Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Picture Tuesday, 22 weeks old

It's fascinating to watch the differences between my kids even at this young age.  While Tate and Finn are vastly different, they were both very interested in moving their bodies and took such pride in being able to move in whatever way they had recently figured out to move as much as they possibly could.  Taryn and Kenna are also very different from each other but in general they're much more content to just be.  They know how to roll from their tummies and their backs but just because they know how doesn't necessarily mean that they need to be doing it all the time.  They're content to look around, talk to each other, grab at the occasional toy and just be pleasant, happy little babies.  Taryn is getting more wiggly than Kenna.  She likes to roll around a bit more and bounce in her little bouncy chair while Kenna would be content to just watch her and smile.  They are delightful.  This week they've both started to show their enthusiasm when we get close or when they see new toys in front of their faces.  They flap their arms and kick their legs and their eyes get big and focused.  It's so stinking cute.  They love music and smile the sweetest smiles when anyone sings to them.  Unless their mad, then singing makes them madder.  They both have the easiest smiles for anyone who makes eye contact with them and their little giggles get more frequent every day.

This week they've been waking up and fussing a bit less at night.  Usually one or both of them will fuss a bit around 4 or 5 but only for a few minutes.  Usually it wakes me up and I have a hard time going back to sleep, but they can sleep in until at least 6 or if we're really lucky 7 now that school is out.  This is our first week of summer and it's been SO nice not to have a race in the morning to get everyone up and ready quickly.

Taryn and Kenna turned 5 months old this week.  5 months.  I cannot believe how fast it's gone.  I can't believe that they've been in our family for 5 months.  We just adore them.

Taryn and Kenna, 22 weeks old.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Last Day

 Today is the last day of my Tate's Kindergarten year.  It's been an exceptionally long year for the little guy.  He started school on August 1st in Denver at Pine Ridge Elementary, just around the corner from our home.  

 He had two full days of school and then a half day on Friday mornings too.
He seemed so little to be going to school all day long.  To be eating lunch at school without me for the first time ever.  His teacher, Ms. Watkins was amazing with him.  He was a little emotional at times with the impending move and dealing with me being so so sick and she was always ready with a hug and encouragement.  She even let him prepare a little presentation about Saudi that he showed the class on his last week.  He spent just 9 weeks at Pine Ridge and then his class went off track and we moved to Saudi Arabia.  
A couple of weeks later he started school at Dhahran Hills Elementary.  Without a doubt the hardest part of this move for me has been living out on Rakah camp and sending my little Tate to school on a bus every day.  Not being able to get over there and help out in his classroom like I'd like to or to pick him up for lunch.  Knowing that I wouldn't be able to get in my car and pick him up if something went wrong or if he was just having a bad day.  But our location hasn't bothered Tate a bit.  He has absolutely shined this year.  He has come home almost every day and told us how much fun he had and how much he learned.  He's reading incredibly well and enjoys it so much.  Often we'll come into a room and hear him reading softly to himself, completely absorbed in a new book from the school library or just one he picked off our shelf.  It's been magical this year to see how excited he is about reading.  Ms. Karr couldn't have been more perfect for him.  We love her and are going to miss her so much next year.  She loves Tate and knows just how to appreciate his strengths and encourage him to improve where he was weak.  She taught them not only about counting and reading skills but also about problem solving strategies and filling other people's buckets.  Being kind and working together.  
Tate was so excited all week that this was his last week of school.  He's been in Kindergarten for an exhausting 11 months.  A LONG 11 months of hot sweaty recesses and shoes filled with sand.  Of lunches eaten in the gym and naps on the bus ride home.  He has so earned a nice summer break.  But this morning he woke up and was a little quiet.  A little reserved.  I asked him how he was feeling and he told me he was a little sad that Kindergarten was over.  We talked about times when we feel sad that things are over and how important it is to look back and remember all of the great things that happened that year.  We talked about moving, new friends, new teachers, new sisters.  Learning to read and play the piano.  Traveling to new places and being together as a family.  Days at the pool, bowling and tennis and parks.  His face started to light up as if someone switched a light switch.  We've got this Tate.  We have had an incredible year and I am ridiculously proud of my Tate.  He has weathered this year with a maturity and perseverance beyond his years.   He has come up against clingy classmates, mean kids on the bus, challenging curriculum, and very little play time after school and he has let it all roll off like a champ.  Watching him master this experience has given me strength when I feel myself crumbling.  I'm just so proud to be his mom today.  
Taking last day pictures this morning I felt so grateful to be the momma of these darling, amazing kiddos.  Double the kiddos we began the school year with.  
Happy last day, Tate.  Let's play hard this summer!  We've earned it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Picture Tuesday, 21 Weeks Old

Sleeping has been the big focus of the week.  Some nights are awesome and some are less awesome but we've stopped feeding them at night this week.  We spent a couple of nights in Bahrain over the weekend and the girls cried a couple of times during the night but for less than 20 minutes or so each time.  Once I got up and snuggled Taryn and then Kenna back to sleep but then they, and the boys, slept in until 7:30!  It was amazing!  Last night, was not so great.  They took turns crying on and off for a couple of hours and eventually I went in and helped them get back to sleep but then they slept until 6:30.  It's such a confidence booster that they CAN consistently not be fed all night long.  They're not starving.  They're just in the habit of waking up.  We are on our way to undisturbed night time sleep just in time to head back to the US and deal with some amazing infant jet lag.  Wahoo.

