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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

More soon, but meanwhile, we just said goodbye to my most loyal readers who were here in London with a great adventure to Scotland in between. I know they're tuned into the blog because they even read the lemonade stand and Olympic village posts during their travels north from our flat.

My very own Big Brother and his adorable family were here until yesterday morning. Big Sister, who had been characteristically quiet during most of their stay and almost silent the morning they left, burst into messy, noisy tears on the sidewalk as their car rolled away. She cried more than her mother, which is saying a lot. Even Biggest Brother was weepy by the time we got inside. It is never easy to say goodbye if you're in my gene pool. The cousins love each other so much and we're grateful for the time spent together in London. Even when it goes much faster than we'd like. These are days I hope they'll remember when they are teenagers, adults, and parents themselves. And I really, really hope they'll be back in Europe together someday.

It has become cliche to say so, but with our company comes sunny skies. So it is no surprise that as the smalls and I were attempting to leave the flat today (for them to busk -- the summer's top request!) a downpour ensued.

You may have heard this, but we've just decided against an opportunity to continue further east to an assignment in Asia, and instead are turning our attention Stateside after the children finish the upcoming school year. So, sometime in late summer (after school ends in late July) 2013, we'll expect to be turning our ship - literally and figuratively - towards home. If you want to visit, by all means get out your calendar (and piggy bank) because we're open and eager for company for another 12 months. After that, we'll be looking for help unpacking boxes and organizing another kitchen and countless closets.

Fall and back to school will always feel like the new year to me. Change is in the air. I think that's another reason the Mister and I embraced a fall wedding. I can almost hear the sounds of a page turning, a beginning of a new chapter. And not just because we got back to school haircuts, new shoes, and had a school uniform fashion show in our flat last night. My baby starts school next week. That's a whole 'nother post.

To all of our summer company, we bid a fond adieu with big hopes that you'll be back soon and often. And we send many, many thanks for making this a summer not just to remember, but to treasure.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tiny American Entrepreneurs Shut Down by Royal Parks

The smalls were eager to continue a summertime tradition of a lemonade stand in Hyde Park today. They made a shopping list, purchased supplies, crafted signs, whipped up a great batch, cobbled together change and set up shop atop their Radio Flyer wagon.  They were cheerfully calling out to afternoon park goers, "Lemonade!  50 p" and having a grand time.

For a matter of minutes.

They entertained lots of folks, spread good cheer, and sold exactly 3 cups of lemonade to one family before a badge wielding Royal Parks employee approached and gave me a stern (albeit polite) tutorial on vendor permits in the park. For which we have none.

Do you know that the British call unsweetened lemon syrup "squash"?  It is also what a British bureaucracy managed to do to 4 little hearts today. Make that 5. I was torn between feeling squashed, setting a good example of obeying authority, wanting to fight the power, and staging a citrus filled mini-revolution.

Squash indeed. But we shared our surplus inventory with our porters on the way inside and are certain to be sipping lemonade for days to come. To our potential walking, bike riding and horse mounted customers in Hyde Park we say, "We'll be back. Somewhere, someday, but less likely in our giant front yard." Meanwhile, I'm serving lemon G&Ts.


All Star Days

The Olympics might be over but London and our flat are still feeling very sporty. Big Brother has become a savant of sorts about all things Olympic, Paralympic and extremely knowledgeable about flags. A future vexillologist perhaps!  He knows many more flags than I knew countries at his age.  And he is so interested in all the graphic arts and fonts that accompany the summer festivities. We're always wondering how much of what interests the children now will influence what they'll pursue as hobbies and careers later in life.  On that note, Biggest Brother, our lead musician, has spent the last 3 days "busking" and earned over £20. His most lucrative day was when Big Sister accompanied his drum beats with an interpretive dance. It may be about to get harder to convince them to earn an allowance if they think they can spend a few minutes outside playing for a hat full of money.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to the Olympics we go. Yesterday, we went to Stratford to see the Olympic Stadium, the Anish Kapoor installation, the aquatics center, and a fantastic John Lewis, too. I felt like a real Londoner and city girl picking up school uniform bits on this outing.

In addition to an incredible view of the Park, John Lewis also had an amazing LEGO Olympic Stadium. Complete with a crowd of minifigs and minifig athletes and behind the scenes crew. Absolutely magical. It is a wonder we're not all still standing at the top of the escalator with our mouths agape, continuing our reverent whispered sentences begining with, "Did you see...?"  If only we'd been called upon to help with the construction.

