Not the New Year I Planned

Well, folks, it’s New Year’s Eve! 2018 is coming to a close. It’s been an interesting year. I see all the “2018 sucked, bring on 2019” posts on Facebook and Twitter. I can’t say that 2018 was a great or terrible year. I’m saying goodbye on a happy note, albeit today hasn’t gone great.

We had simple plans to take the kids and head over to my Brother in law’s house. We love hanging with them and I was excited to see them while still having a low key night. I don’t need the drunken nights at the club or massive hangovers. I did that stuff in my 20’s and some of my 30’s. I don’t recover as well after a night of heavy drinking these days. Anywho, my daughter had begged to go for another horseback riding lesson today, so I set my alarm early and called to see if they could squeeze her in. They said the could, and I was happy to surprise her. When she came downstairs, however, she was in tears that her stomach hurt terribly. Within a few minutes, she vomited and had the runs. Now every year our family seems to get a stomach bug I. January. This year, we beat expectations by squeaking it in December 31st! I cancelled her lesson, put my favorite pj’s on, and settled in for a day at home. We’ve had a lazy day and will stay home tonight. I’m sad about cancelled plans but hopeful a restful night will help little one feel better soon.

It occurred to me that lazy days don’t come often for me, and while I feel a bit antsy as though I SHOULD be doing something, I have enjoyed a quiet day of reading articles online while little one slept or watched some TV. I fooled around on Facebook and am enjoying seeing people post resolutions and goals.

At the end of the day, I doubt many people stick to their resolutions, but I still love reading them and hearing them. Why? Because it’s hope. Hope is a glorious thing. Hope is what keeps us moving forward, even on the hard days. I love seeing people hope to improve upon their life.

There’s something about New Years that makes us take stock in our lives more so than other days. We think about what went right, what went wrong, and how we can be better in the upcoming future.

In 2018, I began the year with a hysterectomy. It was a bit scary, but ended up being very freeing. After the initial few weeks of healing I was back at work (earlier than the Dr preferred but not alarmingly early) and since the surgery I feel a million times better. We had some tough days. I had friends lose parents, there Will bills I struggled to pay, and we got scary news about my daughter’s teeth. We plodded on. We took an amazing family vacation. I learned some hard lessons on that trip but also had a fantastic time. I got some hard news. I learned things I didn’t know about family. I got into the Christmas spirit. This week a close family friend had an aneurism and went in for brain surgery. She so far is doing well, and while I’m not a praying type of gal I am certainly keeping her in my thoughts and sending well wishes her way. I got to watch my daughter find another passion and help her try new things. I got to laugh with my son until my sides hurt. I’m spending some fun time with my husband.

I want to set some goals for the new year. Who knows if I’ll reach them but the very idea of hope and happiness inspires me.

I’d like to spend more time outdoors.

I’d like to lose a little weight.

I’d like to advance at my job and learn new things.

I’d like to ride a horse.

I’d like to swim more.

I’d like to travel.

I’d like to laugh a lot and cry a little.

I’d like to spread a little kindness.

I’d like to ensure toxic people stay away from me.

I’d like to take better care of myself.

So there you have my list of I’d like to’s.

I’ll be mulling over some ways to achieve the above while I’m cozied up at home tonight with the family. What are some of YOUR goals? Inspire me!

Have a wonderful New Years! Stay safe!

Messy xx

Mama Clause

Well, it’s Christmas Eve! I can’t wait to see the kids open their presents tomorrow (and my husband too!). I LOVE Christmas. My mom and dad (mostly my mom) always went above and beyond to make Christmas magical. Christmas was big in our house. As a mom now, I realize how much effort my mom put into things to make Christmas seem as magical as it always did. She had a great attention to detail, and she must have worked her ASS off to make everything seem as perfect and special as I remember.

Speaking of mom, I have been missing her a lot lately. 12 years later, I still miss her presence, her laugh, and our daily phone calls. Today I was feeling a bit down this morning. As I left the house to run to the store, I saw a bright, shiny new penny sitting on my from door step. I bent down to pick it up and briefly though of “pennies from heaven”. It made me grin and I slid the penny into my pocket. I hopped into the car and pushed the start button. The radio came on loudly and Adele was belting out the lyrics “hello from the other side”.

A smile crossed my face and a tear rolled down my cheek.