The girls are doing better with their rice cereal this week.  They still sometimes take a few recycle spoon scrapes over the chin to get a whole spoonful swallowed but they're figuring it out and they really seem to like it.  This week they've both rolled over from their backs to their tummies.  When the boys discovered this trick there was no more staying in one spot from that day forward.  We'd come back into the room and they would have rolled themselves to the opposite side of the room.  The girls usually shuffle around a bit when they're on the ground but they don't seem to need as much action as the boys.  They are very excited about their new little bit of mobility though.  They're just such sweet, good babies!

Taryn and Kenna, 21 weeks old.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

10 Years Later

Ten years ago today I woke up Kimberly Hansen and went to sleep Kimberly Makechnie.  Best day ever.
All of these wonderful people were there to support us and help us celebrate.
 We were so in love it was ridiculous.  


 We were sealed to each other for ever and ever.  And then we threw a great party.  With a TON of help from the people we love the most.



It was beautiful, romantic, and so so fun.  



 What a great way to celebrate the day that Glenn and I became "us".  The day when we promised that no matter what, we'd always be there for each other.  That we'd never have to go through the challenges of this life alone again.  I am the luckiest girl in the world to have Glenn as my partner forever.  He makes me better.  He makes me stronger.  He makes me so happy.
We look like babies in this picture. Very happy, very smitten babies.  Ten years and four of our own babies later, I am even more smitten with my sweetheart than I was ten years ago.  Sometimes I wish I could live that day over and over again.  It was so perfect.
Never would I have guessed that ten years later we'd be living this crazy expat life together.  It is difficult and exhilarating and so strange.  But Glenn and I can do anything together.  We are a great team and we have a great little team in training.  I couldn't be happier with the life that we've built together that started on that beautiful June 21st 2005.  I love you, honey.  Happy 10 years!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Picture Tuesday, 20 weeks old

Kenna and Taryn got their first taste of rice cereal this week.  They both seemed to really enjoy it.  It was funny to watch their little facial expressions while they were navigating this very new experience and try to read what they were thinking.




We got some cute messy smiles throughout the process and it was sweet to see how happy they were with a little change.

They are still very much trying to figure out how to keep their tongues from kicking it all back out, but they're figuring it out little by little.  It's definitely been another eye-opening experience trying to feed cereal to two babies at once.  I'm sure every new process along the way as my little girls grow up will take a bit longer to figure out than it did with one baby.  We're doing pretty well with the double bottle feeding right now.  As long as I have a couple of pillows to prop them up on my lap on the couch it works out pretty well.  But those days are numbered too.  There aren't many more weeks when they'll both fit on my lap and then we'll have to figure out a new system.

This week they've started to have a little more control over their hands.  Last week Glenn and I would put a rattle in front of their faces and watch their look of intense concentration as they tried so hard to figure out how to get their arms to move the way they needed to so they could reach out and hold it.  It was pretty funny.  This week they're able to move their shaky, chubby little hands and awkwardly grab toys and bring them to their mouths.  It doesn't last very long before they lose their grip but they seem to be pretty pleased with themselves having figured out a new skill.

Kenna and Taryn, 20 weeks old.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Picture Tuesday, 19 weeks old

Kenna and Taryn have been so sweet this week.  Lots of smiles and a few sweet giggles too.  Nap times have worked out nicely, for the most part and I've been able to have some time in the afternoon to do some laundry or sewing or cleaning.  A few times this week the girls have woken up at their usual 3 or 4am and we've been able to flip them onto their tummies and get them to go back to sleep until a more reasonable hour which has felt like a huge breakthrough.  Of course, that wasn't the case last night, but it has happened a few times this week and we call that progress around here.

The girls are getting much better this week at reaching out and grabbing things with their hands.  It seems like such a big step.  Transitioning from being little teensies who can't really express what they want and can't move around much to get where they want, to babes who are rolling from their tummies to their backs and swinging their legs around to roll onto their sides so they can face each other and reach for each other.  We've had several sweet moments this week where we put them on their little play mat or on our bed and leave the room for a minute and when we come back in they've rolled onto their sides and are chatting to each other and grabbing at each other's hands. It's so sweet to see how they adore each other.  They've started scootching around a little in their crib and often end up all the way across the crib from where they began.  Our days of sharing a crib might be numbered.  Also this week some of their 3-6 month clothes are starting to get a bit snug.  What?!  Too much, too soon!  It's funny how that happens.  I see my babies every day and it's easy to miss the little changes.  Then once in a while I look at them and see how much they've grown and all the new things they're doing and it seems like a huge leap in growth and development happened over night!  

