Thursday, August 28, 2014

No Spend September - Who is with me!

So I was at playgroup this week...playgroup a place you can go when you aren't obligated to be hauling kids to and from preschool everyday and one of the girls mentioned that she's going to be doing No-Spend September again with her husband.  I perked up, especially since our bank account was nearing zero and I was under strict instructions to not spend a cent until the 29th.  "What's that?"  "Well," she said, "We only spend money on the necessities.  We can get food, gas, and pay bills but that is it.  No eating out, no thrift store or garage sale shopping, no movies, no haircuts, just the basics and our bills.  Last year we saved $300."  I was intrigued, especially since I really need a way to reign in my budget.  When Dr. J got home that night I mentioned it to him.  He was on board.  SO starting September 1st we are in a No Spending Zone!  I will still be grocery shopping and getting gas but even in my grocery shopping I started a very careful list yesterday to try and minimize spending and trips to the store and maximize pantry use.  I'm hoping this will be fun, help me get my budget under control and show me places where we really need to make adjustments.  I jokingly told my sister I'm going to do no spend September, skip October (my birthday month), and then jump back in with a no spend November to prep us better for Christmas.  I'm pretty excited about it.  With that and our decision to switch our cell service over to Republic Wireless I think there is a chance I can really make some headway on our spending.  I do have to say though I had a little cry last night when I came home from the dentist after finding out that Gigi had five new cavities and Peach had one.  Six months ago two cavities that Gigi had cost us 420 out of pocket dollars.  Just thinking about how much six cavities are going to cost us to fix when I was so excited about saving some money.  Well that really put me in a mood.  I'm just going to have to let it go though.  So here is to spend less money and getting finished all the projects I bought supplies to start in the last two years.  Hurrah!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life and Death Occupations

I live in Copland.  There is just no other way to say it.  If you drive through my neighborhood you'll see almost 20+ parked cop cars.  You'll see state troupers and city cops, you'll see vans and unmarked cars, there is a good chance you'll have one pull up at the stop sign behind you.  When we first moved here we commented on the fact that cops and residents must make about the same amount of money because every neighborhood we looked at was filled with cop car.  Most of the time I find their presence reassuring.  A few years before I moved here a man approached a girl playing outside and tried to convince her to come with him.  She ran home to her dad, who was a police officer, and he sent out an APB and Copland went to work.  Those men and ladies flooded the streets and within a few minutes had apprehended the guy.  There are sometimes when it stresses me out.  I can't tell you how many times I look in my review mirror, feel a slick of sweat start to form on my back as I realize there is a cop driving behind me and I have no idea if I'm speeding or not and then see a kid's head pop up in the backseat and realize the drivers is in civilian clothes and is just taking their kid to a ball game.  It shouldn't be surprising that because of the high density of cops living in my neighbor I happen to know quite a few.  There are two in my ward.  In my mops group I'm friends with four ladies married to police officers and this year at my mops table where I'm lucky enough to be with my good friend Amanda (whose hubby is a police officer), we also have Brooke whose husband used to be a police office, and Kourtney who along with being married to a police officer is one as well.  There is always a police officer or police officer's wife working with me at PTA or on school parties or on field trips and I see police officers all the time when I'm taking stuff to the school, dropping off kids or forgotten lunches before they head off to their shift.  I live in Copland.

Copland is really starting to feel the strain of the recent events in Missouri.  For the first few days the wives were quiet, but as tension rose and the dialogue toward the police officer involved and his family got more heated they finally started to break, posting comments on Facebook, making quiet conversations at playgroups or at drop off, talking about their fears and worries and their frustration at what appears to be the public and the politicians inability to wait to hear a verdict on the case.  I hear you cop spouses and police officers.  I understand.  While I don't have the added stress that you bear of worrying for the personal safety of your spouse and their friends I do share the burden that on a bad day at your husband's job somebody might die.  While the worst thing that can happen on most of your friend's spouses' jobs are accounting errors or misconstrued comments, our husbands face life and death decisions everyday and a bad day for them might mean that they were responsible for someone's death.  That is a burden to be born.  Those of you married to teachers or accountants or attorneys you would be mistaken if you thought we don't think about that often, that we don't pray each day with our children not only for the safety of our husbands but also for the safety of those they come in contact with.  Each day I pray that my husband will have an open mind, that he can make the right decisions, that his heart and hands will be guided....and yet I know that there is a chance that someday he could make a mistake that will result in someones death.  It is a burden he bears and a burden I bear as well and I know my police officer wives feel the same.  

