Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dear Heavenly Father

There are certain milestones that don't ever make it into the pre-printed baby books. One of them happened tonight. Addison prayed all by himself for the very first time. The last part of the bedtime routine is prayer, and usually Trey or I lead the boys in a simple one. Tonight after I finished, Addison said, "Mama, I want to pray too." This is how it went:

"Dear Heavenly Fadder, fank you for today. Fank you for playing wif Davis and sharing toys, and watching duh news wif Daddy. I love you. Dear Heavenly Fadder, allmen."

I was left quite speechless and more than a little misty-eyed.

One Misty, Moisty Morning

For his third birthday, Addison received from his Aunt Christy and Uncle Barry Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever. It's a treasure trove of various stories and old English nursery rhymes, which Addison has taken to memorizing thanks to his father, who has exhibited tremendous enthusiasm in reciting these silly ditties every evening. For your viewing pleasure, here is a dramatic recitation of one of his favorites, oh so appropriate for Aberdeen.

One misty, moisty, morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
There I met an old man
All clothed in leather
All clothed in leather,
With a cap under his chin.
How do you do? And how do you do? And how do you do again?
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The Dangerous Crankies

We have some visitors. If you look out our kitchen window you can see two cranes just beyond the rooftops. Trey obligingly took some photos of them yesterday from our loft skylight enabling you to see the white steel structure they are working on. They've been here for several weeks working on the new University of Aberdeen sports stadium a couple of blocks away. When Addison first discovered them he squealed with delight one morning during breakfast, "Look, Mama! A cranky. And another cranky!" (except another is pronounced anudder) Cranky, you ask in bewilderment? Cranky the Crane is a character on the Island of Sodor who taunts and teases poor little Thomas the Train. Yes, in his exuberance, my son thinks cranes are actually called crankies. This leads me to his next latest question, "Mama, are they dangerous?" He asks me this regularly throughout the day about the most random items -- the vacuum cleaner, a banana peel. My brilliant reply has been, "All machines are a little dangerous," which obviously doesn't explain the dangers of banana peels, I realize, but does explain most other things. He also confuses the kinds of danger posed. For example, he's said to me, "Mama, the cars are dangerous. They will burn you." Well, not exactly, but close.

Back to the crankies. They are working on the construction of a £23 million regional sports center sponsored by the University of Aberdeen in association with the City Council. You can read more about it here. Construction should be complete in early 2009.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Picnic at the Park

Ethan, Addison, and Davis on the tire swing.

Today I took the boys along with a friend and her son to one of the parks down by the beach. The weather was clear and sunny with little wind, a perfect spring day. We packed a picnic lunch and headed out with our buggies. The boys had a wonderful time exploring all the playground equipment and running after each other. I got some wonderful photos of them which really captured the colorful setting. The rest have been added to the Spring 2008 album.

I put Davis's hood up to help keep the sun off his head. I need to get the kid a hat!

I just love the vibrant colors in this photo.



Putting sand on the slide. Isn't that what it's there for?

It may look like a pool, but those boats are dry-docked. I'm not sure if they fill it with water in the summer or not. It was actually a great area to keep the kids "contained".

Just beyond those bushes is the North Sea.

Marischal College behind us.

Grape hyacinths are everywhere right now. I love them!

The Cheese Stands Alone

Yesterday Davis stood himself upright without holding on for the very first time. It took me completely by surprise. There is something hilarious and adorable about such a pint-size munchkin standing up full height at just about 2 1/2 feet tall. He could walk under tables. Clearly, walking independently is in his near future. I suspect my initial observation that he wouldn't be walking until 18 months was a bit of an overestimate. I'm revising that prediction to 16 months since he seems fairly content to be carried everywhere, and no one seems to mind since he's such a little peanut.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Beauty of Being Alone

