Tuesday, 3 December 2013

It's been a while...

A friend created a new blog and I realized I should get back to ours.  It's been a year since we were last in Scotland with the children.  Since then, Rachell and I took a trip by ourselves to Germany and Italy to celebrate our ten year anniversary.  In order to make it fair for the kids, we agreed to pick a trip for all four of us.  So, we're going to the happiest place on earth...


It's not that I don't love my kids or I'm just some overly pretentious suburban yuppie parent who doesn't like conformity - it's that I've never been to Disney and I really have no desire to be there.  Still, Rachell has promised me the kids will enjoy it, it's a great time for the family, and we will not regret it.

Here's hoping her words come true.  I'll be posting as we lead up to this next trip and then giving reactions to follow.

Any suggestions about how we handle this joyful occasion?  We'll be there in mid-January.  I can't wait?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

More on Riding the Bus

Bryce and Denali on a plane
Let's get back to this bus thing.  Yesterday, Rachell and the kids purchased a family bus pass.  I'm thankful my children can be so fascinated and entertained by the simple act of riding a bus.  While Denali rode the bus everyday to kindergarten last year, she and her brother are largely unexposed to public transportation in mid-Michigan.

So far on this trip, we've flown on planes, rode on fast commuter trains, enjoyed a leisurely steam train in the country, driven in rental cars on the wrong side of the road, hopped in taxis, and walked dozens and dozens of miles throughout the Scottish highlands, lowlands, cities, and farms.  These kids have traveled.
City bus in Aberdeen
Tonight we get on a gigantic ferry taking us 250 miles north east from Aberdeen to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.  At the end of the day,
Scotrail trail
our children will have experienced nearly every medium of travel possible in this great northern kingdom...and they have loved it.

As adults, we don't seem to revel in the means of transportation.  By that I mean we don't get as excited anymore about the flight or the ride on the bus as much as we do about the destination.  To our children, these activities have equal merit.  Forgive the cliche, but they enjoy the journey as much (or sometimes more) than the destination.
The road to Skye

Waiting for the plane...we're VERY tired.

Can the trip itself be the end goal?  Can simply driving, riding, flying, or boating be the goal?  I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Eating at Home and Riding the Bus

Lou Nyiri, Rory MacLeod, and Rachell
Thursday, August 23 – Dinner at our house
For our second to last night in Aberdeen, we decided to throw a small (emphasis on small) dinner party with a couple of guys from my class.  So, we took advantage of our apartment amenities (again, emphasis on small) and Rachell made a wonderful homemade meal for our family with the addition of good friends Lou Nyiri from Gettysburg, PA and Rory MacLeod from St. Andrews, Scotland.  It was a great reminder of being home.  While we’ve loved traveling, one can only eat outside of the house so many times in a row before they start craving something cooked in your own kitchen.  You could tell the kids were about finished with the Aberdeen part of our adventure.  They’re starting to crack.  Lou and Rory were a welcome distraction.  Bryce kept the conversation going with an emphasis on Star Wars, Legos, and of course, Star Wars Legos.  It was a great way to close out the week in Aberdeen.

Bryce and Denali playing
The bus rules!
Robert the Bruce...with Denali and Bryce the Pomervilles
The previous day we explored the town by bus.  Rachell took Denali and Bryce to outdoor gardens and parks throughout the city during the day before picking me up for their progressive park party in the evening.  Again, the means of transportation were more exciting for the kids than the destinations.  They were fascinated by riding on the bus.  A little too fascinated.  If someone wanted to rob the tourists who look like they don’t know what they’re doing, then we would offer the perfect option.  Enjoy some of the pics!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

What's old is really young...

A colleague walked into class yesterday and proudly displayed something he found in his garden the day before – a seven hundred year old silver Robert the Bruce penny.  It was an incredible find that his wife happened to discover while digging up the dirt underneath their roses.  Impossibly, this amazing piece of history was sitting right there in the dirt.

