Thursday, December 20, 2012

Week 14

Technically, we live in the busy metropolis of London, but the neighborhood in which we reside feels more like a quiet, quaint little village.   The word picturesque does not seem to do it justice.   Early Sunday morning, I snuck away for a walk through the cobble stone streets of Hampstead in attempt to capture some of the characteristics that make it so beautiful:
As soon as I step out the door, one sharp breath of crisp air immediately wipes away the sleep in my eyes.  The brilliant sun is just starting to peek over the eaves of buildings, streaming in at a low winter angle and catching the sparkle of the last bit of frost.  I pass by wearied dog owners in muddy wellies and parents in rumpled clothes awakened prematurely yet obediently chasing after their exuberant pets and scootering toddlers who are eager to blaze trails.  I am unclear as to who is in charge.  Beautiful grand entry doors smartly decorated in classic green wreaths and red bows catch my eye.  Mossy covered bricks everywhere I look echo the holiday colour scheme and I am struck by how perfect Christmas looks on England.  The clip clop rhythm of my leather boots connecting with uneven cobbles is soothing, vaguely reminiscent of the horses that must have once walked these same streets, but does not drown out the prominently beautiful chiming of bells bellowing out of huge old churches and  audible from every point of my 3 mile walk round town.  I walk by a few pubs and peer through the window.  Traditional Sunday roasts won't begin for another few hours still but the delicious smell of slowly cooked meats and savoury sides waft out through vents and linger in my nose.  The air is cold but I feel warm just looking at the wooden tables by the fireplace.  My tummy rumbles and I make a note to call for reservations as my pace quickens.  A few church services are letting out crowds of sweet little old ladies and families bundled in pea coats.  I return home humming "...bread of Heaven, bread of heaven feed me til I want no more . . " and look forward to spending the rest of the day doing some sightseeing in central London.  It's a perfect little place for us and one that someday our forever hometown will resemble.  Another time, another place . . . hell, another continent.  But for now, we truly want no more. IMG_3102 IMG_3104 IMG_3097
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Week 13

Recently, Liam and I have settled into a routine after I collect him from school consisting of a quick visit to nearby park with little school mate, 45 minute scoot home with little school mate and little school mate's mom, leisurely lunch at home, and some quiet playtime afterwards.  A nice routine, yes, and even better we are able to share this routine with another mom and son.  But, in California, after completing this early afternoon portion of the day, we would then be back outside by 3pm either in the rear garden, for a walk, or at the park with friends.  Some days, we would even head to a nearby trail and go for a little 30 minute hike.  I benefitted from that time outside just as much as Liam.  Here, however, by the time we gather ourselves enough to ponder going back out again, we look out and its dark.  Not to mention, cold.  Like, really cold.  Like frost on the windshields all day long cold.  With a midweek call from Liam’s school, “Umm....this is the second day Liam has shown up with bloodshot eyes . . . ummm . . . you may just want to get that one checked out . . . “ and a trip to the NHS to confirm pinkeye, I found myself feeling chained to our Flat more than ever this last week.  Stir crazy started to set in.  Winter.  Winter is upon us.  To make matters worse, last week while searching for something else on Google, I happened upon an article posted on various British news sites ironically entitled, “Why are British Children So Unhappy?”  Apparently, much concern arose from a table published by Unicef in 2007 rating the happiness of children from 21 economically advanced countries.  Sadly, UK children came in last.  According to various articles, it boils down to British parents feeling pressure to provide children with consumer goods over their own time and allowing too much time in front of the television, not enough time outside.  That last bit struck a chord with me.  One of my biggest concerns when we were discussing impending move to a location that actually has seasons was losing the ability to go outside each and every single day.  With Liam.  Because, usually by 3pm if we weren’t back outside, he was running head on toward the couch and hurling himself as hard as he could onto it like a linebacker.  Over.  And over.  Again.  No joke.  I won’t even talk about the additional convenience of needing no more than a hooded sweatshirt on most winter days.  So when Keegan asked me what I wanted to do this weekend, my bold reply?  “Hike.”  Get out the long underwear, the scratchy tights, and awful winter hat that makes me look at least 10 pounds heavier (realistically, I probably DO weigh 10 extra pounds after it's all on).  Take an extra 30 minutes to get Liam’s pouffy gear on.  I don’t care.  Let’s just get out of here!!!  And so off we went with heads of steam (literally) traipsing up the hill, breakneck pace, swooshing all the way in our snowman clothes.  Ummm . . . “Are you hungry?”  “Yes.”  Right.  Ummm . . . let’s just make a quick stop at, you know, coolest pub ever for ummmm . . . pre-hike lunch, yeah, and ummmm . . . pint of guinness, yeah, and ummmm . . . let’s sit by the fire, yeah, and ummmm . . . oh alright, maybe Liam could just play with our phone for a few minutes, yeah and ummmm . . . certainly, we have time for some Sticky Toffee Pudding anyone?!  Brilliant.  Crap.  Lunch is over.  Sun is going down.  Wait, weren’t we headed somewhere . . . oh yes . . . that’s right . . . HIKE!!  Let’s go!!  At any rate, once we finally got our heads, and stupid hats, back on straight and confiscated phone from Liam’s sticky little paws, we had a wonderful time exploring some trails up in the Heath.  Not even three steps onto the trail, I instantly felt that rush of adrenaline I have every time I find myself surrounded by trees.  I looked over at Liam with stick in hand and could see my enjoyment mirrored in his face.  Not even a mile from our Flat we were able to find a respite from the grind of dirty dishes, mind-numbing television, and endless Lego building and that is something EVERY one needs.  It may be freaking cold, but we are just going to have to force ourselves out the door most days . . . even if the sun is going down.  Happiness (and good photos) depends on it!

