UA-48009635-1 UA-48009635-1

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It Is Better to Give

Baby Sister - and all of us - hope you receive the greatest of gifts this season and always.

Here's to opening presents in the pre dawn darkness. To tutus, pink boots, games and all sorts of Legos.

For goalie kits and playing football with the Mister in Hyde Park while the rest of us watch from the window in our jammies late, late into the afternoon.

To Little Professor for our little professor, for a nurse's costume that was declared a "doctor's" without a second glance, and all sorts of good books. For even more music in our household.

For dollies so realistic I struggled to nap while a toy baby fussed in my arms. And in thanksgiving for a precious letter from Santa tucked into Biggest Brother's stocking that brought two parents to tears. And for children worn out from a wonderful day.  For each other. Our greatest gift.

Monday, December 24, 2012

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

The last Christmas nativity cracker has been opened and a fancy dinner enjoyed. We went to Mass, saw friends, tracked Santa on NORAD and read "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Cookies and carrots have been left out for Santa and his reindeer.

This year he's also getting a long list of queries from the boys.

Yesterday we had a delightfully noisy online gathering with all the cousins in Virginia. Big Sister and I were especially sad to see that end.  But it is quiet here now. In the predawn darkness, the smalls will wake us so we can all see the tree together. The Mister will read from Luke and then gifts will be opened. We'll spend most of our day in pajamas playing. Eventually we'll make a yummy brunch and deliver a big platter to our porters. I absolutely love our Christmas Days at home.

On this lovely Christmas Eve in London, the smalls are tucked away in their little nests. Every day should end so sweetly and with such anticipation of what tomorrow holds.

We wish you a very happy Christmas.

Also, consider this your Christmas card. Sent with much love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Star of Wonder

The world is holding six year olds closer than ever this week. It is surely why the Mister and I were especially touched to find this artwork from our resident six year old around the house.

"this is the brth of jeus. I love jeus so much."

"this is the staible. Baby Jeus is going to be born there."

I looks like Big Sister drew herself there, smiling at Baby Jesus in the manger. Either that or she imagines Mary wore two pigtails. How sweetly simple. Maybe enviably so. But also just what she should be thinking about a week before Christmas. A tiny girl, the guiding star and Baby Jesus. 

Our six year old is walking slowly toward Christmas, as my mother and grandmother would say. As it should be, Big Sister, as it should be.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Star Is Born

The festivities are upon us! I'm off momentarily to see the boys in their Nativity celebration at church. The whole school will walk down the street together. It may take Baby Sister's class most of the afternoon to get around the corner. But it will be well worth the trip to hear Biggest Brother and Big Brother sing and play their instruments with all their lovely friends.

We've hosted lots of pajama movie nights. A lot of Rankin Bass film festivals. One afternoon I surprised the smalls with movie "tickets" and brand new jammies. It is dark early and we're glad for an excuse to head home and get comfy after a hard day at school.

Baby Sister was a star in her class nativity last week. Indeed. Her siblings were so proud. There's lots of celebrating already. The tree is up, gifts are wrapped, and there's even a seasonal nip in the air!

How happy is Big Sister watching her sissie shine?

And this guy and his big brother sung so beautifully when they busked for charity last week.

It is the most wonderful time of the year to be sure!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Just Because

I can't stop looking at this deliciousness. 

Here's full length shot to show tiny white tights and mary janes, which are two of the best parts about having little girls:

These are pictures I'll send them in college and frame even when they beg me not to. Because one day they won't be Londoners, they won't all go to the same school, they won't let me put giant bows on their heads, and we'll want to remember that all. Also that we were ready - even once - early enough on a school morning to take a photo or two. Although in truth I was probably behind the camera in pajamas announcing I was about to take a shower.

They'll remember this was the year that Big Brother learned to tie his own tie and Big Sister lost her first tooth. When Biggest Brother really learned to play guitar and Baby Sister sang "Blah Blah Black Sheep."

