Connor is 9 months old!

Where has the time gone? Connor’s birth still feels like yesterday, yet here we are nine months later! Connor fills every moment of our life with pure joy. As if he wasn’t already growing and changing fast enough, Connor decided to kick things up a notch this past month: he started crawling, sitting up, pulling up to standing, cut three new teeth (give the fourth a day or so…), and got his first haircut. Plus, he experienced his first Christmas and had a vacation in London! He now tries to get into everything, we discover daily something else that we need to babyproof, his new favorite place to play is in the kitchen, and “out of sight, out of mind” no longer applies. Connor likes solid foods and will try anything we offer him. His favorites right now are pear, puréed prunes (seriously), and carrot salad (carrots, pineapple, raisins, and cinnamon puréed together). I love cooking and preparing all of his food!

We can only imagine the excitement that the next month of Connor’s life will bring!

Playing with his new toy from Uncle Charlie, Aunt Kelly, Chip, and Lily
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Mmmmmm prunes…
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Playing in the kitchen with daddy
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London Part III (December 27, 2012 – January 2, 2013 )

Monday (New Year’s Eve)
We started our day (after breakfast at the hotel and a tube ride, of course) at the British Museum. It is huge! We were definitely glad to use Rick Steves’ self-guided tour because it made the museum seem more manageable. There is SO much to see that you could easily get overwhelmed. Rick Steves’ tour hit the highlights without taking up the entire day. Some highlights included the Rosetta Stone and sculptures from the Parthenon. After the museum, we walked to the British Library and perused the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library. We saw some amazing history at the library: original scores of Handel’s Messiah, Ravel’s Bolero, and Grainger’s Country Gardens, original hand-written drafts of Beatles lyrics, and the Magna Carta.

Parthenon exhibit at the British MuseumImage

For all the Harry Potter fans out there…On our way to the nearby tube station, we took a slight detour to the King’s Cross railway station to see Platform 9 3/4! There was a loooong line to wait for a photo, and most people jumped into the air as the camera snapped so that it looked like they were pushing the luggage cart through the brick wall. We didn’t wait in line for an official photo, but it was fun to see!

After another tube ride, we arrived at Covent Garden. It was crowded and rainy, and we made our way to the London Transport Museum. It was a fun museum, and there were lots of things for James and Andy to do. We took a crowded tube ride back to the hotel, then left for dinner.

We walked to a Pizza Express near our hotel (upscale pizza joint…reminded me of Dewey’s in Cincinnati). It was right next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, so you couldn’t ask for a better view! It was another rocky start to dinnertime. James was at the end of his rope, and Connor almost tipped the stroller over backwards while he pushed against the table with his feet. We finally got settled and ordered. Just as our pizzas arrived and I was about to take my first bite, Connor was losing his patience in the stroller. I got him out and, lo and behold, he finally had a dirty diaper! Yes, the first one in London. I’m sure you wanted to know that. There was no changing table, of course, but I managed to get him cleaned up and we headed back to the table. In case Charlie’s display of love during last night’s dessert wasn’t clear enough, he decided to show me again: while I was changing Connor, he had scarfed down his pizza so that he could hold Connor while I peacefully ate my dinner. Or maybe he was just that hungry :).

We rang in the new year in our dreams that night. We were sure that we would hear the fireworks, but they either weren’t that loud from our hotel, or we were just that tired!

Tuesday (New Year’s Day)
It was our last day of sightseeing in London. Breakfast, check. Tube ride, check. We began Rick Steves’ West End Walk in Leicester Square, which is home to many of London’s theaters. We walked through some quiet side streets full of boutique shops and eventually made our way to Covent Garden. We were there yesterday when we were on our way to the London Transport Museum, and it was a crowded and busy area. Today it was practically empty because the shops and restaurants weren’t open quite yet. We meandered through, then continued our walk. Good ol’ Rick Steves took us through a seedy part of town, followed by a street lined with music stores. Sir Elton John used to work at one of them before he got his start! As we continued our walk, we passed a house with a plaque stating that Mozart had lived, played, and composed there!