I have been working hard to get things ready for Christmas, in the hopes I can make my kids’ Christmas as magical as mine always were for me as a kid. Tonight will be full of baking, prepping, and last minute wrapping. Most of their gifts are wrapped. I learned the hard way last year when I was wrapping until 3 am. I spent Christmas feeling broken and exhausted last year. The magic escaped me. This year, I sacrificed Christmas cards to get more wrapping and prepping done. I didn’t get Christmas cards done this year. With the trip overseas, orthodontics, activities, shopping and every day life, there just wasn’t the time. I have a love hate relationship with Christmas Cards. I love getting them, hate writing them, but I know the older family members overseas like them. That being said, something had to give, and the cards were it. At the end of the day, sometimes, you just can’t do it all. I see posts where women are beating themselves up because they didn’t get it all done. The fact is, most of the things we stress about will go unnoticed. In an age of Pinterest, it’s so easy for folks to see what we think we SHOULD do.

My gift to myself this year is less stress, and ok, a new Joules coat, but I digress. My husband joined in to my less stress mantra and ordered a tray of food as the entree for Christmas dinner. It’s one of his faves, and he wanted to make things easier for me. I no longer need to spend the day locked by the oven. Instead, I can whip up some side dishes and easy desserts. Score! Pair that with some wine and it will be an easy peasy meal.

Merry Christmas, y’all. I hope your day is magical, in whatever way you wish it to be.

Love,

Messy xx

Mommin’ ain’t easy

Some days, mommin’ ain’t easy. We’ve had a few of those this week. Yesterday was a prime example. I awoke to the sound of a wounded animal outside my bedroom door. It was a primal call of fear. I immediately ripped my earplugs out (key to a happy marriage), and quickly searched for the strange yet familiar noise. It was the boy child doing his sound of panic as he realized he had missed the bus. I told him to get ready, and I would drive him. I raced him to school, raced home, and picked up the girl child. As we pulled into her school’s driveway, she announced “mama? My ear hurts.” and headed off to class.

45 minutes later, I get a call from the nurse. Little one is in her office, sobbing with ear pain. I ask if she has Tylenol, which she does (but isn’t really supposed to give her) but I beg her to dole some out to get the pain under control, call the dr, and ask the husband if he can get her and run her to the doctor. Thankfully, he agrees, and I jump on my conference call appointment. Soon after, they arrive home, announcing an ear infection, and let me know I will need to go get her antibiotics. I work, take a quick lunch break, and try to frantically wrap a few gifts in private. The gorgeous gold glittery paper I purchased is stunning….and tape won’t stick to it, rendering it UTTERLY USELESS. I try different tape, I try patience. I consider glue and realize that’s far more effort than I am willing to exert. I punt kick it across the room in frustration.

As soon as work is done, little one and I run to grab her medicine. She also reminds me it’s dress down day at school (they normally wear uniforms) and she needs a holiday themed shirt. I sigh. I COULD run her home and drop her to her brother, making my shopping trip faster, easier, and without hearing “ooh, I want to add this and this to my Christmas list!” just a few days before Christmas arrives. I mull over my options. It’s getting late, I still need to cook, so I bite the bullet and we race to the mall. The store I planned on going to has no holiday stuff left aside from Pj’s, so I hit the holy grail, Target, where my daughter finds a Santa dress. I bump into my sister in law, who joins in the coercive effort of trying to convince my daughter to abandon the Santa dress and go with something she can wear more than once. She leaves, and I fail to do the job. We leave with the damned Santa dress while I question my choices and lack of will power.

We race home, I cook, and we do the orthodontic key turning. There are tears. I clean the guinea pig cage. I give kisses and hugs. I plan to do more gifts. Instead, I collapse on the couch to watch A Million Things (A Million Little Things?). I head up to bed, puffy faced and red from sniffling at a sad story line that come a bit too close to home. Sleep is welcome.

