Archive | family

Welcome, Amos Elliott // Our NICU Story

First photo as a family of SIX!

All right, the story continues! When I left off, Elliott, our new baby, and I had just moved to the postpartum unit around 7pm, and our baby was doing pretty well. Elliott had gotten my dinner order and left to pick up a celebratory meal of sushi and sparkling wine.

The night nurse took over, and around 8:30 while Elliott was gone she came in to check on our baby. She spent a while watching his oxygen saturation and his respirations, which unfortunately had picked back up to 90 breaths/minute. To my dismay, she then called the NICU team to come observe him again.

The NICU team came in, and the NICU fellow saw our baby for the first time then. Crushingly, she made the call that he should be transferred to the NICU. She felt like he needed extra breathing treatment and antibiotics, as well as closer observation by the medical team. The tentative diagnosis at this point was TTN — transient tachypnea of the newborn — and she wanted to address his slightly labored, rapid breathing and find its underlying cause.

I texted Elliott to give him the update, knowing there was nothing I could really do (with a clean conscience, anyway), but panicking slightly because I knew things were slipping out of the range of “normal” and we were headed for a whole new world with our baby.

I took this photo as I followed our baby to the NICU with the two NICU nurses. He was calm on the way over and as they hooked him up. Elliott found me there, both of us feeling bewildered and like we had lost a lot of control as parents. The nurses said they would be putting in an IV now and starting CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure, a form of breathing treatment to open up his lungs), and did we want to take a little break to eat our dinner? I couldn’t nurse him or do anything to help, and our baby seemed calm and at peace. We left, feeling helpless.

Amos in the NICU

When we returned after our “celebratory” meal, we found our baby screaming in his NICU bed with 4 holes in his arms and feet from failed IV sticks and also two little plastic tubes stuck into his nostrils blasting air into his lungs. I started crying just looking at him–I’m about to cry again just thinking about it. I cannot imagine how parents go through agressive medical treatment with their children on a regular basis!

Elliott was upset because he wasn’t convinced that any of the treatment was necessary, and, even days later, I am still not sure if it was. The medical team decided to stop the CPAP early because our baby was just not tolerating it, and holding him in my arms and nursing him and seeing his peace and comfort after that was one of the sweetest reliefs I’ve ever known. The medical team also started antibiotics at that point, which they hoped would clear out any infection in his lungs due to the fluid they had seen on a chest x-ray.

Father’s Day in the NICU… not anyone’s first choice!

Elliott and I stayed for another couple of hours, with me nursing as much as I could. Our fear was that being away from our baby (me on the postpartum unit on the 8th floor, him in the NICU on the 7th floor) would mean my milk would not come in like it should. The nurses talked about pumping to increase production, but I wanted to just try to nurse as much as I could and go from there. I had no idea what I would do if our baby had to stay longer in the hospital than I did… but I would cross that bridge when I came to it.

Eventually, around midnight, our nurse encouraged/sent Elliott and me up to our postpartum room to sleep for a few hours. Our baby was calm and fed. The nurse agreed to text me from her hospital phone as soon as our baby woke up hungry.

Sure enough, at 4am she texted, and I slipped on shoes and hurried through the hospital in the middle of the night in my gown and robe to nurse my little one. I was able to lay him down after that, slipped upstairs to sleep again, and then returned again at 6am.

And thus began our hazy, harried two days of postpartum and NICU life. I spent almost all my time at our baby’s bedside, and Elliott was with me almost every minute, too. We took turns holding him, and I nursed him whenever he seemed hungry. Every few hours I would slip back upstairs to clean up — since I was still bleeding a great deal after having delivered a baby only hours before — and shovel food into my mouth from whatever meal tray was waiting for me in my big, sunny, gorgeous, very empty postpartum hospital room. Elliott would hold our baby while I was gone, and almost always I was away only for 15-20 minutes before he was texting me to come back and nurse.

