UA-48009635-1 UA-48009635-1

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Singing With the British

The children have quickly acclimated to British school and culture. They are certainly surrounded by it. 

But still, some things surprise me.

It is funny to hear the girls play shop in pounds with their shopping trolley and you can be sure it took the Mister and me by surprise when Big Sister and Big Brother constructed a traffic jam with Matchbox cars recently. With the traffic going the British direction.

It catches my ear to hear them praise each other with "brilliant" and "well done" and even to thank someone in passing with "Cheers!" Don't get me started on the number of times I've worked very, very hard to keep a straight face while they have long discussions on different and colorful "rubbers." They frequent pubs and hop on and off, in and out of tubes, cabs and buses easily. They have even be praised by the same cab driver (! what are the chances?!) for their sweetness and camraderie.

And with all my in-house and public celebrating of the Queen's Jubilee, I am tickled that Our Sweet School is preparing the kids to celebrate on Friday. A homework assignment was to make special fabric triangles for bunting to decorate the school's rooftop playground for a Jubilee party. I'll give you just a few guesses as to whether I was eager to help with that assignment. Really, it is surprising that I didn't send in my own! But I'll get a chance to create this week as we're to send in "tea cakes" for the party. Everyone is to wear red, white and blue. There is lots of practicing "God Save the Queen" going on in our flat.

In ways that the Mister and I can't relate to, I imagine that the children will hear the strains of that song in years to come and feel an affinity for the British always. Maybe they'll think of the summer of 2012, the Queen's Jubilee, the London Olympics, and all the fanfare in our flat and in our city. I sure hope so.

That makes my heart sing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

West Side (of London) Story

The sun and related warm weather finally returned to London last week. So the kids played on the fire escape after school while Biggest Brother sanded a wooden sword for his school assembly.

Very belts and suspenders, my guy. He asked for protective covering for his mouth and eyes. Because he read it on the sandpaper instructions. (Who reads that sort of thing? And then follows the instructions to the letter? Biggest Brother, that's who.) Thus the trusty Red Bandana. You already know our devotion to the bandana.

The afternoon was spent in curious awe of this still strange part of our flat and passing books and toys from Baby Sister's window outside. You can spy her in the background flipping through pages. The boys were able to demonstrate their chivalrous best when Big Sister dropped a set of play keys a few stories down. She let out a yelp and then burst into tears! (Once they had my okay) the boys dashed down to the ground floor and proudly raced to return the treasure to their little sissie.

They felt terribly important to help Big Sister and I think they were also tickled for an excuse to explore even more.

They are so city, our kids.

Like West Side Story. Minus the Sharks, Jets and knife fights. Really only because they were making song and dance on the fire escape.

A small thing, to spend the afternoon playing on a fire escape, but honestly, not how I envisioned their playtime. Ever. And assuredly, not something they'll be doing years from now.

These are the very things that make this an adventure.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

London. According to Baby Sister

After Big Brother's Tree Planting ceremony, somehow Baby Sister ended up with the camera. You can imagine my surprise at discovering this when downloading pictures.

What resulted was a fantastic streetscape as seen from our buggy. It is a 2 year old's photo essay to be sure. So, without further ado, I present to you the streets of mid-day central London as seen by Baby Sister. I've taken the liberty of adding captions on her behalf.

London is:

Tall buildings. But aren't they all when you stand about 18 inches off the ground yourself?

Bikes. Whether they're Boris Bikes or otherwise, the city is teeming with cycles. Baby Sister asks to take her (really Big Brother's old) Radio Flyer trike to the park all the time. It is a bit of a hassle. She has a sure case of bike envy.

People in love. Keep yer Paris. We've got plenty of amore in this city.

Road closures and construction. Always. Ours is a city under perpetual renovation. You think that wouldn't be as much of an issue for pedestrians, but sometimes it troubles our travels, too. I can't help but thinking, though that "hurry up! Company's coming! Put all the construction stuff away!"

Hey, wait!  Isn't that the guy who just had his arm around that woman? Where'd she go so fast?!

Layers. And dressing for all sorts of weather. Tights usually good. A jacket a must and a scarf and "brolly" a clear plus. I'm willing to bet this wasn't an errant tiny thumb, but rather Baby Sister's attempt to point this all out to us.

