Dino Bites

Dino Bites

Thursday, December 24, 2015

HSP Updates

Kayanna is still dealing with HSP.  Now, apparently, Sarah is having a flare-up as well.  I am now tracking this on a separate page.  So if you want the latest updates on them and their condition, you can click on the page "Living with HSP" in the right sidebar.

Thanks for your concern and prayers on their behalf.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kayanna and how everything spiraled from there

This has been a tough week for our family.  About 10 days ago, Kayanna had what looked like a spider bite on her ankle.  We watched it for a few days before taking her to the doctor.  Our preferred pediatrician was out of the office, so we saw her partner.  She looked at the "bite," and then she looked at the rash going up Kayanna's leg.  It was pretty minor, and I thought it was an allergic reaction to the cream she had been putting on her eczema.

"It looks like HSP," she said.  At first I disagreed.  Sunny had HSP (Henoch-Schonlein Purpura) when she was three or four, and the spots looked different than I remembered.  The doctor ordered blood work, so I took Kayanna to the lab and then took her back to school.

On Saturday, she was blessed to go to the Saturday morning session of General Conference with her grandparents.  Upon returning, she complained of pain in her feet, and they were indeed very swollen.  Her rash was worse, too.  At this point, I agreed with the diagnosis.  As the weekend progressed, she could hardly walk on her feet, and she spent much time doubled up with stomach pain.

Tuesday Ben took her back to the doctor.  Her kidneys are now affected, and they seriously considered admitting her to the hospital.  She was allowed to come home, however, provided she can continue to eat and drink enough to stay hydrated.  She was also prescribed some pain meds.  With HSP, all they can really do is support care.  Nothing can be done to shorten the duration or reduce the severity of the symptoms.  (More about HSP here, if you're curious.)  I took her to Primary Children's  Outpatient today for more lab tests.

It's so hard to watch a child in so much pain and feel so powerless to help.

Having a very sick child makes even normal life stresses tougher, but this is where it gets even more crazy.  On Monday, I picked up the younger children from the bus.  They have complained of bullying on the bus in the past, but it escalated to new levels on Monday.  Things were bad enough that we submitted a written complaint to the principal and the transportation department.  On Tuesday, they contacted us, and changes are being implemented to improve the situation.  I'm glad they took it seriously!

On Tuesday, a small thing happened.  By itself, it's not huge, but it made me laugh because it was just one more thing--Sunny called from school to say her glasses were broken.  I told her to sit in the front and we'd fix them later.  After we found out Kayanna would not be admitted to the hospital, I did take Sunny in to get them fixed.

Today (Wednesday) I found chicken feathers outside our back door.  Apparently raccoons or something caught our chicken, Merida, last night.  Sunny was quite devastated.  I'm annoyed and frustrated (especially at the timing), but at least I can now get rid of our ramshackle chicken coop.  I'd like chickens again sometime, but only if we can have a better coop.

And remember, through all of this I still have a broken foot.  I have been relying tons on Kayanna's help around the house.  Oh, and Ben left on an overnight business trip this morning.  Molly, for whom everything is going very well, joked this morning that because things are going well for her, things no longer are going well because she is now the most able-bodied big person in the house until Ben gets home.

Through all of this, I am so grateful for my wonderful family and their support.  How blessed we are that we have not had chronic illness or disability among our children.  How blessed we are that I have very flexible work that enables me to be with Kayanna as much as she needs me.  Ben can also work from home much of the time, so if I do have an appointment, he can be here with her. (Well, unless he's out of town, of course.)

I'll try to keep things updated on Kayanna's condition.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Flanders Fields--The German Trenches

We have been back in Utah for over a month, but there are still just a few Belgian adventures to blog about.

Today our post is another visit to a historical site.  100 years ago, World War I was being fought in trenches up and down Belgium.  We had the opportunity to visit a German trench.  This trench was originally filled in, but one day, a farmer found the ruins in his field and worked to excavate and restore them.

There were poppies everywhere in June.  These were in the median as we drove to
the trenches.  The poppies are still a symbol of the sacrifices of the Great War.

