Jan 31, 2014

Getting to know Highgate // Waterlow Park

The first month we spent in London was near the financial district (Barbican), and I knew I had to take advantage of being in a prime exploration location. We took full advantage - trips to museums, historical sites, cathedrals, markets, restaurants, etc. You name it, we did our best to get there. Now that we are officially North Londoners, and on that pesky black Northern Line on the tube that can sometimes be a little temperamental, we are now shifting our focus to exploring North London. And I'm ecstatic about it.

One of the great things about Highgate is the parks! Within a mile of our flat we have our choice of 4 really great parks. The first one we found, is one of the sweetest little parks - Waterlow Park. Equal parts manicured to wild, there is no shortage of beauty and good people watching here. About a 10 minute walk from our house, we like to hit the playground first for some swings and merry go round action. There's a small playground (with swings for King Hen), a nice cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, some fountains and even a sundial. Lots of dogs playing fetch and that sort of thing. It's a really lovely spot. We go there a couple times a week.

I'll be posting about the other Highgate parks over the next month, and some other topics about how we're transitioning from DC to London, if you're interested. It was hard to find much information about what Highgate offered besides green space, so I hope this might give some insight into what it's like to live the expat family life in Highgate.

Jan 30, 2014

The view from 2014.

With hindsight being 20/20 and all, I really screwed up that last half of 2013. I let fear, anxiety, and unfamiliarity eat me alive and reduce me to a shell of myself. Moving is stressful, and moving to a new country without knowing anyone or anything really did a number on me. Six weeks back at home, letting others help me through life for a bit, revisiting my childhood and bits of my previous life in DC, really gave me something I was lacking: perspective.

When we moved to London, I was excited for the adventure of it all. But once things settled down and routines kicked in, it seemed like less of an adventure, and more of a new, mundane life that just felt unfamiliar and empty. I felt that I had made a mistake moving to London and we should have stayed in DC where life was pretty good. It was an awful feeling, especially because I had lobbied so hard to get us here in UK. But, perspective does funny things to a person. Being home for six weeks, around family, friends, Target, and mexican food was absolutely soul-restoring. We did a few things and we got to spend time with people we love. 

Hannah and cutie baby Rhoda 

Henny and sweet cousin Iris on Christmas morning

 Trains at the Botanical Gardens (someone was excited)

Tickling the ivories

My Dad got this disney band for Christmas and Henry played with them all day, every day. It was super cute, but after about 2 days of that, I had to hide them to preserve sanity.

Ronan and Henry at the museum

Sometimes he remembers he has pockets

 The sea lion stared at Hen like this for 2 minutes straight. I had to take the apple away from him because animal cruelty is no joke.

Lots of racing up and down these stairs with cousin Lincoln

Papa teaches Hen how to catch snowflakes the right way

And as much as I love all the above mentioned things (and I do), and the familiarity of it all, it just didn't feel like it used to feel. I drove through our old neighborhood a few times, and even by our old Linden Place house, and it just felt so different. My life - my husband, my books, my bed, my kitchen, the parks we love - are all here in London now. Being home in DC/VA made me realize that we've not only moved, but we have moved on somehow. And whatever life we made elsewhere is carried on with us. I know this might sound so obvious, but I just had never internalized it before this month. I love our life here. I'm excited and thrilled to call London home, and live - not just the adventurous days, but the mundane routines of the day, too. Because my home is here. My family is here, and so my heart comes along, too. DC will always be "home" to us, and we may move back someday, but for now I really love this current stage in our life in London.

Being away from Mark for a month was hard and stupid, but the perspective I've gained restored faith in myself, and I think now we can really get down to just enjoying our new life here. I think 2014 will be our best year yet, and plans are already underway to make sure of that!

Jan 23, 2014

4 days left

I watched About Time last night and the movie is all about appreciating every moment in life, trying to see beyond the stress that accompanies each experience, and embrace the love, beauty, and humor in your world. I cried for the final 15 minutes of the movie non-stop and immediately sent a sappy email to Mark about how I can't wait to have our little family back together.

Henry woke up with a fever yesterday and still has it today, so we've been laying low and it's pretty exciting around here. I'm also on a juice cleanse (today is the last day!), so I can't eat my feelings or eat out of boredom, so there is seriously nothing going on here. Henry won't let me leave his side, so it's him, me, and my bottle of juice everywhere we go. We are quite the threesome. Hoping tomorrow brings better things, like delicious solid food - going to try this salad for lunch - and a happier Henry. And warmer temperatures outside while I am wishing for things.

4 more days until we are back in London and I really cannot wait. All this sick and cold just makes me want to get home to my comfortable bed and our comfortable routine. Miss you, London.

Jan 19, 2014

The good not-so-good weekend

My sisters are pregnant and sick, so we've been watching the boys a lot while I've been here. We took Ronan to the American History museum on Thursday and it was so fun to watch Henry and Ronan run around and get excited about the trains, cars, and buses. I got to see Hannah and little Rhoda, too, which was just icing on the cake, even if we weren't able to talk too much with me chasing after little toddlers all morning.

