Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

We're trying to get back into a routine around here, since the Christmas season and the overseas move have really thrown things into a tizzy. So, here's what my big kids did for school yesterday:

DS - 5 Years Old

*Read two pages from "This is London". Did a narration of his favorite section.

*Learning Palette - rhyming words using picture cues and words.

*Counting to 100 with 100's chart.

*Recognizing and writing various two digit numbers to 100. Discussion of tens and ones and "digit".

*Bible journal - drew and wrote about Jesus healing the Blind beggar.

*Wrote and illustrated and page in his journal.

DD - 4 Years Old

*Practiced writing name on easel chalkboard.

*Worked in Bright Beginnings book with maze, colors, and categorizing.

*Did a flip book of categorizing rooms in the house and activities that go on in certain rooms.

*Worked on ABC's and one to one correspondence, letter sounds, and letter identification with ABC puzzle.

*Worked on spelling name with letters from puzzle.

*Bible journal - drew and narrated a sentence from the story of Jesus and the blind beggar.

DD - 2 Years Old

*Worked on puzzle with mommy. Worked on naming items in puzzle.

*Played with rolling turtle with mommy. Worked on taking turns, rolling turtle, and catching turtle.

*Colored with crayons and colored pencils.

*Played with animal mommy and babies learning cards.

*Number three bag. Lots of little things in the bag (three of each thing). Counted to three with each thing. Examples of what's in the bag: clothespins, spoons, pom-poms, three little pigs finger puppets, dixie cups, pennies, pipe cleaners.

So, that was our morning in a nutshell. The older two also did chores. And by the way, I only work with the youngest two as much as they want to. I never want to "push" learning on them. I want learning to be a natural and exciting process for all of my children as it is for me. I never want them to dread school.

Just a little picture of what we've been doing around here!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A House Divided

My Indy Colts are playing hubby's Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl! Never did we imagine such a thing. And poor hubby is in England during all of this excitement! Go Colts!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

As Promised...Trouble on London Transport

As promised in an earlier post, I'm going to share with you the harrowing tale of getting lost on public transport in London. As I mentioned earlier, this happened on our second day here, as we were trying to find our way around.

Let me just begin by saying that the transportation system in London is amazing and complex. Because of major congestion in the central part of the city, public transportation and walking are the best ways to get around. Also, we have no car right now! So, we're pretty much limited to public transportation. Not that we're itching to get out and drive in the opposite side of the car on the opposite of the road with signs we don't understand, mind you! That all being said, public transportation is our main mode of getting around this week (and honestly, probably for the next 9 months), so we needed to venture out and try it.

We went to Picadilly Circus for our transportation questions as they have a London Transportation Information Centre. We got our travel cards for the time period that we're here and were sent off with some good advice and information about tubes, trains, and buses. We caught our first bus and got down to the Kensington area south of Hyde Park. We spent the day looking around Hyde Park and the area where we'll probably be living. There are some challenges to getting around in London by foot, but we're armed with the wonderful little resource called London A-Z, which has been literally invaluable on this trip. In fact, if you're planning a trip to London, you shouldn't come without this little gem. Two of the challenges seem to be the street signs, which I mentioned earlier aren't on posts, but are on the sides of the buildings, making them more difficult to see. Second challenge? The streets tend to end abruptly and then continue on as another street, going on the diagonal at times plus there are many little "squares", like Leicester Square for example (more like circles) making the whole layout more complicated than the strict vertical and horizontal streets that we're used to.

Tired, and needing a place to look at our map without looking vulnerable, we ducked into the Hilton Paddington Hotel. While there, we decided to have afternoon tea. We spent an hour or two there and then headed out, armed (we thought) with the proper information to catch the bus back to our hotel area in Covent Garden. When we got outside, although it was only around 4:30 or 5 pm, it was dark. That alone was making me feel more vulnerable. We got to the crowded bus stop. A man, seeing our confusion, tried to help us, but I brushed him off, thinking he wanted some spare change or something. (I know, that makes me look really ugly and suspicious, but it's the truth.) As soon as he got ready to get on his bus, he asked once more with force, could he please help us. He saw that we were confused. He asked us where we were trying to go. After hearing about where we were wanting to go, he said, "That's what I thought! You need to be on the other side of the street. You need to catch the x bus." We humbly thanked him. I could tell he was irritated that we wouldn't take his help at first.

