For My Daughter, Who Isn't Sure She Wants To Grow Up

Eleven-almost-twelve is a hard age to be. You know that. You tell me all the time that you don't want to get bigger, that you wish you could stay little. Sometimes I wish you could stay little too because little was so easy to comfort. You would climb in my lap, I would sing you a song, read you a story, tell you everything was going to be okay. And it would be. That was enough for you. But now you don't fit on my lap, you know I can't carry a tune, and you read your own stories. However, I am still here to tell you that everything will be okay. Because it will. I promise.

Growing up is never easy. At every stage of growth we have to leave something behind and it is okay to mourn the things we are losing. Because growth does mean loss. Sometimes the old us doesn't fit anymore as much as we may desperately want it to. It is like the favorite pair of sneakers you keep trying to shove your feet into long after they are too small. But the thing is, the old sneakers don't fit but there is always a new pair. They may be different, not quite the same style and color, but you will grow to love them just as much.

Change is hard and change is scary.  You wouldn't be our kid if you weren't basically opposed to change. We are a family of traditionalists who love our routine. But the thing is, change can also be good. The more we change the more we have an opportunity to grow, to try new things, to broaden our horizons. And then those things, the new things, become part of our traditions.

You don't have to grow up all at once. It is fine to still love your stuffed animals. You don't have to be interested in boys and makeup. Go outside with your backpack full of snacks and your notebook and pretend to be a spy. We will all pretend not to see you creeping up on us. Enjoy being you at whatever age you are. But I do want to tell you that some things about being a grownup are really not too bad. So here are a few things to look forward to.

Chocolate cake for breakfast. I got your attention there, didn't I?  Once you are grown-up there is no one to tell you to eat a balanced breakfast or that cake for breakfast is unhealthy. (Well, at least there isn't for many, many years. Then doctors will start mentioning such horrors as cholesterol levels but we won't think about that.) Many a horrible day has been improved by an unhealthy breakfast. Hey, what did you think I did after you left for school?

On a similar note, there are no bedtimes. Just think, no more begging for just another half hour. You can stay up as long as you want.

No more school and no more homework. It is starting to sound like paradise, isn't it?

Your friendship circle widens. When you are eleven-almost-twelve your friends are basically all the same age. You are unlikely to be best friends with a five-year-old and an eighteen-year-old is unlikely to be best friends with you. When you are an adult age doesn't matter as much. You are friends with people because of similar lives or similar interests, not just because you are both in sixth grade. It makes it much easier to find people you are comfortable with.

Adults still read children's books and play on playgrounds and collect stuffed animals. It is fine to like all these things and more. Some of the best adults I know have kept a bit of the child in them. That is what makes them fun and quirky. And yes, quirky is good when you are an adult.

Not everything about being a grownup is great. There are bills and jobs and chores and other stresses. But not everything about being a kid is great. There are school and homework and way-too-early bedtimes. But whether you are eleven-almost-twelve or seventy-five-almost-seventy-six there are good things in your life and new things to learn.

For now, just know that I will always have a lap and a story and a slightly out of tune song for you whenever you need them.

And maybe, just maybe, the occasional piece of chocolate cake for breakfast.

London Photos


A few weeks ago we went to the house of some friends for dinner. After we ate they sat us all down around their tablet, which was perched on a table, and they started a 45-minute slide show of their recent trip to Mexico. I felt as if I had fallen into a stereotype of vacation photos complete with thumbs in the corner of the picture and bickering about exactly where they were at any given time. I loved it.

While I don't typically inflict my vacation photos on my friends (relatives are another story) I do inflict them on my blog readers. So without further ado, here are way too many photos from my recent trip to London. I'll include the typical disclaimer that my husband and son do not usually want to appear on my blog and I am behind the camera so the photos of me are few and far between.  My daughter, on the other hand...

London skyline


Greenwich park

photographing tulips

London turned her into a bit of a photography fanatic.  It was nice to have someone else who insisted that we stop every two feet to photograph yet another gorgeous bloom or amazing view.

spring bloom

Regent's park

London Zoo


And of course, the obligatory shot of the Elizabeth Tower. Have you been to London if you don't have multiple photos of this?

