Sunday, 30 August 2015

The rest of April 2015

Our cases waiting for us to unpack them, on 11th April! 

Ethan Cryer made us this lovely cake to welcome us back! I think Nanny Page had asked him to.

On Sunday 12th, Scott and I both had to be at church early for a Ward Council meeting with the Stake Presidency, as it was Ward Conference. I sat very painfully through the meeting and Sacrament meeting, then had to go home - my back just hurt too much. That was the last driving I did for a couple of weeks, it was too painful.

I spent the rest of April basically bending as little as possible! I lay down flat a lot the first week after America, and the only other position I could bear was standing. It wasn't much fun. The kitchen got quite clean, because I could clean appliances etc at waist height, but not much else! I did a lot of walking, and Harry had to get used to no car on the school run home. (We almost always walk in the mornings, but drive on the way home.)
I had to make a few cards for my craft companies, such as these on the 17th.

There was a Stake Youth Fireside on the 19th April, which I had to miss - I couldn't sit for the length of the car journey. I felt a bit bad because I was missing every Stake Youth activity this year right up to camp, for various reasons! Scott took Lucy, Jack and Tom.

On Monday 20th, I had to cancel Visiting Teaching Anna, because of the drive. For Family Home Evening later that day, I got the kids to plant up loads of different seeds. Scott wasn't there for some reason - he missed out on the huge mess we made in the dining room!

On 21st, I walked round to Michele Trickett-Smith's house after the school run, with card making kits for her to do. She is bed ridden, and we made a right pair! I just stood there the whole time, bossing her around on how to make the cards, and we had a right laugh for a couple of hours!
We had the dentist after school. Everyone's teeth OK.

The next few pictures I took all on 22nd April. They sum up what's been going on...
University prospectuses started arriving at the house! Lucy's been sending off for them, and it fills me with both happiness for her to be thinking about the next stage of her life, but also much sadness at the thought of her not being around every day. At the time, (I'm writing this in Bel-Air at the end of August!) Lucy was planning on doing Nursing at Nottingham uni. (At the moment, in August, she is thinking about going on a mission first, then doing Radiology at Leeds uni.)

Lucy in particular, and I, spent long hours continuing to paint the cabin. (I was OK as long as I didn't bend.) Lucy moved her desk in before it was finished, so that she could study for her upcoming AS Level exams in peace.

On the 22nd April, I was half-way through painting the floor. The wall with the windows in is not completely finished yet, but we just wanted to get the main things done so that Lucy could move in fully.

Another thing I worked on a lot in April was the kids' baby books. I got all the photos that I'd had printed out years ago, finally written about and stuck in, along with all the kids' certificates, invites, activities etc. They are now complete up to 2012! I then ordered all the photos for 2012.

Just a random photo of Lucy on 22nd April. Scott and I were hanging out in our room, and Lucy wandered in with some weights, texting someone, and just talking a load of highly amusing rubbish! We have such a good laugh! I love the humour in our home, and will deeply miss Lucy's contribution to that when she leaves.

At some point, I had decided I wanted to make entertaining easier in our home, and so ordered a new fridge. I decided we could make do with just using the chest freezer in the garage, and bought a large fridge with no freezer section from John Lewis. Our old fridge had lasted for about 15 years, and though not broken, was pretty ropey. I got Scott and Jack to get the old fridge out on 23rd April, ready for the new one being delivered on 24th.
Cleaning behind the fridge was a bit grim! Here's Scott admiring the collection of rubbish found underneath it!
The kids were not happy at first about a new fridge, because it would mean changes to our sticker/magnet collection on our old fridge. I had to carefully peel off some of the stickers and laminate them so they could be blue-tacked to the new fridge! The kids are happy enough now that we still have our 'I {heart} Liechtenstein' and 'Yuck, no kissing!' stickers!

Luckily the new fridge fits into the very tight gap that we have for it, and on Saturday 25th, a box I had ordered on Amazon arrived, for me to make a portable 'salad bar' with. (It was actually a stackable Christmas decoration box.) I wanted to make it easier to have salad, so came up with this idea to have it pre-prepared, and be able to get it out the fridge in a one-er. It works really well, so long as I remember to fill it up! The kids love it, and I will happily have salad for lunch every day. And fortunately we have a huge new fridge to fit it in!

I made it to Bletchley Ward Conference on Sunday 26th April, and the next day, Donna Wright and I had a birthday breakfast at the garden centre with a load of the Mums from school. We had a lovely time, then Donna, Lisa, Jo and I wandered round afterwards, and I bought two pink Kilner jar mugs with the birthday money Lisa had just given me. We like them at home, and they are permanently left out for people to get water from the new fridge water dispenser with.
I had a smear test on 28th, and went Visiting Teaching to March on 29th.
My back had improved a bit - enough to drive again, but was still sore all the time, and I had to be careful doing everything, so as not to bend it too much.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The long trip from San Diego to home - 10th April

Having got everything organised the night before, we were up and away from the Bleakley's quite quickly, after some sad farewells! 
Unfortunately, my back felt worse than ever, and I needed help with getting up/down, in/out etc. Scott gave me a blessing, and I felt that although my back was going to be very painful, I would feel equal to it, and be able to just take the journey a bit at a time.