Here are our little ladies.  Taryn and Kenna at 19 weeks old.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

London!

We made a "London Chain" to count down the days until our trip.  We spent hours watching youtube videos and documentaries on the tower of london and all the museums and parks we planned to visit.  We bought our tickets and planned our itinerary and we were SO excited to get this adventure underway!  On Wednesday night, the 22nd of April, we fed the boys dinner, got them dressed, piled our luggage by the door, and watched "Paddington" until our taxi came to pick us up at 9pm.  Already 2 hours past the boys' bed time we began our journey to London.  Our taxi took us to the airport in Manama, Bahrain where we waited for our flight which left at 1am.  
Finny crashed in the airport and both boys slept pretty well on our 7 hour flight.  
The babies did pretty well too.  Glenn, being the genius planner that he is, got our seats in the bulkhead which meant that we had more space AND, a perk which we had never needed before, a shelf of sorts where they could strap down little baby bassinets.  TWO of them!  I sat in the front with the boys and Glenn sat behind me.  We'd hold the Kenna and Taryn and then put them down in their bassinets when they were ready to sleep.  I was nervous about traveling with four kids and just two of us but it actually wasn't too bad.  Having those bassinets and therefore, a way to put the girls down when we needed to use both of our hands was a lifesaver.   
We got through the airport in London really quickly and had our taxi waiting for us on the other side.  The drive to our hotel in Greenwich was about 2 hours and took us right through the center of London.  We drove right in front of the Museum of Natural History, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, the London Eye.  Almost everything we intended to hit on our visit.  The boys were thrilled and ooed and ahhed over everything we passed.  They were especially hilarious pointing out every double decker bus and red phone booth they saw.  It sounded like this, "Double Decker Bus!  Double Decker Bus!  Phone Booth!  Double Decker Bus!  Double Decker Bus!  Double Decker Bus! Phone Booth!"  All the way to our hotel.  It didn't get any less exciting during the two hour trip to the hotel.  They were just as thrilled every time they saw a British Double Decker Bus!  Darling.  We all marveled over how beautiful all the buildings are and how green all the trees and parks are.  In that first taxi ride Finn turned to me and said, "I don't want to go back to Saudi Arabia.  I want to stay here."  A sentiment that was echoed by all of us several times over the week.
We arrived at our hotel, got all checked in and then walked down the street a bit to a little city center.  We found a Sainsbury.  Got some snacks and some cash and then continued down the street where we found a market with tons of yummy food booths.  Before we got our food we tried to find a baby clothes store to find the girls some hats.  It was pretty cold for their little heads sticking out of their front packs.  No luck.  By the time we got back to the market Finny had fallen asleep while eating his little Sainsbury pizza roll.  Some policemen were walking by us and pointed at him and laughed saying, "He ate himself to sleep."  Poor sweet exhausted boy.
We got some delicious food from the market and then went back to the train station which was luckily located directly next to our hotel.  We bought some oyster cards and got directions to the zoo and off we went.  It was a LOT for that first day.  Glenn and I were especially beat and I don't think any of us knew just how much walking we'd do trying to get to the zoo.  I'm still glad we went.  It was a VERY long trip.  Probably an hour or a little more to get to the zoo.  On the way we found a Gap store and found some little hats for the girls.  The only ones they had were white and they were pretty filthy by the end of the week.  But at least their heads were covered!  
Both boys were exhausted by the time we got there but once they started seeing animals they perked up.  It had been so long since they've been to a zoo.  In Houston and Denver we went all the time and it made my heart smile to see them so excited and enjoying such incredible animals together.  Here they are checking out the penguin tank.  We actually found a youtube channel that plays live video from different enclosures at the London zoo every month.  This month it was the penguins so the boys were excited to see the penguins that they had seen across the world on our TV screen.



We wandered around the zoo for a bit.  Stopping here and there to let the boys climb on things and run around.  We met a giant tortoise.