People on phones. Talking, texting, gaming, reading. Doesn't anyone just look around anymore? Are you reading this on your phone right now?!

Shopping! And this was before we even hit Oxford Street. When shopping in London, my suggestion (I stole this one from the Mister) would be to not to do the dollars to pounds conversion. It is too depressing. Especially if it something you really need. And really, what else are you going to do? Have it sent from the States and pay exorbitant Customs fees? When in doubt, just window shop.

Close proximity to others. Not unlike any urban area, I'm sure, but it is true that you give up some personal space when moving to the city. But in our case (and Baby Sister's, too) the close proximity is a bonding experience among our little brood.

In summary, London is GREAT!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Guid cheerio the nou, Scotland!

It is almost time for our next school break (hip hip) and birthday celebration (hooray!) and I wanted to show you how much we enjoyed the trip to Scotland when we celebrated Biggest Brother turning 10.

We took a train and enjoyed lovely sights along the way.

We rented a car (always a treat!) in Edinburgh and drove out to the East Lothian Coast where we stayed in an old farmhouse with views of the water. This was our first time since moving to London to stay in something other than hotel rooms or flats. I got teary hearing the kids play in the backyard.

The boys learned how to build a fire in the fireplace. As you might suspect by our winter gear and the grey skies, it didn't feel like April, and we were grateful to have long mornings and evenings by the fire.

Castles, bag pipers, birthday, a "Top Gear" marathon by the fire. It was restful. We went to Easter mass in a quaint town and enjoyed the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick (and meeting faux princesses. They're at every castle. Harumph).

Our favorite part was playing in the backyard of the farmhouse (we miss do miss a yard!) and exploring the coastline of Sea Cliff Beach. This is absolutely Europe's best bargain! For just £2 all the nature and wildlife our city smalls have been craving.  

Some urban girls needed a bit of transition time to enjoy the elements.

And everything is better with cake. Apparently the invitation read, "Come as you are" or at least that was Baby Sister's plan.

It was super and added to our list of new places we've been. Now we can say we've been to England, Scotland, Germany, Spain, France, and a pair of us to Italy. Next up is a week in Spain!

And I can't look at these chilly scenes without raising a glass of Pimm's (it is that time of year!) to the delightfully sunny, cloudless skies we've seen over London for many days now. Summer has arrived.

Big Brother and Year 3 are off to explore the Greenwich Maritime museum today. Think of him visiting where time begins. We're hoping to slow it down next week on the beach where the heat of the day requires siestas and churinguitos. And a dip in the pool.

G'bye Scotland! Pass me the "suncream!"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jubilee Collection Goes Public

Some things make me this happy.
In a very late outing for ice cream in Hyde Park, Baby Sister managed to get most of her treat all down her dress last night. Not one to call it a day over sartorial issues, I pulled together a spare outfit with her cardigan as a top and Big Sister's cardigan as a skirt! Glee ensued.

I am grinning a bit like that today myself even though it means my sideboards are positively forlorn, almost barren.  Wait 'til you hear why!

I may have told you that I'm excited about the Queen's Jubilee. So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this article requesting loans of royal memorabilia for a Queen's Jubilee exhibit. What? There might be a life for my goodies beyond my sideboard? People might appreciate them more than our dazed school friends who come over for play dates, munching their snacks in silence while staring at dozens of images of their Queen? I'm in!

I sent an email saying just that. Happily, the curator wrote back and said, "hooray! We'd like to borrow your things." Well, I'm not sure he actually said "hooray" (that was me at this end) but thus began an exchange to coordinate delivery.

And because I could give lessons on how to make a complete boob of yourself and I was VERY excited about my Queen collection being part of the official celebration, I zipped off a goofy email to my beloved (even signing it "Crazy Cat Lady in the Making."). I sort of suspect that people who amass oddball collections like I have might also be inclined to amass felines.  Which is really mean to all the nice people who like and own dozens of cats. They are probably out there sending snippy emails about kooks like me who breed four small people!  But anyway, just as I hit "send" on my silly note to the Mister, I watched it flash thru the World Wide Web to...the curator. Not to the Mister. So within minutes of telling this professional artist and exhibit curator that I'd be happy to share my things, I went from looking like a potentially interesting American collector of British antiques (albeit not as quirky as Jubilade), to a complete nut.

