On with the show!

For literally the first time in 5 1/2 years, last Saturday I had a true opportunity to sleep in.  I was in London, on my own, with no obligations and a schedule that didn’t kick in until around lunchtime.  But, of course, I DIDN’T sleep in … because I was on my own, with no obligations and a schedule that didn’t kick in until around lunchtime … and I had all of London to enjoy.

After getting up and surprising myself with how little time it required to get just myself ready and out the door, I got some breakfast and some coffee, and reintroduced myself to London’s Tube system, meeting several helpful Londoners along the way.  Navigating the Tube was much easier than I remembered (i.e., without a stroller), and I easily made my way to the first of the stops on my to-do list for the weekend — Sherlock’s house.

(It’s probably worth mentioning that I really like TV, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  Most of my favorite TV comes from Britain, so there was more than one piece of this grand adventure that was initially inspired by British television.  More on that later.)


My destination was, in particular, the place where they film the exterior of Sherlock’s residence in the current BBC incarnation of the story (not at the iconic 221B Baker Street, but instead nearby on Gower Street).  I wanted to see it in person after having watched it so many times on screen.  It was fun to be there.  It didn’t look quite the same (of course) and I got another visiting fan — a young woman who was so excited to be there that she said she thought she might cry — to take my picture.  Neat!  And then, it was back to Westminster for more typical touristy stuff.

060My next stop was to fulfill Benjamin’s request for some pictures with his own camera (which I brought along just for that) — primarily he wanted pictures of Big Ben.  I managed to get a few, plus some with my phone, and even managed a doubly impressive Big-Ben-and-red-double-decker-bus-in-the-same-picture shot.  If I was going to go away to London for the weekend, it was really the least I could do.

Shortly after my Benjamin-inspired photo shoot, Pam arrived and we set out together to explore the city.  We wandered to and through Parliament Square, and then over the Thames to the South Bank for a stroll.  We walked for quite a ways, along the South Bank and back across the river, through 045Trafalgar Square and over to Buckingham Palace, and then back through St. James’ Park (where we saw some very unseasonable looking Cherry Blossoms).  It was great fun to explore London with an old friend (Pam and I have known each other since we were 10 and 11, respectively).  It was amazing to me how much ground we were able to cover and how many hours we were able to walk — I’m used to my walking excursions being severely limited by the energy and patience of a 5 year old (while Liam, on the other hand, pretty much never tires of walking, but hiking is more to his liking).  After years of European exploration with the kids, I’m completely unused to a grown up sightseeing schedule.





And then, in the evening, it was time to prepare for one of the main events of the weekend (and one of the initial motivations for the whole trip) — seeing Richard II at the Barbican Theater.  I’ll admit that my initial interest in the show came from having a bit of an embarrassing crush on its star (who I first watched on British TV), but even if my inspiration for going to see the play might have been a little silly, the experience of seeing it was decidedly not.


To needlessly state the obvious, seeing Shakespeare done by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London is incredibly special.  I don’t think anything can emotionally manipulate an audience like Shakespeare brought to life by talented, experienced artists.  Everything from the sets to the lighting to the music was just perfect, and the level of skill displayed by every single one of the actors was impressive even to my ignorant eye.  I am so grateful to have had that experience.  It was a night to remember, and I will take any future opportunity to experience anything like it.  I’ve been completely won over.


It was a great day.  I missed my family, but my desire to be with them didn’t ruin my time (nor did it inspire me to try to fly home early).  As Pam and I opted for an early night rather than going out after the show, it occurred to me that my concept of a good “girls’ weekend” has certainly changed a lot in the past decade, but I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about this day.

Living room campouts, again

I’m pretty sure that if we’d never left the US, we would have taken the kids camping by now, at least once, even if we’d only gone as far as the wilds of Grandpa’s backyard.  As it is, we haven’t yet, not really.  But we have gotten a fair bit of practice, having sleepovers in the tent in the living room.

It’s a habit we got out of over the winter.  Mostly, I think, because the boys are now sharing a room, so now every night is kind of a sleepover for them.  But last weekend, the boys requested another campout sleepover in the living room, and Dan camped out with them.  This past weekend, they wanted to do it again, and I took a turn.

It was really great fun, and it made me sorry we’ve gotten out of the habit.  After our usual Friday night movie night (which has sometimes turned into Friday night TV night, because it’s a constant struggle to find appropriate yet engaging movies for a 2 and 4 year old), for which we did as camping themed TV shows, we got the tent all ready.  The boys snuggled up in their sleeping bags (actually fleece lined buntings intended for the stroller — I wish I had one myself) and we got out the iPad to do some stargazing.  We looked up stars and planets and imagined what it would be like to actually be camping outside.  Then the boys curled up for sleep and I got myself situated on the couch.