Whenever I was on the postpartum unit to eat, the nurses and techs would hurry after me into my room to offer me pain medication (thankfully I really wasn’t in any pain), take my blood pressure and temperature, and make sure I was feeling ok. Then I would be gone again for hours.

Elliott in our postpartum room, where we slept for two nights.

Our hours at our baby’s bedside were slow and uncertain. I never knew you could spend so much time staring at a tiny baby, gazing deeply into his face, both of you locked in on him, praying endlessly for and about so many things, wondering what was going on inside him, what tomorrow would hold, how we had gotten here… and what we would name him! We felt unmoored, being away from our other children and so tied to this brand new, unknown, completely beloved little newborn son.

Lena, Gil, Forest, and my parents-in-law came to meet our baby after church on Sunday. He was almost 24 hours old then, and thankfully doing pretty well. The children were all able to hold him, and we were so grateful to see them all together, but also emotional with the unknowns and lack of sleep.

Lena and “Marmee,” Elliott’s mom, meeting Amos for the first time.

We also finally decided on a name that afternoon. We had gone around and around with a few final options. Naming children is so hard! At long last, we chose Amos Elliott for our little boy. “Amos” is for the Old Testament prophet who followed God’s call to prophesy in Israel despite his everyday vocation of shepherd and gardener, and who spoke a message of covenant faithfulness and justice. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) I have loved that name for a long time, and it grew on Elliott over the hospital stay as we discussed it, until we both sincerely loved it more than any other choice. We chose “Elliott” for his daddy and also for the heritage of the Elliott family (Amos’s grandmother’s family) and their faithfulness to God as pastors, fathers, and people of God throughout their whole lives.

And so: welcome to the world, Amos Elliott Garber!

How we spent the hours!

That second night of NICU life was similar to the night before, but then around midnight the medical team ordered another chest x-ray and blood draws. I was alone with Amos and growing increasingly exhausted, and Amos’s nurse could see it. She finally suggested I go sleep and she would text me as soon as he woke to feed.

When I came back around 3am, Amos had been moved to the “step down” side of the NICU for healthier babies who were getting ready to go home. Such good news! I fed him twice that night, and then Elliott and I stayed with him that whole day, waiting for an update from the medical team.

We were thrilled to hear that the plan was to send Amos home that evening if all went well — which would also the same time that I would be discharged. Amos had finished his course of antibiotics, and his breathing rate and oxygenation continued to stay within normal range now. Whenever anyone asked me how I thought he was doing, I could say with a clear conscience that he was behaving just like my other newborns. He was nursing well, I could feel my milk coming in, and he didn’t seem distressed at all with breathing, eating, or sleeping. I couldn’t wait to get him home!

One last burp before getting in his car seat. Amos’ monitor is empty behind him for the first time because he has been discharged!

Finally, around 6pm, we were ready to go! His nurse took his IV out of his tiny little hand, checked my ID and his arm bands before cutting them off, and gave us a folder of paperwork. Then we buckled our little Amos into his brand new car seat — and left for home!

As soon as we pulled up, all three of our older kids raced off the porch where they’d been waiting. My heart swelled with joy to see them all dashing down the steps — Forest pausing to turn around and carefully go down backwards — and standing by the gate until the car door opened and they could hop into the van beside him. Those first few minutes of bringing a new baby home are always so surreal and precious, especially after a more eventful hospital stay.

That night Elliott and I slept beside Amos somewhat nervously, unsure how his first night at home would go, but he did so well and slept just like a newborn — even deciding he was ready to get up for the day around 4am! Welcome to real life at home, right? Since then Amos has continued to behave like a normal newborn, complete with plenty of blown-out diapers, 5am wake-ups, and sour milk running down our arms and over our shoulders — and lots of darling newborn grunts, squeaks, and snuggles, too. His breathing also seems normal, both to his pediatrician and a home health nurse that came to visit us, and to all of us watching him at home, too.

