Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Park

In my new life as a pregnant city dweller with a toddler in tow, I've come to have new respect for a good old fashioned park.

It doesn't need to have a playground, although it helps.

It just needs to have space for a little one to run off some steam.
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When my mom was in town we were walking near the British Museum and stumbled across this little place.  For a girl who had previously been stuck in a stroller for hours while her parents and grandma looked at mummies and such at the museum, it was the perfect little treat.

Bonus - most of the parks we've visited around London have fences and gates around them.  That way my little monkey-meets-wanderer doesn't have the option of giving me the slip and finding her way into a nearby road.

We live in a flat that's gratefully pretty spacious.  Caroline has plenty of areas to play in right here within our four walls.  But nothing inside compares to the nearby park (which she pronounces a bit like "cock") and a good buggy ride to get there.  

The nearest playground is about 200 yards from our building, and we're there all of the time.  It isn't fancy or large but it provides a much-needed break in our day.
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I've even been able to meet other moms there with their tots, and a couple of them seem to have adopted me into their group of friends.  I now get regular texts about meeting at this park or another, and today was asked out to dinner to celebrate a little girl's birthday.  So grateful for these kind little gestures from all-but strangers that are turning into friends.  While it's nice to meet people who live in all corners of the city, it's especially encouraging to start making a few friends right in my own neighborhood.  

I'm dying to pepper them with questions, but try to keep it to a minimum in hopes that they keep inviting me to hang out. 

Where do you buy kids' wellies?
How do you handle two kids in the city?
Where do you grocery shop?
What is there to do around here?
Where do people go to ski?
Tell me about British politics.
You can see where it's best for me to hold it in as much as possible as to not scare off these poor souls.

But at the end of the day, I'm grateful for parks and new friends.  And my sweet girl, with whom I get to experience all of these things.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


The day before Caroline and my mom arrived, Josh and I took our first day trip.  Josh hadn't yet started work, and we had gotten as far as possible on our to-do list and needed a mental break.  So we took the Tube to Paddington Station (where I almost bought Caroline 100 different Paddington Bear souvenirs), and embarked on the one hour train ride to Oxford.


That city of learning and education and architecture and Christian history and normal history.  The University of Oxford is actually the oldest English-speaking university in the world.  Hard to imagine.

And yet, at 6 months pregnant on a hot day, all I wanted to do was sit down.

But Josh fed me well, let me rest, downloaded a free walking tour, and off we set.

I even climbed up to the top of a church spire.  What was I thinking?

Half way through I needed more rest and more food, and Josh obliged.  He's nice like that.

And in the end it was worth it.

To walk in the steps of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  To take in the fabulous architecture.  To think about the fact that Lewis Carrol met a girl named Alice in that place.  To take a picnic down to the river and watch the boats and swans go by.  Worth every tired, out-of-breath step.

2012 And then on the train ride back I fell asleep and drooled all down my face. Classy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bon Voyages

Did I mention we have the best friends and family ever? Because we do.

People were so sweet about our big move. They offered to babysit. They brought us food and gave us gifts. They threw us parties.

First, our friends Amber and Michael gave us a great Columbus send-off. They opened up their home and their grill and so many of our good friends came by.


These little buddies. We miss them! 0818_4623
And, would you believe, it was Amber's first week back to work after having a baby a few months ago. How sweet/selfless is that?!

Second, before we left for the UK, my parents threw us such a fun little send-off party. The theme? English Tea Party, of course! The guests were a great mix of family and friends, and we were totally spoiled and blessed by it all. My mom included all of these awesome little British touches, including clotted cream, tea sandwiches, and 4 different types of scones. Adorable. best of

My brother, Ben, and his girlfriend, Annie, couldn't come to the official party, but we got to see them for a bit before we took off.  Here we all are... good looking family, huh?
From left to right: Me (and New Girl), Josh, Caroline, my mom, Aiyannah, Aiydan, my dad, Montoya, Aiyveri, Ben, Annie..

Thank you, everyone, for making us feel so very loved and cherished. We so appreciate you all. And miss you. Terribly.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


There's a family so close to my immediate family that we just lump them together with the rest of us.  Montoya is the mom, and she has three kids.

This one is new.  His name is pronounced like "Avery."

My little nephew.

Before I left the US I got the chance to snap a couple of pics of him.

Isn't he adorable?

Look at that hair. My baby was mostly bald so I have zero experience with such luscious locks. 0902_5236

My thumb. Who took my thumb away?!? 0902_5233

And that was the end of the photo shoot.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

English Quirks, Vol 1

In our brief time spent here, we've discovered a wide variety of small, mostly insignificant differences between how the US and UK do things. 
I'm sure that if an English person were to cross the pond and start living in the US they'd find equally as many quirks, and could write entire blog posts on how big our milk jugs are and how you can pick your own nectarines out of the selection at the grocery store (they're pre-packaged here, for the most part) and how we refrigerate eggs.