I've never done alone very well. Occupational hazard of growing up in a house with four children. I can remember having a hard time concentrating at the library because it was too darn quiet. I needed the dull roar of activity around me in order to focus. Now, however, with two small children in tow, quiet, uninterrupted, peaceful silence seems ultimately desirable and completely elusive. I go through periods of time where I do the same sorts of things day after day, and then I notice my patience starts to wear thin, my ability to cope diminishes. In short, I am in desperate need of what is euphemistically known as a mental health day. One of the benefits of our life here is that Trey's schedule is flexible. Whenever, I am in need of a break, he is more than willing to oblige. Yesterday, I took off right after lunch. Didn't even have to feed the children, by the way. He took care of it all. I wasn't even sure what I was going to do with my afternoon, but Trey had suggested going to a movie and the idea had stuck. It's something I've only ever done one other time in my life -- gone to a movie alone. I used to pity such people, those who would eat by themselves in restaurants or see a film with no one else. Now, I think they all must be caretakers of small children who are relishing the quiet and should be congratulated, not pitied, for finding a few precious moments to themselves. We tend to see things through our own colored glasses.

Indeed, I did go to a movie. Armed with my bucket of salted popcorn and diet soda, it was a little disconcerting not to have one person in the entire world to concern myself with it. It felt completely decadent and utterly blissful, and yet as enjoyable and rejuvenating as those few hours alone in a darkened theater were, I found myself eager to go back to the constant buzz of my two busy boys. You see, the beauty of being alone is all in the return. Each makes the other sweeter.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

Saturday the bowlers returned! How we have missed them. About a week ago I was beginning to wonder where they were. I had a distinct memory that last year the season began in April, but there was no sign of our gray flannel trousered friends. The gardeners hadn't begun their work, and the lawn itself was looking a little sorry. But Saturday dawned fine and clear, and they came out in droves to kick off the season. Since then, every morning the gardeners have been outside clipping and fertilizing and generally refurbishing what can only be described as the best front garden view anyone could wish for. It's good to have them back.

The Birdfeeder

Although I proceed from a great bird lover, my own interest and understanding of our feathered friends has been a little slow in developing. I have distinct childhood memories of my mother's "birding" adventures down to Cape May Point where some of the best migratory bird sightings in the country are possible and I know I have mentioned her famed "bird book" in which she documented annual sightings of such favorites as the elusive Kinglet. Little did I know that coming to the UK would unearth a whole array of new birds to enjoy. Since living on Orchard Road, I've wanted a birdfeeder. Our next door neighbors have one, but it's a little too far back to really enjoy the creatures it attracts. Several weeks ago while at Poundland, I discovered exactly what I was looking for -- a window birdfeeder that attaches with a suction cup. I purchased a bag of seed marked "meal worms" and proceeded home excited about the flock of feathers I would now draw to my kitchen window. Unfortunately, the meal worm seed turned out to literally have dried worms in it. Ugh. Was not expecting that. The seed sat in the feeder for days on end without so much as a nibble. I was getting discouraged and thinking that either I had selected the wrong feed or the birds were happier with our neighbors. But then, just a few days ago, I spotted our very first visitors pictured here. From my online investigations, they appear to be starlings. OK, so they're not the prettiest birds in the world or the rarest, but it's a step in the right direction. I have high hopes that the spring and summer months will bring with them many more winged patrons.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Other King's

While at Cambridge, Trey had the incredible opportunity to go inside King's College Chapel and, ever the documentarian, he covertly videoed the interior (no pictures are allowed). In fact, the story of how he got inside is remarkable in and of itself. Just to get onto the College grounds costs about £3 and then another £12 to enter the Chapel. Trey wasn't going to pay that until just oustide the Chapel he ran into a friend and Cambridge alum from the conference they were attending who offered to bring him in as his guest for free.

Even as limited as the video is, the Chapel is breathtaking. Construction was completed in 1547, taking about 100 years to finish and making it a bit younger than the King's College Chapel here in Aberdeen. The beautiful fan-like ceiling is the largest of its kind in existence and is a classic feature of this type of Gothic architecture particularly found in England. The famous The Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens is located in front of one of the 12 great windows in the Chapel. King's is also famous for its Christmas Eve service of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast around the world courtesy of the BBC and heard by millions each year.


