Saturday, 29 December 2007

Christmas 2007

What a wonderful Christmas we've had building memories that we will always cherish. The past week has consisted of celebrating with family and as usual, fun was had by all. We spent last Saturday with Cory's family opening presents and decorating train cakes (a tradition Cory's mom is starting with her grand kids). Christopher had a ball decorating and so did his Memere'! Then my family arrived here on Saturday night and we've had the best time playing games, eating, and celebrating. The entire extended family was here for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day which made for a great time. We played Rockband on the XBOX (a gift for us from my Dad this year) and Boxing on the Wii (a gift from Santa to my cousin's little girls) everyone a really good laugh.

Here is a variety of pictures we've taken...most of them are from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I sort of went brain dead and kept forgetting my camera when we went places!! They don't all show up on the checkerboard in the blog, so if you are interested, click on the "View All Images" button to see more!

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Mission Accomplished

We finally made the journey to the mall today to battle the lines and sit on Santa's lap. While Christopher seems very excited to talk about Santa and loves to point him out in pictures and books, I was very skeptical of whether or not we would actually get a picture with him smiling. Once again, my little boy amazes me. When it was our turn to see Santa, his face just lit up with a huge grin. He told Santa he wanted "lots of toys" for Christmas and he sat there very patiently while several photos were taken. It took us a little bit to actually get the grin on his face but he eventually cooperated. Another fun memory for mommy!

Mr. Serious and Santa

Getting close to that smile

Third time's a charm!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

'Tis the Season...

...for Christmas parties and sugar highs!!! Yesterday, one of the moms from our neighborhood playgroup had a Christmas party for the kids. It was so adorable. The kids made ornaments and decorated Christmas cookies. While most of the icing for the cookies went straight into my son's mouth rather than on the cookie, he still did a great job. When we got home he picked out the perfect place to hang his ornament on our tree. Unfortunately the battery on my camera ran out after only a few pictures of the party. I did take some pictures of his finished cookies and ornament once we got home though.

Christopher makes his ornament

Fun with beads!

Decorated cookies

Christopher's snowflake ornament

Today we had a Christmas celebration at Christopher's school. The kids all made a reindeer using cut-outs of their hands and feet. Then we made reindeer sandwiches for a snack - the sandwich was the head, we placed pretzels at the top for antlers, used raisins for eyes, and a red hot for a Rudolph nose. They turned out pretty cute, for all you other moms out there reading this, you might want to make one with your kids!

Making our hands and feet reindeer

Mrs. Bronson's 2 year olds

Enjoying our snack

It has been such a joy to experience Christmas through the eyes of my two-year-old. He is filled with excitement and wonder for the season everyday. We are counting down the days on our advent calendar every day. We've talked about celebrating Jesus' birthday (although, sometimes when you ask him whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas, he will tell you Santa Claus') and what a special day that was. He asks us to read The Polar Express to him every night before he goes to bed, and he often walks around the house, saying "Ho! Ho! Ho!, that's what Santa Claus says." While I know Christmas isn't just for children, it sure makes it more fun when you have them to share it with!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Good Friends

This weekend I went to Pampa, Texas to visit with two of my best friends and former college roommates, Megan and Noelle. We all live in three different states now, (Megan in Colorado and Noelle in North Carolina) so we don't get to see each other very often anymore. In fact, it had been over a year since we had all three been together and ALOT has gone on in our lives...

My friend Noelle, had her first baby in September and this was our first chance to get to meet little Anderson Michael Hardin! What a doll he is! He is so precious and being with him made me VERY excited about our little one arriving in April!! Noelle had been telling me what a fussy baby Anderson was and he really made her look bad this weekend as I thought he was just a little angel. It was so fun to get to see Noelle be a mommy. She is so sweet with Anderson and he is a lucky little boy.

Our other good friend Megan, is expecting her first baby in March, due just a couple of weeks before me. I don't think either one of us ever thought we would end up being preggers at the same time but it is really fun! She doesn't know the sex of her baby either so we spent lots of time speculating what the two of us are going to have. Megan is going to make a great momma too. I'm so glad that two of my closest friends are finally getting to experience motherhood with me!!

Thanks for a fun weekend girls! You guys are the greatest and I can't wait to get together with all of our kiddos soon!!!

One new momma and two baby bumps...