I think sometimes we forget that in our rush to judgement of the police officer and his family, that the job he does is unique, that it is hard, that it carries physical risk to him, and that any mistake or bad day, any off moment he has, that is could directly result in the loss of someones life.  Are their cops out there who are just total D bags?  You bet.  I've met them, you've met them, we've all met them.  But there are also doctors who are total D bags, and teaches, principals, accountants, businessman, bus drivers, attorneys, cooks, UPS guys, you get the idea.  The majority of police officers like the majority of doctors, like the majority of a lot of people are really great people.  They coach little league and work on PTA, they are in your mops group, or the deacon at your church.  You are friends with them on facebook and on your fantasy league.  They choose their jobs because they wanted to help people but every once in a while because of the nature of their job something horrible is going to happen and when it does it can mean life or death.

It isn't that I don't feel anger about what happened in Ferguson.  I do.  The fact that Mike Brown, a young person at the beginning of his life had it tragically cut short makes me extremely sad.  The fact that his family is grieving makes us all grieve.  The fact that he was unarmed and for all intensive purposes seems to be completely guiltless makes me extremely uncomfortable and horrified.  The fact that a city has fallen into chaos and anger is a tragedy, but I submit that part of the tragedy is the burden of this death that police officer and his family will now carry with them forever.  I can't help but feel that some of the anger being thrown at the police officer, the police department, or even at Michael Brown, is anger we should be throwing at ourselves.  There are so many social factors that actually play the biggest role in this tragedy that we own because we continue to allow them to exist, to multiple, to make it so that situations like this are just more likely to happen.

Racism exist.  If you don't agree I submit to you that you live, work, went to school, watch news in a pretty monochromatic world.  Those of us living in the rest of the world who happen to live, work, go to school, shop, or watch the news where more than one color of people happen to be have seen this.  Just this last week I was listening to the news and heard a story about Macys and Barneys and how they were being forced to pay a fine for using racial profiling to accuse and harass shoppers of color of shoplifting.  It is still out there.  Sometimes it is just annoying like being harassed while shopping, but sometimes it is more blatant and damaging and leads to things like the fact that we actually have a sentencing gap between races. Studies have found that black men are given prison sentences almost 20% longer for similar crimes as their white counterparts.  Minorities are also more likely to be given jail time for the same offenses as whites.  A study by the Guardian found that, "black offenders were 44% more likely than white offenders to be sentenced to prison for driving offences, 38% more likely to be imprisoned for public disorder or possession of a weapon and 27% more likely for drugs possession.

Asian offenders were 41% more likely to be sent to prison for drugs offences than their white counterparts and 19% more likely to go to jail for shoplifting."
It should also be noted that minority groups have a much lower showings in occupations of law enforcement.  In the town of Ferguson it has been stated that of the 53 police officers on the force only 3 were black.  That means white officers make up 94% of the force while only making up 30% of the city population.  In the Missouri state court only 5% of the judges are minorities even though about 20% of the state population is not white.  Just in case you were wondering, the state court of Arizona is 9% minority, even though "white alone" meaning not Latino/not Hispanic is only 56.7% which means that over 40% of the state is not white, 1/3 of the whole state population being Hispanic.  I'm always curious about Arizona because it is the state I grew up and faced the most discrimination in as well.  Sometimes Dr. J will ask me if I'm ready to consider moving back there again (since it is one of the states closest to our parents) and I remember what is like to be Hispanic and live there and I say, "ABSOLUTELY NOT!"  In case you were wondering the states with the highest diversity in their state courts are Texas and California.  There are lots of factors that go into criminal behavior, to lack of upward mobility, to lack of prosperity and opportunities but to deny that race plays a factor would be a mistake.

We live in a country where prison is a business.  In the US we have allowed prisons to be privatized.  That means they are being run for profit and they have lobbyist petitioning our public officials to enact laws that make them more money.  It shouldn't be surprising then to find out we have the highest incarceration rates in the world.  In the last twenty years our incarceration rates continue to rise even as our violent crime rates fall.  The only other countries that come close are Russian and Cuba.  Russia and Cuba!  Have you looked at Russia lately, you can be thrown in prison for just speaking out against the government.   Our rates are almost three times those of United Arab Emirates where you can go to jail for eating during Ramadan and double the rate of Singapore where you can go to jail for yelling racial slurs.  Just in case you were wondering, Missouri has the 12th highest incarceration rate in the US.  It cost almost $50,000 per inmate a year to keep them housed and the irony on the privatization is those prisons are "filthier, more violent, less accountable, and more costly" which is pretty darn crazy when you consider that Human Rights Watch continues to raise concerns about safety in our prisons where "21% of inmates say they have been coerced into sexual activity (7% report being raped) and prisons are a hotbed of hepatitis C and tuberculosis.