So here are a few random observations (the first of many posts, I'm sure):

1. The plugs.  Obviously.
The fact that these are different (along with the voltage that runs through them) is one of the main reasons we feel like we're single-handedly supporting the British economy.  Steam iron.  Hair dryer.  Hand mixer.  Coffee maker.  The list goes on.  While adaptors and convertors are available, and we technically could have brought our US stuff with us, we were advised against it.  Our relocation company explained that we'd most likely burn out the motors on anything not designed for the higher voltage, even with a converter, over time.  So we've been shopping.

What is also weird is that each plug has an on/off switch of its very own. 

2. Heated towel racks.
We've found these in every hotel we've ever stayed at here in the UK as well as most of the rental places we toured.  I'm not sure if they're 100% standard, but they seem to be quite popular.  They're heated by the boiler, and make for a very nice post-shower experience.  Who knew?!  Also, if you're into reusing towels (which we totally are) they'll dry a used towel much faster.  Bonus.

Furthermore, the boiler only runs for certain times of the day - morning and evening.  Our property manager tells us this is very common.  While we can get hot water out of the tap any time of day, the system is only set up for multiple hot showers for a few hours each day.  I suppose this must save on utilities.  As a result, the heated towel bar is only heated during the times of day that the boiler is on.

We just have to remember not to brush up against it coming out of the shower.  It's a bit of a shock to the system.

3. Keys

I had no idea that people still used keys that look like this:
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And that the doors leading into a flat had keyholes that look like this:

If asked, I would have told you that they were entirely out of date, and old fashioned.  Not so.  I have 3 of them on my key ring at the moment - "front" door, "back" door, and downstairs closet.  On that note, I also find it strange that our flat has two entrances.  One is more of a formal, main door, and one is considered a "service entrance."  I think it has to do with the fact that this place was built in the early 1900s and they made repairmen come in through the kitchen.  Funny.

4. Our toilets are square and they stick straight out of the wall.

That's all for now!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Peppa Pig

We love Elmo around here, but there may be a new character in town to rival for Caroline's affections: Peppa Pig.

Josh had mentioned to a colleague that we had an Elmo fan on our hands, and that person responded, "well, she won't be fully anglicized until she starts asking for Peppa Pig."

After hearing that story, my mom and I headed to the Internet to check out this pig.

Turns out she's a preschool-aged pig who lives with her Mummy, Daddy, and brother George.  She talks in an awesome British accent and, best of all, oinks before she says things.

She has a website, a slew of exciting toys, and even her own amusement park, known as (what else?) Peppa Pig World.

And let me tell you, she's awesome. 

Go ahead and watch.  I know you're curious.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Big church in a big city.

Here we are, for what feels like the twentieth time.

Church shopping.

In our seven years of marriage, we've moved a lot, which has necessitated pulling up roots and putting down new ones in each area. And as we figure out where to buy groceries and how to get to the bank in each new town, we also find ourselves looking for a new church. I guess you'd say I'm picky, but the decision is important to me. Any church we choose has to be passionate about following Jesus, clinging to the Bible as truth, and serving the world in the name of Christ. As our family desires to walk in step with Jesus more and more, we know we need strong faith community to walk alongside us to have any hope of growth.

 And it helps if the people there are friendly.

I've often found church to be a relational lifeline for me. And as I've just moved to a place where I no NO ONE, I'm hopeful to find fellowship and community and maybe even a few friends with kids.

We're praying for guidance as we step out and try a few places.

This past Sunday, we tried one out.  We all, including my mom, got up and dressed.  We buckled Caroline into her "buggy" and walked the 10 minutes to the Tube station.  An hour later, after changing trains once and hefting the buggy up a bunch of stairs, we found ourselves on Tottenham Court Road at a theater that, most nights, hosts We Will Rock You, a West End musical based on the songs of Queen.  Random, huh?

We walked in late, of course, and found ourselves looking for seats along the back of the balcony.  As we looked unsuccessfully for three seats together, I was struck by my fellow congregants.  Old and young.  Preppy and grunge.  But most of all, racially diverse.

I have never, in all my years of Sunday morning church and Thursday night Bible study and what have you, been a part of such a richly diverse group of people in a Christian setting.  The people at this church were clearly from every part of the world, from South Africa to Cambodia to the European continent to Canada.  Each one of them there out of desire to get to know Jesus better.

It was so amazing to see, because although I know I serve the God of the entire world, it gets easy sometimes to fit Him into a box of white middle class American church.  But He's so much bigger than that, so much more incredibly powerful and gracious, and so very loving toward every corner of this planet, His creation.

I took Caroline to the nursery after the music ended, and stayed with her until she got comfortable with her surroundings.  As more and more tots filed in, I was struck again by the variety of ethnicities demonstrated in the faces of the little ones.  They all had name stickers attached to backs of their clothes, and I so enjoyed seeing each one.  Let's just say they didn't all sound quite like Caroline Brown.

We don't know if we'll continue to attend that church.  It's an amazing option and I'm thankful for it.  However, whichever one we choose, I'm hopeful that we'll see more of God's love of all sorts of nations wherever we attend.  I can only imagine what our family might learn from people who are also following Jesus, but come from very different backgrounds and cultures. 

It's really exciting.  Praise Jesus.

