Stirling Castle

On Wednesday we rented a car and drove to Stirling to visit their castle. It's the only other castle  in Scotland besides Edinburgh castle built on a rock mountain, creating its own fortress. Unlike Edinburgh, Stirling is a small place with tiny little roads and not much parking. But we did eat lunch in a darling courtyard of a pub just outside the castle. I always love scoring outdoor seating with the kids, as I feel like it allows more space for the kids to wiggle and they don't have to be as quiet. 

The castle was not nearly as crowded as Edinburgh castle, making it much easier to get around. There was even a little kids area where they could dress up, play with some instruments, etc. The main inside of the castle underwent major renovations just a few years ago, so its neat to see things more how they would have been back then, with the king and queen's bedrooms set up, etc. 

Somehow, after having lived in Scotland for almost four years before, we never knew the national animal was the unicorn before this trip. We heard this before going to Stirling castle, but it was made obvious at Stirling castle with unicorns everywhere. They were on the tops of buildings in the castle, painted all over and even in some tapestries. We asked a guide about the unicorn. She gave a long history, but the gist is they stand for purity and are rooted in religion/the bible and that's why the king chose them hundreds of years ago. I really should and do want to do more research on this as I am totally intrigued. 

^^ These telescopes have always been a favorite of Connor's everywhere we travel. He is drawn to them anytime he sees one. 

^^ I thought it was pretty cool we were actually allowed to touch some things...and sit in the chairs. This was in the great hall. It was fun to imagine what a feast would have been like in there.

^^ One example of the unicorn. I noticed they all didn't have the same size horn and varied slightly in appearance as well, but that could have been because of the various artists that created them.

^^ Callum smelling the flowers. This was totally his idea and he went down the line, stopping every couple feet and smelling the flowers. It was pretty dang cute.

Callum managed to not nap all day and literally was asleep within minutes of us being in the car. We weren't even on the highway yet and he was out. Poor guy was tired. The other kids, they just wanted to eat the whole time we were in the car. What's up with car rides always bringing out the hunger in everyone anyway?!

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Edinburgh Castle

I had these grand ideas that I was going to write all these blog posts about all the things we are doing on our vacation. But something about it staying light out until almost 11pm and it being vacation, seems to keep the kids up extra late. By the time they are in bed, I seem pretty much ready to head to bed myself. Soon though...maybe soon I will get it all posted. 

We went to Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday. Connor really wanted to go, so it was one of the first things we did when we arrived. The castle is huge and there is so much to see and do inside. When we went in, they gave the kids these quizzes and told them if they got all the questions correct, they got a prize. Connor quickly lost interest, but Isla was super into it the whole time, which actually surprised me. Anyway, spoiler alert, the prize was a sticker. Sort of lame. But I guess since the quiz kept Isla engaged the whole time I would consider it a win. 

You really can't beat the views from the castle. They are stunning. You can see in every direction for miles and miles and miles. And it helped that we were there on such a beautiful day. On the way out, we hit up the gift shop. This was probably the most important part to my kids. No joke, they are obsessed with gift shops. We have given them a little money each week they get to spend on whatever. Connor blew all his right away. Isla has slowly bought tiny things each places we have gone...a pen at Edinburgh Castle was her choice. The boys walked away with knight beanies and swords. The swords quickly became dangerous. Callum was hitting at everyone from the confines of his stroller. And given the streets are so crowded, we had to take the sword away. But I have been hit by Callum more times than I care to admit while sitting there not paying attention at our flat. 

^^ Isla put her sticker on her quiz. It's on the bottom right.

^^ Just photographic proof that I too am on this trip

After we left the castle we wound down the hill to an ice cream shop I had heard about. It had a line out the door and down the block. But we waited and it ended up being SO WORTH IT. They make their ice cream fresh every morning and are open until they sell out. I got salted caramel and I still keep thinking about when we can go back for more. 