It was a couple of hours drive to Los Angeles, where we were flying from LAX. Another lovely sunny day!! We drove to the hotel where we'd got our lovey white Chevy from in the first place, and returned our red Chevy, after explaining what had happened. Fortunately that went smoothly, then we had to wait for a while outside the hotel for a shuttle bus to the airport.

We had a bit of trouble getting our passports scanned and needed to get someone to help us, then after our cases were checked in, we joined a queue to go through security.
Whilst in the queue a security guard came along and wiped random people's hands with a swab thing then put the swab in a machine. They did mine, and when they put my swab in the machine I could see it flash up an explosives alert. Straight away a guy was on his radio reporting it, and I was told to come with him. I had to go under the barriers and follow him. I could hear him saying he had the female {something like a suspect!} with him now. I asked a couple of questions (including - could root beer set off the alarm because some had just spilled on my laptop case?) but he wasn't very communicative! The rest of the family were removed from the main security queue, and I could see them taken straight to an empty security gate and doing the usual checks. I was handed over to two female security guards, and taken into a little room, where I had to stand with my feet on some foot marks on the ground, and was given a very thorough search! I just remember thinking I couldn't get in too much trouble, having not actually handled any explosives, and how amusing it was having this happen as well as having a ridiculously painful back!
I then had to wait while a man took everything out my hand luggage (mainly my camera bag and laptop) and tested it all over for explosives. I was slightly nervous that something would somehow show up, but it was fine, and I as allowed to go to the family, and out of security.

We then had a wait in a busy lounge for our flight. Scott was still having to help me get in and out of chairs etc. I couldn't bend my back at all.

We had a four hour flight to Vancouver, and I ended up sitting a row over from the rest of the family, next to an older Canadian woman. I think that was a real blessing. We got talking, and she's had an interesting life - married a business man, and travelled all over the world with him. He died when she was in her 40's and she took over the business and still runs it. She said she was thinking for the first time about selling it. We talked about life, belief in God, kids and all sorts of stuff, and it really helped distract me from my back and make the time go faster.

At Vancouver airport we had a couple of hours before our flight to Heathrow, and didn't have to collect our cases. We LOVED Vancouver airport! It was really quiet and calm, and everywhere was neat and clean and quite posh! We had lunch at A&W's and some other burger place, and spent the rest of the time wandering round. We all spent a while debating which Canadian fridge magnet to buy!

Proof the boys were in Canada!

We got our flight smoothly enough, and then had 9 hours of fun sitting in small seats!
When we got on the plane, we had four middle row seats, and two out of three seats across the aisle. We just quickly grabbed our seats in any order, thinking we'd rearrange ourselves later. For some reason it didn't happen though, so there was me, Jack, Scott and Lucy, then Tom and Harry across the aisle next to some poor guy on his own! I think Tom and Harry behaved reasonably well (I was too distracted, and sitting on the opposite side) but Scott said the guy sitting with them glanced over at Scott a few times!
The flight was not my most favourite experience (understatement of epic proportion...) I had a slipped disc, and for the entire 9 hours I couldn't keep in the same position for more than about half a minute - it was just too painful. I felt sorry for the guy sitting behind me, because my chair back would have been jolting the whole time.
Later in the flight I was seriously considering going and telling an air steward that I needed to lie flat on the floor. It was a really busy and cramped flight though, and I'm not sure where I could have laid flat. I managed to get a bit distracted by one programme about a guy who was given a difficult underwater challenge, and he had a few weeks to learn a lot of new physical, mental and emotional skills. He was trained in a number of ways, and the point of the programme was how flexible our brains are, and how our thoughts, and training our brains has huge impact on our physical bodies. It was really interesting.
Anyway, we finally arrived at Heathrow, and quickly made our way through security and out to the airport multi-storey car park. Our car was already parked there, but after loading everything up, the car wouldn't start!! I was really impressed with the service though. Within no time, a guy had come over with jump leads and got the engine started again.
Another very uncomfortable journey for me, then finally we were home!!! Everything was fine with the house (though our bedroom window was still open!) and I was so glad I'd left the house really clean and tidy - it felt lovely. Scott unpacked everything for the last time, and then everyone split off to do their own thing. (Lucy went out and painted the cabin! She wandered in later saying she'd been awake now for 30 hours... nutter!!!) For me, it felt wonderful to be able to lie flat! (In the end my back took three months to get better - a real nuisance.)

So that was our little American Adventure! In the couple of months since (I am, as usual, behind with my blog), all of us have had so many good conversations about our holiday - so many brilliant memories, and snapshots in our heads of incredible places. We're all just so happy to have done it, and I'm glad the kids loved it as much as Scott and I hoped they would. I don't think we would have changed a thing - it was BRILLIANT!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

San Diego with the Bleakleys - 9th April

After a bad night's sleep for me (not used to sharing a bed!) Holly made us a lovely breakfast of asparagus omelettes, avocado and fruit salad. We made up sandwiches and stuff for packed lunches, then hung around the house for a while.