Today involved shuttling kids (we had flash flooding so I ended up driving all the neighborhood kids home from school, which required some deep coordination). I had to call to sort out a gift for the kids from my dad. One involved getting a GC, but the woman told me I had to use it within 4 weeks. It seemed really strange, and it wasn’t until I chatted with someone who told me the place was sold and closing that I realized why. Luckily it’s a cash only place so I was supposed to drive there tomorrow to pay for it and pick up the certificate. Instead I found another place (that plans on staying in business!) and can get one from there instead. Why would you not tell someone you are going out of business? Incredibly shady to say the least. I worked, almost got mowed down by a gymnastics mom who wasn’t paying attention in the parking lot, and got the boy a haircut on my break. My treat to myself for Christmas arrived from England, and it’s too big, meaning a return is in order, which will likely be a complicated nightmare. Soon, I will be racing to get the little one and dropping both kids off for a sleepover with the Aunt and Uncle. Then I need to do wrapping of presents and cleaning for Christmas.

You know what though? It’s crazy. It’s chaotic, and it’s not easy, but it’s my life, which is a hell of a good one.

Parents, at least a good chunk of them…they bust their asses on the regular. They do what they can to raise the best kids they can. It’s REALLY hard some days. Some days, it’s the best feeling in the world to see things fall into place and see your kids succeeding at being happy people. At the end of the day, we all want our kids to be HAPPY. Happy kids, in my mind, are successful kids. I don’t much care where they work, who they love, as long as they are happy. When you have kids, the older folks will tell you “cherish every moment, it goes by so fast!” They aren’t lying. As the kids grow up, it goes by even faster. You start to find yourself wishing you could slow things down, keep them littler longer, and keep all the memories locked in a safe place. The days whiz by, with the mom or dad taxi running place to place. Activities, school, work, cooking, cleaning, hugging, loving, managing, planning, keeping all the balls in the air while you juggle life at full speed.

It ain’t easy.

I wouldn’t change a thing though.

Social Media and the Surge of Douchebaggery

Social media is exhausting, isn’t it? Were people always douchebags or does  the douchebaggery intensify when social media gets involved?  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m often seen perusing Facebook, occasionally on instagram, sometimes on Twitter, and Pinterest.  Social media is an easy way for me to stay in touch with family overseas and across the US.  It certainly has its merits, but it also comes with some angst and annoyance. 

First stop on the social media annoyance train?  Those stupid “this one random person is offended by XYZ, so now everyone should get up in arms about it and complain” posts that are common.  “Some random person in the middle of nowhere says Santa should be gender neutral” is put on Facebook and MILLIONS of people take to Facebook in anger about how “nobody should be messing with MY Santa!” or the ironic “People are so sensitive these days!  Why don’t they worry about themselves?!”  Look folks.  If you haven’t figured out by now that certain groups put stupid stuff on social media to distract you from the important stuff going on in the world, then I don’t know what to tell you.  People get offended ALL the time, about all sorts of ridiculous stuff. You only have a choice on how to deal with it.  Either mind your business and do what you’re going to do, or consider their point/feelings and then make a change or continue as you were.  Not everything needs to be an argument or needs your opinion of how sensitive everybody is.  Know why? Because you’re being equally as sensitive.  

2nd stop: having to suss out fake accounts.  I’ve made no secret of the fact I have a person IRL who stalks me online.  Heavily. They’ve been doing it for years, have had their coworkers joining in, and admit they make multiple fake accounts to do so.  They hate everything I say but created fake accounts to get notifications of when I post on here.  Go figure.  So occasionally, I have to spot check followers, likers, and social media hits because you never know when crazy gets riled up.  Also, people outside of that scenario use social media for sketchy purposes. I happen to generally be pretty aces as sussing out fake accounts, and block them  I have no time for nonsense.  If you followed me on here and I took you off incorrectly, let me know so I can add you back on. Mistakes happen. My apologies. 

3rd stop: TMI:  Look, if you have a TMI story but it’s hilarious and self deprecating, I’m all for it.  If it’s funny, I’m in it to win it with you.  That being said, some folks put ALLLLLLLL their business on there.  Hey, I am pretty open book on here, but it’s my blog.  I blog about the good, the bad, and the ridiculous.  I love a good self deprecating story, as long as it’s got some humor about it.  

Part two of the TMI? Don’t bash your spouse or partner on social media.  Why?  First off, the internet is forever.  Secondly, and this happens all the time, people bash the shit out of their spouse on Facebook.  All their friends and family take their side, which is nice for a while, until the couple makes up.  Now that person’s friends and family don’t like the spouse or partner any more.  Everyone has beef with the spouse or partner now, except for the original poster, who now gets angry everyone else is pissed at their significant other.  Plus, once you post public cracks in your relationship, don’t be surprised when shady folks come lurkin’ around.  My husband and I have driven each other to anger before, but we respect each other enough not to bash the other person on social media.  If you’re bashing each other online,  chances are you won’t last long together, because you don’t have that respect for each other.

