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Saturday, June 30, 2012

From My Sports Desk

You may not have known I had a sports desk, but I'm opening one today because I'm so upset about David Beckham.

I'm a good sports fan. I enjoy a good game and even more so, the human interest stories behind them. (Who hasn't been fascinated by all the intra-team match ups in the European Cup? Cristiano Rinaldo battling Real Madrid teammates? Man City's Joe Hart versus Balotelli?). Make no mistake. I'm no expert. I had no inkling what RGIII meant embedded in an email from one of my most sporty friends. "Whaaat?"  I asked the Mister.

But I know what I like and love to get caught up a good competition. We were very fortunate to be in Chicago when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup.  I got so excited that I made a faux cup for the dining room table to greet the smalls over breakfast the morning after the finals. But I hadn't paid attention to hockey before or since.

Football is king here and no time like the present to be engaged in it. I'm so impressed with how much the boys have picked up from playing with their European friends. And say what you will about UK export, David Beckham (Big Brother is aghast that I could cheer for someone so tattooed!) and his penchant for appearing in public in his undies, that he's a dad of four alone makes him a star to me. I also like that he's adjusting to life in the US as we settle into his environs. And I really like that he at least claims to do "the school run." Superstar, I tell ya!

I am upset Beckham's not going to play for the UK Olympic team.  DB not with GB? Not OK in my book. Is there a chance for a last minute substitution?

While this may not be popular sentiment, to me, sport isn't just about winning, but also playing the game. Here is where you can be sure you probably don't want me to coach children older than about 4 or 5. Sometimes sentimental favorites should make the team. Frankly, sometimes they just ought to be declared the outright winner.

For this same reason, I'm still smarting about the outcome of the 2001 World Series.

I mentioned all this to the Mister who said things like, "not even among top scorers in the MLS," "MLS not among top world leagues," "Sport is a zero sum game," and "merit should always win the day."  Ouch. And BLAH!  Also, hooey.

S'alright, DB. You'll undoubtedly still be very busy all summer continuing your role promoting the UK and The Games. Your kids will be out of school so you can head over soon without the worry of a practice schedule. And you can eat lots and lots of pie and mash with yer mum while you're in town.

And I'm still hoping you'll get to light the flame at the opening ceremonies. I wrote this yesterday and woke up to the Times Editorial page agreeing with me.

David Beckham eats pie on date with his mum 05.12 - 12SO

Friday, June 29, 2012

Big Brother's First Communion

Where does the time go?  Big Brother already had his "Fourth Communion" (he's keeping track!) at Mass today at school and I've not told you about his first. Today was very special because it was the first time he and his classmates in Year 3 took communion at school. They were so proud of themselves and happy. As they should be. They were feted after Mass with scones and juice in the music room of Our Sweet School. The Headteacher reported they saw the scones and said, "For us? Mass AND scones?! Could today get any better?!" They are that sweet. (Mostly. They are also 8 and always forgiven for when they're not so sweet.)

But back to mid-June. It was a lovely and truly blessed weekend with family celebrating Big Brother and his nice friends. It was delightful that my parents were here!

Big Brother was was so happy and confident -- how wonderful on an amazing day in his life. He has really matured. He is easy and happy, kind and thoughtful. He was ready. He also looked very smart in his tiny suit. So did his darling friends. The girls glowed with their shiny hair done just so and their white dresses ethereal. They were all lovely. They are loved. They are at such a dear age of being big and little all at once.

To commemorate the day, I asked friends, family, teachers and neighbors - friends new and old, near and far to send Big Brother a page for a surprise scrapbook. You would love reading through it just as I know he will for years to come.

One of the most poignant notes was from a dear friend of ours who left London for a life in France with their 4 children. She said to Big Brother, "The day you have been carefully preparing for with all those special classes after school all Winter has finally arrived. All our thoughts are with you and all our little friends from year three. Give them a big hug from us when you meet them on the church steps this morning. I know you realise the importance of this special sacrament and this BIG step you are making in this meeting with Jesus. This is a day of great celebration for you, your family and school friends. I still remember every detail of the day I made my First Communion with my little friends and all my family around and I know years from now you will treasure your memories of your day too. As you head down George St this morning think of all those little boys and girls who throughout the centuries have proudly headed off, like you, with their friends and family to celebrate this special sacrament in their local church. You are continuing on a long tradition and today it is your turn. Enjoy and we all hope that maybe with a bit of luck we might be able to bring you to our lovely local church here in Bordeaux some time soon."

We sure hope so! It was a beautiful day and we were so proud of Big Brother (and Biggest Brother, too for being the altar server) and so thrilled to have Gigi and Granddaddy here.