Not surprisingly, it took a while for them to settle down (because camping is fun!) but they did, and drifted off peacefully, although I realized, prior to falling asleep myself, that both boys had wiggled out of their “sleeping bags” and out of the tent entirely — they were actually cuddled up together out on the carpet.  But they were happy.  Liam woke once in the middle of the night unsure of where he was, but I helped him get back into the tent, back into his sleeping bag, and back to sleep.

We had a great night.  And waking up to my boys snoozing peacefully in their tent was pretty fantastic.  I’m glad we’ve revived the living room campouts.



Benjamin and the planets

I try not to brag excessively about my kids.  Of course I think they’re beautiful, brilliant, sweet, loving, strong, fast, kind and generally amazing and wonderful — I’m their mom, I can’t help it.  But I do try to keep most of it to myself, because otherwise it would be all I would talk or write about, because they’re my most favorite people in the whole world.

But every so often they do or say something so cute that I just can’t keep it to myself.  At only 3 years old, Benjamin knows all of the planets.  I don’t know if that’s typical, but it’s pretty impressive to me.  He can recite the names of all 9 of them (including Pluto — I grew up in a world where Pluto was a planet) in order, and tell you a little bit about all of them.  He tells me that Jupiter is made of gas (which he says is funny), that Mars has lots of dust and that Neptune is very cold.  Earth is his favorite, but he might like to try to live on Jupiter.  He asks really good questions, like “Whats’ the difference between a planet and a moon?” and “What do the planets have inside of them?” and “Is the Earth spinning very, very fast?”

I can take almost no credit for this.  Like many other things he’s learned in his 3 years, this came almost entirely from tv (in this case, I think we have Olivia and Bubble Guppies to thank) with some supplemental material from books.  It’s so cute to hear him, and so impressive to see how his mind works.  He told us, the other evening, that he wants to be an astronomer when he grows up — he has previously alsoexpressed a wish to be a fire fighter and a chef.  I love watching him grow and learn and be excited about things.  Being a mom is the best thing ever.

In Front of the TV

We got our internet and cable installed today, which is good on so many levels.  Now, I can actually access the internet (and write) other than through my phone and we can also watch TV all day.  There have been times in the past where I’ve been hard on myself for putting Benjamin in front of the TV for major parts of the day (I started doing it when I was pregnant with Liam and just too tired to keep up with him all day).  I’ve gotten past that:  I’ve been astounded, over the past year, by how much Benjamin has actually learned from TV (most of it is even good).  (I remember the first time Benjamin pointed out a triangle to me, and I thought, “Oh, it’s great that Dan’s been working on that with him”, and then I asked, and he hadn’t been.)  But beyond that, it’s now going to be a major tool in our introduction to German.

TV intended for little kids is designed to build vocabulary through demonstration and repetition — which is exactly what we need right now.  I’ve already learned something:  the German word for red is “rot” (which I knew) but when you describe something as red, you say “rote” (or at least, “Diego” did).  Benjamin and I worked on our German counting today, as well as the names for other colors (I learned the word for yellow), how to greet people and identify yourself.  A lot of those things I had already learned, but watching kids’ TV is a great way to hear it used clearly, and practicing with your two year old is pretty low-stress.  I found some strange things, as well, like the fact that “Go, Diego, Go”, which at home is designed to teach Spanish words to native English speakers is redubbed here to teach English to native German speakers (which is weird because it’s set in South America and all the names are still Spanish, and pronounced with a Latin American Spanish accent).  (Ni Hao Kai Lan is still intended to teach Chinese, but to German speakers.)  We watched Nick, Jr., all day — which is great, except that here they cycle through the same 6 or so shows all day long . . . literally, when they go through the cycle and come back to, say, Wonder Pets, it’s the same episode of Wonder Pets that they played earlier in the day.  (Again, I guess that’s good for the repetition.)

Of course, *getting* the cable and internet installed was a bit of a challenge.  Only one of the installation guys spoke any English at all, and that was minimal.  Just explaining to them that Liam was sleeping, and asking if they could help me by being quiet, was impossible (and ineffective) and locating the cable outlet in the wall (which involved communication as well as moving furniture) was nearly impossible.  Having them explain to me how to use the cable remote with the TV remote was pretty funny (that’s pretty funny in English anyway) and when I asked the guy what was in the contract I signed at the end, he just shrugged and looked helpless.  I guess I’d better get back to Team Umizoomi or Wonder Pets.  I need practice.