behaved, which might have had something to do with him being very proud of himself for letting us know (loudly) each and every time he saw a cow (by the way, there are a lot of cows in Normandy). It was a great trip and Spencer is already asking when we can go back and has suggested his birthday.