We have the 2nd Amendment.  We could sit here an argue until we are blue in the face about guns but to be honest it's not worth it.  I'm not going to change your opinion and you're not going to change mine, but let me just say now I'm not a huge fan of guns but I still think it is worth noting even if you are that our attitudes toward firearms absolutely contribute to this problem.  I reluctantly own an unloaded, locked up 22.  I have zero interest in it, just like I had zero interest in the hand gun my father tried to give me for my 18th birthday, just like I have zero interest in the hand gun my father-in-law tried to convince me to buy when I decided to get an alarm system because Dr. J works so many nights and I saw my creepy neighbor kick the crap out of someone.  I reminded my FIL that his 2 year old accidentally shot him in the head with the handgun he had in the nightstand for protection and I thought back on a conversation I had with a friend about gun control (me for/she against) that was interrupted when her mother called to tell her that her teenage brother had killed himself with one of the family's guns.  I'm just not a fan.  But you know we have this constitutional right that we have chosen to interpret as an almost free for all and we have to own the fact that part of that right is this dark underside.  The truth is if you have "ready access to a firearm you are almost twice as likely to be killed and three times likelier to commit suicide."  Studies have also found that 3/4 of women killed with a firearm die in their home and know their assailant.  I saw an article recently that police officer in England and Wales went two years without fatally shooting someone and I wanted to say, "HOW IS THIS EVEN NEWS?  Doesn't everybody watch every UK crime show available??"  Oh you don't...well here is some crazy information, just your everyday, run of the mill Bobbie, police officer walking the streets in Great Britain is not armed with a gun.  If they need an armed response, they actually have to call in a special armed response unit.  Meanwhile in the US they say at least 400 people are killed by police officers a year.  Guns are not just something you have everywhere in the UK, either for cops, for regular people, or for criminals and as a result they aren't used nearly as much.  It is safer for the suspects, or just random people walking down the street, but it is also safer for the cops.  There have only been five officers who have died in the line of duty since 2012 in the UK.  Three were shot, one collapsed while chasing a robbery suspect, one was run over by a suspect.  Meanwhile during the same time period, in the state of California, which has half the population of the UK, 9 police officers were shot and killed.  So half the population, 3 times the death rate.  It just doesn't seem right.  I'm pretty horrified to tell you that in the city I live, which maybe hits a million people if you count the suburbs, 4 police officers were shot and killed in the same time period.  We have 1/60th the population of the UK and beat their shooting death rate.  The new girl at the mops table was telling me when they had their son that her husband moved the area he patrolled from one side of the city to the other because he was hoping he would get shot at less.  SHOT AT LESS PEOPLE, SHOT AT LESS!

I don't know what the outcome of the Mike Brown shooting will be.  I don't know when all the facts are considered who the country will see as in the wrong.  I think regardless, the situation is horrible and nothing that will happen is going to make that not the case.  I want to say to the family and community of Mike Brown I'm sorry for you loss, it is a tragedy.  I also want to say to the family of that police officer, and all the police officers and families who face the fact that their bad day can be life or death, I understand you are also in a tragedy.  We need to wake up to the fact that we are allowing our social problems to erode into what would already be a tense situation.  These problems deserve our righteous indignation, they deserve our awareness, and regardless of what political party, race, state, or opinion we belong to they deserve to be thoroughly discussed, to be reevaluated, and to ,God willing, be fixed.  How many civilians and cops are we willing to loose before we actually make real strides to fix the social problems we allow that inflame/create this issue?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Good Mom Moment

