How much sight-seeing can we squeeze into one week?

Monday afternoon I made my usual pick up of Brooks and Mia at school – a bit more hurried this time as we were racing to the airport to pick up my mom and my sister. Brooks and Mia were literally jumping up and down in excitement. As we tore down the street, his little girl friends behind us, I heard them asking Brooks to tell them the names of the people that were coming again.

“Doodle and Yaya,” he replied with a huge smile on his face.

The girls erupted into laughter.

I get that they’re unusual names but the level of laughter seemed a bit high and hysterical.

Fast forward a week to when I’m chatting with one of the moms of the hysterically laughing girls. She asked a couple of questions about their visit and then asked me to remind her what Brooks called them. Then she proceeded to explain why the girls were laughing so hard.

Apparently, “doodle” is the word they use to refer to what Brooks calls a “pee pen” – the male genitalia.

Insert my hysterical laughter here.

The kids were SOOOOOOOO excited to see them! Mia didn’t even try to act shy!

I’m really not sure what was going on here. Mia dressed herself though. She’s increasingly vocal about the things she wears.

Burn ‘O Vat & Dunnottar Castle

Our first stop after dropping the kids at school,

Please note that Yaya is wearing gloves while Mia is sans coat. I’m raising a proper Scot here! If I haven’t posted it before, this is Brooks’ PE kit track suit. He wears it to school on Tuesdays.

and breakfast at the Long Dog Cafe, was the fairy glen in Muir of Dinnet – Burn ‘O Vat.

Had to start their visit out strong.

Afterwards, we headed to Stonehaven for lunch at The Bay, which my mom had been asking about and planning for since 9 AM. She only ate half her breakfast so that she’d have plenty of room for fish and chips.

We then went to Dunnottar where we SWEAT. I have never sweat at Dunnottar before. Even if the temperature is warm, it’s on the coast of the North Sea and there is ALWAYS a breeze. Not this time! The sun was out, the sky was cloudless and there was no air. The temperature claimed to be 65F but it felt more like 85F.

I don’t know what’s up with their weird poses.

I do realize that I’ve posted about Dunnottar A LOT. There’s a reason.

It is amazing.

And it doesn’t get old. Like ever.

We sprinted to school pick up from Dunnottar and my mom and Lauren got to tour Brooks’ school and classroom. He’s been making such great progress! He’s been really working on fine motor skills and it’s made him more willing to write. He loved showing Yaya all of his work! Later that evening my mom also got to attend Mia’s progress meeting and see the Ante-Preschool classroom.

Side note about Mia’s nursery – I just cannot say enough good things about it. Look at a page from the portfolios that we get to take home and read through. They do such an awesome job of showing the transfer of learning in different situations and mostly when the kids are at “play.”

Seals, Slains and Bullers

The next day, Lauren got her first chance to touch the North Sea at Newburgh Beach.

Typically, the seal colony are laid up sunning themselves on the opposite shore, however, this time we caught them during their morning constitutional and they swam quite close to us, acted like they were going to come ashore and then flopped themselves back into the water.

We stayed and watched them silently for a while – in awe (yes me too – every single time) that we were able to be so close and watch them in their natural habitats – before heading on to our next destination.

Addressing her kingdom

The Bullers of Buchan is a collapsed sea cave. This was only my second time to go as it isn’t somewhere we can take the kids. It’s supposed to be a great place to see some puffins but all we saw were awful sea gulls. The whole place reeked of sea gull poop.

Our last stop of the day was at New Slains Castle – the castle that inspired Dracula. It’s a legit ruin in that no one keeps up with the castle at all and anyone is able to roam free. There are no plaques, no information booklets, nothing. Just an old castle on the edge of the sea.

That evening I took them along to my AWA Book Club. I think they had good fun even though my mom only read half the book! 🙂 The AWA women are all so lovely, beautiful and intelligent – it’s hard not to have a good time.


After a day of “rest” where we accompanied Mia to her music class and Brooks to his swim lessons, with a quick stop off at Aberdeen beach to search for sea glass…

…we set out for a very full day trip to Edinburgh.

We people watched at a pub on the Royal Mile with glasses of Prosecco, had lunch on the beautiful Victoria Street balconies, toured the Real Mary King’s Close, sampled local gin, were disappointed when we arrived at Holyrood Palace to find out that Lord someone-or-another was in town and thus no visitors to the palace! We tried to make it to Edinburgh Castle but that darn gin tasting was hard to leave and we didn’t make it in time. A stop in New Town for dinner and we were back on the road towards home.

