January 19, 2017

UK Running

Prior to moving to England, I submitted my name in the lottery for the London Marathon as an overseas entry. There are three ways to get in to London - have a qualifying time (good for age) which is only for UK residents, run for a charity, or get lucky and get a slot in the lottery (overseas and resident based). I did not luck out this way, so when we moved here I started looking in to charities. The problem is that by the time I learned I didn't get a spot in the lottery, a lot of the charities had already filled up. I contacted SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity), but their team was full so I reached out to Tommy's (another charity specific to stillbirth and pregnancy loss). I was put on a waitlist with Tommy's and in the meantime explored other options. I also went ahead and submitted my name for the British Legion waitlist (figured supporting allied Veterans was a worthy cause), but had a really hard time finding any charities that I not only felt a personal connection to, but that still had openings. Of course all the charities are screened and worthy of support, but I didn't want to sign up with one that didn't have much personal meaning - I just wouldn't have felt right essentially using one as a means to run the race, much less having to solicit friends and family for money for something I wasn't passionate about.

This week when I reached out to Tommy's to see if they by chance had any openings, I was thrilled when they let me know they did in fact have some drop outs and could offer me a spot! So I am officially registered to run the London Marathon on April 23rd!! I'm so excited it's all worked out and of course excited about the opportunity to run this race, but I'm also genuinely happy I get to help Tommy's fundraise. Their mission, literally, is to save babies' lives by funding research into the causes of pregnancy problems that lead to stillbirth, pregnancy loss, and premature birth. They also provide support for families who have experienced the loss of a child and have clinics specific to pregnancy after loss - I even have a friend who saw a doctor at one of them while expecting her rainbow baby and had wonderful things to say about her care.

Should you be able, I would be beyond grateful for your donation to Tommy's. My fundraising page can be viewed here. I know I ask for donations a lot - and it's gotten to a point where I feel a little uncomfortable and guilty for soliciting yet again, but if organizations like Tommy's are better able to study, and hopefully help prevent, stillbirth because of these fundraisers then it's worth it for me to ask for donations. Running is special to me in part because of the reason and motivation behind a particular race and this one will be especially meaningful because of how Cale's life has weaved together this opportunity to do some good. Thank you so much for understanding that and helping honor him.

Since "Keep Calm and Carry On" is of British origins, I figured this top was fitting to wear for my fundraising page photo. Miles only slightly rolled his eyes when I asked him to take the picture.

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Just a couple weeks ago I had all but given up on running the London Marathon so signed up for another race here in England, the Manchester Marathon that takes place April 2nd, three weeks before London. I'm still going to run it, but I also have one scheduled in late May in Edinburgh, Scotland and get to run the Berlin Marathon in late September. I've also entered Miles and I in a lottery for the Great North Run which is the largest half marathon in the world (nearly 60,000 runners!) so needless to say, I'm hoping to stay healthy and injury free!

Running has been a good way for me to explore Oxford I think I was able to figure my way around town a lot quicker thanks to it. I've found some great paths and parks and recently joined a weekly social run group. Last fall I was able to take place in the Oxford Half, the Abingdon Marathon (about 15 minutes south of Oxford, but still in Oxfordshire), as well as the Milton Keynes winter half marathon (also in Oxfordshire).

The races have been mostly enjoyable, or maybe I should say the have been rewarding, there definitely were times during and after that were less than enjoyable, but honestly it's the every day runs that have been the most special - getting to soak in my new surrounds and explore new cities in a way that is refreshing and challenging and therapeutic for me is really hard to beat. 

Ok, enough run talk. Thank you again for the support - I know it will help fuel me (especially on these cold winter days) as I train and prepare for April! 

January 9, 2017

Je ne parle pas fran├žais: Our Trip to Paris

Shortly before Christmas we took a trip to Paris by way of the EuroStar train. It was a really great trip - not only were the kids well behaved most of the time, but we got to see and do a lot without it being exhausting. Plus we went during a fun season when all the Christmas Markets were up and we could stuff our faces with as many churros and crepes and delicious treats as we could handle. And we did!

The transportation was fairly easy - we took an hour long train from Oxford to London where we switched lines and took the EurStar in to Paris via the Chunnel. I find it so cool that the train literally goes under water. You could feel the pressure change in your ears, but overall it was a really pleasant and easy way to travel. Mary was free and thankfully there were plenty of open seats there and back so she didn't have to sit on anyone's (i.e. my) lap.

We arrived at night so went straight to the apartment we rented through Air BnB. The apartment was in a great location and the apartment itself was perfect for what we needed - two rooms (the kids share a room when we travel), a bathroom, and kitchen, but the only downside was it was on the sixth floor with no elevator. This meant at least twice a day we (Miles) had to lug the stroller up and down and most of the time we had to carry Mary as well. I suppose it helped burn off the nutella filled crepes.

On our first full day in Paris we went out for breakfast where I could brush off my one year of high school French though we quickly learned that EVERYONE speaks English. We seriously felt like we heard more English for the first day than we did French! For all the jokes and rumors you hear about the French people being rude we didn't find that to be the case at all. People were very friendly and were super patient and polite when I did want to practice my French. 

