Harrod’s

It’s quite the experience going to Harrod’s.   You can’t miss it, the building is covered in Christmas lights from top to bottom.  We wanted to take the boys to the toy department to get some ideas for Christmas.  Harrod’s is Europe’s largest department store, with over 1 million square feet of shopping.  It’s so over-the-top and excessive, but they have the best toy displays around.  Of course we got lost inside trying to find it.  They have over 300 departments within the building and tons of restaurants too.

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Cade loves these little magnetic metal balls you can build with

Once we found the toys, the boys couldn’t believe their eyes.  It’s a dream world for kids.  My two little Lego lovers were in heaven checking out all the Lego displays and sets, many they had never seen.  There was Big Ben and an incredible Tower Bridge display with little taxis and a double-decker bus.  If it wasn’t so insanely expensive, I’d be tempted.

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Jace and Nathan want these cool European Lego sets

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This boy loves his Star Wars Legos

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It was probably a good thing we only had 30 minutes before closing or we would have been there a while.  Jace found the Star Wars and dinosaur sections.  He’s making his list!

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I seriously wonder who actually buys some of this stuff.  Like this Range Rover for £40,000 which is $65,000 in the US.  You could buy a real car for that!  They have anything and everything here, with catalogs if you can’t find it on the floor.

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We were going to take the kids in the Christmas Grotto to go see Santa (or Father Christmas as they say), but the elves here were so weird, they scared the little boys.  Hopefully they’ll have more standard ones elsewhere.  We opted for the Lego Santa instead.

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These are Father Christmas’s elves…weird

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I think I’ll be doing most my shopping on Amazon, but it was fun to see what’s out there and dream!

Trafalgar Square

After we finished up school, we headed over to Trafalgar Square.  Surprisingly, it’s taken us three weeks to get there.  While the weather continues to be sunny, we wanted to explore more outdoors and this open monument was the perfect place to spend the afternoon.  The kids were blown away by all the street performers.  They could not figure out how guys were floating on air until they watched one disassemble his platform.  There’s a little chair that hooks onto the metal pole and runs down their arm.  You’ll notice Jace is not in any of these pictures.  He wanted nothing to do with these people!

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This floating guy had the creepiest face!

A magician had Tyler help with his card tricks. He had Tyler write his name on a card and ended up choking on it and pulled it out of his mouth.  Pretty gross.  He was pretty good and even showed the boys how he did some of the tricks when he was done.

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This magician amazed the boys with his tricks.

A freaky, gold Shrek guy pulled Nathan over for a picture and Nathan was a bit disturbed the rest of the time, claiming he was being stared at from then on.  There were other musicians and performers all vying for attention and money.

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They kids tried climbing on the massive lions, but they were just too big.  Tyler finally made it on top, making his brothers all jealous.  It’s such a beautiful, open area with so much to see and take in.

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We went inside the National Gallery just to warm up, not really knowing what was inside.  Pretty quickly we realized there were no other children and many art enthusiasts enjoying the fine art.  We didn’t stay long, though I’d like to go back alone sometime.  Oh, and if you’re thinking of taking a picture inside—warning-an extremely rude French employee might bite your head off for trying.  Oops, I didn’t see that sign upon entrance.

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The National Gallery

When we came out of the gallery, there was a life-like dinosaur roaming around.  Jace thought it was real and just froze.  He’s really gotten into dinosaurs and has learned many of their names.  When I showed him the extra pair of legs sticking out the bottom, he finally believed someone was inside.  We watched the dinosaur for a while, wandering around and then lunging at unsuspecting people making many scream.  There were a few kids in strollers who were a little traumatized, even though they were trying to promote a dinosaur show for children.  Cade got up close and got a good look at it.

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We explored the area and got snacks and Tyler found a coin shop that had all sorts of rare money.  He’s been collecting coins for a while now and I was hoping his hobby would mellow out while we were here, but he’s been able to find even more exciting money here (confederate bills, Nazi notes and bags of world coins).  His Christmas list is now full of the most random things from these old shops.  The older the better with him.

We will definitely be back to Trafalgar Square another day, we loved it!

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Tower of London

Last Saturday, we battled the crowds and went to the most popular tourist attraction here–the Tower of London. The kids were anxious to check out everything behind the stone walls, and we did. From the bloody tower where they tortured prisoners to the spectacular crown jewels and all the armory and weapons from generations, it entertained the boys for hours. It was like a little city contained inside.  It’s hard to believe it was alll began over 1000 years ago.  We heard many fascinating and heartbreaking stories inside these walls.  Seeing prisoners names carved in the stone brought to life some of the events we learned about.

