How exciting to have Grandma and Grandpa Smith come visit us! We were feeling a little lonely for the holidays, being used to large extended family gatherings on both sides, that we were thrilled they could come spend some quality time with us.
We asked each of the boys what they wanted to do with their grandparents. Jace was eager to take them on the top of a double-decker red bus and Nathan wanted to go feed the ducks and swans. We loaded up on the bus and took them to Kensington Palace and Gardens with crackers and bread. The boys are getting pretty good at attracting the birds to land on them; Nathan even made a few feathered friends. We enjoyed the unusually warm winter weather, walking around the park a bit before heading back.
Lynn and I had his work Christmas party that night so the kids got to spend the evening with tired grandparents. We were grateful they were there to help out and felt bad leaving so quickly. The party was fun, even if we were the only ones not decked out in “roaring 20’s” attire. Boy, they really got into it with rented costumes and everything! It was great to meet so many co-workers and spouses there too from all parts of the world.
That next morning, Tyler got his pick to take grandma and grandpa to Portobello Market. He’s been dying to go and we’ve held off until they arrived. It’s an extremely crowded antiques market with a mile long road of everything vintage you can imagine. We’re really not sure where Tyler’s obsession with old things comes from, but he could have spent all day there. He has his eye on some old pocket watches. Nathan found a 100 million year old fossil rock to add to his collection and Jace fell in love with a little soldier bear. Cade, as usual, didn’t want a thing.
Tyler also wanted to show them Blackfriars, where our first apartment was. He’s determined to eat at this pub before we go back to the states. It’s so small and always so crowded.
We barely made it in to St. Paul’s Cathedral to hear an evensong and prayer. I need to make sure we come for a Christmas choir while we can. The acoustics are so powerful.
Lynn wanted to take his parents to the new office, which the boys always love. It was a beautiful night on the roof. On our way down, a filming crew was wrapping up and Lynn’s mom said, “I recognize that voice!” Sure enough, it was Maggie Smith, Britain’s most recognizable actress who played the witch McGonagall in Harry Potter (and is also in Downton Abbey, which I have yet to see). She was clearly not in the mood for fans, but we found out they were filming the sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I’ll be looking forward to seeing that.
Our next adventure was to take them to see all the Christmas lights on busy Regent Street and Oxford. A sweet English lady sat next to us and was our own personal tour guide of the city. I love how knowledgeable and friendly people are here in sharing their city’s history with us.
After church and a quick nap, grandma had a special project for the boys. They each got their own gingerbread man to decorate. Keeping the candy on the cookie and not in their mouth was the hard part! We haven’t been able to carry on our normal holiday traditions here so this was such a treat for them to do!
Taking sugared-up kids out, we ended the night with Cade’s choice– to take his grandparents to Big Ben. We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather, considering how freezing it is back home too! Parliament was lit up with Christmas trees and lights everywhere. I love this time of year! Nearby was Nelson Mandela’s statue with a memorial for his recent passing.
Grandpa took the older boys to Holland Park while Grandma, Jace and I went shopping. It’s dangerous living in the midst of so much retail!! I haven’t had the chance to really shop (having all the boys with me all day), so it was wonderful to get out and see what’s out there. It’s a mix of familiar stores (even if their names are a little off—TK Maxx) with unique European ones. A trip to Harrod’s was necessary and we had a lot of fun. We got some ornaments to add to our tree and to send to family back home. I’m pretty sure getting lost in there is their mission.
For family night, we went to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. What a crowd, it was massive! We looked through the small Christmas market for gifts. Once the little boys spotted the rides, they wanted tickets. I ended up going on the double-decker bus ride and Jace was brave and went on a few more by himself. Somehow Tyler and Cade talked me into going with them on the most extreme ride of my life. I can handle just about any ride, but I wasn’t prepared for the intense thrill rides of Europe! What was I thinking, having a fear of heights? We got strapped in by rushed Germans with no patience, and I had no chance to back out. Within seconds we were whipped up incredibly high above the park grounds, which would have been a spectacular sight, had we not rotated 360 degrees as we raced down nearly skimming the ground and back up, flipping upside down at alarming speed. Over and over—it got faster each time. I was so terrified, I wasn’t even nauseous. I squeezed my eyes shut and begged for it to end. After a little panic attack as we were stuck high above the ground while they unloaded the others down below (because the boys were swinging their feet and teasing me), I could have kissed the ground when we got off and vowed to never do anything like that again!
The park was huge and extremely packed, not the place for Lynn’s headache so we ended the night early after a few treats and games. Cade tried to earn £20 by climbing to the top of a rope ladder, but didn’t quite make it. Nathan bought powder that turns into fake snow. It’s pretty cool, although I’m sure we’ll regret the mess!
Another fun night spent together was going to see the new musical “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It’s one of the few shows I’ve seen that encourages eating candy while watching the production! We thoroughly enjoyed it, adults and kids alike. The sets and special effects were exceptional. It was a bit of an updated version from the original, but not in the creepy Johnny Depp kind of way. It stayed true to the classic storyline with humble Charlie and his poor family (loved the grandparents), but the other kids who win golden tickets are more modern, annoying characters you’re glad to see swept away. The boys favorite part was when this bratty boy got sucked into a video game and his mom pulled him out of the tv and he was this little miniature squealing boy. Still not sure how they did that, but it was cute. If you get the chance to see it, I highly recommend it.
The kids loved having grandma and grandpa come to see and experience our new life here. We spent the next day getting ready for our holiday trip to Munich Germany. What an adventure that was. Details to come…