Friday, August 28, 2009


And it's kind of related to our trip.

But not really.


While we were in London, the kids were not allowed to use their cell phones t0 text or call their friends back home because it would have been really expensive.

They did, however, get to use their father's Blackberry to make a couple of phone calls and/or text on occasion because it wasn't an extra cost to do so from that.

So they were able to at least take the edge off when they needed their fix.

Fast forward to last Saturday when Kayla went with a carload of friends to the Illinois State Fair. They went to a concert and I was really excited for her to have this opportunity, mainly because I was not the mom driving.

Thanks, Mrs. K.

When Kayla arrived home, she had fantastic news to share.


I know. Could a mother be more proud?

This is how she told us the news:

Daddy, remember how I used your Blackberry so much in London? Well, it paid off. I entered a texting contest at the Verizon tent. I stepped right up, raised my hand and said "I call Blackberry." And I won!

(I also suspect the fact that she had twelve thousand - yes TWELVE. THOUSAND - texts on our last phone bill might have helped. Yes, she will lose her thumbs by the time she's twenty, but she'll be famous by that time.)

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard the news. My heart was overflowing with pride and memories of all the maternal sacrifices I've made to get her to this point. I could imagine her stepping up to enter this contest; extending her arms to each side to clear away her many admirers, popping her knuckles and looking to either side and saying "you're going down," to her two nearest competitors.

Oh!! I have goosebumps just thinking of it, and it is taking great effort, even now, to hold back the tears of pride.

We have not yet heard where her next appearance will be; but surely she will be advancing to some sort of national contest....AND THEN THE WORLD!!.

Plus, she won a drawstring backpack and a lanyard.

Could scholarships be far behind?

It is still sinking in that my daughter is an Illinois State Fair Texting Champion.

And here we thought she'd amount to nothing.

*for a schedule of Kayla's appearances please go to

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The kids started school yesterday, so naturally I made them stop in the driveway for a first-day-of-school snapshot.

Since it is Blake's senior year, he decided to dress up for the occasion:
Yes, this is Blake's last first-day-of-school photo.

Funny, I don't think it's the last time my heart will fall to my knees....

But enough of that.

You kids go on now...

Don't worry about your mama sitting here sobbing about her babies growing up...

No, really. I'll be fine. You go on and have fun.

Seriously, don't give me a second thought, you crazy kids.

OKAY, STOP! Please just one more photo!
And don't forget your seat belts.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It is important to note that at the end of this day, museum day, we had a camera malfunction.

Okay, so it was more like a camera OWNER'S malfunction.

While I thought I packed everything we could possibly want or need in Europe - travel sickness pills, band aids, tums, cough drops, Tylenol, extra glasses, cell phone chargers and camera chargers, I forgot to pack those cord thingees that allow you to transfer photos from the camera to the computer.

Which is how I do it at home all the time.

Having no cord thingees, we had to take the memory card out of my camera and insert it into my little computer to transfer pictures at the end of museum day.

This is when the memory card got stuck in the computer. But thank goodness I had packed a pair of tweezers.

If only I could have found them.

I don't know how Paul finally got the memory card out of the computer - because a cork screw didn't work and a steak knife didn't work and a pair of nail clippers didn't work - and I don't want to know, but suffice it to say we lost some photos on this day - museum day. I do remember hearing Paul mutter "Doggone it!" and "Oh, for Pete's sake!" throughout the flat as he struggled to remove that tiny little card from the tiny little computer.

I finally found the tweezers the night before we headed home - 6 days later.

Oh honey! I found the tweezers.

Yes dear, but it's a little late.

So then.

Not only was this day museum day; but it was also subway day. We decided to buy a one day pass for the subway, which in London is called The Tube, to make our way around the city.

Paul and the kids love the subway.

Myself? Not so much.

After exiting the subway station we began our walk to the Imperial War Museum. We happened to pass a church whose doors were open and I suggested we sit on the steps and listen to the singing. You know, enjoy the music and feed our souls on this Lord's day?

But NOOOOO-uh. We must keep moving said my husband-turned-dictatorial-tour-guide.

No time for music. No time for rest. MUST. KEEP. WALKING.

The Imperial War Museum was a favorite for all of us. It had wonderful displays of British involvement starting with World War I.

They also had a Holocaust display that could not have been more moving and heart wrenching.

Each of us went through this display on our own, walking, reading, listening at our own pace. The beginning of the walk allowed us to see actual home movies of Jewish families in the happiest of times. Films of celebrations of faith and family showed little girls in crisp dresses and little boys in knickers and shiny shoes.

And lots of laughter.

Gradually, but much too quickly, the tour took us to the evil of the Holocaust. We saw first hand accounts of what these individuals lived through - written accounts, audio accounts, and video accounts.