We also learned that for 600 years, it held exotic and wild animals, originally for protection and then given as gifts or for entertainment for people to come see.  Things did not end well when some of the animals attacked visitors and they had to removed.  Cade has been researching the history of the tower and informed us that the only animals on sight now are the six caged ravens that are still believed to be symbolic of the kingdom’s power.  If they leave, the kingdom will fall.

The views of the Tower Bridge were incredible. It’s too bad the windows are so narrow inside the towers to enjoy it.  We had a great day out as a family and understand why this is sight not to be missed.

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Steel animals depicting what once roamed the grounds

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Tyler loved checking out all the mint coins in the treasury

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Outside the bloody tower

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Part of the Queen’s Guard performing the Ceremony of the Keys

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Jace loved seeing the little boy’s armour

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The boys wanted to play at the park during daylight hours this time!

Buckingham Palace and Iceskating

I’ve been wanting to take the kids to Buckingham Palace ever since we’ve arrived, but we wanted to go when they have the changing of the guards (which is every other day in the winter).  We skipped our school for the morning and made it just in time.  I wasn’t prepared for how many people would be there, thinking it was just an ordinary Thursday in November.  The grounds were packed.  We’ll have to go back when we have a better view, but we did see the new guards march in.  The music, the horses, the guardsmen, their uniforms—it’s fun to see the traditional British at work.  The boys were wowed.  The older boys are researching the history behind the monarchy and palaces and learning a lot.  This past year marked the Queen’s 60th reigning year.  With baby George’s recent christening and the photograph of the four generations of heirs to the throne just released (the first since the late 1800s), it seems like there’s a new level of interest in the Royal family.  There’s souvenirs of them everywhere and on everything.

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Ever since Cade saw the ice skating rink at the Natural History Museum, he’s been dying to go.  We rode the merry-go-round right away and waited for a good evening to return to skate.  We picked the perfect, warm night to go and had the best time skating. It was so pretty with the Christmas lights and decorated trees. This was Jace’s first time, and they had these adorable penguins for kids to push and keep stable.  He was so proud of himself!  Cade was a daredevil as usual, spinning and doing tricks.  We were praying he wouldn’t fall since his football concussion just healed.  There was this great, smaller rink off to the side for beginners that we had all to ourselves.  The little boys got more daring and Jace let go of the penguin to try things on his own.  They’re already asking to go again.  Chances are we will since there are so many festive ice rinks to choose from.

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Museums & Parks

It’s amazing what we can see and do in a week’s time here.  I think it’s because we don’t have the distractions of real life and can just go and do whatever we want.  I love it.  It’s not all rosy (trust me), but I’m so grateful for this rare opportunity to be this involved and present with my kids to go and see the world through their eyes.  It’s priceless really.

We’re finding it’s necessary to get out of the apartment every day or we’ll go insane.  We stayed home once.  Not a good idea.

We’ve been checking out a lot of museums and parks lately.  I’m pretty sure my kids will be “museumed” out by the time we’re done with this adventure.  There’s just so many fascinating things to see, they really have the best of the best here.  I love that most of them are free too so we can visit often or just go for a shorter visit, not trying to see everything in one day.

British Museum

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We checked out the British Museum which is enormous.  The main display the boys wanted to see was the ancient Egyptian mummies–they were intrigued by what they saw.  They even had mummified animals.  There were x-ray pictures showing what was inside.  Fascinating and creepy. There’s so much more to see here, but we made it a quick trip so we could hit the park while it’s sunny.

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Museum of Childhood

We ventured over to the Museum of Childhood.  Displayed are toys European children played with dating back to the 1600s to the present time.  As you enter, there’s a wall of items children had expelled from school over the years, which the boys found quite interesting.

Jace loved the Star Wars collection, even though they didn’t have General Grievous.  Nathan was hoping for a big Lego display, but they only had a tiny one.  Guess they’re not as popular here.  Cade liked the big robot on display that requires you to put the pieces of the clockwork correctly on his back to make it come alive.  Tyler’s favorite things were the retro video games and army toys.  It was eye-opening to see some of the games they required German kids to play in school during Hitler’s reign.  I was amazed at the intricate doll houses, having loved mine as a child.  The little boys were freaked out by all the baby dolls—they’re still getting over a scary story they read a year ago and seeing some of the creepy dolls here might make for some new nightmares!