Sarah and Robin in the trenches.  Notice how my head comes up over the top.
To stay out of sight, a soldier my height would have to crouch through this portion of the trench.


This is inside a bunker.  The Germans specifically designed their bunkers to be
uncomfortably short.  The soldiers only sheltered in them occasionally.  The Allied bunkers
were generally higher and could be used as offices and places of respite.  This bunker could hold
about 10 men, if I remember right.

Ben and Abraham
As you can see, this was a lovely sunny day in June.  In Belgium, it was rarely super warm.  Even on this lovely day, the ground was damp and marshy in the trenches.  The wooden planks on the bottom would have helped little to keep feet dry on a rainy winter day.  What horrific conditions the soldiers had to put up with!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

La Roche-en-Ardenne Castle

On Saturday the 23 of May, after Robin and I went to the American Cemetery for the ceremony of the previous post, we gathered the children together, ignoring their grumbling that we were taking them to some other dumb place. We took them to a ruined castle at Roche en Ardenne. This Castle had quite a few intact sections. We enjoyed the awesome falconry show that they had there. Everyone did have a lot of fun. The kids grumble that we roust them from the house, but always have fun when we do it. Why the complaining?
The girls at the entrance to the castle

The boys up on a defensive wall, ready to defend the castle.

Ben and the kids down in the lower courtyard where the craftspeople worked.

The whole family

View from the castle across the church and river. A wonderful view of the valley. We noticed that the windows on this church were all new. (Not the pictorial stained glass we see in other churches of it's age)  It is likely that this town saw heavy fighting during WWII. It was recaptured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge.

The view from across the valley up to the castle.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Memorial Day Ceremony at the Cemetery des Ardennes

I love Memorial Day!  In Utah, we have a big family picnic and party.  As a kid, I anticipated it almost as much as Christmas.  This year it was special in a very different way.

As I have mentioned before, we live rather close to an American Cemetery where lie many of the fallen from World War II.  At 1000 hours on the Saturday before Memorial Day, Ben and I went to the memorial ceremony.  The kids had gone to the ceremony for Veteran's Day, and they didn't want to go to another one.  (Also, we overslept a little and would have had a hard time getting all five kids out the door on time!)  At the cemetery, we ran into the senior missionary couple here in Li├Ęge and sat with them.

This ceremony was very well-attended!  There were lots of chairs and visiting dignitaries, including a representative of the King of the Belgians.

For me, the most moving moments were National Anthem.  School children from Rotheux, where the kids would have gone to school, sang the anthems of both Belgium and the United States.  At the end, the American band played the National Anthem again.  Hearing that music while looking over the crosses and stars of the cemetery was an experience I cannot describe and never want to forget.  Hearing Belgian children honor Americans who died for their freedom was powerful, too.  I wish the girls could have come, but I was glad that I could concentrate and appreciate the event without wrangling the boys.

Lots of Belgian flags.  In front, there are school children from Rotheux,
the larger town near us.

Beautiful wreaths, American military band, and Belgian soldiers

In the back, you can see some of the veterans who came

The band was very good.

Ben and Robin after the ceremony
In other news, we are now counting down the days until we return to Utah.  We have just over 2 weeks!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Parc du Mary

We recently discovered a beautiful park not far from our house.  It's called Parc du Mary, and we have taken several outings there.

The kids enjoyed playing in a cool hideout with all kinds of crazy twisting trees.  Catching tadpoles was also a popular activity.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Ben's Memories of the trip to England – 12 May 2015 through 14 May 2015
Preparing for the trip
We were told by Jim, my boss, to take a vacation so that we could see some of Europe before we left. Robin immediately thought that she would like to visit her mission area. It would take a lot of driving to get down there and accommodations were expensive. I wanted to go to Spain so that I could speak Spanish. Robin tried to see if a whirlwind trip of Europe including Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and Spain was feasible. It was not.

Robin decided that she really did not want to leave Europe without seeing England. She has read so many stories that are set in England that she really wanted to see the places to which they referred. We looked into flights and driving and all. I remembered Ryanair. This is a low cost airline that Andy (a British colleague) often used to get from Manchester to Charleroi. The flights mid-week are really cheap.

