Thursday, January 31, 2008

Near Death Whatever

Fans of Grey's Anatomy will appreciate the title of this blog. On Friday during the last part of our driving tour, we ventured off the beaten path onto a very narrow road just barely as wide as our spacious 4x4. As we carried along I started taking some video so you all could appreciate the windy nature of these Scottish back roads when all of a sudden... video
The jolt was so "violent" you can hear Addison crying for his upset cup in the backseat. The driver we encountered had to back up quite a few yards to find an area wide enough to let us pass along with the car that was directly behind us. He seemed unphased by the episode as evidenced by his friendly wave when we drove by him. It probably happens all the time.

Slains Castle

Dating back to the 16th century, Slains Castle has the dubious distinction of being the location to inspire Bram Stoker's Dracula, and even a cursory glance at the crumbling edifice and its precarious placement along the North Sea cliffs explains why. Located about 25 miles north of Aberdeen, it was a little difficult to find since it was completely unmarked, a feature I truly appreciated knowing that had this landmark been in the States we would have been greeted by a Dracula theme park complete with gift shop hawking kitschy vampire key chains and "I Vant to Suck Your Blood" t-shirts. The ruins are not maintained by any historical society unlike other Scottish castle ruins, such as Dunnottar, and therefore reaching them on foot, as there is no road out to the castle, entails a certain amount of risk heightened on the day we went there by high winds and thick mud. I was told by a local hotel proprieter from whom we asked directions that we could "try" to get the car out there but we were liable to get stuck as many before us had. We opted to photograph from afar especially with the two wee boys in tow. Despite the distance the ruins were breathtaking and left little doubt why they might incite terror. You can read more about Slains here on the wonderfully informative site Undiscovered Scotland.

A zoomed out view of the Castle and its surroundings with the North Sea just visible at the horizon.

The mud and what appear to be tracks left by optimistic tourists before us.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Birthday Driving Trip

For my birthday we hired a car on Friday and went driving along the northeast coast up towards Fraserburgh (pronounced frazerboro, as in it rhymes with razor and has boro tacked on at the end). So far the furthest north I had ever ventured was Peterhead, a fishing village about 30 miles north of here. The day dawned sunny and bright, perfect driving weather. I was eager to scope out Slains Castle, the ruined site and inspiration, if such is even the right term, behind Bram Stoker's Dracula. After winding our way along the pastoral if also perilous back roads of rural Scotland we successfully located the Castle, which warrants its own blog entry altogether.

Once we had found Slains we pulled alongside the road right where these sheep were grazing cliffside and ate our lunch staring in awed silence at the magnificent beauty around us.

These are ships sailing up to Peterhead. We didn't stop at Peterhead other than to pop into McDonald's and refuel on strawberry milkshakes. One guess whose idea.

In Fraserburgh we were reminded how ephemeral the weather here is. One minute it can be beautifully sunny and the next torrentially rainy. Just as we arrived at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, the clouds thickened and rain began baptizing our car with the usual Scottish blessing. We decided not to stop at the Museum but to push on a little further along the northern coast since the children were doing so well with the driving.

These boats were moored in a little town called Rosehearty. It was a quaint and totally picturesque village with houses built as close to the water as you can possibly imagine without them actually being in the water.

The further west we traveled, the rougher the weather became churning the sea into an angry brew that pounded the shoreline. You can really hear the wind in the video.

We made it to Aberdour (dour rhymes with sour) Beach, which was flanked by these amazing cliffs. The photography doesn't capture it at all, but I promise you the water was EMERALD!

Aberdour Beach was breathtaking, and if you look along the coast to the rock in the middle of the picture jutting out into the water, you will see a sea cave. All of the rest of the pictures are in the Fraserburgh 2008 photo album.

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A wee collection of video clips taken throughout the drive which show the incredibly diverse weather progression. Listen to that wind!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Calling All Philologians

On October 7, 2007 a non-profit website called http://www.freerice.com/ began donating 20 grains of rice for every correctly answered vocabulary word. The rice is donated to help end world hunger, a worthy cause indeed! A word of warning -- it is totally addictive.