  Confiscated toys from school

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I think Tyler’s about done with my picture taking

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They all liked the war games and reinacting battles

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Incredibly detailed army toys – not quite the same as the green ones we’re used to

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This was the largest make-a-funny-face with magnetic hair table

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Jace loved the rocking horses

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Tyler’s checking out the vintage videogames

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Jace found the Star Wars exhibit

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There were so many amazing dollhouses

 

Parks

Another cool park we found just down the street was Holland Park.  They have an adventure playground with really cool toys that would never pass code in America.  The park is huge.  The grounds used to be part of a 500 acre historic home renamed the Holland House.  It was bombed by the Germans in 1940 and most of it was destroyed.  The only section still standing is used as a youth hostel.  Tyler tried to find an opening to explore, but it’s all tightly boarded up.  There is so much history here, it’s haunting almost to imagine what occurred…at this beautiful place that entertained royalty to what it is today.

Holland Park

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Holland House in the early 1900s

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Holland House after being bombed 22 times in WWII

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They all loved the adventure playground.  So glad this is a short walk from our apartment!

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We daringly circled the peaceful Japanese gardens and saw huge goldfish and colorful peacocks.  If I had the ability, I’d come here and read a good book—it was like a postcard.

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The boys begged to go back to feed the birds at Kensington Gardens, but it was pretty packed and there were several loose dogs running around.  I’ve noticed they don’t have leash laws here like the US.  And there are so many dogs everywhere! Seeing the dogs made the boys miss Lily even more than they do, and they started feeding the dog bread instead.  When the dog’s owner arrived, she was yelling in her British accent “You naughty, naughty little dog!” over and over and the boys felt bad for it.  They found the cutest 10-week old puppy on its first adventure out and got to play with him for twenty minutes.  They’re missing their dog a lot.  I’m kind of enjoying the break, honestly.

Kensington Garden Pond

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Moving Day Weekend

Friday

November 9th, we packed all our seventeen bags up again when we got the good news that the apartment we chose was ready for us to move in to.   Lynn & Tyler got a taxi for all the luggage while the younger three and I raced during rush hour to pick up the keys, which we only had forty minutes until closing to retrieve.  Just our luck, the tube had a major backup due to an earlier fire and we had to wait and wait. I’ve avoided traveling the tube at this time of day because it is so uncomfortable, but this snafu made it so much worse.  I think I was the only one there crazy enough to have kids with me.

The first train that arrived was so packed, we tried shoving ourselves on, but couldn’t all fit.  I was so stressed that Lynn was going to show up at the apartment and I wasn’t going to have a key and we’d be homeless over the weekend. I didn’t have my UK phone yet, so I couldn’t contact him. We now had ten minutes to get from Black Friars to High Street Kensington, which is about 7 stops.  And still find the office with the keys, which I had never been to.  When the second train arrived equally packed, we pushed with all our might and squeezed in, just in the nick of time.  I felt so horrible for Jace and Nathan being trapped in a sea of legs hardly able to breathe.  Why did I have to wear my wool coat and scarf, it was boiling!!!  Jace and Nathan decided to argue and push each other right in the middle of all this.  It was the worst 10 minutes of our lives here so far.  I felt like Elaine on Seinfeld when she just wanted to scream on the subway.  Get me out of here!!!  We arrived a minute after 6:00 miraculously.  Thank goodness for Cade for running up the street, finding the office and getting the keys.  He saved the day!

We couldn’t have been happier to move into our new place.  I’m so grateful it all worked out and we were able to get this place, after the dozens of apartments we considered–this was the clear winner!  It was one of the few lateral ones and was completely furnished with great usable space that won’t make us feel cramped with school here.  What sealed the deal were two rare features for London apartments: a full-size fridge/freezer and a King bed in the master.  We’re living in Wynnstay Gardens in High Street Kensington-just a 5 minute walk from the tube stop.  The building was built in 1883 and we’re on the top (5th) floor.  The lift is probably the smallest they make, fitting only 2 people, but we sent all the bags up in numerous loads and took the stairs.  The apartment has been totally refurbished and is very clean.  We love this area, we can just walk outside and be in the heart of great shopping, parks and museums.  The only real drawback to this place is the dreaded washer/dryer combo in the kitchen.  Don’t even get me started on how frustrating laundry is here.  There’s so many other things to love about being here though, I can deal.

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Our new stomping ground

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Welcome home

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Wynnstay Gardens

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The tiny 2 man lift. They usually race down the spiral stairs to beat it!

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Master Bedroom

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Master bath. Love the towel warmers in England!

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Cade’s room – to double as the guest room

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Cade built a castle to decorate his room with.

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Tyler’s room with a desk for his schoolwork

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The little boys’ room. Didn’t take long for Legos to be scattered.

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Main bathroom

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View from up top.