And, wouldn't you know it, I met another mom of little ones who moved here from Canada, and she invited Caroline and I over for coffee (with REAL cream, which is hard to find) next week.  She promised to give me the lowdown on life in the UK.  One more blessing.  I'm thankful.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Spilling Out

There isn't much rhyme or reason to this post, but just a brain dump of our lives as we acclimate to life in London.  We're one week in.

God is good.  I'm feeling much better about things that I was a few days ago, and we're learning a lot as we try to accomplish setting up our life here.   Now that we've been here for a few days, things are starting to feel a little more normal.  And yet, I still have "aha - so that's what that means" moments on a regular basis.  Those moments are regularly followed by a completely puzzled feeling when something else unexpected comes along.

But, praise God, we're rolling with it all.

1. Our girl is here.  She and my mom arrived on Saturday.   Life in the UK didn't feel like real life without her.  She can now tell you that a bus is red, and pick out Big Ben from the pages of her board books.

Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled 2.  My mom is here too, until Sunday.  We've been exploring the city - Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Camden Market, and Harrods so far, along with our own little neighborhood.  We have further plans for a West End show (we're thinking Jersey Boys, and will be leaving Caroline home with Josh), the British Museum, Oxford Street shopping, and a trip out to Windsor Castle.

It's been fabulous to have her here, and I'll miss her terribly when we have to say goodbye on Sunday.  It's then that I think life here will really sink in.
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3. The grocery store is fascinating.  The brands.  The options.  The fact that a full selection of ready-to-heat Indian food exists.  Asian food of any type is a major pregnancy craving these days!  Josh is more interested in the crazy options for juice and yogurt.

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I'm grateful they sell baby food packets. Despite the fact that Caroline is older than 6 months old, she downs them like they're going out of style.  It's the only way she eats her veggies.

I do have to say, however, some of the flavor varieties are a little strange.

I haven't tested this out yet, but I understand that the big grocery stores deliver.  It could be life-changing.  Especially in a life where we walk everywhere and a stroller is a less-than-idea grocery cart.

4. We're really enjoying our own area, Richmond. It is hilly, quaint, and near a sleepy section of the Thames where people regularly rent canoes.  It feels very city-ish to me (having never really lived in a big city before) with all manner of shops and restaurants to pop in and out of whenever we're out.  New Girl may have gotten a new hat yesterday, courtesy of Oma, from a darling (if obscenely expensive) children's clothing store just on the other side of the river from our place.
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5. Finally, thank you all for your kind words of encouragement and sympathy regarding my slightly rocky start here. Things have been great since then, and I feel terribly blessed to have such a sweet group of friends and family cheering our little family on from the States. Praise Jesus.

One of my cousins, who lives in NYC, sent me a sweet note yesterday. She was sympathetic to the headaches of doing life in a big city, but also encouraged me to pay extra attention to the rushes and thrills of wow, this could only happen here and I am really doing this, and my kid gets to experience all of these things I never even dreamed of until after college.

Her description of city living with a child was so vivid and well written I'll share it here:
There are frequent pangs of stress and pain and AHHH GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!! But there are also feasts of peace and pleasure. Feasts like lounging in the park, watching people fly kites and kick soccer balls and feed birds and laugh and cuddle; melting into the bustle of a busy street, passing shop after shop, the smells, the pulse of it, the click-clack-YES of it! 
 Yes, it's so special, and I'm still in shock that us - our family - gets to do this. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

London, Day 1

At the risk of sounding like a spoiled, complain-y, Negative Nancy, I'm just going to tell it like it was.

Yesterday was our first day here, and it was rough.  Not nearly to the point of regretting this decision or anything, but a bit on the ugly side nonetheless.

First, it was a short night on the plane.  Lack of sleep does nothing for my mood - just ask Josh!

After that, we stumbled into a few road blocks associated with setting up cell phones, bank accounts, and Internet.  I should not have expected that all of these little details would work together seamlessly and quickly, or that setting them up would be as simple as it would have been in the States.  We did manage a successful IKEA trip, but getting to another part of town via a long Tube ride, our own two feet, and a shuttle bus took an extremely long time.  Who knew it wouldn't be like driving my Subaru to Target?  In the end I was just disappointed with our progress yesterday.  Coupled with exhaustion and a unrealistic desire for everything to be settled, I was downright disheartened.

In short, the realities of A) moving + B) moving to another country that might do things differently caught up to me.

But God's mercies are new every morning.

It's a beautiful day here.  I got a decent amount of rest last night, and made a trip to the grocery store for milk and trash bags and laundry soap.  We ate a delicious breakfast overlooking the Thames.  We figured out how to use a temporary Internet service here at the apartment and how to use Skype to make local phone calls until our iPhones are up and running.  The apartment manager told us that we could keep our stroller on the main floor in a little closet, and wouldn't have to lug it up and down the stairs with each outing.

And the IKEA couch we bought yesterday should be delivered this afternoon.  Hooray!  We won't be limited to an air mattress for our seating around here for too much longer.

And I got to Skype with my mom and daughter today.

See?  Mercies.  And the beginnings of a grateful heart once again.  Why DO I have to learn that lesson over and over?  I'd have hoped it would get more ingrained in me by now.  I still have a lot to learn.