Seeing the (actual and non-LEGO) Park up close (or as close as you can get without coveted tickets) was a thrill for us all. Inspired by the view, Big Brother announced that it would take an entire six weeks (he's as verbose as his mother!) to recount how much fun he's had this summer. That's so very good to hear because we've had plenty of lazy pajama mornings that eventually segued into lunch and finally a relatively nondescript library or park outing. And on those days we typically watched "The Fall Guy" over a breakfast picnic.  I'm not ashamed. That's exactly what summer is for. At least in my book. The days of schedules and spelling lists and bedtimes will be here before too long. We're soaking up summer and each other while we can.

We're constantly pinching ourselves about the special things we see and do here. I am terribly impressed with how well the boys can navigate an urban adventure. They planned our route to the Olympic Park and a few above ground trains home just for the fun of it. They are knowledgeable and confident in finding their way around London, and when they're not, they readily ask directions. I envy their future travel companions and can attest to their abilities and sweetness, too.

It isn't every boy that would offer to carry his little sister on his back when she got tired and her tiny Converse seemed suddenly too small.

Speaking of little Converse, I glanced down on the Tube ride and saw Big Brother and Big Sister's feet next to each other while they were chatting away. Big Sister's high tops were the boys' before they were hers and now they're apparently due to become Baby Sister's soon.

Gold medals all around for our summer. Thus far!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What I Really Want

Time spent in the kitchen (and really just the interminable dishwasher loading as I'm not a significant cook) and doing endless loads of laundry and my best to keep things relatively attractive and hygienic keep me away from family time way more than I'd like.

This is not something I'm prepared either financially or socially to delegate.

In every way, I need a Rosie. C'mon science and technology, hurry!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ladies Night

The Mister took Biggest Brother and Big Brother off on a boys' weekend (stayed in a pub! went on all sorts of cool hikes! roller coaster rides!).

The girls and I've been in London without our boys and having a grand time of it. But there's been lots of missing of the guys and little girls a bit out of sorts. It is higher pitched here without them. The girls tried to fall asleep in their brothers' top bunk reading Star Wars books last night. It wasn't the same. We had to call them at bedtime so the girls would actually sleep.

But London with the ladies has been great!  We now own two tiny pink scooters and went to the theater. The ladies had a pizza party, a park day, saw Alice in Wonderland, had lunch out and caught a show at Piccadilly Circus! Girls' Weekend was so exciting that Baby Sister slept through Mass late this afternoon. Mouth agape, snoring. She woke up at a one of her favorite restaurants around the corner from church.

Hyde Park is reeling with a big concert in the hours leading up to the Closing Ceremonies so it feels very festive in our flat.

That's nothing compared to the reunion show that will be breakfast with our favorite boys.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Beach Babies

Just because we live in London doesn't mean we're not on the beach this summer. Do you know there is a beach in Camden?  It is at the Roundhouse, a big performance space in town.

Camden is an urban, artsy, eclectic spot. Amy Winehouse, the guys from Oasis, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley and many other creative types have called it home. Live music and retro clothes. Where "hot dogs, liquor and vintage sounds until 3 a.m." sounds about right.

So perhaps an unlikely place, or maybe really most likely, for an urban beach to pop up. Throw a little sand down and you can be sure we'll find it. Add a grill and "tiki hut ping pong" and we'll make an afternoon of it.

So when the Roundhouse brought lots of sand to London, we dug it. With buckets and pails. 

And not content to keep our fun to myself, I sent the picture of the boys from yesterday to the Washington Post. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Banner Yet Waves In Hyde Park

It was beyond bedtime when we started over to Hyde Park last night. BT London Live is an all day and late into the night Olympic festival of sorts. Food, games, and most importantly, lots of big screens tuned to the Games. We took a blanket and cheered just like we do every evening, but among lots and lots of friends.

Hyde Park is what Big Brother has called, "our biggest front yard EVER" and it indeed makes up for living in a flat. It has to. We need space to run and play. To kick a ball, to have a proper picnic.

We cheered Team USA among fans from South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Spain, and of course, lots of British. Those fans didn't have Baby Sister shouting, "USA! USA! USA!" Even when we didn't have a competitor on the screen.

We have reason to be in the park most every day. Today we're headed back for marathon swimming and maybe we'll be back for the big screens and more cheering tonight. We might just go in our pajamas.

I'm already hearing talk about a parade for the British Olympians. There is hope that the fun will continue. It has to. We've never known life in London without fanfare so we're going to keep cheering as long as we can. Even if it is way beyond our bedtimes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pink. With Sprinkles on Top

We're all jumbled again, telling you about our last week while enjoying this one. All part of a mixed up summer schedule, right?!