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Dining Room – lots of space for school

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They couldn’t resist checking out the creepy attic – original brick walls.

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Ended the night with a little fireworks show out the family room window

We had our first meal at McDonald’s that night and it blew us away how nice it was-the atmosphere that is.  The boys had fun ordering things unique to England like a 1955 burger (with the hugest patty, prosciutto and creamy bbq sauce), a sugared donut and mud pie mcflurry.  We ate downstairs in a club-like area that even had fresh flowers on the table!  The french fries (or chips) were gross, but that’s probably a good thing, we won’t eat them.

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Saturday

We stayed up really late getting settled, which meant we got a late start on Saturday and missed the huge Lord Mayor’s Day Parade.  I really wanted to go see all the pomp and circumstance of this event, but it was raining and we didn’t have the energy to join a half million other people ring in the new female mayor of London.

Somehow we ended up at the Gap (because they’re everywhere) and outfitted the boys in some London gear.  Tyler traded in his Nike shorts and tees for a wool coat and scarf.  I never thought I’d see the day!  The rest of the guys got scarves and some coats and we left realizing it was the first time we’ve ever shopped with me being the only one not to get anything.  Oh well.  The shopping here is amazing and I’m sure I’ll get my turn.  We spent the rest of the day doing errands and I got my new phone, which is one more thing I have to learn.  Nothing here is user friendly I’ve decided.

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Saturday night we found a perfect spot on the bridge to watch the biggest fireworks show of the year, commemorating the new mayor.  We met a great family from South Carolina next to us and watched the beautiful show on the river.

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We were so close to Lynn’s office, we took the boys over to play the wii.  They’re missing their videogames from home badly since we don’t have anything here.  Nathan’s DS decided to stop charging the day we arrived, so they’ve been going through withdrawals.  Without internet at the apartment yet and nothing on tv, it’s been a bit boring which encourages us to get out of the house.  Not a bad thing!

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Next up was the Christmas street lighting at Regent Street.  We didn’t get there early enough to see the entertainment and singers (Ty Burrell, better known as Phil Dunphy from Modern Family did the honors), but we made it just in time to watch the lighting and more fireworks.  It was so incredibly packed, but beautiful and made me excited for the Christmas season.  They really know how to decorate for the holidays here!

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Sunday

I love Sundays here.  We really like Hyde Park 2nd Ward and everyone is so friendly.  It’s also the one day each week we’re all together without distraction and a perfect time to explore.  After a short nap, we ventured out to Westminster Abbey to see the Veteran’s memorials.  The Royal Family had been there earlier that day to place beautiful wreaths of remembrance on display.  The Poppy Project honors fallen heroes and the lawns were covered with poppies and crosses with names on each.  It was so impactful and meaningful for the boys to see, especially watching some of the really old veterans there.

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Westminster Abbey – where William & Kate married

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St. Margaret’s Church was open right there for us to view.  They didn’t allow photography, but it was incredible.  Inside are countless memorials of people spanning generations along the walls and on the floor.

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St. Margaret’s Church

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This sight will never grow old lit up at night

We finished off the night at the Tower Bridge.  We stumbled upon the strangest playground right across the street from the Tower of London.  It was completely dark, but the kids wanted to play and we wanted to rest, so we went with it.  Tyler was enthralled with a wall there that the Romans built back in 400 that was still standing.  Lynn and I laughed at this bizarre situation.  You never know how the day will go here or what you will find.

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The Tower Bridge was absolutely stunning, especially with the clear night and moon above.  The whole city is gorgeous at night and there’s something to see around every corner.  These are the moments burned in my mind, just being together on this wild experience together taking in the majesty of historic beauty.

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By the end of the night, we were completely wiped out!  Which is how we feel just about every night here.  Time to get this crew to bed!

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Homeschooling begins

I’ll admit–I wasn’t looking forward to today.  We’re officially out of tourist/vacation mode and starting school.  While I would like this to be one long vacation, the kids need to stay educated.  Plus Lynn is going to work full-time which means I’m managing this crew all on my own during the week, and that’s a little scary.  I mean really scary.   By the end of the summer, I’m usually counting down the days for the kids to go back to school.  Don’t get me wrong, they are the world to me and I love them dearly.  But they are high energy, strong-willed and well, they are boys.  They fight, they wrestle, they can be quite loud and they do the craziest things without any thought of the outcome, and by the end of the day, I’m utterly exhausted.  So the thought of being cooped up in a little apartment trying to teach them all when they’re in such different stages (preschool, elementary, middle and highschool) seemed like a crazy, impossible thing to do.  And it might be.  But I’m going to try.