Next stop? Attention whoring.  Facebook posts where you announce you’re leaving, only to return with 48 hours later.  Look, nobody cares. Go. When you’re done with whatever required you to do a whole deactivation, and big announcement of your departure, then go right back and go fuck yourself because nobody cares.  It’s exhausting. Posting vague comments and when people ask you if you’re ok (even though they likely think you’re being an attention whore and exhausting) you say “yeah, I’m fine” or “DM me”.  Why bother posting it then to the general public just to say to take it private?  I get that Facebook, Twitter and the like are a narcissist’s dream, but once you achieve complete attention whore status, it needs to just end. 

Finally, my favorite: Endless political posts.  Look, we all have our beliefs. Even if your belief is that politics are the root of all evil and shouldn’t be followed, it’s a belief.  The fact is, however, that people won’t change their beliefs because you post some meme about something.  They will either nod because they agree (regardless of whether you post is true…another pet peeve of mine is sheeple who spread misinformation without taking 2 seconds to research anything) or roll their eyes and keep scrolling.  Nobody is changing their minds off your meme’s. 

Speaking of sheeple…folks, not everything on social media is true.  Take the time to research, and not from any leaning websites.  Get some objective information and learn.  Just because it follows your thought process does not make it true.  Smart is sexy.  Research is cool.  It’s no secret Facebook has been used to sway thought processes by the posts selected and placed for you to see.  Be mindful of that.  

Death Before Christmas

Yesterday I woke early, and decided to luxuriate in bed for a while to scroll through my Facebook feed before beginning the day.  The first post I saw was a picture of 2 hands holding on to each other that began with “Today I lost my best friend…..”  I immediately glanced at the name of the poster and began to panic.  I read the post and saw my fear was correct.  My good friend’s father had passed away.  My heart sank, and I found myself crying for my friend’s surely broken heart.

My friend, I’ll call her Sue, is a single mom of 4 I’ve known for many years.  We live close to each other and often chip in to help each other out.  We pet sit for each other, borrow sugar or flour, jump cars, and mow lawns for each other.  We know we can count on each other in a pinch, and there is never any judgment about our often messy houses, chaos, or asking for a favor.  We both lost our moms and we understand how deep that loss goes. We get each other.  It is a simple and easy friendship that I treasure deeply.  

Sue’s dad has been her rock.  He was often swinging by to help fix things, or take care of something she needed help with.  I never met him, which seems strange to me now, because he was such a prominent figure in her life.  When times got tough for her, he would give her money to help out.  He kept her afloat when she thought she might drown and she simply adored him.  She was always grateful for him and told me on many occasion that “I don’t know what I’d do without him”.  She spoke of him glowingly and acknowledged how lucky she was to have him.  

Last week, my husband and I went by to help her when her Christmas tree fell over, not once, but twice. She mentioned she was going to visit her dad to check on him because he had felt out of sorts.  It didn’t even occur to me that he would end up passing away a few days later.

Once I read her post, I sat wondering how I could help.  I WANT to help.  I want to do something, anything to ease her pain, but I’m so unsure of where to begin.  Death, especially death of a parent, is so very difficult.  I’ve often posted about how deeply the death of my mother and friend have impacted me.  That being said, when I asked myself “what did I want or need when my mom passed away?” I came up sort of empty handed.  I remember feeling utterly alone.   My dad was 300 miles away, the rest of my family 3000 miles away.  I had my husband, and he tried his damnedest to get me through it all,  but I still felt alone.  I realize now I’m not sure if I alienated myself a bit.  I had so much overwhelming grief I didn’t want to burden others with it.  I didn’t want to have to console other people.  I just wanted to get through the grief on my own terms.  The problem was, I was newly married with an infant, so there was no time to grieve properly, not in my eyes anyway.  I just got on with things the best I could and let the grief seep out when I could….5 minutes here, 10 minutes there…

My husband suggested cooking a meal.  Meals are good.  I know this.  The problem is, I’m not a super cook, and she has some dietary restrictions (her son is also a very picky eater).  In the end, I saw her best friend was with her and I messaged the friend that Sue could call in an order to any place and I’d fly and buy, or I’d pay for whatever meal she wanted.  Also, if she needed to talk, to vent, I’d be here, day and night, any time she needed. 