Bless his heart. And bless yours for praying for him and sending such lovely reminders of a day we'll always treasure.

(Also there was a heavenly miracle of sorts in that I scanned a photo. Without the aid of a 10 year old. Amen. Rejoicing ensues!)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wreathed in Gold

In my never-ending quest to keep a festive and inviting doorway, I decided we needed a little Olympic spirit at the front door. For the 6 of us, miscellanous friends, the pizza guy, our letter carrier, the porters and the lovely Italian lady who cleans our building hallways. She asked me this week (apparently after weeks of staring at the ring of silver beans heaped on my door) just what all this door decor was about.

It is all about saying, "Hello! How 'do? Glad you're here!"

If you want a little Olympic spirit at your door, here's a step by step guide. It will likely take you longer to read this than it did for Baby Sister and me to pull it together.

Bemoan that the official 2012 Olympic products are so unsightly. Don't even get me started on the mascots. Of all countries that could have gone with traditional pagentry and symbols, it is the United Kingdom. But I found this gym bag and tea towel hoping they could become an attractive Olympic wreath. I almost went with the tea towel hung from a dowel but feared it would if I'd hung a tea towel on my front door. So £8 nylon gym bag it was.

Repurpose an embroidery hoop. These have become my substitute for wreath forms and worked perfectly for this make-it-up-as-you-go project. Center the design and trim the excess gym bag away.

Assume, quite wrongly, that Baby Sister is so interested in your having cut something you JUST bought with scissors that she is neither playing in your makeup (note the brows!) nor holding scissors very dangerously. Did you also note her dress was on inside out? Very busy crafting here. Cannot attend to all the details!

Get tickled all over again that you have this giant pile of white grosgrain (a real steal from the White Company's New Year's Eve sale) to embellish the wreath. Affix with electrical tape to the top of the door.

Stand back and wait for Big Brother (our biggest Olympic fan so far!) to come home and voice his wide-eyed genuine approval!  "COOOL!" is how that is expressed by an almost-8 year old.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dumpster Diving Decor

Remember when I told you Big Brother was part of a tree planting ceremony? Well, as promised, here is the link to the lovely ceremony where Big Brother and Our Sweet School's Green Team helped BBC's John Simpson plant a tree in Marylebone. Don't feel bad if you don't spot Big Brother easily. He looks a bit like a muppet in a navy blazer with his long hairdo! Still, he can be so proud of taking part in such a nice event. And how lovely are the comments John Simpson makes about the day?

Doing my part for the earth, I found this treasure in a florist shop trash bin over the weekend. It is a brightly colored, sturdy box emblazoned with the Union Jack. I spied it en route to pick up Biggest Brother from a birthday party.  There it perched, on the tippy top of a trash heap, calling out to me.

I waited until Biggest Brother was with me to get it. His interest in why I'd want something out of someone's trash gave me the courage to ask the proprietor if I just might take it home. The shop is where we bought our Christmas tree, so I sort of felt like a customer -- even though I wanted a freebie out of their trash.

Walking away, I laughed, saying, "one man's trash is another's treasure!"

Biggest Brother had never heard this expression and thought it was so funny. He adopted a pirate accent and detailed lots of possible examples. As in, "Argh. Me hearties! I've found this old banana peel in a bin! SUCH a treasure! ARRRGGGH!" The banana peel reference isn't too far from how the Mister perceived my find when we got home.

Maybe it is the renewed talk about where and when we'll land next that has me collecting again. I'm not above looking far and wide.

Big Sister was a good help holding it on her lap on the bus. Not sure where it will end up. Maybe it will get a new life as a magazine rack or holder of extra throws in the living room. But for now, it has joined my British collection adding color to the kitchen.

Repurpose. Plant. Recycle. Repeat. Sounds like the Green Team mantra and that of people who move around, too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baby Sister's Perfect Day

I know I'm still telling about our great long weekend in reverse but these pictures from Monday are too dear not to share right away. With the big kids at school and my mother encouraging me to run out without my crew, Baby Sister had her perfect day home with grandparents. It began in grand style, playing trains and Barbies,

getting a manicure,

wearing "Gigi slippers" with the actual Gigi,

and snuggling up on the couch to watch "Bugs Bunny" instead of taking a nap.

All of this fun allowed me to sprint off for solo adventures. It was lovely to drop into a salon, in and out of my favorite spots on the Marylebone High Street, and even the post office and Waitrose alone. But I spent much of my time saying "excuse us" to people out of habit and explaining where Baby Sister was to her many neighborhood fans.

