And this concludes the longest vacation recap in history...











Well, over a month after it began, the recap is finally complete.

We rounded out our journey in Merry Old England (or Dingland, if you're in our family). When we were planning this trip last December, we had hopes to spend a few days in London. We searched high and low for a hotel room and couldn't find one to save our lives. Scratching our heads as to why all of London was booked solid, the Husband hit the nail on the head.

The Olympics.

Yep, we were hitting England smack dab in the middle of the Olympic Games. It made our decision easy. We would avoid London like the plague, and instead spend our time north in York.

Which was a treat because when the Husband was 14 years old, he moved there with his whole family while Opa got a master's degree at York University.

We were able to see the school he went to, walk to his favorite place for Fish & Chips, as well as see the house they all lived in. The current owners happened to be home, and were thrilled to give us a top-to-bottom tour. The house had been remodeled extensively, so it looked a lot better than when the family lived there 25 years ago.

Other highlights included:

* Touring the York Minster with Opa, who helped work to restore it after a fire in the 80s.

* Watching the Husband get roped into helping a street performer.  He threw real knives to this nut who was up on a unicycle, juggling blindfolded.  Luckily, no one lost any limbs, and none of my children have as yet started juggling knives blindfolded on a unicycle.  Bonus.

* Walking the ancient wall around the city of York.  Originally built in 71 AD.  You can imagine Chase's commentary.

*Shopping in the Shambles and wishing desperately I could move here.

* High tea at Betty's.  Why can't we get clotted cream here in the states?  Delish.

* Going to church in the old ward and being treated like rock stars because everyone still remembered the Husband, his family, and the impact they made while there.

* Rounding out a four-country whirlwind tour with the best tour guides anyone has ever known.

It was a fantastic trip with fantastic people, and I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to go.

And, if you're still reading after all these posts, and you're not one of the people who were on this trip, you deserve a medal.  Phew.

The End.

Deaf and Dump

Our next foray into the Never Ending European Vacation Recap takes us from Salzburg via train to Munich, Germany.

As soon as we sat down on the train, we were handed a card that looked like this:


Sadly, I wanted to correct her poor English grammar more than I wanted to buy a key ring at whatever price I might wish.

Poor thing.

But to sum up our time there, I would say Germany for us consisted of these three things:

Suit Buying.









Hannah, Oma, and I headed out early one morning to meet a bus tour that took us to Linderhof, Oberammergau, and Neuschwanstein.

All three were absolute perfection. We debated going, as it was a good two hour bus or train ride from where we were staying in Munich, but I'm so glad we went. It was fascinating. Beautiful. Breathtaking. (And a little bit hot.)  Even with the tour guide who reminded us over and over like pre-schoolers to "Not miss da bas," we had the best day ever.

The boys, meanwhile, spent their time touring the BMW factory. While the Husband withstood temptation to bring home a large, blue souvenir, he did assure me that "someday" he will. Apparently, the folks at the BMW make it a pretty sweet deal to buy your own car, pick it up at the factory, drive it all over Europe, and ship it home. I'm pretty much okay with that because it means I get another trip over here.

By which time, I hope not to be deaf or dump.

Most unexpected of our time in Germany was buying the Husband a suit. After our departure from home, an unplanned business meeting popped up that he had to get home for. It required him to leave us a day early, but left him no time to stop in St. Louis and pick up his clothes. Kudos to the fine folks at our German department store who got that puppy altered and ready in the nick of time.

(Literally. We were waiting with luggage in hand to take a train and board our flight to Manchester just as they were finishing up.)

Munich was a bustling, beautiful city and we were sorry to bid her adieu.

Stay tuned for one last post where I bring us full circle to Merry Ol' England.

It will end. I promise.

Basking in the glow still











I am back!

Physically, at least. I feel sick to my stomach with the jet lag and wonder at those who willingly go to bed at 5 a.m. and sleep past noon on a regular basis. My body has no idea what time it is, and I have never been so happy to see my own bed.

But in spite all of that, it was so worth it. It was such a fantastic time. My companion on the trip was the lovely Annie, and we made the most of every minute there. She was my ideal travel partner - flexible, happy, and eager to see it all. We laughed, ate, shopped, and soaked it all in.