I am nothing if not myself.

When I recovered from the red-faced shame (and how I wish I could send this to "Young Miss" magazine's "Was My Face Red" column (remember that!?)), I managed to haul Baby Sister and my loot to drop off my goods.

And today I was interviewed about it!  Baby Sister and I met with an Oral Historian (and here I have to pause and say that I've met exactly three people through the exhibition project and they all have amazingly interesting sounding jobs!  When I've queried them about whether they enjoyed them as much as it might sound, delightfully, they said they sure did!  How nice is that?!) and chatted for about 20 minutes on tape.  It will be interesting to see (and now hear) how everyone's contributions get folded together. I cannot overstate how tickled I am already to have played even the tiniest part of the Jubilee celebration.

As with most conversations, I did walk away from my interview reflecting on even more things I might have said. My collecting has its roots in a desire to create a home filled with meaning and even more, souvenirs of our travels. But now that I have a chance to share the collection makes me even happier. I think of it as a very tiny way of giving back to the British. We've been absolutely embraced by Londoners. That I can do something little to help them celebrate something so monumental makes my day. And then some.

Wanna go with me to see the exhibit? It will give me another excuse to go! I'll do my best not to embarrass us terribly. If you can't make the show (which runs through June 24) you can be sure I'll tell you all about it.

And again, apologies to crazy cat ladies everywhere!

Also, many thanks to Baby Sister for being such a great little girl on a long, hot bus ride in mid-day London traffic, sitting through my interview coloring, and being all around super company. She doesn't (at this moment) share my enthusiasm for the project but she's been a real sweetheart to tag along on my outings for it so cheerfully. She got a few sweets out of the deal, but her favorite part was getting to experience the public art just outside my interview.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Incredible Shrinking Cape

I remember getting a few sweaters from my own Biggest Brother in laundry mishaps. A fantastic grey wool one from Garfinkle's stands out. He probably bought it for himself with money earned from working at the Springfield Mall GAP ("Fall Into The Gap"). Newly my sized, I wore it proudly. I liked it almost as much as this cashmere cape below:

I really fretted about splurging on this purchase just before we came house hunting in London. I thought it would be just the thing for airplane travel. And it was. Turns out it was perfect for countless school runs, every single vacation, most weekends, over pajamas and seemingly most days. For a year. In all honesty, I cannot think of a more well worn purchase I've made in a very long time.

I submit photographic evidence of my wearing lots. Here I am wearing it while wooing movers to come back one more time to our rental house.

And then my wearing it all over Paris. Here it is on the street under a Baby Bjorn.

And in a Parisian cab with a bunch of Smalls.

And in a Parisian cafe. So comfy and content in my cashmere cape, I was blissfully unaware of Baby Sister playing with a sharp knife. I'm telling you. It was that good, my cape. It provided me with a mental cone of silence. You should know this was taken about a year ago and not only did Baby Sister not injure herself that day, I didn't even spot this photo until now. Benign neglect, my friends. And a super cape, too.

Then my beloved, luxurious and trusty cape got swept up in my enthusiastic (and seemingly endless) efforts to cycle everything we own between a dishwasher, washing machine or dryer.

Oh, the dryer. No. No. No. I got a first hand tutorial on how to make cashmere felted.

I have to admit though, that just like that 1980s Garfinkle's sweater, it takes a bit of the sting out to see a beloved, mistakenly shrunken garment get a new life. Even more so because it looks absolutely smashing on Big Sister.

Recycling at its finest.
And even more, it's Better After!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Purple Cabbage Files

The TIME magazine cover sure seems to be garnishing a lot of press coverage in the States this week. Also saw a headline that "Alanis Morissette Breastfeeds 16 month old." Imagine! (I'm giving myself away for reading Again!)

