Tag Archives: Family

Cousins

In our society, we underestimate the power cousins have in our children’s life.  The power could come from their presence or their absence.  If you are lucky enough to have great cousin relationships for your children, there are some amazing benefits.  If your children do not have a close relationship with their cousins, we discuss how to create one and why it could be critical for your children in the future.

London Calling

IMG_1198This show focuses on Nancy’s recent trip with her kids to London.  Listen to hear the amazing experiences they had.  Since there could never be enough time to discuss it in one podcast, here are more details to consider (some will also be covered in more detail in later shows).

NOTE: For more personal reflections, see this post (no podcast). 

Rent a Flat! London hotels are incredibly expensive and rooms are very small.  You can rent a flat for the same or less money.  We paid about $190 a night for a 2 bedroom flat near a Tube stop.  Having a kitchen allowed us to skip eating out for breakfast and gave us the option to take lunch with us.  It also got us to go into the local grocery store to try different British foods (do not miss Cadbury Chocolate or Hob Nobs–chocolate covered oatmeal cookies).

To locate a flat, check out HomeAway.com but make sure you check the source.  I filtered through about 40 different flats and about 9 different companies.  Some companies/flat owners did not reply, others were just sketchy.  I googled each company and checked reviews on Trip Advisor. I finally went with Ivy Lettings.  They had a story written about them in the London Times, good reviews on Trip Advisor, and they had a phone number on their site as well as a live chat.  The person I chatted with was able to help me find the best flat for our family.   There were a few problems when we got to the flat and Ivy Lettings was good to fix them quickly.  I’d rent from them again.


IMG_1534Ride the Tube!
One of the amazing thing about London is watching the people from all over the world.  There is no better place to have that cultural experience than public transportation such as the London Underground.  You don’t have to worry about sticking out as an American because you will probably be a minority speaking English.  I heard Russian five times a day, Italian, French, German, and a slew of different languages from the African continent.  It was so much fun to try and guess the languages.

You can just purchase a one-way ticket each time you use the Tube or a bus but if you plan to use public transport as your mode of transportation, there are ways to save money.  Thanks to Bob Hanford, a dedicated blogger whose site–London Toolkit–focuses on everything London, I was able to figure out the best option for my family.   Check out his blog on Oyster vs. Travelcard.  For us, it was better to Get a 7-Day Oyster and a Youth Oyster.  Bob patiently answered all my questions and even gave me suggestions of things to see near our flat and around London.  Thanks Bob for the great advice–even advice on getting to Heathrow early in the morning.

Take a Bus Tour to Orient Yourself  London is a huge city but the main tourist area isn’t that big.  Things are quite close together.  Taking a hop-on-hop off tour or another type of tour is a great way to get your bearings.  We took the Big Bus Tour and loved it.  Opt for the tour with the live guide.  It was so much fun and the one time we got on a bus with the taped guide, we switched to a different bus after one stop.  Big Bus Tour included a 48-hour ticket, a night tour, and a river cruise.  We were too tired for the night tour but we loved taking the river cruise.  Actually, the kids asked to take the tour a second time toward the end of our time in London.
IMG_1139One of the fun things about a hop-on-hop-off bus is the ability to get off when you see the unexpected.  A friend had suggested going to Hamley’s toy store so when we saw it on the tour, we jumped off and spent an enjoyable 45 minutes in the store.  Alex also wanted to take a picture at a certain Piccadilly Circus Underground sign and we saw it on our tour and jumped off to capture his photo.

Suggestion:From th  If you are in London on the weekend and can schedule your bus tour on Saturday or Sunday, do so because the traffic during the week really slows down the tour.  We were on the tour on a Friday and getting through the financial district was like watching paint dry (except for the great scenery). On Saturday and Sunday, the roads were clear and the tour would have been much quicker.


Get Down Under in London
 One of the newer museums in London is the Churchill War Rooms.  These are the actual rooms where the British Empire strategized its moves against the Nazis in World War II.  Nothing like being in the actual Map Room to bring history to life.  The tourChurchillWarRooms

includes an audio guide to help you get a feeling for what was happening below ground complete with stories told by the people who lived and worked in the rooms.  The impact of seeing the table where Churchill sat to give his address to London and the World during the war while hearing the actual speech was very impactful for my 14-year old.  His world history class will have a very special feeling when they discuss the war.

IMG_1581Lay Siege to the Tower One of the kids’ favorite day was spent at the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.  It’s not everyday you get to walk in the courtyard where queens lost their heads and see the crown that sits on the pretty head of the current queen.  Tip:  Get there early–even before they open because the line to get in is long.  Then, when you enter, head right to the Crown Jewels before anything else.  The line to get into the Jewels can be so long that the interior of the Jewel House is more like the line labyrinth that snakes up to a Disney ride complete with pictures of what you are going to see and history tidbits to keep you interested while you wait 45 minutes to see a few rocks.  Since we were first in the Tower and first in the Jewel house, we were out in about 10 minutes.  That is enough for kids.

IMG_1619Make sure you take the Yeoman Warders’ Tour.  They do an excellent job and give a glimpse back into the gorey pass of the Tower mixed in with humor and facts about the buildings.  Not to be Missed.

Tower Bridge is easily the most famous bridge in London. Now you can experience the Bridge in a startling way–a glass floor that looks down on the traffic below.  Having walked on the glass bridge at the Grand Canyon, I thought I was prepared for the experience, but it was a bit more intense for me.  The kids loved it.

Ho Wench! One of the most fun experiences I had as a teen when I toured the UK was to go to a Medieval Feast.  There is nothing like pounding your fits on the table and saying Hey Nonny Noony  or yelling Ho Wench to get more mead (aka apple juice for those of us not imbibing).  The Medieval Banquet in London was fabulous! The food was plentiful andIMG_1512 the entertainment excellent–think court entertainment like singers, acrobats, jugglers and jousting.  We were each assigned to a House to which we pledged our allegiance and cheered for our knight in battle.  The kids loved every minute of it.  It isn’t cheap but if you have a London Pass, there is a discount.  And you have to remember that you get a great meal and entertainment.  It is cheaper than theater tickets and more fun for the family.