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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Punting on the Cam

After the University itself, probably the next most famous feature of the town of Cambridge is its punting. The River Cam (hence Cambridge) runs right through the city and it's not uncommon to see flat boats called punts docked along its shores. Trey learned firsthand that the punting industry panders primarily to tourists the way double-decker buses do in London, and there is nothing more humorous than watching a group of visitors try to steer these unwieldy vessels. Around the middle of the video you can witness this for yourself as you hear a group of American guys trying to accomplish the task. What most travellers don't know is that students at Cambridge take great delight in stealing punting poles from unsuspecting tourists as their punt passes below the College bridges, so watch out if you ever go!

Punting in Cambridge is done from the till deck at the rear of the boat instead of from within the boat as is done at Oxford. Presumably this minimizes "dripping" on the boat's passengers and aids in steering by allowing the pole to be swung behind the steerer. Because of this tradition, the punts in Cambridge have reinforced decks to support the added weight.

I have finally posted the Cambridge pictures. They are in the Cambridge 2008 album in the right-hand column.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Castle Day in Video

I was able to finish the video faster than expected, but, boy, it was difficult to edit down all the footage to just a few minutes. The compilation follows the trip's chronological progression from the train ride down (the reason for the shifting scenery depends on which side of the train Trey filmed from), to the Castle itself, various street performers along the Royal Mile, the Museum of Childhood, the John Knox house across the street from the Museum, back up to the Castle where we spotted a band of Beefeaters, and then on back to Aberdeen. The last shot is from the Tay Bridge just outside of Dundee. The water was as smooth as glass, which is unbelievably remarkable for an area of the country along the North Sea where the wind is as ubiquitous as the Doric brogue. Both boys loved the train ride. It was the perfect way to soak in the splendor of this great land.

While rewatching this video I am reminded again of what a rare privilege it is to live in a place like Scotland surrounded by all this natural beauty and history. I don't ever want to take it for granted.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Castle Day in Pictures

We had a truly magnificent time in Edinburgh on Saturday. Both Trey and I agreed that from now on, at least with the children, we'll take the train instead of the bus when we travel down to Edinburgh. The ride was quick, convenient, and stunningly beautiful. The train skirted the coastline for most of the journey affording breathtaking views of the cliffs in Aberdeenshire and the sandy strand in Fife. I am working on a video compilation of our excursion which should be done in a few days' time, but in the interim here are a few of my favorite pictures from our day trip. The rest are in the Edinburgh Spring 2008 album.

Setting out on our journey.

Mommy and D.

Edinburgh Castle.

The incredible view over the city from high atop Edinburgh Castle. Look at all those daffodils!

The dog cemetery where royal and military pooches are laid to rest.

The Holloway Clan along the Forewall Battery. We are trying to do a better job of getting family photos since we recently realized we have very few.

Side view of the Castle.

The Holloway men in front of the Scottish National War Memorial, a tribute to all Scots who have fallen in the line of duty since World War I.

William Wallace and his entourage.

One of the many alleyway stairwells along the Royal Mile.

A very tired D snoozing while we had lunch.

The Museum of Childhood, a wonderful and free place along the Royal Mile to take children who need a break from sightseeing.

Addison and Trey in front of an antique child's car in the Museum of Childhood.

The John Knox house.

An amusing sign inside Knox's house. The Scots are generally diminutive, which means I fit right in.

Inside the John Knox house.

A table and chair with a Knox cap and cape for visitors' wearing pleasure.

Our Mr. Knox contemplating grave theological matters.

An anti-Scientology rally. Not sure what all the fuss was about. Perhaps Tom Cruise was in town?

A statue poser knighting a doll. No he is not stabbing her although it does look that way in the photo.

The gate to Edinburgh Castle.

A band and soldiers waiting outside the Castle.

The Firth of Forth (or the Fifth of Sixth as we jokingly call it) on the train ride home.

Addison getting a little punchy by the end of the day.

