In My Garden

On the other side of the old stone wall that surrounds my yard stands a 13th century church with massive arched windows and a clock tower that chimes every hour.  While I wash dishes in the sink, my gaze falls on eight hundred year old stone walls and wooden doors reminiscent of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, ornate with iron scroll work and the dusty green patina that only comes with time.

I will never have another garden like this.

My children have named the trees.  The graceful weeping willow with her branches sweeping the grass and rustling in the constant breeze is McGonagall, of course.  The 400-year old elm tree, protected by the county as one of the few remaining ancient elms that survived some barely-remembered spate of Dutch Elm disease in the 1800s, is Dumbledore.  Standing next to him is an equally massive redwood with a trunk we could barely reach around if all six of us joined hands, with gnarled branches and tangled needles, its trunk covered in creeping ivy.  He is called Hagrid.  And the skinny tree with brambles at the bottom?  That is Voldemort.

Flowers grow in my garden bed that the property manager informed me only grow in very, very old, well-established gardens.  Roses creep up the side of the slightly tilted brick garden shed attached to the side of the house, mostly inhabited by spiders. 

Apples, pears, and plums are ripening on the branches of the trees in our “orchard” in the way back half of the yard, next to the church path.

With only a year left here in this magical place, I’m trying to remind myself to appreciate it while I can.  I’m making a daily walk through the garden, rain or shine in true British fashion.  I’m soaking it all in.

This is a garden for dreaming. To take it for granted would be a crime. 

Family Trip to Ireland, Part Two: Killarney & Connemara

For the second half of our Ireland trip back in March, we rented a 9-passenger van and drove west from Dublin to see Killarney, Galway, and Connemara.  It was a great way to travel across Ireland — we purposely mapped our trip away from motorways where possible, so while it took a little longer, we saw much prettier scenery.  Because it’s a small country, we drove from the east coast to the west coast in about three hours, a fact that seems sort of unbelievable when you consider our D.C.-to-Boston road trips that took at least ten hours and only covered about 1/3 of the east coast of the U.S.

I drove and Matt navigated, which is our standard plan.  I am garbage at reading maps and Matt used to teach land navigation in the Army, so he’s pretty awesome at it.  I prefer driving while Matt tends to get super sleepy when he’s behind the wheel for too long, which is, you know, insanely dangerous.  So we have our roles and we stick to them.  My kids and my parents played games and read books and passed around snacks.  It was a really good road trip!  And driving on the insanely narrow country roads in England prepared me well for the insanely narrow country roads in Ireland, so driving that big van was no problem at all.

Click through for more photos and details! Continue reading

Sleeping In

When you have little kids, sleeping in becomes a distant memory, a dream but almost never a reality.  My kids are all early risers and I spent a decade waking up well before 7AM most days, grumpy and disheveled, clutching my coffee for dear life as I muddled my way through breakfast.

Now, though, my youngest child is seven.  All of my kids are more than capable of making themselves breakfast – in fact, they generally make themselves a better breakfast than I would make, because mornings are not the time I am at my personal best – and they can read a book, watch a show, play a game without any guidance or assistance.

And so now, I sleep.  And it. is. glorious.

These days, the kids get up by 7AM and I can hear them pattering down the stairs outside my door.  Matt gets up shortly after that to get ready for work, and I hear him turn on the shower, get clothes out of the closet.  Then he leaves the room to iron his shirt, get his breakfast, and he hangs out with the kids in the kitchen.

And I roll over in the silence and sleep.  I stretch out across the king size bed, and I sleep for thirty blissful minutes more.

Matt wakes me up when he leaves for work at 8AM and I lie there for another few moments, gathering my motivation.  I’m up by 8:10AM, so it’s not like I’m lying in bed all day.  But it feels so luxurious to stay there for a little while when everyone else is up and going.  It feels like a treat. 

The baby years were physically hard but so much fun and I’m sad when I think about the fact that there are no chubby funny lovey babies around here anymore.  But then I remember that I didn’t sleep through the night for probably eight straight years and I never got to stay in bed until 8AM while everyone else got themselves breakfast.  And then I don’t miss those baby years quite as much.

Every stage of motherhood brings challenges and charms. That this stage comes with an 8AM wake-up call makes it pretty sweet.

The End of the School Year

Our second school year in England came to an end on July 5th.  It’s hard for me to believe we’ve already done two years of school here; it has, without any doubt or hyperbole, been the very best part of this move.

I know full well it’s not a typical school that my children go to  – it’s in a castle for goodness sake – and I also know full well that it’s not the only school like this in England by a long shot. 

I know that we are so lucky to have our children go to this school, and I know that we “got lucky” because Matt and I worked our asses off to make it so.

The school day here is organized for the benefit of the children more than any other school setting I’ve ever experienced. 

The days and weeks and academic terms are built with the needs of kids in mind and are centered always around a balance of activity and learning. 

It would NOT be difficult to replicate the school day here at any other school and I am quite sure that it would instantly make school more enjoyable for any child and therefore make them more successful and happy. 

On the last day of school, on the way in in the morning, I asked the kids if they were excited to be going on summer vacation.  To a man, they all said yes AND no – they were excited to be on break, but would be sad not be go to school.  They literally love school that much here.  Never, ever would that have happened before we came to this school.

Here, in a nutshell, is what I’ve learned in the two years we’ve been here:

My kids needed more activity in their school days.  A lot more activity.  Now that they have it, school is a blessing and not a curse.

Having more activity in the school day made my kids better students.  They learn more and enjoy the learning more.

School uniforms make almost everything about my mornings simpler.  The only thing that is slightly complicated is keeping track of all the different things each of my kids need.  But I will gladly take that over fighting with them every morning about what they were wearing to school.

Youth sports IN school rather than AFTER school has drastically improved our family schedule.

The school calendar here – basically 6 weeks of school followed by at least a one-week break – is awesome. 

My kids thrive when they are given more responsibility and more independence.  That rolls over from school into home life. 

It’s incredible to see the transformation my children have undergone since coming here and I’m hopeful that the foundation they’ve built here will carry over when we return home.

We have one year left and we’re going to wring everything we can out of it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...