I have about a kazillion thoughts on the subject but can't really tap them all out to you given my hormonal state of affairs. You see, concurrent with our big adventure to Rome, I thought it perhaps was time to wean Baby Sister. That we came home to her acceptance letter from Our Sweet School (for the first-time-ever half day option!  Extra hooray!) only confirms it.  It is simultaneously all too soon and longer than the others were my bosom buddies. All the stars were aligning for the change. That doesn't mean my heart (and perhaps even worse, hers) is breaking any less. It's been a big week here. So keep it to yourself if you thought my tops were ill-fitting or otherwise wonky in the trip photos. Alright. Go look. We'll be here when you get back.

No matter what you think about if and how long babies and children ought to be breast fed, I suspect you know by now that nursing is a subject very dear to me. Always has been I suppose. I remember being about Big Sister's age when my mother would take copies of "The Womanly Art" to friends and neighbors with newborns. I didn't know or appreciate then how cutting-edge she was. (Nor how considerate she always was to never visit but more than a few minutes with a new family!)  About 25 years later I, too would give that book (and advice and related cheerleading) to new mom (and dad) friends.

When Biggest Brother was about a year old and I was thinking to wean him, my own doctor gave me great kudos for having nursed a baby that long and said, "I bet you don't know anyone who has done that!" Au contraire!, I told him and promptly rattled off the names of more than a few relatives and dear friends who'd already done so, and helped me greatly along the way. Some with breast pumps in their offices and against long, exhausting odds. Some who made my snuggling up with Biggest Brother on a nursery rocker with a good book or the newspaper pretty cozy and absolutely simple. Tides were turning and I was buoyed by lots of friends.

So. Now, about eleven years into being either or both pregnant or nursing (minus a few weeks here and there), I hear the very loud turning of a page and the beginning of a new chapter in my life and that of my family. And yes, I did the math. I've now been in that maternal mode longer than a professional one and way longer than an academic one. Who saw that milestone coming? Or going? I would be untruthful to say I'm happy about it all.

To be honest though, most change for me is bittersweet. I almost always cry leaving vacation (the poor Mister!) and have since I can remember. Sentimentally knows my name. But all the same, as I was heard to say tearily over yet another plate of caprese salad in a piazza last weekend, "Just because I'm sad doesn't mean it should keep going."

All this time together has been lovely for the two of us. Baby Sister is healthy, big, strong, contented and bright. I always found nursing to be a comfort to the newly moved, too. All this nursing has been a wonderful trip with our little people, and we're off on a new road now.

So it was with a mild sense of panic that I realized en route to Rome that in the busyness of our packing up, the sitter arriving, and the excitement of the Mister being home Friday morning, that Baby Sister and I never found each other to nurse that day. And now I honestly cannot recall when the last time was that we had that time together on Thursday last week. I told myself over the weekend that was for the best.

I know from having weaned three children that this doesn't end our closeness in any way. Even in a physical sense. Ours are very affectionate people and I missed that about all of them while we were away. I missed their physical presence. The tangible sense of chatting while sitting close together, reading with someone on my lap, stroking still baby soft hair (even on Biggest Brother's head!), and inhaling them. I know that doesn't disappear or even diminish with weaning. I know that we'll continue to be affectionate with each other. I see it in the kids piling on each others' laps when reading, when the boys absently play with Big Sister's hair, when they want to be snuggled.

But still. I found myself reading to Baby Sister tonight with a catch in my voice. With the high pitched emphasis of someone trying not to let a cascade of tears fall and ruin an otherwise exciting explanation of about a dozen different types of dinosaurs. Fortunately, I'd warned the boys (big and small) and Big Sister about why Baby Sister and I might be a bit of out sorts in the days ahead. The smallest two of those boys suggested basically: "S'alright! It's about time for a new baby around here anyway. And maybe this time a little brother?!" Well. No. Not so much. And not just because I'd have to change the blog title.

This whole discussion reminds me of this lovely essay.

I might have already sent it to you. It is one of my favorites. My own Big Sister gave it to me years ago and I give it to every new parent I know. Each time I do, I reread it and pledge anew not to blink. And I don't think I do blink all that terribly much. But like seemingly every stage, in so many ways, it is over all too soon.