Tate begged to go to the reptile house so our last stop was to see the reptile house.  I'm SO glad we went in there!  We've been reading Harry Potter to Tate for the past few months and we just finished the first book and let him watch the first movie.  As we were walking around the reptile house we realized that it looked familiar.  That this is where Harry Potter was when he made the glass disappear and released the snake! We even found the very window where they filmed that scene in the movie!  Tate HAD to have a picture right in front of that enclosure and he insisted on wearing his "scared" face!  Very cool.  Tate said it was the highlight of the day.
Finn's favorite part of the reptile house was this little corner where they projected different reptiles crawling or slithering across the floor.  He was fascinated.
We stopped at the cafe and got some drinks and snacks and then hit up the carousel on our way out.  We were really having a hard time with Taryn and Kenna.  They were exhausted but every time they fell asleep something would wake them up.  Some loud noise, or me, sniffling loudly.  I had a pretty awesome head cold during the whole trip and they would startle awake when I sniffed.  Neither girl would drink bottles all day.  I don't know if it was just too much with the sun and the wind and all the noise or what but they just cried so much and wouldn't eat.  They'd scream until they finally conked out and then we tried to feed them again when they woke up and they'd just cry again.  It was really stressful and sad.  Especially that first day.
After our long trek back to our hotel we were all beat.  We ordered room service, which quickly became our evening tradition.  The boys shared a pizza kids meal, Glenn had a club sandwich with bacon! It was very exciting to have food delivered to our room!  Then we let the boys watch a movie on our little DVD player.  I'm so so glad we brought that.  It was perfect to have a way for the boys to unwind and stay still at the end of the night.  Our room was pretty cramped with all of our bodies, a pack and play, strollers, suitcases and such so having two boys bouncing all over the place was just not an option.
The next morning we hit up the breakfast buffet at our hotel and then went out to the marathon expo.
It was a very cool expo.  Obviously tons of cool gear to buy and booths advertising other foreign marathons had Glenn drooling.  But they also had booths where we could color signs to cheer with, take pictures that would supposedly flash on a screen in the tunnel at mile 23 when Glenn ran past, make a slow motion video.  It was really fun.
Poor Kenna was losing her mind and the only way she would calm down was when Glenn held her like this.   
The girls were really struggling those first few days.  They eventually figured out how to eat while we were out but it took a few days of lots and lots of crying and not much sleep.  It was hard.  They especially hated the subway.  I didn't figure out until the last day or two that it could have been the pressure changes through all the tunnels were hurting their little ears.  Poor girls.  We tried everything but those first few days especially, they often just screamed the whole time we were on the subway and many other times as well.  It was hard and exhausting to see them so unhappy.  But they were still so stinkin' cute in their little front packs.
We only had two little jackets, one each.  And it was chilly enough that they wore them every day.  They did not smell amazing by the end of the trip.

After we finished up at the expo we took the train back to our hotel where we met our Auntie Mallo and Aubry!  I can't even put into words how wonderful it was to have them on this trip.  To be around two people who know me and love me and to explore a beautiful place with them and watch them care for my little ones was like a breath of fresh air for my soul after feeling so beat down in the Kingdom for months.  I'm so so grateful that they were willing and able to come.  They made the trip so much more fun and so much easier.  Turns out it's really difficult to travel with four kids including infant twins.
After they got settled we went down to the little market and got some lunch and then hopped on a train to Trafalgar square.  Greenwich is about a 45 minute commute from most of our downtown activities so every day we got on a train and then switched to the tube.  The boys were really good sports and very patient with all the walking and shuffling around the tube.  We carried our babies in front packs.  Then I had my big diaper bag on my back.  We had Finn in an umbrella stroller filled with water bottles, snacks, and we had our camera bag on the handles.  When it got warm it also carried our jackets and sometimes purses.  It was a lot of gear to haul around the city but we made it happen.
Auntie Mallo brought Tate a joke book for kids.  He spent the entire trip reading jokes from it and telling them to us.  It was awesome.  He would pack it in our stroller every day so he could read them while we were commuting.
When we got to Trafalgar Square Tate was so disappointed that they were setting up for some festival the following day and had fenced off all the lions.  He was so excited to climb on the lions.  We promised him that we would come back a few days later when the lions weren't fenced off and he was okay again.  We found the bus tour office and picked up our tickets then hopped on a double decker bus and drove around the city for a bit. It was so fun and the guide gave us tons of cool bits of information.  We decided to get off at Buckingham Palace.  Tate was dying to tell a guard some jokes and try to make him laugh.
As we got close to the palace Finn turned to me and said, "Mom, does the queen have a potty?"  Yes, Finn.  She probably does.  Do you need to go to the potty?  "Uh huh." Okay.  So after we got off the bus at the palace we walked down the street to find a potty.  The lady in the cafe blocked our way and said she would wait to let us use the potty until money had actually been exchanged even though we had already placed our order.  Poor little Finny made it though!
The queen was not at the palace that day and the grounds were closed.  We sat down on the steps by the fountain and the boys chased pigeons while we tried to feed the girls.  They just screamed and didn't eat much again.  It was sad and hard.  But Tate and Finn had the most amazing time just chasing pigeons.  Tate ran past once and said, "I'm finally having fun!"  They'd taunt them with the funniest language, use karate moves, and just ran until their little legs were worn out.  Tate said, "I scared them right out of their wits mom!"  It was such a cool and surreal moment.  Sitting with my twinners and my husband and two of my sisters in front of Buckingham Palace watching my little boys have the time of their lives chasing pigeons.

We did go up to the fence on our way out and Tate yelled jokes at the guard.  He thinks he saw him crack a smile.  And we all left feeling entirely satisfied.
We walked across a park to find the tube station and went home.  We ordered room service again and hit the hay.  
The next morning we had planned to go to Westminster Abbey.  When we got there, it was closed for a special service.  It wouldn't be opened again until Monday.  So we put that on hold and decided to just take some pictures and come back on Monday if we still needed to see it.  It was a beautiful, gloomy day.  There was a parade passing Parliament so a lot of streets were closed and we took a beautiful walk around a few blocks of the city trying to find our way around the parade route to get across the river to the London Eye.  