What I learned from my friend John is that he must now turn this in to the Scottish government.  Apparently (and please, someone correct me if I have this wrong), anyone who finds any artifact that is pre-Victorian is required to hand over the item to the treasure trust.  To be fair, the person will be compensated for the item at its perceived value.  In this case, John believes he will receive somewhere in the realm of 1,200 pounds (just a shade under $2,000) from the government for his find.

My father enjoys using his metal detector, especially near old schools, homesteads, and churches.  He has found a plethora of treasures, yet they are mostly contextual treasures, unlike John’s actual treasure (I’m rightly or wrongly basing this on monetary value).  He’s certainly found some old coins, including one from the 1820’s that is a prized discovery.  He’s also dug up three Civil War minie balls in Georgia along Sherman’s march to the sea.  Again, treasures for us over in the US, but still 500 years younger than this coin my friend John discovered.

My dad brought out his metal detector with the kids at the cottage in Interlochen right before we left for our trip.  To all our surprise, they actually found some relics of the past in the yard by the lake.  Their collection included 40-some cents (in a variety of coins dating all the way back to 1965!) and an old belt buckle.  The kids were amazed by how old the things were that we found.  

Boy do I feel silly thinking about that in our current Scottish context.  We found something from 1965 and considered it old.  John found something from 1300.  Context means everything, doesn’t it?  The US government did not demand back the dime from the 1960s, nor would it pay me any more than 10 cents for it if I gave it to them.

We've been here before...

Green Lake, Interlochen, Michigan, USA
Before we left for Scotland, we stayed at the family cottage in Interlochen, located on the beautiful shore of Green Lake in the northern part Michigan’s lower peninsula.  My family has been coming to this gorgeous part of the world all my life.  My grandfather purchased the cottage, a few acres of woods, and 40’ of waterfront some years before I was born.  As a child, my brother and I spent whole summers up by the lake with my mother, while my father would join us on the weekends and for a couple of vacation weeks here and there.  

Needless to say, Interlochen holds a very special place in my heart (as well as that of my brother).  In spite of living all my formative years in Brighton, in a house that my parents still live in today, I identify my home as the cottage much more firmly than I do other places in the world.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I rejoice over the love my wife and children find for this same place.  There is a divine sense of nostalgia that occurs when you watch your children revel in the same places, things, and activities you yourself enjoyed years prior.  Everything changes yet the world remains remarkably the same.

There is a certain value in vacationing or retreating to the same place year after year, even month after month – though I personally struggle with this lack of exploration.  While the kids did get to spend two weeks with Rachell in Interlochen this year, because of our epic adventure in Scotland this month, they are spending much less time in Northern Michigan than they normally would this summer.  Both Bryce and Denali say they miss Interlochen in the midst of their enthusiasm and joy for the experiences we are currently having here in the UK. 
What types of vacations and holidays do you take with your families?  Do you go to the same place season after season?  Do you strive for the new each time?  What is helpful for children – when and why?  Just some thoughts about where we are and where we are going…

Monday, 20 August 2012

Aberdeen Harbor (Harbour, for our UK and Canadian friends)

Monday – August 20, 2012

Class restarted today, which means we’re back in Aberdeen.  After a wonderfully refreshing weekend with our dear friends from Kirriemuir, we have returned to the Granite City for the final ten days in the UK.  We’ll be here until Friday while I take a fantastically inspiring class from Wes Avram on Worship in the Reformed Church (emphasis on proclamation in our post-modern context…my added definition of the class based on what I’m seeing so far).  On Friday night, we’ll get on a very long ferry boat ride across the North Sea to the Shetland Islands for the weekend, returning on the same ferry Sunday night.  
The journey from Aberdeen to the Shetlands is approximately 12 hours across rough waters toward Norway.  We’re telling the kids this is a “cruise ship,” since we’ll have a cabin on the ship.  Rachell and I understand this is VERY different from cruise ship accommodations.  It’s funny what our Scottish friends have been saying to us upon informing them we will be heading to Shetlands.  Their answers tend to include two statements:
            1. I’ve never been there before.
            2. Why in the world would you go there?
We have not doubted our plans but we do feel the need to justify our decision to head off to the middle of the North Sea to a series of islands primarily populated by wind and Viking myths of the past.  The ferry is located immediately outside our apartment window so we get to see the gigantic ship enter and exit the harbor every couple of days.  The kids are impressed each time it moves.

