First Day 2018

Back to life. Back to reality.

It is hard enough coming back to the real world after the most amazing July in Scotland, but to have to come back and jump right into school is just mean.

As usual, the kids are handling the shift back much better than I am, although I think every one of us has said, “I wish we could just go back to Edinburgh” at least once in the last few days.

So now I have an 8th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader, 3rd grader, and kindergartener. We decided on two years of kindergarten for Kai. He has been through so much physically and emotionally in his six years, it just seemed like a good time to let him be little a bit longer.

So it is the first year for Kai to be in real school. He is there all day, doing Mandarin emersion like Hannah. He seems happy after school each day, but it is proving to be a difficult adjustment. He has been crying on his way to school and today he began screaming and tried to hold onto the car instead of getting out at carpool.

Shortly before he seemed happy to go to school and I was feeling so relieved. Then he confided in me his plan to pay the police officer at his school with his $1 so that he wouldn’t have to go to school any more. He figured that since it was against the law to not go to school he would be able to get around it by PAYING OFF THE POLICE! Yikes! Now I’m thinking he maybe needed to skip a grade instead of repeating kindergarten…

Hopefully the pain of the adjustment will be short lived and he will find himself happy again soon. My momma heart needs that to happen!

How many days until next summer????

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Journey Home

Looks like Paris was just a warm up for the comedy of errors that occurred on our trip home. Let’s just say we had hours and hours and hours of this in several different cities.

The trip that should have taken us half a day, getting us home at a regular US bedtime, ended up taking a full 24 hours and we got home at 4 in the morning. I want to say that I am so happy to be home. I’m DEFINITELY happy that we are not on an airplane or in an airport right now, but mostly I just wish I could go back!

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Adventure to Scotland- Final Week

Our final week in Scotland was absolutely as majestic as the first few weeks.

To begin with, we had a set of grandparents join us. To say that the kids were excited to see them would be a tremendous understatement. It was so much fun to see them excited to show off “our” city, and tell them all about everything we had done so far.

We missed our last opportunity to go to church in Scotland because Zac urgently wanted to participate in a 5k race that we learned about. A few of us had been running in the mornings, and he was excited to challenge himself in a race.

The race took place around Arthur’s Seat, which is an absolutely beautiful location. I was excited to run with him.

We started the race with an excited mix of people of all ages. Zac immediately took off so fast that I couldn’t see him anymore. It was probably about five minutes into the race when I realized that we did not seem to be going AROUND the mountain, we seemed to be going UP the mountain! I kept thinking that any minute we would level off, but no. It ended up being the hardest race that I ever participated in. At the finish line I was so excited to see Zac and see how he had handled the mountain run. Turns out he didn’t even NOTICE that we ran a mile and a half completely UP the mountain, and he came in fifth place overall in a race of more than 500 people! Absolutely amazing, and it is an experience we will remember forever.

Monday and Tuesday of this week we took a tour to the Highlands. We saved this trip for near the end to share with the grandparents, and we were so glad that we did. Although we had many many hours in buses, vans, and trains, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. We had one gorgeous day of sun and one day full of rain which helped us to feel like we were getting the true Scotland experience. We saw sheep and cows aplenty, took a cruise searching for Nessie in the Loch Ness, saw the highest peak in Scotland, countless locs, and several castles.

The “Fountain of Youth.” We were told that you had to hold your face in the water for seven seconds for it to be effective. These are the 3 that accepted the challenge.

We wanted to spend our last days in Edinburgh doing a mix of the things that we had most loved during our trip and a couple of the things we still definitely wanted to do. We shared another picnic on top of Calton Hill, continued our search for the best “Millionare’s Shortbread” in Edinburgh, and walked around the Royal Mile. Kaitlyn and Hannah showed off their new Scottish kilts, and Hannah asked if she was now a “Scottish Chinese American.”

We also traveled to the town of Linlithgow to attend a “Scotch Hop.” This was basically like a square dance, with a caller and instructor teaching the Scottish dances as we went. I am NOT going to share the videos here, but it was a lot of fun and absolutely a unique experience.

For our final day, we decided to climb Arthur’s Peak. It was something we had wanted to do the entire time, but we decided that one might be best with just the 3 oldest kids, so we had to wait for Grama to keep our littles. I’m so glad that we saved that experience for our last day. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. It was somewhat strenuous in places, but altogether a very doable climb. It was the perfect place to sit, admire the city, and reflect on this incredible month.

The biggest festival in Edinburgh begins today, and the crowds were already noticeably bigger everywhere we went. The one thing I had been kicking myself about was that we booked our tickets to leave Edinburgh on August 3, not realizing that the famous Military Tattoo began on August 3. Early in our trip I tried to change our flights a day later so that we could attend, but it was too cost prohibitive, so I have regretted that all month. Late on Wednesday I found out that they were going to be having a half-price preview show on Thursday night. I went quickly to buy tickets, and bought the last ones that were available, but they only had 6. Thank goodness Grama was there again, and volunteered to stay home with 2 of the kids. It was going to be our two littles again until Kai burst into tears saying, “seeing the ‘bandpipes’ was the ONLY thing I even wanted to do in Scotland!” Oh my. Luckily Kaitlyn volunteered her ticket since loud noises and crowds bother her a bit, and everyone was happy.