Tate's pose of the trip was this karate pose.  I kind of love it.

I wish we had time to take long, informational tours of every where we went!  I am a history nerd and love gathering facts about these beautiful places I get to see.  But that is for another trip.  It's enough for the littles just to look at it for a few seconds.  Hopefully those few seconds are enough to make an impression on them.  I kept looking around me all week long and thinking how incredibly lucky we are.  Especially my little kids, that we get to take them to these beautiful places so full of history.  Places most adults never get to see.  The luckiest.


We headed over to the London Eye.  I'd never ridden on it before but it was a really cool experience.  And obviously amazing views of my favorite city.

Hard to beat this one though.  Man, I've got a beautiful family.
After the London eye we tried to get back on our hop on hop off bus tour to take us to Kensington Gardens so we could visit Princess Diana Memorial Playground.  The boys had to stop and stare at the Themes for a few minutes.  Wishing they had rocks and pennies and sticks to throw in.
 It was quite the trek.  We finally found the bus and put in the headphones that would tell us about all the place we passed.  Finn thought he discovered some magic and looked at me so excited and said, "Mom!  When I take them out, the music stops!  Watch!"  Then he's put his headphones in, and take them out again with an expression that said, "Can you believe what I just did!?"  It was darling.  Once we got on the bus we had just a little ride before it had to take a 20 minute rest stop and then we finally got off at the stop that they told us to and we still had at least a half hour walk ahead of us to get to the park.  We found a little restaurant in Hyde park and ate some food.  Finny fell asleep so we saved him some food for later.  Then we split up and Glenn headed back to the hotel to rest his legs and Aub, Mal and I took the kids and trekked to the park.  It was so surreal to be back in the neighborhood where I spent my study abroad.  When I first came to London I remember feeling so alive.  The only way I can think of to describe it is that it was like a part of my heart came alive that I didn't know existed before I saw this city and then I've missed it ever since.  But going back now, as a mom of four kids and a completely different person, I didn't feel the same.  It was a little disappointing actually.  I wanted to feel like the same person and see everything the same way but I just didn't.  I'm not the same person.  Sometimes it felt like all those things I did and places I went were just stories I'd heard, they felt so foreign and so far away.  It was kind of a melancholy feeling.  I love my life and I love my family.  But it was a bit disappointing to feel so distant from experiences that shaped my life in such a powerful way.
We finally got to the park and man, was it worth it.  The park was incredible.  There were so many different sections and so much exploring to do.  I'm so glad that Aub and Mal were with me.  There is no way I could have kept track of the boys on my own.

They had a really cool pirate ship to climb on and in.
Little teepees to play in.  Hidden treasure chests to find.
And tons of playgrounds to explore.

Aubry and Mallory were Godsends, as per usual.  I had the best time just being around them.


It was an incredible park.  After a long day of walking and hauling kids all over the city it was just the ending we needed.  The boys had so much fun.  The surroundings were so idyllic.  The company divine.  That afternoon had me wishing we could go back to that park every afternoon of our trip.  
After a little play time at the park we realized how late it was getting and how long a trek we had in front of us to get home.  We headed to the closest tube station which was Queensway.  It was the craziest station I have ever seen.  We got in and saw that the line for the lift was insane so we decided to hoof it down the stairs.  It couldn't possibly be that bad.  We could hack it.  Turns out it was a TON of stairs in a tight circular staircase.  I had a baby strapped to me, Mal had a baby strapped to her.  Aubry held my boys hands and made sure they didn't slip cause for sure they wouldn't stop any time soon if they did.  Every time we got to a little landing we just laughed that there were still more stairs.  We looked like quite the circus.  
Once we got back to our hotel Glenn said he'd put the kids to bed and we ladies headed out to find a restaurant for dinner.  We passed this charming little street and had to take some pictures.  Really, all the streets are charming when the buildings are this old and lovely.
We found the coolest little Indian place and while they weren't too pleased with us not having a reservation, they begrudgingly overlooked that fact and let us have a spot at one of the many empty tables down in the basement in a really amazing little nook.  The food was SO good.  I guess I'd forgotten how much I love eating really good food.  There is not much good food to be found in Saudi.  I wish I could go out to dinner with Mal and Aubry every week.  It was great to catch up on our own and share delicious food together too.
The next morning we got up and got ready for marathon day.  We had breakfast downstairs at the hotel buffet and then took a quick picture with Glenn before he joined the throng of runners on the street outside walking to the start.  
The ladies and I got everything packed up and headed to the science museum.  We had a little time to kill before we needed to be at our chosen cheering spot where we could see him at mile 13 and mile 22.  The boys played in the little kiddo area for a bit