P.S.  Sticky Toffee Pudding is the bomb.  The End.

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Pinkeye may have provoked some cabin fever, but at least I worked a naptime out of it for both of us . . . something we have't done in months!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Week 12

I have realized over the past few weeks, I may have just been kidding myself:   

Extract our four year old from the only home, neighborhood, friends, and school he has ever known . . . eh, no problem.  Pack a small box of toys for him to keep and throw everything else, including beloved red bicycle, big green dinosaur pillow, and a basket full of the coolest train track pieces ever carelessly into storage without a second glance . . . eh, no problem.  Whisk ourselves away to the airport in a fury of goodbyes while Mommy is wiping away tears, Daddy is cursing under his breath about missing our plane, and the cats are wailing away inconsolably in their kennels . . . eh, no problem.  Come out on the other side ready to take on a new home, a new school, new friends, hell, a new bed, all completely unscathed AND keep that lovable grin on his face . . . nope, no problem at all.  Kids are SO adaptable.  Much more adaptable than adults really.  Liam is FINE.  As long as he has the constant and unchanging love of his parents, we can throw anything at him and he won’t even blink . . . 

Right.  Back to reality.  The crux of the matter, which somehow I have failed to realize all this time, is this:  Even if I talked to him until I was blue in the face, I could never fully know what is going on in the mind of that precious little boy.  He is four after all.  Why would I expect him to process things like I do.   I talk, I write, I take photos, I blog, Keegan would say I overanalyze, I would say I put my thoughts and experiences into perspective.  We are twelve weeks in and here I am still trying to wrap my brain around all of it really.  Liam?  He refuses to use the front toilet in our flat unless I am right outside the door because it’s “scary.”  He cries when we say goodbye at the school gate.  He clings to me irrationally at the supermarket and in department stores like I might vanish before his very eyes.  He threw inexplicable, uncharacteristic tantrum at the prospect of having a day out with his grandparents.  He comes home everyday and settles in for the rest of the afternoon, completely uninterested in leaving the house again and has extremely high expectations of my abilities as constant playmate (I am immediately remorseful for ever feeling annoyed by this fact as soon as I kiss him goodnight and he throws his little arms around my neck every single night and asks me to stay).  Otherwise he is the same old Liam and most times does have that lovable grin on his face.  “Do you miss your old school Liam?”  “No.”  Do you want to move back to California Liam?”  “No.”  “Oh, he’s just acting out, going through a phase, he’s fine....” we’ve thought and said out loud many a time.  But really, guess what Mom . . . you are still processing, HE is still processing . . . just not in any way that is obvious or verbal or . . . well . . . expected.  So when Liam finally did muster enough gumption this week to actually come out and say to me, “Mommy, I miss my stuff,” I almost cried for both of us right then and there, right in front of him.  Well, gosh buddy, we did leave a LOT of your stuff behind now didn’t we?!  I almost cried again, writing the bit above about said beloved red bicycle, thinking of that day, how he had one last ride down the driveway before the massive storage door slammed down in front of our eyes, covering up all evidence of a past life in sunny California.  I just can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like for him . . . such a MASSIVE thing happening to anyone, let alone someone so small, so sensitive, so impressionable.  Perhaps and hopefully, coming to such a poignant moment in which he was able to verbalize something as seemingly small as missing his stuff is in fact a huge turning point.  

Thankfully, the tears at the school gate seemed to have ceased.  After the Christmas Holiday, we have arranged for Liam to stay for lunch and playtime at school with the rest of his four year old buddies, in which, up until this point, he has had no interest whatsoever.  And then, of course, there are the new toys I have overcompensated purchased for under the tree that surely will serve as a timely distraction.

What all of this has to do with the photographs this week, I have no idea really.  It has just been weighing on my mind a lot lately.  It was just such an eye opener to realize that what is going on with him internally, with any child I suppose, comes out externally in all kinds of muddled up ways.  There is a meaning to all of the madness.  While of course, there is no road map to decipher all the possible reasons or combinations thereof for their external actions, at the very least, it somehow makes all of these 4 year old dramas struggles completely and utterly forgivable.  

And on that note, moving onto our day trip to Cambridge:
Behold, King's College Chapel ... easily the most beautiful church I have ever been inside ... comparing it to La Sagrada Familia would be like comparing apples to oranges so I am not counting that one.
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I am always pleasantly surprised by the things in which Liam is interested.  He wanted to go inside this church more than anything we did that day (aside from playing with my phone in the pub).  He was totally cute.  I let him light a candle and say a prayer for someone of his choice.  He chose Joseph, as in the Joseph, who apparently he has quite an affinity for as he recently chose to be Joseph in the school play.  He lit the candle and then asked me how to say a prayer for Joseph.  When I walked away, I heard him whisper, "Dear God, Thank you for Joseph.  Amen."  
Heart.  Melted.
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