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Levees in London: We're Living on the Edge

You need to believe me. This site, started as an attempt at a travel blog. My family was reeling from the news that we were moving oversees and so I thought journaling our adventures and making them feel like they were here with us, was a perfect solution to the separation. However the world turned on its axis, Covid happened, and well, now you have heard about everything but ACTUAL travel. Currently, this blog has become some sort of kindergarten grab bag: you may pull a fun glittery bouncy ball or you may pull a stupid eraser shaped like a duck, it's all chance and circumstance. Sorry. I feel like I sold you ice in Alaska but in all the things I take on, sometimes I just go and hope the unknown will just shake out as I haul ass towards some goal. This time, this time, let's talk about some travel. Shall we?

Dover Castle
Found the Inner Bailey
The Archer's Tunnel

So... fun fact, my mother died on Mother's Day. That's right, in 2010, in the wee hours of Sunday morning a nurse woke us up to tell us that while we had all dozed off, Mom left. I remember I had been sleeping on one of those chairs that turns into a really bad option for a bed, and the nurse patted my shoulder to softly say, "She's gone." Now, it is totally like Mona to get in one more holiday that was all about her. In fact, when the nurse had come in the day before she had sweetly stated, "Oh my goodness Honey, I sure hope your Momma doesn't pass on Mother's Day!" I had muttered back, "if you know her, you know that would be something she would do." After we all came to, and realized the battle was over, the reality of the day's date set in. It was a Sunday, a holiday, and it would take the coroner a bit longer to pick my mother up. Awesome. And so we sat with her, and the little body that used to hold her, for hours while we waited. Gathered round my mother's bedside, the sad silence was broken with a low chatter, in a short time we found ourselves talking and laughing as we recounted things about Mona. You know, cracking up laughing with her corpse in the center of us all. I can't make this stuff up. It was morbid and weird but it was her last Mother's Day here and it felt very fitting to end the wild ride that was Mona's life with a room full of women chuckling at all the things she did and said.

It just so happens, this year, 11 years later... was the anniversary of my mother's passing as well as Mother's Day. Zac asked me what I would like to do for the day, and in my head I thought, "Stay as busy as humanly possible" though what came out of my mouth was, "Oh, I don't know love... let's get out maybe?" I mentioned a possible road trip and soon we had formulated plans to go to Dover. Folks, it's a day trip, but it's travel! Baby steps.

Plans were loose. I woke up and enjoyed each of my kids leaping onto my bed with cards and gifts and I did my usual weekend breakfast. I packed a picnic and we planned to leave about 11:00 to do a late lunch when we arrived at Dover. This is were I will never lie to you. We left at 12:30, each of us moody and starving so the packed picnic basket became our snacking bin after we popped into a McDonalds. We chose McDonalds because we are true Americans and because it was less scary than the KFC. Note: KFC is big here, people love it. It does not taste anything like what is served in America but it is a home run for the Brits. Who knew? After loading up on under-salted fries and over-salted meats, we hit the road again. As we cruised through the country side we practiced yelling over the noise of the sun roof. Zac's car is older, and so the sun roof is stuck in a "not-fully-closed-but-not-fully-open" position, thus creating a wind tunnel that can either lull you to sleep or cause vocal cord deterioration if you try to tell a story over the humming. To combat the white noise, we packed a travel style Alexa to play music, because, get this, Zac's radio is locked and the previous owner is the keeper of the code. Man do I miss my GMC Acadia about now. After our bellies were full, the tension in the car lightened and we are able to be almost chipper. The kids packed these ridiculous bags of stress toys that they saved for and ordered from China. After trying them all out, they passed them around like hors d'oeuvres at a fancy party, until we all picked our favorite toy to fidget with for the rest of the ride. Families are weird.

Pretty sure we were not suppose to do this
A draw bridge, we love a drawbridge.

We arrive at Dover Castle and because we are true tourists, we purchase a year long castle pass because you can never tire of a castles, so the investment is a sound one. On this day, the place is basically empty and so the kids run around and play hide-and-seek amid cannons and in tunnels, paying no mind they are standing in a piece of history. I wonder if when they are older, they will look back in awe of the things they did on this trip. Per our standard practice, we are all hungry again. Family travel means we eat in increments of 3 hours. It makes me wonder if we are eating our feelings. Any who, after walking back to the car to pass out the Uncrustables we purchased at the military commissary, we begin to think about heading to our next destination. Want to hear something that will blow your mind? The Brits do NOT do peanut butter and jelly. It's not a thing here. It makes me feel like they are really missing out. However today, we are not missing out, because we are eating these bad boys in three bites or less. After a few minutes of snacking in the parking lot, a seagull lands to check out the situation. This is when I see the great disparity in my children's personalities. Avah, is standing back in caution because she is my mature spirit. Arden, is trying to talk to the bird because she is my "feeler" and she hopes to coax the bird into sharing his feelings too. She would likely stuff him in her unicorn bag and hold him hostage forever if she could catch him. Asher, señor psychopath, is yelling and taunting the bird. Brandishing his half eaten sandwich to then hide it away and heckle the bird to come and get it. Bad form young one, bad form. The Karma Gods are watching because a short 5 minutes later the bird and his band of followers begin to follow my little bad boy as we walk down the hill. Asher is realizing the tables have turned and he is about to get gotten. Suddenly, he doesn't seem so sure of himself and he begins to scream like a banshee as the bird is diving for his sandwich. Asher narrowly escapes by tucking and rolling into the grass in the shape of an egg. He's holding the last bite of his sandwich in his chunky little 5 year old fingers like he's holding the arc of the covenant. Zac and I, like really good parents, cannot stop laughing. Seriously, video below, try not to laugh. I fall into the grass on my knees to catch my breath. Parenthood: watching your kids make asses of themselves and trying not to laugh.