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

O' Christmas Tree

We have finally put up our tree!! While most of the tree was decorated late at night we did save a few ornaments for Christopher to help us put on. For those of you who know me, you may know that I tend to be very particular about my Christmas tree. I like certain ornaments to be placed in certain places on the tree, I like to make sure that from all angles, the tree looks equally decorated and the ornaments evenly distributed. Off course, my two year old, has no idea about this and enjoyed hanging most of his ornaments all in the same general area. So it has taken MUCH will power for me to not rearrange his decorations and keep things just how he wanted. He does love the tree though, and it has been so much fun to watch him look at it each day and point to his favorite ornaments!!

Christopher decorates the tree

Two identical ornaments placed VERY close together!!

The finished product!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

A Visit from St. Nick

Tonight, we had a surprise visitor for Christopher...Santa! Although he never made it to his lap, he did warm up enough to the giant man in red to tell him that he wanted cars and trucks for Christmas. Christopher also took Mr. Claus by the hand and personally showed him where our fireplace was so Santa would know where to leave the gifts. For me, the cutest thing was right after Santa left our house, I was standing there holding Christopher, and he said to me, "Mommy, Santa Claus!" with his big blue eyes so full of excitement. Then I got the biggest squeeze around the neck and Christopher laughed and said, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Oh the joys of motherhood truly come in all kinds of ways.

Christopher visits with Santa

Our family and Mr. Claus

Building Traditions

Well, it has been a busy week in the Locke household trying to recover from jet-lag, return to our daily routines, and get the house decorated for Christmas. We are all three very glad to be home and to be getting things back to normal.

One of my favorite holiday memories from childhood is helping my mom put up her beloved Snow Village. My brother and I would have so much fun finding the perfect place for the tiny little people and then covering the pretend city with snow. This year, I had a wonderful little helper who gave my village the perfect touch...

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Forbidden Fruit

Well friends, I am happy to report that the Locke family has returned safe and sound to this side of the pond. Once back on US soil at the airport while we were waiting for our bags to arrive, the backpack Cory was wearing became of great interest to the Agriculture dog (I guess like the drug dogs only they sniff for agricultural products). The security guard who was leading the dog around asked to see Cory's backpack. Sure enough, inside one of the pockets was an apple that I had grabbed in the British Airways lounge back at Gatwick that I had completely forgotten to eat. So that tiny little apple sent us through a completely different customs line before we could leave. In our special line, which was in a completely different room, they had to hand search EVERY single one of our bags! Please keep in mind that all of our bags were extremely full containing everything we didn't want to be away from for the past six weeks. It was quite a sight and all because of one small apple which in this case, was truly living up to its nickname.

Thank you all for keeping up with our adventures in London through the blog. I've had many people ask me if we are going to keep the blog going now that we have returned and the answer is YES!! So feel free to contine to check every now and then to see what daily life is throwing our way.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Our London Adventure

As most of you know, our life in London is coming to a close. We will all three be leaving here on Saturday. This has been an amazing experience and I know we will look back on it with fond memories that we will always treasure. Although it hasn't always been easy, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I probably have the only two year old in America who can look at pictures, even on a Kleenex package, and identify the Eiffel Tower. We've all been able to experience so much together as a family and have each gained personal strength as well. I know I'll have to work to help Christopher keep these memories, but that what's pictures are for right? Here is a slide show containing most of the pictures we have taken during our time here. Some of them are duplicates from previous posts but some will be new to you. Enjoy it if you have time to watch the whole thing!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

The Church is One Foundation

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am so inspired by worship in other parts of the world. I've now been able to worship the Lord in three different churches while I have been here and I think today's service was the most remarkable. We went to church at St. Paul's this morning. Just setting foot inside the beautiful cathedral is a very spiritual experience, but imagine being in there and hearing a choir sing hymns with a booming organ in the background. It was truly a moving experience. Most of the service consisted of hymns, but there was a short sermon, and then we got to partake in communion. I know that as Christians, our work is never done in spreading the word of Jesus Christ, but it sure is comforting to me to witness how deep the roots of God are, even in other countries.

Unfortunately, we are experiencing technical difficulties with our card reader again and are having trouble getting pictures downloaded. Therefore, I don't have any new pics to post. Actually, we really didn't take that many pictures today. I guess that means I've been here too long if the sights aren't seeming picture worthy anymore!! HA!