After ice cream, all our legs were tired out and Ian managed to get the bus driver to let us on the bus with our expired passes (it was the touristy hop on, hop off bus we rode the day before)...all he had to do was ask. That was pretty dang convenient. We walked 21,000 steps that day. And honestly the kids have been troopers about all the walking. So the free bus ride was definitely greatly appreciated. 

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This is how we all felt after getting to our airbnb in Scotland after 25 hours of travel. Yes, you read that correctly, it was 25 hours from the time we left our house until the time we got to our airbnb. And the reality is, we were all relieved we finally arrived and were flat out exhausted. Never again will we be that stupid. Saving money sometimes kills everyone. But we still could have saved money and spent a night in London and it would have been easier on everyone. Hindsight is 20/20. The time waiting for the train and taking the train to Scotland is when things started going downhill. After being up 23 hours without sleep, one of our children started throwing up all over the train (yes, truly all, wall, floor, self) out of pure exhaustion. Thankfully, we all slept amazingly well our first night. Said exhausted child slept for 18 hours and the other two and Ian and I slept for 15.

The 8 hour time change has gone remarkably well and we instantly were able to start doing stuff, after our extremely long sleep. That first day we wondered around the city and played in a park. There will be plenty more posts to come of all we are doing.

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Fourth of July

Like 99% of America, we celebrated the 4th of July with food and family. I actually started off the day with breakfast with my best friend. Someone pointed out they thought this was weird, as it was a holiday. I thought, hmmm....a holiday, people around to babysit my kids AND my best friend is off work (she's a nurse, so the days off are random). I thought it was brilliant. But, whatever. In the afternoon, my inlaws took the kids to a carnival while Ian and I had the genius idea of running errands. Every single place we went was dead. It was amazing. In the evening, my family came over for fireworks. We started early with the idea of getting the kids to bed at a decent time. BUT, Connor and my dad bought way too many fireworks. Plus, Connor and Isla insisted on waiting until it was completely dark for the grand finale. Callum didn't make it until the end because he was just too tired.  It was a fun evening for all. 

^^ We must really trust our unpredictable toddler, allowing him to hold a sparkler by himself and all. 

^^ Just before a loud firework scared the heck out of him.

^^ Now wearing headphones and giving two thumbs up that he is ok. Even still, there would be times he would take our hands and have us hold them over the headphones. Apparently we need more pairs of the legit ear noise covers like Isla is wearing. 

^^ He was a little hesitant, so always holding on to someone or in someone's lap. 

Connor and Isla actually complained that it wasn't dark enough for the grand finale. It was literally completely dark except for the street lights, but whatever kids. Isla's finale went first, then Connor's. Isla was offended that more people said "wow" about Connor's finale than her's. I wish I was making this up, but I literally can't make this kind of stuff up. It really bothered her. Oh kids. 

Connor and Isla actually wanted to keep the party going after fireworks, but at this point it was headed toward 10pm and this mama wanted to put on her pjs and relax in her own bed, so shooed the kids off to bed as well. 

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Swim Lessons

^^ My presence doesn't distract him at all ;)

The kids started swim lessons this week. The teacher comes to our house, which is so nice. She does Connor and Isla together, then Callum by himself. Connor has proved himself to be quite the willing participant and is facing a fear that has kept him from swimming well for years. I am very proud of him. She said she will have him swimming and jumping in the deep end by the time she is done.

Isla on the other hand is, well, Isla. Her personality comes shining out in every situation. Meaning, she tries to reason with the teacher and tell her exactly why she simply will not do, like not even try, what the teacher wants her to do. For instance, she currently has a loose tooth and this keeps her from putting her head under water, because what if her tooth falls out under water. I can't make this stuff up folks! The teacher has done a great job pushing her, which is nice, given in the past we had a teacher just give up and not try with her anymore.

Callum, well this guy gets an A for his happy, excited attitude toward swim lessons. He yells at me to look at whatever he is supposed to be doing - "Look! Scoops" "Look! kicks" - while also stopping what he is supposed to be doing because he is distracted yelling at me. Haha! But I promise it is super cute. The teacher's goal with Callum is to get him to the point that if he falls in the pool accidentally he can get himself to the steps.