Get Bawdy with the Bard  We attended Shakespeare’s Globe and saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Before we went to London, I had my kids watch the Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer version so they would know the play.  There is nothing like sitting Globe–nothing.  And I have never seen a version of Midsummer like that one.  It was a modern interpretation wiIMG_1504th an Indian flare.  Think Shakespeare meets Cell Phones meets the Sitar and Rap Music.  I can’t even begin to explain how the song Major Tom ends up in a Shakespeare play but it WORKED!  The way the language and mood was interpreted (there are tons of ways to interpret Shakespeare) made the text and the concepts very accessible to my kids.  I had to cover my 10 year old’s eyes a few times and happily she doesn’t understand the sexual references in Shakespeare, but other than that, the play was a great experience (even with a pole in my way).  If you can go to a play, do so.  It is worth the cost.

GIMG_1251o Back in Time A bit off the beaten path, Greenwich is a great opportunity for sightseers interested in science.  Greenwich is the place where the Prime Meridian that divides the East and the West is located.

The site also hosts several amazing museums that cover topics like the history of how time was agreed upon (you might have heard of Greenwich Mean Time—yep it is that Greenwich), British Maritime history and so much more.  The views of London are also great from here.  You can see the huge size of the city from One Tree Hill (I can hear U2 singing).

IMG_1289Greenwich has so much to see that it would take a full day to see even a part of it.  For us, the Royal Observatory and The Cutty Sark were the two best museums.  Be warned that the Royal Observatory is up on One Tree Hill and there is no bus to get to the top so you need to walk it.  But you will be walking in the footsteps of amazing scientists like Sir Isaaic Newton.  Just about everything in our modern life works because of the men who worked at the Royal Observatory (clocks, calendars, map coordinates, and so forth that make travel and cell phones and just about everything possible).  The Cutty Sark is an amazing museum that allows you to see one of the great sailing vessels ever built.  The museum has interactive opportunities for kids and parents to learn more.

IMG_1326Cruise the Thames  One of the best ways to see the city’s most famous sites is to take a Thames River Cruise.  We took the cruise from Greenwich to Westminster Abbey.  It was a bit rainy and blustery, but the cruise offered some needed relaxation for tired toes and the first mate gave a great tour of the sites.  Not sure it was all true, but it was very entertaining.  The descriptions of the different bridges along with his comments on politics and history had us all laughing.  Remember that if you take Big Bus or get the London Pass, the cruise is included.

 

We Will Rock You IMG_1705
Stonehenge is less than 2 hours from London.  There are dozens of tour companies that can take you there.  But I wanted the experience to be something the kids would remember and learn from.  So, we went on a tour with an Archeologist who actually works on digs at and near Stonehenge and other prehistoric sites around London.
This isn’t aIMG_1707 tour for little kids but it worked for my 10-year old and my 14-year old learned a lot. If your kids are interested in archeology and history, this is a great option that gives them amazing access to information and insight into the pre-historic cultures that created the henges (no Druids or Aliens needed).

Our guide Edward was so excited to share his knowledge that it was infectious.  Being able to ask questions of an expert was also great.  Check out Tours from Antiquity for various tours.  We chose the Stonehenge, Avebury, Salisbury tour.

Sing with the Angels It can be quite expensive to enter St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. However, they are working churchesIMG_1495 and have services at specific times of day and on Sundays.  These are times when you can get into the churches for free.  The bonus to this is that you often get to hear an amazing choir and a beautiful sermon.  The minus is that there are areas of the church that are off limits and “touring” the church is not allowed.  However, if you want to sit and stare up at the beautiful surroundings and listen to angelic choirs, this is a superb experience.  Sometimes, you can even sing with the choir.

We attended St. Paul’s on Sunday and arrived a few minutes before the service started.  We found great seats and while we waited, I explained the history of the Cathedral and why old churches were decorated the way they were as well as the significance of various parts of the church and what would happen in the service.  We are Christian but not Anglican so the experience was very different from our church experience and was an amazing cultural opportunity for the kids.  During our service, we sang along with the choir as we read the liturgy.  It was a chance of a lifetime to lift our voices with the St. Pauls boys choir.

IMG_1479Check out the Markets for Lunch London has several food markets that offer both fresh vegetables and hot food.  These are great places for families with diverse tastes because you can each find something you like.  We ate at Greenwich Market, Borough Market, and Kerb at Southbank.  The food was quick, excellent and not too expensive.  We were each able to get something we liked and share with each other without the time and expense of a restaurant.  The only drawback is limited seating.

IMG_1483Kerb was the best market with all sorts of middle eastern dishes and picnic tables.  Alex had a lamb curry burger and I had the most amazing kebabs. You will have to plan your schedule so you end up at the markets at the right time of day. Some of them are only open at lunchtime, others are only open at night.  Then, each of them have a day in the week when they are not open.  It would be horrible to have hungry mouths looking for food when the market is closed.  Camden Market is supposed to be great but it’s a bit off the main tourist map.

Give Me a Break!  This should have been obvious but it took us more time to get going when we got up the first day.  We landed at 1pm and stayed up until 9pm to adjust to the time in London.  But, it still took us more time to get going in the morning.  So, cut yourself some slack the first day and don’t plan anything with a specific timetable.  Everything we had planned for the first day was flexible within a few hours of time.  Having an Oyster Travel Pass also added to the flexibility because we could get off the bus tour and take the Tube to the location we wanted to be.

Consider a City Pass In the past, we have suggested purchasing city passes. These are tickets that give you entry into multiple museums, tour options and so forth.  The London Pass also includes Fast Pass entry into some of the most popular attractions.  We used this to get right into the Tower of London without the line.  It saved us a few hours time. The London Pass isn’t for people sightseeing for one day unless you are a crazy power-sightseer.  You can’t see enough in one day to make it worth the cost. If you have multiple days to see the city, check out the site and see if the museums and other sites you want to see are listed.

