Thursday, July 30, 2009


As we near the end of our trip, I will post a quick recap of our travels so far - and a look ahead at where we will be the next few days before heading home.

This, I guess, is the prologue to my endless posts of our trip-of-a-lifetime vacation to England and France.

On Thursday, July 23, we drove 45 minutes to a regional airport where we boarded a puddle jumper for a 37-minute flight to Chicago, where we settled in for a three-hour layover.

Blake, 5 days from turning eighteen years old, walked off the plane and said "see ya' at the boarding gate in three hours." It's amazing how quickly he was able to ditch us and we hadn't even left our home state yet, not to mention the country.

We boarded our flight at about eight that evening - the first overseas flight for the kids and me.

After eight(ish) hours folded into a shoebox in coach, I began to have a greater appreciation for my husband and the many trips he takes overseas for business each year. Sometimes he gets to fly business class but sometimes he flies coach with the common people.

It's not fun.

Thanks, Honey.

After being picked up at the airport by a driver that often works for my husband's company, my adrenaline started flowing again because, HELLO, I was in London traffic.

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more.

Upon arriving at the company flat, my sympathy for Paul's frequent and exhausting trips was starting to lessen. Pictures will come later, but we are fortunate enough to be staying in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The building was built in the middle 1800's and has many ornate features that were so popular for that era. And it only took me two days to learn how to flush the toilet.

I kept wandering from room to room saying "Kids, aren't we the luckiest family in the world?"

Then I crawled into a big English bed and became comatose for three hours.

On Monday July 27, we boarded a train for a 90 minute ride to Portsmouth, England, where we spent the night so we could catch a three-hour ferry ride to Cherbourg France the next morning, Blake's eighteenth birthday.

I turned eighteen today and all I got was a lousy trip to Europe.

In Cherbourg we rented a car and Paul, with Blake as navigator, drove about an hour to Bayeux, a charming little French town in the region of Normandy, where we were fortunate AGAIN to stay in a lovely historic hotel.

"Kids, aren't we the luckiest family in the world?"

The next morning we were met by a lovely young French woman named Naomi who was our tour guide for the beaches of Normandy and the American Cemetery.

Next to giving birth to my children, it was the most moving experience in my life.

As Kayla and I put our feet in the waves of Omaha beach and I realized that my grandfather's boots had touched that sand, I thought once again that I was the luckiest woman alive to be able to be on this most revered piece of land.

And might I add? It was so heartwarming to see an American flag at almost every turn. These people have not forgotten.

After our tour, we had a few hours to pass back in Bayeux before driving back to Cherbourg. No vacation is without it's moments of hilarity and ours, thus far, have come as we wandered around Cherbourg listening to the GPS say, over and over again "recalculating..." We were lost for an hour. We could see the ships in the channel; we just couldn't get there.

We finally made it to the ferry port where we boarded the boat for our return trip across the English channel. Then we caught another train back to London, and a taxi to the apartment.

How do you say Exhausted in British?

This morning, we boarded a double decker bus for a tour of London. AN ALL DAY TOUR OF LONDON. We would have to live here for a year to see all the sights and take in all the history.

Tomorrow we will board another train and head to the town of Shenfield to visit our dear friends who lived in America for two years. We will celebrate Blake's eighteenth birthday with them, and hopefully have a couple of quiet days to visit before returning to London on Sunday to pack and get ready for an early morning flight home on Monday morning.

If you are not up to a blog version of boring vacation slides, I advise you to ignore me for the next couple of weeks. This is for my children and I intend to record every moment that I can remember because, even though they've done their share of eye-rolling over here, I insist they will want these memories recorded one day so they will remember how we were so gifted at embarrassing them that we were able to do it in two foreign countries.

Plus, right now I feel like we are the luckiest family in the world.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Recently, at a softball game, a bleacher neighbor said to his wife "Hey did you hear? Heidi's family is going to London...virtually free."

"Virtually" is the key word here.

Since we are leaving on our "virtually free" trip soon, it only stands to reason that we had to replace our garage door and pay 325 dollars for van repairs last week. Neither of which was free - virtually or otherwise.