We crossed the street and waited for a few minutes for the next bus we'd need. It came fairly quickly. It was a double decker, so we went upstairs and got a front seat window for the view of the city. I wanted to go back to the hotel, but hubby kept remembering a particular route that the lady at the information centre had told us earlier where we'd see all the sights of the city. He was certain this was the bus and the route. Since it was night, the sights would be all lit up and beautiful. Why not just stay on the bus as far as it goes and then come back, he wondered? I wasn't convinced, but seeing as how my overly vilgilant personality can grate on his nerves after a while, I decided to support his sponteneity. So, we kept going. All the way down Regent Street, past Picadilly Circus, past Trafalgar Square, past the West End Theatre district, past the London Tower and Bridge. All throughout this time, I kept gently (?) reminding hubby that we didn't know exactly where we were going, and shouldn't we just get off, or shouldn't we ask someone or SOMETHING?!? He was confident that this bus was going to get to the end of it's route, turn right around, and come back the way it came. So we kept riding.

We got to see parts of London that I'm sure most tourists don't get to see. We got to parts of town I was certain I didn't want to be stranded in. Finally, we got the end of the route. And the bus lights went off. "SHOULDN'T WE GO TELL HIM WE'RE ON THE BUS?!?" I begged my husband. But there was another gentleman on the bus too. Surely he knew what he was doing. Things would be fine, he assured me. A few minutes later, the other gentleman on the bus, the man that hubby was certain knew what was going on, looked AT US and asked us a question about where the bus was going!! Bad idea to do what the other guy is doing when he doesn't seem to know where he's going either! That man went downstairs and inquired of the driver and apparently got off of the bus.

Finally, hubby conceded to asking the bus driver where we were going. When he went to ask the driver his question, he was yelled at by the bus driver. "Don't you know what it means when the lights go off?!" he screamed. Uh...no! We don't! Or we wouldn't still be on the bus! Apparently when the lights go off, the route's over. Now, if we were seasoned patrons of public transport, maybe we would know this, but we didn't. So the bus driver made us get off the bus. Right there! In the middle of the place we didn't want to be stranded. We were stranded. Oh, the horror! The only comfort I had at that moment was that the bus that we need to take back into central London was right in front of the "bad" bus. So, we ran up and began knocking wildly on the doors. Hubby motioned that we needed to get on. But that bus wouldn't let us on, because we weren't at an official stop! We were indeed stranded. Desperate by this time, because I was really ready to cry, hubby asked a kind couple who were getting ready to cross the street what we should do. They kindly told us to take the train back into town, then to take 2 tubes to get back to our hotel area. We had never taken the tube. Or the train. But we did as she said and after a few confusing things with the tube stops and exchanges, we were back in our hotel area, which at that moment, although thousands of miles from home, felt like home. Because at least it looked familiar. And clean. And tourist-y!

So, that is the story of getting lost on public transport in London. I must say that we're getting around a bit easier now. We did take a wrong exchange yesterday, but we were able to figure it out by ourselves. I was so proud of us!

The Arts in London

We visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square a few days ago. It was gorgeous. We had time for one exhibition only, so we chose "Manet to Picasso". I'm a huge Van Gogh fan and his works were displayed alongside some other famous modern artists. I got to see Sunflowers and Van Gogh's Chair. I was able to get a matted print of Van Gogh's Chair to bring home, which will be a wonderful reminder of my first sight of the sweet, happy, little painting. I think Van Gogh's story is what draws me to him. I remember as a young child hearing the story about the depressed man who had cut off his ear and then immortalized himself through art. I felt sad and compassionate toward him. It was as a child in art class also that I began my love of his painting Starry Night, which is not in the collection at National Gallery as it is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Maybe I'll see it one day.

More arts last night as we went to see "Phantom of the Opera" at Her Majesty's Theatre on Haymarket. Wow! is all I can say. The level of professionalism was like nothing we'd ever witnessed. The voices of the main characters were out of this world. We love theatre and usually get to see one or two shows per year in our small town. Because it's a university town, traveling Broadway shows visit and they're usually pretty good. But as my husband and I discussed last night, nothing we've ever seen could hold a candle to this performance. The costuming, the set, the caliber of voices...all were phenomenal or as the English would say, "brilliant"!

Hubby started work this morning, so I'll be venturing out to the National Portrait Gallery and back to National Gallery today. I'm hoping to catch a guided tour today at National Gallery. They do these for free, which is great, because as we're discovering, London is expensive! I also plan to spend some time walking through the Covent Garden Market. I'll let you know what I discover. Until then...cheers!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Visiting Church in London

We were able to visit a church here in London yesterday. It's called Holy Trinity Brompton. We enjoyed the services. It's an Anglican church, but the worship was quite similar to what we're used to back home. I'd had a very hard day the day before, (We got lost on public transport at night! I'll write more about that experience in my next post.) so worship service and time with the Body of Christ was indeed just what I needed.