Robin did most of the legwork on the internet. We discussed and made decisions and she purchased the tickets. On the advice of Andy she purchased train tickets early on the internet. Through TripAdvisor she found a flat to rent for two nights in London.

For packing we decided that everyone would bring a backpack with clothing and such so that we could carry them easily in the airport and train stations. The night before we put together our own snack baggies with cookies and nuts and raisins and jelly beans and other things that I cannot remember right now.

12 May 2015
We got up at 4:00 in the morning to drive from Berleur to Charleroi. Robin had a reservation for parking with RyanAir, but we forgot to put in that address so we ended up being a little late getting there. We were supposed to drop everyone off at the airport and only the driver was to go to the parking spot, but they took us anyway.

We got to the airport just a little late. We checked in OK, but Abraham decided that he had to use the restroom while we were waiting in the security checkpoint line. Robin hustled him through leaving me to manage the rest of the children. We waited for quite a while outside the bathroom for them.

Going through passport control was interesting. I went through first to be on the other side when the kids came through, but as soon as I got through I heard the gate calling for us by name. I took Abraham and rushed to the gate to tell them we were there. We were the last people on the plane and made a very conspicuous arrival.

The fight was uneventful.

Landing in Manchester we had several issues with the boys wanting to run around while the others used the bathroom and the boys being wild and crazy while we filled out the border control cards. At border control they did ask why we came into Manchester if we were going to London. RyanAir is cheap.

Out of the terminal we had to ask someone how to get to the train station. It was quite the walk away. When we got there, we had to decide how we would get from the airport to Piccadilly station. The light rail tram was not recommended by Andy, but Robin was frustrated trying to decide. I just made the decision to use the tram. We would have to change trains once, but that was OK by me.

Something interesting that we noticed is that in Belgium and France I would often defer to Robin in actually doing the administrative work as she could speak the language, but that was not a barrier here. It was actually a little odd to take the lead again.

The tram ride was cool because we could see a lot of the city.

Getting to Manchester we realized that Robin had not printed the train tickets due to network problems at home the night before. She tried unsuccessfully to find the information that she needed on her laptop while we waited around in a very gloomy passage. She could not find it. We decided to go upstairs to the train station and see if we could get some help from customer service.

The train station was large and well lit. Robin was able to get all of the tickets from customer service for a nominal fee. We went to lunch at a Subway around the corner so the kids were happy with that. It was a little rainy and cold so the kids did not want to go out and sight see, although we did see a cool fire station right next to the train station.
Kayanna in front of the fire station in Manchester

The gentlemen at the train station were very helpful. I actually found that all of the people in England were among the most helpful and pleasant people I have dealt with on vacation.

Finding the flat
When we got to Euston station on London, Robin knew what the address of the flat was, but she was not certain the best way to get there. We went down into the subway station and inquired about Oyster Cards that Robin had found out about in her research. They are rechargeable transit cards. At the service desk we purchased 4 cards as the three younger children are free on transit with a paying adult.

Someone else there thought that we could just walk to the flat, so we went outside and began walking. It was further than he thought. We walked for about 15 minutes. We did finally find the address. It was a barber shop on the corner of Camden High Street and a smaller road. We were already late because the train was late and we had done all the stuff in the station, so we were not sure if the person was going to be there to meet us. They were not.

After trying to get information from Robin's computer and failing, with whiny children on the sidewalk of a strange city, we were flummoxed. Robin knew the name of the person she was to meet, and so I asked in the barber shop if they knew the person. They led us around the corner to a property management company and they knew who we were talking about. A person showed up and showed us a door next to the property management company and brought us up to the flat. We had a home and a slow internet connection!

British Museum
It was still early afternoon, so we wanted to go out and do something. One of the things that the kids wanted to see was the mummies and Rosetta Stone at The British Museum. My niece, Ashtyn, was in town for a few weeks abroad with her engineering group, so we contacted her via Facebook and thought to meet at the front of the museum at 5:30 when it closed. We looked at the system map for the Underground and found that we were half a block from a station.