These are the days.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On Top of the World

Looking down on creation. I so hope you are now singing that Carpenter's song.

Anyhow, on Bonfire Night Biggest Brother and I snuck out (and completely ignored how exhausted we were from the late night return from Italy) to enjoy about twenty fireworks displays from atop the London Eye.

Biggest Brother, who'd missed touring the London Eye when his cousins visited the first summer we were Londoners (poor guy was at school!) had just asked me if he and I could have a "date" together. I am never one to let a date request go unanswered. And what a date it was!  It put most other dates to shame.

Starting with the London Eye on Bonfire Night. I've been known to tell visitors that they can surely skip the London Eye. Even if it begins with a 4D movie, for which I'm a big sucker. But if you insist on going, I'm going to insist you go at night, and time your ride for the 8pm start of most Bonfire Night fireworks displays. You will be treated to dozens of them from high, high above London. But even before the fireworks, the lights of London were brilliant.

We browsed through Foyles, one of our favorite bookshops, enjoyed buskers, and even stumbled upon a coffee festival!

Then we rode a carousel. I'm telling you, this date will be tricky to top!  And long beyond when his siblings were surely in bed making zzzs, Biggest Brother and I were sitting down to sushi.

The whole evening was wonderful! The very best part was the company.

Biggest Brother is so deserving of all these treats and more. He makes the Mister and me very proud. He is an exceedingly nice little guy and is hugely responsible and endlessly entertaining, helpful and kind with his siblings. He is the quintessential big brother and earns every bit of the fanfare he and I enjoyed. It is a date I'll remember always. Here's hoping he does, too!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What a Turkey

The time of year is upon us when one's ability to cook comes clearly into focus. It isn't a pretty sight here, friends. I am not a good cook. It is a part of my mothering that falls way short.

It is only because of the Mister that I know how to boil water for pasta and one of my dear girlfriends walked me through making bacon over a long distance call once. She gave a nice tutorial, but I've since discovered that you can buy microwave bacon. Problem solved.

"What's for dinner?" takes on a special gravity around the holidays. Dinner picnics, baked goods and sampler platters -- my specialties -- are de rigueur for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

How I wish I could feed my whole crew pastries, iced cookies and cakes and call that sustenance. "Merry Christmas! Here's your plate of brownies!" "So thankful for you! Pass the pie. Again."

But I also see this failing on my part as a bit of a gift. I have set such a low standard in the culinary arts that it is surely a great generosity to my children's future partners. Thanks to me, something they whip up will never, ever pale in comparison to one of my dinners. "Yer welcome!" I tell those future loved ones!

And because I am exceedingly kind to these yet unmet (we assume) people, I will also give them a beloved recipe from my kitchen: toast brioche and top with melted butter. Watch it very closely or you risk burning the whole loaf, one slice at a time. Or so I've heard.

Sometimes I try to cook. On those special days the neighbors are greeted by the symphony of our smoke detector. You should hear my children rave about their great "school dinners."  What kids like school lunch? Mine! They wax poetic about favorite dishes served up in the school hall, which you know is a reflection on my cooking.

I did make a really good chicken tortilla soup this fall and oh, the effort! Only to see it slurped up and gone within minutes. Days of planning, shopping, preparing. Everyone liked it but it was over all too soon. And I'd not thought to make enough for leftovers. I'd no sooner do that again than make Thanksgiving dinner.  Eegads. Speaking of which...

Right this moment, we're just hours from hosting 2 other families for that very thing. Here's hoping they don't read the blog or if they do, that they eat a hearty lunch. The table (kraft paper cloth with crayons at every place) is set, but I am procrastinating every bit of the cooking. I've made darling bags for leftovers, sorted all kinds of fun headwear (pilgrim hats and Indian headdresses), decorated the table and sideboards, made a Thanksgiving tree, and am about to scrub the baseboards with a toothbrush in an effort not to cook. And now I'm writing to you (while wearing an apron -- it's all about appearances! Maybe I'll toss a little flour on my cheeks), knowing the Mister will soon take charge of a hulking, pink carcass.

