Recent Travels

Recently for Spring Break, I went to England and Scotland! Most people travel to hot and sunny places for their vacations and come back bronzed or sunburned, but not me for this trip. I went to chilly and cloudy places! I think I actually came back paler than when I left! 🙂

Anyhow, I have an old high-school friend who now lives in England, my pen-pal since about 1990 lives in England (and I’ve adopted her mother as my own British “mum”), and I have a long-lost cousin who moved to Scotland with her husband over 15 years ago. Therefore, cold and rainy weather aside, the obvious destination choice was Europe!

I’ve been to England before with my husband, a friend, and her husband two years ago, and we also went to France. I was 7 months pregnant with my son at the time, but did just fine. It was such a great trip! We got to be a part of my friend Suzanne’s beautiful wedding. Fast forward to now, and Suzanne and her husband have an adorable baby girl for us to visit!

For this trip, my cousin Jen joined us, but my husband did not. Jen had never been to Europe before, so her enthusiasm was contagious! She’s also super-organized, which helped make planning a piece of cake.

Rather than write out a long, boring post about it, I’m going to highlight some of the more awesome parts of the trip and include some photos. I recommend reading this blog on a desktop computer so the photos are easier to see. I’m also including some links if you feel so inclined as to want to get more information about some of the places I visited. Happy travels!

Rosetta Stone

One of the oldest and most amazing things I saw in England is the Rosetta Stone. It’s housed at the British Museum.

grizzly bear

Over in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, I found this native Californian, the grizzly bear.

Sunday roast

I’m all about food, so I had to document some of the things I ate. Here is a typical Sunday roast that we had on Easter: roast beef with brown gravy, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding.

Portobella Market street

This is part of the famous Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, London. It had so many cool shops! There were antiques, cafés, touristy junk, clothing boutiques, handmade jewelry… We didn’t even get to see all of it, there was just so much!

Hogwarts Castle

We got to tour the studio/sets where much of the Harry Potter movies were filmed! It was beyond awesome! So many props, sets, scale models, costumes… I geeked out thinking about how the actors had been there!

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And now for Scotland! Here are my cousins, Toni and Jen, with me in the red. We’re on top of Calton Hill, with the gorgeous view of some of Edinburgh behind us. Toni and her husband, Dave, showed us around to many incredible places, some well-known and some a little off the beaten path.

St. Giles' Cathedral

This is St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s truly beautiful and magnificent, both inside and out.

Royal Mile

Here I am, backpacking my way around Edinburgh! Okay, so I only had the backpack on for maybe 20 minutes. I’m standing on the Royal Mile. There are so many neat shops, restaurants, and points of historical interest along here.

Portobella Beach

This is Portobello Beach and Promenade. I went for a run here! I’ve made it a personal goal of mine to go jogging in every country I’ve ever been. Scotland now makes 5 countries.

Holyrood Abbey

Here we have a portion of the wall at Holyrood Abbey. I love finding things like this to photograph. There’s something haunting and sad about how it’s in ruins, yet the structure itself is pretty impressive and awe-inspiring to still be standing there after all of these centuries.

I took over 200 photographs, so you can imagine how difficult it was to be able to condense my trip down to these ten. It truly was a blessing to be in such beautiful cities as Oxford, London, and Edinburgh! Their histories date so much farther back than ours here in the U.S.  There’s something fantastic about being around all of the history and buildings and people and food and culture…

And in case you were wondering, yes, I tried haggis while I was in Scotland. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t say it was great, either. I also tried whisky (they don’t spell it with the e) and ate the most amazing Scottish shortbread. Shout-out to Pinnies and Poppy Seeds for being so kind as to hold onto my backpack for me so I could go sight-see comfortably, and shout-out to Toni for taking us there to enjoy the delicious shortbread! In England, I tried guinea fowl, and it tasted like chicken but also like turkey. I also got to sample a variety of English cheeses that were delicious!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please click the “Like” button below or leave me some love in the comments. Thanks!

Sweet Delicious Air

Have you ever caught a whiff of a breeze scented by citrus blossoms? It’s quite possibly the lightest, most heavenly sweet aroma you’ll ever smell.