The Underground station at Mornington Crescent was interesting for the kids. It is an old station. We got off at the Goodge Street exit and began walking along Tottenham Court Road. We pointed out that in the Seventh Book of Harry Potter, that was where the main three Apparated after the wedding.

The Museum was cool. The kids got to see the mummies and the stone. We could not find Ashtyn for some reason. We waited for a long time and then went home. We communicated via facebook again and they came to our flat. We got the kids pizza and the adults went out for burritos.

13 May 2015
Wandering around with a sort of purpose
This part is less narrative and more pictures and impressions. The weather on this day was perfect. I don't think we could have ordered better weather. Even the locals were commenting how nice it was.

We were starting to follow a Harry Potter walking tour PDF that Robin found on the internet. It was very early so very little was open. There were cool streets and shops that we could look in the windows. We were in the west end theater district, and that was cool.

We found ourselves in Trafalgar Square where there were a lot of tourists and statues. The kids climbed up the base of Nelson's Column and we had some snacks there. A nice Canadian microbiologist named Alex took our pictures there. The kids were friendly throughout the whole trip including with Alex. Abraham was very cute telling her all about our trip so far. Sarah was interested in the fact that she was a scientist.

The children on a fountain in Trafalgar Square

Snack time on Nelson's Column

BJ in Trafalgar Square

Robin and Ben on the footbridge with Big Ben
and Parliament in the background
We began walking towards the Thames river so that Robin could see the Sherlock Holmes Bar. There was a pedestrian bridge over the Thames that the kids wanted to see, but it was off the Harry Potter tour. We crossed it anyway. That is the nice thing about not using a formal tour group, you can do what you want. There was a really cool park and playground on the other side. It was a pleasure area with the London Eye and so on.
Molly and Kayanna on the footbridge with the London Eye
and other sites in the background

We were there when Molly lost her Oyster Card. That was a problem.

We had lunch there with Fish and Chips. Then we walked past Parliament and Westminster Abbey. We could tell that the boys were winding down. They had begun to melt down a bit. Looking at the map I noticed Cleopatra's Needle, and remembered that the kids wanted to see it. We had planned on going to Kings Cross for platform 9 ¾ and then taking the boys back to the flat so that Molly could use my Oyster card for the rest of the Harry Potter stuff, but we thought that we should walk up to the Needle first. On that walk the kids were very tired and we had to stop to rest several times. The Needle was cool and I am glad that we saw it, but it did take up a lot of time and energy.

We purchased a one way ticket for Molly to King's Cross on the Underground and the attendant there told us that she looks enough like an eleven-year-old that we should not bother with it and just bring her through as our minor. That was a relief.

Platform 9 ¾ was really cool. In the shop the boys were so tired that I had to leave and take them out. When Abraham realized that Molly had enough allowance saved up to purchase a wand and he didn't, he had a royal meltdown. I scooped him up and began carrying him to the subway. He cried all the way back to the flat and for a considerable time in the flat until he calmed down enough to want one of the ice cream bars we had purchased for the children.

Ben in front of the Tower of London
After such a tiring day, we went to Lidl and purchased bottled spaghetti sauce, meat, and noodles. It was a good dinner. The kids just wanted to stay in. We set up the laptop with a movie, bathed Abraham, and then Robin and I left.

The Tower Bridge at night
We first went to Baker street so that Robin could see 221B. She really enjoyed that. It was a bit of a further walk that we were anticipating, but it was a good walk. Then we took the Circle Line subway around to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. They were closed to visitors but we could see the outside. That was really cool at dusk. We got some great pictures. We walked along the river to London Bridge so that Robin could say she had stepped foot on it. It really was one of the least impressive bridges we have seen in Europe. We then caught the Underground back to the flat. It was a great day.

14 May 2015
One thing that was interesting about the vacation was that the boys were still getting up on Belgium time. They got up early and we started to clean the flat. We were trying to eat all of the food that was left in the flat for breakfast and then pack and clean before 10:00. This was a rainy day so we could not send the kids outside to wander like we had planned so that the adults could clean. We got the boys' room clear first and then set my computer in there so that they could watch movies while the Robin, Kayanna, Molly, and I did dishes and cleaned.