We saw personal items that had been found when the concentration camps were liberated.

Cameras were prohibited in this area of the museum; and rightly so, as it would have seemed somehow wrong to photograph this evil scar on our world's history.

And besides, the images will never leave our minds anyway.

Each of us came out of the exhibit at different times and we were drained. We all carried ourselves a little slower for the next hour or so; we didn't laugh as easily. Part of me wished I hadn't seen what I had just seen - that our children hadn't seen what they had just seen, but it is a huge part of our history. It is one of the reasons my grandfather left his wife and infant son at home in central Illinois and landed on a far away beach in France. And if the survivors of the nightmare I had just glimpsed could live through it; then I could certainly read about it and look at a few photos.

After the Holocaust exhibit we decided to look around the museum a little more. This is when we came upon "Little Boy," which was a bomb just like the one dropped on the city of Hiroshima. So I said "Hey Blake come over here and let me take a picture of my little boy by Little Boy."

Now is when you have to imagine a picture of Blake standing by a big bomb because, you guessed it, that's one of the photos that was lost.

After buying a few souvenirs we headed back toward the subway station. We stopped in a little grocery shop for a snack, which was to serve as our lunch. Noting the big MasterCard sign on the door, Paul handed his over to the clerk who simply looked Paul in the eye and shook his head no. It was the kind of "no" that we knew allowed no arguments so we spent the last of our pounds buying some water and candy bars to get us through our next subway trip, which would take us to The Museum of London.
I spent the next three days apologizing for that decision....

Monday, August 17, 2009


On our last evening in London, Paul and Kayla decided to take one last sight-seeing walk. I really regret staying behind to pack.

Because look what I found as I was browsing through the photos they took that evening:

Seems to me the sights in London were especially pleasing that night.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


After browsing in the local shops for a while, I looked across the street and saw my heart standing there:

Hey kids!

Then we came upon this little courtyard that was apparently all about art and self expression. I thought this camera looked really neat so I said "Hey Kayla let's see if that camera actually has pictures in it. What cool modern art."

Big mistake. Because I looked into that big lens there and BWING! my eyes popped out of my head. Oh dear! I had just invited my 15 year old daughter to view a little film that should have been rated NC 17 at the very least.

Well, I never! What kind of place is this?

Looking around, I got a little bit of an idea when I saw this:I think I may have burned my retinas. I skedaddled right out of there with my young daughter. But not, of course, before taking a picture for the blog.

There is no price I will not pay for this blog, you know.

(I wonder if the preacher is reading THIS entry.)

I like to call this shot: PRECIOUS...UNIVERSAL.

Because, really, is there anything sweeter than baby feet?

This courtyard was full of buildings like The Royal Society of Chemistry, The Royal Society of Art, The Royal Society of Accountancy. Blake was royally impressed by all of it.

We decided to go into the Sherlock Holmes Museum which was especially exciting because none of us has ever read a Sherlock Holmes Mystery. It was at this museum that Kayla met a couple of British Guys that just might have some potential. It was hard for her to decide which one she liked more because one was schizophrenic:

While the other was just slightly psychotic:

Blake was a little concerned when he read this proclamation: THE RED HEADED LEAGUE IS DISBANDED.

We had no idea what it meant but I think he slept with one eye open that night.

We decided to carry fast food back to the flat and have an easy dinner. So- God Bless America:
We found a McDonald's. Yes, the Big Mac was mine. But please know I only ordered it to compare a British Big Mac to an American Big Mac. Really. I only ate it for scientific research purposes. And boy was it the most delicious research I've ever done.

The next day was to be museum day - the best decision we made on our trip and the worst decision we made on our trip...

Friday, August 14, 2009


I certainly never thought that my family and I would one day enter a black cab in London and say to the driver "Buckingham Palace, please."

But that's exactly what we did on the second day of our trip.

Paul and Blake had gone running that morning and had brought back pastries from a local shop and - God Bless America - a couple of cups of coffee from Starbucks. We got to start our day leisurely which is always a plus. I got to start my day with a European pastry and a White Chocolate Mocha, which is also always a plus.

We arrived at the palace about 45 minutes before the changing of the guard, giving us plenty of time to get a spot right up by the gate. We then settled in to watch the crowd grow.

And grow and grow and grow.

It struck me as I was looking through the gates that there I was staring at Buckingham Palace and I had not yet even seen our own White House back home.
Note to self: plan trip to D.C.

There were, of course, many many children there waiting to see the "show" and we happened to meet a little girl named Billie. Billie was six and her baby brother Ernest (Ernie) was about 1. Billie and her parents lived outside of the city and she kept telling her parents that she was ready to go do something more fun, to which they would respond something like "Mummy and Daddy have chosen to do this now..."