We live on a third of an acre and have a pretty big backyard for being in the city. It was one of the main reasons why my husband and I bought our house. Over the years, we’ve planted a number of fruit trees to go with the citrus and nut trees that were already established here. The nectarine tree is my favorite; I love fresh, juicy nectarines off of our tree every summer. Their bright reddish-peachy color, their fresh flavor, sweet juices running down my chin and hands as I bite into one that’s been ripened by the early summer sun…

My second favorite would be the citrus trees, especially this time of year. We’ve got a Meyer lemon, an orange, and a grapefruit tree. The fragrance from their blossoms is absolutely divine! It’s hard to put into words, but being a word-nerd, I’ll try. When I step outside, it’s like I can almost taste the sweetness of the air. It’s not a thick, syrupy sweetness. It’s a light, fresh, aromatic sweetness.

It makes me think of spring. Fresh breezes and buzzing bees. Beautiful colors of flowers. Warm, bright sunshine. Soft grass and puffy, white clouds. A sense of newness.

It makes me think of love. The lightness of love. The soothing comfort of love. The sweetness of love. The heady joy of love. The intoxicating, sensual desire of love.

It never seems like the citrus blossoms last all that long, and after they’ve withered and fallen off for the season, I typically forget all about their amazing smell. When spring and the blossoms return next year, and the breeze stirs up their delicate fragrance, I’ll be blessed to have this same delicious, renewing, incredible experience.

 

 

A Day Off

So an unusual thing happened today. I took the day off. The whole day off. Off from work. Off from kids. Off from responsibilities. Off from everything!

Let me back up my story a little so you know how this day off came to be. Besides bringing home the usual art work or school work, my daughter will occasionally bring home an illness from her preschool. About three weeks ago, she brought home a cold. A few days later, we all had caught it, too. The four of us (husband, two children, and myself) all sounded so awful with our cacophony of sneezes, coughs, sniffles, and general whining about being sick.

Slowly, everyone recovered one after another from this cold. Everyone except…you guessed it. ME. The mom of the house.

By this time, which was about a week ago, I had already figured that my cold was done and over with, but that an awful sinus infection had taken its place. A trip to the doctor yesterday confirmed my self-diagnosis and a number of medications were prescribed. I was put on a anti-inflammatory steroid, an antibiotic, a maximum strength pseudoephedrine decongestant, Mucinex, and my allergy pill.

That was all alarming enough, but the real shocker was when she told me that I needed to take a day or two off of work to “rest.” Rest? What’s that? In as light of a way as I could, I reminded her that I am a mom, a wife, and a teacher. I don’t have any time to rest. She was not as light with her response. She reminded me that our bodies need rest, especially when we are sick. This miserable illness might take longer to go away even with all of the medications if I didn’t give myself a little rest and relaxation. Well that did it. I did not want to be sick any longer than necessary!

So, I took today off. Let me tell you, it’s been a really long time since I was last sick enough to need a day off.  I still got the kids dressed, fed, and off to the babysitter and to school in the morning, but after that, nothing of my usual busy routine for the next seven, blissful, relaxing hours.

The house was so quiet. I had my breakfast and hot Moroccan mint tea in silence at the table. I watched an amusing movie called Sing Street on Netflix. I read some of a library book that I’ve renewed already twice and therefore, really need to finish soon. I went to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant and ordered a delicious chicken pho for my lunch. I sat outside in the back yard with my dogs to enjoy the sunshine. I washed a few dishes and tidied up the kitchen. I tried to take a nap, but my frequent coughing didn’t help. I made some mental notes for this blog post. I did not think of work or of bills or of anything that required too much effort. I rested. My doctor, if she’s reading this, should be nodding her head in approval.

One day of rest isn’t going to miraculously make me better, but I feel good right now. It’s just about 8:30 pm, the kids are in bed, my husband isn’t home yet, and I will eventually need to start planning for tomorrow. Things like lunches for my daughter and myself, lesson plans for my students, outfits for my kids, which bills to pay, what room of the house needs the most cleaning, tomorrow’s dinner, etc. You know: the typical, routine things that can sometimes stress us out, weigh us down, and in my case, make us stay sick longer than we want.