It was a cool little area and so nice to go to a huge museum that was free!  London is incredible that way.  Tons of world class museums with free admission.  
The girls slept and then woke up for bottles and diaper changes and before we knew it we were on our way again. The boys were really good sports for the most part.  We were all pretty tired and stressed with all the lugging of strollers and bags and kiddos up in and out of different tube stations but we survived and the boys were truly, surprisingly well behaved considering how exhausting the day was.
 We took another trek through the tube to our cheering spot and followed the throng to the route.
 Unfortunately we were on the wrong side of the road to cheer him on his way to mile 13.  He was texting me along the way so we knew about when he was at different mile markers so we knew when to expect him.  We wound our way with our crew of littles through the tight crowd and saw him run past across the street but there was no way any of us would have been able to lift Tate and Finn up to see him and cheer for him since we were all holding babies (in one way or another) so we yelled as loud as we could but he didn't hear us and then we walked away to head out and find lunch with crying little boys who wanted to cheer for their Dad.
After the run by at mile 13 we walked around and tried to find somewhere for lunch.  We followed one of the apps I downloaded that supposedly would lead us to a restaurant we picked off a long list.  It had a menu that looked yummy, good reviews, and the app was supposed to point us right to it.  What actually happened was the app pointed us to the middle of no restaurants at all after a lot of walking.  So we turned around and walked for a long long while just wandering and trying to luck our way into some center of commerce.  After probably a couple of miles of walking we found a little fried food shop where the boys got some nuggets and fries and we girls found some decent cheap grub too.  The baby girls were hungry again so it worked out perfectly to feed them while we were sitting down in the restaurant.  We had to hurry so we could hike back to the race route to see Glenn pass at mile 22.  We walked back to the street several blocks away and found a little spot where the spectators were just one row thick.  When we knew Glenn was close Aubry asked a guy to let the boys and I sneak up to the front for a few minutes so we could see Glenn run past.  He was so kind about it and gladly let us stand in front for a few minutes.  Tate and Finn were cheering as much as their tired little bodies could.  Tate even started to adopt the language a bit and I heard him cheering, "Way to go mate!  You can do it mate!"  The boys took turns using these little plastic clapper hands that Auntie Mallo found on the ground to cheer and that held them over a bit.  Finally we saw Glenn.  He told me later that he was really struggling but he looked so good.  Really happy like he was having such a good time, which makes absolutely no sense at mile 22.  None at all.


Then we were on our way back to the tube station to trek over to the meeting spot after the finish.  On our way back to the super crowded station Tate dropped his little clapper toy and it broke.  He was so overwhelmed and tired he just stood there, threw back his head, started sobbing and yelled, "NOOOOOOOOOO!"  It was hilarious.  Poor kid was so exhausted that he just could barely cope with life as it was and then his little toy broke and it was all too much.  Such a sweet and funny moment to see him react how all of us wished we could have reacted many moments throughout the day.  I owe Aubry and Mallory so much for that day alone.  It was exhausting switching trains, carrying kids and stroller and bags up and down, trying to keep everyone happy and entertained when everyone was so so tired.  They were super stars.  I absolutely could not have done it without them.  Even though the day was really long and really hard those two never complained once.  I don't know how they did it.  I complained plenty for all of us.  
But then once in a while in the midst of our commutes across town we would look up and see sights like this.  Beautiful, old bits of London that we were able to explore and pass by on our way.  Not a bad place to be.  Not at all.
We happened by Westminster Abbey again on our way to the meeting place.  It took us about an hour to make our way there and we had an emergency potty stop on the way.  Of course we did.
We finally made it and met up with Glenn.  Tate told him all about our day.  Glenn was so beat, obviously, but said it was an incredible experience unlike any other marathon to have the entire route lined with spectators.  To have people cheering for you the entire time and to be able to run in such a beautiful place.  On the way home he tried to talk Mallory and Aubry into being on our support crew on another foreign marathon next year.  All three of us just looked at him, completely spent from the day, and said we'd have to take some time before we'd be willing to do this again.  
We got home, ordered room service again for the kids and Glenn.  I helped get the boys bathed and in bed and then went out with Mallo to pick up some food.  Then we took the babies to Aub and Mal's room and ate our dinner, talked, and fed the babies once more before heading to bed ourselves.  It was so nice to have some alone time with them and have great conversations on our own.
The next morning, Monday, was our day to visit the Tower of London.  By far my favorite destination on our trip.  It was awesome to visit this place that we'd talked about so much to the boys and to be able to take them to a real castle and tell them stories about what happened there was just too cool.

Our crew in front of Tower Bridge.

My little soldiers.
I couldn't get over all the beautiful little details in the tower.  I could have taken a thousand pictures of all the beautiful doors, arches, windows, lanterns and gargoyles all over the place...if only I didn't have four little ones to hold and chase and feed.  But I did manage to capture a few.
This place stole my heart.  After marathon day we really needed a day like this.  To have an entire day to spend exploring this one place with so many incredible stories and so much to see was just perfect.  It felt like a deep breath.  Watching my boys chase pigeons and play knights on the streets around the Tower was simply magical.  Days like this one are the reason we live in Saudi.  Days like this one truly make it all worth it.

