I was determined to sit down tonight (3 nights ago) and put together a genuine update on what we have been up to in the last little while (you know, like the one I was nagging Ben to do for the last three weeks). But then I started going through pictures and realized how long ago it actually was since I did one. I have good reason though, and that is I was trying to determine whether my beautiful, albeit, humdrum life deserved a moment of your time. Storytime just doesn’t have the same ring as winning tickets to a Steve Reich Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra.
The jury is still out, but I do wonder what my readers and friends would like to know about life in Cambridge…if you have thoughts on this, I would love the feedback.
Since my last update I have posted a few pictures on Facebook but recognizing that some of you don’t partake in such indulgences, you can always check out the full albums here.
|Jakob at Rectory Farms, Milton
I think I have given up the Great Pumpkin Hunt. We made a trek out to a little town called Milton and a place called Rectory Farms. I thought they might have a pumpkin patch, but they didn’t. The kids did however have a good time looking at the few animals that were residents and there was a quaint little cafe where we could warm up with some hot chocolate.
They do have pumpkins at the market however and so I embrace the challenge of turning this…
just in time for the first bake sale of the school year.
This past friday I attended my first University event: The Beginning of the Year Dinner at St. Edmund’s college. We arrived as the sun was setting over the River Cam and proceeded to the Garden Room for drinks. We glanced at the seating chart only to find out that we would be at the head table, directly across from the Master of the college. The room was candle lit with antique silver complimenting the soft glow. We enjoyed butternut squash and ricotta raviolis with a sage butter sauce, pork tenderloin with wild mushrooms and a spinach cream sauce and a chocolate marquise for dessert. Dinner was followed by an assortment of cheeses and chutney and each course complimented by a wine selection or sherry. Absolutely no cell phones or photographs are allowed during dinner (I love and hate this) so the only photographic memory I have is this picture…Some people, when asked to operate a camera, should just say no.
Saturday morning, I took for myself before Ben headed off to London. If you missed it you can read about here.
|The renown Savino’s on Emmanuel Street
I think I always knew, but Cambridge is a confirmation of the reality that life as a musician’s wife can be a lonely one if you let it, and your social life must happen with or without your husband. This past week Ben received notification of his College choir assignments. Each week he will sit in with a different college choir to observe and learn. This week he is at Jesus College which not only took him away Sunday morning but Monday-Thursday evenings in addition to his Churchill College commitments Sunday night and Friday evening. So while we savour our coffee times in the morning there are aspects of our life that are subsequently affected. Which leads me to church.
We have visited three churches and were quite torn about our decision to settle in one community. It is a priority to attend a church where there is a quality Sunday school program for Jakob and a good creche (nursery) for Ella but we also were eager to attend an Anglican church, rich in history and tradition, hopefully complete with a choir.
The first week we attended a smaller Anglican church on Mill Road, not too far from our house. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly. The children’s program however, was chaotic and lacked the structure that Jakob feels comfortable in. I didn’t get to hear too much of the sermon but from what I did hear thought it was a bit too introspective (I am not even going to try and unpack this). The worship was contemporary however tradition liturgy was used for the eucharist.
The second church we attended was the Great St. Mary’s. This is the University church. It is in the centre of town and is the large cathedral you see in most of my pictures of the market. It is big, cavernous, the Music Director plays Bach preludes and there are multiple choirs. I enjoyed that it is in the centre of the city however there seemed to be few young families, with, instead, more grey hair and the children’s program was…complicated. The first and second Sundays had children’s programs, another Sunday had a children’s service with eucharist in another building and another Sunday was a children oriented service which perhaps could have held the attention of a child older than 7 but no younger.
You can see our dilemma. Especially, from Ben’s perspective which I respect and understand: in a city so rich with choral tradition, it would be nice to have a choir to lead worship on Sunday morning.
The third church we tried was somewhat by accident. We had intended to go to STAG: St. Andrew’s the Great which is also downtown but we usually hear Chris Tomlin pumping out of the walls as opposed to Bach.
There was a problem with my bike however, and we got going later than anticipated. For fear that we would get there with 10 minutes remaining in the service we, instead decided to check out St. Matthew’s, which started a half an hour later. St. Matt’s as it is affectionately known was recommended to us by friends who work with Friends International and were our first point of contact when arriving in Cambridge. As per usual, I took the kids to their programs, more specifically, Jakob while Ben took in the service. It was one of the best Sunday school classes I have ever been in…and I have been in a lot. The teacher started out with a visual analogy of what a massive flood would be like. The children were encouraged to build houses out of lego, then place them in a tray. She then used a watering can to rain on the houses until they all floated. The story of Noah followed using visual aids such as the Little Peoples Noah’s Ark set and then the kids got up to play a game which included running around and acting like different animals. Snack, and then a craft which involved gluing and colouring. I was sold. It appealed to all learning styles, kept the children captivated and got the point across. I was blown away…and I will be the first to admit that very few children’s programs impress me.
