We're on our way back to London for our last day there before getting on the plane home tomorrow and I want to capture some of what we've seen and done and felt before it fades.
This has been an amazing trip - amazingly beautiful, busy, interesting, exciting, and fun and also amazingly stressful, tiring, and difficult.
We have seen and done SO much and have been blessed with great weather and so many things working out just as planned or better than planned. There's always some hard stuff on trips - it's almost certain that you'll experience a flight delay or other travel plans not quite working out as planned, not being able to find food when people are hungry, bad weather, not being able to make it work to visit a place you really hoped to see, disagreements about what to do when, or other stuff like that. On this trip, it seems like rather than frustrating things strewn in along the way, we got the vast majority of our bad stuff all in one dose when Eliza broke both her arms falling out of a tree.
Things were so painful and stressful for Eliza and for me and Jared as we worked to figure out what treatment would be right for Eliza while trying to figure out what to do about our travel plans that would need to be adjusted (SO many issues to work out and a lot of unanticipated expenses involved in Eliza's time in the hospital and in changing our travel plans in a way that would work for everyone and allow for flexibility based on what Eliza was up for).
In the moment, it seemed impossibly stressful - seeing our sweet girl's arms bent in ways that definitely didn't look right and trying to keep calm so she could stay calm, trying to figure out where to take her to be looked at, working with doctors and nurses using unfamiliar terms and suggesting treatment we didn't really understand, staying overnight in a hospital room with 3 other parents and their little children who were waiting for surgery the next morning (apparently in England, you pretty much always need to stay in the hospital if you need surgery the next morning - interesting. There was a lot of crying in the night from these little kids who were in pain and could't really understand what was happening), sending Eliza off to surgery feeling pretty sure things would be totally fine but surgery is just scary, working with Jared to figure out lots of scenarios for how we could make the rest of the trip work given that we'd missed our train to Paris (so much work trying to figure out plane and train options with super slow internet connections...), helping Eliza do everything you usually need arms and hands to do and trying to keep her spirits up and look for the bright side of everything and make things as decent as possible for her.
I held it together. Mostly. But it was hard not to let a few tears slip out here and there - so hard to see Eliza in pain and try to make things as good as possible for her while worrying about the other kids and Jared and wondering how I could salvage the rest of this trip that I'd worked so very hard to plan so very perfectly and how much money all this was going to cost us.
But, as always, things worked out fine. We're so very glad that Eliza wasn't hurt more seriously and that the accident happened while we were staying with some wonderful friends who let the boys and Jared stay an extra night and took such good care of us during this stressful time. We're so grateful that Eliza was very well cared for by wonderful doctors and nurses and we have ever reason to believe she'll heal up perfectly. She's been able to see and do a ton and has had amazing stamina and toughness through all this (lots of things are pretty frustrating when you have two casts on your arms and she was sad to miss out on swimming but she still got to paraglide!). In the end, Eliza's accident caused us to miss out on a day at beautiful Audley End where Eliza broke her arm before we'd had a chance to see much, a train ride through the chunnel to Paris, and an evening and a full day that we'd planned to have in Paris - but the kids didn't really care about Audley End, we got to take the train through the chunnel on the way back from Paris to London, and we were able to do everything we really cared about doing in one day in Paris and really had a perfect day there.
Then the rest of the trip has gone amazingly well. Every day it was forecast to rain but the rain just hasn't come and we've been able to do everything we dearly hoped to do. Yes, there have still been hard things - times when things take longer than planned and we have to recalibrate our schedule or inconvenience people who are waiting for us, times when people are grumpy/tired/hungry/ complainy, times when it's been too hot or too cold, times when we decided to do something that just didn't work out to be as great as we'd envisioned. But those hard things are somehow easier to deal with in comparison with the big fat hard thing of Eliza's injury.
I was worried that two and a half weeks wouldn't be enough - there are just so many wonderful places to visit. But now I see that two and a half weeks is plenty of time to see a ton of stuff, get a real sense for a few different countries, have lots of fun times and a lot of bonding experiences and stressful experiences (sometimes bonding and stressful at the same time - sometimes just plain stressful). I think that a trip any longer would simply need to include more time to just soak in the places we visit, not visit more places. I feel like we maxed out the amount of activities and travel and learning and experiencing that we could take in in a 17 day period. And we'll be ready to go home tomorrow.
For the most part, this trip has been really wonderful - all that I dreamed of and more when I thought of how wonderful it would be to take my kids to see so many places I hold dear and experience the places their ancestors came from (England and Switzerland) and the places that are part of the fabric of our society - so many movies and sayings and pictures of London and Paris and the Alps and adorable little fairy tale villages are part of our every-day life and it's so cool to have actually been there in person. I loved seeing the kids' excitement about seeing so many iconic places. It was just so awesome to come around the corner together and boom - there's Big Ben or Tower Bridge or the Eiffel Tower or the Alps!
It's a wonderful thing to visit historic and beautiful places as a tourist but if you can also spend time with people who actually live in the countries you visit, you learn about the culture and you feel like you actually know a country a bit beyond simply seeing and appreciating its landmarks.
I also really hoped that the kids - and Jared - would get a chance to get a sense of what life is like in England as that's a big part of who I am and who Charity and Ian and Moses are right now. Plus I hoped we could all get a sense of what life is like when you live in Switzerland since that will help us understand and appreciate Tal and Anita and Annina more and because it's just cool to understand a bit of what it's like to live somewhere else.