It’s a fine line of offering, being there, but not imposing.  I wish I could say or do the perfect thing to ease her pain, but I know I can’t. I can just be here if she needs a friend. 

Death before the holidays seems particularly painful.  People are rushing around, cheery game faces on.  This is the time of year we tend to focus on love and family.  How do you console someone who has had such a huge loss?

Domestic Defeat

This, folks, is when the feeling of defeat fell over me:

After a whirlwind vacation, things at Chez Messy are, well, messy.  They’re also chaotic.  Not chaotic enough to not bother putting toilet paper on a roll, mind you, but chaotic. I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who sees no paper on the roll before the moment someone needs to use it. I think I need to give the kids a toilet paper replacement class. I’ve had some wins this week, and I’ve had some losses.  The above image, mind you, made me realize how deep the nitty gritty goes that needs to be tackled.

We arrived home and I immediately began loads of laundry.  The suitcases are (semi) unpacked.  I need to delve into that and get them sorted and stored away.  Jet lag this trip has been more brutal than ever before for me, and the whole family is struggling.  Even my husband, who normally goes to bed in the early hours of the morning, crashed at 9 PM the other day.  The kids are up at 5:30, unheard of in this household except on Christmas, and they are sinking into misery starting at 8 PM.  We’re still operating as if we are 5 hours ahead.  With work, school, etc, this makes the days short and weird.

Some highlights this week include scoring two gifts at a great price, one of which was exceptionally difficult to find.  I called and went to over 8 stores in the area trying to find it (I found one under a display table of toys, still in the shipping box…total score!).  We added a pet to our family, details on that later, we’re dogsitting (and everyone is getting along swimmingly, even the cat). We’ve started the orthodontist work for my daughter. I scored some good deals using price matching on some needed items.  I managed to get some essential oils that smell like Christmas personified which at least makes the house smell nice, even in it’s chaos.  It’s been BUSY.  

Because of all of the busyness, the suitcases are still out, Christmas decorations haven’t even been started aside from the elf, which I forgot to move last night and upset the little one.  My reliance on Amazon failed me when a necessary item didn’t arrive and I had to hustle to replace it locally (again, more busyness).  In all my stress, I realized my husband was struggling with his own stresses this week, so I dropped my own at the door and helped him through his.  This sounds weird, but I’ve always tried to take on other’s stresses while carrying my own.  This time, I tried to just tell myself my worries would have to be put down for a while so that I could help him.  Somehow it worked, and I was able to help him tackle his tasks and cover my own while allowing myself to not worry about what had been stressing me prior.  I ended the day exhausted, but content. The next day he was helping me.  Teamwork is key.

The orthodontic situation is brutal.  This week, little one had spacers put in, and the next day, a palate expander.  This means that every night, I have to insert this little metal “key” into a whole in a metal contraption at the top of her mouth and turn it.  And every night she cries, and cries, and says “it hurts, Mama” until I want to cry, and sometimes do.  Nobody wants to feel like they are causing their child hurt or discomfort, but I have to do this thing every night to save her teeth.  She’s sore, struggling to eat (everything gets caught up above the expander) and I’m not sure who hates the thing more, her or me.  On the outside, I stress the importance and reasoning for it, while giving hugs, advil, and reassurance.  On the inside, I cry, and wish my husband were there to help me. Parents have told me their kids struggled too, that it gets better.  I sure hope so.  18 more turns of the key to go.  

Tomorrow begins the weekend, and I expect a busy one getting things organized and sorted for the holidays.  Last year I fell too far behind with trips and parties and ended up with a TON of work Christmas eve.  This year I’d like to plan better.  At the end of the day, Christmas is about togetherness and love, so I don’t need it to be perfect.  I’d just like to do it with toilet paper on the roll and not looking at suitcases.  

Standards.  They may be rather low to the ground, but I have some. 

For now, I have to replace some toilet paper.

Our UK Vaca!

Picture from the “Princess and the Pea” room at Chatsworth. Also how it felt crawling into bed upon our return. What a sleep!