While I know it might not be easy for you, may I suggest that all of you overworked and stressed out parents take a day off if you can? It might make you feel a little guilty at the luxury of it at first, as it did for me, but we really do need to take care of ourselves. At the end of the day you’ll feel rested and ready to face tomorrow. Good night.

 

Small Victories

Sometimes, being a mom is just so dang difficult! If you’ve read last week’s post (titled Just Do Your Best), you’ve seen that I am exhausted these days. After having talks with some of my fellow mama friends, we’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes it’s the small victories that help us to get through each day. It’s worth it to recognize these small victories and celebrate them, especially when times feel tough.

These small victories can be just about anything, and they should remind you that you’re a great mom and to hang in there! Feel free to add any of your own small victories in the comments section. Thanks!

  • You got dinner on the table before 7 pm? Wooo!
  • They might still be in the dryer instead of their dresser drawers, but your children’s clothes are washed, dried, and ready to be worn.
  • Your house-plants are mostly alive, even if they are looking a little thirsty.
  • If you can get at least one of your children into bed on time, that’s a small victory to celebrate!
  • Valentines for your kid’s classmates were purchased a month in advance just so you wouldn’t forget about them? Smart thinking!
  • Target.com offers free shipping if you use their REDcard for online purchases, plus you get 5% off your purchase! You never have to leave your house for diapers, wipes, etc again!
  • You achieved a time-management victory if you were able to sort through the mail while the baby took a nap.
  • If you napped while the baby napped, then that’s a self-care victory , which is so necessary when you have kids.
  • You stashed some crayons away in your purse for “just in case” and sure enough, you ended up needing them recently.
  • Singing silly songs with your daughter as you drive her to school means you spent quality time with her.
  • Good news if you were able to take your dog for a quick walk: you got some exercise and fresh air! Bonus points if it was a sunny day, because then you also got some Vitamin D!
  • My cousin reminded me about the importance of just being there for your kids as a small victory. Before bed, she looks forward to talking with her son about their day, with no TV or cell phones being a distraction.
  • Hearing your child say, “I love you, Mama” is definitely a victory.
  • Finding out that your child did the right thing even when you weren’t around is a major victory! ❤

Just Do Your Best

These days, it feels like I have a new mantra:

Just do your best, Andrea.

When you forgot about a library book and ended up having to pay an overdue fine once you finally returned it… just do your best.

When you are too tired to make dinner, so now it’s leftovers two nights in a row… just do your best.

When the internet bill got paid late because you misplaced it under a mountain of junk on your desk at home… just do your best.

When you get home and find that the dog has pooped inside the house because you didn’t remember to take her out this morning… just do your best.

When the pancakes you made for your daughter’s breakfast scorched because you had to go change your baby boy’s diaper which soaked through to his clothes… just do your best.

When you’re a lousy friend and don’t even have the energy to send a “hello” text… just do your best.

When report cards are due at your work and you haven’t started filling them out yet… just do your best.

When you realize you forgot to give the cashier a coupon for an item you bought a few days ago… just do your best.

When you go to sleep at night and realize you haven’t praised God that day for your blessings… just do your best.

When your kids are counting on you to be a good mama but you just want to hide in the garage with a glass of wine or some chocolate…or both… just do your best, Andrea.

A Christmas Emergency

♪♪ One little Emmy playing on the bed. She fell down and gashed her head. A trip to the emergency room and the doctor said, “She’ll need 6 staples in her head.” ♪♪

So yep, that was how our Christmas turned out yesterday. We had gone to church in the morning as usual, and then opened gifts after we had breakfast. Later in the afternoon, we went over to my in-laws’ house for more festivities and family time. Emily was pillow-fighting on a bed with some cousins and hit her head on the headboard.

My husband and I took her to the emergency room and by then, thankfully the bleeding had stopped. Our brother-in-law and niece came by with some Christmas dinner for us, which was very much appreciated (thanks Keith and Victoria)! We were all hungry, and we took it as a good sign that Emily was, too.