While we’ll never know completely what was affecting Amos’ breathing — an infection in his lungs? his lungs taking a longer time to transition out of the womb than normal? extra fluid? all three? — we’re grateful now that he seems unaffected by his rougher start to life. Thanks be to God for health!

Amos after his first night in the NICU. So thankful he is home safe and sound!

7 :: in Amos, family, motherhood, Virginia

Our Last Days in England // Europe with Kids // Part 7

For the start of this blog series, begin here!

Hello again! Back with more photos… you knew they were coming eventually. :) Elliott took the older kids to gymnastics this morning and told me to stay home and write a blog post. So I did!

When I left off, we’d just visited London, which was great, but we were ready to slow down again and enjoy our time in southeastern England.

Ironically, if you look at guidebooks like Rick Steve’s England, they don’t have much to say about this little corner of the country. We, however, found so much to love and enjoy. Not touristy stuff, necessarily, but beautiful, rural England was enough without any major landmarks. Here are photos from our last few days there:

Eggs for breakfast, as usual, but this time they’re from a roadside stand and an “honesty” cash box. I loved that pale blue one especially!

The day after we visited London, we stayed home most of the day and then visited Sheffield Park and Garden for an afternoon picnic. It was quiet and cool and so so beautiful!

So hard to get pictures of this guy, but I got one!

We love him so.

Back at home that evening, I took this picture of the spring blossoms outside the upstairs window, and this blurry photo of my three babies in the bathtub:

The next day we decided to visit Brighton, mostly because of the place it plays in Pride & Prejudice, and because it was within a 30-minute drive. Our first stop was a children’s museum, but the place was pretty funky (with a weird movie playing in this little theater — Lena and Elliott’s faces are indicative of the 60 seconds we spent in there). The cafe and play space downstairs were lovely, though:

Gil is an amazing reader, and he can read at what we estimate is a First or possibly Second Grade level. He picked it up pretty much on his own after his 4th birthday, after asking us lots of questions as we read to him. “Where does it say, ‘God,’ Mama?” “Where does it say, ‘school,’ Daddy?”

Lena, meanwhile, is learning at a more traditional pace. In this photo, she was working very hard to sound out a book while Gil quickly and easily read this book to Forest. I love this photo because it captures so much of life right now, and its challenges and frustrations, in this very brief and sweet stage of life.

On to a seaside playground in Brighton!

This beautiful carousel and these carnival rides along the boardwalk were a highlight of our time in Brighton. The town itself, we discovered, is pretty seedy and not at all a tourist destination. I later learned an American friend of mine lived about 30 minutes from Brighton for two years and never visited it because of its less-than-stellar reputation. So… whoops.

Another photo that captures a brief slice of life. Each morning in the place we were pet/housesitting, I served breakfast, put Forest down for a nap, and then sat down with the older children to do some schoolwork while Elliott got in a couple of hours of work upstairs. During that time I often worked on laundry, cleaning, or some editing for my copyediting job. Once Forest woke up, we’d pack a picnic and head off on an adventure for the day, usually exploring another National Trust site nearby.

Forest is up and playing with one of the two cats we were petsitting through TrustedHousesitters.com. And now it’s time to head off to… Scotney Castle!

We signed up to do an Easter egg scavenger hunt, and a little children’s nature observatory room was the first stop. When it was time to move on, Forest was so crushed when I took these cool binoculars away!

But I gave him a plum — first one he’d ever seen — in the kids’ playground on the property, and he was happy again. Love his little pose!

Like most of the National Trust historical sites, this one had a well-preserved old home to tour. I love the kids and Elliott here, with Elliott playing with Lena’s hair as he explains something about the room to them.

Afternoon tea break in the cafe! The marshmallow negotiations are going down…

My baby loves scones with jam and clotted cream too! He made this smiling face all the time at this age (11 months).

By the ruins of Scotney Castle. The owner of the property and the big house we toured apparently deliberately ruined this castle to make his garden more whimsical! Only in Europe would you have such a luxury.