Rudolph at Covent GardenImage

After another Starbucks stop, our walk took us to Regent Street, which is home to lots of nice shopping. Of course, we had to go inside Hamleys Toy Shop! James and Andy were fast asleep in their stroller, but luckily they woke up while we were still there so that they could enjoy some of the toys! Charlie and I picked out a few things for Connor: a wooden red double decker bus that doubles as a toy box and a push-behind walker, a stuffed bear dressed as a guard at Buckingham Palace, and a stuffed Fozzie Bear.

Our West End Walk ended at Piccadilly Circus, a big intersection with several shops and huge neon signs as well as a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. The New Year’s Day parade was in full swing, so the streets were crowded and we caught a glimpse of a band going by.

We took the tube to the London Eye. Charlie and I really wanted to take a ride (it’s like a slow-moving enclosed ferris wheel), but the line was way too long for our patience. The tube ride to get there wasn’t a waste, though, because we had a great view and took some pictures!

London EyeImage

We walked back to the main train station, found a snack, and took the tube to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was a neat museum, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t see the exhibits that we were most interested in seeing. We followed the signs all the way to the Hollywood Costumes exhibit only to find out that you have to pay for a ticket to see that exhibit (the rest of the museum was free). We then followed the signs to the Ball Gown exhibit, and we were able to see some of that exhibit, although there was another section of it for ticket-holders.

Satisfied that we had seen enough of London to call it a day, we headed back to the hotel and had dinner there. Charlie and I packed up most of our things and went to bed for our last night of sleep in London.

Wednesday
After our final hotel breakfast, we piled everything into our cab and headed to the airport. (This time we had a van for all of us.) We checked in and went through security, wandered around until our gate was open, and by then it was time to board! Connor was making googly eyes at the girl sitting next to us for the first several minutes, then after a quick fuss he fell asleep for most of the flight. We went through customs, picked up our bags, and waited for the shuttle back to holiday parking. (Note to self: next time, book our parking when we book our plane tickets so that we can get the early-bird price for the terminal parking deck!) Connor really hung in there for the entire trip, but the last ten minutes of the car ride home were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Poor guy was ready to be OUT of that car seat! Thankfully, he saved his meltdown for only the last ten minutes. He was definitely excited to crawl around and play when we got home, and to sit in HIS high chair for a proper meal!

We had such a fantastic time in London! Charlie and I are so blessed to have wonderful friends like Jes and Derek who are brave enough to not only invite us on vacation with them, but to put up with us for the whole trip!

And here is your bonus photo for making it to the end of our London blog! Doesn’t he look like he loves to travel?Image

London Part II (December 27, 2012 – January 2, 2013)

Saturday
After another hotel breakfast, we headed to the tube station once again. (Did I mention that the British love baked beans with their breakfast?) It was a little colder on Saturday and we had some light rain, but it still wasn’t too bad.

Rick Steves was busy again! Today, he took us on the City Walk. We started in Trafalgar Square and headed east on the Strand. Our walk started in the city of Westminster, but where the Strand turns into Fleet Street is where we crossed into the city of London. There was a statue at that spot that represents the Queen having to ask permission from the Lord Mayor to cross into London. Off of Fleet Street, we took a really neat walk through some alleys behind the main road and came across Dr. Johnson’s house. Samuel Johnson published A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. He is quoted as saying, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” (We REALLY enjoyed Rick Steves’ self-guided tours because he takes you off the beaten path to some places that you would never have otherwise found!) Once we wound our way back to Fleet Street, we were in familiar territory for a few minutes: we saw the pub where we had dinner the previous night, and we were close to our hotel. Not too far past our hotel was St. Paul’s Cathedral. We toured the inside, and it is absolutely incredible. Words cannot describe it, and unfortunately, photography was not allowed. We also walked through the crypt in the basement. As we continued the City Walk, we saw London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the Royal Courts of Justice (magnificent building!), and King’s College.

St. Paul’s Cathedral
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The Royal Courts of Justice
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Tower BridgeImage

Our walk ended at the Tower of London. We saw the old guillotine site, and waited in a loooong line to see the Crown Jewels. Behind us in line were a group of high school girls who were in London to march in the New Year’s Day parade. They were enamored with Connor, James, and Andy. Derek told the girls that he marched in the parade back in 1997…Charlie was just waiting for one of the girls to say something like, “That’s the year I was born!”