Lastly, I have a "what are the chances" story to share with you. Yesterday, we were eating lunch at the Texas Embassy in Trafalgar Square (a decent attempt at Tex-Mex but it really just made us want to come home and get the real thing). After we had been there for a little bit a cute family of four (mom, dad, and two boys that looked to be about 2 or 3 years apart) got seated at the table across from us. I am very intrigued by families with two little boys because I have this gut feeling that I am looking into my own personal crystal ball when I see them. So, I sort of seemed like a crazy person and kept staring a little bit every now and then. I even caught the mom noticing my stares, so I had to force myself to stop. Well, when we were leaving the restaurant, they actually stopped us, to ask us a question and we ended up talking for a bit. Not enough to exchange names and numbers or anything, but polite pleasantries about each other's kids and pregnancies (she was pregnant too). Well, would you believe me if I told you that in a city of seven and a half million people, we saw the same family again today in the service at St. Paul's...sitting about eight seats away from us?!? I mean really, what are the chances??

Friday, 23 November 2007

A British Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home! While the turkey and dressing were missed by everyone, we still managed to have a nice day and we were even able to watch the Cowboy game on TV!!
It has been a great week for us over here. I've had so much fun sightseeing with my parents and exploring London with them. Here is a re-cap of everything we've done the past three days.
We spent all day Wednesday at Harrod's. If you haven't ever been over here and gone to Harrod's it is difficult to describe, but basically it is a shopper's dream world...especially if you have enough money to ignore the price tags on everything. There are six floors filled with all types of merchandise. Everything from clothing and accessories to refrigerators and televisions can be purchased here. It actually started as a food market so most of the ground floor is still a place where you can purchase fine foods from all over the world. We were privileged enough to get to sample some "fine Angus beef straight from just outside Kansas in the states where they feed the cows special corn." I am using the sales lady's exact words here...we all got a kick out of that one!! After we shopped and made a few purchases we enjoyed a delicious gelato sundae. It is a little embarrassing to admit this but just to give you all an idea of the price of things here, our sundae cost $26!! But, boy it was tasty!!

Thursday was another fantastic day! For those of you who read my earlier post about our bus tour disaster, you will be happy to know that we were able to complete the tour and really enjoyed it. The sun was shining and we found seats on the top deck of the bus so we could see everything. We also had a live guide (our other bus had been an audio tour) and we all learned lots of interesting facts about central London. When our tour was over we finished our day at The National Gallery. We all enjoyed looking at paintings from centuries ago.

Edie, Doc, and Christopher on The Original Bus Tour through central London.

Christopher and Big Ben on the bus tour.

Christopher, Doc, and Edie outside The National Gallery.

Unfortunately today, I seem to be coming down with a sinus infection and I haven't felt all that great. Since it was my mom and Dr. Fan's last day though, I didn't want that to spoil it. So we had a leisurely morning and decided to head out for lunch. We took the tube back into London so we could get a real pub experience. We ate at The Sherlock Holmes Pub. The food was delicious, even for British food, and the atmosphere was just what we were looking for...a true pub, just how you would picture it. We did some shopping on our way back to the tube station and even a little more once we got back to Richmond. It was another great day.

We will be taking my parents to the airport bright and early in the morning. I know I will be very sad to see them leave as it has been so much fun to have them here and they both have been such a big help with Christopher...I'm sure you all noticed Dr. Fan has been doing all the baby wearing!! We were expecting more visitors to follow them because my Dad and Dana were going to be arriving here on Sunday. Unfortunately though, my 90 year old "Granny" has gotten pretty sick and my dad needs to be at home with her right now. I'd love to ask you all for your prayers for her as we all know how uncertain life can be especially at her age.

Here are a few more pictures of the fun time we have had this week. I'd also like to add here that on Wednesday, I woke up with some strange eye infection and so I haven't been able to wear my contacts. A little unfortunate that happened while my mom was here as now in most photos we look like the Bobbsey Twins!! Oh well!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

When It Rains, It Pours

Well, it had to happen to me eventually while I was over here for these 6 weeks...non-stop rain and a day full of mishaps and roadblocks. I am happy to report, that I think all involved will eventually look back on this day and think it was a great memory...or at least something none of us will ever forget.

Before you read any further, I'm going to add a disclaimer that this is a particularly long post. Unless you are family, you might find it tedious and a bit boring so please don't feel obligated to read!

We had purchased tickets for the double-deck bus tour yesterday and were anxious to get started on the tour and see all the major sights of the city. We headed down to Piccadilly Circus so we could catch the bus at the beginning of the tour to make the most of our day. As I mentioned, it is raining very steadily so we were not able to take advantage of the top deck of the bus (the best place to really view all of the sights). We took the tour over to Westminster Abbey and decided that would be a good place to get off. We toured the Abbey and really enjoyed ourselves...well, Christopher grew somewhat tired of his stroller in there but overall it was fine.