Meanwhile, I have baked a plate of brownies (topped with sails a la the Mayflower no less!), two pumpkin bread loaves, and there is an apple pie in my oven. Baby Sister and I worked on that last one together. Without cooking, I pull my weight in the kitchen. I set a pretty table, prepare gimmicky desserts, and no one can load a dishwasher as well as yours truly! Those old PR skills about packaging and messaging are still being put to use in my kitchen.

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all. I'm thankful for all we have. Especially that which I don't have to cook.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mary Poppins Party for Pounds

So you want to throw your small person a Mary Poppins party on a budget?  I'm here for you!  We've just done it with a bit of time and effort but most importantly, not a lot of pounds. You probably already have most of these goodies at home or can pick them up at your local dollar/pound shop and online.

You, too can keep to a theme and a budget. Remember, the best part of a party is being together.

Step One: Make your own invitations. Tell the kids they'll get "Carried Away" with your little one with a colorful graphic and construction paper.

Step Two:  Create an easy craft that will also get tucked into the favor bag. These are tiny canvases sold in multipacks at Paperchase. I think there were 3 or 5 to a pack for £1. I cut out Mary Popp silhouettes from black construction paper and glued them on. Colorful baubles in cupcake papers and glue bottles around the table and you're set. Big Brothers' services as craft assistance was free. Be sure you write each guest's name on the back before the party to keep them sorted. And not to make you jealous, but I live within walking distance of the Paperchase flagship store. Begin angel singing here. Heavenly.

Step Three: Decorate!  A few bowler hats, a stuffed penguin (thanks, Amazon!), and a black brolly strung above the table might have cost £12 total.  Sprinkle the table with chocolate coins (tuppence) from Poundland and toss around a few tape measures (Practically Perfect In Every Way) on the table. The first photo is during the set up phase and shows the penguin. He ended up at the door in front of another open (Poundland) brolly with a homemade sign (Thanks, Big Brother!) welcoming guests to Cherry Tree Lane.

Step Four: No Bake Cake. Take a cake from your grocery store, strip it and add your own embellishments and colorful piping. I added a black ribbon, 3 sugar penguins and a Mary Poppins doll Gift and cake topper all in one! SO thrifty. Even if the Mister is afraid of dolls. Best part of the cake: two 10 pack of Poundland teaspoons encircling the cake and topped with sugar cubes!

And here's a tip no cake decorator will tell you: If you've moved and cannot find your icing tips, put an icing tube in a baggie, snip a corner, and pipe away.

Step Five: Entertainment. The focus of the party is watching a dvd you probably already own while eating takeout pizza. It is a long movie, so Big Brother suggests your guests get up and dance during the song and dance numbers. And there are plenty of them to get the wiggles out.

Step Six: Dress the part. I'm very sure you already have a white blouse, black skirt, and red bow. Pop on one of those jaunty bowlers, tack a few flowers to the brim and you're more than set. Blazer and carpet bag optional.  Oh, speaking of carpet bag, I found one of those online, too and put it on the coffee table where it was filled with presents as the guests arrived.

Step Seven: Favors. Ever since my favorless wedding, I swear not a single person has left my home without a favor. I kid you not -- I have friends lined up to make favors for my funeral. God willing, they'll be terribly old little ladies when that time finally comes. Still. Favors are paramount in my book, but don't have to cost much. Ours were a cute bag filled with the finished craft project, sidewalk chalk, chocolate coins/tuppence, and a homemade Mary Poppins coloring book (thank you, Google images and clip art). Think broadly - carousel, penguins, London, umbrella, rooftops, etc.

And while you're here I'll close by telling you that we planned this party from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. which was perfect. We weren't racing around early in the morning and had just the right amount of time for a craft, movie/pizza, presents and cake, and playing.  And plenty of the rest of the weekend, too. 