Auntie Mallo, Tate and Finn, looking at the raven cages.

Finn could have sat on this cannon all day long.  Every time we walked past he wanted to go back and climb on the cannon.
Tate loved the cannons and guns too.  Such an amazing place for little boys to explore.


Tate got to get up close with a guard and told him some jokes to see if he could make him laugh.  We're pretty sure he cracked a smile.
Another huge perk of this day was that Kenna and Taryn had their first decent day.  They slept a lot more in their front packs, they drank their bottles when they were hungry.  It was so much better than the first few days and that made everything go so much smoother because we weren't as worried about our poor stressed-out little girls.
We saw the crown jewels, amazing, of course.  The boys weren't nearly as impressed as we were.  They would walk by and say, "wow!" and then keep walking but the rest of us needed to read the information and take a few more seconds to soak in just how incredible they were.
We walked around the wall and found the exhibit talking about the animals that used to live at the zoo in the tower.  The boys found that exhibit particularly interesting.  Especially the part about how people used to be able to get in for free if they would bring a dog or a cat to feed to the lions!

Next we headed to the armory in the White Tower.
Simply incredible.  It made me so curious every time there was a hallway or staircase that was blocked off.  There was SO much more to the Tower than we were able to see and I wanted to see it ALL.  The history of this place was almost tangible.  King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, Richard III and the two young princes. So many famous events took place in those walls and the history nerd in me is in heaven.
The boys loved seeing the armor of evil Henry VIII.  We talked about him a lot before our trip.
The gift shop was probably the favorite stop for the boys.  We found some real treasures that were perfect for them.  Finn and Tate both got a little knight set with a sword, armor and shield.  Finn had them on for the rest of the day and corrected me every time I called him Finn.  It's "sir Finn" when he has his armor on.  It was darling.  We also scored some perfect halloween costumes from the shop there.  Hopefully they'll still fit next October!   Finn chose a guard costume with a bushy hat and Tate picked a cool knight costume.  Check that off my list of things to buy this summer at home!

We stopped for lunch at the little restaurant there and the food was quite good and not too pricey.  We walked around a little bit more and then stopped for some more pictures of my little knights on the way out.
Such an incredible visit.  We promised Tate that we'd take him to Hamley's, the big toy store in London, to let him pick a souvenir.  We were tired but we headed to Hamley's and let the boys pick something fun for their souvenir.  Finny chose a stuffed guard bear and Tate got a lego guard and they were both as happy as can be.  On our way back to the hotel Finn turned to Auntie Mallo and said, "Auntie Mallo, can you stay forever?"  So sweet.  We wish.  Dang you Saudi.
We trekked back to the hotel and got the kiddos all bathed and settled and took a little break.  Then Aubry, Mallo and I headed out for our ladies night in London!  Glenn took care of the kiddos and let us go see a play.  We decided to try "The 39 Steps".  I'd heard a lot about it and thought it would be a fun one to try with my sisters.  We stopped at Leicester Square first.  It used to be my favorite little spot in London but once again, it was very different.  I guess I assumed that even after 13 years my favorite little bits would be unchanged but that was certainly not the case.  The entire square was redone and just didn't have the same feel that it once did.  Still glad I went but it was a little disappointing to see it so changed from my memories.
We stopped at a little restaurant for dinner and then headed to the theatre.  Here we are with Picadilly Circus in the background.
And in front of the theater.
The show was so fun.  It was a silly little murder mystery with four actors playing over a hundred characters.  The scene changes and character changes were so clever and imaginative.  We had a great time and laughed so hard.  I'm so glad Glenn let us get out and have a little girl time on our own.  What a treasure.
Tuesday morning we woke up and Finn whispered to me while Glenn was in the shower, "Mom, why did Dad shave his head?  Was it getting prickly?"  No sweetie, that's why he shaves his face.  He shaved his head to raise money to give to people who are sick with cancer. "Mom, did dad's hair grow back yet?"  He was a bit thrown off by his shaved head and kept hoping that he would just walk out of the shower one morning and he would be the dad he remembered again.  So sweet.
That last morning we decided to hit up a few things we had missed.  Our first stop was Trafalgar Square to see the lions.

These little moments seeing my boys just play and be silly little boys in the most magnificent of places made my heart sing.  Chasing pigeons in front of Buckingham Palace, throwing pennies in the fountains in Trafalgar Square, chasing each other around Nelson's Column, all pretty amazing experiences.

After Trafalgar we made our way to the Museum of Natural History.  One of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen.  Hands down.
This building has so much detail everywhere you look.  In ever facade, every column, every gargoyle, every window, every arch, there are animals or plants or tiny little creatures to find.  It's the most beautiful game of I spy ever.