I had a good mom moment today.  It happened at the very end of the day, after Cheetah had been a complete menace to my friends kids at a MOPS craft planning meeting, after my kids had dumped the contents of three book bags all over my relatively clean family room floor, after I threatened to lock one child out if he didn't come in and start his homework instead of throwing sidewalk paint all over the driveway.  I was sitting in bed and I got a text from my friend Deborah telling me to thank Gigi for playing with her daughter on the playground today, that she'd come home from school really happy.  It was a lovely thing to hear and it started like this.  At the end of last school year Deborah, who lives in my ward, moved into a house about nine houses down from mine.  She's on the main street and we are on a culdesac three culdesacs away so it's not like I see her every second, but I see her enough that it makes me happy to have her there.  She has three daughters and her oldest daughter who is the same age Gigi is like a girl version of Captain E...and by that I mean super shy.  For the firs 2 1/2 years she wouldn't even talk to me.  Last December she came to Gigi's birthday party and I think that was the first time I'd really ever heard her voice.  Anyway last year she was still making her mom walk her in to school, but this year her little sister is in Kindergarten and so she is riding the same bus Captain E, Gigi, and Peach ride, although unfortunately neither her nor her little sister share a class with Gigi or Peach.

I've talked to her mom several times about the school year because I feel a little kinship to her, mainly because it's like looking at my own son, and also because I was excited for her that she has Ms. W, Captain E's amazing teacher from last year who was moved down from fourth grade to second.  (I am super disappointed G didn't get her!).  Deborah has told me the year is going pretty good but yesterday she mentioned to me that she wished A could find someone to play with on the playground.  She's the new girl in school this year, she's super shy, she spends her recesses alone.  Deborah said, "A, why don't you go and play with Gigi?"  But A said, "Mom she already has kids from her class to play with."  I'm not going to lie it sort of broke my heart.  That was Captain E the year we moved him to this school.  He was in second grade.  He'd just had to leave the most perfect best friend he will probably ever have in his whole life.  He was so painfully shy.  I don't think he said a whole word unless required that entire year, THE ENTIRE YEAR.

Gigi is a very different creature.  Dr. J and I were randomly discussing her earlier.  She's quiet when she wants to be but doesn't feel anxiety about speaking when she needs to.  She likes being with other people and is pleasant to be around but doesn't feel the need to work super hard to fit into any group.  She plays with others when they do what she likes but if she wants to do something else she has no problem leaving the group to do it.  She's just independent!  I think about it and know that even though maybe sometimes she's a little distant that I don't have to worry about her doing anything that she doesn't want to do.  That doesn't mean she doesn't know how to have fun and I happen to know that she particularly enjoys hanging out on the monkey bars with some of the girls from her class.

This morning while I was eating breakfast, I said, "Gigi have you seen A on the playground?"  She told me yes but said that she's not over in the area by the monkey bars.  "Oh," I said, "well maybe if you walk by her you can ask her if she has any interest in playing on the monkey bars.  She's new at the school this year and she really doesn't know anyone.  Maybe she won't end up wanting to play but sometimes just being invited makes you feel good."  "Yeah," Peach interjects, "I always like when people want to play with me."  Believe me girl we know!  Number three is my Miss Social.  That was it, the last I knew of it until I got Deborah's text tonight.

"Hey Gigi," I said, "Did you happen see A today."  "Yup.  I asked her if she wanted to play on the monkey bars with us and we had so much fun!"  Then she proceeds to give me a whole enthusiastic list of all the things they did today.  To be honest it was one of the few times I've seen Gigi super excited about spending time with anyone, so I think it went well.  It made me happy that she'd taken my push from this morning, and it made me me happy that A and Gigi both had each other to play with.  I hope that they continue to nurture a friendship.  It is an answer to my prayers.  Every morning when I pray with the kids I ask for the same things.  First I ask God that their minds will be open to learning.  Then I ask that they will be a good example and finally I ask that they will be a good friend.  I read this article recently about how if you want your kids to be happy, the most important thing isn't how talented they are, it isn't how smart they are, it isn't how tall or rich or beautiful they are but the biggest determinant of future happiness is how nice they are.  The kids and I had a good discussion about this one day and hypothesized on why we thought this might be.  They thought it might have something to do with the fact that if you are nice to other people that they are more likely to be nice to you, not guaranteed but more likely and if you are surrounded by nice people who wouldn't be happy.  More than anything I want my kids to be happy and so I pray for them daily that they will be a good friend, that they will be loving, that they will want to be kind.  Today I got a glimpse of kindness from one of my children and it blessed her, it blessed A, it blessed Deborah and it blessed me.  I guess you could say it definitely paid off in some happiness.  I feel lucky and grateful I got to hear about this.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Long Road Home