We headed back to the bus stop so we could get back on the tour and ride over to St. Paul's Cathedral. We were also planning on grabbing a quick bite to eat someplace close by once we got over there. So we stood the rain...and waited for our bus. 50 minutes later we were still waiting and we were wet and hungry. I personally was extremely frustrated that we had paid for this tour that was not living up to its standards. We finally gave up, as we noticed it was now almost 3:00 and St. Paul's closes at 4:00, and decided we should just take the tube over to St. Paul's. So we map out our route and head over to the tube station. Our trip involved just one change on the tube line and that really didn't seem too complicated. Little did we know that we were changing lines at one of London's biggest tube stations. We ended up having to go up and down what seemed like eight rounds of huge tall escalators and winding through the underground hallways. We did all of this at a very quick pace so we could still see St. Paul's before the end of the day. I know this may not seem like much of a hassle, but when you add on the fact that Dr. Fan was also lugging a stroller (that refused to fold up on command) and preggo here, was carrying her 30 pound two year old up and down all these massive stairways, believe me, it was very tiring.

Well, we finally made it and I'm happy to say that we had an hour to spend in St. Paul's, as they don't kick you out until 4:30. Since I have seen the beautiful cathedral before, Christopher and I went to get off our feet and have a snack in the Starbucks just up the road.

So feeling refreshed and a little more upbeat now, we decided to begin our journey home. However, my mom and I were still upset at the fact that we wasted an hour of our day waiting on a bus that was nowhere to be seen. We decided to make a quick stop back at Piccadilly Circus (directly on our way home) to try and get an extra day added to our tour to make up for the afternoon that we felt we lost. Here again, if you know my mother you know how determined she can be in these situations. After somewhat of a goose-chase and talking to three different Original Tour employees at three different places (all of which we walked to in the rain), we were finally given our extra day and we felt very satisfied.

As we made our way back into Piccadilly Station to complete our journey home, I happened to glance at my watch and I noticed that it was now 6:00 p.m. If you are familiar with London at all, you know that Piccadilly is in the heart of Central London and you also know that the vast majority of the people working there rely on the tube to get them home. If you are familiar with big cities at all, you know that 6:00 p.m. is the heart of RUSH HOUR. So here were are: three Americans, one and a half babies, and one stroller being crammed like sardines onto the tube with the entire professional working population of London. If I hadn't already felt so out of place and if I could have actually moved any part of my body to get to my camera, I would have snapped a picture to help capture what this was like for us.

Needless to say, we finally made it home and then enjoyed a nice dinner while we laughed about the adventures of our day. I am so thankful that my parents were here to help me through this one. Had they not been, I feel certain that today might have been a breaking point for me and instead of sitting here posting on this blog, I would be changing my flight to get home as soon as possible.

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday coming up in a couple of days, I'll close with this:

I am very thankful to be an American and live in America.

More importantly, I am thankful to live in the suburbs where I can drive my car when I want to go someplace and not have to deal with public transportation on a daily basis.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Off With Their Heads!

Isn't it insane to think about people losing their lives that way? I mean regardless of the offense, why would anyone think that was an appropriate way to punish? Today we saw where many of these beheadings took place hundreds of years ago, The Tower of London.

The Tower of London has stood on the Thames for over 900 years. Over these years it has served as a palace, a prison, and a royal mint, but today many people come to see it as a living museum of British history. The tower is a truly a remarkable fortress. While we were there today, we took the "Beefeaters" tour, a guided walk led by a Yeoman Warder. As I listened to our guide, I was able to just imagine the way London looked centuries ago. It is so surreal to think about the kings, knights, prisoners, and other ancient British figures who had walked on those very grounds hundreds of years before me. On the lawn outside the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula (a small chapel there on the tower grounds), is the spot where Ann Boleyn was beheaded...some people say they can still see the blood stains.

Our "Beefeater"

Inside what is known as The Jewel House are the Crown Jewels. Behind vault doors, encased in glass cabinets are some of the most beautiful stones you have ever seen set into crowns, swords, and scepters. We saw a 530-carat Star of Africa, a diamond placed on the top of the Royal Sceptre; boy was that a sparkler!! The crowns we saw had so many jewels I couldn't help but wonder how heavy they must be to actually wear on top of you head.

Here we are outside Tower of London, with the famous Tower Bridge in the background.

While Tower of London was the main attraction of our day, we did manage to accomplish a few other things. We saw Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Overseas visitors are not allowed inside those buildings but we took a few good pictures from the outside.