Friday, I went with Jen to IKEA and the Manassas mall. I don't know if there's anywhere stranger to go than the mall you used to go all throughout high school. I worked at the American Eagle Outfitters in high school (and got fired for using my discount for a friend, so sue me for being a generous friend, really), and have too many weird memories of the place. Taking my kid there now was almost to meta for me to handle. But Henry loves wide open spaces, and we let Henry and Lincoln chase each other around in the H&M for awhile, and ride the train merry-go-round. He loved it for about 15 seconds then started to cry and scream NO NO ALL DONE. That's Henry. :)

Saturday, we got picked up by the in-laws to drive down to Charlottesville to visit family, but we got rear-ended and smushed between two big trucks. Besides some whiplash and sore muscles and overall malaise felt today, everyone was fine thankfully. I realized afterwards that if the big truck wasn't in front of us, we would've been thrown into the middle of a very busy intersection. So I'm thankful for big trucks today, that I truly believe saved us from severe injuries. Henry was pretty upset and scared, setting off my protective mama mode and I was ready to punch someone in the face. I was so upset he was in an accident at 2 years old, but thankfully he was strapped in super secure in his seat and was just shaken up like the rest of us. We went back to their house and luckily Marisa, Jeff and Iris were able to drive up from Charlottesville to visit us, and it turned out to be a really nice day spent with family. I was grateful we were able to get that family time, especially after such a rattling morning.

When I decided to stay in the US this month, I knew I'd be here about a week longer than I could probably stand, and that hit me today. I'm so ready to go home. Mark just landed in Tanzania this morning, so we're nearly to the end of this separation. If anyone ever asks me to spend 4 weeks away from my husband, willingly, please smack me in the face. I've been grumpy, moody, and sore all day and I'm sure I haven't been a pleasure to be around. I'm solid.

Jan 15, 2014

hello from suburbia

Well, I'm going to say it. There is a reason people live in the suburbs. Life is EASY STREET out here. Let me just jump in my car and go anywhere and not get stuck in traffic and no potholes and hey target is right here, let's stop for a minute! Oh, I'm headed to the gym, what will I do with my toddler? Oh, you have a kidcare? And it's clean? And it's only 3 dollars an hour? Cool. Now I'm just going to park my mammoth car in my long driveway and devil may care if I park on the street, no parking permit needed, I own this town. Oh yeah, and 2 TVs in the house, both with digital cable.


Admittedly, I could somewhat easily incorporate some of the easy living of the suburbs into our city life. We could get TV if we wanted. I could find a gym with childcare. We could get a car if we wanted, and probably even find a parking space without parking permit needed if we really looked (and were willing to pay lots of money...ok, that one is probably less likely). In our city life, we prioritize what we want to to try and cultivate the kind of life we want. But the shocking truth of the matter is that Mark and I both grew up in these NOVA suburbs, and we are suburb kids trying to live the city life. And sometimes the old comfortable, carpeted houses with TV and big cars feels normal and comfortable to us. It makes me question our ability to live in the city, except for one thing: city crush. I have a total crush on city life and living in it makes me twitter-pated, hearts in my eyes, the rush of euphoria and the whole works. I am still in crushing hard mode, but my eyes are starting to wander to larger homed pastures. It's probably just a case of too much House Hunters going to Houston, TX.

When we get back to London I have big plans to re-do Henry's room to reflect his transition he's made from baby to wild-eyed toddler, and then it's time to get down to enjoying this huge city we live in. Time to explore our wild city, because with my wandering eyes, who even knows how long we'll live here! (wink, wink)

Jan 9, 2014

Radio silence

Hello, old friends.

I'm in the states, still. I spend my days like this: breakfast and cartoons with Papa, gym, lunch and play with Henry and usually his cousins, nap time for Henry/job searching and planning for me, Henry chases Papa around the house and demands for him to SIT DOWN PAPA, PLAY TRAINS PAPA (to which Papa happily obliges), then we all eat dinner and watch a movie.

So...needless to say...why would I ever want to leave?

I extended my stay because Mark has a busy work schedule this month, including a long trip to Africa.

But if we're being honest, I think I really extended my stay here because I needed some healing time. I had a rough Fall, which included moving (twice!) to a new country, adjusting to new stay-at-home-mom life, mourning the loss of being surrounded daily by dear friends and/or family, and some other health problems that sort of brought me to my knees physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I'm using this month to heal. I'm restoring my health. I am finally getting a physical therapist to fix my painful sciatica. I joined the gym for a month and I'm loving the daily workouts and free classes, and hoping next week to head to the pool with Henry! I'm eating whole foods, and trying not to snack as much, and drink lots of herbal teas. I feel SO GOOD. I know I couldn't do this without the support of Mark, and mostly my Dad who has been watching Henry and letting me get the rest I so badly need. I was talking to Mark tonight about how selfish I feel about staying here, when I could get along fine in London, and I hope I'm not putting too much of a strain on him, leaving him alone for a month in dreary London. But. This month is making me better. This "me" time, the time I hardly get these days, is so restorative and clearing out the brain fog. I can't wait until I get back to London, because I feel like I get to push the reset button. I'm lucky.

I love my time here, but somewhere in between my gym time euphoria and trying to guess what Henry will eat for dinner, I really miss my home. I really miss London. And mostly, I'm desperately missing my husband. That will be one sweet reunion, I know.