When we scheduled our trip they allowed you to fold in two weeks of vacation at the beginning, one at the end.  You could use it for travel or to do extra time working on the wards, the choice was yours.  When we flew in Dr. J hit the ground running.  In April they'd send everyone home and it wasn't until May 1st that we learned that we would be allowed to come.  Then there were the bombings in Nairobi.  We knew at any minute they could decide that for the safety of the participants and the program people would have to leave and so we decided ahead of time that Dr. J should start as soon as possible and work as much as possible so that he could maximize his time on the wards in case we had to leave at some point.  Because of that we went straight from Chicago, to London, to Nairobi, to Eldoret and then the second full day we were there, when everyone was still suffering for jet lag and he still technically had five more days of vacation Dr. J headed off to wards.  We ended up being lucky.  Even though there were two more horrible terrorist events in the country (on the coast) the program deemed us far enough away that we were allowed to stay and Dr. J was able to fulfill two full rotations on the wards, one in medicine and one in peds.  That gave us a lot more freedom when we were leaving country.

Our first little vacation blip came in the fact that while I'd intended to get the flight with only a two hour layover in London I'd accidentally clicked on the one with the 10 hour layover and purchased it without noticing.  When I first discovered this I was a little distraught, thinking about trying to fill 10 hours in a airport with four kids but then it hit me, why not leave the airport.  So I talked to Dr. J and we decided to make a jaunt outside the airport.  The second little blip came in the fact that we didn't fly out of Kenya until Sunday night.  Dr. J's vacation technically started that Monday but he decided he'd work until we left but on the weekends the whole area shuts down and if you aren't out doing something you are bored.  Plus we'd heard that even though there are two flights from Eldoret to Nairobi on Sunday, the afternoon flight often gets cancelled but taking that 7 o'clock morning flight out of Eldoret and sitting int he Nairobi airport until 11:30 at night just seemed like a nightmare.  We were still debating what to do when Kristin planned our Navisha/Nakuru trip a month before we left....on the way home we just left her in Nakuru and she did some travelling before she headed to Nairobi.  We left Hannah as well and some friends came and picked her up and took her to Nairobi.  Meanwhile poor Corinne had to drive all the way back to Eldoret with us and then fly back to Nairobi the last night.  It was crazy.  At Navisha we were less than 80km from Nairobi.

We knew the program directors like to encourage people to fly because the roads can sometimes be less than ideal but we already driven almost all the way there and we thought it would be much more fun to have a little adventure before we left town then to stay at the compound over the boring weekend and then be stuck at the airport.  So we talked to JJ, the guy who heads the internal medicine residents and students, and he said, "what you do on your vacation time is your business."  So we planned on overland exit that would cover several days.  I'm going to link them all here below but add them separate or this post would be a million scrolls long.  Hope you enjoy this last little bit because I think this concludes most of our Kenya pics.  We have a couple more things to add, an our favorite places list, Dr. J's feelings on working in the hospital, my negative feelings towards Toms shoes right now, but this is most of what is left, so hopefully you won't be too overwhelmed.


Lake Navisha Area
Lake Oloiden - Hippo Boat of hippos in the water and on land plus birds everywhere video
Mount Longonot - The Volcano Hike that Didn't Happen
Camp Carnelly - We're cheap and we stayed here again...hippo in the camp
Crater Lake - This Volcano we did get to hike of flamingos flying

Amani House/Mennonite Guest House - Our most comfortable Stay
Elephant Orphanage - One of my favorite parts of the trip...elephant baby videos
Nairobi Game Park - 25 yards from a lion

10 hour Heathrow layover = London Walking tour...short changing of the guard video

