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She Persisted

I am so proud of my oldest and her latest essay. I love reading her thoughts and seeing her grow to have her own opinions and ideas about life and about the world. We have had many conversations where she has challenged my long held ideas and caused me to question why I think certain things. I am very proud of her and excited to see what the future holds for this world changer.

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I believe one of the largest areas of conflict in schools is about the dress code. A highly restrictive set of rules dictating what people are allowed to wear under the umbrella term of modesty doesn’t accomplish anything. There are many things that make the principal of this set of rules understandable and it makes sense to want to create a learning environment free of distractions. I believe the flaws in this system come from the execution of this idea. When the system changes its focus from creating a distraction free environment for everyone to creating a “distraction” free environment for the boys, you encounter a great many problems.

The dress codes I have encountered during the years I spent in a public middle school made my point very clear. While there was a written dress code for both male and female students, the male dress code was rarely executed. While our male counterparts are allowed to walk around with sagging jeans and unbuttoned shirts, females were expected to make sure not to wear any pants made out of soft fabric and all of our shorts had to be mid thigh. “When girls are denied time in the classroom because their knees, shoulders or upper arms are considered inappropriate and in need of covering up, it privileges the societal sexualisation of their adolescent bodies over their own right to learn.” (The Guardian) On the rare occasion that a boy would be told to pull up his pants, it would be said with a smile and a shake of the head. The administration seems to think, “boys will be boys” and they cannot be controlled. It appears that this way of thinking causes the administration to stifle the girls rather than teach the boys how to be respectful young men. They assumed they had cleverly solved the problem by shoving the girls in paper bags and telling them to go enjoy school.

This is horribly distracting for the girls and also makes us extremely uncomfortable. Constantly having to worry if your tank top strap really counts as four fingers across and melting in the heat because you’re not allowed to wear the tank tops you own. Feeling uncomfortable because there are teachers whose job is to walk around during break and dress code you. “Because truly, what’s more distracting: boys and teachers having to deal with the occasional glimpse of a girl’s leg, or girls being pulled from class, humiliated and made to change before returning?” (The Guardian) You get told that fighting the dress code system means you just want to appeal to the boys, not that you want to appeal to yourself. You want to feel confident and comfortable in what you are wearing and not feel like you have to hide yourself because, according to your teacher, you are distracting and need to hide so the boys can learn. Girls are told all through school, and especially in middle school, that they need to change themselves for the men and that is something that will rule their subconscious for the rest of their lives. “The argument being made by school administrators is not that distant from the arguments made by those who accuse rape victims of asking to be assaulted by dressing a certain way.” (Time) Do you really want to be responsible for that?

There is no perfect balance between eliminating this dangerous idea and keeping up the modesty factor that many school expect of their female students. There are a few ways to eliminate some of the largest problems with the dress code that don’t take too much work. Make the code count for everyone. You shouldn’t just expect your female students to be modest, you want your male students positively reflecting your school as well. Perhaps try to create a few day long tests where you eliminate the dress code. See how people react and if problems spring up reevaluate what would be the best way to change your school’s system. If you give people a harsh set of lines and tell the girls to not cross them, most everyone will blatantly jump over them. You can’t create sexist rules that are actively shaping the way girls think about themselves and actively making boys expect women to change for them and not expect consequences. As more and more girls find their footing, you will just find more and more problems when you tell them they are lesser.

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Rome

Last week the girls and I took an adventure to Rome, just the three of us. I have to admit that I was very excited about the chance to spend 4 days in Rome with just my kids, but I was also pretty nervous. In all of our traveling, Rob is the navigator, the transportation figure-outer, the language barrier talker, basically all the jobs I hate, and I am on vacation. On this trip I got to do all the jobs. Navigation gave me the most cause for concern. I have gotten better over the years, but honestly I have zero sense of direction and I can get turned around in my own home town. Armed with google maps and an international data plan, I was hopeful that I wouldn’t let my little family down.

And I didn’t. We never got lost.

We packed our days very full. In hindsight, I might have filled them too full, but oh well. I booked an underground tour of the Colosseum, which I thought was going to be the highlight of the trip for me. We had the opportunity to go on the arena floor, go underneath the colosseum and see the dark, narrow passageways where the 600 workers and animals were kept during the games, and we went to the third tier where the lowest class had to sit. During the tour we also saw the Forum and Palatine Hill. All of those things were very interesting and we heard hundreds of facts, but it wasn’t actually the highlight.