IMG_1554The Fast Pass for Westminster Abbey, Tower of London and Tower Bridge, along with the bus tour and river cruise make it a good deal if you are there in the height of tourist season. The cost of getting in to places like Westminster Abbey also makes the card a good possibility.  And if you want to go to Windsor Castle or Hampton Court, there are travel benefits in addition to the admission and Fast Pass.

If you are in London in the off peak season, Fast Pass probably isn’t important.  And, if you know the dates you are going to different locations, you can purchase tickets online for a discount. Do some calculating before you go. If you want flexibility, then the London Pass works well but may cost more.

Note:  The London Pass includes a different hop-on-hop-off tour that we did not take.IMG_1247

Make Time for Personal Interests One of the benefits of travel is seeing how something you love to do is done in another country.  Alex loves
skateboarding so we spent time at a few skateboarding venues.  It gave the rest of us time to rest our toes.  Anna wanted to ride double-decker busses so whenever we rode a bus, we went up to the top.  A few times, she got the front seat and was able to see out the window.

Plan Purchases Before You Leave Home  Instead of spending our money and time shopping for souvenirs, we planned what we wanted to buy before we left. Of course that was easier since I lived in London a bazillion years ago.  But you can still decide if you want to get t-shirts or teddyIMG_1681 bears.  Harrods is a must stop for teddy bears so we bought these for friends.  I had been wanting a Union Jack pillow for my couch and I found a fabulous one at Harrods.

We also shopped Primark–a H&M type store that has a larger variety of goods (not just clothes).  This was on my shopping plan because I had heard they had great UK themed goods.  My kids got  underwear with the Union Jack, journals with the flag, and t-shirts for $2.  Planning helped us save money and spend less time shopping and more time sightseeing.

Plan Your Expenses You no longer have to go to a money exchange bureau to get cash in London.  Check out your bank and credit card companies to see if they allow you to withdraw from ATMs in London.  We found that Barclay’s Bank allowed us to withdraw for a very small fee and our bank at home did not charge fees.  Also, using Visa cards with chips is very convenient.  I love my Capital One Venture Card because it allows me to pay for trip expenses with the miles I have saved on the card and it is easily used all over Europe. Plan your expenses and know which things you will need cash for (street markets and quick treats) and which things you will use the card for.  When all else fails and you have too much cash at the end, buy chocolate to bring home!

Give Up! Give In! Give Yourself Over Really, there is no way to see everything in a city like London.  Some of the things you want to do will be closed the days you want to see them (we learned that the hard way);  you may encounter long lines (like at the Platform 9 3/4 photo site); or you may be just too tired to see that site (the British Museum fell victim to our tired feet and we spent less than 2 hours there). Give up trying to get to everything.  Give in to whatever falls in front of you–especially if it is delicious food.  Give yourself over to the experience of being in the city and spend time talking to people rather than seeing dead people.  One of the most delightful experiences was speaking to the guard at the British Museum.  Our 30-minute conversation gave my kids a glimpse into the life of a Londoner.

IMG_1697

Kids asleep on my during the ride to Stonehenge. Can’t get any closer.

Get Closer My goal for this trip was to get closer to my children.  I think I achieved that in more ways than one.  You be the judge!

 

 

 

 

Itinerary  Here is the itinerary we followed in case you are planning 6 days in London:

Thursday

  • Arrive in Heathrow
  • Take Heathrow Express to Paddington Station
  • Buy the Oyster Card 7-Day and Oyster Youth 7-Day
  • Take the Tube to Ladbroke Grove
  • Get Money at the ATM
  • Eat Fish and Chips at the place across the street
  • Take a Tour or Go Shopping for groceries
  • Bed at 9pm

Friday

  • Take lunch with us
  • Big Bus Tour Hop on Hop Off Bus
  • Churchill War Rooms
  • Eat Lunch in St James Park
  • British Museum (open til 8pm on Fridays)
  • Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station (the lines are long–take time)
  • Kebabs and Fish and Chips

Saturday

  • GreenwichRoyal Observatory 
  • Greenwich Market for Lunch
  • The Cutty Sark
  • Thames River Cruise to Westminster
  • Walk Houses of Parliment
  • Attend Westminster Abbey at 5 for Evensong (you get free entry)
  • KERB food market at Southbank for dinner

Sunday

  • Church at the Hyde Park Ward
  • Church at St. Paul’s Cathedral (listen to choir)
  • Shakespeare’s Globe Play
  • Medieval Banquet (Opens at 5:15 and closes at 9:30)

Monday

  • Tower of London (it opens at 10 on Mondays–we were first in line because we arrived at 9–oops)
    • Tower Jewels first
    • Yeoman Warder tour
  • Tower Bridge and Tower Bridge Experience
  • Borough Market for lunch (seating is very limited)
  • Free time and shopping (skate shops and Harrods)

Tuesday

Personal Reflections on London and Denmark

IMG_1326I recorded a few podcasts about our trip that will post over the next few weeks.  The first one is located here.  But since the podcasts are meant to educate listeners about travel, it is hard to include the feelings I have about our trip.  So, this post is an extra one about my impressions and reflections.

My goals when I planned this trip were:

  • Show my kids the places I have lived and loved
  • Introduce them to other cultures and people
  • Allow them to experience life in another country–not just see the sights
  • Expose them to the people and places that changed history
  • Get closer to them and help them get closer to each other

Preparing the Invasion  Having lived in both London and in Odense, Denmark, I thought it would be easy to take the kids to these cities and feel comfortable in them. After all, I had spent significant time in both places.  But, I have to admit, two days before the trip, I had an overwhelming panic attack. Did Patton have that feeling before the invasion on D Day?   What was I thinking taking my kids across the world?  What about terrorists and so forth? What if we got separated?  What if, what if, what if?

I had done so much planning and strategizing.  I had an plan that would make both General Patton and Rick Steves envious.  I knew what sights were in the same area and how to get to them.  I knew how much time we needed for transportation and with the help of Google Street View, I knew details about the neighborhood we stayed in.