We have so many beautiful photos from this day, especially of Elliott and his children — and I am sorry for the photo dump! I love all of these pictures so much, with the flowers and joy that fill them, and the memories that come along, too.

Off to church the next morning in our matching “jumpers”!

We went to a local evangelical church in Haywards Heath, the town we were staying in. We met a couple of people there who were friends of friends, and one girl who is from the States but married an Englishman. I had forgotten the joy that comes from connecting with Christians from another culture. The connection between us — random visitors from California and these Christians from Sussex, England — was amazing and beautiful because of the fellowship we share in Christ. We have such a gift on this earth to enjoy community with other Christians and to worship together around the world, and what a greater gift to know that we will spend all of eternity with these very same believers, too!

And that’s it for England. Next up… France! Coming soon. ;)

4 :: in family, homeschool, travel

Europe with Kids // What We Packed in Carry-On Bags for 3 Weeks

A few of you have asked me what we packed for our trip to Europe. Three kids for three weeks and only carry-on bags–I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but we did it! I spent a lot of time thinking about our planned activities, weather conditions, and complimentary clothing. Overall, we packed well, but I made a couple of errors, as you’ll soon see.

Note: I’m only discussing the kids’ and my own suitcases. Elliott packed for himself about 15 minutes before we left for the airport. To each their own, right?!

SUITCASES

I researched the carry-on requirements for the airlines we’d be flying: Norwegian Airlines to and from Europe, and SAS and British Airways within Europe. They all had slightly different carry-on baggage size requirements, but the smallest requirements were 20 inches tall and 9 inches deep. We didn’t own good carry-on bags that were that size (U.S. airlines generally allow carry-ons that are 22 inches tall), so we made the pricey-but-right decision to invest in 4 carry-on suitcases that should last us quite some time.

We purchases these Rockland suitcases from Amazon. They are not super amazing, but after our trip they still look almost new, so I am happy with our purchase. The kids loved them, too!

They were also larger than I expected. I could fit all my clothing items plus a couple of books and my toiletry bag in mine. For the kids, Gil and Forest could share the red suitcase with room to spare, and Lena shared her purple case with some schoolbooks, paperback books for me and Elliott, and two white noise machines.

BAG BREAKDOWN

In the photo above, you can see the total amount of bags and items we brought on those two carts. We had:

Most airlines now charge for any checked bags, but they will not charge for “baby items.” We could check the car seats, stroller, and travel bed for free. We then carried all the rest of our bags into the cabin with us for free.

On the cart on the right are our additional carry-on bags:

Quick note about the last two items: We didn’t purchase food on our flights (and the European airlines we flew did give out any food or drink unless we purchased it — even water!), so we brought a lot of food with us.

While in Europe, we also used this reusable shopping bag and the water bottle daily for our excursions and picnics. These things were some of our most essential gear!

OUR SHOES

After studying the weather, talking with Elliott, and emailing my friend in London, I finally decided not to buy waterproof shoes for our time in England. I knew I might regret it, but it seemed unlikely that we would be outside for a long time in a lot of rain. Besides, rain boots are hard to walk in for long periods, and we don’t even own them anyway. We live in San Diego!

So, in the end, I packed two pairs of shoes for each of us: one pair of comfortable but stylish walking shoes and one pair of sandals. For the kids, I packed their Saucony Jazz velcro sneakers, Gil’s Natives, and Lena’s Saltwater Sandals. For myself, I packed my New Balance sneakers and Saltwater Sandals.

These were perfect choices, thankfully. All our shoes were already broken in and already our favorites. Also, we had glorious weather in England and France, and it never rained.

BECCA’S SUITCASE

Ok, now I’ll explain what we had in each of our suitcases. Just so you know, I love to shop secondhand, and I love getting good deals on high-quality clothing. I also like recycling; most of our furniture was purchased secondhand, and even the diamonds in my engagement and wedding rings were “recycled” from older rings to avoid blood diamond conflicts. Purchasing secondhand clothing is more eco-friendly, too, especially if you are concerned about sweatshop labor. It’s not a live-or-die rule for me, but in general Elliott and I are huge proponents of recycling, including our clothes.