And so, not at all unlike a decade ago with infant Biggest Brother newly arrived, when I declared our household a "very moist" one, we're once again in a new place. That place is at times exciting with what is ahead, and also a bit teary. We've done really well so far, Baby Sister and me. Hooray! Think of us. We're turning a page together. It is a graduation of sorts. My eyes are a bit too clouded to throw my cap in the air just yet.

Plus all that effort it is taking me not to blink.

PS: This also (sadly!) ends my ability to comically announce to the Mister, "NOW I really have nursed a baby everywhere!" (As I did while at a beachside shack in St. Kitts, at Palm Sunday Mass at Notre Dame, in the shadow of the Grand Canyon, watching lights illuminate Mount Rushmore, on a double decker bus in London, etc. etc.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Tree Grows In Marylebone

It was a big day for Big Brother this week when he joined the rest of his buddies from Our Sweet School's Green Team to help plant the 500th new tree in Marylebone with BBC World Affairs Editor, John Simpson and the Lord Mayor of Westminster.

Lesser known dignitaries were also in attendance (including Baby Sister and me) and we were all greatly cheered by lovely remarks about the permanence of trees and their value to life. Even, maybe especially, urban life.

The idea of this little sapling one day being a tall shade tree really spoke to me. That it will quietly guard this little corner in Marylebone for decades to come makes my heart full. I made Big Brother promise to always visit "his" tree whenever he returns to London as a teenager or adult. You can help him remember to do so. The tree is at Hallam and Gildea Streets, W1, just outside of the BBC Broadcast House. As a semi-permanent wanderer, I really love the idea of some "thing" that we had even a tiny part of standing tall. And weathering London when we've gone from it.

And I know what you're thinking. He (Big Brother, not John Simpson) is absurdly overdue for a haircut. We'll have to get to that before Holy Communion or I'll really regret pictures that resemble Rapunzel in a little navy blue suit. With the busyness of jetting to and from Rome and last night's Family Disco at school and all, haircuts have been moved off the calendar each week.

A the return visit to the dentist has been similarly postponed. Just you wait until I tell you about our first British dental visit someday. I think it took approximately 3 minutes less for you to read up to this point as it did the dentist to examine 3 of my children's teeth. Gracious. You probably don't want to hear my rant about British universal health care. But you're here so I'll just say this - I suspect those who champion the principle (which is admittedly a laudable one) of such a system haven't ever actually experienced one. Our experience has given me a much more nuanced opinion than I had before arriving. I want to pen long, effusive love letters to our former pediatricians, my OB/gyns, and nearly every other physician or medical staff that ever cared for the Mister, the smalls and me Stateside. Continued side note, though: we have had excellent care at an NHS A&E (emergency room) which does make me wonder again about a system which provides great care in emergencies while neglecting general practices.

Soapbox dismantled, now back to Big Brother. To his great credit, he wanted to wear his school blazer and tie. Even though the school is technically in "summer uniforms,"these days (which includes polo shirt and shorts option for boys) he opted to get all dressed up for the big event and even asked me to pack a comb! This is the same little boy who formerly wore only fleece "comfy" pants with an elastic waist with softest shirts he could find. I think he liked only the soft clothes because as the second of two boys (and not needing new clothes) I splurged on countless new cozy blankets for him, each one softer than the last.

How cute is my little man?  Hopefully you'll soon get to see action shots, too as video of the day will be on You Tube next week.  I'll keep an eye out and post it.

Go Green Team!  Go Trees!  Go Big Brother! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

When in Rome

In my case, when in Rome, turn 40!  Doing our part to keep Euros circulating, the Mister and I jetted off to Rome for 4 days to celebrate. Maybe just as spectacular, he found the most lovely American graduate student studying in London to watch the smalls. Fun for the whole family!

It was amazing. I want to tell you all about it but know I've still not told you how great our family adventure was in Scotland a whole month ago.  I promise to go into more detail about both trips soon (and definitely before we hit the beaches of Spain for the kids' school break in a few weeks (soooo exciting, life in Europe!). Meanwhile, many thanks for the well wishes and countless travel tips, too. We thought of you all during the trip and appreciated departing to emails, texts, flowers and packages and coming home to even more.  I feel very special - thanks to you!