To calm myself, I reviewed my plan over again and plugged every detail into my phone.  It made me feel better. Until we landed.

Places I Lived and Loved: London  I thought it would be a great idea to take the Heathrow Express Train into London.  It was faster than a cab and much cheaper.  We flew Carry-on only with Backpacks and rolling bags so it was supposed to be simple.  Not so much.  But, we found our way to the Train and into the City. Google Maps is the trip planner’s best friend.  It gave me timetables and options for the Tube as well as Street Views so I knew how to walk from the Tube Station to our Flat–right to the door which was behind the building.  Phew.

IMG_1118IMG_1115When we reached the flat, it wasn’t quite ready.  Lucky for us, the best fish and chips shop in London was literally right across the street.  Never having been in a tiny fish and chips shop, the kids were overwhelmed with the fast pace.  They both opted for the Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas.  Mushy Peas did not go over well.  They are kind of like pea soup without the soup.  Not too bad if you added a bit of salt and pepper and ham.  The kids also got fizzys–that is what the Brits call sodas.  We sat on the street watching the hustle and bustle around us. Being from a quiet town, this was an experience for all the senses. Big cities move at a fast pace.

After dinner, we had a few hours to kill before bedtime and the kids opted for a trip to Oxford Street–the famed shopping street.  It has changed since my time in London over 20 years ago.  The more posh stores have been replaced with H&M and Primark and many American stores.  Maybe for the Brits, this is great but it was a bit disappointing for us.  However, we did join the masses of Londoners in Primark and buy a few things we needed as well as a few cheap souvenirs.

Lulu and the Loo Then, came the reoccurring problem we experienced the entire trip: Lulu needing the use Loo. She must have the tiniest bladder of any human being and the worst timing too.  Just after we leave a place with a free toilet, she needs to go.  REALLY BAD.

NOTE:  According to Bob the Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, you can’t call it a bathroom or restroom in England because, as he was quick to point out, you don’t take a bath there and you don’t rest there.  So we spent the rest of our trip not trying to trip over our tongues when we said, “Where’s the toilet.”  Sounds so vulgar to my prissy American ears. 

Thank goodness for the Golden Arches and Starbucks. They saved our bacon more than once.  By the end of our 2-week trip, we finally remembered to go to the toilet before leaving any location with a free toilet.  I really should have taken pictures in each Loo.  I could have started a new blog rating them.  I think my favorite was the toilet at the Tower Bridge.  It could have been in a designer magazine. Marble countertops and gleaming faucets, modern toilets and excellent lighting.

IMG_1873The funniest Lulu/Loo experiences we had were in Denmark. The first public toilet in Copenhagen is in the Round Tower.  We had discussed this building during our family home evening prep for the trip.  Dad had explained that the Tower had a chute that people pooped into. After a few years, it got so filled up that they had to clean it out.  We joked that it was a Crap Shoot as to who got that job.  Anyway, we found the Toilet in the Tower. And guess what they built right next to it?  A modern toilet.  We had a great laugh and a few photo moments and thought fondly of Dad who wasn’t with us to see it  Ah, Shoot!

IMG_2088Then, we found this sign for the toilet at a Danish castle called Egeskov.   Conde Naste Travel Magazine voted it one of the most beautiful places in Europe and they were not kidding.  But the sense of humor and the family charm well exceed anything in any other castle in Europe.  It really was the best castle experience I have ever had.  More about the castle itself later.

Meeting the Rainbow of Humanity London truly is the most ethnically diverse city I have ever seen.  The first time I visited London in 1981, it wasn’t that way but today, you see people from every continent, every country, every ethnicity, every religion.  We live in a pretty homogenous part of the US.  But in our small part of the world, we have diversity.  On my street, there are families from five different countries and our kids go to school with a diverse ethnic group (very surprising for Utah Valley). But I am not sure we were prepared for the array of languages, clothing, and beautiful faces we met on the Underground.

From Burkhas to belly-piercings, the array of ways people dressed was incredible.   We heard different languages everywhere we went.  Some I recognized: Russian (of course), Czech, Spanish, German, French, Danish, Swedish, Hindi, Arabic, Swahili,  Chinese, Japanese and of course American (the really loud people on the Tube).

IMG_1222Alex had an assignment to meet and talk with local people.  That was a great experience for us to learn more about London and its people.  The woman who let us into the flat had recently arrived from the Czech Republic told us a bit about her reasons for moving to London. The guard at the British Museum, Kenneth, explained what it was like to live in London and his decision to move to a suburb so his kids would have better schools. A woman making bracelets from tires at the Greenwich Market explained that she had come to London from Hungary for a better, more vibrant life. Gary at the skate park discussed politics, religion, and travel with us. And Edward, our archeologist guide to Stonehenge explained about his life as an archeologist and his new assignment to write curriculum for British schools teaching the kids about their own pre-history.  These are some of the things my kids will remember most.

When you meet the SEA of humanity and SEE that they are not to be feared and that you have more in common with them than you have differences, you gain a different view of the world and its problems.  If we all understood how interconnected we really are, it would help end the violence.

Experiencing Other Countries One reason I wanted to rent a flat was so that the kids got the feel for what it is like to LIVE in London.  Our Danish cousin working in England, came to London to visit us.  IMG_1310Maria gave the kids a perspective on their experience.  For the kids, the flat was a tiny, cramped space.  It was smaller than 1/6 of our home.  But when Maria came in, she was so impressed with the size and told the kids that it was huge for a London flat.  Going to the grocery store was also an adventure.  Seeing different foods, the small size of the store and even having to pay for the plastic bags was eye-opening.

Alex has always thought he wanted to live in a big city with public transportation and bustling life.  He enjoyed London very much.  He told me it was his favorite city and he was going to move there.  Then, we went to Copenhagen and his favorite city quickly changed. The day we were in Copenhagen was unusually hot (we were not dressed for that having come from rainy London). In the Danish fashion, the short skirts came out to celebrate the weather.  Danish women are very pretty and Alex enjoyed the view.

