Brooks’ Birthday Weekend

I have a 6 year old! It doesn’t seem possible! How am I old enough to have a child that is SIX YEARS OLD??

You might notice a piece of furniture in those pics. We were so sick of having nothing to sit on so we bought a little outdoor set just to not sit on the floor. The sea freight is being delivered this week. Allegedly.

One of his new friends surprised him with a present! It warmed my heart so much! This is Sadie, his new little friend. I asked she was his wife and is response was, “not yet.” She is a couple of months older than him and acts as just like other strong women have in his classes previously. It seems that Mouton men need a strong woman in their life to keep them in line. 😉

When I saw Sadie’s mom I thanked her profusely. She insisted that it was all Sadie’s doing. I’ve talked to her before but I can’t even remember her first name so I couldn’t very well tell her that I was really thanking her for raising a child that befriended mine, for easing every thought I had about Brooks having “a person” at school, for making him feel welcomed, included, and loved.

After school we went on a family walk. (I had to leave the house after non-stop muffin/cupcake and birthday cake making. Plus it was a GORGEOUS day and I wanted some pictures of the kids in this lovely field close to our house.) It was basically a bit of foreshadowing of the weekend to come. Like some things could have been fabulous if they would have just cooperated!


We planned a weekend in Stirling starting at Blair Drummond Safari Park and ending with a tour of Stirling Castle. As they typically do, things started off well. Fully charged iPad/tablet. Brett and I were free to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack for the umpteenth time without interruption. Actually, the whole drive was rather uneventful if you don’t count the amazing scenery. More pics on that later.

We arrived at the Safari Park right at Mia’s feeding time. We made a beeline for the cafe and then sat outside in view of the playground. Clearly that was a mistake. Mia chowed down while Brooks threw a MASSIVE head turning fit about eating his ham sandwich. He loves ham now by the way – thanks Albyn School! You would have thought that we were beating him with the way he was howling – like literal howling. We finally compromised with two bites of the sandwich and the promise that we would be taking it with us and there would be no other food until it was gone. We try to make it a habit not to negotiate with terrorists but we really didn’t want to add to the stereotypes about Americans.

After lunch we made a run for the sea lion show. I read an article last week about how to spot an American abroad. One of the signs is excessive clapping. Apparently, we clap at everything. At the time I thought that was an odd sign but sure enough, the sea lion show started and who was the sole clapper in the audience? Brett.

When the show ended, we jumped in muddy puddles.

Thanks Peppa Pig.

In fact, Mia made it a point to jump in every. single. puddle. she. saw.

But I can’t get enough of that girl and her roley legs in leggings and wellies!

After the show we went on the “safari”. Basically, you get in your car – windows up – and drive through Jurassic Park looking kind of gates. Each section of gate holds different animals that are free to roam about. Windows up is a legit necessity. It was crazy how close we were to real lions, rhinos and camels. Any of the animals could’ve climbed right on inside! Apparently the monkeys used to be known for causing quite a lot of damage to cars! I am well aware that these are not great pictures. Some I specifically took with the car in the shot to show how close we were to them.

I hope you enjoy Brooks’ running commentary in those videos… Courtesy of Wild Kratts!

Mia wasn’t really into the animals. She was more into Peppa and was also starting to get really tired. We tried to get her to go to sleep in her stroller while we waited to load the boat to go to chimp island. Blanket, stuffed owl named Hoo that she stole from Brooks, noise machine – whole 9. When it became clear that Mia waits for no boat, we aborted that plan and headed for the hotel. The others in line were relieved.

She fell asleep a whopping 3 minutes after getting in the car so we took a very scenic route to the hotel. Here are some pictures of the countryside on our quest for a longer nap. Again, I’m not a skilled enough photographer to do the landscapes justice. Also, people in Texas say that if you don’t like the weather there, wait a minute. It will change. Texans really need to drop that line. Scotland surely wins the price for most fickle weather. It goes from cloudy and raining to sunny and back again in a matter of seconds. The pictures below were taken in a span of about 20 minutes.

Countryside drive going west from Stirling


I think this one is my favorite from the drive.