As you can see, she was home having a real treat!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Orange You Glad?

There is so much to say about First Communion, my parents visiting, Baby Sister getting a short hairdo, the sun arriving back in London and much more, but meanwhile, wanted to send you this quick DIY for orange slice cookies.  Our Sweet School was holding a "Cookie Crumble" baking competition to raise money for charity. Baking (in grams and Celsius - my kryptonite!) was on my to do list all day.  And stayed there for countless hours.

The Mister used to say that a big difference in my staying home with the children would be that I would do the things I really love (among them baking and creating) during the daylight hours instead of late into the night after work. That was a good theory and long before England had a shot at taking the European Cup.

Step One. Pull out couch and let children stay up late cheering the England victory over Ukraine. Ignore breakfast dishes languishing in the sink. It is honest, my blog. Kitchen sink and all. And should you be here for some reason looking for kitchen decor ideas, I strongly discourage copying these countertops and the world's tallest back splash which are the precise color of crumbs.

Step Two.  Ponder variety of cookie cutter options. These four boxes were non-negotiable when planning what was important to bring across the Atlantic. Most of the cutters were gifts from friends and lots have stories behind them. But even with all these options, I went for a big, round circle.

Step Three. Survey the cupboards with surprise and glee that so many baking ingredients are already here. These are the little things that make me feel at home. That my "pantry" (really just one sliding skinny cabinet door) has food colors, fondant, caster sugar, flours, and all sorts of baking essentials. Maybe not as much or as varied as I would have had Stateside, but plenty enough. Anyhow, whip up batch of sugar cookie dough from a BBC recipe. Remind yourself you still haven't made the leap to baking with a scale and do rough conversions of grams to cups. Cut out circles and cut them in half.  Bake.

Step Four. Regret that among the baking necessities there are few options among my food colorings. We'd just used blue for royal (!) icing star cookies for the Jubilee Tea Party, so that left only orange. Thus, the orange slices!  Tint bowl of royal icing orange. Reserve some for plain white accents.

Step Five. Place foil (AL - lou - min - EUM, if you will) under cookies on cooling rack for quick clean up. Royal icing hardens quickly. Even on crumb colored countertops. Ice cookies with the back of a baby spoon dipped in orange icing. Let dry and add white trim.

Step Six. Put out for Smalls' admiration in the morning. Save a few for the ladies in the school office and one for Baby Sister's dear porter friend. He will accept his with a big smile even though she has lost the ribbon for its bag and crushed most of the cookie in her enthusiasm to deliver it. But no matter how they look, these little cookies are perfectly sweet. Just like their little delivery people. I even let the smalls sample some over breakfast. Clearly, I'm going for quite the mothering award this week. Dirty dishes, late nights, and cookies with breakfast!  Where'd the Mister and my parents go? This flat needs adult supervision stat!

Here's your merry baker about 12 hours before this project was begun. I am so humored in finding photo essays from Baby Sister on my camera a few times a week. Kind of nice to have a photographer around the house to take pictures for me -  even if she did catch me in that same sweater again!  Now, orange you glad you stopped by?!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Best of Spain

It seems like too much so soon after vacation to actually punctuate and format paragraphs. So without further ado, these are the highlights from our week in Isla Canela, Spain:

relaxing days on the beach

marathon cartoon mornings, adding another country (Portugal) to our list, making a meal out of fresh tomatoes, avocado, oil, and sea salt

playing cards and on the swings at the chiringuito. Enjoying mojitos, Cruzcampo and fresh fish

random meandering wildlife (horses, goats, giant beetles), stumbling upon a vintage tile shop in Portugal and dreaming of coming back with empty suitcases to tile a future home

a rental car, reading lots of books, late nights, late mornings, absurdly timed meals and not caring a lick for a clock or a calendar

buddy time

the pool, finding interesting shells and flowers on beach walks, getting buried in the sand

Looking through the pictures makes me think to tell you that it occurred to me while we were away that Big Sister is beginning to look like Diane Lane!  This revelation meant little or nothing to the Mister who  doesn't realize the great import of "the Outsiders." Google Diane Lane as "Cherry" (or even now) and see if you don't agree.

And I've no idea (other than we've dropped it a kazillion times) why the trip pictures are so hazy but honestly, it was that kind of trip. Everything was bathed in a warm, sunny, sandy glow of late nights, long mornings and perpetual beach hair so the pictures being too bright strangely capture that feeling. I was glad to get home to be able to actually run a comb through Big Sister's hair. For a week I just did my best to organize it.