Elizabeth Tower

London underground

Paddington statue

London makes me happy. Probably, it is all the books I have read. After all, if London is good enough for Paddington it is good enough for me.

Books I Bought In London

I bought books in London.

We all knew I was going to buy books in London.  No matter how much I insisted that this was a vacation for the kids it was obvious that books were going to be purchased.  After all, what is a trip to London for if you don't return with your suitcase crammed full of books?  And tote bags.  I seem to have developed a tote bag addiction. I didn't have the time to wander through bookstores for hours at a time so my book shopping was much more focused than usual. I went to a few specific bookstores and if I saw something interesting I bought it. My first and most important stop was Persephone Books. It is not a trip to London if I don't visit this gorgeous little bookshop. I went in thinking I knew exactly what I wanted and came out with three totally different books. I bought The Persephone Book of Short Stories, The New House by Lettice Cooper, and The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby. And a tote bag because I have always wanted the Persephone tote bag and somehow have never bought it. It makes me happy but I am almost afraid to use it because I know I will get it dirty. Right now it is hanging on the mirror in my bedroom. Maybe I should decorate my whole bedroom around it or is that a little over the top?

I also went to the massive Waterstones in Piccadilly. It was actually slightly overwhelming. So many floors.  So many books.  So many choices. I bought A Vicarage In The Blitz, The Wartime Letters of Molly Rich 1940-1944. I also bought Jambusters by Julie Summers. It is a book I keep intending to buy and just never do. When I couldn't decide what else to get it seemed safe. I also bought a tote bag. But it was a Penguin bag of Pride and Prejudice and we all know that was never going to be left behind.

The rest of my purchases were bought at the Southbank Book Market and at an Oxfam bookshop in Greenwich. I love the Oxfam bookshops and wish I had time to search out more of them. You never know what gems you will stumble upon.

I was particularly happy to find the British Library Crime Classics. Someone on Instagram told me that the British Library sold posters of some of the covers. And tote bags. That is dangerous knowledge. I was also pleased to find two Virago Modern Classics. Underground London was purchased because my son thought it looked interesting but I agree with him and will read it as well. My daughter purchased six Famous Five books that are not pictured here. She found them at the Oxfam bookshop and the bookseller was thrilled to see how excited Celia was about finding them.

I was pleased with how many books I came home with especially considering how little time I devoted to book shopping. Now I am dreaming of a trip to explore the bookshops in York or Edinburgh. One day.

A Photo Walk At Old Sturbridge Village

old sturbridge village covered bridge

Have I mentioned before that I am not a people person?  That I don't like group activities?  That unfamiliar situations make me anxious?  That if someone suggests I join in I am much more likely to run in the opposite direction?

I have?

old sturbridge village

old sturbridge village lambs

old sturbridge village sheep

Then I am sure you will be surprised to hear that I joined a photo walk at Old Sturbridge Village.  I have mentioned the village before here and here.  It is a living history museum in Massachusetts and I am inordinately fond of it.  I grew up going there and now our children have grown up going there.  It makes me happy.  But I don't really know why I joined the photo walk.  I was scrolling through Twitter late one night and saw their tweet about it.  I clicked on the link, thinking it sounded vaguely interesting but not something I ever would do.  Then I saw it cost only $12.00 and you got to walk around the village with a photographer.  The next thing I knew  I had purchased a ticket and immediately started regretting it.  After all, people.  And unfamiliar situations. But it was six weeks off and the world could end before then so why worry about it.  (I was definitely not myself that night. I always believe there is reason to worry and if I am not worrying I am worrying about why I am not worrying.)

old sturbridge village

old sturbridge village chicken

old sturbridge village

The six weeks came and went and I still wasn't so sure I wanted to go. My husband told me it was only $12.00 and just skip it if I wanted but that just seemed cowardly so I went.  Besides, the village is closed on Mondays which meant there would only be the dozen or so photo walk members in the whole village and the chance to take photos without them being cluttered with the dreaded people was very tempting.  I also thought the photographer would provide tips and tricks that might be beneficial so off I went.

old sturbridge village parsonage

old sturbridge village

old sturbridge village

It wasn't that bad.  Isn't that a ringing endorsement?  But no, really.  I kind of enjoyed it.  It wasn't at all what I expected.  I thought it would be a lot of people like me, beginning photographers who needed a bit of guidance in composition and use of light and things like that.  Instead it was a group of experienced photographers with a scary amount of equipment.  They had multiple cameras with huge lenses, big tripods, camera bags weighing down their shoulders, and the determined looks of people who were going to get the best photo no matter what.  Many of them had done the walk multiple times in different seasons. I think I was the only person who had come by herself. Most came in twos, probably so one could lug around all the equipment.