Tim and Holly's bedroom where Scott and I stayed.

Tim and Holly's bathroom and wardrobe area is about as big as half our upstairs at home!

The living room where the older girls slept.

The Bleakley's had had a notice saying they needed to weed their front garden or receive a fine, so Tim decided to get on with some weeding. Lucy, Abi and I did a photo shoot!

Tom and Sam on Sam's bedroom balcony.

Some time after 10.30am, Scott and I decided we'd better get started without the Bleakleys or we wouldn't see much of San Diego. We took Abi and Sam with us, and headed for La Jolla beach, arranging to meet up with the Bleakleys there. 
Scott reversing down the very steep drive, trying to scare us!

Driving through Ramona.

It was quite busy near La Jolla, but we found parking, walked along the sea front, and settled on a bench to watch the wild life. Gorgeous weather again!!

A seal Mum and baby!

There were loads of fabulous huge pelicans.

We then walked a bit further along, went down to a little beach and the kids paddled for a while. Lovely watching them playing together.

After a while the rest of the Bleakleys caught up with us.

Lucy and Abi adding their names inside a little cave.

After a while on the beach we carried on walking around the sea front, just taking in the sights.

Holly and the kids spent a bit of time exploring a cavern. 

Humming bird!

We spent a couple of hours at La Jolla, before our car parking time ran out, then we headed back to the cars and had our packed lunches. We then followed the Bleakleys to Balboa Park, driving past Mission Beach with its famous wooden roller coaster, then through the city.

Before the holiday Scott had asked me to decide where I wanted to go in San Diego, and I'd searched for places that looked nice on Pinterest! One place that cropped up time and again, which I thought looked beautiful was Balboa Park. We weren't sure quite what to expect there, and knew that some parts of it were really expensive. The Bleakleys weren't all that enthusiastic, plus it was a fair drive away, so I was really relieved when it turned out to be simply wonderful - we had a great time there wandering round, and soaking in the varied and beautiful architecture.
The place is 1200 acres of gardens, museums, theatres, and includes San Diego Zoo (though we didn't want to go to the zoo.)
It was free to wander around, and we started in the Spanish Village, where I was delighted to find the coloured paving stones I'd first seen on Pinterest!

Love them!

Walking deeper into the park.

The Bleakleys and the kids were slower than Scott and I, so we'd got a bit ahead. It was lovely seeing them all from a distance, happily looking around!

It really was beautiful! I was so happy!

Harry had another big nose bleed, so we got napkins from a nearby restaurant, and made him a nose plug while we were at this bit!

Harry adored the Bleakey's puppy, Max. He walked it for quite a while (with his nose plug still in!)

Our lovely kids!

After seeing all the main places, we stopped by a fountain for a paddle in the hot evening sunshine. Perfect!

After ages, we dragged ourselves and the kids away, and back to the car park, then headed for San Diego's Old Town.

We parked in the car park of the Mormon Battalion Historic Site building, where we took a few pictures outside, then walked down through the Old Town Historic Park.

We ended up at the Fiesta De Reyes - a kind of Mexican garden surrounded by shops and restaurants. It was great! After quite a bit of discussion before the holiday, we'd decided not to cross the border and visit Mexico, so this was the next best thing!

We had dinner in one of the nearby restaurants... delicious!

After dinner we had another wander round Fiesta de Reyes just as it was getting dark. It was great!! Tried on sombreros and looked at all the Mexican nic-nacks. The atmosphere was great, with live music, and lanterns everywhere.

We then wandered back to the cars. Tim was really eager for us to go to the Mormon Battalion museum, though everyone was getting a bit tired by then, and we still needed to pack up everything ready for an early start the next morning. When we got there though, Tim spoke with the missionaries running it, and they said we could just go in and skip the exhibits and do the activity bits!

One of the sister missionaries took our photo, and emailed us a copy.

I hadn't realised how large a part of the settling of San Diego the Mormons played.

The boys panning for gold!

The girls doing some washing!

We then climbed the tower and enjoyed looking out over Old Town for a bit.

At some point Scott and I had mentioned that we hadn't managed to find a frozen yogurt place in America yet, so we all decided to stop off for some on the way back to the Bleakleys. Holly knew a place near San Diego University where she works part time. (She works at the uni not the yogurt shop!) We ended up having to park quite a way from the shop, but it was great! We took over the place, and the frozen yogurt was gorgeous!

As we finally drove home, we passed by the beautiful San Diego Temple.

What a day! We just packed so much in (not bad going, with eleven kids and a dog!), and it was brilliant being with the Bleakleys. San Diego seems a great place, and there's loads more we could have seen.
Back at the Beakleys we packed all our stuff, and sorted out our much reduced hand luggage - just two rucksacks between us, my camera, laptop, and a couple of plastic bags!
The kids got to bed sometime after 10pm, and we didn't stay up too late. My back which had been bothering me for a couple of days was really starting to hurt, and I wanted to get as good a night as possible.