We thought about putting the kids in the British school system here, but the schools are all full near where we live and we want to be flexible to travel and sight see.  So I did a lot of research and found some great curriculum before we left that is mostly self-directed with short daily lessons.  Tyler’s still doing BYU highschool online and staying on track so far.  Last night I set up everyone’s daily school schedule and made a reward chart.  I was feeling pretty confident I could do this.  Last night.

This morning I was awoken by a sick little guy who couldn’t stop throwing up.  Poor little Jace wasn’t feeling well, but that was one less student to keep on track for the day I guess.

Things got a little rocky after a few protests from another student, but we figured things out and they all got with the program.  The great thing is they can be done within 2 hours or less (except for Tyler), and we can move on to more exciting things.

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Nathan loved art time and drew the cutest Big Ben and double-decker buses.  He finished up his math, science, grammar and spelling test and was so excited to put stars on his chart.  Crossing my fingers he doesn’t lose interest in the reward system.  He’s dying to buy souvenirs and candy at all the little stores.  Jace perked up and begged for crackers and Brie and I knew he was feeling better.

Time for a fieldtrip

Once they completed their daily work, we loaded up and rode the tube to South Kensington to go to the Natural History Museum.  Holy canolli, it was the most amazing museum I’ve ever seen in my life!  We walked inside and they had the largest Diplodocus dinosaur on display, which happens to be Jace’s favorite dinosaur of all time.  It was almost too much to take in…the architecture, the grandness of it all and the millions upon millions of items displayed throughout the enormous buiding.  I can’t believe this place is free.  Going to a small museum in Seattle with the family is outrageous, so we’ll be taking advantage- especially since it’s so close to our new apartment. We only made it through a small part, but the kids were fascinated by all the extinct species, fossils and displays of animals.  This could really fulfill their science learning for the year.

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The Natural History Museum

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This creepy looking fish has been extinct for millions of years

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Another Ice Age animal

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We managed to make it back during the crazy rush hour on the tube and saw the coolest sunset right outside our apartment.  I don’t imagine we’ll see the sun for much longer.

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The good news of the day was our offer was accepted and we’re planning on moving in to the new apartment in Kensington on Friday night.

Time to plan for another full day tomorrow.  All in all, it turned out to be quite a wonderful day.  Maybe I can do this.

Day 2

The day started off a little chilly since the water heater went out.  Cold showers all around.  The maintenance guy came out and worked on it while the cleaning crew came to spiff the place up, so we headed out today and made it a full day of field trips.  I love being this flexible.  I’m really not going to stress that they missed their schoolwork.  They’ll make it up later.

It was the first day of rain.  The kind that blows sideways, which made our jaunt to the tube pretty comical.  Our umbrellas blew backwards and within 30 seconds, Jace’s feet were soaked from stepping in puddles.

I thought we’d spend the whole day inside museums, but by the time we got to South Kensington, we had blue skies.  Nathan was sad we missed “recess” yesterday so we headed to Hyde Park to play at the Diana playground again.  We had to stop along the way at this quaint French bakery for a ham and cheese croissant and a baguette style hotdog smothered with cheese and Dijon that made Tyler very happy.  That boy is loving the food here!

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Jace’s idea of a good bakery

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Tyler fell in love with French food

We came in a different entrance and were amazed by the Prince Albert Memorial.  Everything here is so intricate and grand.  The details carved into stone is impressive, even if it’s on the simplest of buildings.

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We got a little lost and ended up in Kensington Gardens at the pond.  It was filled with birds and beautiful swans.  A sweet lady shared her bread so the boys could feed the birds.  It was the highlight of their day.  Tyler and Cade were covered in birds and feeding swans from their hands.  Now we know to pack stale bread from now on.  It was such a picturesque place with Kensington Palace in the background.  I’m pinching myself that this is our life for now.

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Feeding the swans at Kensington Gardens

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Jace tried so hard to lure a bird on his arm with his Cheez-it to no avail.

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We never did end up getting to the playground because it started to sprinkle, so we went back to the Natural History Museum to see more displays.

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This massive sequoia tree is over 1,300 years old

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Tyler was so intrigued by the gem display and wanted to show us the Vault, which has priceless gems in it.  My favorite was the diamond display that took 25 years to collect all the natural colors of diamonds!!  Tyler started his own little collection and bought some copper in the gift shop.  They have some incredible, rare items on display.  The most recent was a meteor from Mars.

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Every natural color of diamond on earth

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Recent meteor from Mars

Next we checked out animals preserved in jars for scientific purposes.  This fascinated them and grossed me out.  There’s a whole Charles Darwin Center and huge cocoon you travel through looking at how scientists work.