So there was no gentle guidance and no help setting up a good photo. These people knew what they were doing.  There was however, an entire almost empty village and plenty of time to take pictures.  We all had to stay together but I am an expert on staying on the edge of a group and managed to stay with them but still feel as if I had the village to myself.  The woman running the tour was friendly and good at keeping everyone moving.  At the end of the walk she asked for suggestions and I did mention that maybe photo walks aimed at different experience levels would be a good idea.  She was very receptive and kind.

old sturbridge village freeman farm

old sturbridge village sawmill

old sturbridge village mill pond

Springtime in the village is gorgeous.  Everything was blooming and there were calves and lambs and chicks.  The weather basically cooperated which means it didn't rain on us even though it had been threatening to all day.  And the village was empty.  I say that not just because I am not a people person but because it felt so much more real.  Of course it is wonderful to visit when the village is open.  I have many happy memories of doing just that.  But when there are only a handful of people roaming the dusty lanes it feels so much more like you have stepped back in time.  There are no crowds of people to remind you of the present day.  You can walk down the road and listen to the quiet, hang over the fence and admire the lambs without getting elbowed and shoved, pretend that this is the world you live in.

Of course, you can't buy stick candy at Miner Grant's store and that is a true deprivation. We will just have to go back.

A Day Out--Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle

Knights, jousting, swords, armor, moats, towers. These have always fascinated my son.  When he found out we were going to England his main request was that we tour a medieval castle. England is full of castles but it was hard to decide which would most fit his interests and be doable as a day trip from London.  I asked for recommendations in a blog post and @LouLouReads on Twitter promptly responded with the suggestion of Arundel Castle.

It was perfect.

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle

We took the train from Victoria Station and it was about a ninety-minute journey. The train trip itself was fun for the kids. Train journeys are not common in our lives and they enjoyed it.  Besides, they got to see quite a bit of the countryside as we traveled through.  The thing that always amazes me about England is that it looks just as you would imagine.  It is like all your favorite books and stories have come to life and that was even truer as we arrived at the castle.  Seriously, if the photo above doesn't make you feel as if you have walked into a fairy tale, I don't know what will.

Photography is not allowed inside the castle so, unfortunately, I can't show you photos of the great hall or the armor collection or the artwork but suffice it to say, it lived up to my son's expectations.

The castle was built at the end of the eleventh century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel. It is simply loaded with history. The fourth earl was beheaded for plotting to marry Mary Queen of Scots.  It was twice besieged during the Civil War.  Queen Victoria visited the castle. The castle is full of collections of furniture, artwork, clocks, heraldic items, and armor. Did I mention the armor? My son was fascinated with it.

view from arundel castle

arundel castle

view from arundel castle

Arundel Castle

It was possible to visit the castle keep where there were amazing views of the surrounding countryside.  Climbing up the winding stone stairs and looking out the narrow openings in the keep definitely reinforced just how old the castle is and how much history is there.

The gardens were gorgeous as well. We spent a long time walking through them and my daughter and I took about five million photos.

Arundel Castle gardens

Arundel Castle gardens

Arundel Castle gardens

Arundel Castle gardens

The town of Arundel looked charming as well but the kids loved the castle so much that we ended up spending the entire day there and ran out of time to explore the town.

So the verdict on Arundel Castle? My son has declared it his favorite part of the trip. Plus, he highly recommends the gift shop for figurines of knights, etc. He rarely likes gift shops and I had to drag him out of this one.  Plus, there is a nice restaurant and a cafe on the premises. So, if you are ever in England, go. It was a fun trip, a gorgeous garden tour, and a history lesson all in one. I think these smiles say it all.

Celia and me