Tower of London
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After taking the tube back to the hotel and relaxing for a little while, we all walked to the Blackfriars Pub for dinner. We were seated at a table in a crowded room, and the other diners were definitely giving us dirty looks as we tried to get situated with the three kids. Connor was NOT happy, and since we were on the booth side of the table we had no room to scoot away and keep his hands away from everything. It was a huge blessing that he decided to fall asleep in my arms and stay that way through most of the meal. I had fish and chips, and Charlie had a chicken and mushroom pot pie.

Sunday
It was cooler, but SUNNY! We were so thrilled to see blue sky and sunshine. We took the tube and then walked to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. Connor and Andy were both asleep in their strollers. We claimed a spot right up against the gate and waited…and waited. The crowd formed all around us, and I was really getting nervous. If any of the kids decided to have a meltdown, it would be almost impossible to get through the mass of people behind us. Connor woke up and I put him in the carrier. He started getting fussy so I somehow managed to nurse him while he was in the carrier, and we made it through the ceremony just fine. Phew. The ceremony was actually pretty disappointing. The band marched in, got out their music stands, and played…wait for it…Malagueña. Seriously, not even joking. That’s pretty much all I remember…I think I was more focused on keeping Connor content. I think all of us had a similar reaction when it was over: “That was it? We waited over an hour for that?” But, now we can say that we have seen the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace!

Buckingham Palace
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Once the crowd cleared out, we walked to Harrod’s department store. It was HUGE…and crowded. We pretty much agreed that just walking into the store was enough to say, “Ok, we saw Harrod’s,” but we ended up spending a little more time there as we had to navigate through a few departments for restroom breaks and diaper changes. Next, after a stop at Starbucks (mmmm, my first latte since we’ve been in Germany…), we took a tube ride to another part of town to see the Imperial War Museum. It was pretty neat, and we all (especially Charlie) enjoyed looking at the exhibits on each floor. The Holocaust exhibit was particularly moving. We were completely drained after a long day, so we headed back to the tube station and went back to the hotel.

Harrod’s
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All of us were either starving or stupid because we pushed our luck with a 3-course dinner at the hotel. They offer a meal deal where you can pick 2 courses for a certain price, or, for £22.99 you can have three courses plus breakfast the next morning. Too good to pass up, right? Charlie and I had a new plan for Connor…just bring the stroller and wheel him up to the table! He could play, we could feed him…it sure sounded great. He actually did pretty well, but by dessert, he was done, and who can blame the poor guy? I was trying to hold him while I took my first two bites of apple crumble. He dropped a toy, and as I bent down to pick it up, Connor decided that if he couldn’t have any of my apple crumble, then mama wasn’t going to have any, either. Splat, face down on the floor, the entire plate (minus the first two bites). Big bummer. My hero of a husband let me have the rest of his highly coveted brownie sundae. If that’s not true love, then I don’t know what is. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s dinner adventures to hear about another heroic display of love…and our final London adventures!

London Part I (December 27, 2012 – January 2, 2013)

We had a fantastic trip to London after Christmas! Our good friends Jes and Derek invited us to travel with them and their two boys, James and Andy. Jes did all of the planning, and we were so grateful to have such an amazing sight-seeing itinerary!

Thursday – Traveling to London
The flight was barely over an hour long. Connor slept for the majority of the flight, and when he woke up towards the end, he played until we landed. We went through customs, picked up our bags, and then realized that Jes and Derek’s stroller hadn’t arrived! They gate-checked it, but somehow it had been left behind and it was on the next flight to London. The lady at baggage service assured them it would be delivered to the hotel by midnight. When we arrived in the terminal, our cab driver was waiting for us. Jes had arranged for an 8-seater for all of us to get to our hotel and back to the airport at the end of our trip, but somehow the company messed up and it was just a regular car. After several minutes of phone conversations, the driver informed us that another driver was on his way. We waited for the second driver, and finally we were on our way to the hotel. It was dark already, but we were able to see a few sights as we drove.

