Thursday, August 28, 2008

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Settling back into life in Jersey has been a bit like déjà vu...again. How quickly I had forgotten all of the mundane tasks and items that have to be sorted when you move, and, in our case, much of it has revolved around getting our vehicle operational. This morning, bright and early, I drove Trey over to the Philly airport for a weekend trip down to Atlanta where our car lived over the last two years. Yesterday we got the new car registration and license plates. However, matters are slightly complicated by the fact that both of our driver's licenses and the car's title still have our OLD New Jersey address. This meant that the NEW registration would have to be put in the OLD address. More things to sort. I also forgot about getting the car inspected. Another item to add to the list. We have 14 days from yesterday to get that taken care of. The good news is that in the two years we've been gone our insurance costs have come down significantly. Who would've expected that? We have also now re-emerged from the 16th century into the 21st by getting cell phones...two at that. The lady looked at my slightly quizzically when I told her I was an old fashioned girl and didn't need texting and internet capabilities. Those of you who know me well know how anti-texting I am, a topic for another day.

In the meantime, we have a lovely weekend planned. Pedis tonight for my sister and me. Both she and my mom are off work tomorrow. Then Saturday we're all heading down the shore with the kids for a proper beach day sans the requisite winter gear we would usually wear for a walk down by the North Sea. It's so strange to go outside and not need a light jacket or cardigan in August. Everyone keeps talking about how cool it is here for August, low 80s to high 70s (mid to high 20s for all you Celsius peeps), but to us it's paradise.

One last item, our FedEx boxes were held up at Stansted Airport because they did not have the proper accompanying paperwork for customs. This has caused a bit of a headache for us. Please pray that it all goes through fine.

At Last

I've had many people ask if I planned to continue blogging even after we'd left Aberdeen. I think at this point I wouldn't know how to stop. It's become such an integral part of my life, an outlet for my own expression and thought development not to mention a way to keep in touch with our loved ones scattered across the map, even more so now as we have left such a dear group of friends back in Aberdeen many of whom are only months away from moving themselves.

However, a new era required a new look. Life in Old Aberdeen didn't exactly ring true anymore, and the thistles and city skyline, well, that's just confusing. I worked on the look a good bit this summer. Not possessing any real HTML knowledge myself, I was somewhat limited to code-generating websites, which themselves only go so far. If only I had my own graphic designer and webmaster. Ah well. This will have to do for now. I am sure I will continue tweaking the look. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this lovely view of Philadelphia's skyline at sunset.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Answered Prayer

I want to thank each and every one of you who prayed us through this day. We arrived in Newark in one piece with all luggage accounted for. It was a grueling day, not one I hope to ever repeat again with 2 toddlers in tow, but our God is good and saw us through. I will write a more detailed account when I have the opportunity over the next few days, but in the meantime I wanted to give a quick update and say hello from my childhood home.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Goodbye, Old Aberdeen

Well, we're done. All the bags are packed, weighed, and just waiting to be loaded into the cab. We depart for the airport at 4am tomorrow. This moment is very bittersweet. We will miss our wonderful little home here so dearly, but we have such promise and expectation awaiting. Your prayers are coveted. Much love, Becky

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Packing Marathon

This is a truism. Packing, like building, always takes longer and costs more than you expect. Yesterday, Trey and I set about our packing "dry run". What we thought would take a couple of hours in the morning lasted the better part of the day. We needed to determine what exactly could fit into our allotted 7 suitcases (6 with a 50 lb. limit, one with a 23 lb. limit) plus carryons. We had already boxed up Trey's library (9 boxes) and the boys' books and my cookbooks (another 4 boxes). What we discovered was that despite the 12 or 13 bags being given away to charity and all the other items we've given to friends, we still had stuff that had to come home which couldn't fit into our luggage. All I can say is FedEx is making a mint off of us. The grand total is 17 boxes.

The good news is that now 98% of the packing is all done. We are living out of our suitcases for the next week because after all that effort it hardly made sense to unpack. Next on the docket? The deep cleaning...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saying Goodbye

The blog has remained unusually quiet recently, not for lack of good intentions, but because I've felt fairly uninspired. We're mired in packing and dismantling the sweet little house we've called home for two years now. What do you say about that? Hard decisions about what stays and what goes. The staggering cost of shipping books back. Hoping that all of our suitcases can fit into one taxi so we won't need two. The other day my mom asked me if I was really sad about leaving, and I said that I felt as if I were in a time delay, as though the fact of going will only be realized in its aftermath. It's a little like watching someone else's life. I don't think I have fully comprehended going home. I've caught glimpses, like yesterday when I couldn't get the thought of grilled chicken, corn on the cob, and Jersey tomatoes out of my head, but home...it seems so far away, like there are still so many things left to be done. How do you wrap up a life here and resume one you've left behind? The mind boggles.