It is just me or are we in the minority of families who actually open presents during the party? Isn't that one of the best etiquette lessons? I think learning to give and receive gifts graciously is a worthwhile endeavor. 

Most worthwhile, though is celebrating your small person.  And getting carried away. Your party will undoubtedly be practically perfect in every way!  I sure hope so.  xo

What's In Your Purse?

There was a time I coveted my own Big Sister's purse. Always. Especially when she was toting around all sorts of interesting treasures for her "baby" -- then our family's first small person. I was working then and would have gladly traded my briefcase for a purse filled with fruit snacks, Polly Pockets and other goodies. It wasn't just then that I was interested in my Big Sister's bag. Just like Baby Sister here, I was always snooping through her purse looking for clues about being bigger.

I never really saw the merit of a true "diaper bag" as it always seemed like overkill to have to lug around so much in addition to a baby on my hip. It seemed like giving up and into frump. A giant bag filled with essentials more likely to be needed on a campout than a dash into the grocery store seemed unnecessary. In fact, Biggest Brother wasn't too big when I started tucking wipes, a spare diaper and maybe a change of clothes into a regular purse and was glad about it. I also usually had a stroller or car or both nearby undoubtedly filled with extra spares.

Then without any babies in tow, we moved to the city. Now whatever I can bring with me has to sustain, medicate, entertain, and protect us for the day out in the elements. My bag is now always stocked with a cloth shopping bag, scarf, rain hat, and tiny umbrella. (The kids all carry their own mini umbrellas in their backpacks, too - it is London.) I also keep an Epipen, bandaids, trusty banadana, crayons and a sticker book tucked away. It has to be entertaining, my bag. Mary Poppins' carpet bag has nothing on mine, I tell ya.

Sometimes the girls will request that we "pack" something for our trip to school. And knowing it can make the difference of our leaving on time, I usually agree. Sometimes is it a dolly, a pair of dress up shoes, a bracelet, a favorite book. But I was still surprised when got home the other morning and realized that a faceless Mrs Potato Head did the school run with me.

Note to Baby Sister's Secret Cousin:  She could use a new Mrs P. With accessories.

I have no doubt that all too soon my tote will be once again be pretty dull. I see those days sneaking up on me and turning me into the "helpful" lady with older kids. I was very happy to give a book to a wiggly toddler in a meeting and a banadana to a tiny injured friend this week.

So, Mrs Potato Head can stick around as long as she likes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Big Sister Chronicles

Big Sister turned six this week!  She's a doll in every sense of the word and a real joy. So it is only fair that there's been lots of celebrating her here.

All the girls from Year One came over for a lovely afternoon with Mary Poppins. Big Sister was a sweet little hostess and happy to snuggle up with her best buddy for the crafts.

Like last year, she asked to go to the pub for her birthday dinner. It is hard to imagine that this time next year we won't be here doing this. Perhaps we'll have to make bangers and mash Stateside, but it won't be the same without the pub folks who've come to adore Big Sister and love to fuss over her extra on her birthdays.

Big Sister is changing and growing before our eyes. She's still a tough little cookie, but not quite as mercurial as days past. She is a blend of feminine with 2 big brothers and a smarty pants, too. She asked to pack "trainers" for school so she can play football and rugby at breaks. She bonds with boys in her class about Ahsoka Tona, the skateboard park, and LEGOs while mixing well with the girls about Irish dancing, glitter and all things pink.

Her favorite gift was a camera, so she's our new in-house photojournalist. I live in fear of the day she'll report on my degree of mercurial personality swings and post candid snaps online. One day, my friends...but not yet.

And the Tooth Fairy came for the first time for our little lady!  Mary Poppins, lots of friends, pub food, and pounds tucked under pillows. A magical birthday celebration to be sure. Happy, happy birthday, Big Sister from your very big fan club. We love you.