My highlight of the trip was on our last day. We had checked out of our hotel and had a few things on our agenda to see before we went to the train station to head to the airport. We went to the Pantheon and then we decided to browse through a shop and get some lunch. We picked up some fresh sandwiches and a cannoli. Then we sat down in front of the Pantheon at the foot of the obelisk and ate our sandwiches. Something about that moment struck me as special. We were all pretty tired so we didn’t really talk much, we just sat. We watched the people passing by laughing and taking photos. We listened as a woman at a nearby restaurant sang. We laughed at the dogs drinking water from the water fountain. It wasn’t anything special, but it was special. I looked around and I was amazed at where we were and was so thankful that we could experience this together. Not long later we went to the Circus Maximus where chariot races were held. I had a similar experience there. It is a large field with ruins on one end, and you can still see where the track for the races once was. There were people running around the track, people sitting and having a picnic, dogs running around…it was quiet and normal in the midst of this amazing Roman city. We sat on ancient marble steps and just watched it all.

There are so many amazing sights in Rome. We visited many of them. Trevi Fountain, where we all tossed a coin in over our shoulder, The Spanish Steps, The Colosseum. The Forum, where we saw the spot where Julius Caesar was cremated, Palatine Hill, Constantine’s Arch, Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museum, The Sistine Chapel, Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, The Mouth of Truth and The Circus Maximus.

There were many funny things that happened too. We waited in line and bought tickets to get into what we thought was the Sistine Chapel. We climbed hundreds of stairs. I had been to the chapel before and I had no memory of all the stairs. When we got to the top of the staircase…we were in the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Well, that wasn’t what we had planned, but it was pretty neat to see. We had a good laugh about that, but not sure the kids liked that they climbed at least 1000 stairs for an unplanned visit. A note for the suggestion box – maybe make the signage a little clearer. On our way to the actual Sistine Chapel we met a man who really wanted to sell us “skip the line” tickets to see the chapel. He was quite persistent. As we got closer and closer to the entrance, the “special price just for you” was getting cheaper and cheaper, but I decided the line wasn’t long enough to pay the extra cost. Since he could tell that we weren’t going to buy the tickets he decided it was time to let us know that this was only his day job, and that he is an actor, singer, choreographer who has his own YouTube channel and at this point he shows us his Facebook page with his headshots, screen grabs from his acting gigs and other random photos. He was quite the character.

Taking this trip was awesome. I loved spending time in a new city with my kids. I loved exploring and learning with them. I loved being challenged to get out of my comfort zone. I loved seeing them walk confidently through the streets of a new city. I loved listening to them order their own food at the restaurant and attempt to say the names in Italian. I loved hearing them say “Grazie” and “Ciao”.

We had a wonderful trip and I am so thankful for all of this.

(Now it’s time for an obscene amount of photos…)

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A Day Out

This weekend, while Rob was away, the girls and I took Saturday as a touring day. We didn’t know what to expect since we hadn’t ever done an organized tour before. The day began with an early wake up to get to the coach station by 8am. We loaded up the coach (side note: coaches are hired busses, the red public transportation busses are busses. the guide also joked that public transportation drivers are called bus drivers and coach drivers are called gentlemen.) and we were on our way.

Our first stop was Leeds Castle. If you have time to read about the history of the castle, it is pretty fascinating. The first stone castle was built during Henry I’s reign, around 1100. Around 1278 Queen Eleanor of Castile, the first wife of Edward I, bought the castle. Edward and Eleanor were married at the ages of 15 and 12. Their arranged marriage was part of a political deal. Getting married so young doesn’t seem like it would end up working out, but it did. They fell madly in love with each other and ended up having 16 children together, although not all of the children lived very long. Eleanor didn’t like leaving Edward’s side so she even traveled with him to battles. When she died he had 12 stone crosses built to mark the route of her funeral procession from Lincoln to London. The castle saw many changes over following years and eventually ended up being sold and became a private home in 1926 when Lady Baillie purchased it. The castle is beautiful and much of the ground floor has been restored to it’s glory when King Edward and Queen Eleanor were there. The top floor remains as it was when Lady Baillie owned it. The grounds are also beautiful. It was snowing while we were there so it felt even more magical to walk around the lake and see the maze with everything covered with a bit of snow. I wish we had more time to explore the grounds, and even try to make it through the maze.