The setting sun.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Free Day at Edinburgh Castle

I love when we do this -- plan impromptu trips. Yesterday I found out from a friend that this weekend is Free Weekend sponsored by Historic Scotland. More than 70 of their castles are free to the public that day, Edinburgh Castle among them. Normal admission is £11 for adults, £5.50 for children, which would set us back over $50 just to get in. We decided to take advantage of this limited time offer and make a day trip to Edinburgh. I priced the train since we've never done it before, and it was far less expensive than hiring a car for the weekend (especially with petrol currently at $8/gallon). Of course, the bus is always cheapest, but we can get their more quickly and with no stops via train. It was worth the splurge. Plus, we've heard that the views from the train are incomparable.

You can imagine Addison's delight when we informed him we were going by train to Edinburgh tomorrow. He wanted to know if we would be riding Gordon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Answered Prayer

Today Davis got his last round of immunizations until he is 3 1/2 (according to the UK schedule). Poor little, man. No sooner did we step foot into the office then sweet, laid back Davis flipped out. I am almost certainly convinced that he's remembering not that long ago when we were in the hospital and he's developed a fear of all such related facilities. The jabs went fine, but what I wanted to share with you was a most unexpected and happy piece of news with regard to his health. **drumroll, please**

Davis weighed in at 19 lbs., 11 1/2 oz. boosting him up the charts from 2nd to 9th percentile! This is the first significant chart jump he has done so far in his life. I was stymied. Many of you know through this blog and private conversations with me, the heartache I have put myself through over his wee size. When he was 3 months old he went an entire month without gaining one ounce, and he's not recovered in the charts since then. I blamed myself most of all and after all that self-imposed, needless guilt I looked for a diagnosis to some underlying medical condition to explain his situation. Ultimately, however, after meeting with the specialist at the hospital several weeks ago and much, much prayer, I had put it all behind me. I was willing to embrace the reality that he's just little -- as am I. Developmentally he's on target. He eats well. He's just very small.

It was when I let this burden go that God chose to answer my prayers in a most unexpected way, giving me that which I no longer needed so desperately. When I accepted that which I could not change, He was pleased to change it for me anyway. What a powerful lesson this has been to me. You see, in the end it doesn't matter what his size is. I kid myself if I think that I ultimately have anything to do with Davis's growth or health.
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Matthew 6.27

One of my greatest personal struggles, one which has only been amplified in motherhood, is thinking that I can control my life. What relief it is to lay such an ungainly burden at the foot of the cross. What a gracious God we serve who will carry that weight for us. I would do anything for my children -- even die for them. How much more have I already been given by my perfect heavenly Father?

And so my delight at Davis's growth was blissfully overshadowed by the sudden realization that it didn't matter.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Keble College

Before too much time elapses since Trey's trip down to Oxford, I thought I should finish blogging about it. I promised to tell you more about the college where he stayed. Oxford and Cambridge both have this wonderful program called University Rooms which rents out unused dorm space to visitors for a very good rate. It even includes breakfast in their dining hall. It is significantly cheaper than getting a room at a bed and breakfast (Oxford is frightfully expensive even by Aberdeen standards) but definitely a step above a hostel for those who find such communal accommodations unacceptable.

The room was basic but had a beautiful view onto the Keble College quad. The College was established in 1870 and named after John Keble, an important member of the Oxford Movement, a pleasant coincidence since part of Trey's first dissertation done back at Westminster dealt with the Oxford Movement. Keble is one of the largest of all the Colleges at Oxford with nearly 650 combined undergraduate and graduate students. Allegedly, there is a fierce rivalry between Keble and nearby St. John's College. The students of St. John's look down upon the buildings at Keble and even began a secret society whose entrance "fee" was a brick from Keble. The hope was that eventually in this way Keble would be entirely dismantled.