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Jace had to see the “robot T-Rex” which scared him just as much the second time around.

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With aching feet, we trudged to Lynn’s office to watch the Guy Fawkes fireworks display from the roof.  November 5th is the day they celebrate the botched plan of Guy Fawkes, who tried to bomb the Parliament back in 1605 aiming to kill King James. He was arrested, tortured and killed and for years, locals would burn a dummy on the top of a bonfire to celebrate.  Kind of strange.  It’s turned into more of a Bonfire Night celebration connected with Halloween and open park festivals.  We saw quite a few fireworks in different areas, but they were small and the kids were a bit disappointed-expecting more of a July 4th production!

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Fireworks from the roof

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Tyler went out tonight on splits with the missionaries tonight and talked to all sorts of people.  What an eye-opening, cool experience for him!  This is great preparation for what will come in just a few years.  Even though the youth program is small, they have a lot of activities and do really cool things, as well as meeting weekly to play soccer and basketball.  He’s got a big stake youth event this Friday night.  We’re keeping busy for sure.

Our first weekend here

We all slept in pretty late today.  It’s a combo of jet lag and non-stop exploring.  We finally made it out of the house at 2:30 and surprised the boys by going down to Regent Street to check out the big car show.  There were cars from the 1800’s to today.  Tyler has a deep love for cars and goes to all sorts of car shows with my dad at home, so you can imagine his delight.  It was incredibly crowded, but we made our way through and saw some amazing old cars that had less horsepower than our lawnmower. Jace & Nathan were more excited about the balloons they got than looking at the cars.  Jace was pretty devastated when his flew away.  There was no way we were going back in the sea of people to get a new one.

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Regent Street is so unbelievable with it’s incredible buildings and fabulous shopping.  They’ve already started decorating for Christmas and I can’t wait to see it lit up at night.  It will be spectacular for sure!  I’m told each street has its own Christmas lighting ceremony with celebrities each night so we’re looking forward to catching some of those.

We hopped on the bus and decided to stop at random places to see what was there.  We really haven’t had time to research where everything is yet, so we’re learning as we go.

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Getting familiar with this tube stop by our apt.

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We ended up at Hyde Park and checked out the Royal Artillery Memorial of WWI.

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We happened upon the cutest ice skating rink and carousel in South Kensington.  They’ve made it into a winter wonderland.  The boys chose riding the horses over the ice, so I’ll have to wait until next time.  A perfect Christmas event for later.

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Right around the corner, we found the church building we’ll be attending on Sunday and met the sweetest sister missionaries, one of whom who knows my sister-in-law from back home in Utah.  Small world.  They had a really neat visitor’s center and we’re excited to meet the ward members soon.  The grounds where they built the church was a bomb sight in WWII, which Tyler had to hear all about.

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After a quick dinner at the Noodle House, we made a few more stops in Victoria and .. and made a bad call taking the buses back home.  The Saturday traffic here is insane.  There are so many people out and about all day.  It’s a learning process, but the kids were troopers.  On the bus ride home, Jace found what he believes is his long lost balloon and was so happy!!

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Hooray for finding the lost balloon!

Sunday

No sleeping in today.  Church starts at 9 am which meant we had to leave for the tube ride by 8:15.  We were welcomed by the friendliest members, most of whom are Americans with the most interesting stories of why they are there.  We are in the Hyde Park 2nd ward.  I love that church feels the same no matter where you attend.  It was a lovely service and we met so many wonderful people who gave us all sorts of advice and tips.  I’m so happy to meet other moms and get involved in playdates/museum outings with other families.

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The kids all went off to Primary and had to start practicing for the primary program that will occur in 3 weeks.  We just had ours back home, so they’ll get to do it twice.  We’ll see if Jace is brave enough again.  Nathan met several friends (one named Jace from Africa..there’s now 3 Jace’s in the ward) and Cade met a few boys in his class from Tacoma, WA.  Go figure.  We were so happy Tyler had a 16 year-old boy from WA D.C. to go to class with, who moved here 3 weeks ago.  He’s doing BYU highschool online too, and they’ll be able to go to early morning seminary together with the few others that attend.  He’s already lined up with lots of activities this month in the Young Men’s program.

Tyler’s hatching a plan to convince us to stay until next Halloween .  He learned a ward member’s son is friends with Paul McCartney’s grandson- and McCartney was disguised this Halloween in a Frankenstein mask handing out candy at his grandson’s in St. Johns Wood.  He wants to dress up as a rock star with a guitar and just so happen to ask for his autograph.  Keep dreaming!