Finally Billie folded her arms, furrowed her brow and announced "Well, I choose to go to the park. I DON'T WANT TO SEE THE QUEEN."

And I thought that was the funniest thing I'd heard in a while.

I couldn't help but wonder, while watching the ceremony, if there was symbolic meaning to everything the guards did. I was wishing we had a little guide to tell me, but it really didn't matter yeah...WE'RE AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE and I should just stop over thinking things and enjoy myself.

So I did.

Interestingly, the W girls felt right at home in front of the palace...

And Blake seemed to feel right at home with the guards.

After Buckingham Palace we strolled through a beautiful park and came upon St. James Palace. Those pictures will be posted later because we actually ended up returning the next day so we could get photos with the guards.

Then we decided to pop into a few of the local shops.

We walked into a cigar shop because...well, I'm not sure why, but it actually smelled really good. The tobacco smell reminded me of my grandpa.

And really there's nothing I enjoy more than a good cigar and a glass of brandy after dinner..

Paul asked the lady behind the counter "Do you have any cigars made from locally grown tobacco?" because Paul loves little pieces of useless information like that.

This lady pursed her lips and squinted her eyes. She looked at us as though she couldn't believe mere peasants such as ourselves could ever have...oh, I don't know...won a revolution.


Which was hilarious because every jar of TOBAHCO and every box of cigars contained a sign that said: SMOKING KILLS.
Yes our product will kill you, but rest assured we did not grow it here in THIS COUNTRY.

So we exited the store and I fell all over myself laughing. And then Kayla and I spent the day saying "We don't grow tobahco in this country."
Because we colonists are easily amused.

Luckily, before asking the tobacco question, we had asked the cigar people for a recommendation for lunch. We wanted a local pub because I was determined to eat fish and chips for lunch that day.

We ended up at a little pub called The Blue Post where I ordered Fish and Chips and - God Bless America - a Diet Pepsi. I was a little thrown off when I had to choose between Mushy Minted Peas (really) and Garden Peas to go with my fish and chips.

As curious as I was about the Mushy Minted Peas, I played it safe and ordered the plain Garden variety of peas.

Mushy Minted Peas? I wonder if I will ever regret not eating those. But I will say this. The English really can make some good fish and chips.

After lunch we walked to Piccadilly Circus where I bought a purse and had to inform my family that yes, as a matter of fact, I DID need another bag in my closet back home.

Three quarters of the W gang in front of some fountain in Piccadilly Circus.

Well would you look at this:
Less than 48 hours into the trip and I'm already on his last nerve.

Hmmm. Go figure!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THERE'S STILL TIME... head on over to your nearest Dairy Queen and buy a blizzard.


Before they close. Go on now.


In fact, why not buy a couple?

Because once again Dairy Queen will be donating a portion of all Blizzard Sales to
The Children's Miracle Network today.

Don't worry about the calories. For today only The National Organization of Calorie Counters (NOCC) has declared that Blizzards will be totally fat free, calorie free AND carb free.

So what will it be? Thin Mint? Oreo? Reese's Peanut Butter Cup?

All of the above?

Since my family is in Chicago for the day I will have to make the long lonely trek to Dairy Queen alone and partake of a Double Oreo Blizzard all by myself while watching trashy television and listening to the peace...I mean our home.

But I can do it.

For the children.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Over the last few days I have had no fewer than 4 (that's right FOUR) people ask when I would get a fresh vacation post up on this blog.

Fame brings tremendous pressure, people!

We have downloaded about 400 pictures from our trip and it is taking a while to decide which ones are blog worthy. Plus, I have to put into words all the thoughts that were so fresh and poignant in Europe but are now stale and moldy somewhere in my weary brain. PLUS, I'm having a little trouble getting the pictures to post on my blog.

So, I'm working on it.

In the mean time, I have a question for my ones of readers.

Say you have a dog that drinks out of the toilet. Say you know she's thirsty when you see her wandering from bathroom to bathroom looking for a toilet with the lid up. Say sometimes you are just lazy enough to actually lift the lid to the toilet rather than walk downstairs and actually fill her bowl with water.

Hypothetically speaking of course.

Well, say you decided to add little blue Ty-D Bowl cleansing pellets to your toilet tanks to keep the water fresh and sparkly and oh...I don't know....five days later, you realize your dog is drinking blue Ty-D Bowl water every time she finds an open toilet.

Do any of you think this would be harmful to this hypothetical dog?

I'm just wonderin'.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


After an overnight flight from Chicago, we arrived in London at approximately 10:00 a.m. local time. We were met by a very nice man named Mike who zipped us through London traffic just quickly enough to make my eyes pop out of my head but not so recklessly that I let out a squeal.