Well, we made it back from England, safe and sound. Actually, we made it back sleepy, cranky, sweaty and breathless from running to catch a plane, but all in all, full of good memories. I am learning more and more about how our family likes to vacation, which will help me plan trips better in the future.  What I’ve learned is that we like a trip with some downtime, peppered with interesting things to do, and moments of making our own fun. It’s the people and places that make it special.

We arrived in England on Thanksgiving.  It was weird to leave a country so invested in the food and holiday of Thanksgiving and arrive to a place that didn’t acknowledge it at all.  Because we flew overnight, I found the rest of the week I stumbled through a sort of time warp, not knowing what day it was.  Our flights were uneventful.  The rental car situation, however, was not. I had purposefully rented the same type of car I drive in the US.  I knew it was big enough for us and our luggage, without being too big to park or tackle UK roads.  The area we were staying in was full of small, tight British roads, with a mix of one lane country roads and tiny villages.  I had figured tackling the above in a car I was familiar in was a good plan, especially as I was driving on the right side of the car, left side of the road.   When I arrived at Hertz, however, I was promptly told they didn’t have the car I’d reserved, nor anything similar. “You do,” I ignorantly replied “I’ve reserved one.”  Not so much.  My only options were a tiny car too small for our basic needs of people and bags, or a Mercedes. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Except the Mercedes was a 9 passenger van,  It was HUUUUUGE.  I was left with no choice.  I needed a car we could fit in.  The passenger van was the only option.

Y’all, when I tell you this thing was big by American standards, you can only imagine how big it was by English standards.  It was a bit of a gas hog, so a half a tank of diesel cost me over 50 pounds.  It was difficult to park in the tiny lots designed for tiny cars.  The struggle was real.  Honestly, I was glad we had it fully insured, because I was nervous through most of the trip.  We got lost a couple of times, and the GPS took us down one lane country roads through sheep fields, with a stone wall on each side and no space to pull over.  I’m not a religious person, but even I caught myself saying little prayers that no car would come from the other direction, because one of us would have to reverse, and I couldn’t see out the back window well of this monster. My husband grew tired of me giving myself props for navigating that beast as well as I did.  I was proud of myself.  50mph hairpin turns down tiny country roads?  Nailed it. Returning the car was a hot mess, however.  I pulled in and the attendant from Hertz pointed to a tiny parking spot.  No way could I have gotten the beast in there without risking the cars on either side.  I told him that wouldn’t work.  He pointed to another equally tiny spot with cars parked crookedly either side.  He got angry and said he’d park it.  He literally missed the car next to him by an inch, but gave himself almost no room to exit the car.  He squeezed out, and told me to get in.  I did, figuring he was processing the return.  He then shouted at me “will you please leave?!”  Needless to say, Hertz won’t be a company I’ll be using in the future.  I messaged them, got no response.  

During the trip, we stayed with my aunt and uncle, two of my favorite people.  They have a house in the countryside, and are antique dealers.  We spent our first day hanging at the house with them, having an easy day.  The following day, we hit the pub with them and my cousin for her birthday and had lunch.  It was delightful and laid back.  Saturday was spent preparing for my cousin’s birthday bash.  My daughter had begged for us to wear matching dresses, and I didn’t disappoint.  We had similar dresses, matching cardigans, and matching shoes.  The smile on her face made all the hard work and money spent getting her the right dress all worthwhile.  One of the best parts of the night was having such a large group of family all in one place. Normally there are folks I don’t get to see due to distance or time constraints, but we had a large group of us.  Many beers later, we were all singing Queen to finish out the night.  Perfection.

I got to visit my grandfather while I was there. He looked good.  Thinner, older, since my last visit.  Since that time, my grandmother had passed, he had been ill, taken a few falls, so all in all I thought he looked well.  An added bonus was that my dad flew over to meet up with us (he goes to look after my grandfather every other month) so 4 generations all sat in the living room catching up.  As members of my family have slowly died off, it doesn’t escape me how special that moment was to have all of us together.  My grandfather handed me a beautiful pearl necklace belonging to my grandmother, and asked my dad to take me to her grave, which he did.  