We had to get the kids out of the apartment, so we went back to Hyde Park.  I will be spending a lot of time here.  I love it.  It reminds me so much of Central Park.  We went to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground and snuck in right before closing.  What a wonderful place for kids.  This is where we’ll be doing recess since it’s walkable from where we will be living.IMG_3092IMG_3073IMG_3085 IMG_3065

A few steps away was Kensington Palace, where Prince William, Kate and baby George live.  We need to get tickets to tour it soon.  I was surprised at how open it is to the public. What a beautiful place!

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“Mom-I want to talk on this iphone!”

By the time we made it back home, Jace begged me to put him to bed.  Music to my ears.  He didn’t even bother changing out of his clothes, he was that tired.  I think we’re pushing his limits of stamina.  What a weekend, I’m exhausted too!  Hope I can pull of our first day of home school tomorrow…

Househunters International

Every once in a while, I catch an episode of Househunters International on tv.  It’s always fascinating to see the variety of different countries’ living situations.  Today I felt like I was on the show.  We met up with a lovely British woman who showed us several apartments in Kensington.

Some were repeats of what Lynn had seen a few weeks ago when he came to find one.  The one he originally picked out and made an offer on was rejected because the landlord decided to sell it instead and left us hanging with no place to go.  It would be ideal to only have to view 3 properties to make a decision like in the show, but it’s been difficult finding something to accommodate our large group within a reasonable area to Lynn’s office.  Everything here is insanely expensive and small.  But this location is ideal, so we’re hoping we can make it work.  We liked all three of these and ended up making an offer on the one, which we’re waiting to hear back from on Monday.  They don’t do business on the weekends like us Americans.

We decided to check out several more in the Holland Park area to compare. They were not the right fit.  The apartments were narrow and spread over four levels.  I can’t even imagine hiking those stairs up and down every day (especially in the one that starts on floor 2 and has no elevator (or lift I should say).

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Nathan’s first tube ride. A bit nervous!

We got Oyster Passes today which allow us to ride the public transportation on an unlimited basis (the tube, buses and trains).  The boys learned how to squish onto the tube and hold on tight.  Nathan was pretty scared at first, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of things.  And to realize that people aren’t all that scary. He seems to think every man is a potential kidnapper or pickpocketer.  I may have warned him to stay close to me a little too much, but he tends to wander so you do what it takes!  Thank goodness my 5 year-old insists on holding my hand everywhere we go.

After regrouping, we decided to walk around Westminster and check out Big Ben.  Jace and Nathan have been antsy to see it up close.  The Parliament building is impressively intricate and beautifully lit up at night.  There were loads of people on a Friday night.  We got a quick look at Westminster Abbey which was equally grand.  The kids have so many questions and I have no answers for them.  It’s time to start researching the history behind all of these great sights.

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Big Ben

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Westminster Abbey

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Cade impressed by Big Ben

Next up was our first ride on a double-decker bus.  Of course they had to sit up top.  We need to take a tour this way and get our bearings above ground.  Jace giggled as he looked at all the cars below feeling so high up.

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Waiting at the bus stop

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Cade enjoying the view from up top

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Jace insists on a window seat to see everything below

It wouldn’t be complete without an English dinner of fish and chips. We didn’t realize it meant you get the whole fish!  We found a Garfunkle’s and poor little Jace conked out on the table, fast asleep.  Snoring before dinner even arrived.  That’s what happens when you wake up at 3:45 am.  We enjoyed our meal in peace and took his home in a box to have later.

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The little boys and I went back to the apartment to crash and Lynn and the older boys went out on the town.  They love exploring and shopping for groceries at the little Tesco nearby each day.

Hello London.

It’s surreal to actually be here.  We arrived around noon on Halloween.  Our flight left at 4:45pm the day before so we feel like walking zombies which makes us fit in to the Halloween spirit here.  Here’s what happened on Day 1:

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Checking all the bags as quickly as we could

Loading up a family of 6 to move here for the next 6 months required a lot of bags, even though I thought I packed light.  Seventeen bags (including backpacks and carry-ons) is a lot to manage.  We had a big shuttle van take us to the airport and the boys were practically silent the whole way because they were scared of the creepy looking driver who didn’t speak a word.

We opted not to get a direct flight so the boys could stretch their legs in Minneapolis and get some real dinner.  That was a good call.  After dinner, they all got Melatonin and we headed out for our long flight through the night.  Jace was asleep before takeoff.  Tyler didn’t sleep a wink, but Nathan and Cade dozed in and out and stayed happy.  They did far better than I imagined.  Jace got uncomfortable, but watched movies and slept on our laps off and on.  Lynn & I were awake the whole time but glad the kids didn’t have a meltdown.