At least I don't think I let out a squeal.

We arrived at what would be our home base throughout the trip - 52 Cadogan Square (pronounced kuh-DUH-gun).

That man in the window?

He's just some wacky, but sweet, American I picked up on the flight over.
But he was really handy to have around.
The flat has the grand distinction of being the only detached building on the block. As Mike pointed out, it is detached by approximately 2 inches.
I really felt special after hearing that.
Actually, the flat has a lot of great history. During World War II, the company moved their operations to this building because it was far enough out from the heart of London, they felt it would be safer from the bombing. The building was built by a printer who loved playing cards. He insisted his building be given the number "52" to honor his hobby. The panelling in the formal dining room has 52 large playing cards intricately carved into it, in honor of the owner's love of playing cards.
There were so many nooks and corners and little hide-aways in the building, and each area sported the ornate carvings. While Kayla and I explored the place on that first afternoon, we found this little balcony above the staircase and I insisted she go up there and perform for me.

Wonder if I'll see any hot British boys...

Alas, I cannot text whilst we are on our journey; for my mean father has forbidden me from doing so. It will be the dungeon for me should I be caught texting my dear friends...
After Kayla's little performance, I insisted Blake put on a puppet show but he did not go for that at all.

Looking out the window, I saw this little naked cherub.
Not only does the little guy need to find a toga; but a bath sure wouldn't hurt either.

This was the kids' room.
Those curtains? They were heavier than the comforter on my bed at home.

This was the sitting area of our room.
The bedroom situation was actually a mix-n-match kind of thing. The kids slept in the twin beds in the small room, while Paul and I got the master bedroom. However, the W boys used the small bedroom for their clothes and suitcases while the W girls used the master bedroom for clothes, suitcases, makeup, hair tools, shoes, jewelry and other necessities that we had to cart across the Atlantic ocean.
We had one nice sized bathroom but I didn't post a picture of it because this is a classy blog. To my knowledge, none of us used the bidet.
I think we were a little frightened of it.

This was the little nook in the living room.
I spent a lot of time looking out this window, watching the people on the busy street below and enjoying the tennis games that were going on in the park across the street.
In the living room we had the computer set up and the kids spent a little time each evening keeping in touch with their friends back home. Each morning, as we got ready to leave, we were able to watch Friends on television.

This is the lobby of the flat.
Our rooms were up those stairs.
Please excuse the illogical sequence of these photos. I have no excuse for it at all.

This is the dining room. This is the first room we entered when coming into the flat. This is where we ate if we carried food in or cooked in the kitchen. This is also where Paul settled in each evening to sort receipts, an activity he actually considers fun.
The doorway leads to the small kitchen which was just right for us to make breakfast and light lunches. Notice the sidebar stocked with drinks. Each time we left over night, the wonderful ladies would restock our drinks and ice before we returned.
Those poor women. My kids can drink lots of Coca-Cola; and I myself quite enjoyed the Schweppes Genuine Lemonade which was like Sprite only better.

As I mentioned before, I spent the first half hour upon arrival, wandering from room to room saying "Kids, aren't we the luckiest family alive?"
It is clear that Blake was thoroughly impressed with the charm and beauty of our home away from home.
Calm down, Blake!!

Kayla settled right in to a perfect reading spot.

After we had all taken showers and napped for a few hours, we set out in search of food.
The obvious place to look, of course, was Harrod's, which is actually a small city.
We settled on this cute little lunch counter in Harrod's food shop. It was right by the fresh meat counter where we could have bought some wild boar steaks or some fresh pigeon. But darn, we didn't have a grill back at the flat.
Paul and I shared a turkey sandwich with cranberry relish. Kayla had an American franfurter, and Blake had a bagel with cream cheese and lox. As we finished our meal, the very proper counter man handed us each a warm cloth that had been soaked in lemon water.
Now, because I had seen this in Ladies Home Journal I knew just what to do with my warm wash cloth. Poor, Blake simply held it out to us and pleaded with his eyes:
Um...say what...?
Just wipe your face, Son, it's refreshing.
And I decided right then and there that I'm going start having warm lemon water cloths after each meal.
No really, I am.
I'm going to clear away the pizza boxes, toss out the paper cups and pass out my fancy lemon face cloths.
After Harrod's we stopped in at a little grocery shop and bought a few supplies for our kitchenette and walked back to the flat.
After that, I have no idea what we did until we woke up the next day and headed to Buckingham Palace.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


A few of my favorite sights from our glorious vacation:

My girl on top of a double decker bus touring London.

My boy in the back garden at our friends' house - Shenfield, England.

My Love at our hotel in Bayeux, France:

Our families - Shenfield.

Lots of photos to sort, lots of thoughts to organize. More later.