Only one parent was allowed in with the patient, so my husband claimed it. I felt so useless and helpless as I had to remain in the waiting area and not be by my daughter’s side. I distracted myself by texting my husband for updates and by people-watching, wondering about all of the various ailments, maladies, injuries, etc that were coming and going through the doors. While there were plenty of open seats around me, it still felt like quite a number of emergencies to be happening on a major holiday.

I’d been in that same emergency room twice before. The first was when my brother died. They allowed us all in rather quickly because he was near the end. The other time was when I was in labor with my son. By then, my contractions were already 4 minutes apart, so they got me in and set up in the maternity ward rather quickly, as well. And now I’ve been there on Christmas, and it was not a quick trip.

My poor little girl ended up needing 6 staples put in the gash on the back of her head. From what my husband told me, he said that the worst part for Emily was getting the numbing injection, rather than the staples themselves! Apparently, she told him that it felt like there was “lava” on her head. The ER doctor didn’t have to shave any of Emily’s hair off, and that’s another relief. She’ll have to go to her pediatrician in a week to get the staples removed and then she’ll have an interesting scar and story to tell about it for the rest of her life. (And as a side-note, my husband has a scar on the back of his head in almost the same spot from when he injured himself when he was a child.)

So about 4 hours after the injury happened, she was released from the hospital, and we were back at my in-laws’ to eat, drink, open presents, and be grateful that it wasn’t too severe of an emergency situation. My dear Emily was showing off her battle wound, joking with her cousins, and still had the joy of Christmas in her heart. ❤

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! Wishing you a Happy New Year, as well!

Love

I was thinking about love the other day, and what a wondrous thing it is. The archaeologist in me wonders where the human race would be without love and who the first humans were to label it. Love is not necessary for our survival, yet it’s so essential to us that I don’t think we can exist without it.

Love is such an enigmatic emotion. It makes irrational decisions seem rational, causes everything in the world to seem so much brighter and more beautiful, reduces us to an empty shell of a human being when our heart gets broken, prompts us to go above and beyond the limits imposed on us, often happens when we least expect it, exposes our vulnerabilities, and is one of the most wonderful and damning forces of the human experience.

To be in love (like honest to goodness, my world was shaken, liquid sunshine pouring through my veins and straight into my soul kind of love) is a blessing. It all makes sense, and none of it makes sense.

And then there’s a mother’s love. I look at my children and my heart swells. I can feel warmth radiating out of my chest. The love I have for them surpasses anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. It’s a selfish prayer to have a long life so that I can be there with them.

It goes beyond merely wanting them to be happy and healthy and safe. I would give up my last breath for them to have one more.  The sacrifices I have to make in my own life are so that my kids can have a great life. The funny thing is that they’ll never know the extent and depth of my love because try as I might, I won’t ever be able to express it fully.

I figured this out when I became a mother. My own mom and I would always go back and forth with the “I love you more.” “No, I love you more.” One day, my mom said, “I love you most.” Once I gave birth to my daughter, and then to my son, I understood what my mother meant. The greatest love I’ll ever get to feel is the love I have for my children.

So to Emily and Logan: I love you most. ❤

 

I Do Not Feel Like Super Mom

It is past the baby’s nap time. He doesn’t like pacifiers, and I do not want to be a human pacifier. He is screaming his head off in his crib.

I do not feel like Super Mom.

My daughter caught a cold from someone in her class. Her nose is drippy and I am trying to teach her how to blow it. She’s crying because her throat hurts and she doesn’t understand that it will take a few days to start feeling better.

I do not feel like Super Mom.

The dishes are piled up in the sink. My computer desk is a mess. I think my dog went poo somewhere in my house, but for the life of me, I cannot find anything but the smell. Maybe my daughter hid one of her brother’s dirty diapers under the couch.

I do not feel like Super Mom.

I’ve been bringing home students’ papers from my job just to try to stay on top of all the grading I have to do. My husband wants to talk about his Robotics team, but I don’t have the energy or focus to listen.

I do not feel like Super Mom.