First up was London. We had fish & chips. We rode a double-decker bus -- both to combat the jet lag and allow us to see the city while sitting down. Definitely a must when you're halfway across the world and trying desperately to stay awake.

We saw Westminster Abby. We saw Kensington Palace. We went to Les Mis, and cried from the opening song to the finale. (Though I am still trying to forgive Alfie Boe for being sick the night of our tickets. Boo.) It was amazing anyway. The understudy was perfection. Such a moving experience.

We snagged some last minute tickets to see Driving Miss Daisy with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones. (FABULOUS play. JEJ completely stole the show. We were close enough that I could see his perfect teeth. Such a great smile.)

My favorite London meal was high tea at The Orangery on the grounds of Kensington. It felt so royal, so British -- sitting on a patio, snacking on our finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, eating our tarts, and sipping our tea - staring at the beautifully manicured grounds and doing it all just yards from Kensington Palace. Many times I wondered aloud if we were really there. It felt like I was living a movie.

Another highlight was The Tower of London. Having read all the Philipa Gregory books and nurturing a slight obsession with all things Henry VIII, it was surreal to stand in the places where they once did. Standing on a tower walkway, looking down and seeing cars, it felt so wrong and out of place with the ancient magnificence of the Tower. Walking through darkened hallways and windy staircases, you almost forgot what century you were living in. It was fantastic. I could have spent days there.

I had a surprisingly teary-eyed moment at Harrods. Walking through the store, feeling awed by the architecture and beauty, I remembered a silly bucket list that I made when I was about 14. Something I haven't thought about for years. On it were several things you couldn't pay me enough to do now (such as skydiving and bungee jumping), but one of the things I wanted to do was buy something at Harrods in London. The naive little 14-year-old me, who had never yet even been out of her home state, dreamed of what it would be like to travel and see the world. I remembered making the list and my determination to do all of the items on there at some point in my life. It was a sweet moment, indeed, to cross that one off the list. A dream come true, as they say, silly though it may seem.

After drying my tears, smiling at my teenage self and proudly thinking, "I did it! Just for you!" we set out to conquer as much of the city as we could. We shopped. We strolled through Hyde Park. We ate at Byron's. We ate at Jamie's. We collapsed into bed exhausted every night.

We made the most of it.

It was just divine. I am slightly heartbroken that it's over, but am so happy to be home and in the arms of my babies.

Stay tuned for highlights from Paris and the brutality of re-entry which somehow always seems to involve a sick kid.

And I'm off...

I am heading out the door in just under an hour and my stomach is a nervous ball of butterflies. Last night, I had a meltdown of epic proportions. So much to do, so little time. Panic about leaving my babies for 10 days. Worry that I wouldn't get it all cleaned in time for the mother-in-law to come. Anxiety over all the things that could possibly go wrong.

There was crying. All of it ugly.

Today, with suitcases packed and passport in hand, I can hardly believe I'm really doing this. I stare in awe, and wonder whose fabulous life it is I'm really living.

How many men are there that not only say yes, but encourage the taking of trips to faraway lands? Who gladly work, sacrifice, and move heaven and earth to make dreams a reality? I am beyond blessed to have found one who does. He, who knows the toll this past year has taken on me, and encourages me to leave it all behind. He, who knows the healing power of gifts beyond measure.

He had my heart when all he had to give was his love. He gives me his as he makes my dreams come true.

I love him.

I am forever indebted to him for my every happiness.

Thank you, baby, for the trip of a lifetime. Au revoir!

Calling all Europhiles

Holy flip.

(Those are the closest things to swear words I'm allowed to say since I've been let in the Resistance. Did I tell you she finally let me in? Greatest day of my life. Tragically, I'll probably get a ticket for writing them here though. Totally worth it.)

I did not realize it has been almost two weeks since I posted here, with the exception of my complaints last Friday against the morons at Photobucket.

Sheesh. How is that possible? I was thinking maybe three days, five at most. I had no idea it has been almost FOURTEEN.

This should give you a little insight into my present state of mind right now. I am swimming. I have never been so busy in my entire life. My little business is booming, and it's something that makes me so very happy. Family sessions, newborns, senior portraits, and a wedding this week. But it leaves me very little free time for blog reading or blog writing. Or nap taking, for that matter.

