Morning Time

I am not a morning person. Anyone who knows me knows that. Getting out of bed has to be one of the worst feelings to me. I always feel delirious when I wake up and it just isn't fun. Once I am fully awake I am fine, but that waking up is just never fun.

Having Connor around has quickly made morning time my favorite time of the day. Connor is in such a great mood in the morning. He is happy, smiling, talking. He loves to eat his food and will even try to feed himself...though not always successfully!

Sitting on my living room floor, with a cup of coffee in one hand and baby cereal in the other, with the most adorable little boy in front of me, is bliss.

On a side note, Ian let me sleep in until 9:45am on Saturday. Even though I love my mornings with my little man, I love my sleep too!

This is Your Life

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose
- Switchfoot

I am not one for irony or reading in to things, BUT this week, it seems like everywhere I go, everything I read, everything I see is about life. About if "you" are happy with your life, your choices, what you have become. And I feel it is one of the blessings in my life that I can honestly say yes to that.

I believe that all our choices make an impact on our lives. When I was on a walk with Connor the other day, pondering all this "life" stuff, I was thinking how I could have changed my life with decisions I made early on. When I was younger, I really wanted to be a doctor. After taking some classing in college, I decided I just didn't have the energy (or willpower) to study for all those classes. Call it lazy, call it whatever you want, it was a choice. And I was thinking, it was the right choice for me.

Having a family is my dream. Had I become a doctor, I would be in the middle of an internship right now...years away from parenting. Up until I had Connor, I always thought I would be one of those mothers itching to go back to work. Surprising to me, I am not. I love and cherish my time with Connor. Yes there are days that are hard. And yes, there are times I feel worthless to the world because all I do is change dirty diapers, do the laundry, make dinner. But I also realize, it is what I want. I want to be the one doing those things for my son. I want to be the one reading him books, and teaching him how to talk. I want to be the one with him when he is experiencing so many things for the first time.

Life is a choice. All our decisions, all our choices bring us to where we are today. If we aren't happy with our life, we only have ourselves to blame. If we want our life to be different, we are the only ones who can change it.

I have dreams outside of being a mother. And I do plan on achieving them. To some they may be insignificant, but to me they are important. I will work toward those dreams while living my today...while enjoying my today...knowing that this beautiful life is everything I hoped for, everything I dreamed of, everything I worked so hard toward...

Going Green

For the past while, I have been into green stuff. Saving the environment isn't that hard. But, it does take some effort. Today I was thinking, really we all do green stuff for a reason...monetary reasons, the environment, etc. Nothing is ever done just for the common good. It either makes us feel better about our decisions (saving the environment), is lighter on our wallets or some other far fetched reason. But, I don't think people just do something to do it...there is ALWAYS a reason.

So, here are some of the ways our little family is green and the reasons why:

Recycling - The Environment
Really it isn't hard to recycle. Around our parts, the recycling is picked up every other week. We have bins to put the various items in, then put them at the curb to be picked up. When we lived in California, we had a separate trash can that was picked up at the same time as our other trash. I have pretty much always been too lazy to take my recycling to get money, but I still recycle...cause it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy!

Cloth Diapering - Money & the Environment
For minimal effort, I can save a lot of money and help with the landfills. Going above and beyond, I don't dry the cloth diapers as I read I could save 100 GBP a year by hang drying them. It works for me.

Our Little Car - Money
Our little car is amazing. We averaged 57 mpg while on our vacation a couple weeks ago. So, that obviously saves some cash. We originally decided on a diesel as the MOT (car registration) is 1/6 the annual price of the gas version...over here, the price of MOT is determined by the car's pollution. We also chose the diesel as the resale value is higher and it is considered a more desirable car.

Reusable Grocery Bags - The Environment
Over here most people use reusable grocery bags. Really it only makes sense. No longer do I have tons of grocery bags cluttering up my kitchen. Also, when taking groceries on a bus, those Trader Joe's canvas bags are much more reliable than flimsy little plastic bags. It costs a little money, but its worth the switch to save the landfills! And apparently has some upsides for me as well...see, not just for the common good!

