Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alton Fair

Fun times with our Bristol friends Stewie, John, and Jo, who drove down on Saturday to spend the day with us.

We began our adventures at a Starbucks in Farnham. Over coffee we discussed our plans for the day and finally settled on a family friendly pub for lunch and on to a fair in Alton.

Lunch at The Hen and Chicken consisted of baguette sandwiches (cheese and tomato or prawns and lettuce) or chicken and sausage kebabs. The pub had a great wooden obstacle course for Madison to play on while we visited and waited for our food. (Her best time-2 minutes 4 seconds).

Then it was onward to Alton for the fair. We wander the stalls on High Street, pausing to examine the classic cars on display and then headed back to the fair. Carnival rides were set up in an empty lot for people to enjoy. At only a £1 a ride it was great fun.

The boys plus Madison enjoyed a crashing into one another on the bumper cars and but sadly it was only the Sparkman clan who braved the other more "substantial" fair ground rides.

While Madison, Rob and I braved the upside down spinning rides, Lillian enjoyed time with Stewie and the others.

Yes we were completely upside-down and spinning rather quickly.
We all loved it- even Madison!

After the last upside down spinning ride we returned to our cars and headed back to Godalming.

Stewie taught Madison a traditional British game called CONKERS (although I have not found anyone but Stewie and Wikipedia that has heard of it, let along played it) which the two of them enjoyed playing together.

Basically you collect conkers (Buckeyes) and use a cork screw to put a hole in the middle of it and then string it on a piece of string (or one of Madison's hair ribbons if you have nothing else). Then you take turns hitting each others conkers trying to break the other person's off their string. First one to break the other's conker completely off the string wins.

The scoring gets a bit tricky- Madison's conker is a 4er (it has won 4 times- well it actually only won once but it between Stewie's which was a 3er and she get his points).

There are also lots of other rules you can add to the game. Like if the conker flies out of the persons hand you can yell "STAMPIE" and try to stomp on their conker while it is on the ground and win that round. You can also call out if the conkers strings get tangled and get an extra turn.

Needless to say, we have a whole drawer of conkers waiting to be played with.- so beware.

It was a great weekend with friends filled with laughter and great memories.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday at the Park

It was another lovely weekend in Godalming for the Sparkman family.

After a bit of shopping along High Street we stopped at the park for a bit of play.

Madison enjoyed climbing the rope wall and sliding down the fireman pole. This was the first time she went down the pole on her own- without tears or being afraid. She enjoyed it so much that she did it another 6 times before we left. My how our scaredy cat has grown!

Lillian enjoyed sliding down the slide with her sister and Dad and even a few trips down herself.

We ended our play with with a some time on the swings. Lillian loved going back and forth- though she has always enjoyed to swing. Madison enjoyed being pushed high by her Daddy and practicing her jumps. She is getting pretty good.

All in all, we had a fabulous time together.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Apple Maddie and Skinny Lily

Fall term has begun (along with the fall weather- cool temperatures and lots of rain)

No English wardrobe is complete with out a pack-a-mack (a waterproof (raincoat) that folds up into a pouch you can hook on your book bag so you always have it with you) and wellies (galoshes or rain boots). We found a great bargain for Madison and they were even in pink.

Madison is officially in Apple Class Year 2. She is very excited to be back with her friends (all of the students from her class this summer are in her class again). Her new teacher Ms. Watson seems very nice.

Madison is already learning lots. She is full of facts about the Solar System (Pluto is officially not a planet) and reading up a storm. For those back home, she can read a Berenstain Bear book on her own!

From now until Christmas, Madison will be learning about:
Numeracy (math):
  • Counting to 100 on a number line and counting by 1,2,5,10 from any number
  • Number bonds (any pairs that add to 10- 9+1,8+2,7+3, etc.)
  • Adding and subtracting
Literacy (reading and writing):
  • Handwriting
  • Spelling
  • Creative Writing
  • Guided Reading Groups
  • Independent Reading
Science: Being Healthy
Whole School Topic: Farncombe (where Madison goes to school-our village)
Religion: Why is the Bible a special book for Christians

It will be a full term filled with learning.

We are very proud of her.

Another highlight of the fall term is that Madison has a hair cut.
A Mommy special (forget teaching I'm becoming a better and better hairdresser and already have 2 clients).
Madison decided that really long hair is a lot of work so we bobbed it up to her shoulders and she is much happier now and her hair is less knotted. She still looks like she has bedhead most of the time from playing but that is part of being a kid.

Lillian is officially just a skinny kid. We have gone round and round about it and we have just come to accept that she is going to be petite. She now weights 11 lbs. 7 oz. and is a little over 24" long. (25% for height and less then 5% for weight). She is still wearing her 0-3 month clothing (boy are we getting our moneys worth) although will soon be moving up because of the changing weather. (I wonder if they make baby belts????). Forget the belts- Lillian will be wearing dungarees (or as we call them- overalls). They are perfect! Long enough for her height and plenty of room to grow in the middle. Plus nice straps for Daddy to carry her by!