I've got to remedy this. Somehow.

The other major time-suck right now is a little trip I'm getting ready to go on. Excuse me while I scream in excitement yet again.


There. All better. I'm getting ready in about five days to board a plane with one of my favorite people and take a little hop across the pond to London and Paris. Where we will indulge my fantasy of a night with Alfie Boe singing his heart out in this, and possibly convince Prince Harry to fall madly in love with me. Which will be tragic, as I will have to break his heart since I am married to a man wonderful enough to send me on this fantasy vacation in the first place. But I'll probably wait to break the news to Harry until after he's showered me with a few of the crown jewels. As he will be wont to do, I am sure.

But the point, dear internets, is that I am up to my elbows in cleaning, shopping, editing, mothering, and cleaning all in preparation for the trip of a lifetime. I've got a mother-in-law coming to stay, and ain't no way is she getting a peek at my cupboards in their current state.

So, indulge me while I'm scouring sinks and drawers and tell me your favorite things to do in London and Paris. Must-eats, must-sees, and everything in between. I've never been and need to know all the best spots. What would you recommend?

And in the meantime, I'll try and carve out a little time and share some of the less-exciting, but still worthwhile, things that have been happening around here.

How to have a spontaneous vacation (and survive it)

The poor gator we brought back home with us. Yes, it's totally real.

As you have no doubt been reading ad nauseam, we took a little trip down to Naples, Florida last week. It was completely a spur-of-the-moment thing, turned out to be fantastic --and was absolutely worth it.

I learn a lot every time we take a trip anywhere, and this one was no exception. Thought I'd share a few things I learned with you, in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Don't be afraid to say yes. When your husband says, "I am going to be in Florida for an extended business trip, want to come?" Say yes, even if you are afraid you will not get cheap flights at the last minute. Say yes, even if it is the last week of school and you will have to pull your kids out, forcing them miss most of the fun parties, field days, and concerts. Say yes, even if it seems like an insane thing to do.

For when you sit under that beach umbrella with your husband, watching your babies play in the surf, you will both turn to look at each other at the exact same moment and say, "IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT."

Besides, airfare will be surprisingly cheap. And kids won't necessarily care about the parties at the end of the year. Family memories and time together will last a lifetime. They are only this age once.

2. Do not be afraid to check the rates of very fancy hotels that you think you cannot afford. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton for $119 a night, people! That's cheaper than most of the crappy hotels NOT on the beach. It was five-star service at a two-star price. I would have been content to stay anywhere, but the Husband's tolerance level runs a wee bit higher. We hit the city of Naples off-season, and had the beach and hotel wait staff to ourselves. It was heaven.

[I'm also slightly afraid that my children are ruined for life. You can't stay at the Ritz and then ever stay anywhere else without being terribly disappointed.]

3. Do not be phased by emergencies that come up. During our five-day stay, we had one emergency room visit, one urgent situation requiring help from a physician back home, one child pass out due to heat stroke on a hotel boardwalk, and a supposedly waterproof mitt failed - leaving one child's cast soaking wet and full of sand.

For most people, these events would absolutely ruin the trip. For us, it was pretty much normal fare for a vacation.


But a few doses of antibiotics quickly took care of the ear infection that sent us to the ER. Some ice, water, and juice took care of the heat stroke. A late night conversation with our physician back home solved an otherwise nightmare situation. The soggy, smelly cast was removed when we got home and replaced with a removable brace. We took it all in stride, and figured it wasn't worth getting upset about.

Slightly annoyed maybe. But not upset. We were back on the beach and in good form - hardly the worse for wear.

4. Give yourself permission to put down the camera and watch your babies play with your own two eyes. Pictures are treasures that can help preserve the memory, but it is also important to be a part of making the memory yourself. So many times I miss things because I am busy photographing them instead of doing them. This trip, I did not make that mistake, and I have no regrets for the small number of pictures I took.

Instead, I made sandcastles with Hannah and hunted for seashells. I dove through waves with McKay and Chase. I raced the Husband (and lost) on a kayak in the middle of the ocean, laughing as the salty water shot up around us.

And not once did I feel anything lacking.

The trip was heaven and I'd do it again. And again. And again.

How's tomorrow, in fact?