As I lay tossing and turning the night before, I kept worrying about church the next morning. Would we find it? Would we like it? What would it be like? And since worship singing is usually my favorite part of the service, would we know the songs? We knew all but one of the songs! Both my husband and I were teary through that part of the service. For the first time, we felt so at home in this strange place. Songs we knew. A God we all loved. Worship. Home.

The pastor preached on Phillipians 4:4-9, which due to my mental state at the time, was quite appropriate. Isn't God like that? It seems no matter what's going on in my life, He's always using His Word just as it needs to be used in my heart, mind, and life. Since that horrible evening on the bus/train when we got lost, all I could do was worry. What would happen to my husband when I left? He would certainly get lost again! And this time he'd be all by himself. How in the world would little ol' fearful me get on the big jet again to fly home for eight hours? How in the world would I navigate Heathrow and Chicago O'Hare by myself? What was going on with my children? Knowing they're so far away is scary.

This whole experience has really made me see how controlling and untrusting I truly am. But this sermon reminded me..."do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil 4:6,7) Ah, there was the answer. Instead of worrying about these things in my mind, I needed to present them as requests to God. And I needed to remember who He is and what He's done in the past (thanksgiving). When those things are practiced, peace of mind will come. Not of my own efforts mind you, but supernaturally.

The pastor closed the service by guiding the congregation through a prayer of repentance and thanksgiving, and finally petition for those things about which we're worrying (things such as plane hijackings and train muggings! ) I felt renewed, refreshed, and once again reminded of how huge the God whom I call mine truly is.

It seems Jesus is determined to teach me something, even if it does involve taking me half way around the world to do it! Come back again soon for the details of the "getting lost on public transport in London" story.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

London Surprises

If you've been reading long, you know hubby and I are in London looking for housing for a temporary move. Here's a list of surprising things about London that this small-town, Midwestern girl has noticed:

*How teeny everything is. I had heard this, but hearing and seeing are two different things! Our hotel room is small. I mean, you can walk around the bed and that's it. The tub is very narrow. Even the waste basket is teeny.

*How many people there are. They're everywhere and really seem to know where they're going, unlike us. I'm from a small town, remember?

*The interesting mixture of old and new. Seeing large office buildings next to landmarks that are hundreds of years old seems odd.

*Seeing street signs on the sides of buildings instead of freestanding posts.

*It gets dark so early. By 4 pm here, the dark starts setting in. Seriously, we were walking around town at 4 pm today, and it seemed like it was 7 pm back home. Makes one want to go to bed earlier.

*How difficult it can be to understand someone who speaks the exact same language as you, but in such a different accent.

*Apparently there are no trash cans here. There are bags and boxes on the street in designated trash areas, but they aren't in large plastic containers. It's not dirty mind you, just looks different, and perhaps a bit untidy.

*There is a difference between tea, afternoon tea, and high tea. Today at a hotel, we thought we ordered afternoon tea and were expecting some biscuts, sandwiches, etc., only to be told we had only ordered tea --which means only...tea.

So, as you can see, I'm a fish out of water. Enjoying it all. Taking it all in. But longing (after even 2 days!)for something familiar. Keep reading for more London adventures.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Catching Up With You

While I promised in my last entry to post more regulary, alas, I have not. This job situation/move has been a very up and down process and this week we were in the pinnacles and depths emotionally. We have never moved before! And our first move is an international one - go figure! I am a drama queen who likes to do things big.

As it stands right now, hubby and I will be going over to look for housing in London by the middle of next week. We were thinking we would be in a "suburb" of London close to where hubby will be working. But it seems that the property locators can't find any leases for less than a year in that area, so we are now looking at central London near Hyde Park! It will definitely be a completely different experience living in the city, but I'm really looking forward to it. And, after this week, I've learned that all of this could change quickly so I'm trying not to get my heart set on any of the cute little places that they've sent us pictures of. But Hyde Park, come on! That would be very neat in so many ways.

As mentioned above, hubby and I will be leaving for a one week trip next week to look for housing. Then hubby will stay behind to work, while the kids and I ready things here for the move. So, we've been doing lots of things here like last minute doctor and dentist appointments, calling our accountant, and calling various services and utilities that we use to inquire about what to do when we're gone. LOTS of things to do before we leave!

My son and daughter are gone with Daddy right now at his first Upward basketball practice. We're not sure how many games he'll get to play, but he's excited all the same. He's really looking forward to getting his uniform this morning. Hubby was all set to coach (something he's been looking forward to since my son was 1 day old) and won't be able to do that now because of the move. But, like we keep reminding ourselves, we can do all those things next year when we're back.

We'd continue to covet any prayers you would lift up on our behalf. And hopefully (cross-fingers) I will be posting more soon. I'll definitely try to post some from London on our house-hunting adventures.