We picked up out little adventurer backpacks.  They had cool clues inside that you could use to solve mysteries in different exhibits that would be really cool if the boys were just a little bit older.  At their age, they loved their little backpacks, binoculars, and safari hats that came with their packs.  They felt like real explorers as we ventured around the museum.
We had lunch at the cafe and then we had to say goodbye to Auntie Mallo.  It was so hard to say goodbye to her.  I'm so glad that we have another play date on the calendar because saying goodbye to her and Aubry after this incredible trip would just have been impossible if we didn't know when we would see them next.
We said goodbye to Mallo and then after she walked away Finn turned to me and said, "Mom, did Auntie Mallo go back to New York City?"  Yes Finn, she did have to go home.  Then he looked at me with this absolutely heartbroken face and said, "But that means I'm going to miss her!"  Me too Finny.   Me too.  I seriously don't know what we would have done without her and Aubry on this trip.  They were absolute angels.
Our first stop at the museum was to see the dinosaur exhibit.  The coolest part, for sure, was the animatronic T-Rex at the end.  Tate and Finn could probably have stood in front of that monster for hours.  It was very cool.
The museum was vast and it would have taken us days to get to everything so we just hit up the few highlights that our boys had wanted to see.  Tate heard about the Earthquake Simulator and he wanted to see it so we went across the museum to find it.  It was basically just a little platform that shook as we watched some video footage of an earthquake in a convenience store in Japan, I think.  Finn thought it was fun and wanted to do it over and over.  Once was plenty for Tate.  Auntie Aubry took him outside and knew just how to calm his smart little brain by reading facts about earthquakes in the displays around the simulator.  He came home and was spouting those facts she read to him about primitive Earthquake tests in China.  Both Tate and Finn have been very curious and concerned about earthquakes ever since.  Not a phenomenon that we had discussed much previously but they are both very interested in where there are earthquakes now.
Our last stop was to find the big blue whale.  A life-size model of a blue whale.  It was immense and very cool to see up close.  Glenn was trying to persuade Aubry and I to go to another play that night.  He was talking about it all through the museum so finally we decided to stop at Leicester square where they have a TKTS booth to see what was on for the night.  There were several great options that Aub and I could have seen on our own but we thought it might be fun to take Tate to The Lion King.  Taking my little boy to a West End musical...such a dream come true.  Unfortunately the booth didn't have tickets to the Lion King so we had to walk about 20 minutes to the theater to get some tickets.  Then we went back to the hotel to rest for about an hour and get some more room service.  Seriously, thank heavens for good room service.  We had it every night on this trip and it was SO convenient.  After a little down time we took another trek back to the Lyceum.  It was so fun to have another show night with my sister and my little boy.

We stopped at a little convenience store to get some snackies and I shelled out the one pound to rent the little binoculars for Tate.  He had the best time and it made me so proud to see him paying such close attention, understanding all the jokes, dancing in his seat, and gasping in amazement.  He is an exceptional little boy and I loved sharing this part of my life with him and having him enjoy it so much.
At intermission we ended up waiting for about 25 minutes and nothing happened.  Then finally the producer came out and informed us that a part of the stage wasn't working.  They were trying to fix it but hadn't been successful yet so we would have to wait a little longer.  He came out a bit later and said it still wasn't fixed and after about 45 minutes he came out again and announced that they would be finishing the production without that part of the stage.  The cast would have to make some adjustments but he was confident we would enjoy it and might not be able to notice.  I'd never seen anything like that before.  I cannot imagine being in that cast and having to re block everything on the spot.  Because I had seen the show before I could tell a few things that were different or simplified.  Especially that last fight scene between Simba and Scar.  Pride Rock wouldn't come out of the stage so they had to just sort of wrestle on the ground, but they made it work and I was incredibly impressed with the way they improvised around the drastic changes with such ease.
Because of the extra long intermission the show got out after 11 and we had to wait a half an hour for the next train once we finally found the station so we got home after midnight and poor Tate was such a trooper.  He fell asleep on the train but then we woke him up and he walked the rest of the way home.
The next morning we woke up early and got our taxi to the airport with Aubry.  I was really bummed to be going back to Saudi and saying good bye to my sister was the pits but it was a huge comfort knowing that I would be seeing them in a few short months.
This trip was difficult.  Really difficult and exhausting with two little babies who really struggled for the first few days and two little boys who were really amazing but got really tired at the end of the day.  We were so so grateful to have Aubry and Mal there helping us and playing with us.  It was so fun to be around family again and to have people really love us and love our kids.  We've really missed that.  Looking back, having a closer, more centrally located hotel would definitely have simplified things a bit, but I think we did a really good job navigating what we had planned and keeping our pace slow and our expectations low.  Letting the boys chase pigeons when they needed to.  Stopping for bottles when we needed to and trying not to let the babies frustrations get to us when we'd tried everything we could to help them feel better and it didn't always work.
What a dream.  I look back and still kind of can't believe it was real.  That our whole family met two sister in London and played in all these beautiful places together.  Now we're all dying to go back.  Finn asks me at least once a week, "Mom, when are we moving to London?"  I don't know Finn.  But I definitely think we should.