Castle Fraser

After showing Lauren the finer points of shopping in Aberdeen, we headed to Castle Fraser so that Lauren and my mom would see at least one castle that wasn’t in ruins during their trip! Having learned from my now many experiences with my kids inside castles, Brett and I kept the kiddos on the “secret” woodland playground while Lauren and my mom toured the castle.

24 hours in London

The next day we were on a plane bright and early for London! Our first task when we arrived was figuring out the train/tube to our hotel. Not impossible but certainly more difficult than the French subway that I navigated solo with ease. All made more enjoyable by the small jazz trio that went up and down the cars singing and playing, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” An odd choice but fun nonetheless.

We were definitely in dire need of a drink when we finally arrived though so we posted up at the bar while they checked on the status of our room. When our room was ready they also told me that I was their guest of the day! They upgraded our room and we got discounts at the bistro and the spa! Spoiler alert – we didn’t get to use the spa. Totally booked up!

The bistro though was FAB! Some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. I’m sure it helped that we kept drinking those discounted bar drinks! 😉

After lunch we sauntered over to Liz’s house.

Then we stopped at Westminster Abbey to take cover during a shower, saw Big Ben which is sadly under construction, the London Eye and London Bridge – from a distance and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

We popped across the bridge to the Tate Modern and took in the views from the 10th floor.

We celebrated Lauren’s birthday at the first restaurant we could stomach because walking any further was out of the question and then drug ourselves back to the hotel and promptly passed out.

We had such a whirlwind week that I didn’t properly get to interview Lauren on her thoughts/feelings of Scotland before she left. I had to settle for a text convo between Lauren introducing and then playing subsequent rounds of “I Know a Chicken” for Penny. If you just clicked that link – good luck getting that song out of your head!

Normally I post this kind of stuff in a question/answer form but Lauren did such a great job of being eloquent in a succinct way that I’m just going to post her ruminations:

Scotland- the whole country is gorgeous! Somehow that makes all the weather seem wonderful (even the rain and cold). The tap water 😂

I loved the whole town/city? Seeing kids out walking to school in the morning in their uniforms made me so happy. It just had such a homey, close knit feel. The architecture was beautiful- more simplistic than what we saw in London but still very beautiful. I can see where you would think the gray granite buildings are ugly but in sunny weather it makes for great contrast against all the green and gardens. I told Bret that if we ever left the US we would be moving to Scotland.

I can’t really pick a favorite destination. All fantastic in their own way. Edinburgh was absolutely charming! I felt like I had stepped into Diagod Alley whilst walking the Royal Mile. But the castle ruins and the cliffs were breathtaking. I refuse to name a favorite, it can’t be done.

The Doodler via text on her visit to Scotland

It was my mom’s second time to Aberdeenshire but first trips to Edinburgh and London. I didn’t get a chance to interview her either but was able to catch her while driving to a hair appointment in Houston.

She loved the rapeseed fields! Horrible name. I know. But the fields are amazing. They’re these magnificent swatches of bright yellow sprinkled in between fields of greens. We stopped on the roadside a while back to try and snap some pics of the kids in the fields but they were way too tall for them.

She also loved the seals. Brett keeps saying that he doesn’t understand why I take people to Newburgh Beach but I just think it is the coolest thing! She also loved Dunnottar and counted it as a highlight, even though she’s been there before. It really is that cool. I could easily pass a whole day there sans children.

I specifically asked her what she noticed was different this visit versus her last visit in September. Her answer: the weather. We had quite a few warm days during their visit. Some of them didn’t feel THAT much cooler than some mild Texas May days. However, when she visited in September, the weather in Texas was still pushing 100F so the crisp autumn air was incredibly refreshing to her and she didn’t feel cold in temperatures that she typically would at home. So I guess she didn’t feel the same relief from the heat as before. We experienced that same feeling when we came back from Rome. There’s just something about the air here that makes it easier to breathe. Lack of pollution maybe?

It was so fabulous to introduce my sister to our new home country and share all of the things we love about life in Scotland and always a treat to see my mama! The kids said they were happy I was home but followed that up quickly with questions about where Doodle and Yaya were and when they were going to come back. Hopefully we’ll be booking that trip soon!