It is always interesting to clean a rented apartment. One is never quite sure what to do with everything.

Our last visit
Someone in the family wanted to ride on a double-decker bus, so we looked at the schedule to get us close to The British Museum. The bus was quite full. We were able to use the same oyster cards on the bus that we used on the subway.

In the British Museum we tried to check our backpacks, but they were too heavy for the bag check. Right across from the bag check was a souvenir shop, and there were little stone scarabs for 50 pence. We bought three for the youngest children.

We spent most of our time in the Greek section, starting with the oldest stuff and moving towards the newest. Of course Kayanna, Molly, and Sarah were much more interested in looking at the artifacts than BJ and Abraham. We got up through the Parthenon Galleries and the boys had had it. I took the boys and Sarah (who was also starving) to the center of the museum to eat snack while we waited for Robin, Molly, and Kayanna to finish in the Parthenon Gallery.

BJ, Robin, Abe, Kayanna, Sarah, and Molly in front of the Nereid Monument
After that we took the kids into the life and death room. There was an exhibit there that I had noticed on Tuesday that I really wanted to examine more closely. We left the kids with the tablets and Robin and I looked at the exhibit. It was a mesh of the pharmaceuticals that a typical Briton would consume in their lifetime, as exemplified by the stories of a man and a woman. It was amazing the amount of pills that we take regularly.

The last exhibit we looked at was a series of prints of Britain's relationship with Napoleon. There were both flattering and unflattering depictions of the Emperor of France. It was a fascinating look at the styles of political cartoons from the era as well. There was one of Napoleon farting several things
across the channel, and another of Britain taking half the world while Napoleon took just Europe.

Getting home
We walked to the Goodge Street Station and went back to Euston. We found an American style diner that was so full that we had to split up. Robin, Kayanna, Sarah, and BJ were at a table and Molly, Abraham, and I were at the counter. After lunch I went down and returned our remaining Oyster cards for refunds and met the family on the platform.

The train ride home was nice. I spent most of the time writing this document about the first two days, and everyone else was switching seats and playing with cards or tablets. When we got to the Piccadilly station in Manchester, we did not even think that maybe we should take the train rather than the tram. We got on the tram, but found that it was going to take quite a while to get us to the airport. Oops. First mistake.

We had planned on getting dinner in the airport, but the line was so long to check in at Ryanair (a requirement for non-EU passports) that we were rushing for the gate. At Security we were held up because we did not pack the liquids properly so we had to do several trips through the scanner. We were not the last people on the flight this time, but it was close. Robin was stressed and her allergies kicked up and she could not stop coughing. We were forced to buy an overpriced water bottle.

When we got to Charleroi, Robin needed to use the restroom before we went through passport control. She took quite a while and so we were the only ones there with four border guards watching us. The kids were getting wild and hungry.

We were through passport control and the more kid-friendly restaurants were closed. We got the shuttle to our car and looked for open restaurants. Nothing. We pointed our nose towards home, stopping at a gas station for snacks. So, no real dinner at all, but we did get home safe and sound.

Overall I was very impressed with London and Great Britain. I would love to go back. Manchester actually looks like an interesting town. I want to explore the inside of the Tower of London and see more of the city. I went to Paris, and Paris was beautiful, but I have no real desire to return. The buildings of London seemed to me to be grand and stately, but not excessively ornate. They were more intriguing. I will definitely go back.

Sarah's Memories of London

The trip there
I was really excited to go. When you are going on a trip you are so excited to go that you don't realize your are going. It only seems real when you leave. I remember getting in the shuttle from the car park to the airport. The person who was driving the shuttle drove really crazy. I was scared that we would crash into one of the many poles.

On the plane I was bored and I kept looking over Abraham's shoulder because he was sitting in the window seat. Daddy told me that I would get the window seat on the way home and I did! The airplane was small compared to the one we took to Belgium. It doesn't feel real until you are leaving.

On the train ride from Manchester to London, Daddy said it would be two hours and it felt like a hundred. But on the way back it felt like 20 minutes because I was playing Plants vs Zombies.

