February 23, 2017

The Lake District

Last week Finn had his mid term break, so we took the opportunity to get out of town for a few days and do some traveling around England. We had heard great things about the Lake District, a National Park in northwest England, so we rented an Airbnb for a few days to check it out. We debated driving a little further north to have lunch in Scotland, but we couldn't find any decent options that weren't too far out of the way.  Since we will be back to Scotland in April and May, we skipped it this trip. But we did drive to Hadrian's Wall - a wall that used to stretch from coast to coast and was the northern most limit of the Roman Empire. There are still lots of areas with large chunks of wall up. It's probably the oldest thing I've seen in person (outside of a museum) and despite the crummy weather, it was really neat. The kids weren't as impressed with a super old wall.

The following day we did some hiking in the southeast and central portion of the Lake District. The wind was crazy that weekend and it was really cold, but the views were still breathtaking. Finn did pretty well hiking and enjoying being outside, but Mary wasn't a fan of the weather. 

I thought this was so simple and sweet. The photo below is of the view he loved. I can see why.

The photos above were all taken during a hike at Scout Scar and the ones below were from a walk in Elterwater after having lunch at a really great pub. Side Note -I love how dog friendly places are here and how dogs are welcome in most pubs. People in the Lake District all seemed really friendly and social - much more than we have experienced in Oxford. It seems like the north is similar to the south in the states in terms of hospitality and social etiquette.

Sheep are spray painted as means of identification. 

Here are some pictures of the place we stayed. It was an old barn made into a cottage retreat and was probably one of the nicest Airbnb's we've stayed at.  The property had fields of grazing sheep and a small waterfall we walked out to see, during which Mary fussed, I slipped, and Finn complained about sheep poop. BUT it was pretty!

We definitely want to go back to the Lake District during the warmer months - there are lots of good trails and places to check out, each with beautiful views and many that are family (stroller) friendly.


February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day 2017

I failed to take any Valentine's Day pictures last year and that's gonna annoy the crap out of me. I'll need to look back on my hard drive as I know I have some pictures of Finn from his Valentine's Day program at school, but I didn't take any staged pictures like I did all these years:

2012: Finn at 7 months
2013: Finn at 19 months
2014: Finn at 2.5, Mary Newborn
2015: Finn at 3.5, Mary at 1

In my defense last year on Valentine's day I ran a marathon which left me pitifully upset and disappointed, but I should have taken pictures prior to the race because it's not like I can make up for it. Argh!

Mary is sporting a hand-me-down sweater, or jumper as it's called here in England, from when I was a little girl (or perhaps it was my sister's, or maybe both?) regardless I think it's safe to assume Mary wore it best:

And then I wanted to do another train-track like Valentine's picture and since the obsession now is with Legos, it only made sense to make a bit Lego heart.

I had a silly thought that I should try to get him to play with Legos while taking some pictures, 
but duh, of course he is going to play with them - took him no time at all!

Aren't those smiles so sweet and natural? 
All I had to do was make fart noises. Living the dream.


February 9, 2017

That Time We Went Out Twice In One Weekend

Last weekend Miles and I had TWO date nights! The first was a Friday night where we were invited to attend the formal dinner at one of the colleges here. Each college (there are 38) hosts their own formal dinners somewhat regularly, but you can only attend your own college's dinner or be the guest of someone from another college. Some friends invited us to dinner at New College (don't let the name fool you - New College was founded in 1379) however, prior to going to dinner we attended Evensong, which is a fairly short religious service mostly sung by the New College choir. It was really beautiful and I'm so glad we got to experience it.

You sit on either side of the church and the choir is in pews in the middle (where I was standing for the picture).

The Formal dinners are held in the college's dinning hall at large banquet tables in (think Harry Potter, or for those of you from West Point - think one wing of the mess hall) and the food is often incredible - it's always a three course meal and some colleges (like Miles') also offer unlimited wine!

Then we got to go out again on Sunday, this time to a ball held at one of the nice hotels in town. The "spring ball" which was very obviously held in the winter was put on by the international students association and it was just a fun excuse to get dressed up and have a fun evening. It also happened to be my birthday that night and who doesn't love wearing a billion sequins on their birthday!?

One of the event organizers heard that it was the birthday of one of the students and one of the guests (me) the day of the ball so they had cupcakes and a cake brought out which was so, so sweet and so, so unfortunate that I happened to be in the bathroom when they brought it out signing 'Happy Birthday.' Oh well, didn't stop me from eating three cupcakes later on!

It was a nice weekend and my birthday was definitely a special one that I'll remember. No pressure for next year, Miles! ;)

January 30, 2017

Finn Dowen

Little update on Finn

He started football recently. And by that I mean soccer. He uses both words, and the other day asked when he could play football and I said, "you already are" and he said, "no I mean real football." Ha.

He also came home with this incident report last week and Miles and I were cracking up at his name, Finn Dowen. I'm guessing he was asked his surname and he said his middle name, Daren, instead. But a five year old American saying 'Daren' to a British adult resulted in 'Dowen' instead. 

I volunteered at Finn's school last week for their weekly trip to "Forest School" where they bus out to the woods and get to explore and learn about the things they see in nature as well as build things (like the den seen in the picture). The kids wear their wellies (rainboots) and warm clothes, but the school provides little raincoats and rain trousers for all the kids. Forest School is just for a couple hours one day a week, but I love that it breaks up the regular classroom day and love that they get to just learn through playing and being in nature.

Finn seems to be adjusting a little better to this term of school than he did last term. He isn't as reluctant for me to leave in the morning when I drop him off and thankfully still has a smile on his face each day at pick up.

In other cute Finn news, last night he asked us if he could throw something in the bin (the trash) and he sometimes says 'zed' instead of 'Z' at the end of the alphabet. No accent changes yet, but here's hoping!


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.

. . . . . . . . . .

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!