Rob and I were very lucky to get to have a weekend away in Italy. My parents arrived for a visit just in time for me to be able to join Rob at a conference where he was asked to speak. The kids got to have a weekend being spoiled by ShaSha and Papa and Mom and Dad got a weekend away – win, win.
I always like traveling, but it’s extra fun to join Rob on work trips. It is always fun to see him in his element. Watching him prepare and present his talk, then sitting in on any interviews, and interacting with other presenters are all part of the fun. And if I am being honest, tagging along on the speaker dinners are pretty fun too. Eating amazing food and listening to stories told by the other presenters was pretty incredible. Stories about how things were on set “back in the day” to what was difficult about a certain aspect of a current film project.
Rob is a really smart guy. I know this, but it is always amazing to see it first hand. While doing interviews he generally didn’t know the questions ahead of time, so watching him flawlessly answer questions with ease was fun. One of the funny moments from his interviews was when he was asked about his current project, the Han Solo film. “Can you tell us anything about the visual effects in the Han Solo movie?” His answer after a brief pause – “No.” The interviewer didn’t know what to say so he just moved on.
One afternoon we had some free time so we walked around the city. As we walked around we saw plaques in the sidewalk in front of homes. We learned that the plaques were memorials to individuals who lived in that home who had been arrested and taken to Auschwitz and ultimately killed. It was sobering to think about the people who lived their life everyday walking the streets of Torino, eating at the cafe, taking their kids to school, walking to church and then one day they were taken away. So much sadness and history in this small town.
I am so thankful for our weekend away to experience life with Rob and for the amazing opportunities to see the world.
This last weekend was my birthday – one of the big ones. 40. How did we celebrate? My family took me to Paris for the weekend. I could write down a play by play of what we did and where we went, but instead I want to tell you about the things that meant the most to me.
I was not looking forward to this birthday, not because I was turning 40, but because I was going to be away from my friends. I had been apart of other friends’ 40th birthday celebrations and I always imagined that I would do something like that too, a big dinner with my closest friends, a weekend away wine tasting or running in a crazy epic running race with my girlfriends, however he Atlantic Ocean stood in the way of that plan. I think Rob saw this coming and he made a fantastic birthday video with messages from my friends and family. (Side note: he wasn’t able to get to everyone that he wanted to, so he is sorry for missing some people, it wasn’t intentional at all.) It was so fun to see everyone’s faces and hear your voices. Yes there were tears, but that just means that you did your job well. I have watched it many times since and it still makes me smile. So, thank you to everyone who sent a message. Maybe next year we can all go on the epic weekend run.
There were many things about Paris that were amazing. The one that really stands out is when we saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle. We thought that it happened at 10pm, so we slowly started making our way towards the tower a little before 9pm. We got on a bus and enjoyed the little mini tour while we got closer to the tower. The plan was to get crepes and wait for the sparkle. I didn’t really even know what to expect, I had just read that the “sparkle” was a fun thing to watch. We were almost to our stop when all of a sudden the tower started to sparkle. It was beautiful. I literally grabbed the oldest’s leg and gasped. We jumped off the bus as fast as we could and ran over to a nice viewing spot. It felt magical. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was memorable. We then learned that the sparkle happens every hour, so we hung around, ate some crepes, walked around and waited for the 10pm sparkle.
Saturday’s plan was to spend the day at Disneyland Paris. It felt like Disneyland, just different. Their magic hours are for 2 hours before the park opens, so we were able to get on several rides without any line at all. Several rides were closed for renovation (Thunder Mountain Railroad!), so that was disappointing, but we went on as many as we could. Tower of Terror remains my favorite ride. It’s just as fun in Paris as in Anaheim. Pirates of the Caribbean is also pretty fun. They have some of the scenes in a different order from the ride in Anaheim, and I think it works a little better. After the first drop you land right in the middle of the battle between the two boats. They haven’t “Jack Sparrow’d” the ride, so it was fun to see the original ride again. We stayed at the park until closing so we could see the night time show. Seeing the fireworks over the castle was beautiful. It was a great way to end the evening. We walked back to our hotel tired but laughed about all the fun things we did.
Sunday we headed back into Paris for a quick look around town and a stop at Angelina’s, a tea house. I read about their amazing pastries and hot chocolate, so it was a “must see”. It did not disappoint. The pastries were delicious. I splurged and ordered two – pain au chocolat and tarte au citron. The hot chocolate was great – very rich and super sweet. It was a beautiful restaurant. I sat back and sipped my hot chocolate, looking around the room and couldn’t help but be thankful for this crazy life.