I'm excited to see where the kids get to by the end. We have done swim lessons many times and not really gotten anywhere. But this year seems like it will definitely be the year for Connor and that makes me super happy. Plus, swim lessons wear Callum out and he goes down for his nap super easy and sleeps extra long. Talk about an unintended bonus!

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Los Angeles

Ian had to go out of town last week for work, so I decided to take the kids down to Los Angeles and visit my parents. I always love how there is just so much to see and do constantly there. We took the kids to the Santa Monica Pier one day, in which Callum had his first experience at riding carnival rides and was totally into it. He was NOT into leaving though, and was sure to let us know.  Technically Callum was 1 inch too short to ride unattended on the rides and I thought I was going to have to bite the bullet and go round and round and round some more all day, but somehow the workers were fine with Connor or Isla being his "adult". Yes, the sign clearly said adult, but I did not complain, at the decision was in my stomach's favor. Connor rode the big roller coaster 14 times by himself...well, the worker convinced my dad to go on with him,  for free, on the last ride.

No trip to LA is complete without my mom and I dragging the kids to a couple thrift stores. We also fed the turtles in Echo Park lake, where we also managed to let the older two have popsicles without Callum knowing. We made them stay behind the stroller the whole time and it actually worked. Which, this decision too was in my favor, as I didn't want to deal with a sticky mess of a toddler and a destroyed stroller. 

Let us not forget our trip to Ikea...hello free childcare! Or playing at Travel Town, a train museum. Here is where I discovered Connor's love of trains is still there, and his imagination is still active as ever. We also went and had dinner with my aunt and uncle, which is always nice. 

It was a good trip. Being with people I love, who will also help with the kids, is always much nicer than a week home alone, going at it alone. 

^^ Their first time on the planes Callum sat in front of the controls and they basically stayed on the ground the whole time, only bouncing up and down a little.

^^ With Isla at the controls 

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Blueberry Picking

I love blueberry picking. It's something I find fun and I just love to take the kids. I had never even heard of blueberry picking before we moved back here seven years ago...maybe it's more recently become a thing? Who knows. Anyway, I knew I wanted to get out there this year, before the season had passed and before it was unbearably hot. 

We've had something going on every day of summer break so far and Friday was our first day free. I thought we would relax a bit. But the kids woke up and were at each other all morning. Just endless fighting and whining and I knew we needed to get out of the house. So, I loaded them up and took them blueberry picking.

The blueberry picking itself was quite successful. Now that I have two children that don't just sit there and eat all they pick! We managed to go home with just over four pounds. But the third child...well, he ate everything he picked and we had to guard the other buckets from him!

Right when we were getting back to the barn from picking blueberries, I looked like a bit of a circus act. Callum was trying to run away from me to the playground. I was pulling the wagon and trying to manage everyone else. Then I ran into someone I knew who offered to help. I kindly asked that she keep an eye on Callum at the playground while I go pay. Which, I must say, mom solidarity is just the best. We moms should always be willing to help each other out, yet so often don't. But back to the story. 

After I paid, we went out to the playground. The older two ran off and Callum was in the sand box, so I planted myself there. I was staring at the sandbox, but really in a daze, trying to decompress from the morning's events. I watched a kid repeatedly throw sand in another kid's face and it wasn't until the other parent intervened that I realized the sand throwing kid was MY KID. I was a bit mortified that I was literally staring at it happening, yet did nothing. Well, long story short, no matter what I tried, the sand throwing (literally directly in other kids faces) kept happening, so we left. 

But the blueberry picking itself, well that was great. And the blueberries are delicious. So, I'm chalking it up to a win. 

^^ These two lazy bums had me pull them in from the field. I'm pretty sure this is where the circus act started. I was pulling the wagon with one hand and holding on to Callum with the other, as he kept running away. 

Now to eat all those blueberries, which is never hard for us.

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