Image

The Shift

Over the last month I have really felt the shift, the coming to the end of the adventure blues. We have 6 weeks left. The year that loomed out in front of us, long and full of adventure, is now short. We are trying to fit in any last minute trips, shows, museums…not wanting to miss out on things, knowing that there is still much we didn’t do. This has been such an amazing year. There have been hard parts, but life always has hard parts.

The opportunity for our family to live in London this year has been such a gift. Rob has had an incredible work experience and we have had a chance to see him thrive in his element and see him grow as he learns. We have met some pretty incredible people. We participated in an incredible church. The girls have had an amazing education through traveling, meeting new people, seeing the world through a different filter and even working through the hard parts of the year. This year I saw both of them step out of their comfort zones and try new things. I am really so proud of them and all that they took on this year and the way they embraced the adventure. They easily could have complained and allowed the hard parts to overwhelm them, but they chose to lean into the experience and live fully in the moment.

I keep thinking about the year wrapping up and trying to come up with a take away from the year or a way to summarize it all, but I don’t think I can. Maybe someday I will be able to, but right now it’s a special moment in our lives. London is a very special city and I am so thankful to have the chance to experience living here.

We have had two visitors over the last month and we have two sets of visitors still to come. The adventure isn’t over yet. We are going to enjoy each moment.

 

Finding your Passion

Finding your Passion

It is so fun watching your children grow into themselves. Seeing them discover the things that they enjoy, the activities that make them happy, the best use of their gifts and talents. This year we have had the chance to see the girls take their own paths and dive into their creative side.

The oldest has had an interest in writing for many years. She loves reading, and has many stories running around in her head, but she had yet to write much of it down. This year she decided to make an effort to learn about writing and grow her abilities. She is taking a writing course called The One Year Adventure Novel. Over the course of the school year she has written a 12 chapter novel. She took the first semester to figure out her characters and their flaws and changes, story outline and settings. The second semester was all about writing the novel. She is currently in the editing phase. It has been wonderful to see her immerse herself into her story world and pour her heart into the characters. She has grown so much in her abilities and in her confidence. I hope that this will be a great starting point for her in her writing and in finding her passion.

The youngest has found an interest in acting. We have had the great opportunity to attend many broadway shows and that, combined with learning about movie making through her Dad, has fueled her desire to act. We found an acting school here and she has been taking some classes. Performing small skits with her classmates in front of the class has really helped boost her confidence and has helped with the stage nerves. At a recent broadway show we learned that they were looking for new children to audition. She took the leap and decided she wanted to put her name in to audition. She filled out the form, made a video of herself singing, and submitted her application. We are currently waiting to hear back if they want her to come in for an audition. Regardless of the outcome we are so proud of her for being vulnerable and putting herself out there. Every audition comes with the opportunity to learn and get feedback on your craft. It is wonderful to see her challenge herself with things that are a little scary to try. She sets her mind on something and she goes after it.

Maybe in a few years the oldest will write a play or a movie and the youngest will have the leading role. And The Oscar for best screenplay goes to… and The Oscar for best leading actress goes to… The Bredow sisters will be a force to be reckoned with.

Status

Holy Trinity Brompton

During our time in London we have been attending Holy Trinity Brompton. Our pastor from Nor Cal recommended it, so we gave it a try. We visited one week, and never left. We have grown quite a bit and learned a lot at our time at HTB. It is a vibrant and energetic church. It is more charismatic than any church we have attended in the past, but a little more of the Holy Spirit isn’t a bad thing.

Over the next few days HTB is hosting The Leadership Conference, which draws thousands of people from all over the world. Tonight at church we heard testimonies from Alpha leaders from Montreal, Texas, Columbia, Mexico, Ethiopia, Uganda, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Aleppo and Ireland. It was pretty amazing to hear how God is working in all the different corners of the world. Especially amazing was how joyous the man from Aleppo was. He spoke about how God protected him from bullets that nearly hit him and bombs that blew up behind him, all while smiling. He spoke about how his town is literally falling apart and how 80% of his congregation has left the church, yet it is still full each week. People are coming in to the church for aid and prayer and with the Alpha course they are finding answers to their questions and they are finding hope.

If you have questions about life or faith, I highly recommend the Alpha course. If the Alpha course is changing lives in Aleppo, Syria, imagine what it can do in your community, in your life.

 

Image

Tea and Bedhead

We have been so lucky to have so many friends and family visit while we have been in London. We know that it is a sacrifice of time and money to travel across the Atlantic, so we are always so thankful for any chance we have to visit with anyone.

This last week we were able to visit with friends that we haven’t seen in two years. Many things have changed for them in the last few years, including adding a baby to the family, so we were more than excited for the chance to visit and catch up on life. We “see” each other’s lives a bit on the internet, but as my friend has said, that is really only 1% of our real lives. So chatting over our morning tea with bed head was the perfect solution.

Their visit held the perfect balance of tourism and relaxation. We spent a bit of time each day adventuring out of the house. They only had a few things on their list of London activities, so it was easy to hit all of them.

The London Eye: It was a mostly clear day, so we had great views from the top of the 442 foot ferris wheel.

Feeding the birds at Hyde Park: This is always fun. There weren’t a ton of parakeets the day we went, but plenty of pigeons. However, everyone had a bird eat from their hand, so it was a successful trip to the bird tree.

Walk down Portobello Road: It is always fun to see the different vendors that are along Portobello Road. There weren’t as many out on the day we visited, but we still had plenty of fun browsing through several shops and finding the perfect souvenir for Bee to take home – a solar powered chick.

Eat all the food: Oh my. We sure accomplished this many times over. Fish & Chips. Mother Mash. Punjab. Honest Burger. Pizza. Food trucks.

One thing I wanted to do was spend an afternoon in Greenwich. We picked a pretty busy weekend to visit as it was the Tall Ships Festival, but it was fun to see the ships in the water and imagine taking off on the boat on the 11 month race. We also walked to the Royal Observatory, the goal being to stand on the Prime Meridian. Before we went to the observatory Rob read about it online, and found that the line painted on the ground inside the gates of the observatory is not the actual Prime Meridian. So instead of paying the entrance fee to stand on the not actual line, Rob navigated us with his GPS to the spot of the actual Prime Meridian. So we were the family standing in a line on a random spot in the grass posing for a cute, longitudinally correct photo.

Our 9 days together went so fast. It was full of laughs, peek-a-boo, baby snuggles, slobbery baby kisses (that left actual bruises!), many miles, lots of conversation, Uno, and joy.

We love you friends and can’t wait to see you again.

 

Quote

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.

____________________

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.

Image

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…)

Image

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!