Rob worked really hard behind the scenes to make this weekend happen. His day job takes up most of his time and when you add in the additional traveling he does, there is little time for extra. So instead of sleeping, he spent his time working to make my birthday weekend special. Watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle, eating crepes, croissants at Disneyland, pastries in Paris…these are the things I will remember about turning 40. Thank you for being a part of it!
Last week we took a day to be tourists again. It had been a while since we explored our town. We headed over to the O2, a large indoor arena, to have a day of fun. Our first stop was to the Emirates Aviation Experience. Rob and the girls had a chance to fly an A380 in the simulator. They had a great time and now feel quite confident that they could fly us home if the pilots were to need help.
Next came fun at Sky Studios. The girls tested themselves to see if they have what it takes to fight like Iron Man – of course they do! They kicked the robots butts! We each got to sit at the anchor desk and try our hand at being newscasters. I’ve never read from a teleprompter before, it was pretty fun. There was also an Age of Ultron Virtual Reality Experience which was pretty cool.
After all that work we were hungry so we stopped for some Brazilian food. It was amazing. I spent some time in Brazil many years ago and the food brought back so many memories – the rice, beans and sausage, the cheese bread, the meat, the Guarana (soda). It was fun reminiscing and enjoying the all you can eat buffet. There was no need to eat dinner that night.
Nissan also has a space in the O2. Here we were able to virtually test drive a Nissan Leaf, play Gran Tourismo and try to race a wheelchair in a 100m race. I always thought the wheelchair races looked like a lot of work when I watched the Olympics, but it is A LOT of work. It’s crazy hard. Like really crazy hard. My race was only 40 seconds and my arms were sore for 2 days – I also have zero arm strength, that may have something to do with it, but it is still really challenging.
After our time at the O2 instead of taking the tube home we took the river bus on the Thames River. It was a fun, relaxing way to end our day out.
I had very low expectations before our visit to Madame Tussauds. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a very fun way to spend the afternoon. The wax figures are amazingly life like. Honestly, at times I felt awkward standing with them for a photo – they seemed so real!
This week seemed to fly by. It’s hard to believe that it is already Friday night.
Sunday and Monday was the Notting Hill Carnival. We heard crazy stories about it, and while it had its interesting moments, it wasn’t as intense as I thought. One funny moment was when Rob and I were sitting on the couch at about 10:30 Sunday night. We heard a strange noise. Unsure of what it was Rob looked out the front window and saw two people moving our large potted plants into the middle of the street. They were setting up a little courtyard for themselves with plants and chairs in the middle of the street. It looked lovely but we did ask them to move the plants back.
Now that life is starting to get into a bit more of a routine we are trying to explore something new in London at least once a week. This week we went to The Marlborough Contemporary. We saw The Salt Bride exhibit. I read about it online and was happy to see that the exhibit was so close to us. The photos were pretty amazing. It was a fun afternoon. We stopped for doughnuts along the way, so that made it extra fun.
Rob and I signed up for a half marathon at the end of September. Signing up for a race is great motivation to go on a run. As our training miles get longer we have been able to explore more of the city while running. It’s been great to spend some time with Rob too. He has been really busy the last few weeks, so I look forward to the longer training runs.
While we are in an English speaking country, we still have words to learn. Here are a few examples:
“no fly tipping” – dumping trash in an area you shouldn’t.
“does the school have good tuition” – Here tuition means curriculum. If you want to know about the cost of the school you ask about their fees.
“off license shop” – a shop that can sell alcohol but not serve it.
“biscuit” – a cookie, one that has a bit of a crunch to it. If it’s soft like a chocolate chip cookie they call it a cookie.
“trolley” – shopping cart
We are definitely feeling more at home here. Life is feeling more normal. We found a hairdresser, we have library cards and a grocery club card. What could be more normal than struggling to find the dumb club card somewhere in your wallet!?
Our television viewing has changed quite a bit in the last 6 weeks. We watch a lot of BBC stations and especially the cooking competition shows. Masterchef, Masterchef Jr. and The British Baking Show are our two favorites. Watching those shows, especially Masterchef Jr. (The girl that won is only 9 and most of what she made I have no idea how to create. She was amazing!) made me realize that my children don’t know very much about how to work in the kitchen. So this week they had to make dinner. They each were given a day and they had to find a recipe, make a shopping list, go with me to the store and pick out all the things they needed, and then they made it. If they needed help I was there to help, but they were 100% in charge of everything. They both did a great job. We had Veggie Carbonara and Salsa Spaghetti. It was fun to see them figure it out, and it was wonderful to not have to cook! The youngest is already planning her next meal.
Life is so good. This is such a crazy adventure and we are having a blast. It still hits me every so often that we are living in London. This is nuts. Who would’ve thought that we would be here? It’s pretty amazing.