It also stands to reason that Paul and I are starting to receive strict instructions from our offspring on how we are expected to behave on this trip.

"I don't want to look like a bunch of tacky tourists," Kayla keeps reminding us, with a stern look in her eye.

What she's really saying is "You BETTER not embarrass me over there."

I say she's survived extreme embarrassment at our hands countless times on American soil; it's time to toughen her up and start embarrassing her on another continent.

After all, we want her to be well rounded.

Plus, it's like she's laying down a challenge for us.

Our number one rule is not to walk around with our cameras hanging from our neck.

I also don't think she likes my Easy Spirit Walk/Run shoes that I plan to wear much of the time.

(I think I'll pair them with Bermudas and red crew socks.)

Paul is not to drool over the maps of the subway routes like he did in Boston. Paul really likes maps.

He is not, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, to pick up a British accent, as he is prone to do after spending any time with a British co-worker.

I also think wearing dark socks with his white running shoes is a no-no; as is wearing white socks with brown dress shoes and plaid shorts.

Oh! and he is not to ask for Ranch dressing at every restaurant regardless of whether or not he has a salad.

I'm sure we will receive more intense instructions on the flight over, with the pressure building as we get close to landing.

Say it again. What are you forbidden to do? REPEAT!

I don't know! I don't know! Stop! Stop! I can't stand it another minute!!

So here is my promise to our sweet daughter:

I promise to embarrass you no more and no less in England than I ever do in America.

Take that how you will.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Softball tournament.

Seven games in six days.
Three games on the final day.
After working their way out of the losers' bracket, they managed to place second out of 21 teams.

The trophy on the right is because they were the division champs. The middle sized trophy is for being runners up in the tournament. The smaller trophies and the medals are for enduring blowing rain, scorching heat, obscene language from opposing teams, excessive challenges from opposing coaches, overly competitive parents and, most importantly, for being told by the umpires that our team had exhibited the best sportsmanship of all 21 teams throughout the entire tournament.

Too bad there is no trophy for that.

Yeah, they got second place but WOW! These are some sweet girls and they are the best sports of the entire Country Girls Softball League.

The umpires said so. And the umps always get the final call.

Now this girl - my girl:

She pitched the whole tournament - minus half an inning. We estimate she pitched approximately 4o innings, give or take a strike or two. She managed to hit two triples in one game and a two run homer in the game against an arch enemy - I don't want to name any names - Meridian - but I am just shallow enough to say some victories are sweeter than others.

And then, 48 hours, two pizzas, a pool party, and a sleep over later...

Bippitiy Boppity Boo...

The fairy godmother had appeared; the little mice had worked their magic; the sweat and dust of the ball diamond were forgotten and the princess was ready to re-emerge.

My girl.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


I was recently reminded of this picture:

Please excuse the unfortunate purple outfit on Blake. He was two and his grandma bought it for him. But notice how the purple saw matches his clothes. It is the closest Blake has ever come to accessorizing.

Isn't it amazing how quickly we move from this:

The phase of "Daddy, can I help?"

To this: "Son, I need your help."

You blink your eyes and suddenly they can carry their weight,

Hold their own,

Reach higher than we expected.
Please excuse the unfortunate outfit on Blake. He's eighteen and there's not a thing I can do about it. But notice his marine haircut. He found a barber (a retired soldier) in town who would give him a "High & Tight." And he charged him a mere five dollars.
For that price I fully expect Paul to be sporting the High & Tight any day now.

Monday, July 06, 2009


Some things will always be the same.
No amount of reasoning, no amount of questioning, will change them.
Like the digits of the number line on a first grader's desk.
Always the same.
No matter how you count, no matter how you do the math, the numbers are the same.
Each number has its neighbor - forever side by side.

You can move forward; you can move backward; you can even skip a step or two; but always there will be the one that is by its side forever.

Because nothing can move it.

May you always have a friend that is only a step away.

May you always simply look to one side and find your forever neighbor, your forever friend.