Saturday, January 28, 2012

london with four kids.

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We’re moving out of our little flat at 49 Chiltern St. tomorrow.  We’ve spent 3 weeks here and we have very mixed emotions about leaving.  We’ve had some tough times here, but we’ve also had some amazing times, pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming kind of times and it’s a little sad to see this chapter of our adventure come to a close. 

I can not believe all we’ve done in the past few weeks.  All we’ve seen and felt and learned – it’s hard to even take it all in.  I had visions before I came here of being super organized about blogging everything we did, but then my dream jumped into life and things are much more scrambled and out of control then they were in my nicely shelved dream, but that’s ok, because they’re real.  If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that once dreams move out of your head and into reality you see a lot of sides to them that you didn’t expect, and sometimes you have to remind yourself that you’re living your dream, and once you do you’re back to pinching yourself with joy that you’re dream came to life. 

So, instead of a some nice organized blog entries about our adventures here so far, here’s a smorgasbord of pictures  and words, things we want to remember before we slip into our next life.  (Excuse that they are all iPhone pictures….I forgot my camera battery charger in my kitchen at home which may be a blessing in disguise as I can’t imagine adding that big camera to my load these past few weeks!)

I’ve always wanted to live in a city with my kids.  I’m not sure exactly where this desire came from, but I think it stems back to my days in NYC as a graduate student.  I fell in love with the thrill of that city.  I loved how every day I’d walk out the door to an adventure.  There was always something to do, see, smell, learn, feel, take in.  I guess I want my kids to feel comfortable and free in cities, I want them to feel the thrill of being surrounded by so many interesting people and sights and cultures.  So, here we are, and boy is it harder than I imagined (I sense a new theme for this blog?)  but in three weeks we’ve kind of learned how to manage, we’ve learned the new city rules (though they are not perfectly obeyed), our kids are a little more aware of who they’re blocking or annoying and we can kind of get out of the door without feeling too panicked.   We’re not totally there, but when I think of all we’ve learned it feels like we’ve come a long way.

So, here’s what we’ve loved about living right in the heart of the city:

  • funnily enough, I’ve loved our small little apartment.  When I first walked in after that horrendous day of travel without Jeff I was disappointed by how small the place was (amazing how tricky wide angle cameras are).   But, it has worked out so well.  I love having a little kitchen where everything is within reach (I' haven’t really been cooking like I do at home, so I might feel differently after a while), I’ve loved having everyone on the same floor (stairs can really be a drag with a baby and a three year old who needs you to still take her to the potty every half hour), I’ve loved having our little washer/dryer combo in the kitchen so that I can stay on top of laundry (I forget about it down in the basement).  I love how we put Emmeline to bed in our bed and then have to move her out to the couch when she goes to sleep, it forces me to see her sleeping, which is always a good way to erase the frustrations of the day.  I love opening up the blinds in the morning and seeing the brick building across the way and hearing all the city sounds around us.  The kids love the tiny mirrored elevator (and play in it FAR too much).  I love our little round table that we sit around for meals.  I LOVE that a cleaning lady comes in three times a week.  I love that we’re all so close together.  I love that we haven’t been able to figure out how to make the DVD player play our DVDs.  The kids have been playing together non stop with nothing but some Legos and a few toys they brought with them.IMG_7429
  • I’ve loved not having very much stuff.  We didn’t bring much stuff to England, and we brought even less to London for our short stay in the city (the rest is out with Amy).  There is something so simple and glorious about not having stuff.  It makes me wonder what in the world we’ll need from those other bags stored in Amy’s garage.  It’s nice that at least one part of our life feels simple. 
  • I’ve loved the double decker busses.  I’ve gotten to know the routes pretty well and we’ve been taking them everywhere.  It’s so much easier to get the kids on and off (especially the stroller) and we’re never in that big of a hurry so we can sit and watch London go by, or tell stories or read books as we make our way to our destinations.IMG_1870
  • I’ve loved the museums here.  Most of them are free so you don’t feel like you have to see everything all at once, you can just spend an hour or two and then say you’ll see the rest another day.  And they all have amazing children guides or activities or trails or hunts that totally keep the kids engaged.IMG_1827
  • I have LOVED doing “mommy school” here.  We’re not sure what the schooling situation is going to be like once we move into our house, but for the past few weeks we’ve been doing “mommy school” which mainly consists of learning about London, visiting museums, playing in parks, learning how to count British money, dividing sweets, writing in journals and reading a lot.  It’s not all sunshine and flowers, we’ve had some serious melt downs and even mommy school strikes, but overall we’ve all really enjoyed it.  I feel like I’m spending a lot of my time and energy doing the thing I love most about mothering: teaching my children.  And, I’m learning so much in the process.  I feel this hunger growing inside of me to review all that I ever knew about history and cultures and art and people.  I love it.
  • The weather here has been so incredibly mild.  I think we’re probably the only ones who have moved to London for the weather and the housing, but we’ve found both to work out better than Boston so far.
  • I love that I feel so engaged as a mother here.  Something about changing life has somehow helped me feel really connected with my kids in a way that I haven’t for a while.  Maybe it’s that we are all so needy, we are clinging to each other.  And that feels good.
  • I love walking out the door and being surrounded by London.  It is really an amazing city.  The big red busses, the striking black cabs, the amazingly old and beautifully detailed buildings surrounding you everywhere. I’m falling in love. 
  • When they aren’t falling apart, I love having these three ‘big kids’ following me about.  They are awesome when they aren’t awesome. IMG_1808IMG_1845
  • I love the way people talk and interact.  How parents call their children ‘darlings’ and how almost everyone sounds polite and educated (I’m sure once I get the accents down that will change, but for now, people seem so much more refined!)
  • I love that my brain is challenged every single day.  I feel like I’m using parts of it that have never been used before, I can almost feel the new synapses firing, and that feels good.  My brain has felt a little sleepy for a while and now it’s very awake.
  • My becco baby carrier.  Peter spends a lot of time on my back so that little Em can take a rest in the stroller and I love having him back there.  He keeps me all warm, and makes such sweet noises (except when he’s crying).  I love it.
  • the parks here.  I love the parks here.  They’re like parks when I was little.  They’re dangerous.  They have mary-go-rounds.  They have zip lines.  They have tall tall swings.  They have climbing structures that are actually challenging for the kids.  My kids faces burst into delight the minute they’re set free at a playground here.  I think the combination of awesomely fun stuff to do and being free from traffic and crowds just sets their little souls aglow.  IMG_1884IMG_1878
  • You can order groceries in your PJs and before you know it a nice bloke is delivering them to your door.
  • The food.  England gets a bad rap for bad food, but I’ve found the food here amazing.  The produce is fresh and tasty (the carrots taste like real carrots), the sweets and cookies are delicious (we’ve eaten way too much) and the pre-made sandwiches that you can get everywhere are not bad at all.  Maybe the novelty will wear off, but I think I’m going to really miss the food once we’re gone. 
  • Being close to a best friend who will and has dropped everything when I need anything.  I’m not sure how I’d hold up without her.

And, to keep it real, here’s what I haven’t loved so much:

  • having to yell at my kids all the time because I’m so nervous that they aren’t going to be aware and accidently step off the curb and get hit by a bus (those busses come fast, so close to the sidewalk).  We’re all getting better at this, but it still pretty much freaks me out all the time.
  • carrying the stroller up and down so many stairs.  A lot of the time people stop to help, but a lot of the time they don’t.
  • Navigating all the new systems from housing, to banking to transportation, to cell phones, to groceries.  Everything feels different here except for the language.  I guess that’s why my brain is coming alive so ultimately it’s a good thing, but boy has it taken a lot of time and energy.
  • dealing with kids who are strung out, jetlagged, over walked, undone, frustrated, overstimulated and hungry all while I’m dead tired myself.
  • getting on and off of escalators and trains during rush hour.  Why are people always in such a hurry? 
  • trying to plug in stuff and keep stuff charged has been a challenge.  I’m sure we’ll get that worked out.
  • Housing is so darn expensive for so little, but I think we’ve got that worked out.
  • Every time I walk out the door suddenly money is just gone.  Everything is so darn expensive.  Good thing it all feels like monopoly money right now since it’s a different currency and our budget is all disheveled, but I’m sure I’m in for a big surprise when we sit down to sort it all out. 