I knew just talking to the Mister completely uninterrupted on the car ride on the way to the airport would be a delight!  And the rest of the trip only got better. We laughed endlessly. I am laughing all over looking through these pictures.

We found much to smile and laugh and chat about. That is, when we weren't enjoying great food and drink, unimaginable scenery and tours, catching a few naps, and strolling through the streets in the hot sunshine and still warm evenings. It was that kind of trip.

They were days we'll always treasure.  I think I'll be busy in the months leading up to the Mister turning 40 to plan something as wonderful on his account. Suggestions welcomed.

Will write more soon, but meanwhile, buona sera and much love from your 40 year old (cradle robbing) friend.

Oh, wait. One more thing - see that man over my shoulder below? He wasn't photobombing us, but rather was part of our evening's dinner entertainment. We concocted a great story about him - speculating that he was a private investigator trailing the couple at another table. Either that or he took a tremendous number of photos of two people he didn't seem to be with. I'm telling you - it was that kind of trip!

I threw a few coins into the Trevi Fountain. Here's hoping that means I return lots.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bean Wreath. Do Not Try This at Home

Charming, natural wreaths are popping up all over this spring. Have you noticed?  Some are covered with beans, some with acorns. I was scared off acorns from scary stories like this. Gracious. What would you do? I would absolutely have to abandon ship. Flee the state. It isn't nice to say, especially when I'm going on and on these days about how our newly urban kids have become too separated from the outside world. See also, "Last Child in the Woods" and my genuine delight at our adventures in the wilds of Scotland. But sometimes, nature makes me a tiny bit sick.  Corn on the cob haunts me from a shucking experience punctuated with many, many worms. 

Truth be told (here I really worry we'll start to lose our summer bookings...), another thing I have against nature these days is that we are also having a bit of battle in our flat. A battle we appear to be losing against 4 legged creatures. The stories I could tell would make for a great childrens book if I wasn't so furious that their brethern seem to already be in every single story I open and if I weren't so disgusted, edgey and alarmed about it most days. Ahem. Still. Come see us. We're working on it.

But thickly glued, spray painted nature? I'm all for it!

And even though there are likely thousands of natural goodies akin to acorns (some I'd bet without bug infestations) for the taking in Hyde Park, I went with beans by the sack from Waitrose. Not a moment too soon. Our feather monogrammed capital letter had seen better days. Our letter carrier asked if it we were celebrating a birthday. Yes, indeed. Perhaps Big Bird's!

Anyhow, Baby Sister and I had truly only a few minutes between our morning adventures, something that passed for lunch, and picking up the big kids to complete this project. So we whittled the steps, way, way, down.  See also post title. Do not try this at home. Adapt the steps, though and you're sure to have something clever adorning your door.  Think of me when you do.

Because friends were coming over in the morning, I feel compelled to welcome them with something fresh. Not sure if this really fit the bill after all, but it sure was fun getting messy along the way. Baby Sister loved it and continues to explain it to everyone who arrives. Here's how I'd explain it:

Buy lots of beans.

Line kitchen counter and floor with newspaper. This is a perfect job for Baby Sister until she gets interested in the pictures.  Just like me circa 1985-1988 homecoming float preparations. The newspaper is never more interesting than when it is a dropcloth or being stuffed into chicken wire.

Determine that using glue gun to affix beans to old wreath form with take much too long (and worse, exclude Baby Sister from all the fun!).

Dump entire bottle of Modge Podge onto wreath. Don't ask me how that got by the packers in our move.  Every single liquid or powder or other questionable substance the Mister wanted to bring was seemingly okay, but everything similar of mine got nixed. Except, apparently, this one container of Modge Podge!  Hooray! Anyhow, dump whole load of Modge Podge onto wreath.

Pour, stick, and drop all beans that you can onto gluey wreath. Baby Sister will gleefully help, shouting, "We're sooo messy" and "It is sooo bootiful" alternatively. There is no higher praise from a 2 year old.

(Don't tell the Mister this part.) Skip drying step because you have to get the kids soon. Start first coat of spray paint (left over silver from Big Brother's rocket for school) in the kitchen. Eventually move the whole shebang onto the fire escape. Keep painting. Ignore common sense (and directions) to allow either or both glue or paint to try between coats.