The weeks since we've been back from London have been gray and drab and cold, certainly making the thought of the blissfully warm weather ahead of us appealing. But I will miss this quirky island with its musical accents, curious customs, rolling hills, big-hearted people, and ancient sites.

With 9 days left, forgive if I don't post too much. I'm here, just packing and thinking and saying goodbyes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Daddy-less

This morning Trey left for one final research trip down to Edinburgh. He has three libraries he has to visit today in just over 5 hours' time to make it back for his late afternoon bus home. It's hard to believe this will be his last time in that great city, a city which a colleague of his described as "quite possibly the perfect city". The countdown is on in earnest. We're under the two week mark.

Olympics from the Other Side

To my great dismay NBC has blocked all Olympic coverage for viewers outside the US. Thankfully, the BBC runs a live feed of the Olympics all day and, of course, covers the highlights for those who miss the really big moments which invariably occur in the wee hours of the morning here. I first started catching up on Monday when I watched the 4x100 swimming relay in which the US pulled out a come-from-behind win over the French. The BBC commentators have a clear love/hate relationship with the US swim team, particularly Michael Phelps, who they regularly call "the great" as though he were in a line of monarchs. The Great Michael Phelps elicits both profound admiration and unending chagrin for these swimming experts who look for almost any opportunity to point out a weakness. If he doesn't win by a wide margin or soundly break the World Record, he's just not on form or appears to be really puffing for air. It's almost laughable and a real dose in reality for me. All the Olympic coverage I've ever seen has come from the other side of the pond, admittedly shaded by home team pride. To hear both praise and criticism from your Olympic opponent who is clearly used to being soundly beaten by the Americans is both comical and simultaneously pitiable. Evidently, they've been taken out to the woodshed one too many times.

So that you too can get a little taste of what it's like for Americans over here to listen to Olympic coverage, here is that unbelievable relay I just mentioned.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

He Speaks

Trey predicted this would happen. When I would say, "Davis really doesn't say much for his age," he would reply, "Just you wait. He'll be one of those kids who doesn't say anything until he opens his mouth one day and speaks like an adult. Davis has gone from saying nothing to speaking in sentences. Today I was playing with him doing somersault gymnastics off my lap and every time he would say, "Do again?" At first I thought I was hearing things. Surely, this child is not saying, "Do it again?" I would repeat it and he would say, "Yeah!" He did it over and over again without fail. Earlier today when he got up from his nap he could hear his brother crying in his crib to get out and I swear he said something like, "Asson crying," with a few other unintelligible mutterings thrown in. This child, who has said virtually nothing so far, is clearly talking and in a fairly advanced way for 18 months. Just like Davis to do things in an a-typical fashion.

London in Bits: St. Paul's Cathedral

The hostel where we stayed was around the corner from St. Paul's Cathedral. Each night I would lay in bed and listen to its massive bell chime the hour. What an incredible bonus to our stay, lying in bed listening to the bells of St. Paul's. During the day hundreds of people take refuge on the church's steps, eating their lunch, resting, talking on their mobiles. It seems to be a designated congregation point.

Trey and debated which church we should do, St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey. Both charge hefty entrance fees, a fact which galls me. These houses of God are as expensive as any ordinary tourist attraction in London, in Westminster Abbey's case costing £12 ($24) for an adult admission. Thankfully, I had scouted out the service times for St. Paul's and we went on a Wednesday evening during Evensong, thereby circumventing the price gouging. I couldn't help but think of Jesus overturning the moneychangers in the Temple, once again. What a treat to experience this cathedral the way she was intended to be experienced. I sat further back with Davis because he thought it was hilarious how his voice echoed endlessly across the vaulted ceilings. Addison, however, amazingly sat with Trey in the Quire through the whole service without a problem. It lasted about 40 minutes and consisted of numerous choral presentations, two brief passages of Scripture, and the most vapid prayer I've ever heard. If I closed my eyes and imagined I wasn't surrounded by hundreds of tourists in t-shirts and shorts milling about the back of the church for fear of getting a little religion and just listened to the breathtaking way the voices mingle and soar in the acoustics of such an open place, I could imagine what heaven might be like. And of course one little boy's voice was added to the mix, out of key and rhythm, just testing those vocal capabilities.

The interior of the cathedral is unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The amount of goldwork adorning the church made it stunningly ornate and regal, nothing like the rugged, seemingly impregnable cathedrals of Scotland. St. Paul's almost seemed prim and fussy, the contrast between these two peoples drawn ever so starkly in their places of worship. Sadly, no pictures or video are allowed inside. I watched the camera nazi throughout the service. Although I was holding my camera (who isn't walking around touristy London without a camera), he didn't bother me, presumably the noisy child in my lap warded him off. However, he had no qualms about approaching other surreptitious picture takers and making them delete the photos. What a fun job! Nevertheless, there is a wonderful virtual tour available here and you can see its magnificent beauty for yourself.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Hard Decision

It is with much sadness that Trey and I have decided to cancel our trip to Geneva. We agonized for nearly two weeks over what the right thing to do was, and ultimately today we both reached that point of peace I knew would come eventually. The first nagging misgivings occurred right after our London trip. We started talking about the feasibility of it. There were many reasons to cancel: timing, moving, children, but we couldn't get the thought out of our head, the reason we had wanted to do it in the first place. We're so close. If we don't do it now, when will we ever do it? It was a compelling argument, I must admit, one that gave us great pause and caused us the most unrest.