Mia woke up. Screaming. We made for the hotel ASAP. Getting to the hotel was its own special challenge since the streets in the city centre are a combination of dead ends into pedestrian only areas, one way streets and blocked roundabouts but we finally made it. We got to our room to find one King and twin size bed in addition to a travel cot for Mia. Brooks and Mia promptly started acting ri-dic-u-lous and were soon on separate sides of the room with orders not to touch, speak or look at each other.

Mia's portion of wreaking havoc on the shred of sanity and hearing I have left. Yes, Mom. I know, she needs a hair cut.
Mia’s portion of wreaking havoc on the shred of sanity and hearing I had left. Yes, Mom. I know, she needs a hair cut.

Brett returned from the car park with the news that he had to parallel park in the sole remaining spot in the lot and was so close to the wall that he had to climb out the other side of the car to get out.

We’d planned to hang/rest in the room for a while but it was super hot. I’ve mentioned the heat wave in the UK. Our room had one little window that looked out onto another part of the building about 15 ft away so there wasn’t much of a breeze coming through. Also, the hotel advertised free WiFi. They had free WiFi on the ground and 1st floors. We were on the 3rd floor.

We needed to get out of there with what remained of our sanity. We researched different places that were supposed to be great and were ready to walk. By the time we reached the outside though, we’d already had two kids in tears about pushing buttons in the elevator with Brooks telling us it was the worst day of his life. So instead of soaking in the best that Stirling had to offer, we picked the first restaurant we saw. It still took us a century to get there though because Brooks wants to climb on everything he sees and Mia wants to do everything that Brooks does. We sat down and opened the menus. Route 66, Colorado This Way signs, Mount Rushmore.

We were at an American restaurant.

How in the HELL of all of the restaurants in the bloody middle of Scotland did we wind up at the only American one? Screw it. We’re here, we’re eating. Brett, Mia and I ate while Brooks played with his food until we get in a power struggle about him eating. (Side note: One amazing thing about this restaurant is that they brought an iPad to the table. I clicked the boxes indicating what allergies Brooks had and the menu narrowed down to show what choices were safe for him to eat. I love, love, love this about Scotland.) On the way back, we stopped for wine. With the screaming from Mia wanting to be Miss Independent and Brooks with the food, it had become a necessity.

Bed time for Mia! Brooks and Brett went down so that I could put her down without interference. We did the whole routine and she screamed and screamed and screamed for her daddy. Brett and I switched places. There was now a wedding in full swing downstairs so Brooks and I were on the floor of the 3rd floor close to an outlet for an hour. I finally went in to check on Mia and Brett to find both of them asleep for who knows how long. Brooks and I tried our damnedest to go to sleep but it was so hot. We all slept on top of the covers and I still woke up in the night sweating. It was a long night.

Finally morning! We had breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant and had another fight with Brooks about eating food. It’s part of our dining ritual now. As you might guess, we never have these food issues with Mia!

We loaded everything up and took the kids to a cool park we’d seen when driving around yesterday so they could wear themselves out before our castle tour. There were parts that raised like very steep hills and others where the grass was much taller and more dense. Stirling Castle is in the background.

Well, turns out that we were climbing over the King’s Knot. In hindsight, there wasn’t another soul on the grounds and we definitely had to hop a stone wall to get into it.

Stirling Castle was pretty amazing. I hope that I’m able to go back one day without children so that I can absorb more of the history. Here is an onslaught of pictures from the gardens to Spanish tourists fawning over Mia and taking her picture.

At the end of our visit I noticed a booth where someone could look up your surname and give you the history behind it. I knew that my mom’s family had some Scottish ancestry and had them look up the surnames Allison and Leslie. As it turns out, the Leslie Clan originated from ABERDEEN! In fact, there are several castles and estates around Aberdeenshire that are still standing that were part of the Leslie estate. They’re definitely on my list to visit soon! They were kind of a big deal apparently with ties to Earldom and Mary Queen of Scots. I haven’t had a chance to look up more about the Allisons as I got sidetracked with the Leslies but I know that they originated in Lanarkshire – not too far from Stirling Castle.

One final thing – we stopped at McDonald’s on the way home because we couldn’t stomach another fight with Brooks about food (don’t worry we had one anyway). Check out the size of the large soft drink. Note the kids meal for size reference. It is seriously the size of a small drink in the US.

Size of a large soft drink at McDonalds in Scotland