Embellish with ribbon (always), cute numbers (so various delivery folk cannot - understandably - complain that you've covered the actual flat numbers again) and hang. Shazam!

Start noodling through a replacement. Maybe something Jubilee...?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Little School Girls

I tried to post these last weekend and I'm hopeful they'll show this go 'round.*

These girls look like they could be friends. They both like to pretend, read, dance, dress up, do all sorts of art projects, and play with their siblings. I think they'd like to play together.


In fact I'm sure of it. It is what makes me extra glad that we had a lazy (even if it was raining AGAIN or should I say STILL!) long weekend - hooray, British Bank Holiday!

*if it doesn't work just picture it in your head: School pictures of Big Sister and me at the same age. Wearing our school uniforms. Looking like we could be pals. Because we are.

And about the weather. Even our British friends are threatening to emigrate. We're going to do so temporarily for the beaches of Spain before too long. Sounds like we won't be alone.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Waving a Paisley Flag


An ode to bandanas.

The hankerchiefs of cowboys. Softer with each wash. Available in a rainbow of colors. We seem to have the most in red, lots of navy and a few pinks, too.  Taking a page from my own Biggest Brother's book, I've carried one since Biggest Brother arrived in our family.

A bandana can be a bib, hankie, headscarf, and a cleaner and dryer of wet playground equipment. It is a doll's picnic blanket, a peekaboo game, an essential item not to be left behind.

And last week at the park, it was wrapped around a little injured friend from Our Sweet School as he was hustled off to an A&E for a few stitches. I didn't realize how unique a red bandana was here, but his mother reports it became a delightful distraction and conversation piece. The kind folks tending to him pretended he was equal bits pirate and cowboy. How he came to be that was of great discussion. And that helped make him better.

Made in the USA. You never know what you might have tucked in your purse that will bring cheer to the British. Be on the lookout for Baby Sister. She wears her bandanas with a special swagger and a cheesy grin.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spring in London

It has rained an inordinate amount this spring. But somehow there is still a hose pipe ban. Not owning a hose pipe (or having heard of such a thing until recently) or a yard or car in need of washing, we're a bit divorced from the idea that there is a drought in the UK. And mystified by it, too. It rained all of March and April. April was the wettest in London in a century. Actually, when my brother and his family left last July 4, they seemed to have taken the sunshine with them. We're hoping it will return when they do this summer. But it is certainly better to have this "cloud" now than when we arrived last spring.

So on Monday when it dawned with a bright, shiny orb in the sky we rejoiced. Well. At least the Mister and I did. We let the children sleep. Two of them were still sleeping off a sleepover at a friend's. Sunday morning found the Mister and me with just the girls. Strange times indeed. The Mister pointed out that when the boys are grown and off to college, our balance will shift. The girls will be home without the boys fulltime. Always thinking ahead, the Mister. It was strange, waking up without our guys in the flat. We experienced a certain drought of noise, of ebullient chaos. The tiger cubs were missing from the zoo.

Big Sister noticed right away, coming in early morning to wake me instead of joining her busy brothers in the living room. It is also higher pitched, the sound of our home, without the boys here. And quieter, but not in a good way. It was all a little funny without them. We all worked harder to keep up our conversation going where normally they would be chatting away.

Spring is time of change, growth, renewal, refreshment. Beginning again. Looking forward. As we look forward to the fall, we are delighted that Baby Sister will go to Our Sweet School with the big kids! Then we'll want to freeze* time a bit because decisions will be upon us about where and what is next.

Maybe it was the strangeness of not having the boys that morning or the rushing of the calendar pages, but spring seems to be a time of reflection, too. It is nice to look ahead, but not too far. Maybe just far enough ahead that Big Brother won't have goosebumps when he's bold enough to wear uniform shorts to school (with a sweater and jacket!).

*And also, you should know I mean freeze in a figurative way. I'd like to not continue to need a scarf when the rest of you are poolside. But don't let this in anyway keep you from coming. It will get warmer. And the boys will be home and the girls will be thrilled. That will make it warm and sunny when you're here.