I forgot about some laundry that I had washed a couple of days ago. It’s been sitting in the washing machine and now it smells like mildew. I’ll have to wash it all over again. California is in a severe drought. I’m out of laundry detergent.

I do not feel like Super Mom.

My daughter just handed me a drawing. She’s explaining that the figures are her baby brother, herself, and me. She drew a big smile on her face because she’s so happy that I am her Mama, she drew her brother with his arms up because he knows I will give him a big hug when he wakes up, and she drew a big heart on me because she says it’s filled with love.

I am back to being Super Mom.

Baptism and Birth Stories

Our son was baptized today! Logan was a good boy and didn’t cry or fuss too much during the ceremony, nor when the water was poured over his head. He gave the people around us some adorable grins. We used my husband’s baptismal candle from when he was baptized as a baby. And Logan looked too stinkin’ cute in his little baptism outfit! The Godparents did a great job selecting it and hosting the brunch reception afterward. ❤

baptism6

Want to know something kind of neat? I was baptized in that church when I was a baby. My daughter was baptized in that church when she was a baby. And now my son is baptized in that church when he is a baby, and by the same deacon who baptized my daughter! Full circle.

My sister-in-law, who is due any day now with her first baby, attended the baptism. Bless her heart! I’ve been giving her advice left and right, and she has been too kind to tell me to mind my own business. 🙂 (Krystal, I promise that there’s some wisdom in all of it!) Anyhow, I was talking to her about birth and how it’s the most wonderful joy she will ever experience.

I remember my daughter’s moment of birth a little better than my son’s, which is strange since she was born almost 5 years ago and he was born not quite a year ago.  When Emily was born, she looked so frail that I just wanted to hold her right away. Her first little cries were such a beautiful, joyous sound. Even now, thinking about those little cries makes me smile and makes me get teary eyed. I remember the first thing the nurse said about her was a comment about how she had such beautiful eyelashes. I smile about that now, but at the time I just wanted to know that she was healthy. It hadn’t even dawned on me at that moment that I had bravely and successfully just given birth (without an epidural!), but rather, it was such a tremendous blessing to be meeting my daughter for the first time, this tiny person that was all mine.

As for Logan’s birth, I remember that even though I was having a quick labor, I wasn’t really pushing all that hard. I was given a shot of terbutaline to slow down my intense contractions (again, no epidural) and my doctor made a comment that it might take a few more hours to deliver my son. I looked at the clock, saw that it was around 8:30 pm, and decided I had better give it my all if I wanted to have a September baby! With an oxygen mask on my face (I needed one when I had Emily, as well.) and my husband by my side (sorry I bit your arm, Ramon), I ignored the pain (it really hurt), took deeper breaths, and focused. Logan was born at 8:44 pm on September 30.

Growing Up

It’s bittersweet for me to say that Emily will be starting preschool in less than two weeks. She is so excited! I am a mess. I’m excited for her, but also a mix of amazed, worried, proud, sad, eager…

Being a teacher, I’ve always heard parents marvel at how quickly their child has grown up. I never gave it much thought until my daughter turned 4, when I realized that it would soon be her turn to start school. She missed the birthday cutoff to attend last year, so now this is it. Now it’s my turn to marvel.

Buying the school supplies was surprisingly fun! More for me than for her, I think. 🙂 There’s something almost magical about a new box of crayons or pack of lined paper. They hold so much promise for learning and the school adventures to come. Anybody else feel that way?…..Anybody?……

Without a doubt, she’s going to love learning so many new things in Junior Kindergarten! She’s one smart cookie, if I do say so myself. But still, I worry she might not fit in, or she might be too headstrong, or that she’ll learn the hard truth that not everyone knows how to play nicely. It’s the age-old dilemma of wanting to release her into the world, and yet keep her safe and sound in the comforts of our home.

One bonus is that she will be attending junior kindergarten at the school where I teach 3rd grade. I can sort of keep an eye on her, all the while chanting, “I will not be a helicopter mom. I will NOT be a helicopter mom” in my head repeatedly. I don’t expect any special treatment, but if you’re reading this and you work with me, please keep an eye on my dear little girl, too. Thanks.