Buying Recycled Goods - The Environment
Once again, this does cost a little extra money, but it does heaps of good. Not only are you helping the environment by buying recycled, but the more you support the recycled industry, the more it will grow, the more recycled products will become available, helping the environment. Oh, and going along with this is buying used items. This definitely helps the pocketbook. I have found stuff for Connor in new condition for almost nothing. Good for the environment and for me!

Reusable Coffee Cup
- Money
I have a Starbucks reusable coffee cup...made out of recycled material, nonetheless. I use it every time I go get coffee, whether I am sitting in or taking away (I guess that really only matters over here...there are mugs for sitting in). Every time you use a reusable cup, you save 25 pence (the GBP's version of cents). That's like money in my pocket!

Baby Food - Money
After the shock of seeing how much baby food costs at the store, I was hooked on making my own food for Connor. Buying veggies in bulk, making the food, then freezing it is much more economical than buying those little jars. And what is with those jars being glass?!? It seems like such a waste.

That is enough of a rant for you for today. Just know, doing little things can really help the environment and make you feel much better about your decisions. And most of those decisions are easier on the pocketbook, so good for the environment and you!

It Takes a Village

There is that quote that Hillary Clinton made so famous in the '90's:

It takes a village to raise a child.

Really for most people, this quote can be changed to:

It takes a family to raise a child.

I am a rather independent person. So is Ian. When it comes to raising Connor on our own, I think we do a pretty good job. There have been no tear-filled nights for us...the same can't be said for Connor! Sure we haven't gotten much alone time without our little man tagging along, but we don't exactly have the finances to go out all the time anyway.

All this changed yesterday. It was one of those days...the ones when you wish you could call your mom and have her come take care of you! Or at least take care of your child! Connor didn't sleep at all on Sunday night. It was like torture. Twice I passed Connor on to Ian. It was like playing tag; no one wanted to be "it"! Then, after a sleepless night (and there is no exaggeration there, I maybe got an hour or two of shuteye) we were followed up by a very unhappy day. Unless Connor was being held by me, he was screaming his head off. And, it was pouring down rain most of the day, so we were cooped up in the house (Connor famously becomes "Mr. Happy" as soon as I take him out of the house). I was exhausted. It was awful.

Last night, Ian resorted to driving Connor around to get him to go to sleep. And, he ended up sleeping in his car seat for half the night. He got a good night's sleep last night and this morning has been great. But still...

I can't help but think of yesterday and wish my mom was living much closer to me. Close enough that after a night like that, I could call her to get a break from my child. Close enough that she could give me a hug and take a turn holding my child for a bit.

Turns out that no matter how old I am, how independent I am, I still need my mommy!

Our Kid Loves Us So Much...

He loves us so much that he always wants to be in our arms.
He loves us so much that he doesn't want to go to bed.
He loves us so much that his little eyes follow us where ever we go.
He loves us so much that he cries when someone else holds him.

Now that is true love!

And before you think I fell off my rocker, this post was meant to be read with a sarcastic tone! (Though it is all true!)

Moving on Up

Ian and I have been living the ghetto life for a little while now. We are in charge of taking care of the front yard at our flat (there are 3 other flats in our building). Why that would be left in the hands of a tenant is beyond me. Then, to make matters worse, we weren't even left the proper tools to deal with our yard. We have the crappiest push lawn mower this side of the Atlantic. Plus, we don't have a weedeater. Thus, the grass on the side of our lawn is about 12-18 inches tall (no joke). We have used scissors to trim it, but that is beyond ridiculous.

There is a shed behind our flat. For the past 9 months, we have been unable to get into it. We have a key for it, but it doesn't work. We have had other people try the key as well, to no avail. We asked the landlord about it and she was no help either. Yesterday, Ian took matters into his own hands. He unscrewed the hinges and removed the door. Inside the shed we did not find better lawn tools, but we did find a nice outdoor table and chairs as well as a gas BBQ.