Our second stop on the tour was Canterbury. It is a fun little town. The main attraction here is the Canterbury Cathedral, which is the “mother church” of the Anglican Church. We didn’t have a chance to go inside, but we did learn a lot about the history of the Cathedral. It is beautiful on the outside, and I am sure it is even more so inside. We enjoyed walking around the city and browsing through shops. We found a museum, The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. They had a huge range of art on display. It was really interesting to see London recruitment posters from WW2, paintings depicting the murder of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered inside the cathedral in 1170 at the hands of 4 of the king’s knights, and amazing paintings of animals, which I think were the girl’s favorite part of the museum. We also saw a crooked house, which is the second most photographed building in Canterbury, the first being the cathedral. The house started to lean after renovations were done on a chimney inside the house. It continued to lean and would have fallen over had the city not stepped in and reinforced the home with a steel frame. To see how severe the lean is, check out the angle of the front door.

Our next stop was in Dover to see the White Cliffs. We didn’t have long there, but we did spend about 10 minutes at the waterfront looking at the English Channel and taking photos of the cliffs. It was pretty foggy and overcast, so we couldn’t see much, but it was fun to be there and to be able to touch the water. The youngest and I were trying to put our hands in the water, but we were surprised with how quickly the water came back and we ended up with our feet in the water too, shoes and all! Soggy shoes make for a memorable visit to Dover!

The last stop was Greenwich. The plan was to take a walking tour, but it was quite cold and rainy, so the tour group made the decision to drive through the town while the tour guide gave a bit of a history lesson. We then boarded and earlier Thames River Clipper boat to head back to London.

We had a really fun day. It was fun to see new sights and learn new things. It was fun to laugh together over wet shoes and funny stories about Kings and Queens. It was fun to walk around getting snow caught in our eyelashes. It was fun talking with the tourists from America who were surprised to learn that we lived here. We had a brilliant day.

Cheers!

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Day by Day

Lately our days have been filled with regular life, dabbled with special outings. Mornings are filled with completing PE requirements and working on school assignments. I am getting a refresher in US state capitols, Spanish 1 and Algebra 1, which is a lot harder than when I took it in high school.

One morning a week I go to Alpha, a course at our church, Holy Trinity Brompton. It is a course that is designed for those who want to explore the Christian faith, ask questions and share your point of view. It has been really great. I have gotten to know some people from the church and I have been able to learn a lot from the videos and the discussions. Rob and I are also attending The Marriage Course. That has been wonderful to have a set time each week that we get away to have dinner together and invest in us. The topics have given us a chance to talk about things that we hadn’t before and learn new things about each other. After 19 years there are still things to learn. We have spent a lot of time investing in our kids and I am realizing that investing in our marriage should be just as important. Our time at HTB has been a really growing time. I am glad that our pastor at Marin Covenant Church recommended we try it out.

With Rob’s work schedule getting busier that leaves the girls and I with some time to ourselves. We spend a lot of time watching movies, playing solitaire, and lately going to the theatre. We had the chance to see Wicked and Matilda. (I have to admit that for the first 30 minutes of the play I was quite confused. I had the story mixed up with Madeline. I wondered how the story was going to change from little girl with awful parents, to her living in a french boarding school.) This weekend we have an excursion planned that we are all looking forward to. We will get to tour a new part of England and spend the day making more memories.

A new family activity has been playing cards. Rob taught us how to play poker. The youngest is quite the player. It’s fun to watch her decide if she is going to fold, call, or her favorite, raise. She has said several times, only after she won, that it would be more fun if we played with real money.

Thanks for letting me share our life with you. If there is anything you’d like to know about London, or our days, let me know!

Cheers.

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6 Months

6 months ago today we arrived in London. It’s really hard to believe that we have been here that long. In one way it feels like we just got here, but then again it feels like this has been home for a while.

The other day the girls and I were out for the afternoon and we stopped at a cafe for a snack. Sidenote – if you ever have the chance to have Nutella steamed milk, get it. Yum. We talked about our time in London and about some of the things we will miss when we return to California and some of the special memories from our first few months here.

For me, there are many little things I will miss. I love having a fresh croissant with hot chocolate or tea. I will miss the ability to walk to the bakery and pick up a sweet treat, or even some fresh bread. I will miss being able to send my kids to the store at the last minute for the one missing ingredient. I think about the first time I asked them to go to the bakery and buy bread for dinner. They were so nervous and worried. Now they are experts at it. I will really miss how easy it is to get everywhere. When we want to go to a museum or the theater, we hop on the tube and go. We don’t have to worry about traffic or parking. I thought not having a car would be a problem, but in reality it hasn’t been a big issue at all.