Stuff in London
Sarah in the British Museum
The British Museum seemed so real. It seemed like everything around me was from ancient times and it was. Other museums have cool stuff but you don't really think about how old it is. The British Museum made me think about that because it was so huge and it made me realize how big the world is. This was a teensy-weensy fragment of what was in Ancient Times.

I saw lots of mummies which I like, but I was disappointed that it didn't have any mummies of animals. We were looking all around for the Rosetta Stone. It didn't seem real until you are leaving it. So when we left the Rosetta Stone Room, I finally felt like, “Wow! I got to see the Rosetta Stone!” when I had been seeing it for ten minutes.

I saw the London Eye and I thought, looking up at the glass compartments that were going around it, “A little kid could run 5 feet in there and have a lot of fun.” Later we went to a playground and I saw two girls doing gymnastics. I was really sad that we didn't get to go inside Big Ben.

Daddy bought a map of London and I had to hold it three times. (London A-Z) We got to go see Westminster Abbey and again we didn't get to go inside.

Cleopatra's needle was very cool and we played around statues of Egyptian sphinxes. The Harry Potter tour wasn't much fun because I was anticipating sweets from the sweet shop but it wasn't open.

Kayanna's Memories of London
The subway to the British Museum was sort of crowded. I had never ridden a subway before and I thought that it was a cool experience. The museum itself was gigantic. On our first day, we visited the Egyptian rooms. It was a lot of fun, because I was able to see examples of items I had read about such as shabti and different amulets. The mummies and sarcophagai were fascinating. I particularly enjoyed comparing a Roman mummy to an Ancient Egyptian mummy. Those were upstairs. Downstairs rooms contained statues and larger items that wouldn't fit upstairs. We also saw the Rosetta Stone which I was anxious to see.

The Harry Potter Do-It-Yourself Tour was awesome! We saw places that might have inspired assorted places in the books or where something was filmed. We went to Trafalgar Square where “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two” premiered. The little guide we printed out said that the red carpet there is the longest in history. Wow! We also saw The Eye. It is a huge ferris wheel that you can use to see almost all of London. We had fish 'n' chips for lunch. I didn't really like it. We also walked really close to Big Ben. It was huge. We then traveled a little ways down and found ourselves at Westminster Abbey. I noticed that it was built during the Gothic Architectural time period. However, most cathedrals and such are built that way in Europe, so I didn't mention it. At the front were ten statues. Each was of a Twentieth century martyr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was number five.

Kayanna with one of the Sphinxes at
Cleopatra's Needle
It was on to Cleopatra's Needle. It was right on the Thames and its pedestal was scarred from a bomb dropped there in the first World War. Both sphinxes on either side were also scarred. I stood really close to the river and noted the positions of hieroglyphs in a cartouche. The hieroglyphs were also inscribed on the sphinxes and on each side of the English-made metal attached to the obelisk.

Then we made one last stop: King's Cross Station. There they had a really cool trolley, complete with school trunk and owl in a cage, stuck halfway in the wall so that you could take a picture that looked like you were on your way to Hogwarts. They also had scarves for every House that you could borrow. Then it was off to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, the gift shop. They had everything! Wands for your favorite characters, candy, posters, scarves, replicas of items used in the movies, games, sweaters, ties, and jewelry. I wanted Hermione's wand, but I didn't have enough money, so I got pendants for my necklace. IT WAS AWESOME!

BJ's memories of London
Ben, Ben, and Ben

I thought that the cool things were the double-decker bus and the Rosetta Stone. I loved looking at the Greek and Roman stuff. I loved looking at the Egyptian stuff in the British Museum because I love Egypt. I loved out little flat because Abraham and I got to share a bed.

The Rosetta Stone!!!

Abraham's memories of London

Abe in Trafalgar Square
I thought that the plane ride was quite fun. I liked sitting by the window. It was so awesome. The sight outside was just white. Some of it was dark clouds that mean storm clouds. I couldn't see the water droplets in the clouds though.

I liked Cleopatra's Needle because it had a lot of Hieroglyphics.