So, even though you are about to see a lot of nice clothing brands listed here, please know that almost all of these clothes were purchased in excellent used condition on eBay, Poshmark, or on my neighborhood yardsale site, or (in a couple of instances) were generous Christmas gifts from my parents.

From L to R, top to bottom: Old Navy long-sleeved white shirt, Anthroplogie pink t-shirt, Bravado nursing tank, Gap striped t-shirt, Lululemon t-shirt, and two Anthropologie shirts.

For myself, I packed one long-sleeved t-shirt, five short-sleeved shirts, and one nursing tank. I wish I had packed more long-sleeve t-shirts, but I don’t own many in San Diego. I layered shirts with sweaters–sometimes two sweaters–and it was fine.

From L to R: J. Crew wool sweater (super warm!), Anthroplogie sweater, Patagonia R2 fleece that I have had for about 10 years and still wear about once a week.

Lululemon  jacket (that I also wear at least once a week) and J Crew cashmere sweater (the softest and warmest thing I own… and purchased for $5 on my neighborhood yardsale site).

Anthropologie linen roll-up pants, J. Crew sweats, Urban Outfitters high rise black jeans, AG teal ankle jeans, Anthropologie jean shorts, Lululemon shorts and capris.

I packed a pair of blue jeans and then pulled them out at the last minute, thinking I had too many pairs of pants. I was wrong. I only wore shorts one day in France, never in England, and so I wore those black and teal pants over… and over… and over. When in doubt, pack jeans!

Patagonia down vest, J. Crew Downtown Field Jacket, Patagonia waterproof shell

Mostly my outerwear was warm enough, but I run cold, so even with these layers I sometimes wanted more warmth. I wish I owned a down jacket that I could roll up into a tiny ball and stuff into my suitcase. I’m waiting to purchase one of those when we live in a colder climate.

I also wish I’d packed a scarf. I did pack one and then pulled it out at the last minute, too. (Can you see why Elliott is always sighing over my under packing tendencies?) Lesson learned!

LENA’S SUITCASE

Shirts in the first column are from Mini Boden, second column are from Tea Collection, and third column are from Crewcuts. 

For all of Lena’s shirts and pants, I tried to choose items that would mix and match with each other in multiple combinations. I also chose things that would hide dirt; no white or solid-colored shirts here!

Top row: two pairs of thick and stretchy jersey cargo pants from Tea Collection, black jeans from Joes, blue sweats from H&M, and blue leggings from I-have-no-idea-where! Bottom row: skirt by REI, jean shorts from Old Navy, and exercise shorts with built-in stretchy shorts by Champion.

As with all the kids’ clothes, I also chose things that fit them perfectly and that they already wore every week and loved. In this case, Lena already always picks these clothes out for herself. They were safe bets because I knew she’d be comfortable in them.

Raincoat borrowed from a friend that she never wore! Down jacket from Patagonia, two sweaters from Crewcuts.

I bought my J. Crew wool sweater secondhand so Lena and I could match, as I knew we’d be wearing both of them a lot in England. We had fun twinning, as you can see here!

GIL’S SUITCASE

L to R, top to bottom: Gymboree appliqué shirt, Genuine Kids shirt, suuuuuper soft knit t-shirt made locally that he wears every day (“This is my Coronado shirt, Mama”), Gap appliqué LS shirt, super soft knit Corduroy shirt by Out of Print, striped knit polo by Johnnie-O, and LS shirt by Tea Collection. The last shirt is filthy… I took all these photos while unpacking!

L to R, top to bottom: Ralph Lauren polo shorts, Gymboree shorts, Carters blue cargo shorts, two pairs of jeans by Joes.

Gil’s two pairs of jeans are both size 2T. My skinny little dude!