Just like her big sister, Lillian is a fan of oldies music. While Madison loved "Build Me Up Buttercup" (the Aunt Beffie/Mommy version) and would only stop crying when it was sung, Lillian prefers "Twist and Shout" by the Beatles.
Rob and I alternate making up verses depending on what is upsetting her and she stops crying when she hears the song. You can even sing to her across the room and she will turn at the sound of "her song".

Lillian prefers when it is an interactive song with lots of giggles and wiggles- as shown in the picture above.

And no performance is complete with out some cuddles and kisses at the end.

Planes Trains and Automobiles to Germany

Planes, trains, tubes, buses and automobiles is what it took to get us to Germany for an extended weekend holiday- but it was well worth it.

We left our flat at 6 am and quickly walked to the train station- well as quickly as you can walk after getting only 3 hours of sleep pushing a buggy, pulling a rolling suitcase, carrying a tote bag and encouraging a 6 year old with a rucksack to keep up with the family.

We took the 6:45 train to London where we took the tube (Waterloo + City Line then Central Line) to Liverpool Street and hopped on a train again to head to Stansted airport. After a morning snack of a banana and breakfast calzone we rushed to the gate (we always seem to be rushing) and waited in the long boarding line for 35 minutes. Even though the plane was late, the short hour and fifteen minute flight arrived in Germany just after 2 pm (they are an hour ahead of us in the UK). After going through immigration (always a pleasure) we struggled to pick up our rental car and head toward Heidelberg.

In true Top Gear style, we had the best there was... An Alpha Romeo (nothing else will do besides an Alpha). It was a small car but would work for the weekend.

We stopped in true Sparkman style at McDonald's for a late lunch and then continued the hour drive to Heidelberg. (It was rather interesting to order McDonald's in German and to struggle to be understood).

Our first evening in Germany we enjoyed visiting with our friends Stefan and Eva (who were so kind to allow us to stay with them during our holiday). We enjoyed a traditional German dinner of handkase, rostbraten, sauerbraten, and knoblauchschwein.

(I speak absolutely no German and therefore can't translate the actual food names I can say that our appetizer was a cheese platter with German bread, and our main courses were beef and pork in different sauces served with bread dumplings, fried potatoes, and salad and vinegar dressing)
For pudding we enjoyed 3 dessert samplers (1 was complementary because they forgot to bring out one of our main courses) chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse, home-made cinnamon ice cream, and a custard dish with fresh berries.

We returned to the flat for traditional German beer and an evening of games together.

Friday morning we enjoyed a variety of breads (including baked pretzels) and cheese for breakfast before heading out into the town to explore.
We rode the train into the center of town and walked along the Pedestrian path toward Heidelberg Castle. We stopped in several of the specialty shops along the way and picked up a few souvenirs and enjoyed triple scooped ice cream cones before heading to the castle.

We climbed the 315 stone steps to the Castle and joined the queue for the tour. There is a lot of history within the falling stone walls as was shared with us by our guide.

The castle was destroyed twice. Once during the 30 days war in the 17th century and later by a thunder storm where lightening struck the tower where the gun powder was kept.

Highlights of our tour included Queen Elizabeth's gate/courtyard, the large barrel where they collected wine from the common people for payment of taxes, and the Court Dwarf.

After our tour inside the castle, we roamed the gardens around the perimeter and took in the beautiful picturesque view of Heidelberg below before descending down the stone path back to town.

Lunch was at another German restaurant-complete with a stone table. We each enjoyed new dishes. Rob had pork knuckle and fried potatoes, I had a flame cake (thin pizza) with prawns, and Madison had fish sticks and german potato salad. Again it was a delicious meal.

That evening Rob, Stefan and Eva saw Batman- The Dark Knight and the girls enjoyed an early bedtime.

Saturday dawned raining and overcast which put a damper in our explorations. We stayed around the flat and ventured out after a late breakfast/early lunch of bakery rolls, gourmet german cheese, and liverwurst followed by a variety of eight different cakes.
(Entertainment included watching Stefan and Rob trying to kill a wasp with a wooden spoon and an oven mitt- which they did in true hunter killer fashion).
It was another day of shopping and wandering the town (our plans to climb the mountain to see the ruins and a boat ride down the river were thwarted by the rain). Dinner was take out from an Indian/Italian restaurant.

We saw the festival fireworks from a bridge near Stefan's office. The fireworks were shot off of the North Bridge and over the castle (which looked strangely like it was on fire). Then it was home to bed because the Big Game was on soon...

The Florida Gators were playing Miami at 2 am German time and Stefan, Rob, and Eva wanted a bit of sleep before watching the game (sadly the satellite feed was not working and they were only able to watch the first quarter) the girls and I just slept. Fortunately (even though we weren't able to cheer) the Gators won the game with a stunning 4th quarter performance.

Sunday was another early morning as we prepared to leave by 7 am for our trek home. Nine hours later after riding in a car, flying on a plane, loading on a bus, commuting by tube, and zooming by train we returned to good old Godalming.

We all agreed that we would enjoy returning to Germany one day soon.