Molly's memories of London
A couple of days before we left, we did a practice pack, so all of us knew exactly what we needed for the trip. I just left all my things in my travel bag because I figured, Why bother if I'm just going to pack it again? When I got my new backpack all I had to do was move everything from my travel bag into the backpack.

The ride on the plane seemed so short on the way there. There was windchill in Manchester, and it was really cold, although it wouldn't have been if not for the wind. Sometimes I really hate windchill. While we waited for the train, The boys watched

Dad play SuperTuxCart while Sarah and I went over to watch a painter at work. He was painting really good pictures of the station. I think his name was Rob... something. He has a website apparently.

Molly and Sarah asleep on
the train
I sat next to Sarah on the train. We finished our gummy colas together, and then I fell asleep. I woke up a bit later, and Sarah had been sleeping on top of me. She woke when I did, and watched BJ play Plants vs. Zombies while I stared out the window.

After we left the train, all five of the kids (including me) were eager to get to the flat that Mom had rented for us. We had a little trouble finding it, so finally Dad found the courage to ask somebody. They helped us and we had soon dropped off our heavy bags in our flat and assigned everyone a room. I thought that Mom and Dad would get the room that the boys ended up with, but obviously they thought otherwise. I didn't really care because I was going to get the same room anyways. All the girls wanted the top bunk, but I was willing not to have it. I suggested that Sarah have it one night, and Kayanna the other. They agreed grumpily, but when Sarah realized that the bottom mattress was “squishier” she let Kayanna have the top both nights.

We left the flat a little while later and went to the British museum. Mostly to see the Rosetta Stone. We went to the Egyptian section, and there were cool (creepy) mummies, but no stone. We found it downstairs with the other statues, not mummies. I felt kind of stupid, but only a tiny bit. Super tiny.

We were supposed to meet my cousin Ashtyn at the entrance to the museum, but there were some complications. First, we were twenty minutes late. Second, there was more than one entrance to the museum. Third, we didn't have her contact information (Mom had set up the meeting on Facebook). Fourth, Mom hadn't brought her American cell phone. Eventually we just decided to go back to our apartment and see if we could get a hold of Ashtyn from there. While we waited, we watched Minecraft videos on YouTube.

Ashtyn met us at our flat with some other guy. Mom and Dad ordered the kids pizza while they went out to dinner with our guests. That was fine with us. We watched a bit more Minecraft. The boys had some grapes.

I stayed up with Kayanna and our parents that night and watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, episode 1. I really didn't feel like sleeping in a bed with Sarah that night, but I did anyway.

The next day was crazy! We had a breakfast of Hot Cross Buns, Cereal, Muffins, Crumpets, and Fruit. We left our flat at about 10:00, and began the Harry Potter Do-it-yourself tour. If we saw something cool, we would stray a bit off the course, but that was the nice thing about it all being Do-it-yourself.

The girls on a Victorian alleyway. They still light
the gas lamps at night.
We saw a cool little place like Diagon Alley, The Eye, Cleopatra's Needle, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, and Westminster Abbey. We ate lunch at a fish and chips place, although I got a burger. I was sort of sad during lunch because I had lost my subway pass not long before.

Finally, to everyone's excitement, it was time to go to Kings Cross Station. It was a beautiful building, but most of our eyes were peeled for the little trolley halfway in a wall that we had been told was in there. Then Someone said “I see it!” Then I saw it too. A sign that said, Platform 9 ¾ was above the half-trolley. There was a short-ish line. We waited. We watched as some of the others got their pictures taken pretending to push the trolley through the wall. They were given a scarf of their choice, there were only two Gryffindor scarves, one Hufflepuff, one Ravenclaw, and one Slytherin.

While we waited in line, we decided two things. 1. That we would take a group photo with only the kids, 2. What scarves each of us would be wearing. Kayanna: Ravenclaw, Me: Gryffindor, Sarah: Hufflepuff, BJ: Slytherin, Abraham: Gryffindor. I wanted a Ravenclaw, but I let Kayanna have it.