In the end though, he kissed the ground when we reached home and said that he loved home most.  I did the same thing after my first trip in 1981.  Then, I went back again and again and eventually moved to Odense and then to London and Moscow.  Maybe he does have the world traveler/citizen of the world gene in him. I’d live in another country in a heartbeat.

Making History/Living History In Europe, just about everything you see is older than just about anything in the United States–much of it older than the country itself. Especially in London. Starting with William the Conqueror in 1066 and his fortress that turned into the Tower of London where all those beautiful ladies lost their necks to St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster and all the Victorian edifices build by the most industrious queen, London is awash in historic buildings mixed with the modern.  There are plaques on even seemingly normal buildings telling you of the famous people who lived there or the important events that took place there.

When we visited Salisbury Cathedral, we saw the Magna Carta written in 1215 which limited the power of the king and which is considered a founding document for modern democracy.  While viewing it, an American woman next to me turned to the docent and said in a Texas accent (and I am not kidding or exaggerating), “Well, this is older than our country!” I could not help myself and replied, “This document is one of the reasons why we have our country.” I wanted to say that the floor she was standing on, the cathedral she was in, the town she was located at and even the dirt she kicked as she walked was older than our country.

IMG_1707Speaking of Old, one of the most fascinating things we did was to take a tour to Stonehenge with an archeologist.  I let the kids choose what they wanted to visit outside London for a day excursion and they chose Stonehenge.  There are several tour companies taking sight-seers to Stonehenge, but I wanted more than a distant glimpse of some big rocks (you can’t get up close and personal like I did in 1981). So, we went on a tour with Edward from Tours from Antiquity.  Edward spent the time it took to drive to Stonehenge as well as other henges and Salisbury explaining the Pre-History of the area. His research dates human activities back to 5000 BC and he explained the types of cultures creating henges all over the countryside.  I learned more in 20 minutes with Edward than I had learned the previous three times I had visited Stonehenge.

Note: If you are ever at a cocktail party and someone begins to discuss the Druids and Stonehenge, you can let them know that the Druids were about 3000 years too late to the Stonehenge Party.  And there is no evidence for aliens even though I kept trying to get Edward to confess that there was–especially when I saw the crop circle in the field nearby.  He tried to tell me that it was just a farmer turning his tractor around, but those of us who grew up near Area 51 know better.  Diverging question:  Why are they called cocktails anyway? Well the answer to that is also almost older than the US. 

IMG_1231In our time machine, we went back in time and visited many amazing sites and met with incredible people who changed the world.  Bill and Ted would have been proud of our most excellent adventure.  At the British Museum, we saw the Rosetta Stone written in 196 BC and used in the 1800s to understand hieroglyphic writing.  We visited the Parthenon by viewing the friezes from its facade.The friezes are called Elgin’s Marbles because Lord Elgin, a lover of all thing Greek, found them laying around on the ground and loaded them in his ship in the 1800s and brought them back to London.  They served as dual purpose as balast for his ship.  We viewed Egyptian mummies and fist bumped with Amenhotep III.

IMG_1580We learned about British kings and queens: how they lived, loved and died.  The Tower of London was an incredible journey back in the bloody history of London–the battle fought by William the Conqueror, the prison for the famous and infamous and the location that for so many beautiful necks to lose their heads.  The Tower is now besieged only by tourists.  I guess it is arguable which raging horde is worse–the invading Normans or the invading Tourists.

For me, one of the most important historical figures we met was Winston Churchill.  The War Rooms where Churchill and his generals strategized the battles against Nazi oppression are now open for everyone to see.  These rooms located in a bunker under a government building in Whitehall remained virtually untouched for decades until they were turned into a museum in the 1980s.  When I lived in London, I had never heard of the museum.  For a student of history, the War Rooms were a tactile journey back in time.  Seeing the map where the battles were planned and troop positions recorded was incredible as was listening to the speech Churchill gave to the British people while standing at the table where he gave the speech on the BBC.

But all history and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  So, some history has to be experienced in a fun atmosphere.  The Medieval Banquet in London was a fun romp back to the gastronomical lives of kings and queens.  Complete with jesters, knights and wenches, the evening was pure fun.  Pounding the table, singing Hey Nonny Nonny, and calling out Ho Wench were so much fun.

IMG_2141The other fun romp in history was in Denmark at Egeskov castle.  Touring the castle itself takes about 30 minutes at kid speed and about 2-3 hours at adult speed. But we spent the entire day there with our Danish cousins enjoying the amazing grounds with a zip line, a tree walk, bungie jungle gyms, hedge mazes, secret alcoves, music gardens, automobile and motorcycle museums and (wait for it) Segway Jousting! Not even kidding–maybe exaggerating.  The kids rode their trusty Segway steeds through the course.  Alex got fancy with his ride. Check it out.  Besides all the fun, the view at Egeskov is incredible.  Built in the middle of a lake on the oak timbers of an entire forest, Egeskov has the ultimate moat.  I could not take a bad picture that day.

IMG_2007Places I Lived and Loved: Odense Growing up as an only child was lonely so my mom decided to have an exchange student come live with us.  Lene was from Denmark and was also an only child.  We became very close during the year she lived with us so I decided to live with her for a year after high school graduation.  Her parents, Hans and Hanne, opened their home to me.  Going back to Odense was a real mental time warp.

Not much changes in Denmark. Everything looked the same as it did 30 years ago.  Taking my kids to the house I lived in, the school I went to and the city streets I walked was fun. Attending Church with people I had know 30 years ago was incredible.  And beginning to remember my Danish was a real brain-bender.

IMG_1948Odense is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen but it is also the birthplace of some of my greatest adventures and fondest memories.  It might not be as exciting as London in terms of sights to see but it is filled with great memories and family that I love.  We are so close that we are sisters by choice if not by blood and our children are as close as they would be if they were really cousins.  That is the great gift I received in Odense.

