Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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May '12

England and Spain Adventure, Day 3: London

On our first full day in England we traveled to Westminster tube stop to see the sights of central historic London. Our hotel was on the south side of the Thames, on the east side of London, so we always started the day by catching a bus to the nearest tube stop (Canada Water Station) and then taking underground trains from there. We had an Oyster card, which is a prepaid travel card that we just swiped as we got on the bus and tube.

Carissa and Wes loved the train and bus. This is us waiting for the underground train to come on Day 4. (Isn’t Carissa so cute, sitting on that big chair with her legs straight out?)

Carissa became a resident expert on buses and started pointing out buses everywhere we went–and in London, there are a lot of buses!

We had lovely weather for our first day in London, and there were a lot of people out.

The London Eye, which was built about 10 years ago and skeptics thought would ruin the skyline and lose oodles of money.

Big Ben and Parliament.

Westminster Abbey.

The London streets and famous phone booths.

St. James Park, where we paused to let the kids run around and chase the pigeons.

We spent an hour or so at the Churchill War Rooms Museum, which is an underground bunker used by Churchill and military/political officials during WWII.

We passed some guards and horse guards.

No. 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives.

We walked past Trafalgar Square on our way to Covent Garden for lunch. That’s the National Portrait Gallery on the left behind the monument, and my personal favorite place in London to the right: the church St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

We ate lunch at Maxwell’s, an American-style restaurant. Wes got a chocolate milk shake.

Really, we might as well call this trip “The Vacation Wherein Wes Ate Ice Cream Every Day.”

But what are vacations for, if not to enjoy yourself?


England and Spain Adventure, Day 2: The Very Worst, Most Awful Night

We crashed around 6:30 pm the day we arrived in London, England. We were all dead tired. Our hotel room was set up for families with two bedrooms. We slept in one and the kids in the other.

Carissa woke up a few times, crying, and I went in to check on her around 9:30 and 10 pm. I last remember looking at my watch at 9:53 pm and seeing Wes asleep on the single bed when I looked in at Carissa in her crib.

At 12:30 am or so Carissa woke again, and when I checked her I thought she needed a diaper change. I pulled off her pants and turned to find a diaper. And that’s when I saw that Wesley’s bed was empty.

I didn’t have my contacts in and couldn’t see well in the dark, so I ran to the other room, got my glasses, came back and flipped on the light. I looked under the beds, everywhere, and he was nowhere. I started to panic.

I woke up John and he got dressed while I called the reception desk. I reported Wesley missing. I gave them his description and they told me they’d search the hotel. Meanwhile, John headed out to look and he asked me to do one more, thorough search of our room. I did, which included the balcony outside, but he definitely wasn’t in the room. And, thankfully, the balcony was the kind with solid cement walls that wouldn’t be easy for him to fall off of if he ended up out there (which he could have, because the balcony door DIDN’T HAVE A LOCK, and it was located in the room with two single beds–obviously meant for kids).

The London Hilton Docklands is an old, historic building with a weird layout. We were on the fourth floor near the elevator. You come up the elevator and you can choose to go straight through two heavy fire doors that lead to our room and two others, or you can turn right or left through glass doors that lead to other corridors and other rooms. All the rooms wrap around a big courtyard in the middle. It’s kind of a maze, typical of such an old building.

John went down the elevator to look for Wes. We’d only ever gone up and down the elevator, and Wes likes pushing the buttons, so it would make sense for him to try it. Although if he used the elevator, who knows which floor he’d get off on?

I wrapped Carissa in my cardigan (she still didn’t have on pants, and it was chilly outside) and I knocked on our neighbors’ doors. I’m sure they didn’t appreciate this at nearly 1 in the morning, but I did it anyway. Then I went through the glass door that leads down one corridor near the elevator, calling Wesley’s name.

I can’t even describe the fear, panic, and heartbreak I felt. I’ve never panicked like I did then. I’ve never worried like I did then. Anyone who knows Wes and our family knows that we have concerns about him wandering off and losing him. He’s just prone to it. A lot of people with Down syndrome are. I couldn’t believe my worst fear was happening.

What if he was hurt, or lost, or scared? What if someone had taken him and was hurting him? My heart broke at the thought. He is my precious, precious boy. I prayed a lot.

I started down one of the corridors leading away from the elevator, but I was doubtful he actually went that way. We had never pushed through those glass doors, and I thought he wouldn’t even notice them. I didn’t stay there long and decided to head down the elevator as well to continue looking.

The doors opened to the first floor and I instantly met the night manager, talking on his intercom. He was simultaneously speaking into the intercom while trying to tell me something, and he wasn’t doing a good job doing both. He said to me, “My colleague is–” and then he went back to the intercom: “You’re outside the room?” I just wanted him to spit it out, because obviously it was about Wes.

He finally told me that his colleague had located Wes, and that he was OK. I think I’ll leave out the part where I broke down into sobs of relief when he said this. We got into the elevator together and went back up to the room.