The Mister is a new expert on the Spanish Civil War and the economic issues in the country were apparent. Trips, no matter how relaxing, can be an education for us all in ways big and small.

But back to the best of our days in Spain. The Mister and I agreed our very favorite part was the boys picking out "best friends" necklaces as souvenirs.

Good times indeed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Baby Sister Turns Three. Twice

This lovely bit of summer deliciousness turned three last week in Spain. Her siblings can be forgiven for thinking that it is now our norm to celebrate birthdays by exploring a foreign country.

Despite all the fanfare in London, we escaped the rainy, chilly city just after Our Sweet School's Jubilee tea party for the kids' half-term break. A week on a Spanish beach. Sun, sand, books, football, chiringuito. Repeat times seven. Add a side trip or two to Portugal, lots of local ham, Cruzcampo and sand buckets and you have a sense of our week.

It was great to get away and we lost track of time most days. As evidence, we feted Baby Sister on Thursday - two cakes, gifts, candles, pink balloons, lots of singing and good cheer. The whole nine yards. Then Friday, I checked my cell phone and noticed that was actually her birthday!  Even though Biggest Brother is eager to tell his friends that "my mom forgot my sister's birthday" we really celebrated her twice!  Better early than late, but to be sure, not something that would happen to Baby Number One.

Still. I can be forgiven for getting my days mixed up when it doesn't seem like many days ago that the boys and Big Sister were huddled over a bassinet in Illinois.

"Do you like hawses? Do you like dina seurs?" Big Sister asked, already so interested in this little creature about to become her best girlfriend. Not surprisingly, Baby Sister slept (and sometimes stared) through the rapid-fire questioning.  She still stares, wide-eyed at her beloved Big Sister.

I wish Biggest Brother and Big Sister could see even for a moment what the Mister and I so often do. Especially that Big Brother and Baby Sister often stare with long gazes at their big buddies with obvious, heartbreaking, devotion. It is like they are taking a very, very long mental snapshot of what it is like to be Big. The youngest of 4 myself, and a little sister to a fancy Big Sister, I completely relate. I still want to know what is in my Big Sister's purse. I very much get it.

Maybe that it why I was extra touched that when we celebrated a sibling last, Big Sister appeared mid-way through Biggest Brother's sleepover in her Chips The Fish costume. And why I was so grateful that Biggest Brother and Big Brother were very kind to her obvious plea to be noticed. To be included. Hooray, and unending thanks to all you Big people who look out for the rest of us!

Happy Birthday, Baby Sister. It was well worth slogging through the mountains of Jubilee newspapers in pajamas this morning and trudging to the Jubilee souvenir exhibit while dodging raindrops this afternoon to celebrate you on the beaches of Spain.

You're a super little girl and we're all terribly in love. You'll always be our baby. We're doubly glad you're ours.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jubilee Weekend

Having a ball. And a Jubilee rooftop tea party, Jubilee picnic in the park with friends, and a jubuliant half term school break. Hooray!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I'm Scared of the Zoo

Everyone thinks their children are funny. In my case, I'm pretty sure I'm right. Big Brother cracked me up with this revelation yesterday over breakfast:

Big Brother:  I'm kind of scared of zoos.

Me:  Really? Why's that?

Big Brother:  You know those glass window things in inside exhibits? The ones where there are chipmunks and snakes and things?...

Me: Uh, huh (Also: where's my coffee?).

Big Brother: So many times when you're looking in at them Nothing Is In There. And I'm looking for it behind rocks and leaves and sticks. And then I start to wonder, "Where is the animal? Is it crawling on the floor? Is it about to jump on my head?" That part makes me sort of scared of zoos.

ahahahaha!  I'm telling you I couldn't help but to laugh.

Now, if he was a nervous boy, I'd find this pitiful and thought provoking. But Big Brother is a pretty carefree soul these days so I took it for what it was - just pure 7 year old boy observation that is truly comedic.

So worry-free our guy is that his classmates were in awe that he wasn't a bit nervous about making his first confession this week in preparation for First Holy Communion. He was actually beaming on his way in!

I understood his lack of nerves on this account, though. This is a little guy with a clean heart, a clear conscious. A sweet boy with a kind heart. He has lots of God's grace and shares it with us readily. I was fairly sure he'd not have too terribly much to say on his own account during confession and would feel compelled to address his Mother's transgressions instead to fill the time. Although it was a private moment with the priest, from what I understand, I didn't come up (this time). Whew.

So, my sweet boy is very dear and also really funny. Not because he's trying to be, but just because what goes through his head is undeniably comical.

I love Big Brother.