Friday, May 31, 2013

Way Up North

We took another trip, this time up north.

I would hate for you to think that our travels are all perfection--they are far from that. I suppose anyone with kids would know that.

We left at bedtime and drove four and a half hours north while the girls slept--Esmé fell asleep with a kit kat in her hand and when we stopped for gas, she rubbed her melted chocolate hand across her whole face. She was so cute, covered in chocolate and acting wide-eyed and loopy. The sun was setting, the drive was traffic free, and the girls slept. The trip was off to a great start.

We got in to York late and slept terribly. I was commanded(by Esmé) not to leave Esmé's side through the night, and each excruciatingly careful shift of my weight woke her right up.  It was sweet to see her smiling at me each time her eyes popped open--she was excited to see me there still, keeping her commandment.

The day dawned gray and windy and cold--typical England late-May high 40's. Oh, England! How you toy with us! There are really just two seasons in England: winter and spring. It depends on the day which season you'll get. This day decided to be winter.
We set off bundled up in our two strollers to explore.

Here we are in The Shambles, an especially Medieval, tiny street. The half-timbered buildings lean in across the cobblestones like a Harry Potter film set.

From there we walked to York Minster, the largest Gothic church in England. It has more Medieval glass than every other church in England combined.

These interesting facts battled for attention with Esmé running and touching and pulling and climbing. Penny refused to be held and crawled full-speed everywhere, usually towards lighted prayer candles. When we stopped or redirected her, her distraught yells filled the church and she'd arch her back so she'd look like a tormented, flailing, horseshoe. So I distracted Esmé with fruit snacks and we let Penny do some laps on the stone floor for awhile. It was a good break from the cold. And it was an amazing church.

We had lunch in a tiny Italian restaurant in The Shambles. Thankfully, it was once we got inside that it started to hail. We ate pizza while hell's fury was unleashed across the land (and tourists) outside. Once it eased up, we walked back to the hotel in the rain.

After naps (okay, more like "naps") we wanted to walk along the city wall. The problem with the city wall is that it is not stroller-friendly. After debating a minute whether or not to try it, we hefted our two strollers up a big set of stone stairs and walked for about 1/4 mile before we reached another set of stairs, and another, and another. So we gave up and just walked on the street. We did manage to get one picture though:
It was still freezing cold, but we didn't want to go back to the hotel. We would stick it out until dinner. There are plenty of cute shops in York, but they are almost all too small for our massive American strollers and too full of delicate things for our little American kids. So we just walked around for a couple hours, popping in whatever places could accommodate us all. We hung out in a park by the cathedral and encouraged Esmé to run and play like children in the open air are expected to do. She did put in a valiant effort, but her shivering really interfered with the fun.

Then we ate dinner at 4:30 pm.

We all took a dip in our hotel pool then put the kids to bed. Finally, Roo and I had some time to relax on our own. I was looking forward to watching a movie and eating a chocolate bar we'd bought. But within ten minutes we were both fast asleep.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pretty Penny

 Penny is walking. She takes tentative and shaky steps then, when she's in a hurry, she drops to the floor and crawls at full speed--a professional crawler now.

She loves it when Roo snorts like a pig and she tries to copy him. Her snort is more like a growl.

Penny is strong-willed and independent. Sometimes she seems to be living in a world of her own. I find myself looking at her sometimes as though I'm seeing her for the first time--I wonder what is going on in her head. Unlike her sister, she isn't an open book. I'm thrilled by every new expression, every tentative step, every funny sound, every fleshy cuddle, and every bright, blue gaze.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cornwall Part II

On our second day in Cornwall, we drove to the windblown, more rugged north coast. We'd been here before, exactly eight years ago we stayed on a youth hostel next to the ocean and the cliffs. It was still there, and we were thrilled to see it.
Me and our old Youth Hostel
Then we drove out to Tintagel, the legendary ruined castle said to be the castle of King Arthur. This legend is mainly an excuse to sell King Arthur kitsch and incense and crystal balls in the town shops, but I guess the thought of it is neat. The ruins are perched on a cliff that juts out into the ocean. There are a billion stairs, and Penny refused to ride in the baby backpack carrier--which was just as well, because Roo was refused to wear it anyway. So we took turns carrying her up the cliff stairs.