After the service we were invited over to the Worship Leader’s house for lunch. Do I need to go any further? Being a warm sunny day we sat out on their patio enjoying BBQ while his daughters played with Ella and Jakob. There was a variety of people in attendance from various walks of life, all enjoying good food and uplifting conversation well into the late afternoon.
We felt it wrong to base our decision on the food from our meal or the mere fact that we were invited somewhere for lunch (although it could prove as an outward demonstration of the overall community) and still debated over the fact that the music at St. Matt’s was purely contemporary.
This past week however, when Ben found out that many Sundays he would be at College Chapels it was clear what our decision would be based on. Not so much Ben, and more a place that I could feel comfortable going with the kids and the kids would feel comfortable to stay in their programs so I could enjoy the service. I think we have settled on St. Matthew’s.
While the warm afternoons have been exchanged for crisp autumn mornings the weather here in Cambridge has been far better than I could have expected. Autumn is gradual here, unlike Alberta where the trees are stunning, rich with gold, bronze and amber all at once for no more than two weeks and then as quickly as it came, disappears. Many trees are still green, while the ground is covered with brown and the red is slowly disappearing of the vines that climb so many old buildings. The sun has come out, even for a short visit most days and there has been very little of the rain I thought would be similar to Vancouver.
The views never get old. Coming around the corner from Jakob’s school onto Parkers Pieces as the sun shines off the University Arms, or as you come into the market and the Great St. Mary’s stands high above the tents and produce.
|The gargoyles atop Caius College
The only unfortunate part about Audrey’s (my camera’s name, in case you forgot that I name inanimate objects) experience in this photogenic town is that Ben, who has access to much more breathe taking spaces than I, still has yet to learn how to take a picture in low light. I am thinking about becoming his body guard or personal assistant for a day just I can follow him around and take pictures.
|A gate a Clare’s College and the inner courtyard of Caius College
|The University of Cambridge Library and the most beastly of buildings.
But until then, I go unnoticed where I can (which is pretty hard with a stroller and giant camera) and try not to look too much like a tourist, which I always do, even in Three Hills.
|Bikes lined up along Caius College
|Craft Market in a neglected courtyard across from St. John’s
And while some views are new and captivating there are others, which I have seen for some time and are still captivating.
|The most beautiful little girl in the world
Cambridge, I think, has been very good for Ella and I and offered us concentrated time to grow our relationship even more….if that was possible. And now there is the new element of “homeschool therapy.” With our referral to the Child Development Program (or whatever they call it here) still in process I have taken it upon myself to figure out how to keep the ball rolling with Ella’s therapy. Why? Because, as I have said many times before. The more tools I can give here the better chance she has at fulfilling her potential, which I think is GREAT indeed. The world is not going to cater to her learning style and so I want to have her as kindergarten ready as I can by the time she is five. This is not like any other child, where learning happens naturally and quickly given auditory and visual aid but rather children with Down Syndrome are wired slightly differently and highly dependent on repetition and visual aids to help develop their verbal short term memory. Why is this significant? Well, our verbal short term memory is what helps us remember sounds, how to form sounds and put those sounds together to form words. The comprehension skills of a child with Down Syndrome is probably higher than you think but because so much is language based our kids fall behind and look significantly less intelligent.
I figured since I am in the UK anyway I may as well check out some of the resources from Down Syndrome Education International. Their programs make sense and while I could possibly devise my own program like that of other Supermoms out there, it would cost me just as much to print the material and use for more energy that the fabulous See and Learn Program that they endorse.
We take a very small amount of time each morning during coffee time to do an activity. I am hopeful for what this might do for Ella’s verbal skills however, like with so many things, approach it with fear that she won’t like it, won’t get it or won’t understand it. But so far, she enjoys our little game and I have started at the beginning with First Word Pictures which could be a little redundant for my smarty pants.
|On the bus, top floor
Speaking of smarty pants. Today, we had our first Parent/Teacher Conference. Jakob’s teacher showed us some of the things that Jakob has been doing which was so nice to see. He has adjusted brilliantly and as I have said before, loves school. His progress is evident at home not only by his ability to write letters and numbers, but also by his lengthening attention span when it comes to sitting down to colour, paint, play play-doh or read. He is doing very well at reading the books that come home with him each night and is a keen learner.
Next week is half-term which means a week off of school and were Gramps and Omi not coming I might wonder how to tackle the heart break Jakob feels on Saturdays when he can’t go to school. Ben’s Godson, Jon is also coming this Friday for a couple of days, my cousin Ben is coming with his girlfriend around Halloween to carve pumpkins with the kids (among other things) and then it won’t be long until Grandpa and Grammy come for a visit. We are excited to have visitors and can’t wait to show people around and eat chocolate croissants.
|The tracks: we have to cross the tracks everyday and everyday Jakob says, “Look, Mommy, TRAINS!” To which I reply, “TRAINS!”
There is still lots of time to get visits in though, so if you find yourself in the London area….or even if you don’t drop us a line or simply pop by for tea.