So, we did what any normal Californian would do...we cleaned them up and drug them out front (our front door opens to the kitchen so it just makes sense to have that out front). Then, we went to the store and bought a bunch of plants to at least make our patio look looks better than decent. Our crazy neighbor was impressed and told us she would pull the weeds from the front yard, as we can't tell the difference between weeds and plants (most of the things we thought were weeds are actually plants). Then, we will bark the plant areas.

This is all happening in perfect time. It was in the 60's this weekend! Perfect t-shirt and shorts weather for Scotland! We have enjoyed our new found BBQ for the past 2 days and even ate outside. Makes it feel a little bit like home.

P.S. How freaking grown up are we?!? Caring about our yard!!!

You Know You're a Grown Up When...

You get a package from home for YOUR birthday and there is more stuff in it for your child than for you!

Nevertheless, Connor and I both enjoyed the package. Connor got loaded up with some necessities...pajamas, summer clothes...and some toys. I got some sweet things from home...the all important People and US Weekly along with some very tasty candy. All in all, a good package for both of us!

Connor "saying hi" to his cousin Tanner

Playing with his new "crawling" toy...on his back!

Taste-testing his new passed inspection

For the Coffee Lover

A cappuccino at home you say?

Well, kind of...

I know what you are thinking, at home espresso machines have been around for forever (well, at least in my little mind). But this beauty got nowhere near an espresso machine. In fact, one could truly call it a hand-crafted beverage!

We learned this trick at a friend's house this weekend. They had one of those stove-top Turkish coffee makers to make some good espresso to go in this at-home beauty, but Ian and I do not. So here is what we did...

Made a french press of coffee. Then, heated some milk in the microwave, and foamed it to perfection in the french press by quickly plunging it. The trick to the truly velvety milk is to keep the "plunger" (mesh part) of the french press under the milk while quickly plunging. Honestly, I think this has changed my life...well, would change my life if a Starbucks weren't closer (and I didn't get a discount)!

Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

My question is, how can anything with the term "lack of knowledge" in the definition be considered bliss? I would actually like to argue that ignorance can actually harm you...

When listening to an early twenty-something speak earlier this week, I realized that sometimes our ignorance can blind us to the point to the point that it harms us. Life really isn't as black and white as we are brought up to even shocks me that I would say this given that I have been accused a time or two of being too black and white. And, in much of life's circumstances, it is all about the black and white. But, then there are those other circumstances...

Curve balls as I will call them...the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday (a little Baz Luhrmann for you fans out there...if there are actually any fans out there!) Its these curve balls that shake you to your very core, make you rethink what you believe. Its these curve balls that make you realize that sometimes, just sometimes life has to be lived in the gray.

The reason for this? If life was only black and white we would have given up on all our relationships (family and friends) long ago. We wouldn't realize that sometimes people are just "that dumb" and that mistakes happen. We wouldn't know how to forgive. We wouldn't know how to look inside ourselves and learn to look past the gray areas in each others lives and still love each other for who they are.

When I think of this twenty-something's ignorance (it's funny that I label her this, given that I too fit into this category), I realize that ignorance is definitely not always bliss. Sometimes ignorance can lead to such disappointment in life that we can hardly get over it. Sometimes ignorance causes us to make decisions that really are stupid. Sometimes it is better to open ourselves up to the gray areas of allow that brackish water to pour over our hearts, minds and souls. Yes, it will cause us to grow up. And yes, sometimes it will cause us to be harder because of it. But, it also will allow us to be more understanding of others, to more easily love and to more easily forgive. And sometimes, just sometimes, I think that makes the gray areas worth it.