White-Beaked Dolphin
Speaking of water, we went out to the beach at Aberdeen Harbour this evening after class ended to run around in the FREEZING cold water and have dinner by the water.  Again, FREEZING cold North Sea water was a little more than Rachell or I could handle, but the kids jumped right in and ran around in the surf.  They were having a blast when we got an incredible treat.  A group of white-beaked dolphins appeared less than 50 yards off shore from us and put on a show for the next 15 minutes – fully jumping out of the water and causing everyone on the beach to stop.  EXCELLENT time by the water.  As Bryce said, “This was one of the best days EVER.”  I have to agree.

Sheepdog Trials and Neverland

Sunday – August 19, 2012

We again spent a great day in Kirriemuir in Angus.  This morning we attended worship at the Old Parish Kirk in Kirri to enjoy Malcolm leading worship.  His sermon title?  “If Jesus had been born in Scotland, would he have used (scotch) whisky for communion?”  Fantastic title and even better sermon to follow.  After worship, we headed out to something we never thought we’d have the pleasure of seeing – a sheepdog trial by the hotel up Glen Clova.  The joke, of course, about whether or not the dog was found guilty was not lost on us.  Actually, the trial was amazing.  Here’s generally what happened:

You go out to a huge field with the spectators gathered on the grass at one end (about 100 people and waiting participants) and a group of sheep in a pen waaaaaay over on the other side.  The shepherd and his or her incredible looking dog step onto the field by us.  On the map here you can see the general layout of the field. 

The local competitors from the Glen were spirited, but not nearly of the same caliber as the regional shepherds and shepherdesses.  The really talented callers and dogs got through the course with a sense of order.  The locals?  Hilarious.  One guy was just great.  His dog went sprinting off into the wrong field and chased the sheep with him.  Another watched the sheep jump over a fence and exit the area.  Another guy was screaming obscenities at his dog in a very disorganized fashion.  These people made the trials for us.  It was an beautiful afternoon with good people, great food and drinks, and some really entertaining local color (or colour, depending on where you’re from).

Dog doing it's job
After the trials we made our way back to the Neverland playground.  This time, there were dozens of kids running around on the playground enjoying the sunshine.  Bryce came back to us after playing alone for a few minutes and said no one would play with him.  We told him to go back out there and ask someone if they would like to play and see what happens.  He went up to the first little boy of equal height who looked at him up and down and said, “Sure.”  Bryce jumped up and down and ran back to us saying, “He wants to play with me!  He wants to play with me.”  Meanwhile, the friend headed into the playground so we told Bryce to hurry up back over to him.  They played great together for the next hour.  It was pretty funny to watch the little Scottish boy chase after Bryce yelling, “Friend!  Friend, come back here and play!”  They chased each other around and had a ball.  At one point, Bryce came over to us with a bag of Hula-Hoop crisps that his friend gave him.  We told him to give them back to the little boy but the friend said, “That’s all right.  I hate those crisps anyway.”  Bryce then responded, “Hear that!  I can have them!  I can have them!” 

I wish we could all make friends that way.  Denali has had similar experiences here in Scotland.  You walk up to a total stranger and say, “Hey.  Want to play with me?”  No fear.  No nervous anxiety.  Just an honest way of saying, “I’m willing to introduce myself to you and play if you’ll do the same.”  Way to go, kids.