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Here is some panoramic video of the College. To my eyes which are so accustomed to granite, the brick seems quintessentially English.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Terminal Five

It may look impressive, but if you mosy on over to the British Airways website and notice the first thing that pops up, a special button with an exclamation point saying "Heathrow Terminal 5 - Information Update", you get an understated first glimpse at the woes that have plagued the airline and its new home since March 14th, the day the Queen opened it to the public. The problems have been almost daily in the news. At first British Airways dismissed them as "teething troubles", but now weeks after opening, it's gotten a little out of hand. Between flight cancellations and luggage handling problems (luggage was making it onto flights without accompanying passengers and vice versa), it has been a royal nightmare, pun intended. A good friend of ours was scheduled to fly through there on Sunday back up to Aberdeen, and her flight was cancelled allegedly due to the snow in Aberdeen. She had to queue for at least two hours just to reschedule her flight. What a nightmare. The opening of this new terminal was supposed to solve many of the British Airways headaches at Heathrow, a glitzy new terminal just for them. However, in the wake of this disaster, their stock has dropped and they risk the longer term effects of losing customers disgusted by the experience. A lot of the chaos has been blamed on computer glitches, but really. Somewhere in the 15 years of planning and £4.3 billion spent on the facility, could they have provided adequate training and working computers? Or perhaps contingency plans? Just a thought.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dancing Divo

I've been trying to capture Davis's dancing for quite some time now, but he tends to get a little camera shy and lose the "fever" when I begin recording. This time, however, I succeeded. He got this Little Tykes boombox for Christmas, and it's one of his favorite toys. He'll endlessly push the button to play the next song and then dance with baby abandon.
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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Happy Birthday, Auntie Sarah!

Happy 25th Birthday, Auntie Sarah! You've now reached the quarter century mark. Sounds distinguished, doesn't it? We miss you and can't wait to see you this summer!
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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Time to Breath

Last night Tricia and Nate got the call that a pair of lungs had been found that might be a match for her. When I went to bed last night, they still hadn't heard anything back confirming one way or the other. This morning when I got up, the news was amazing! The lungs are a match and she is currently in surgery. The procedure takes 7-9 hours. At this moment there is no update, but I ask you to pray for Tricia, Nate, and Gwyneth at this watershed in their lives. Pray that God will carry Tricia through the surgery and the recovery. Pray that God would give their family strength as they encounter the trials and triumphs of this new chapter in their lives. Pray for the family that has donated these lungs and has consequently lost someone they love dearly. You can follow this incredible story for yourself at www.cfhusband.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Taxes

I'm not sure if this is something to be proud about or ashamed of, but I just finished filing my taxes all by myself for the first time. When I say all by myself, I mean with Trey but without the help of our accountant, who has always done them in the past. For the first time we had foreign earned income to semi-complicate the tax situation. I feel about filing taxes much the same way I feel about exercise. If I don't think about it, it doesn't exist. Very rational, I know. But we both knew we needed to do 2 things: 1) figure out if we owed any money and then 2) figure out if we even needed to file. The answer to both questions turned out to be NO. However, in the interest of taking advantage of the economic stimulus package passed by Congress, we needed to file. It was amusing how long it took the two of us, 5 degrees between us, to complete our simple forms. But no one gets extra points for speed, and in the end the taxes are done and mailed.

Now just waiting for that helpful check from dear Uncle Sam.

Oxford

I have finally finished downloading all of Trey's Oxford and Cambridge pictures and video. There is much more to come, I promise. Here are a few of the highlights of his time in Oxford. The rest of the pictures are in the Oxford 2008 album.

Aerial view of All Souls College from the top of St. Mary's Cathedral.

A view of All Souls from the ground.

"Grow Your Own" -- Oxford graffiti on the ugly underbelly of All Souls.

Cathedral Church of St. Mary.

The Sheldonian Theatre designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century flanked by the "Heads" of Oxford on the gate out front. These 12 heads represent no one in particular, perhaps the 12 caesars or the 12 apostles. The heads have been replaced at least once due to pollution damage, and possibly twice according to one report due to student defacement with paint.

The Heads.

The Eagle and Child, home of the Inklings.

Martyrs' Monument to Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer who were burned at the stake for their Protestantism under the reign of Mary Tudor ("Bloody Mary").

Trey said that there were many more bicyclers in Oxford than you see here in Aberdeen. Many of the pictures he took have bicycles parked at strategic points. In the background here you can see construction going on at the Bodleian Library.

Check out this massive tree that is being supported by huge steel posts because the limbs are too heavy. The building behind it is Christ Church College.