The crowd walking into the Tattoo.

It was the perfect way to end an extraordinary experience. It was majestic and glorious and felt like the ultimate celebration of Scotland. We could not have planned a better send off.

We had some tears this morning as we were leaving our flat. Part of the problem of having such an incredible experience is the equivalent sting that occurs when it is over. We are all richer from this month together in countless ways. It is hard right now to articulate what this month has truly meant to me. I will keep working on that. Right now we will work on getting home, and hope that the full happy hearts that we currently have will sustain us as we adjust back to our lives at home that move at quite a different pace than the bliss we have had during July 2018.

 

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Adventure to Scotland Part 4- Paris

When we first decided on this monthlong trip we thought it would be great to take advantage of visiting a few “nearby” cities. After being here in Edinburgh, we decided that we actually wanted to stay here for the most part, so that is what we did.

Paris was high on my list of cities that I wanted to see, however, so we decided to make that one happen.

Paris is a story of if it could go wrong, it did. Let’s start with our first day. First of all, to get the best price on flights we took the 5:55 am flight. This meant that I had to wake the kids up at 3:30 am. Really not the best start for a trip. Still, we were excited and had high expectations for our days in Paris, so we were ready to go.

After a couple of weeks in Edinburgh, we felt comfortable with public transportation. We have frequently used buses and trains, and it has been easy to navigate and overall a great experience. Those feelings did NOT transfer to Paris. We had two tired adults, five kids, and several pieces of luggage through the Paris airport, onto an extremely crowded train, to our train station that we had carefully researched to start us on our first full day. Snafu number one- this train station didn’t have luggage lockers.

Get back on train to backtrack to another train station that has luggage lockers. Walk approximately a mile and a half in this train station to find luggage lockers to be told they were “out of order.” Start internally panicking and begin walking away when they fix the problem after all. Oh good, maybe out luck was turning. Nope.

We now are too far away to walk to the Eiffel tower, which was our original plan. We decide to go the most reliable route and take a taxi from the queue. Of course there were no taxis that would fit 7 people, so we have to divide into 2 taxis. No problem we think, we are going to the same place and we will be just fine. For the first 3/4 of the trip our taxis were able to follow each other. We reached a traffic light, however, and one taxi made it through and the other didn’t. I don’t panic as I reach in my bag to grab my phone to keep track of the others.

That is when I realize I left my phone in one of the bags in the locker in the train station. I am starting to panic a bit at this point, mostly because I know my husband is going to kill me. I try to reassure myself that we will be going to the same place so it will be okay.

After an incredibly long ride I arrive at the Eiffel tower with three of the kids and look around for Jeff and the other two. No sign of them. We walk up and down paths on 3 sides of the tower. Nope. There is a line about 400 people long, so I have the kids go ahead and get in line while I look around some more. Still no luck.

I think surely if we just wait in the line for a bit that they will find us. I ask everyone around us if there is another entrance, and I’m assured that there isn’t.

Finally we are at the front of the line. At this point we have been there for what feels like hours. I am in total panic mode now. I start frantically asking if the people around me are Americans. I found several and asked to use their phone. At first, no luck, they didn’t have service.

A nice man from China heard my pleas and offered me his phone. We both tried and tried but couldn’t get a call to go through to a U.S. number. Finally I begged another American couple again to just let me send a text. They said they didn’t have a text plan but I could iMessage someone. Only problem- Jeff doesn’t have an iPhone. Sigh. Still, I use the opportunity to text both of our mom’s and ask them to get the message to Jeff. Unfortunately it was so early in the U.S. that both of our moms were still asleep. We are now at the very front of the line and just having to let people go in front of us.

Zac then offered to walk the path a little bit and look. Against my better judgement (let’s face it, there was only panicked judgement happening at this point) I let him do that. Shortly he came back with Jeff and the other kids. The relief I felt at this point was only dampened by the look on Jeff’s face when he oh so calmly asked me about my phone. Turns out that his taxi dropped them off on the main lawn, and he was pacing back and forth looking for us.

Finally we are together and think we can finally get our tickets and go in. Surprise!  That line that we waited in for so long was only the line for security.

We had 3 things planned for our day in Paris. At this point we go ahead and say that we can never make it to all 3 now, so decide on doing the Eiffel Tower and Sienne River cruise.

Despite everything, I was pretty excited at this point. We were actually there at the Eiffel Tower!

We are desperately hungry, so we grabbed some food from the vendors at the bottom of the tower. Shortly we decide that we need to get in line ASAP (I forgot to mention that I wasn’t able to prebook tickets online, but that is a different disaster story. Public service announcement: if you are going to the Eiffel Tower, ALWAYS prebook your tickets!) It appeared to be a long line, but fortunately we didn’t really realize how long it was. After about an hour into the wait we seriously considered walking away, but I argued that we were too invested at that point. Did I mention that it was about 95 degrees?