We walked from breakfast to Notre Dame. When we arrived we decided it was worth it to wait in line to go inside and I'm so glad we did. Entrance was free and it was so beautiful inside (my pictures don't do it justice).
Notre Dame in background behind Mary

After Notre Dame we walked to the Eiffel tower which was probably three miles away, but the kids were doing fine and Finn just hops on the front of the stroller when he gets tired. We walked along the river with the Louvre along side us - it was such a great way to take in the city. We took the subway a lot too, but certainly did a good bit of walking. Each day we figured it was around eight miles worth!

We bought tickets to go to the top - and while the view was amazing, I almost think the view from the middle was better - you're not too far above everything and there's just more space to take it all in.

The following day we went to the Louvre in the morning. I've always heard it is big, but really the building, the collections inside, the underground area - it's massive and absolutely magnificent. We spent a good two hours and easily could have stayed longer, but we didn't want to push our luck with the kids. Our tour guide for the Eiffel Tower said that if you spent 30 seconds looking at every piece of art in the Louvre, it would take you six months to see everything!

BOB Strollers: Worth every penny.

Mona Lisa and Finn
Venus de Milo
The kids are standing in front of what used the be the castle walls,
before it becomes the Louvre.
When Finn started whining about holding the map we knew it was time to bounce.

From the Louvre we walked through the Touleries Garden (which I am sure is crazy beautiful in the spring) and up to L'Arc de Triomphe. We didn't take the tour up the Arc, but after seeing the city views via the Eiffel Tower it didn't feel like we were missing out too much.

We walked back through the Christmas Markets for more chi-chi's! (churros) and let the kids play in the children's area a bit before heading back to the apartment. I also bought a cute Paris ornament for our Christmas tree.

The following day we split forces as Miles wanted to check out the catacombs, but we figured it would be a little too scary for Mary. And truth be told after seeing his pictures I'm not especially sad to have missed it myself. Finn went with Miles and was a great sport and despite the look on his face in these (super creepy and gross) pictures, he seemed to have a good time with Miles.

Mary and I had a much more pleasant morning spent at the Orangerie Museum which contains works of Monet, Picasso, Renoir, and an exhibit with work from America depicting the Great Depression Era with the main focus being the American Gothic Painting which was on display for the first time ever in Europe (though no pictures of it were allowed).

We then met up with Miles and Finn at Sacre Coeur, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. No photography was allowed inside, but it was beautiful. You have to walk up a billion steps, but thankfully the side of the stairs was paved in a way that allowed us (Miles) to push the stroller alllll the way to the top!

No kids were riding in the stroller although Finn wanted to.

We walked along the river that night getting to see Paris all lit up after dinner at a nice cafe/restaurant. The following morning we ate breakfast and then packed up to take the train back getting us home two days before Christmas.

A wonderful first trip to Paris - I look forward to going back some day!

December 28, 2016

My Favorite 2016 Christmas Gifts

In mostly unimportant, fairly useless blog post topics, here's a list of gifts I love from this year's Christmas haul:

This snow globe was a pre Christmas gift I bought myself. It plays "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and I find it so adorable and will love it even more when we move back to the states.

I found these cute ornaments at the shop where we purchased our Christmas tree. Apparently I really like Big Ben and double decker buses. 

I collect tea pots so was thrilled with this gift from Miles of an Alice in Wonderland teapot. Alice in Wonderland was written here in Oxford (Alice was the name of the daughter of the dean of one of the colleges here who was friends with author Lewis Carroll, an Oxford fellow).

These were a gift for Mary, but we have all enjoyed them. I've heard for a couple years how popular magnatiles are, but these, while slightly different, are cheaper and honestly equally enjoyable. My nephews own some and I'm glad we got a set though I seriously want to order more!

Legos! Finn got HOOKED up this year. Legos were his only request for Christmas and he got some from our friends Craig and Michelle, Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Rob and Aunt Sarah, us, and Santa. I love how much he enjoys them, how good he is at following the directions to build a set and even better using his imagination to come up with his own creations. Bonus - no batteries.

If you were to ask Mary her favorite gift she would say her Paw Patrol presents, but she also got this baby doll and does really like it. I read once how a good way to promote diversity is to ensure your kids have toys that look different than them which seems like such a simple and smart idea to me. Plus I find it adorable when she acts like a little mama.

Books. I love setting out our Christmas books about a month prior. The kids love reading them because they haven't seen them in awhile and each year we add a couple it seems. Here are some cute ones my mom sent the kids this year:

Other honorable mention gifts - Miles shaved his beard! I have mixed feelings about the facial hair, but his clean shaved face was a nice (and I'm sure temporary) surprise. We gave Finn a piggy bank of a red British phone booth to store all his UK money in (he's saving up for more Legos, naturally) and my friend Brandy sent me a new Cale ornament as part of an ornament exchange I do with some baby loss friends. I love seeing his collection grow each year.

What were some of your favorite gifts this year?