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Thursday, March 28, 2013

And They're Off

So begins our nice, long Easter break. It was a wonderful day wearing their own clothes to school and even an early dismissal. We braved the chill and enjoyed an afternoon park date with school friends. The best of my day was seeing them play together with friends and siblings. Big Brother's friends playing with Big Sister, Baby Sister being see-sawed by Biggest Brother's friends. They are friends en masse. We are so fortunate to have these families in our lives and hope they'll come visit us in America. I'm hoping to have a spare bedroom to encourage friends from Our Sweet School to come abroad.

Tuesday was the school's Easter Celebration in which the oldest children told the Easter story to a hall crowded with parents. Big Brother had a last minute speaking part (subbing for a classmate who was sick) and Biggest Brother played guitar and drums. They both sang. I mostly held Baby Sister on my lap and cried into my trusty bandana.

The kids meditate at school. I had the chance to meditate with Biggest Brother's class yesterday (before making kites with Big Sister's class -- it is a good life I lead!) and am determined to add meditation to our to do list over the break. No better time than Holy Week to spend quiet moments in reflection.

There was no quiet reflection at Thursday's Easter Fayre. Mostly because the Mister spun such great tunes. Face painting, games, all sorts of treats. My favorite part was the Easter bonnet parade. Here are my favorite entrants. How much do a love that I put supplies on the kitchen table and they crafted cute hats? Each one a bit different and quirky. Just like my little people. And it says something about Biggest Brother that he not only took great pride in making his, but proudly danced in it, too. He cracks me up!

Biggest Brother got to wear his own clothes to celebrate his birthday this week. When they're back to class they can start wearing their "summer uniforms" which means we've likely seen the last of the smalls wearing their school ties together. Just like their crisp British diction, I hope they'll not forget how to tie a necktie when they're out of practice.

A dear (high school) girlfriend described this as our "senior year" in London and I surely have to watch my heart getting stuck on the countless lasts that we're experiencing. I want to take it all in without hearing the ticking of a countdown clock.

Meanwhile, we're thinking of you and wishing you a very happy Easter.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Different York

In a bit of odd timing, just as we learned we were not moving to New York, we were off for a weekend in old York. By train of course. We See Britain by train.

All good trips start with a pub lunch. Baby Sister was having much more fun than she let on. She was grumpy waiting for bangers and mash.

Sartorial side note: I am wearing a great ebay find - the JCrew La Parisienne sweater, which is sadly obscured by 2 pints in the above shot. This treasure is completely unappreciated by my people. The Mister asked whether the woman intarsiaed (Perhaps you can conjugate intarsia better?) was supposed to be Phyllis Diller. Baby Sister declared her a scary monster.

La Parisienne sweater

But back to York. We hit all the highlights. The Viking Museum is fantastic if you like narrated, slow moving roller coaster-like cars and uber, uber realistic talking animated viking models. The female passengers in my car were a combination of fascinated (me) and borderline haunted house terrified (the girls). Thanks to the Mister for raising the camera above his head to get this hoot of an action shot!  ahahaha!

Really. These talking mannequins were everywhere and although very educational, I'm glad we visited this museum early in the day. I was fairly sure these guys were going to have starring roles in 4 sets of bad dreams back at the hotel. Big Sister is reading this over my shoulder and said, "Oh. You should say that I was scared!"

The National Railway Museum was also super. The kids would tell you about favorite trains, but for me the best was the vintage signage, royal cars and warehouse collection. None of it for sale. Prrr.

We toured the Shambles and the Minster. Bundled up against the cold, wet, and eventually, snow.

We found a quaint, warm shop for tea and sweets.

Our own tiny Crystal Gayle.

And coming full circle, we closed out the weekend in the train station pub. Having "chips" and a Guinness on St. Patrick's Day.

Then we came home to our new reality -- that we're moving to Nashville in August. That requires lots of warm embracing.

And surely embracing the glorious and unknown.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

World Book Day

In celebration of World Book Day today, students, faculty and staff at Our Sweet School came dressed as a favorite book character. You should have seen the whole staff in Alice in Wonderland costumes! The Head Teacher the Queen of Hearts.