Getting Closer My biggest hope after being safe IMG_2644was that my kids would grow closer to each other and to me.  I think we achieved that.  Before we left, we talked about how we had to be a team while we traveled and watch out for each other.  We talked about how we needed to put our petty differences aside and not allow the tiny annoyances to ruin the experience.  The kids were great!  They didn’t fight the entire trip (besides a few minor scuffles) and we all got to be together in a place where we had to stick together.  Even though Alex would not let me say it out loud, we were the Three Musketeers. I loved watching my kids open their eyes to the big world, to take in history, to understand their place in the sea of humanity.

IMG_2671We did not only get closer to each other but we also got closer to our Danish family.  It was the highlight of the trip to spend 5 days with Lene and Kurt and their amazing kids.  It would not have mattered what we did in Odense.  Just being together with them was everything wonderful and then some.  Our kids just love every minute together. It was fun to see Alex having his hair braided by his older girl cousins.  It was fun to see Anna learn to play football (yes–soccer) with her cousin even thought she got the mother of all grass stains on her new pants.  It was amazing to see Hanne again and go back to the house I lived in the 30 years ago.

I was also able to reunite with our other Danish exchange students, Steen and Kim.  Thanks to Kurt, we drove to Arhus and met them and their families and enjoyed an amazing day just being together.  In 3 seconds, 30 years of time melted away and it seemed like we had talked only yesterday.  The day weIMG_2393spent together was actually the day Steen and I had graduated from Western High School 30 years earlier.  Kind of poetic.  I loved their wives and their kids and they loved my kids too.  I can’t wait until they visit us in the States.

What Does it All Add Up To?  You travel to see new places–or old places as it turns out.  But in the end what you really take home with you are the people you meet and the time you share together.  Travel is about getting to know yourself and others in the context of a different environment. It’s about reuniting with friends and making new ones.  It’s about returning to places you lived when you were a different person and introducing your kids to your past self. It’s about riding a bike and playing a game of SKATE with a famous person you didn’t even know was famous. It’s about getting to celebrate your 10thIMG_2600birthday in Denmark with your family singing to you in Danish.  It’s about tasting chocolate from four countries, sharing your favorite cookie (Hob Nobs) and your favorite pastry (brunsviger) and trying liver pate for the first time. It’s about banging on tables and drinking a soda in a pub in the middle of an ancient henge circle.  It’s about leaving the comfort of your routine to enlarge your view of the world.

And even then, you can’t explain what happens to you when you travel.  It’s all that and so much more.  No travel log can describe the feelings I have after this trip. People ask me if I had a great trip.  Of course, I answer that it was wonderful.  Then they want me to tell them about it.  I can describe some of the places and some of the experiences, but I can’t put into words the feeling and the change that was wrought in me and my kids and in our relationship with each other and the world.  That is the souvenir I bring home.

IMG_1697

 


Worth a Thousand Words and Better than Mine

LONDON

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

DENMARK

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Everyone Needs Therapy

Nancy and Tricia discuss how therapy can change the way you mother and what therapy has done for them at different stages in their lives.  They discuss finding a good therapist, what to discuss with the therapist and surprises that happen in therapy.

Worried about getting therapy? Today’s therapy is life coaching.  No more Freud and no more laying on the couch.  Therapists give you tools to use in daily life and other ways to look at the situation you are in.  With these tools, you are better-prepared to handle the tough stuff.

Adoption

Beverly discusses the joys and struggles of adoption.  She has adopted babies at birth as well as adopting older children.  She has also adopted in the US and Internationally.  Her experiences will help you decide if adoption is a possibility you should explore.

She gives guidance and tips on how to find an adoption agency and how to make adoption work with your family dynamics.  She also discusses how to know if you are ready to adopt.

Changing the Community

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 6.22.24 AMMindy Gleason, a mother not afraid to open her mouth and speak for change, discusses how she is making a difference for children in her community and how you can find the courage to make a change in your neighborhood or city.

Mindy is the mother of two amazing girls.  Her oldest, Presley, has a rare disease causing her to be in a wheelchair and on a ventilator.  Presley is incredibly social and loves to be with her friends. Because of her issues, Presley has a hard time finding parks where she can play.   She is always stopped by wood chips and park barriers.

Mindy was inspired to approach the City of Orem and ask for changes at a local park, but the park idea has gone much further.  Now the City of Orem is building an All-Abilities park where children of all abilities can play together.  Listen to Mindy’s story of triumph and her advice on how to make something happen in your community

static1.squarespace.comLearn more about the All-Together Playground and how you can donate to this amazing cause.

Flying with Kids: Insider Tips

Pamela Gann, a mom of 2 and former flight attendant discusses tips for flying with children.  She is the author of Flying with Kids: Insider Tips and Tricks from a Flight Attendant Mommy.

We discuss:

  • how to get through Security
  • flying alone
  • car seats on planes
  • packing tips
  • traveling with infants

Pam is a long-time listener.  We loved talking with her!

 

Parenting the Introverted Child

She was told her son had autism but today, he is in the top 4% of students across the country.  Pilar’s son is brilliant, but he is introverted so he never spoke up in class and had a hard time socializing with kids.  In our extrovert-oriented society, her son’s skills were not immediately valued.  Now that he has won national prizes for a documentary and an app that he created, people are beginning to see her son’s talents shine (even if he is still the quietest kid in the class.  Learn how to parent an introverted child and how to help them find their mojo.

Pilar recommends reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

And Check out the TED Talk on Introverts

Decision Making Skills

One of the best skills you can teach your child is to problem solve for them self.  Whether they are 4 or 14, this skill will become one they use throughout their life. Julie Nelson shares 5 steps to help kids learn how to make decisions along with practical examples to help you see how to put these steps into practice.

Step 1: Define the problem. Context changes perception for each person. Be sure that both people agree or moving forward will be going in the wrong direction.

Step 2: Generate possible solutions. Let the child do this as much as possible so they feel empowered. Don’t shoot them down right way. Let them feel safe with their ideas. Offer some of your own. If they say, “I don’t know,” tell them that you’ll give you both time to think about it and come back.