6 Months

Weight: 15 lbs, 11 oz

Length: 26 inches

Can roll over in every which direction
Scoots around the floor...on his back!
"Found" his feet...they are like a built in toy!
Tries to grab hair, glasses, jewelry and more
Doesn't like strangers...
Cries within 60 seconds of someone besides Ian or I holding him
Has eaten "real" food and likes it
Has become extremely ticklish
Sleeps thru the night (for the past 3 days)

Everyday Connor seems to morph more and more into a boy and is growing farther and farther away from those baby days. He got to go on vacation with us over the past couple weeks. While traveling he got to go to the London Zoo, meet Mickey Mouse at Disneyland Paris, stroll around Milan, see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, check out the beach/ocean in Italy, see the Eiffel Tower and go on a ferry. He also touched grass for the first time (which he was very interested in) and touch a lamb for the first time (which I don't think he really cared about). He likes being outside, looking around at new things. He also seems to be more interested in the tags on his toys than the toys himself. He can spend so much time just investigating those little tags. Its fun to watch a serious expression go over his face when he is "investigating" something.

Teething seems to be just around the corner. Connor is drooling like no other and has become quite irritable. I keep checking his mouth, but no teeth yet. I am thinking it will happen soon though.

Connor & Daddy on the train at Disneyland Paris

Touching grass for the first time

Hanging out in the front of the car

Eating baby cereal for the first time

The Best Way to a Boy's Heart is through Food

Connor seems to be a food man thru and thru. Last week we gave him some rice cereal. He seemed to spit most of it out, but was definitely interested in the spoon. I have kept trying and get close to the same results each time. Yesterday, I decided we should give him some "real" food. I went to the store to pick some out...was even delighted to find options with no preservatives and no additives except a little water or some rice. Last night, we lined up Connor's options and let him "choose" which to try first. He went for the carrots & potatoes, so that is what he got.

Let me tell you, I have never seen anyone eat carrots with such gusto. And he made sure that practically none of it went to waste (furthering my belief that he isn't into the rice cereal!). I thought he would eat maybe a third of the jar, but he ate the whole thing. And, if we stopped feeding him, even for a few seconds, he went hysterical. The whole thing was pretty entertaining.

Oh, and I am holding the food by the camera to get him to look that way...definitely a food man!

Press Pause Please

If there is a pause button on life, now is the time I would like to use it. Life seems to be screaming by at such a fast rate. Normally it doesn't bother me (until of course, I hit my birthday), but having Connor around changes all that.

Connor is at such a fun age right now. He interacts with me, he easily laughs, isn't too fussy anymore and is virtually sleeping thru the night. All that and he is still my baby boy. It doesn't kill my arms to hold him (so, he is just the right size), I enjoy rocking him to sleep, he doesn't try to push himself away from me and he doesn't say no.

I know all this will change. I really do try to cherish every moment I have with him. And, when I think of the relationship that my brothers and I have with my parents, it gives me a hope that Connor will still want to talk to me when he is all grown up. But still, that is when life is more complicated, more difficult. I like the innocent boy that I have in front of me.

And, don't get me wrong, its not just Connor's life who I want to press pause on...its everyone. I want to be able to watch my nephew grow up, I want to be involved in my brothers lives, I want to be involved in my parents lives. Basically, I want to live my life and be super involved in everyone else's! All this, without taking anything for granted. Hey, it can happen...right?

And here's that picture I mentioned before...Connor meeting Mickey Mouse:

Subtle Differences's one of those places that aren't so different it freaks you out, but different enough that it annoys you a bit...even from Scotland. Once we got back into the UK, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I was home, knowing I was somewhere familiar, somewhere I knew I could predict more easily.

Simple things like grocery shopping became a chore. We discovered many villages didn't have their own grocery stores. Not even a corner shop (as we have so easily grown accustomed to in Scotland). One place you had to drive a half an hour from our campsite to get to a grocery store. And everywhere, the grocery stores closed painstakingly early. And in Pisa, despite the hours listed on the window, the store closed whenever it wanted, even if it was the middle of the day!