After 25 nights in the hotel we have finally moved into our own place. Unpacking our suitcases felt a little bit like Christmas. I didn’t remember all that I had packed. I am pretty sure I brought along too many sweaters. We spent the afternoon unpacking and organizing, grocery shopping and laundry. It was so nice to make dinner in our kitchen. Honestly by the end of the day I was so tired I really wanted to just walk to a restaurant, but we made spaghetti and enjoyed a home cooked meal for the first time in a while.
This morning we spent a really long time in our pajamas, casually eating breakfast, playing card games and watching the Olympics. It was a very quiet, slow morning. After lunch we took a walk around the neighborhood to see what was around us. I was really surprised to see how many great shops are really close to us. We have several small grocery options right around the corner, several bakery/coffee shops, a bookstore, a fruit and vegetable store, wine & cheese shop, a butcher, a dry cleaner, a drug store, a home and garden store (think Home Depot without the lumber and power tools), and many restaurants. We a few parks nearby. We are in a great location. Just in case we get a strong craving for Twizzlers or Pop Tarts, which are hard to find here, we also have the American Food Store close by.
We are finding ourselves settling in well. It has been a process getting to this point, but we are here and now we can develop our routines and try to make connections. The guest room is open and ready for visitors anytime!
This week has been much calmer and quieter. We decided to take it easy and do things as we wanted to and not pressure ourselves to get out everyday.
Sunday started out with some frustration as the bus routes were all different because the streets were closed for a cycling event. While initially we were upset that we weren’t going to make it church on time, it turned out to be a nice relaxing day. We walked through Hyde Park to find the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. On our way there we saw a group of people under some trees. They were holding green parakeets. We thought maybe they were someone’s pets. We stopped to watch and learned that they are wild birds that live in the park. They are very tame. If you stand near the trees with your arm out stretched they will come land on you. Someone had bird seed with them and they shared with all of us that were standing there. We stood under the trees for quite some time and enjoyed feeding the birds.
Monday we took a visit to the Bank of England Museum. It was a quick tube ride away and since it is a small museum we knew it would be a short outing for the day. It was a pretty interesting museum and we learned a lot of things about the beginning of the bank. We learned about the security measures used in making English money. In the center of the museum they have a gold bar that weighs 28 pounds. It is valued at about £406,000. Each of us got to hold the gold bar. We will never hold that much money in one hand ever again. On our walk back to the hotel we got caught in a rainstorm. It was a wet walk home, full of lots of laughing.
We have found several coffee shops and bakeries near us. It’s been fun to stop in the afternoon for a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a pastry (or a shot of M&M’s), especially on a drizzly day.
It’s been a slow week, but it’s been good to take a little time to just relax and have some down time.
When we first moved to San Francisco I was worried that my kids would have a hard time making friends. Now that two years have passed I can see that I didn’t have anything to worry about. Both of my daughters have the sweetest group of friends. In this time of transition for our family they have treated my girls so well. They have loved on them, given very special gifts, given their time so they could make a few more memories and they have made sure to let my girls know how important they are to them. It makes my mother’s heart so joyful and thankful that they have made such supportive friends.
If I could thank each of them I would say,
Thank you for treating my daughter so well. Thank you for loving her and telling her so. Thank you for being true friends, people who make her laugh, hold her when she cries and encourage her to enjoy her next adventure. Thank you for being her people. Thank you for sending her off well and letting her know you’d be there when she returns. I am so grateful for each of you.
Our kids are at a great age. They are independent and creative thinkers and it is really fun to talk with them about lots of things. They are becoming their own people with their own thoughts and opinions about things. They are realizing that it is ok to have different ideas than Mom and Dad.
While we love doing things together as a family we also enjoy splitting up and taking the kids on separate dates. This last weekend was kid date night. Our activities couldn’t have been more different, and I’m actually not sure who had more fun.
The oldest got to go on a very adventurous date with Dad. She went indoor skydiving! While she was very hesitant at first she tried it and had a blast. They had such a great time together. The afternoon ended with a trip to Krispy Kreme for hot donuts and even her first coffee. She is such a grown up now.
The youngest and I had an evening at the theater. We went to The Orpheum in San Francisco to see Wicked. She has wanted to see it for a long time, so she was super excited that the day had finally come. It was so much fun to see the joy on her face and the delight in her eyes with each set change and swell of the orchestra.
We love being their parents. We feel so…I don’t know what the right word is, lucky, blessed, fortunate…that we have good relationships with our girls. We can only pray that as they grow up the relationships we are building now will continue to grow.
After living here for almost 18 months, I am still in awe of the beauty around us. I thought that by now I wouldn’t even notice the views…it would just be normal. But that is not the case. I still pause to look at the horses. I stop on my run to look at the view, the creek and the waterfalls. What the heck…I live where there are waterfalls? It’s unreal. I really do love living here.