Step 3 Evaluate possible solutions. “That doesn’t work for me” is a good way to phrase a bad idea. Make sure this ends up being a win-win for both of you.

Step 4: Implement the decision. Try it out. See how it works. Step 5: Evaluate. Get back together and see how the solution worked or is working.

Step 5: Evaluate. Get back together and see how the solution worked or is working.

Check out Julie’s website at http://aspoonfulofparenting.com/ where she shares many more tips. And check out her book Parenting with Spiritual Power.

Dreams Come True in an Awesome Way

DallasHave a dream you want to realize?  Want to teach your kids to dream big? We talk with Dallas Clayton, author and dreamer whose book An Awesome World shows kids and adults how to dream big. Learn what it takes to make dreams come true and how Dallas is changing the world.

Check out this video about Dallas.  Dallas has a great book on Thankfulness and a great book on Love you should check out and share with your kids during Thanksgiving and around Valentine’s Day (or any time of the year).  There is even one for the adults.  Check them out!

Lily Mae BagsCheck out the Lilly Mae bags  The 20% discount code is Holiday 2014.  Lilly Mae is owned and run by Stay-at-Home Moms! Support moms everywhere in their dreams!

Getting A Better Answer to “How Was School Today”

We ask our kids “How was school today?” and hear “Fine.” End of discussion.  Why do we ask it then every day hoping for more?  Because we want to connect with our kids.  Our intention is right, but the question is wrong.  We discuss ways to ask your kids about their day at school without asking the wrong question that gets no response.  The idea came from a post by Liz at Simple Simon and Company.  Check out their two lists of questions to ask your children instead of “How Was School Today?”

Teens and Respect

What do you do when your teen treats you with disrespect?  How do you deal with it when your simple request is responded to with venom?  Julie Nelson shares very practical tips on how to help your child navigate the hormonal horrors of the teen years that often set them off.

Use the following phrases:

  • Say Yes with a No:  Yes you can go out as soon as you . . .
  • I noticed that . . .
  • It appears that . .
  • That doesn’t work for me . . .

A few more tips:

  • Often kids need to blow off steam so using physical activities to help them get back in balance often helps.
  • Use Parallel Talk: this is when you do something while talking. This could include taking a walk, playing basketball, crafting, etc.  Anything that gives you time together and a chance to talk where you don’t have to look right at each other.
  • Past Performance Predicts Present Privileges: If your kids know that what they have done in the past helps determine what they will be able to do in the future, that will help them know what is coming
  • Loosen the reigns as much as you can.  The teen years are a time to give them a chance to experience more freedom and learn how to use it wisely.
  • Know that mistakes will be made by both you and your child so be prepared to have do-overs.

Check out Julie’s website at http://aspoonfulofparenting.com/ where she shares many more tips. And check out her book Parenting with Spiritual Power.

School Social Skills

We expect our children to practice their handwriting, their piano, and their jump shot to get good at them but we don’t often think that they have to learn and practice social skills to be successful at school.  One blogger starts the conversation on what social skills we need to teach our kids and we continue the conversation.

Here is her list to get the conversation started:

  1. Make eye contact, smile and say hi.
  2. Learn to converse: don’t monopolize, ask questions, pay attention, listen (be a reporter).
  3. Learn people’s names.
  4. Include everyone.
  5. Be kind.

What do you think and what ways have you found to teach these skills to your children?

Get Your Spook On: Halloween Preparations

20141003_143858  What costumes do your kids want? How are you going to decorate (or not) for the season?  Are you in charge of games at the school party? What about some fun food ideas?  We cover these topics and more with some excellent ideas to help you get your Spook On!

Some Decorating Tips

  • If you can’t decorate a lot, choose one area to decorate and put it all in that one place.
    • Your front door is a great place to decorate because many people come there (see the photo of Nancy’s front door above)
    • Choose one Room to decorate (Nancy’s living room gets transformed with a Harry Potter Theme–check out the book titles and the magazines–great printables from online)
  • Choose a theme and a style
    • The key is to have some cohesive look (cutesy or scary, Harry Potter look or Fall Décor, witches or scarecrows)
    • Find a color palate and stick with it. Spray paint can be a life-saver20141006_11583820141006_11592620141006_115758
    • Black and Orange are not the only colors. Try using lime green or turquoise to spice it up. Silver and white work too to give a ghostly feel.20141006_115810
  • Use what you have—don’t buy new things
    • Outside lanterns for summer become spooky lanterns
    • Planters/Urns can be used to stage pumpkins or Witches Legs
    • Trimmed trees or bushes can become backdrops for both Fall and Halloween scenes
    • Vases and jars can become apothecary jars
    • Family silver and old photos of relatives add that old feeling
  • Candles add ambiance
  • Check out a past podcast and photos
  • Paper can be your cheap friend for a great impact (Shelly’s silhouette)
  • More is More—one bat won’t cut it. You need a swarm for impact.
  • Check out the perfect 20141006_120000way to cut out a pumpkin for cleaning and lighting  http://makezine.com/2009/10/23/a-better-20141006_115903way-to-slice-a-pumpkin/

Ideas for School Games

  • Eyeballs—have you played Kerplunk? Do this at school with eyeballs (ping pong balls painted)
  • Eyeball relay with eyeballs and spoons where they have to carry the eyeball through a course and drop it in the cup.
  • RENAME a game Shrinking Island (like Musical Chairs)
  • Witches Stew (kids have to make a stew by picking up pieces of paper with a straw and suction to get them in to their stew—the first one wins) Print pictures of Halloween ingredients for the stew from the Internet and

Costume Ideas

  • Start early
  • Think of something easily recognizable but not often repeated
  • If on a budget, think of something that uses what you already have (Clothing, etc)

Food Ideas

  • Use a toothpick to drag out legs from melted chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies   http://jensfavoritecookies.com/2013/10/19/spider-cookies-2/  or go to http://iambaker.net/spider-chocolate-chip-cookies/
  • Inside out Caramel Apples–slice the apple in half, core out the seeds and a bit more flesh, pour the caramel in the center and let set up before slicing.
  • Turn Cuties (small oranges) into pumpkins (with or without the peel).  With the peel–draw faces on the peel.  Without the peel–stick a green candy coming out the top like a pumpkin stem.

