Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Visitors

Everything is more fun when Grandma and Grandpa are around! We're so lucky they came to visit for Christmas!

So far we've done a lot of playing in the play room:

We took them on a tour of our town, went grocery shopping (exciting!), and stopped by the ward Christmas party. They babysat the girls while Roo and I watched 'The Hobbit'. (During the movie, the fire alarm went off and we were evacuated to stand outside in the freezing rain for 40 minutes until the coast was clear and we could go finish our movie. We didn't get home until 1:30 am, but mom waited up. Having the grandparents babysit is the best!)

On Christmas Eve day, we drove out to look at the temple:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Getting Ready for Christmas

We can't wait for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


November has come and gone without one single blog post from us. Let me reassure my readers (both of you) that we are still alive. It's just that without the milestone of Thanksgiving (which we did not celebrate since we now live in a country that forgoes giving thanks), November is quite an ordinary month. Nevertheless, let me get you up-to-date on our goings on:

Water conservationists will be pleased to know that we can now bathe our babies in one bath. And those water conservationists (and lovers of cuteness, in general) will be further pleased to know that this makes for the cutest sight in all of England, possibly even the world:

This picture was taken on the day our heaters broke. It is getting cold here, so broken heaters are not fun. We bundled up, cuddled with the rice bag (on Penny's feet), and baked a cake to warm up the kitchen until the heaters were fixed.
Baking the cake warmed the house, and licking the beaters warmed the soul.

Also, I made this quilt for Penny as a Christmas gift. I'm working on a pillow pouf seat for Esmé.  I'm practically a pioneer woman, minus the bonnet. And the buffalo chips.

We also celebrated Guy Fawkes Day (you know, the day where they burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes on giant bonfires because he tried to blow up Parliament. Awesome.) We rode a Ferris Wheel at the Fall Fair and watched loud fireworks, which Esmé loved!

Esme has learned to pray. She thanks the Lord every day for the Ferris Wheel.

We also celebrated the end of the Twilight Saga by seeing the last movie on a date to our local cinema (Roo and I were perhaps celebrating for different reasons... :)

Penny is on the verge of crawling--an exciting, yet daunting prospect considering we have three flights of stairs, a step into the kitchen, and two small steps in the hallway.

Esmé fell all the way down one flight of the aforementioned staircases. She survived.

Penny is getting one tooth--an exciting, yet daunting prospect considering I'm still nursing her...

We watched a lot of Donald Duck cartoons on You Tube and jumped on the bed while listening to the "Ewok song".

So that sums it up. Bring on December!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween

Princess Leia (I think the buns slightly resemble moose antlers, but you get the point)
Trunk-or-Treating. With the addition of the puffy coat beneath her dress, Esmé was a portly Princess Leia.

A very stoic skeleton

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our Trip to the Cotswolds

We spent last weekend in the Cotswolds, a particularly quaint part of England about 2 1/2 hours away from our house.

Here is Esmé outside our hotel, The Greenway Inn and Spa. It may have been slightly fancier than we were expecting. When we came bustling in with all our bags and carseats, stuffed animals and loud crying kids, I think the buttoned-down concierge was wondering whether we were really in the right place. Our room had a huge four-poster bed, antique furniture, and fragile vases perched around various precarious spots--all of which Esmé immediately started jumping on.

We arrived at dinnertime, so we put the girls in their beds and ventured down to the restaurant. In our jeans and rumpled sweaters, we asked the concierge if we could eat in the restaurant and he obliged, insisting there was no dress code even though everyone else was in suits and fancy dresses. We sat as still as possible so as not to reveal any more of our shoddy-ness than was necessary. When he brought out the caviar and goat cheese appetizers, we took them with a "yeah, we eat like this all the time, no big deal" air about us. Then he brought out soup with Parmesan foam and it got more difficult to keep up appearances. Dinner was good, though. And long (five courses), and we were just glad to get back to our room where no one was judging us for our common dress and manners.

The hotel was beautiful, though! And the staff was very nice despite our loud screaming, yelling, running, crying, jumping kids.

On our first day, we drove through the countryside to see some Cotswold villages, renown for their quaint storybook cottages and quintessential Englishness.

The landscape was lovely with rolling hills and fall colors.

At each village, we would get everyone out, put up the strollers, put on coats and hats, and make a procession through the shops and homes. The places were so cute, but all that in and out was exhausting for all of us. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were tired! While Esmé napped, we tried to find a baby-friendly place in the hotel to lounge with Penny. Then while Penny slept, I took Esmé outside and we explored, knowing there was not one inch of that hotel that was Esmé-friendly unless they wanted a lot of broken stuff.

Exploring the hotel grounds with a stick
Gorgeous trees on the hotel grounds

It was Friday night and we drove to the nearest city for dinner. There was traffic, the meal was chaotic, and I was frustrated that the girls were not behaving. That night Esmé (who was sleeping on the couch) woke up with a nightmare and demanded to sleep in our bed. She quickly took over my section of bed and left me to take her place on the tiny couch. It was a long night. I was just about ready to pack us all up right then and drive home!
The couch, and my bed for one night.
Thankfully, on Saturday the sun came out and we were all refreshed and ready for another day of exploring. We decided to go to the Cotswold Wild Animal Park, basically a zoo on the grounds of a manor house. Despite being colder than I ever remember feeling for a long time, we had so much fun. It was not crowded, we got to see lots of animals, the girls were happy and having fun, and there was food at the end.


We got to pet sheep and goats!

We had some afternoon naps and spent the evening at a jungle-gym bouncy place in the city, which Esmé loved. Then we found some Mexican food, which Roo and I loved. The key to traveling with kids, I think, is rather than making the kids conform to the trip, make the trip conform to the kids. When we made sure to do things Esmé could enjoy rather than just what we thought was interesting, it was much more enjoyable for all of us. So when we came barging back into our fancy hotel with balloons and babies and lots of noise, we were tired but happy, having had a fun, successful day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Petworth House

I love so much of what this country is, but I feel hungry to experience what it was. In the great houses and castles, I try to find the past, to feel it there, as if looking long enough will make it surface. I listen for the servants' voices echoing off the flagstones in what would have been their quarters; I look at the grand staircases and wonder if anyone ever took them two at a time to get somewhere in a hurry, and who was it, and why; I look for the tracks of their carriages in the gravel; I walk the grounds and wait to feel transported back in time, wait for the past to reveal itself to me.

Yet there are no voices echoing except those of the tourists and employees; the only people on the staircases are distracted school children. Any carriage tracks are long since erased in the gravel. I stood on the Petworth House lawn and looked up at the windows with a vague hope that I might catch a glimpse of a former inhabitant, still lurking on earth. But the ghosts aren't there.

There is no feeling of being watched, no raised hairs on the back of my neck. And, strangely, I find this unsettling. These manors and castles feel uninhabited, abandoned, empty. Despite the painstaking restoration, preservation, re-creation, they present a facade of the past but cannot produce the past itself.

Of course that is the case, but I keep hoping--for what, exactly, I don't know. For Mr. Darcy to come striding around the corner? Not likely. I suppose I'm hoping to feel some kind of connection or realization or understanding of what life really was like. I'll keep hoping, hoping and pursuing. And it is this dogged pursuit of the past that is making me fall more and more in love with this country. Because I'm sure at some point I'll find it.

Petworth House
Playing in Petworth House

Adorable Penny!