I will miss all the special times the girls and I have had together. This year is unique in so many ways. We are having the chance to live in another country, but with the girls enrolled in online school we are also able to spend a ton of time together. If school gets done early enough we are able to visit museums, enjoy time at a park, walk around the city, or just hang out at home watching movies. One of the girl’s special memories will be feeding the parrots. They both get so excited when the birds land on them. I get a bit overwhelmed, but they love it.

After spending so much time here we are slowly becoming more British. Trousers, lift, queue, trainers, take-away are all words that come out of our mouth very easily and we don’t feel strange saying them. I don’t even have to think about what each coin is worth, I just know now. I can navigate the tube pretty easily without a map. Those who know me well will know what an accomplishment that is…I get lost easily!

Looking ahead to the next 6 months we have some guests to look forward to and hopefully a few more trips. The girls would love to see Rome and Greece, Rob and I would like to see Ireland and Scotland, and we have to see Stonehenge. Hopefully we can make it all happen!

Cheers.

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Friends

The last 9 days have been a whirlwind of food, fun, adventure and laughs. We had a very special visit from some LA friends. Over the course of their visit we walked over 60 miles. We saw Big Ben (or The Big Ben as their son likes to call it), The London Eye, Hyde Park, Diagon Alley, The Ministry of Magic and even Gringotts! We traveled to Paris to see The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and Notre Dame. We ate donuts from a street vendor, Indian food, fish & chips, pastries, scones with lemon curd, baguettes, crepes, and pain au chocolat.

I think it’s rare to find couple friends – when both the husbands and the wives get along and enjoy being together. I think it is also rare to find couples with kids friends – when everyone gets along and enjoys being together. We have found those people and it is a gift. We may not see each other as often as we would like, but we pick up where we left off. It’s special and we are so thankful for them.

I loved the pile of shoes at the front door, and the glasses parked around the kitchen. I loved hearing their son giggle with my daughters every time he heard “Bakerloo” in the tube. I loved having my friend sitting with me on the couch. I loved everything about their visit. It was sweet and special.

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Family Time

The last several weeks have been full. Rob’s job is quickly approaching lightspeed. Once the holidays are over he will be jumping to hyperspace and be in full production mode. With that in mind we wanted to make the most of the precious three weeks he has off over the Christmas holiday. We spent 5 days in Venice, Italy. We didn’t have any plans for our visit. We just took our time exploring the city and as we stumbled across activities we did them. It was a great slow paced vacation, something we all needed.

Rob learned of a company that provided free walking tours of the city. That was a great way to learn some of the history of Venice while getting recommendations on things to do and see during the visit. We visited the oldest bookshop in Venice, attended a string quartet concert, toured the island of Murano, where they make all things glass, ate cannoli’s, drank hot chocolate (which is like drinking hot chocolate sauce – super rich!), took a ride in a gondola and took lots of naps.

Venice is a very unique city. There aren’t any cars, so you walk everywhere, or take a boat. Meals are slow and deliberate. It’s easy to get lost. The passageways are narrow and there are many of them! There are many streets with the same name, so you may think you are in the correct spot, when you aren’t.

When we returned from Venice we had one more Christmas surprise for the kids – a trip to Hogwarts. It seems as though Harry Potter has been a running theme for us this last year. We all read the Harry Potter book series, watched the movies and we were all fortunate enough to be able to see the new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We knew a visit to the Harry Potter studio tour would not disappoint. We enjoyed walking around the sets and seeing the costumes. It’s amazing how much detail went into everything. The hand painted portraits on the walls, the hand lettered labels on the potion bottles, the book covers that are on the books in library and Dumbledore’s office. The level of detail and craftsmanship is remarkable. We had a great time.

We have more things to look forward to in the remaining time Rob has off from work. We will have a quiet, simple Christmas morning. We haven’t ever had a Christmas morning that was just the 4 of us, so while it feels a bit different, it is nice to have a slower Christmas morning. However I do miss my Mom’s stuffed mushrooms and the rest of her Christmas morning spread! We have dear friends coming to visit soon and we are so looking forward to seeing them, showing them around London and getting to travel a bit with them.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas. Thanks for reading along as I share some about our life in London. Happy Christmas all!

Cheers.