Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday, Little Arrow!

I like to write birthday posts for each of the boys (which eases my guilt over their COMPLETELY EMPTY baby books). If you want to catch up, you can read Big Arrow's 4th birthday post here, and Little Arrow's first birthday post here. This week, we celebrate the second year of Little Arrow's life!

In so many ways, his first year was just a blur and life mostly continued to revolve around the schedule and activities of his big brother. (Although my sleep deprivation that year was 100% his fault.) So I suppose this year was Little Arrow's coming out party. As I planned trips and thought through the day ahead each morning, my attention turned much more to his needs this year. I suppose that this is a sign of what a relatively easy baby he was, and what an energetic toddler he became in year 2.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Passports with Purpose: Win a $100 UncommonGoods gift certificate!

The online travel blogging fundraiser, Passports with Purpose, is back again, this time working with buildOn to raise money to build schools and adult literary centers in Mali. Passports with Purpose groups together many travel bloggers from around the world who collect prizes from various sponsors to give away in return for donations to a particular cause (in 2013, we're supporting the charity buildOn). You can read more about Passports with Purpose here.

I participated in the fundraiser last year, but my heart feels even fuller for its cause this year. A big development happened in the Arrows Sent Forth family back in September, which I haven't shared much about on the blog. But Big Arrow started school (kids in England start full-time at 4, as opposed to 5 or 6 in the U.S.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tips for Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon with Kids

When my mother-in-law came to visit this week, I had planned a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. Our conversation in the car on the way there consisted of the three adults naming every Shakespeare work we've read. It had been at least 15 years since any of us had read anything, and almost everything we had was forced upon us by a well-meaning high school or college English teacher. We could count the total number on our hands. The conversation was interrupted with questions like, "Where are we going again? Is there a playground? What's a play?," from 4-year-old Big Arrow. Oh dear.

So I was beginning to worry that perhaps we weren't the right group of people to be spending a day in Stratford-upon-Avon. But just like the twists and turns in a Shakespeare play, we had a wonderful day there.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

0 Days in Paris, 2 Days in London

You've already heard the tale of our weekend getaway gone wrong in the Peak District. Since we're on a roll with the travel failures, let's move on to our canceled trip to Paris. Could there be anything sadder than that?

The thought of a long weekend in October in my favorite city in the world had been the proverbial carrot on the stick, enticing me to plow through the lonely summer months here and the stress of sending Big Arrow off to school in September. The icing on the cake was that my brother and sister-in-law were visiting us and had never been. I was so excited to experience the city again, and for the first time as a mom, and also with two of my favorite travel companions (they've joined us on trips to Arizona, Chicago, Michigan, and hosted us in Minneapolis).

We had even arranged a babysitter so that the four adults could paint the town red and live it up. I couldn't wait to see the City of Lights at night again.

Alas, as their visit approached, both Arrows became quite ill with a stomach bug. My parents were visiting at the time, and I was glad we hadn't made any travel plans for their visit. In fact, my mom and dad saw a lot more of my living room than they did of England. As they headed back to the U.S., the bug seemed to be lingering well beyond the normal 48-72 hour mark.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Review: The Family Traveler's Handbook

I can't recall the first time I stumbled upon The Mother of All Trips. I do know that Big Arrow (now 4) was just a baby, I was finally starting to feel my feet under me again after becoming a mom, and I was beginning to fantasize about actually traveling with him (beyond the grocery story, mommy and me class, and the library). It was one of the first family travel blogs I ever read, and to this day, it remains my favorite. Mara Gorman's writing challenged me intellectually, her stories made me laugh, and her tips gave me the confidence to feel like I, too, could follow in her family's footsteps and create our own travel memories.

I'm excited to share that Mara has written a book, called The Family Traveler's Handbook. I'm listing a few reasons I love it so much below, but in short, it is now going to become my go-to baby shower gift. And if you're a parent, at any level of travel savvy, you need it too. (You can buy it on Amazon here.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Weekend in the Peak District that Never Was

It is far easier for me to write about amazing "days out" (as they say here), or the really fun trips we take. It's always more enjoyable to rehash memories that are full of smiling faces and fewer tears.

But late September into mid October found my family in a bit of a travel funk. A big part of me wants to forget it and move on, to not even tell those stories here. But in part, this blog serves as a family scrapbook. When we reflect back on this experience living abroad, I want us to remember that we lived the high moments to their fullest, and survived the low points that made us stronger as a family. And so I proceed with the first of our "misadventures." Our weekend getaway to the Peak District.

In hindsight, I should have known from the beginning that this trip was doomed. I had originally purchased a Groupon for a hotel stay plus admission tickets to several attractions in the area. But the booking via Groupon went haywire and took me hours on the phone haggling with customer service reps to resolve. I also realized after the fact that all the attraction admission tickets included that made this such a great deal were places that already offered free admission. Grrr. Annoying, but we moved on.

Upon our arrival after dinner on a Friday evening, all was going well. The room set-up was ideal, as far as hotel stays go. One double bed and two twin bed cots. Particularly hard to find in Europe. The boys took a bubble bath in the giant bathtub and did flips and twists on the hotel room bed. Naturally it took them awhile to settle into slumber, but by 9 p.m. they had succumbed to their fatigue.