However, as the end has neared, as the reality of leaving our home in Aberdeen has begun to sink in, it seemed less prudent to travel so far with the children so close to the BIG MOVE. We would have only had two full days to finalize things here before heading back to the US, and on the heels of lots of flying and travel in a big city, it seemed unfair to our little ones and unnecessarily stressful on us.

So this is what being an adult is, eh? Hard decisions that hit you in the wallet as well as the gut. Our plane tickets have already been booked. My best hope is to recoup some of the taxes on the unused fares. The hotel will charge a night's cancellation fee. In the end, however, I know we have made the right decision for where we are as a family, and I take comfort in knowing that Geneva is not going anywhere. We will get there...some day.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Trey Miscellany

A few days ago while up at the library, Trey discovered this pamphlet about the Chaplaincy Services at the University. Take a closer look at the photo on the cover. Yes, you guessed it. That's one of Trey's photos, and if you have a very good memory, you'll recall us using it on our Christmas card for 2006. Now we're really regretting not selling these photos. This is the 4th documented use so far.

Every night after the boys have gone to bed and we clean up the toys (yes, I know we should have them do it, but it would take until the following evening at their current rate of mental focus), Trey lays out a few favorites in front of the fireplace, something akin to the stocking stuffed with goodies on Christmas, for them to play with first thing in the morning, and sure enough, before they've even had a bite to eat, they make a beeline for these shiny vehicles. The two latest additions are the doubledecker red bus and black taxi both purchased at the Westminster Abbey gift shop. We don't seem capable of visiting a new place without buying a car for each boy to add to their collection. I'm just praying we won't exceed the luggage weight limit for our flight home. If we do, I'm blaming all the cars and trucks.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Asson

Davis's first real word appears to be his brother's name, or his version of it, Asson. I started noticing this word peppered throughout his babble and suddenly it dawned on me what he was saying. He is a stubborn little fellow and won't say anything on demand, excluding what a dog says. Otherwise you just have to listen for it.

London in Bits: The Tower

At this rate, I'll be finishing accounts of London around the time we return to the US. Sorry for the snail's pace. The state of packing and sorting a house to move across the ocean, indeed, has a life of its own.

One of the quirks of traveling with a historian in tow are the snide comments directed my way during historical tours. The Tower of London was no exception. Courtesy of Good Housekeeping's Buy One, Get One Free admission to the Tower (thanks, Sian!) we saved ourselves a bundle. We entered the fortress just after the tour had started but caught up with it just a few feet down the road at Traitor's Gate. The tour guide, dressed in full Beefeater attire, was delivering a rousing account of the history of the premises to which Trey quietly retorted, "This is not history. It's theater." I have to laugh because although I know these apocryphal accounts are often just anecdotal heresay, this is what keeps the audience interested. Real historians are hard to please! Trey had great reason to visit the Tower. The man he is writing his thesis on, Andrew Melville, was imprisoned there for 4 years from 1607-1611 for writing 6 lines of offending Latin poetry against the worship of the English church. During his time in the Tower, England experienced both very cold winters and very hot summers. One of the winters was so icy that the Thames remained completely frozen over for several months.

Much of the White Tower, the famed central edifice, was under restoration which impeded our photographs a bit. Trey took Addison in to see the exhibits. Davis had lost patience with the sightseeing and just wanted to wander the cobbles and flirt with the girl tourists. We indulged to maintain the peace. Afterwards we managed a quick glimpse at some of the crowned jewels and then found the famous ravens. I have heard repeated stories about one particular raven at the Tower of London back when Trey visited with his family some 15+ years ago, Ronald Raven. Yes, the punning is, indeed, clever. Sadly, Trey discovered after speaking with one of their caretakers that Ronald, like his namesake, is no longer with us. Legend has it that as long as the ravens remain at the Tower, London can never fall. In an effort to preempt the possibility of their flight and the subsequent fall of this great city, their wings have been clipped. Hmmm...that hardly seems fair. But then what would the tourists gawk at, and let me tell you, those are some big birds which do bite.



Said actor performing for the crowd.

One of the ravens.

Trey took this photo of Addison inside the White Tower. Apparently, it took awhile to pose because Addison was totally freaked out by the boy in armor behind him. Its face is a little creepy.

My boys with a beefeater.

London Bridge in the shadow of the Tower.