There was the hotel employee walking toward us, carrying Wes. He handed Wes to me and I hugged him. I think it upset Wes that I was crying, but I really could not help it. He was completely fine and safe. The employee had found him wandering around one of the corridors on our floor, so he had indeed pushed through one of the glass doors and found his way out. I don’t know how long he had been gone, but he wasn’t notably cold.

John, Carissa, Wes, and I returned to our room. We decided Wes had woken up, gotten out of bed and, not being familiar with the hotel room or where we were sleeping, headed out the door. We were so dead tired and deeply asleep that we just didn’t hear him.

How did he get out of a locked hotel door? The deadbolt on the door WAS BROKEN. We didn’t notice this when we had locked it earlier that evening.

So, how to get back to sleep at 2:30 in the morning when you don’t want to leave your kid unattended in his bed? You build barricades.

We became really adept at this at every hotel we stayed in over the course of our trip.

First thing in the morning we called maintenance and told them to come up and install a new deadbolt, which they did.

This really shook us up. We always try to keep track of our kids (what parent doesn’t?), but our anxiety and carefulness was definitely heightened.

In fact, when we returned home and walked into our own house, one of the first things Wes did was go downstairs to the basement to play with his toys that he missed. As soon as he was out of eyesight and gripping distance I felt anxious. I mentioned this to John, and he said he felt it too. We were just so used to making sure we always knew where he was and exactly what he was doing, but we had to tell ourselves it was OK for him to play in the safety of our own home again.

Never, NEVER want to go through that again.

On to day two in London.

May '12

England and Spain Adventure, Days 1 & 2: London

Getting Ready to Go

Doing laundry.


Getting There
We flew to NYC, then to London Heathrow.

On the plane.

The kids were really pretty good on all of our flights, all trip long, and people complimented us for their goodness. To which we smiled and said thanks, even though we were thinking, “Really?”

The flight overseas to London was six hours but felt like twelve. It was because the kids only slept three of those hours, and we slept one. We landed in London around 8 am, which was like 1 am to our bodies. It was strange to fly east and watch the sun rise even when my watch said it was the middle of the night.

Approaching London.


Waiting for our pushchair (translated: stroller) at the gate. It was funny to suddenly hear everyone talking in British accents. The kids were happy to be off the plane. It felt good to be in England.

The line through Border Control. L-O-N-G. Heathrow is notorious for this. Thankfully, we were standing near another family whose baby was screaming, and the officials let all of us cut straight to the front after just 20 minutes of waiting. Yay for tired kids.

And, people, THIS is why you go to England. Cadbury chocolate: mmmmmmm.

Our hotel. We looked extensively before picking this Hilton. London is one of the priciest places to visit in all of western Europe. It wasn’t the most convenient location (we had to take the bus plus the underground trains everywhere–nothing within walking distance), but it was affordable. If we had more money to throw around I would definitely have stayed closer to city center.

Our luggage. Our attempt to pack light with two adults + two kids = success. We traveled with John’s mother and stepfather, and we had less luggage between the four of us than they did the two of them. (And they didn’t have to lug around diapers, toys, bottles, and sippy cups.)

The day we arrived we were pretty tired, so all we did was take the free ferry the hotel offered across the Thames River to the other side, which is the area known as Canary Wharf. It’s mostly high-end businesses in big, tall buildings, but it has restaurants and shopping areas as well. We set out to find something to eat and a grocery store to buy milk and snacks for the kids.

We went to Waitrose.

Oh, how I love British grocery stores. We stocked up on a few essentials like thick, creamy, so-not-low-fat yogurt.

Also, Cadbury chocolate, several liters of semi-skimmed milk, and croissants. I think I ate croissants, either plain or with chocolate, nearly every day in Europe. If you ignore their lack of good nutrition, they make a perfect breakfast.

Did I mention we were tired?

We ate dinner here, at Zizzi’s Italian Restaurant, which is a decent chain we saw in every British city we visited.

John and I split the Fiorentina pizza, which I’ve always wanted to try since reading about it in a British novel. (It’s “spinach, buffalo ricotta and cheese. Finished with a little garlic, nutmeg and a free range egg.”) Yeah. It was good.

I actually nodded off during dinner, and it wasn’t even 5 o’clock yet. So we went back to the hotel and went to bed early, around 6:30 pm.

And that was the end of our first two days–almost. Read on to the next post.

May '12

2 Peas

Brother and sister…

Eating bacon together on the counter.

Eating applesauce in front of the TV.

Playing with umbrellas.

Looking out the window together.

And even wearing the same hair clips.


Carissa Coloring Again

Carissa loves to color, and I love to watch her. She does it with such total concentration, which you can see in her mouth.

I interrupted her.



Wes loves to play with balls. He loves shooting baskets, playing catch, hitting the softball, etc. And he’s a really good shot.

Carissa’s favorite new toy is this play house. It comes with a mommy, daddy, and baby that she loves to play with. Someone gave it to Wes when he was about her age now (20 months) but he was never into it. Good thing we kept it! Wes will try to play with it alongside her, but she gets mad at him because he doesn’t do it right.

Carissa’s crazy hair.