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Nathan was happy to have a window seat and his DS

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Jace didn’t even make it to takeoff before he collapsed

It took 2 vans to transport us to our temporary housing.  We are staying in central London, just a 7 minute walk from Lynn’s office.  It’s a corporate, extended-stay apartment we’ll call home until we find something more permanent.  We’re on the 4th floor.  There’s 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, a nice open dining/family room and a cool balcony overlooking the city.  The kitchen is in its own room with a washer/dryer combo I have yet to figure out how to open.  We’re experiencing a big learning curve on the simplest of things.  Everything seems just different enough than what we’re used to.

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Our temporary housing. Right next to pizzerias and pubs.

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Jace & Nathan’s room that opens to the dining area

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Reception room/Dining area

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The balcony off the dining area

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The balcony terrace-where Tyler ate breakfast at an insane hour in the dark

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Tyler’s Room

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The kitchen. Still figuring out all the appliances

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Master bedroom

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Cade’s Room

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Reception room

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Our nightly view

Adjusting from sheltered, suburban life to big city living will take a little time, but we’re loving the journey so far.

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Checking things out while walking to Lynn’s office

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Crossing over the Thames River on our way to the office

Nathan and Jace are excited to be sharing a room and couldn’t wait to break out their legos as soon as we arrived.  Tyler is in awe of everything and wants to go exploring despite our exhaustion.  Cade got the big room with a bathroom, so he’s happy.

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Entering the new Blue Fin Building where Tableau is

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The new office-decorated for Halloween throughout

Without unpacking a thing, we headed over to Lynn’s office since he had meetings and they were having a Halloween party.  The boys loved seeing the city as we walked over the bridge of the Thames River to get there.  Double-decker buses, black taxis, red phone booths, old ornate buildings–they were fascinated by it all.  Tableau’s new office is in a beautiful, modern building.  We met a lot of his colleagues (whom we may need to be reintroduced to since they were a bit unrecognizable in costume) and toured the office.  Everyone was so welcoming and they had goody bags for the boys filled with treats.  The kids loved raiding the kitchen and found all sorts of neat English candy to try.

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Scoping out the goodies

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Some of the English candy they found

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Goodies in the kitchen. They were setting up a Halloween party

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View from the rooftop. That’s the Shard in the background

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Rooftop terrace at the office

Up on top of the building is a shared rooftop terrace that overlooks the city.  It was cool to see so many sights from there, including the Shard which is the tallest building in all of Europe.

Lynn stayed for a meeting so the boys and made the walk back to our apartment, checking out things along the way.  Thank goodness they have a better sense of direction than I do.  We realized we are a block from St. Paul’s Cathedral which looked beautiful lit up at night.  We look forward to checking that out soon.  Six months may not be enough time to fit in everything we want to do here.  We won’t waste a single day.

A few of the boys’ observations the first day:

  • There’s a lot of smokers here.  In fact, the flight attendant was selling them on the plane right before we landed.
  • Crossing the street is scary.  Not only are the drivers on the opposite side of the road, there’s a lot of fast bikers you have to watch out for too.
  • The buildings are incredible–can’t wait to see everything up close.
  • City living is loud, but cool to walk out and be in the heart of it all.
  • We like listening to their English accents.
  • None of the DVDs we brought work in the players here.  This is a problem.
  • We need more electrical converters.  It’s hard to keep everything charged.
  • This place is cool and we’re so happy we’re here.

We picked up dinner from the local Tesco Express, which pleased my adventurous eaters and saddened the picky ones.  Pizza here just isn’t the same as back home.  But we all agree the yogurt here is supreme!

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We love this yogurt

Tyler zonked out at 6 pm, missing our meal, and everyone else crashed before 8, which is a record.  They slept all night.  Or so I thought.  The clocks here weren’t set correctly so I thought it was 5 am, and got up and made breakfast only to realize we had woken up at 3:45 am.  Today might be a bit rough.  Tyler ate his Scottish egg and the leftover pizza out on the balcony in the dark and is in heaven here.

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Around the corner from our apartment

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St Paul’s Cathedral just up the street

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We’re getting ready to meet up with an agent and tour apartments.  I’m hoping we can find something today so we can get settled and get all this luggage out of the way.  I need to get a phone as soon as possible that works here, so if you need to reach us, use facebook or my email.

We are tired and happy and looking forward to soaking up every second here.  Time to take this crew on our first tube ride.