Another amazing aspect of the trip was our visit to Chatsworth.  If you’ve never heard of it, please take a peek here: https://www.chatsworth.org
because it’s simply an amazing place with a lot of history.  Each Christmas, they decorate the house in a theme.  This year’s theme was Once Upon a Time, focusing on fairy tales or children’s stories.  Everything was stunning.  After walking through the house in awe, we stepped outside where there was a beautiful Christmas market.  All the vendors had little wooden huts to sell their wares from.  You felt almost back in time.  I fell in love with a few things but knew I couldn’t tote them back in my suitcase, so I had to step away.  It kept raining while we strolled the market, until finally we got so wet we decided to call it a day.  In true “our luck” fashion, as soon as we pulled out to leave, the sky turned blue again.  Regardless, we had such a great time, and it was a perfect start to our day. 

We also walked the Tissington Trail and meandered around Tissington Village.  This is a tiny place that will take you back in time and make you wonder what year it is.  The church has big arches and beautiful stained glass windows that bring the light in.  Some info on Tissington (click on take a photo tour) is here: http://www.picturesofengland.com/England/Derbyshire/Tissington

One of my favorite moments of the trip was our visit to Bakewell. The village of Bakewell is pretty and was quite busy.  As we parked at the Agricultural center (perfect place to mark the monster van) we strolled over the bridge crossing the little river to head into town.  The bridge was covered with “love locks”, which is where people take padlocks, write their initials or loved ones names on, and attach them to the bridge.  I’ve seen this done in Pittsburgh on my travels, and have always wanted to do one.  Silly, I suppose, but I love sentimental things like that.  As we strolled the village, I saw a sign in a shope window advertising they have and engrave love locks, so we went in and purchased one.  The thing was HUGE.  We had our family name, and hometown with USA engraved on it, and set off to find the perfect spot.  If you’re ever in Bakewell, as you cross to head into the town, on the right side, 3 sections from the end of the bridge, you’ll see a huge lock…that’s ours. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time with my cousins as I would have liked.  Their work schedules didn’t allow them much free time or they had stuff going on.  It’s hard, because I miss them so much, but I get the life gets busy. One cousin, thought she was working long hours and had a ton of stuff going on, was a rockstar in her efforts to make our trip special.  She got us the tickets to Chatsworth and also made my daughter’s vacation bucket list complete.   She has two horses, and my daughter has been asking about those horses for well over a year.  My cousin took us up to the stable one night and let my little one pet, brush and feed the horses, as well as give them carrots and apples.  Whereas I was a bit nervous around such giant, majestic animals so much bigger than I, my daughter had no fear, introducing herself to all the horses in the stables, giving them a carrot, and gentle stroking their noses. She was a natural, clearly something that runs in my family but skipped me. The last full day of our trip, after we’d walked around Tissington, we planned to go to a pub at the end of the trail where we had parked.  The stables were within walking distance, so my cousin had us meet her there. Her big horse was saddled and ready to ride.  She put my daughter up on the horse and walked her to the pub where my dad met us for dinner.  My daughter beamed from ear to ear, absolutely thrilled to pieces.  My cousin walked, leading the horse, while my daughter sat on the horse, so proud and happy I almost cried a little with joy myself.  I knew a little girl’s vacation dreams had come true when she responded “I really think we should move to England….or at least, can we come back for my birthday?” Sorry kiddo, it’s a little out of my budget to just jet back and forth, but yes, we’ll be back. 

I stopped at my mother’s grave to say hello and goodbye.  I always do.  I also popped by my grandparents grave to do the same.  I mentioned I would love a sign.  On the way to the airport to come home, I noticed the car in front of us had a bee sticker on it that resembled my tattoo. Bees are a symbol I relate to my grandmother.  In fact, one of the things I learned during my trip was that my younger cousin also had a bee tattoo for her.  I felt like I got my sign.  

I didn’t realize how tired I was until I got on the plane.  I was so incredibly tired I went into the plane lavatory and had a quick cry, like a toddler does when they are overtired and cry about nothing.  I composed myself, went back to my seat, and watched a movie to stay awake so I could make sure my daughter ate.  If she doesn’t eat, and she’s tired, she gets beastly.  Afterwards, I was so tired I couldn’t even recall the movie I watched when my husband asked me.  I was in a fog. I got home, fell asleep at 7 PM and slept for 15 hours straight.  I hadn’t slept well much in England due to the sinus infection, so my sleep bank needed refilling in a big way.  I woke up feeling like a new person.

All in all, a fantastic trip.  I can’t wait to go back.  

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