Saturday, August 16, 2014

10 Hour Heathrow Layover Turned London Walking Tour

So when I realized we were going to have an accidental ten hour lay over in London I was initially a little bummed out.  There is a play area in the Heathrow Airport and plenty of restaurants but the idea of being there for ten hours with my four kids made me want to poke my eyes out.  We were also concerned and rightly so about Cheetah on the plane.  On the way out the other kids had been great but she had been up and over climbing on seats, crying, and insisting I hold her in the back for hours.  It was horrible.  It didn't take long for Dr. J and I to realize we had a opportunity to spend some time in London and hopefully wear Cheetah down so that she'd actually sleep on the second flight and so we made a plan.  We knew there were three trains to get from Heathrow into London.  You could take the London underground. The plus on this is cheap.  The negative it can take an hour or more one way.   The second two options were the Heathrow Connect.  It takes about 26 minutes to get to Paddington station from Heathrow.  It cost about 10 pounds or almost 18 US dollars.  The final train option was the Heathrow Express.  It was the most expensive at 34 pounds round trip if you buy them in advance online but it was also the fastest with trains leaving every fifteen minutes and it only taking 15 minutes to get from Heathrow to Paddington Station.  The cool thing about the Heathrow Express is they actually had a deal where buying the tickets in advance and using the code KIDSFREE12 we could get two kids ages 2-15 on for free for each adult ticket bought.  It was perfect for our family.  So for $122 US dollars my whole family could travel into London on the fastest train and get back to the airport.  When you have a limited amount of time going fast is worth it.  After getting off our plane we headed toward security.  We had to ask three people where to go, I swear Heathrow has the worst signs ever but then we found immigration.  We gave them our passports and the landing card we had to fill out on the plane as well as showed them our tickets showing we'd be leaving the country in less than 24 hours and they stamped our passports and let us in for free.  If you are going to be staying longer and I'm not sure if it is longer than 24 hours or 48 but there is a fee, either 40 or 54 pounds depending on how you travel.  Anyway we were only there for 10 hours so it was cheap and easy to get through border control.  

Then we hopped on the Heathrow Express.  The train was nice and fast and in no time at all we were pulling into the Paddington Station.  I love Paddington Station.  It is old and new filled with people moving all over the place.  Unfortunately these are the only two pictures we got at the station and they are blurry.  Just know we were in Paddington, it was 8 in the morning and we were happy.  We'd looked up different places to go from here and as we left the station we leaded toward Hyde Park.  This part of London is just gorgeous.  There are shops, pubs, fish and chip, and curry places to get something to eat.  There are white fronted hotels, tree lined streets and everything is clean and fresh.  Hyde park is also a treat.  In the early morning it is filled with bike commuters, people running, and people taking their horses out for a trout.  There is lots of space and everyone just sort of moves seamlessly past eachother.  There are also signs and maps everywhere.  Talk about a great city to do a walking tour in.  Every 300 yards or so we'd find ourselves at a new map and could reorient ourselves.  Then our son suggested we just take a picture of a map with our phone and we could carry it with us.  Hello brilliant child!  It's probably easier if I just tell you the things we did in a list.

We walked from Hyde park to Buckingham Place.  Then we headed down to Westminster Abbey, passing the Guards Museum where we listened to guys playing the bagpipes and drums and they rehearsed for the changing of the guard.  We saw Big Ben, we crossed the Thames to the London Eye and Aquarium.  We ate overpriced McDonalds Breakfast Sandwiches because Dr. J was starving and insisted we had to eat something immediately.  We walked by Parliament and Downing Street where the Prime Minister Lives.  We headed to Trafalgar Square by the Military museum where the kids enjoyed looking at the horses.  Then we headed back toward Buckingham Palace.  We stopped at the back side of the military museum to watch the soldiers dressed in old fashion uniforms on the horses.  Then we headed back to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard.  At this point it was noon and while we were reluctant we knew we should probably head back.  We went back through Hyde park getting ice cream at this cafe on the lake.  It was 2 pounds a cone ($3.90) but it was totally worth it.  It was the perfect pick me up and it got us back to Paddington Station, because at this point we'd walked almost eight miles and the kids were starting to get a little tired.  I loved London.  It was clean and easy to walk.  The signs, maps, and high concentration of sites made it extremely tourist friendly.  It is definitely a costly place to be but I would love to go back when I had the opportunity to go into all of these places.  I think it would be totally be worth buying the London Pass if you were going to spend any significant amount of time in London.  It gets you into a lot of attractions for free and you can even add a travel pass so you can travel on the underground.  Seriously I would love to go back again and see everything!  Maybe someday...for now though this was a great introduction to London and for less than 200 US Dollars (our travel into the city from the airport and our food) our family of six got to spend a day in London and see things I'd only ever imagined I'd read about in books or see on Masterpiece episodes.  I'm so happy that we accidentally ended up with that ten hour layover.  Scroll down to the bottom if you want to catch the video of the changing of the guard.  It was crazy to me how close you are able to get to the palace the Queen of England lives or the house where the Prime Minister lives.  Seriously nuts that people can just drive right by.  And just so you know Cheetah crashed out on the plane and slept the entire way to Chicago.  We had so many people tell us we were nuts for doing this, but let me tell you, it was SO WORTH IT!!!!


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