The Blog Book

You may recall back in October, I did a post about my intention to self-publish each full year of blog material using a website called Blurb. I worked on the book feverishly for many weeks, editing, formatting, designing, so that the finished product could be ordered and printed in time for Christmas. I had no idea how it would turn out, but in my mind I had a vision of what I wanted it to look like -- a big, glossy coffee table book full of the memories that made the first year here so magnificent. When we arrived at my parents' house back in December, the box from Blurb was waiting for us. Trey and I could hardly contain our excitement, and the volumes (we ordered enough for gifts) within were well worth the work and the wait. The photos here hardly do it justice, but it is a full-sized, 200+ page book with a beautiful dust jacket proudly displaying two of our favorite King's College photos. I wish I had the resources to send each and every one of my faithful readers a copy. It was a surreal experience seeing my words in print, and it allowed me to cross off at least one item from my lifetime "To Do" list, write a book.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jersey over the Years

One of the projects Trey worked on while we were in Atlanta was clearing out the attic during which time he found his old basketball jersey from his high school days. Despite the passage of time, it was still in pretty good condition. Trey is far too modest to share this, but he was MVP in 8th grade and used to get out and practice shooting hoops in his driveway while it was still dark out in the morning. Addison, ever the ham, enjoyed parading around in it although it didn't quite fit. Perhaps we have another basketball star in the making.

Trey graduated from Dunwoody High School among whose illustrious alumni is numbered Ryan Seacrest.

The Bat

The Sunday before Christmas Trey and I were casually chatting by my parents' hearth. Davis was down for bed. Addison was playing happily in the living room. The rest of the family was at evening church. All of a sudden out of the corner of our eyes Trey and I simultaneously spotted something crawling along the inside of the fireguard. My first reaction was that it was a mouse, then a rat, but it was clearly too big for a mouse and lacked a tail. We then realized we were dealing with a bat that had no doubt found its hapless way down the chimney flu. My first, and obviously sane reaction, was to freak. Trey was far more levelheaded than I. My dad is the king of removing unwanted animals, so I knew he would know what to do. Sadly, he was not reachable by cell phone as the service was just about to start. I left a message, and then Trey and I set about the task of containment. Trey popped the screen a few times so that the bat took refuge on the back wall of the hearth. We then used clear packing tape to tape the firescreen to the brick hearth, preventing any possibility of escape. Then we placed the coffee table against it for added security. Addison was fascinated by it all and wanted us to "kill it."

When my parents got home, Mom and I found peaceful "safety" in an upstairs closed bedroom. Trey helped my dad with the removal, which was as simple as opening the firescreen slightly and enclosing the bat in a towel. The bat was then freed outside. Whew! So I have learned that the bravery of delivering a child in your living room does not translate into the bravery of animal removal. That's fine by me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Montezuma's Revenge

If you're not sure what it is, Google it. While technically it's not that dreaded disease, it's its UK cousin. All the men in our house are or have been sick. Not sure if it's a stomach virus or a result of travel, a very common occurence after a longhaul journey. I have so far been spared. Please pray that that continues and that all the men in our house recover! I am off to deliver some papers up to the University for Trey since he is the latest casualty.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Baptism

One of the highlights of our trip back to the US was Davis's baptism. Since he was born, we had wanted to have him baptized back at our home church,Tenth Presbyterian. In a church the size of Tenth, baptisms are scheduled far in advance on specific dates, but in God's happy providence the December date coincided with our trip home. On December 23rd, Davis received the sacrament in the same church where his older brother and I were baptized. It is amazing to see the covenant in action in such a tangible way. Here are a few pictures from the service, the rest of which are in a new photo album entitled Davis's Baptism. Also, Davis wore the sweater that I had knitted for him last spring. Amazingly, it fit him perfectly!

The baptismal sweater.

Balcony shot prior to the baptism.

Davis's baptism by Dr. Phil Ryken.

Davis, true to form, sucking his thumb throughout.

Mama and D after church.

The Tenth pulpit bedecked for Christmas.

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Two People Shouldn't Be Allowed...

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...to have this much fun," Trey said to me as we were driving to the Atlanta airport on Wednesday. I laughed hard but had no real idea how true his words would prove. I can honestly say that the 24 hours -- yes, folks, that's 24 total hours door-to-door -- it took to get from Trey's mom's house in Atlanta to ours in Aberdeen were horrendous, but the good news, praise God, is we made it safe and mostly sound.

It all started when big fat white flakes of snow started falling minutes after we arrived at the airport (see video). Atlanta is a city ill-equipped to handle any amount of snow and we should have known it would cause problems. It took the clerk behind the desk 45 minutes to process our boarding passes. Due to the airline's involuntary re-route (the nice way of saying we would be waiting 9 1/2 hours in Gatwick against our will), one leg of our flight had a glitch with Davis being listed as an adult passenger rather than an infant lap child. Who would've thought that this airline error would take 45 minutes to correct?