It was a gorgeous day! Actually warm enough for us to take off our jackets--a first this year!

There is a cove with a beach, a waterfall, and Merlin's Cave.

Me and the girls at Merlin's Cave.

Penny's take on the whole event.

I love that we were there!


The castle ruins
After the castle, we ate fish and chips in a pub with proper Cornish ice cream for dessert. We drove back and took a nice evening stroll through Mevagissey.

When Esmé saw this bench she said, "Look! Little Stonehenge!" It was so funny, I had to get our picture on 'Little Stonehenge'
Overall, the trip was a resounding success. This part of England is breathtaking, the weather cooperated, and the iPad granted us some peace on the drive home.

We are so blessed to experience what we have. I take every second of it as a gift.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Growing Up

I was sorting through a bin of random stuff when I came upon a collection of notes I'd written to Roo years ago. Little love notes, silly quotes, a handwritten 'Hobbit' book I'd illustrated with funny pictures and text, stapled together, and given as a gift. Most of these things I didn't remember making, I didn't remember writing or thinking up. So as I rediscovered them, I smiled at my own wit, my own cute efforts to show my love to Roo, to impress him.

Then I started feeling something like sadness, I guess it was. Because it seems like the person who wrote those silly notes no longer exists. The person holding those notes today is serious, not silly; too detached and tired for wit; too heavy with the ever-present fatigue and business of motherhood to be clever; too preoccupied to remember funny quotes and phrases. I felt like mourning for the loss of who I had been.

I thought, is this what it means to grow up?

Motherhood is all-consuming. It consumes my time, my thoughts, my personality, my affection; it establishes my priorities, it determines my schedule, it has reshaped my very physical form; it defines me now. Having two babies has made it definitively so, and I am just now actually realizing that.

I know this is a blessing, but it is a hard blessing, too, sometimes.

Yesterday when Esmé refused her nap yet again after repeated attempts, it was utter desperation.

And then there are these moments: every morning Esmé reminds me to say my prayer. She waits until I've closed my eyes and am thinking my hopes and worries to God, then she silently kisses my upper arm. I can't help smiling and reaching out for her hand.

And today Penny took her first shaky, independent steps.

I suppose what I may have lost--whatever silliness or innocence or youthful naivety--has been eternally outdone by what I've gained. I am a mother now.

And when I was feeling pressured by my yet-unfulfilled potential in avenues other than motherhood--meaning, when I felt guilty for not developing other talents or 'life callings' I feel I have--I talked to Roo about it. He said, "Ease up on yourself. You're exhausted. That's okay. Get to them when you can. "

And he helps me realize, this is who I am. This is my calling now. The other callings--though they are very important and do have a place in my life--need to wait their turn.

I guess that is the essence of sacrifice; and in that case, I guess the answer is, yes, this is what it means to grow up.

Monday, May 13, 2013


We took a holiday weekend to Cornwall, and it was so great!

The drive to Cornwall was not so great, though. Google promised 4.5 hours. It took us 7. Roundabouts galore, tiny roads, merging lanes. It took a long, long time, and the girls each had massive, seizure-like breakdowns, but the scenery was completely breathtaking!  It was the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. Lush, green carpeted hills--fluorescent emerald--bounded by hedges, spreading trees, flowers, streams and sheep, with glimpses of the sea. Had I been deaf to the screaming and oblivious to the overall chaos inside the car, it would have been the best drive ever.

We rented a cottage overlooking the quaint fishing village of Mevagissey.
On Saturday morning, after a damp, misty morning, the clouds rolled away and left us with a sunny, gorgeous day. We explored the small town, ate donuts, bought some souvenirs, then ate a Cornish pasty in the harbor for lunch.

We took a break for naps. Penny was looking cuter than ever!
Then we ventured back out to explore some beaches further up the coast.
Charlestown beach where we threw rocks into the ocean.

For dinner, we ate at a little restaurant on a beach. It was nice, but would have been a lot nicer if we didn't have to sit outside in the cold with tired, ornery kids. Still, you can't complain with a view of the sunset, cliffs and sea--even if it is for as short a time as possible so you can get the kids out of there!

The most stunning view of the sea on our drive back to our cottage. Perfection!
This was the view from our cottage.

And this was my dessert--clotted cream, jam, and biscuits.