Camping in Europe has its subtle differences from the States. The campsites are much smaller than in the States. You could practically reach out and touch your neighbor. And, oddly enough, even at tent sites, there is electricity. We had no use for it, but I would be curious to know what tent campers use the electricity for. There are no tables or fire pits at the campsites either. The lack of campfire was the hardest thing for us to get over. Come on...a campfire is the essence, the heart, of camping. Instead, we sat around our citronella candle, drinking our tea each night.

Driving in Europe is a whole different ball game. In France and Italy, you have to pay a toll for every highway you go on. And the tolls aren't cheap. We are talking about some days spending upwards of 100 Euros just to drive on the roads! The problem is, there is no suitable alternative to the toll roads. While in Italy, we took the "scenic route" (aka: non-toll roads) for a little while. What should have taken 30 minutes to drive, took 2 hours to drive. These non-toll roads are one lane each way and take you directly thru the middle of each town. It was a mess. Yet at the same time, it allowed for some good entertainment until our patience was worn out!

Oh, and there is something about the grounds don't provide toilet paper (as if it is so expensive). And in France, there are squatty potties!?! And some of the normal toilets didn't have toilet seats. It was all just very strange. Oh, and what is the deal with the hose next to a toilet. I have seen it before in other countries. Are you really supposed to hose your butt off?!? That certainly doesn't sound appealing to me!

Its funny to me how at times things can be so much the same, yet so different. And every country, no matter how big or small, has its own way of doing things. It seems so unnatural to have an unnatural, fake line (a border) determine where those differences begin or end. But, I guess that is just life on the road...and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Home Sweet Scotland

We made it home. Drove 3331.5 miles. Averaged between 56-57 mpg the whole trip. Took zillions of photos and had a wonderful time.

One interesting thing though...we killed a bird. I don't quite remember it happening, but yesterday when running back to the car after checking out of our campground, I found this...

It is kind of disturbing, yet kind of funny at the same time. When going thru customs at the ferry, the border patrol guy was totally amused by it. And, his colleague said they didn't allow bird killers in their country. I did make Ian remove it. He didn't want to touch it, but I was done having people think of us as bird killers.

Poor bird. But, I am pretty sure it didn't feel a thing.

Oh yeah, and lucky for you, I am thinking there will be a few more roadtrip posts coming your way over the next few days.

Lessons from the Road...Italian Style

Driving around a country allows for a lot more perspective than just flying in and visiting. It allows you to visit more places, see more of the country and get a better feeling for the culture. Here are some of the things I noticed during our time in Italy:
  • Italians be CRAZY drivers! Speed limit? They don't care! Lanes? Not a problem! Going 100 mph, they don't have a problem driving in between cars, in between lanes. In the city, it's as if lights, lines or really driving rules in general don't matter. It seems to be every man for himself.
  • Italians have an extreme liking of Connor. Many stopped to talk to Connor...then us, before they realized we only spoke English. Some even touched Connor. This must be a cultural thing given than this didn't happen on my trip to the states or where I live.
  • Italians make the best cappuccinos. Seriously! I didn't have one bad cappuccino the whole time I was in that country. In fact, every one of them seemed to taste delicious. And, they are least where we got the non-touristy places.
  • Italy is covered in tunnels. You have to take a 7 mile tunnel just to get in the country. Then, we traveled thru at least 15 tunnels that were a mile in length while in the country. This made me realize, I HATE long tunnels! The paranoia sets in and it just isn't good.
  • Ian and I ate the best pastries of our short little lives at a cafe in Pisa. It was perfect. They didn't speak any English whatsoever, probably thought we were crazy, but our taste buds were happy and our bellies filled with delight.
  • Black licorice gum? Not quite sure (can't exactly read the package), but we picked up some gum at the grocery store and it tastes like black licorice, then after a few minutes turns to mint flavored. Weird, I know.
That's enough with my lessons thus far. Here are some pictures (now that I have come across some acceptable internet):
The 4th largest cathedral in the world, located in Milan

The roof inside the main cathedral in Milan

Connor cares more about his shoe than the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

On the Italian Riviera
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