We boarded a little late due to the weather but still nothing that a good tail wind couldn't fix once we were airborne. Ah, how wrong we were. Once we boarded the plane, we sat on the Atlanta runway for FOUR HOURS waiting to be de-iced. You heard me correctly. There were 25 planes in front of us and the 4 de-icing trucks took 4 hours to get to us. I have never in my life, and I have flown MANY times, waited that long on a plane. The even worse news was that behind us were another 50 planes waiting to be de-iced. At that rate, the last plane was looking at an 8 hour wait for take-off.

The flight itself was blissfully uneventful. Both boys slept about 6 of the 7 1/2 hours. We got into Gatwick 3 1/2 hours later than was projected, of course, due to the de-icing fiasco.In God's merciful kindness a gentleman a la the movie The Terminal (see diminutive Indian, second from the right) was waiting for us as soon as we de-planed with a little white airport car to get us to our connecting flight. We had 2 fairly immobile children, one large diaper bag, Trey's computer case that had both our laptops and Addison's DVD player, and a small black suitcase with a TON of Trey's research (the bag must have weighed 30 lbs.). Since the airline would not allow us to gate check our double buggy, we had no idea how we were going to get around Gatwick airport without it. In retrospect I am amazed at how well we were taken care of. It was as though this man with his little cart and funny accent were an angel sent by God just to care for us a little on this hard, hard journey. He guided us through customs and security as easy as pre-9/11 days. He was one of those guys who knew everybody and was loved by all alike. He was our "in" and he made it his mission to look after us even so far as to arrange for us to get a ride to our gate many hours later when it was time to board despite him being off shift.

We waited out the remainder of our time in Gatwick in a little area that looked like the set of The Terminal. There were shops and restaurants. Trey and I took turns manning the children. I lost count of how many times I rode the escalator with Addison just trying to keep him happy and occupied. Davis conked at one point and slept for about 40 minutes on Trey. As the hours wore on, Addison got more and more delirious and by the time we boarded our connecting flight to Aberdeen he had lost the plot (a great UK expression for totally losing it). He conked for about half the flight, but once he woke up, it was tantrums and whining the rest of the way. By this point, Trey and I were done. We were going on 2 hours of sleep in the last 30 hours and just wanted to GET HOME. Somehow we managed to get 7 suitcases, 3 carry-ons, a double buggy, 2 adults, and 2 children into a small taxi van at the airport and landed on our doorstep at 7:30pm GMT, exactly 24 hours from the time we had left the day before. Our day was not done, however. I thought that as tired as the boys were, we could put them in jammies and send them to bed right away. Oh, how wrong I was. Despite their delirious fatigue, they BOTH fought sleep and cried off and on for 2 1/2 hours. Finally, around 10 we got them both up and did our best to settle them down. They fell asleep shortly thereafter.

Trey and I both are walking around today like zombies from lack of sleep. I think the last time I felt this tired was after giving birth. All my men are napping right now (Addison's supposed to be napping but I can hear him singing to himself), and I am taking a few minutes to myself to blog. How I have missed it! I literally sat down and started a list of blogs I need to do over the next few days to get all caught up.

It is so good to be home. Our trip was jam-packed with wonderful activities, visits, laughs, and good cheer, but there truly is no place like home. As I flipped the light on in my kitchen last night, my eyes welled with tears. It all looked just like I had left it. Despite the chill in the air from unused radiators and a faint, unlived in smell, our sweet little house on Orchard Road was waiting for us and it felt as though it were welcoming us back.

Three of our little foursome at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport before our flight.

The boys, still happy and rested at this point.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Heading Home

Today we fly home, home to Aberdeen, and it feels so good to say home. Our time here with family and friends has watered our spirits and invigorated us for the months to come, but we have delightfully and more fully discovered while away that Aberdeen is our home in every sense of the word. We love our house and street. We love the friends we've made and the community we've become a part of. We love our church and are refreshed and challenged by the faithful exposition of God's Word there each week. We love the country with its musical brogue and friendly character. It is a beautiful, soul-stirring land full of rugged peaks and verdant pastures. There is no place in this world I'd rather be right now than Aberdeen.