I think everyone did get that - staying right in the homes of friends and family members or in Airbnb apartments in typical neighborhoods/buildings where regular people live, shopping for groceries in each country, and going to church (all three meetings) in England and in Switzerland really helped. Plus our time in the hospital gave us a unique view into an aspect of British life that most visitors don't get to see! We were very impressed with the care Eliza received and learned a lot about how the British National Healthcare system works (very nicely, for the most part). And Eliza and I got to make friends with our hospital roommates - a little boy with a terribly infected baby tooth that needed to be surgically removed (and his mom), a little boy who needed his tonsils out (and his dad), a little girl who got a crayon stuffed so far up her nose that she needed surgery to get it out (and the little girl's mom and grandma). So interesting to get little glimpses into different people's lives and see the loving care of good parents.
I think the kids all absorbed and appreciated a lot plus had a lot of fun. It's sometimes hard to tell - especially with non-communicative teenagers who are slow to express themselves when it comes to thanks and often quick to express themselves when it comes to complaining. There were moments when I felt like Jared and I were "dragging pianos" around (as Saydi describes traveling with her kids and trying to make things really wonderful and exciting and perfect when kids seem intent on finding fault with so many things). But there were so many amazing moments that I hope will become part of our family story and our family culture.
In my next couple posts, I'll share some of my favorite moments from each country we visited. And if you want to see photos of the trip, I documented things pretty well on Instagram. Click here to see photos of the trip.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
May 30 - On our first flight - SLC to Dallas
We're on our way to London. It has been a long process over the past couple weeks (in the midst of end-of-school hoopla and some big Power of Moms projects) to plan our our itinerary and find decent deals on rental cars and train tickets and Airbnb places to stay (I get pretty caught up in finding just the right places to visit and stay - it's sort of like a treasure hunt for me and I'm afraid I get sucked in and spend way to long trying to find the most perfect thing). Then this past week, it has been a lot of work getting Power of Moms stuff tied up, laundry done, good walking shoes, hoodies and raincoats found or bought for everyone, travel-size toiletries bought, and everyone packed with all the right things (we hope we got all the right things - you never know about weather!). Then checking in at the airport involved a few more hoops since it turns out that Eliza's name was somehow spelled "Eliva" on her plane ticket - but it all worked out OK. Getting through security is always sort of a circus - getting everyone's shoes and toiletries and computers and phones and wallets and various carry on bags on that conveyer belt and gathering everything up and putting shoes back on afterwards.
But now here we are, on a plane to Dallas followed by a plane to London, and everyone is pleased as punch about it. So far we've only realized we left one thing behind - the neck pillows we will be wishing for on our overnight flight. But we'll survive just fine! Fingers crossed we can all get some sleep on the plane so that that first day (we get in at 9am) won't be too terrible as we try to stay up all day long. Jet lag is just hard no matter what you do but if we can stay up that first day, we should be in pretty good shape.
I am so incredibly excited to share some of my very favorite places in the world with some of my very favorite people - all the sites of London, the little town south of London where I lived when I was 6, 7 and 8 and again when I was 16, favorite castles, beautiful countryside, Paris, Switzerland, Germany.
My heart is so full of gratitude that we get to do this, that while so many things have been really hard over this past year and continue to be hard, this amazing deal on airfare popped up a couple months back ($500 round trip from SLC to London!) and gave us a chance to get away on this family trip that we need on so many levels.
Sometimes I get all "woe is me" when things I've worked so hard for and prayed so earnestly for just don't seem to come to fruition. But then I realize that where a door doesn't open, God helps open a window. I could make a long list of things that are really really tough in my life right now - but when I look at things with the right perspective, I can make an even longer list of the things that are wonderful. It's easier to notice the things we hoped for that didn't happen than it is to notice the great things that happen that we didn't even think to hope for or that we hoped for or imagined in a different way. But I've made a real point lately of looking for all those "serendipity" things that happen and celebrating them while learning to better accept that many of the things I want and work for may not be right or may not happen the way I'd hope or expect.
May 31 - on our second flight - almost to London
We all slept a fair amount on this packed plane - not an easy task! The young girl behind me kept knocking and seemingly kicking my seat to the point that I had to wonder if she had any idea that her actions could be affecting anyone else. I finally raised myself up in my seat and turned around and asked her to please try to keep from hitting into my seat. She seemed totally surprised that she was affecting anyone and apologized. Glad I mentioned something or that probably would have gone on all night! We are seated near the bathrooms and these two men decided to talk and laugh very loudly for quite some time right nearby - while a whole plane-ful of people tried to sleep. Sometimes people's lack of awareness is pretty confusing. But we all took melatonin and it brought on such pleasant sleepiness and while I kept waking up (like a night of camping), I could generally get back to sleep pretty quickly.
We are over Ireland right now. I loved watching the cloud-dotted Atlantic below give way to the green patchwork quilt of Ireland. We'll touch down in about a half an hour. Oh, how I love England! It's been great hearing all the British accents of the announcements and flight attendants on this British Airways flight - little things like "cheers mate" and "would you like some tea?" make me smile and make me feel like I'm home. England has such a "home" feeling to me - maybe because most of my earliest memories are there.
I like looking down this row of sleepy almost full-grown people eating the rather odd cream cheese filled pretzels they just handed us and feeling so glad they are mine and that we get to go on this trip together. I always dreamed of taking my family to my mission in Bulgaria and Jared's in Italy and we were so blessed to be able to do that 2 years ago and now I get to fulfill this dream I've had for so long of sharing England with my family.
Fingers crossed that the apartment I booked for tonight turns out to be just right (wow, is London ever expensive for accommodations! but i was so excited to finally find a flat that would fit us all and sort of fit our budget). Can't wait to meet up with Charity and Moses and hug that wonderful sister of mine and snuggle that adorable little Mo and have them take us on a walking tour of some of the most iconic spots in London. We'll be tired today and I'm sure things will feel pretty dream-like. But if we can stay awake all day, we should be able to get over jet lag pretty quickly.