After we got our picture taken, we were directed to the Harry Potter Shop just a few meters from there. It was amazing! They had lots of character wands, Hogwarts robes, and really nice people running the place. This one lady kept performing spells on another guy, and he would act as if they were real. The same lady pretended to turn the lights on and off with magic. I purchased a Luna Lovegood wand because she is my favorite character. That is half the reason I wanted a Ravenclaw scarf for the picture. Some of my siblings were upset because they didn't have enough money to buy anything.

I played with my wand when we got back to the flat. BJ dueled me with Mom's pen/wand. Mom and Dad made spaghetti for dinner. It was good, but I wasn't very hungry and couldn't get much down.

After everyone else was asleep, Kayanna played I Spy Treasure Hunt while I played 2048. It was easier to get to sleep that night. I was super tired.

The next morning I had cereal and the last Hot Cross Bun for breakfast. The younger three had ice cream bars. I decided to save my ice cream bar for morning snack. So did Kayanna. Then Kayanna, my parents and I cleaned up the flat while my younger siblings watched more minecraft.

We had taken the subway to get around so far, and a lot of us really wanted to go on a double-decker bus before we left London, so it was now or never. We missed the first one, so we had to wait about three minutes in the rain for the next one. It was worth it though. Although we all agreed afterward that if we lived there, the subway was better.

Our train was waiting in the station when we got there and our car was at the other end of the train so we had to run there. I sat by Kayanna on the train this time, and we played Go Fish with Mom who was just across the aisle. I did put my head on my lap, close my eyes and rest, but I don't think I ever actually went to sleep. For some reason it felt like this train ride was shorter.

Kayanna and I were ten whole rows behind the rest of our family on the plane, but at least we were together. We were sitting next to a nice red head who was easy to talk to, but I guess that when you're a Kendrick anyone is easy to talk to except each other. We had the most amazing view taking off. It was raining down below, but when we broke through the clouds the sun shone. The clouds looked like cotton candy, or, as Sarah later said, cotton balls. Then it got all misty and it became hard to see anything out the window.

It was thankfully not raining when we landed, but it had been, I could tell from all the puddles. The hours drive back home was slow, but I don't remember much of it. I think we were listening to a book on Audible. When we arrived home I dropped my stuff by the front door and plopped on my bed. I fell asleep in my clothes that night.

Robin's Thoughts
Robin with a bust of Agatha Christie,
another favorite mystery writer
I think that everyone else covered just about everything! Overall, I thought the trip was a lot of fun and a great success. I'm so glad we went, but I agree with Sarah that it would have been nice to go into more buildings and take the tours. I guess we'll just have to go back someday. I also wish we could have spent more time in Manchester, but I wouldn't change the way we did spend what little time we had there. That middle day was just about as perfect as such a day can be.

I should probably mention that the guy who came with Ashtyn was her husband, Will. Apparently we didn't do introductions or the kids were being so noisy that they didn't hear. They were all so excited to be around English-speaking people again that they talked to just about everyone they could. Also, as Ben and I really thought about why we didn't connect, we realized that we probably were looking at a device with Belgian time. So instead of getting there 20 minutes late, we were actually 40 minutes early. Oops. Automatic updating can be great, but it's not so great if you think something updated and it didn't.

I liked trying crumpets and fish and chips.  I'd buy the crumpets again, but I'm not so sure about the fish and chips.  I'm not a huge fish fan, and English chips have nothing on Belgian frites.  And no, ice cream bars are not standard breakfast food, but we were trying to clean out the kitchen before our 10:00 check-out time.

The highlight of the trip for me was probably the stop at 221B Baker Street, the address of Sherlock Holmes. I also just loved seeing and walking on many of the streets that I have heard or read so much about, such as Trafalgar Square, Baker Street, Charing Cross, and others.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Citadel of Huy

A week or so ago we went to the Citadel of Huy.  This site has had many buildings on it, but the current structure dates to the early 1800s.  During World War II, the Germans housed about 7,000 prisoners in it.

Molly hiking up to the citadel

Ben, Sarah, and Kayanna in front of the citadel

This room also had a list of the rules posted..  It was some sort of office.

At the end of the tour, we took stairs up to the top of the wall.  This is Ben, BJ, Kayanna,
Molly, and Sarah in the courtyard below.

A beautiful view of the river

We could see our car parked down there on the road.