Finally, finally, it was our turn to get in the elevator to go into the tower. The plan was for Jeff and Zac to go to the summit, and me and the others to go to the second level. As we buy tickets we find out that the summit is closed. Of course.

So, we go up.

It was spectacular of course, but everyone was hot and exhausted. By the time we got back through the line to go down the tower,  found two taxis again, had the scariest taxi ride of my life, and made it back to the first train station to retrieve luggage to then go to the second train station for the next leg of our journey, our entire day was spent and the only thing we saw in Paris was the tower. Oh well, you have to see the tower, right?!

We had to rush because we had our big surprise for the kids- Disney! We didn’t tell them until we reached the end of the line on the train which was Disney Land. They were thrilled, and after the chaos of that day, we were thrilled to be in the peacefulness of Disney too!

We spent two days in Disneyland, enjoying the Marvel events that were happening this summer.

It was all truly great, however we continued to have what we called “Paris luck.” Shows we wanted to see were cancelled. Multiple times. Rides we wanted to ride were closed right as we walked up to them. Souvenirs we bought broke immediately. Multiple times.

Still, we were happy. Kids were happy. Kai was amazing and showed his contagious enthusiasm for everything we did, which was perfect.

Finally it was sadly time to go to the hotel by the airport where we would catch an early flight the next morning. We decided to book the TGV this time, which would make our return train trip much faster than the one that brought us to Disney. Or so we thought.

We arrived at the train station at 8:30 for our 8:55 train. The actual train ride was supposed to take 10 minutes, getting us to our hotel at a decent time.

We are first told that our train was delayed 15 minutes. Then 20. Then 40. Then an hour. Then an hour an fifteen. At this point they stop changing the board and we wonder if a train is every coming. Apparently no one actually works at the train station at night so there was no one to ask. The kids were tired and hungry, and frustrated that we could have had longer at Disney.

FINALLY at 11:00 our train arrives. We make it to the Paris airport. Walk the mile and half to where we can ride our shuttle to the hotel. Make it on the very last shuttle of the night. Arrive at our hotel at a bit past midnight.

No problem, we just have to leave our hotel at 5 am. That was an expensive 5 hours.

The next morning we are completely ripped off by our cab driver. Have ridiculous bad luck trying to check in at the not working kiosks. Finally find where there are actual employees working, get checked in, and give a huge sigh of relief as the plane touches back to the ground in Scotland.

I’m glad we went. It was a great adventure and the kids loved it, but I’m also thinking that next time I might just skip Paris…

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Adventure to Scotland- Part 3

Another week passed in just a blink. We are now a little over halfway into our trip, and I wish it would never end!

We just couldn’t stop talking about how much we loved seeing the Shakespeare performance, so we looked found the city they were going to next and found a bus that would take us there.

We spent the afternoon at these beautiful gardens and grounds. There were big fields to play in and a wooded garden to find fairies. There was a wishing tree to tie ribbons onto. It was an easy afternoon.

Finally we had a picnic and watched an incredible performance of “Hamlet” that night. Every single one of us loved it! I would not have predicted that watching some Shakespeare plays would be high on the list of things we have done for my 6 and 8 year olds, or even my 9 or 11 year olds, but it was just THAT good! We made sure to get front row seats this time. Seriously. anyone traveling to the UK in the summer months need to make it a priority to see “The Three Inch Fools” in person!

The next day we followed an online scavenger hunt that we found around Edinburgh’s “Old Town”. At this point we have walked these streets so many times that we know them very well, but the scavenger hunt led us to some things that we had overlooked for sure. It was a great way to explore the city. We will definitely try another one again sometime!

One of the things on our list was meeting up with a good friend of my aunt, who lives here in Edinburgh. We met her at the National Museum of Scotland, and spend a lovely day together. It is an incredible museum, and besides a days’ worth of hands on activities for the kids, we got to see “Dolly the Sheep“, learn about the history of the asthma inhaler, and see a robot spell our name.

We had heard rave reviews of “Dynamic Earth.” It was easily walkable for us, so we decided to try it, but I honestly didn’t have high expectations. As frequently happens, it then blew me away. There were fantastic interactive and entertaining exhibits about the makeup of the earth. Everyone loved it.

That takes us back to Sunday. This week we attended St. Giles Cathedral. It was incredibly beautiful, and with the paramedics having to rush in part way through the service to attend to someone, it was also unfortunately eventful.

That brings us to today, when we went to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.  Kids loved it all, but the most interesting part was a type of camera that they have at the top of the tower that is 165 years old. They can still manipulate this camera to see the people walking by on the Royal Mile.

We wrapped up the day with Kaitlyn and I riding the Ferris Wheel that she had been too afraid to ride when her siblings did a while back (time feels funny here. How long ago WAS that?!) At any rate, she has been frustrated with herself since not riding, and today she felt determined to do it. I had mixed feelings about this as I was just as happy staying with her on the ground. However, we did it. She was incredibly proud of how brave she was, and I tried to not let on that I was equally proud of myself. That thing is high!

Tomorrow we are leaving Edinburgh for the first time for an adventure in Paris. Shhh- it is a surprise for the kids!

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