My little characters have my heart and even more so that they're still recovering from being sick. They all look a bit thin and less sparkly than usual. Wan. But they had great fun choosing their costumes representing some of our favorite books.

(Peter from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) 

Our bedtime routine has hardly changed since Biggest Brother was an infant. We read a book or chapter together before prayers. We're now reading another of Judy Blume's adventures with Peter and Fudge and just finished The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Even if I edit some of the words while I'm reading (no calling each other "stupid") I'm laughing as hard as they are and tickled when they ask to hear another chapter.

(Edmund from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) 

Happy today that there was no last minute drama like last year when Big Sister declined to participate. Until after she got to school. Funny that. She didn't remember her fussing last year, but only that I'd specially made her Olivia pig ears and that she enjoyed it. They say the mind represses trauma.

(Lettice the Ballerina Bunny Rabbit) 

And there wasn't even terrible distress that Big Sister wouldn't join the boys in their attempts to have a unified family costume. Baby Sister, once told she could wear something fancy, was entirely compliant with their plan.

(Susan from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) 

This was a fantastic way to start our day, but my very favorite part of today so far was the following exchange as we walked to school:

BABY SISTER: We are learning about growing in The Nursery. Yesterday we planted seeds.

BIGGEST BROTHER: It will be nice to see what grows.

ME: Tell us what grows.

BABY SISTER: We are growing. Animals grow.

BIG SISTER: Humans grow, we're animals, too.

BIGGEST BROTHER: We're part of the mammal family.

BABY SISTER: No we're NOT!  We're part of the [our last name] family!  [Left unsaid was "Sheesh. And I thought these guys knew somethin' about the world! Do I have to tell them everything? This is unsettling."]

So much to say and lots to learn. Happy reading one and all.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Just Pretending

This vintage flashcard has been perched over top of our front door in our last two homes. I found it at one of my favorite antique stores in La Grange and it is surely one of my favorite things.

The idea that We Are Ready? It usually isn't all that true. We're such posers. Pretending, but also aspiring, to be ready by the time we're gathered en masse (or almost so) near the door. Ready to greet the day and others. Cheerful and prepared. Just like the scouts. I think of the card as an affirmation like athletes tap on the way out of locker rooms before the big game.

My favorite part of school breaks is the relief from the (again, aspirational) military precision of organized belongings. Rucksacks, homework, reading books, permission slips, PE kits, coats, hats, gloves and scarves catalogued, piled, checked and rechecked. I am my family's Radar O'Reilly.

So this company clerk was delighted for a week's break from these piles and our alarm clocks. Then just one day back into our routine and  3/4 of the smalls caught a bad bug that got Biggest Brother on our trip. Sky high fevers, long pajama days on the pull out couch and seemingly endless naps ensued. Less like naps and more that they opened their eyes to cough a bit and were zonked again. For the rest of the week.

I became Hawkeye, Margaret, Father McCulcahy, and a bit of Klinger, too. Getting my troops better. And even if I spent much of the week as sleepless as a new mom, these are the days I'm grateful that I'm not juggling (other) bosses or a work schedule. Baby Sister must have moaned a million times, "I want Maaaamma" (mostly while I was rocking and hugging her and drying hot tears). She got me. I was ready. Completely knackered and in tattered loungewear, but available. Ready. I enlisted for this tour and I'm glad - actually grateful - to be in these trenches. 

Trust me, this shot is of Baby Sister when things were on the upswing. I swear she lost her baby face and belly in those days. She looks about five to me suddenly. Otherwise, proving that misery does indeed love company, Big Brother, Big Sister and Baby Sister displayed great efficiency, if not a bit of pitiful camaraderie, in being down and out together. Iced lollies all 'round!

And I cannot say enough how grateful I am for my girlfriends who showered my house with offers to ferry the well to and from school and activities. My urban experience has taught me that it is significantly harder to get sick kids dressed and on a bus or even in a cab than into the back of a preheated Suburban idling in your driveway. My city girlfriends know this and provided more than a few shuttle services for Big Brother, sparing the rest of us school runs. Just like that Girl Scout song, these friends have quickly become gold.

So it is that we're ready for a new week. To do our Lenten pledges earnestly. To hope for springtime and sunshine. We're ready.