I think my personal favorite for the day was helping my mom experience her first tube ride!! Those of you that know my mother can appreciate what this must have been like for me. While we were waiting for our first train to arrive, she must have asked me three times if we were going to be going underground on this trip. I also had to assure her that the tube doesn't really move any faster than a car at any given time on a route. Really, she did great and I know she enjoyed herself once three teenage British chippies sat down across from us and she was able to eavesdrop on their conversation for the remainder of our ride.

Bus fare to get to tube station = 2 pounds
Cost of Oyster card = 3 pounds
To travel by tube in London for a week = 20 pounds
Being with Mom on her first tube ride = Priceless

Sunday, 18 November 2007

My Fellow Americans

Today was an especially exciting day as we were able to spend it with other family!! Actually, for the next two weeks we will have visitors coming in and out of our London home. They are taking advantage of the opportunity too, and using this a good excuse to come to the UK. My Mom and Dr. Faehnle arrived today and will be here until Saturday. What fun to get to experience this with them...and how great to have the adult company during the day while Cory goes to work!

We spent today in the quaint town of Windsor, home to the famous Windsor Castle, where the Royal Family spends many of their weekends and getaways. The town itself is very charming with lots of shops and restaurants lining the streets. In the middle of the city lies an enormous castle that appears to be out of the storybooks. I was especially interested in seeing this town because Cory looked at several apartments here for us to possibly live in. Although the town is adorable and appeared quite easy to get around in, I am happy to say that I'm glad we ended up in Richmond, where I have complete access to the tubes and central London. The easiest way to and from Windsor is by car and I don't have that luxury over here. So if we lived there, Christopher and I would be trapped unless we wanted to face two train rides before we would even get to a tube station...not ideal for our sightseeing and exploring!

Our morning began with a nice breakfast in a small Italian cafe'. The place was in an old train station that has been converted into an open air shopping center. Then we headed over to Windsor Castle and attended church in St. George's Chapel. What a neat experience that was!! We listened to readings, participated in their rituals, and heard an all boys choir that was just beautiful. Not to mention, the amazing architecture of the chapel. Everything was just so pretty. After the service we took a full tour of the castle including the State Apartments where the The Queen herself occasionally holds special events. We were able to see paintings, wedding photos, and china patterns all belonging to the Royal Family.

Mom, Fan Man, Christopher, and Stephanie outside St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Locke family poses with one of the castle guards.

Cory had already taken the tour of the castle on one of his previous trips over here this fall. Therefore, we really didn't take that many pictures today. Not to mention the weather has turned very cold and we weren't outside that much. As you might could guess there is no photography allowed in the State Apartments. So if you want to get to see the fine china patterns and royal wedding photos, book your airline tickets!!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Lions and Tigers and DINOSAURS! Oh, My!

Today, Christopher and I ventured back into the world of public transportation so we could visit the Natural History Museum. It was AWESOME!! My little boy could have spent hours and hours just looking at all the life-size animals they had in the Mammals exhibit. However, I think the big winner of the day would have to be the dinosaur exhibit where you feel like you have actually journeyed to Jurassic Park. We saw a Tyrannosaurus Rex that was as alive as any dino can be these days. The T-Rex was motion sensitive so it followed you around the room with its head. Of course, there were loud roars every few seconds to complete the experience. Again, I'd like to compliment my child of no fear. Even though there were several other small children crying, hiding in their mum's coats, and asking to leave; Christopher just had two enormous eyes filled with wonder and then excitement as we walked through the course of the room. We also saw several dinosaur bones and fossils. The whole exhibit was really great.

The T-Rex is behind us here. I don't understand when you ask someone to take your picture why it would not be implied that I would want the dinosaur in the background but I guess I should have specified.

Next, we made our way through the Mammal exhibit I mentioned above. We walked into a room filled with so many life-sized replicas of elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, and an enormous whale hung from the ceiling that covered the entire span of the room. It was quite impressive. I managed to get a few photos of Christopher with the animals but most of the time he was too interested in them to look at me.

We also explored the Planet Earth exhibit, the Creepy Crawly room filled with bugs and spiders, the Bird hallway, and the Human Body exhibit (my personal favorite as there was lots to see about the development of a baby). It was a great day!

On a separate note, I must no longer have the word "tourist" written across my face when I get out among the people here. Twice today, I had someone ask me for directions at the tube stations!! The really exciting part is that I know with 100% confidence that I answered their questions correctly! Well, actually I am only about 75% sure on the second lady, but she had a foreign accent and I had a hard time understanding her. At any rate, it was an exciting moment for me.