Sweaters are from Winter Water Factory and Crewcuts. They are strategically positioned so you can’t see the huge stain on the blue and gray sweatshirt; everything was headed for the wash.

We packed Gil a lined rain jacket that I loved, but he lost in somewhere in France. Such a bummer. I was looking forward to seeing Forest in that one!

FOREST’S SUITCASE

Two sleep sacks (one summer weight by Aden + Anais and one fleece by Halo), multiple pacifiers by Natursutten (I think I packed eight of them!!!), Homemedics white noise machine that we used with batteries the whole time, and a Leveret sleeper.

Shirts are from Carters and Genuine Kids.

Pants: Carters lined cargo pants, Genuine Kids black jeans, Genuine Kids gray sweats, and Milkbarn fox leggings. 

Top row: two fleece footed sleepers by Carters, one (and two more not pictured) cotton stretchy footed sleepers by Carters, and “Ruff Night” romper by Hatley.

Bottom row: short-sleeved summer romper by Winter Water Factory that he never wore (too cold!), Kickee Pants romper, Mini Boden fleece-lined romper, and Hanna Andersson romper, arranged so you can’t see the full extent of how filthy it is…

Even with all these long-sleeved rompers and sleepers–I count nine, in addition to all his pants and shirts!–I still had to do laundry every few days* to keep Forest in clean clothes. With a busy, crawling baby who is learning to eat solids, I changed his clothes at least once a day. I’m so glad I didn’t under pack for him.

*Thankfully, doing laundry often was not an issue. We house-sat in England, stayed at a research/study center in France, and otherwise were in Airbnbs — and all of these places had free laundry. I did laundry and then, European-style, I hung it out to dry!

Top row: Ralph Lauren knit sweater, Carters cotton pullover. Bottom row: Patagonia nano down jacket and Patagonia fleece vest.

Buying that coat was a last-minute decision for me. I looked at many different options, and in the end I am so happy with this choice. It was the perfect light layer that kept our baby toasty warm.

We also packed a JJ Cole Bundle Me that kept his lower half warm when he was in the stroller. You can see a picture of it here.

Hanna Andersson pilot cap, Zutano sun hat, dirty (!) bandana bibs by Copper Pearl (I think I packed six total), well-loved shoes by Shoe Too and Freshly Picked.

Other items for Forest that are not pictured:

SUNDRY EXTRAS

  • Multiple adapters for European outlets, all borrowed from friends
  • Schoolwork
  • Activities for the kids
    • Lena’s sewing project from American Girl
    • Magnetic checkers game
    • Coloring books and pencils/markers
    • Discman, about 5 CDs (music and Adventures in Odyssey), both kids’ headphones
    • 10 thin paperback books for reading aloud
  • Two white noise machines with lots of extra batteries (we only ever used one, just for Forest)
  • Medications
    • Kids’ Tylenol
    • Kids’ Melatonin for the plane and jet lag once we arrived
    • Thermometers (infant and adult)
    • Ibuprofen
    • Benadryl tablets and lotion
    • Bandaids
    • My favorite super-safe sunscreen (which was 13 milliliters too large for European carry-on requirements and got confiscated… boo)
  • Nail clippers (infant and adult)
  • Multiple small bottles of shampoo and conditioner from various hotels over the years

And I think that’s about it! Epic post! But hopefully this will be a good reference for some of you who might be preparing for upcoming travel — or for me in years to come! (Gotta get wear out of those new suitcases we bought, right?)

Do you have any advice for us for next time?

7 :: in family, travel, tutorials

A Day in London // Europe with Kids // Part 6

To start reading about our trip from the beginning, start here!

IMG_2212 To continue our little story… we were staying in a small town outside London for a week, and of course during that week we wanted to see London at least once. The kids were excited to ride on the train! We parents were excited too, even though it took us a while to get over the cost of roundtrip tickets to and from the town we were living in. Ouch!

IMG_2217 After the train, we road on the Underground/Tube to Notting Hill. Lena looks like such a natural.