All in all, life is good.  I’d bring this dream into reality even after knowing all it’s ugly sides.  It just feels right and real.

 

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Good bye to our little home by Baker Street station.  On to the next adventure: learning to drive on the left side of the road.  That will certainly be as dangerous as the London traffic.

14 comments:

  1. Great Blog, Saydi. Makes me homesick for London and miss you and the kids. Emmeline looks so cute with her haircut. You're right to be petrified of the traffic. That's the first, last and middle thing they emphasized in our orientation at the American School in London because it's a real danger. Now you can trade that for learning how to drive like a Brit!

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  2. Your pictures make me crave London so much! And I'm sure it's so hard sometimes with 4 small kids, but this is such an amazing experience you're having. I miss the food, too--like warm custard (you can buy containers of it in the grocery stores) over homemade apple crisp. YUM. Hugs!

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  3. Anonymous11:27 PM

    I think if the player is from there you need region 2 dvds? Europe is region 2. US is region 1.

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  4. It takes a lot of courage to step into an adventure like this with kids, but you'll go back to boston and feel like you left part of your heart in London. It will have a larger part of your heart than any other place you lived because of the stretch and exhilaration you experience every day.

    I loved your comment about when your dream becomes reality you see different sides of it (hard sides) but then you realize where you are and it all becomes OK. Beautiful articulation.

    Thank you for sharing your adventures with us!

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  5. Oh I'm so envious! I just LOVED your comment about the playgrounds Saydi. I tell my kids all the time about the playground I had in grade school-with the giant kid-sucking-under merry-go-round-enough space underneath that if you didn't jump on quickly you were in BIG trouble..the too high swings we all jumped off...the too high monkey bars that someone broke their arm falling from every year. They look at me like they are all so jealous-and frankly, they should be, because it was all so FUN. You learned to be careful and be daring and make good decisions.
    Glad you are getting settled and keep blogging-I love hearing of it all.

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  6. oh saydie it is so much fun following you on this adventure. i love london so much and would love to have an experience like that with my kids. i can only imagine the ups and downs. take care and say hi to amy for me!!

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  7. Saydi, So awesome!! Makes me wish so badly we were in another country for a while!

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  8. Hi Saydi, not sure if you remember me, but I lived with your family in SLC for a couple of years 1979-80 and 1983-84. Would love to catch up with you when you are settled in your new home. If you email me at annie.doyle@btinternet.com perhaps we can arrange to get together?
    Love Anne

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  9. Sayds,
    So HAPPY for ALL of you. London is lucky to have you appreciate ALL its beauty. What an awesome experience. Can't wait to know your new address (email it to me when you are all moved in k;)Ian wants to write to Hazel. So we LOVE you guys and are SO SO SO happy for ya. Carpe Diem!!!

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  10. How stupendous to see this! Oh man all that looks fun...and hard! congrats on surviving so far! Hug those kids for us! Jeff too! Hang in there baby!

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  11. Beautiful post, Saydi! I know exactly what you mean about monopoly money and trying to get used to all the different "systems" that don't seem that different until you're actually navigating them--I only wish I'd gotten to do that in London instead of frigid Saskatchewan, haha!

    My favorite thing about your pictures is how your kids (and you!) already look so very British! Lovely!!

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  12. Oh those first two pictures are my favs. LOVE the motion in that second one. And the beauty of the first. But mostly I just love YOU and I'm so excited to live out this adventure vicariously through you! Hopefully we will get to come visit. Sure love you.

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  13. Good luck with the driving. I always just remember to keep MYSELF toward the center of the road - then I'm on the correct side. I usually only get mixed up turning corners!

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  14. I popped over here from your sisters blog because, as an American living overseas, I love reading about others doing the same.

    I just had to comment about the monopoly money. I was in London for a medevac a few months ago, and definitely felt like I was dealing with play money. I took the amount in pounds and doubled it to get an idea of what I was spending. However, I live in Guinea and the smallest denomination they have is 500 Guinean Francs, and the largest is 10,000 GNF. 10,000 GNF is approximately $1.50, so a normal run to the grocery store runs about 500,00 GNF (a HUGE stack of cash) which means I have absolutely NO concept of what I'm spending. It's all free/monopoly money to me!

    Enjoy your adventure!

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