We checked in and brought everything to our rooms, then met Jes and Derek at the hotel restaurant for dinner. Before the trip, we bought a travel booster seat to bring with us in case restaurants didn’t have high chairs. Well, Connor just started sitting up on his own a couple of days before we went to London and he isn’t very steady yet, so neither the travel booster nor the restaurant’s high chair worked for him. I was holding him and trying to keep him entertained with toys, but he was quickly getting fussier. I finally realized it was WAY past his bedtime (it was later than I thought, plus, London is one hour earlier than Germany), so I asked Charlie to bring my dinner to the room and I went upstairs to put Connor to bed. Poor little guy was exhausted! Charlie came up right after Connor fell asleep, I ate my dinner, and we all went to bed.

Friday
Jes and Derek’s stroller had not arrived as promised. We had breakfast at the hotel, then waited while Jes tried to track down her stroller. No one she talked to at the airport was helpful, but a hotel employee called for her and quickly straightened things out; the stroller would be delivered by that afternoon!

We went ahead and left for the day. James rode in our stroller, and Andy and Connor were in carriers. There was a newly-renovated tube stop right by our hotel. We already had pre-paid travel cards, so we hopped onto a train and found our way to the Westminster stop. Jes narrated Rick Steves’ self-guided Westminster Walk for us as we saw the sights: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (we heard Big Ben chime the hour, and learned that “Big Ben” actually refers to the huge bells, not the clock or the tower), saw the London Eye across the river, then walked to Westminster Abbey. It was crowded, of course, but we waited in line to tour the inside. Charlie used an audio guide while Jes and Derek used Rick Steves’ self-guided tour. I was holding Connor, who surely would have thought the audio guide was a toy, so Charlie relayed some of the information to me or held the earpiece up to my ear. What a beautiful church! It is amazing to see so much history in one place. We even saw Handel’s tomb!

Big Ben and ParliamentImage

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Westminster AbbeyImage

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After touring Westminster Abbey, we walked to the Churchill War Rooms. Connor decided to use this opportunity for his second nap of the day. Charlie was in hog heaven as we wandered through the war rooms and Churchill museum. It was really interesting to see how the rooms were used during World War II.

Next, we walked through Horse Guards Parade. Derek told us about a tattoo that he performed there with the Army Band, and we also learned that the area was covered in sand and used as the beach volleyball site during the 2012 Olympics. We continued our walk and saw the Prime Minister’s residence from the outside. While Connor was busy giggling, I was able to see that a new tooth had popped through! For weeks I had been expecting a front tooth at any moment, but this was the incisor next to the front teeth. He’ll have quite the hillbilly grin until his front teeth come through!

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No, that’s not me in the picture =)

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Rick Steves’ walk took us to Trafalgar Square to end our day. We saw the National Gallery and a plaque on the ground identifying the center of the entire city. We took the tube back to the hotel and…Jes and Derek’s stroller had arrived!

Trafalgar SquareImage

For dinner, we decided to walk to a pub that Rick Steves had recommended: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. After Derek wrangled his double stroller up the narrow winding staircase, we all got settled at our table and ordered well-deserved beers. Mealtime was proving to be difficult for Charlie and me since Connor had no place to sit besides our laps, and he was usually getting sleepy (aka fussy…) at that time of day. Somehow we managed to take turns eating, trying to feed him, and holding him. And what visit to a European country would be complete without a food faux pas from yours truly? I’m always up for a local specialty, so I eagerly ordered Steak and Kidney Pudding. I ate all of it and enjoyed every bite! After we finished, Charlie asked me how I liked my dinner. I told him it was great, “but the kidney beans must have been puréed into the sauce because I didn’t notice them…” and then I realized my mistake. Steak and Kidney Pudding, not Steak and Kidney Bean Pudding! I eat kidney beans so often at home that I just assume “bean” when I see “kidney.” Well, that doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed my dinner! I thought back to one bite of “steak” that had an interesting texture…too late now!

Charlie had a mushroom stroganoff and was still hungry, so we all walked down the street to McDonald’s. Yes, sad but true. Charlie got a burger and fries, and the rest of us ordered McFlurries. The pub and McDonald’s were both on Fleet Street, which I thought was pretty cool. Sweeney Todd, anyone? We never did find his barber shop…

Hopefully the next part of our trip will be posted tomorrow!