Don't be surprised if I get a thistle tattoo. I love it.
Mommy's Boy.

That was fun. Our next stop, the White Cliffs of Dover.

We arrive to the side of a hill with lines of parked cars and views of people picnicking on a bright and sunny shore. This is not the famed white cliffs, but damn it already feels high. I gulp because until now I had forgotten that I sometimes get a little woozy in high spots. Running from my mother's day past is getting dangerous. We get out of the car and take in a big whiff of salty air and hash. That's right, we have somehow missed the family parking area and landed in the "young kids just trying to be cool" area. We scurry the kids along and start our trek to the famed cliffs. As we walk, I think about all the history of this place. On this clear day, to my right I can see what I believe is the shore of Calais. I know with certainty, this spot is where so many stood before battle with the French, and again with the Germans. So many books I've read, so many times I have envisioned this place and here I am just walking along the paths of history. It feels surreal. Just at that moment, my phone pings and says, "Welcome to France." We are so close to France, even my phone is confused. My brain is also now confused. There is zero fencing. ZERO! Picture this... looking over an uncertain edge and seeing you are several stories up with no safety net. I wouldn't be so concerned if not for the fact that I know I have Asher with me, who has no sense of fear and really no sense at all. It's hitting me. What if I let one of my kids plummet to their death on Mother's Day. That may be the only thing worse than sitting with my mother's dead body for hours. How are these my options? At that moment, we are heading up a hill that has no foreseeable edge. Just water. My knees, where are my knees? My legs? Where did my legs go? I start to call out to Zac who is now clearly wondering what in the hell is wrong with me. His rebound is fast, seconds later, he is saying, "Baby, what are you doing? Babe, you're okay, keep walking." Nope. Im done. I basically lay out on the side of the hill like I'm making a snow angel without the snow. My kids are laughing, my husband is laughing, and I am now the egg shaped ball on the White Cliffs of Dover. Oh the irony.

Me. Having a heart attack.

Notice my grip on Asher
Basically went to France

I manage to get it together and we finish what is really the most amazing hike I have ever been on. We wander through hills, criss crossing along the steep edge, through a tunnel, down a ladder and out to the beach which, as a fun surprise, is the site of an old ship wreck. And so the skeleton of a ship's haul greets us as we stumble upon rocks and look out over a foggy horizon. After about 7 minutes of gorgeous views, we see a lightening bolt drop down and kiss the water out on the horizon. Well, that was fun. We book it, running through the tunnels and over the hills. Our kids have turned pale and are trying to drop out of what will forever be known as the "Mother's Day March of 2021." Zac takes turns carrying them, and I cheer them on from behind. We make it back to the car just as the bottom drops out. Soaking wet, we stop on the way home to grab super greasy fish-n-chips before the kids pass out. Mother's day is done, and I hardly had time or energy to cry or sulk at the significance of the day's date.

Mission accomplished.

I know this was a day trip, I know this was not some grand adventure BUT... it was good for my heart. Well, it was bad for my blood pressure at some points, but it was good for my soul. Seeing Asher almost taken out by birds, to then be nearly laughed off the side of a cliff, before getting rain-soaked and eating fried fish in a wind tunnel.. all of it, was what it is to be a mother. You plan for things, you hope for things for your children, and you try your best to walk along side them as they traverse the steep peaks and low valleys that make up their little lives. Motherhood is the greatest adventure. Always. I know, without a doubt, when I stood on the edge of the White Cliffs, just a little dot on the shore, my mother was there. I felt her. She was no doubt laughing at my ability to make the simple, complicated, and she was no doubt proud I pushed past the fear and kept going. She may have even been that invisible fence that was going to keep me from falling off a cliff. My heart tells me my day trip was better than any tangible gift. It reminded me to stop wanted more, and just wanting better. To all my mothers, and all their mothers, Happy Mother's Day.

Stay tuned. We have a trip to Cornwall and Scotland in the works. Hoping for less bird attacks and more kilts.

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We also have a facebook page @LeveesinLondon. Give us a follow if you want to see the "tom foolery" that is going to be our summer travel plans.

Love from London-

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