How to Get the Witch Leg Look

1410794201268Use what you have around the house. I used one pool noodle cut in half, halloween tights, old boots, and some stuffing and bubble wrap to get the shape of thighs.

Once you get the legs, you can attach them to your pot.  I used two dowels (actually two checkered flags on wooden sticks) to give the legs some stability. Then, I attached the shoes to the legs using rubber bands that I covered with cute ribbon (see the photo at the top).

1410796768582

Cross Country Move

Back after a summer of craziness, cancer and a cross-country move!  Stacey shares tips on how to make the best of moving kids–especially kids in school–to a new place. How can you prepare your family to make the move successfully?  Listen and learn from a woman with nine-yes-nine children ranging in age from college to kindergarten.

Here are some tips for moving with kids/teens:

  1. Do lots of research. Uprooting kids (especially teens) is very traumatic for them, so make SURE it’s the best move for your family.
  2. Once you decide, don’t look back. Remember your old home fondly, but look forward with hope, speak with optimism.
  3. Find out what your new area is famous for (best fish, biggest clock tower? Special museums? Pumpkin patch, theater, etc.) and explore that with your family.
  4. Go onto a family history website to find out if you have ancestors who may have lived anywhere near your new place. Visit wherever they came from and feel connected.
  5. Keep family traditions going (bedtime stories, birthday dinners, holiday rituals) Keep some furniture and decor the same to provide a bridge during the transition time.
  6. Find a local congregation of your church and get connected there.
  7. Volunteer at schools, network in the community. Don’t wait for an invitation.
  8. Take treats to your new neighbors with a card introducing your family. It will break the ice and let them know you’re open for friendship.
  9. Communicate daily with your kids. Through notes on pillows, texts, emails, phone calls or talks in the car. Just communicate. They will be going through some of the hardest days of their lives. Keep a pulse on how they are doing. Tell them when you feel homesick too. Be a friend and a support. Let them talk safely about their loss of old friends, old school, etc.
  10. Stay connected with family and friends through Facebook, email, etc. but never say negative things about your new home. Your kids will take their cues from you. If you transition well, chances are, they will too. Soon, you’ll realize that home is simply where the heart is. 🙂

A Better Way to Say Sorry

Long-time listener Tristen shared a post with us about a better way for kids (and parents) to say sorry.  We chat with Tristen and discuss how this 4-step process has changed the way her children interact for the better.

The Steps include:

1) I’m sorry for…: Be specific. Show the person you’re apologizing to that you really understand what they are upset about.

Wrong: I’m sorry for being mean.
Right: I’m sorry for saying that nobody wants to be your friend.

2) This is wrong because…:This might take some more thinking, but this is one of the most important parts. Until you understand why it was wrong or how it hurt someone’s feelings, it’s unlikely you will change. This is also important to show the person you hurt that you really understand how they feel

Wrong: This is wrong because I got in trouble.
Right: This is wrong because it hurt your feelings and made you feel bad about yourself.

3) In the future, I will…:

Wrong: In the future, I will not say that.
Right: In the future, I will keep unkind words in my head.

4) Will you forgive me? Don’t assume that they will—ask for forgiveness

To read the original post, go to http://www.cuppacocoa.com/a-better-way-to-say-sorry/.  We reached out to the author of the post but she hasn’t gotten back to us yet.  Thanks for the great information!  We love that you shared!

Head to Heart How We Use It

How is our experience going with  Head to Heart?  We talk with founder, Johnny Covey and share how we are getting out of our heads and in to our hearts in some critical times in our life with our family members.

 

Head to Heart: Our First Experiences

We cover the basics of Head to Heart with founder, Johnny Covey and how we worked to get out of fright and flight (head) and into our hearts with our kids. Listen to this session and see what we learned and see how you might find ways to help your kids when they get in their Fright-Flight so they can make an amazing choice to create a better way for themselves.

THEN, get a Head to Heart group together and/or send us your Head to Heart experiences.  We want to hear how this is working for you!

JC-3in1-postcard5x7_V5white

 

Grandma Version of Me

Julie Nelson, author of Parenting with Spiritual Power, discusses how the voice of a trusted grandmother figure can help you in your parenting.  Grandparents say that if they had known how great grandparenting would be, they would have skipped right to it.  Why is that and how can we use the wisdom grandparents have to make our parenting more enjoyable and impactful. The “grandma version” of ourselves is wise and witty and helps us to achieve the balance we need to survive the years until we do indeed become grandparents.

Head to Heart: How To Get Started

We chat with Head to Heart founder, Johnny Covey about how to get yourself and your kids out of the fright and flight (head) and into action (heart) to face fears, solve problems and find success in your daily life and peace in your children’s lives.

JC-3in1-postcard5x7_V5white

Head to Heart is a framework that allows you to Choose to Change and Create. We all have had experiences that keep us from Creating what we want. Johnny spent 12 years searching for the answer to the question Why don’t I choose to do what I know? He read hundreds of books, attended conferences all over the country and invested over 10,000 hours to get the answer: The Head to Heart framework. Yes, he is related to that other well-known Covey so this figuring out thing is in his genes!  His great uncle Steven R. Covey taught about being proactive, Choosing your response. The Head to Heart framework allows anyone, regardless of their previous Experiences to Choose their response. It is so digestible that anyone can understand it, so doable that they will actually use it, so duplicable that they can teach it right away.

When we are using our Head we hold back, worried about what others think about us. In our Heart we are able to be ourselves and fully express ourselves. We Create rather than Control.

This session is the How To Get Started.  We will have future episodes where we discuss our results and what we found as we use this process in our lives.