I can't wait to share more in-depth all of our good times back in Philadelphia and Atlanta. Prepare yourselves for a blogging torrent over the next week or so, and in the meantime we covet your prayers for our journey, which includes a mind-numbing 9 1/2 hour layover in Gatwick.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Southern Accent

Who would've thought that in a year and a half's time in Scotland without picking up so much as a rolled "r" Addison would spend a mere 3 weeks in Atlanta and start talking like a Southerner? The best example of it is the way he says the word "down". The closest phonetic transcription is something like "day-own". It's adorable and totally hilarious to me, the Philly girl. We've tried to capture it on video but it's hard because if you say to him, "Addison, say down," he repeats it in the accent you use, so I have to mimic (poorly, I'm sure) a Southern accent to get him to say it on cue. However, in his ordinary speech, he's using it regularly, a virtual bi-lingual or should I say multi-accented child. Once we get home, I'll start posting some of the video so you can hear for yourself.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Addisina

The Addison stories never stop, and here's a great, embarrassing one from when we got the boys' pictures taken. Many of you know that Trey loves to coin nicknames for the kids. Addison's right now are Addisina and Sweetie Baby, Baby Sweetie (not to be confused with his brother Baby Sweet Sweet). Addison has heard himself called Addisina, in jest mind you, so many times that when asked his name now he replies, "Addisina!" It happened while waiting for our turn at Portrait Innovations. An older lady watching her granddaughter asked him his name, and he proudly announced, "Addisina!" I wanted to crawl under the lego table he was sitting at and disappear. "No," I laughed it off quickly, "His name's Addison." Great. The grandmother must think we're weirdos. At least he didn't give her the the full name, which he also sometimes does now, Addison Edward Holloway the Fird (in honor of his daddy's name).

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Christmas Day

Now, more than two weeks since Christmas, I'm finally posting our pictures. I had wonderful intentions of blogging every day during our five week trip, but I've found that the desire and the reality are two different things. So my apologies for the lateness of this post. The Christmas day photos are in the Christmas Day 2007 album. Here's our little holiday elf in his jj's (Addison's word for pajamas) right before present time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Long Awaited Portraits

I feel like I've spent the last year and a half figuring out how to get reasonably priced professional photography of Addison and Davis. After much research and a few near attempts, we decided just to wait until we came back to the US. Our initial intention was to go to Target, but we waited to get pictures done until we came down to Atlanta since we had more time here only to discover that the Target here doesn't have a portrait studio. We were all set to get the boys pictures taken at Babies'R'Us instead when we happened upon a little studio called Portrait Innovations. Their prices were excellent, schedule wide open, and best of all pictures would be done in 30 minutes once we selected them.

With some trepidation due to vague recollections of the PixiFoto fiasco still lingering in the recesses of my mind, we took the boys to get their pictures. I had ZERO expectations, which was probably good, because I came out completely floored by the utter success of the outing. I've included here a little slideshow of my favorites (the photographer took 93 pictures all of which I have on CD). The entire collection is now in the Holloway Boys Portraits 2008 album for you to enjoy.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Call for Prayer

I have a childhood friend from back in my homeschooling days who needs your prayers right now. Tricia has cystic fibrosis and while waiting for a double lung transplant discovered that she and her husband were expecting their first child. Given her CF, pregnancy carries enormous risks to her and the baby. She is currently in the hospital in very serious condition awaiting the recommendation of her doctors about delivering the baby very soon by C-section. Praise God, their little baby girl has reached 24 weeks, the age of viability. Nevertheless, the situation is dire. Tricia's husband Nathan keeps a very up-to-date blog. Here are a few of the things that they ask you to pray for:

for Tricia
- mucus that seems stuck to come up more easily
- strength, still real weak
- O2 needs to go down
- infection to go away
- insulin levels stay where they need to begin weight
- get more sleep
- that lungs aren't further damaged as time goes on
- that my body will be strong enough for a surgery when the baby is delivered
- no complications as a result from surgery.

for the baby
- meeting taking place tomorrow at 8am by many important doctors looking out on behalf of Tricia and the baby and coming up with a plan
- steroid shot given to baby tomorrow, that they work effectively on helping baby be prepared for delivery
- baby to gain and grow properly
- baby not to be harmed while I am receiving these antibiotics
- making decisions about timing of delivery

Despite the years since Tricia and I have been in touch, I was able to find out about her situation through the networking reach of Facebook. I believe in the strong power of prayer, and whoever of my readers I can reach through this blog, I implore you to join us in praying for God's grace and mercy on Tricia, Nathan, and their baby. Thank you.