Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harlaxton: Final Thoughts

We had a fantastic semester in Harlaxton. We would love to go again whenever Alan gets another turn (maybe in five or six years?).

The manor is a wonderful place to live, and the folks at Harlaxton run a good ship. The housekeeping and grounds crews keep the place immaculate. And we were all made to feel right at home—every detail was arranged for our arrival, including snacks in our apartment and children’s books on the shelves.

Food in the Refectory was ok. It was cafeteria food cooked to serve a large number of people. So there were inherently some limitations in quality. But definitely passable. Coop maybe wouldn’t entirely agree, but they always had a dessert, which was a big hit with him, and he ate a lot of yogurt. (I’ve convinced myself that yogurt is some kind of miracle food, and as long as he eats that, he’ll be ok...) Given that all of our meals were provided, we didn’t eat out much. When we were traveling, we usually found a local pub. And pub food is always yummy!

We liked living with (among) the students. I wasn’t sure we would; I thought it might get old after a while. But our room was tucked out of the way so we saw very few people and heard even fewer. The students were so kind to Cooper, which really helped. And they always had fun stories to tell about their previous weekend’s travels or their itineraries for the following weekend.

Alan’s classes (you know... the official reason we were there) went well. He greatly appreciated the quality of his students’ work. Most schools require a minimum GPA for a Harlaxton semester, so on average, this group of students was sharper than student body back here. His classes were small, which meant way less grading. And he had plenty of time in the evenings to work on some other projects. (Though he did miss his wood shop!)

My time in Harlaxton was great, though different from my expectations going in. I had envisioned dropping Cooper off at preschool, and then having a large chunk of time at the manor to read or exercise or walk the trails. But because preschool was in Grantham (10 minutes away from Harlaxton) and because we were tied to the school shuttle schedule, I spent all of my non-Cooper hours in Grantham, which put a damper on lounging around the castle and taking leisurely strolls through the woods. It worked out well, though. I camped out at a pub and got a lot of work done for my Judge in Kansas City. I explored town and found some neat shops (and some great bargains!). And then I had a lot of time in the evenings, after Coop went to bed, to read or catch up on email.

Cooper also did really well. At four, he’s adaptable enough to be at home anywhere. He slid right into preschool without much trouble. And he loved the attention of all the college kids! But we realized early on that we were placing huge expectations on him in a number of areas of his development.

Physically, we were asking Coop to walk more than he ever does at home—70 stairs from our room down to the ground floor, at least three times a day, and a half-mile from the shuttle drop-off to preschool (and back at the end of the day). Not to mention all of the walking we did while we were sightseeing. In some ways, he was at a bad age for this—too old to strap in a stroller (or carry) and drag wherever we wanted to go, too young to walk as far and as fast as we would like. But we quickly adjusted our travel expectations and learned to do things in bite-sized chunks, with lots of snacks in between excursions.

Socially and emotionally, we wanted Cooper to behave whenever we were around people (which was always). At dinner, we expected him to sit and eat and not hop on his chair or smear butter on the table or sing eleventy-five verses of Wheels on the Bus.

One stressor from the semester that I had not anticipated was trying to parent a four-year-old with 200 other people around. Mind you, everyone was kind and helpful and no one said anything negative (except for once, but I’m trying to block that out). Only a few times did we even get a stink eye from anyone (that I saw). But living in a manor with so many other people means that there’s always a pair of eyes or ears to catch my Bad Mommy moments. Oh well. We did the best we could.

And hopefully we’ll have a chance to do it again. On the slate for next time, when Coop’s older: more guided tours (like the Tower of London!), more time in Scotland, more walking the footpaths in the area, a trip to the Lake District, and maybe a trip to Ireland.  We'll keep you posted!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well, as for me...it is quite sad to be leaving Harlaxton. The posts you've shared from this era of your life have been immensely informative...and often highly entertaining! Job well done! Thanks for the journey...twila