Our summer schedule - or lack of one - means that today, Big Sister drowsily emerged from her room more than an hour after we would have left the flat on a school morning. And don't get me started on bedtimes. The Olympic excitement makes it too hard. At least the Mister and I've stopped waiting up for John McEnroe's antics on the BBC's end of day show - ripe for a SNL skit. 

Anyhow. We drew "bake" one morning last week and our assignment languished a bit while we bounced on Stonehenge, checked in at the library, went to a birthday party, and took advantage of other adventures. Then a cool morning presented itself and baking popped back up on our itinerary. Also that the kids were chanting "when are we going to BAKE?!" whenever there were two quiet moments strung together. I do love that they enjoy something I like so much. It also justifies my bringing 4 boxes of cookie cutters abroad. One day we'll bake more and more complex things again. I find myself into quick and easy baking of late. 

Quick, easy, delicious and these smiley faces in the kitchen?!  What could be better?

It became sort of a team event. The girls made pink lemonade cookies (thank you, Kappa Prep!) and the boys whipped up iced brownies. Big Brother apparently feeling like Isaac Washington in the kitchen.

Baking always makes for a great maths lesson and usually results in a some conversions, too.

The desserts were just as pretty as they were delicious. The Mister was asked to judge. I believe he declared a tie. He is a diplomat, our guy.

I never did get to take a picture of the platter. We gobbled up the goodies all too soon.  

Yesterday we watched the Triathlon in Hyde Park, had lunch at Kensington Palace, and toured the new exhibits in the reopened palace, too. We should someday be experts on royal lineage. My camera battery died just as we followed this big crowd to watch the swimming. Biggest Brother helped me take palace pictures on my phone and hopefully he can also advise me how to download them, too. 

How super is it that a pair of brothers was on the medal stand at the triathlon?  How sweet it is, this summer!

And another thing, since we are talking pink sweetness. Apologies for discussing both the medical and the edible, but I have to confess that still reigning over our summer is my bothersome eyes. I will not go into the extreme yuck of it all, but will say that I am beginning my own campaign against the darling sounding "pink eye" (what's next? Polka dot mumps? Glittered gangrene?) when what I've been slogging through is bright red, zombie movie, swollen, teary peepers. That are now sensitive to light. I may be the only one who was squinting in the shadowed darkness of Kensington Palace. Don't get me started on having missed an already overdue hair appointment and going 3 weeks in glasses and no makeup because of my eyes. Vanity was my first symptom. 

So thus far, our summer: very sweet, but definitely not pretty. Now, who saved me a brownie?!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Here We Go A Courting

When we weren't caught up in cheering for countless Team GB successes (and Usain Bolt, too!) this weekend, we were touring Hampton Court Palace, wondering why women kept falling for Henry VIII, navigating a maze, learning about Tudor table manners, and enjoying magically quiet train rides to and fro.

We walked where Bradley Wiggins cycled last week and even sat in his throne!

I love this of Big Sister. Our resident princess.

We had no hope of keeping up with our princes in the maze and barely kept track of the girls.

As beautiful as the outing was to Elmbridge, what could possibly top the sights of London we walked through on our way home? We are so, so lucky to live here. I know we will feel a tug on our hearts when we see these landmarks one day from afar. For now, though it is very special to call this our neighborhood.

We could live here forever and still not tire of the front seat on the top of a double decker bus. No better view than crossing Westminster Bridge.

The decorated Wenlocks and Mandevilles (and phone booths, too) that have popped up everywhere might not be quite as iconic as Big Ben, but they're delightful.

Hooray, Team GB! Hooray, London! We've sure caught the London Olympic fever and hope it will continue to grow and linger. Already bracing ourselves for life after the fanfare but trying to soak it all up and pretend it won't end.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fore the love of Selfridges

Today found us miniature golfing on the rooftop of Selfridges, high above Oxford Street.

The Mister overheard us draw "mini golf at Hyde Park" this morning, suggested this fantastic substitution, and helped perfect a few small swings. We took an express lift to the roof where we were greeted by lovely decor. Not sure where, but I intend to copy this strawberry and golf ball wall.

Outside, the course was darling! London landmarks were made of faux cake and fondant and jellied St Paul's were on tilted cake plates. Our city is full of whimsy.

Baby Sister adopted golf's unpredictable garb. She wears it well.

Back in the clubhouse, the teacup and saucer wall was equally adorable. 

A championship day in Londontown.