IMG_2395 Gil is actually about to yawn here…

IMG_2394 First stop: Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Playground!

IMG_2231 We were actually meeting up with some friends who also happened to be in London at the same time… but go to our church back in San Diego. What are the chances?!

IMG_2236 Forest and Lucas, playing like they sometimes do in Children’s Church, but in a totally different place.

IMG_2232 This was an amazing playground, and I recommend it for any visitors with small children in London. It was a lot cooler that day than it looks, though. Brr…

IMG_2396 He found a little English cottage that is just his size.

IMG_2393 Super dad! We walked with our friends to see Kensington Palace (but didn’t see any royals) and then walked through Kensington Gardens to the Peter Pan statue.

IMG_2267 Around a random corner, we saw people feeding wild parrots, and of course we had to stop and try as well. Ring-necked parakeets are a favorite memory of mine from Pakistan and India, and they are wild in San Diego too.

IMG_2271 My friend Rebecca helped the kids eventually coax them onto their hands.

IMG_2292 So proud!

IMG_2306
IMG_2311 IMG_2390 So amazing to see friends around the world! Thanks for meeting up with us, Rebecca and fam!

IMG_2317 The famous Peter Pan statue was somewhat underwhelming in my opinion, but the kids had fun climbing it.

IMG_2340 We put this poor stroller to the task this trip, but it held up admirably with no issues. We also felt like we fit in well because Maclaren is an English brand, so all the other parents were pushing the same stroller.

IMG_2319 Cutest ice cream truck by the Italian Garden in Kensington Gardens. We kind of wanted to stop but it was too cold for ice cream, despite the sunshine finally coming out.

IMG_2326 We found another playground in Kensington Gardens! Lena is such an amazing helper and playmate for her two brothers. So thankful for her, truly.

IMG_2332 His favorite new move: “Power to the people.”

IMG_2349 Next stop: the Victoria & Albert Museum. (We also tried out the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, but both were packed, and we couldn’t even get in the latter due to Easter Break crowds.) This museum was gorgeous, but honestly we spent most of our time out in the central courtyard enjoying an English cream tea (scone, jam, and clotted cream), hard English cider, coffee, and cake.

IMG_2392 I love his little bent knee and how steady he is now! Such a little boy already. He turned 11 months old a few days after when this picture was taken.

IMG_2389 Lena did gymnastics everywhere we went, and her handstand seriously improved during this trip. I will admit to catching her right at the perfect second when her handstand looked the best, though; she can’t stay up for more than a couple of seconds. I have no doubt that she soon will, though, will the amount she practices!

IMG_2365 Rolling in the grass and talking. This is the best part of vacation: relaxing together in beautiful, unique places.

IMG_2368 Reading up on the next thing to do in London while Lena does gymnastics with a new friend in the background.

IMG_2373 On to our last adventure at the end of the day: Harrod’s Toy Kingdom!

IMG_2377 It did not fail to impress. Lena really wanted this unicorn (below), but it cost 499 British pounds. Not today, darling.

IMG_2391 IMG_2385 I love all the Beatrix Potter books in England, which has inspired me to expand our collection and continue reading them faithfully to the kids. Forest is reading a little “pram book” here which is supposed to attach to a stroller.

IMG_2388 Walking into Harrod’s patisserie and delicatessen! We should have gotten dinner here… yum!

And that is the last photo I took that day because after that we spent over an hour making our way slowly back to the Tube station, then on the Tube to Victoria Station, then on the train (with only one seat left for me and Forest, so the kids and Elliott had to stand most of the way for 45 minutes… ugh), and then walking home to our house in Haywards Heath.

Elliott and I looked at each other in the Haywards Heath train station and sighed. “Once is enough,” I said, and I could tell he was already thinking the same thing. Due to the cost of transport and the difficulty carting small children around London, it seemed better to us to enjoy our days in the English countryside rather than trekking back into London.

This is what we did, and I don’t regret it! More about our further country adventures soon.

3 :: in family, travel

Exploring English Estates // England with Kids // Part 5

IMG_1985 Hello again! The past few days we’ve been in the mountains of France (more on my Instagram if you’d like to see) and we haven’t had a strong internet connection. We’re in Aix-en-Provence, France, now, and I am back to sharing some photos that I edited while still in the Alps.

I am having so much fun blogging as we go, and I think it will be harder to blog when we are home again, so here we go!

IMG_2023 Back to where I left off in Sussex in southern England. We were house- and pet-sitting for some folks we found through Trusted Housesitters, and we enjoyed spending a lot of afternoons exploring National Trust estates nearby. If you want to enjoy rural England, I highly recommend getting the overseas National Trust pass (good for a week) and visiting these beautiful old estates and gardens! These visits were the highlight of our time in England.

IMG_2019 This particular day, we visited Nymans, an estate that was owned by the mother-in-law of Princess Margaret (if you’re into British royalty!). The gorgeous old home was partially destroyed in a fire — hence the lack of roof on some of the house.

The gardens were magnificent with so many azaleas and camellias and magnolias in bloom. These two flower photos are not touched up or edited at all.

IMG_1983 IMG_2022 I loved this flower-arranging station inside the house at Nymans.

IMG_2024 At a used bookshop on the property (because how perfect is that?!), we picked up a couple of British reads: The Casual Vacancy for me and White Teeth for Elliott. After receiving so many negative reviews from friends here, though, I decided to continue reading The Man Who Was Thursday instead.

IMG_2027 Before deciding that, though, I read some of the book on a bench under a cherry tree, and the petals kept falling around me like snow. Forest napped quietly in the Ergo. What a lovely afternoon!

IMG_1996 When he finally woke up, he got lots of snuggles before we headed home for the day.

IMG_2012 IMG_2017 On another gorgeous day, we visited Rudyard Kipling’s old home, called Bateman’s. This was probably our favorite National Trust property to visit.

IMG_2036 As we ate a picnic lunch, Lena and Gil played a version of horseshoes with a couple of English girls. They made friends and played games with children wherever we went. It was beautiful to see!

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IMG_2209 Afterwards, we explored Kipling’s beautiful old home.

IMG_2208 IMG_2061 Lena and Gil were doing the scavenger hunt to earn a chocolate Easter bunny. Cadbury was collaborating with the National Trust that week during the Easter holiday, so our kids joined many happy children at all the sites doing the hunts and earning their chocolate bunnies!

Below is the study where Rudyard Kipling wrote his books.

IMG_2067 IMG_2068 If you must have a bathroom without plumbing, this is quite a beautiful bathroom to have!

IMG_2076 Afterwards we explored more of the gorgeous grounds, including the pond filled with tiny tadpoles and the unbelievable “Wild Garden” behind the formal gardens.

IMG_2211 Again, not edited at all!

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IMG_2206 IMG_2191 IMG_2046 Later in the day, we headed to Bodiam Castle, a nearby National Trust property.

IMG_2199 IMG_2196 When we walked out, a visitor was feeding bread to the ducks, and she gave lots to Lena and Gil. They had so much fun, but were a little overwhelmed!

IMG_2197 Elliott the veterinarian had other designs on the ducks, though… as usual. Lena got to feel his webbed feet!

IMG_2175 A photo to help me remember my littlest one and my own self at this stage of life, and how content we are being snuggled together.

And one to help me remember how our two older children love climbing in trees and hanging on branches… with castles in the background!

IMG_2202 IMG_2201 We stopped at this gorgeous hotel and pub to eat dinner. They had tables outside, which was perfect for our noisy and tired crew.

IMG_2192 IMG_2194 And then, on the long ride home, Forest and Lena were playing and he kicked out her loose tooth! It had been a topic of intense conversation for weeks, so we were all thrilled it was finally gone. Gil, meanwhile, tried to pull out his own by tugging on his socks… hmm. Bedtime for everyone.

More to come soon, I hope!

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