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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grey Skies Above

There was a somberness to this morning's school run. Newspaper headlines about Boston shoved through the mail slot. Black motorcades roaring toward Westminster Abbey for Margaret Thatcher's funeral. A bit of mist and cool darkness.

Clad in his navy blue, Biggest Brother said, "The sky looks like how everyone is feeling today."

We've talked a lot in the last few days about how goodness far outweighs evil and how ordinary people can make the world better. The triumph of light over dark and seeking out the good in others. Finding the helpers as Mr Rogers suggested.

Sometimes it is tempting to try to find a way to demonstrate good with a grand gesture. Some big, giant initiative to set things more right than wrong. But this week the most right thing to do seems to be to celebrate the good. To strive for good in our own house, in our little corner of the world and for those we touch. With hope that those small lights make a big spark.

We have that bright and shining hope.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Three is a Magic Number

Baby Sister reminds us most days how fantastic it is to be three. And to have a 3 year old in your midst.

Just last night, upon seeing a fried egg on her plate, she exclaimed with pure glee: "AHHH!  How did you make an egg do that?!" You should know the Mister made that egg. Heading out to meet a colleague for dinner, he overheard my plan to serve breakfast for dinner and the kids ordering fried eggs. Sensing my panic, he volunteered to whip them up! That's my guy. I stood nearby for a lesson should they request that specialty again. Cooking is not my forte. I'm better at hairdos.

But still. It is so good to have 3 year old.

As she was helping me load the washing machine, Baby Sister giggled in anticipation. "Wait, Momma! Here comes the WATER!" she cheered, happily bouncing around. Not an ordinary chore, but an exciting, fascinating experience. She then declared with admiration for the whole shebang, "I wish I could be the soap and go into all that water. And be bubbly with the clothes." Not since the artist in the Corduroy at the laundromat book has anyone taken such inspiration from the washer.

She said, "Thank you, Momma for buying me fancy tp!" upon spying Christmasy toilet paper in her bathroom (bought in a pinch and needed this week when we ran low). Who appreciates their tp?!

Here she is dressed in her bunny pajamas waiting for the right moment to serenade Biggest Brother on his birthday. She "wrote" out the lyrics to Happy Birthday and was eager for her cue.

Without a doubt, she can wear me out in her own special way, but most days, living with a such a little person is a real treat. Never dull and oftentimes funny. Filled with unintentionally wry and witty observations about the world. Aware, observant and appreciative of the every day. That's 3. 

And that's our Baby Sister. Hooray!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Anything Goes

One of the best parts of living in London is people watching. It seems there is almost nothing you could wear that might attract noticeable attention. Crowds of women are routinely dressed in costumes going to Hen Parties and hoards of fashion students wear the latest trends and of course, everyone else is in their usually fashionable garb and European chic. Also to be fair, some are wearing animal costume-like pajamas.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I think few dress to impress. They just wear their clothes.

My European friends - especially the French moms - confess to complete ignorance of their amazing sense of style. Au contraire. I watch you popping berets on your beautiful, reluctant girls and envy their lineage of perfectly understated chic.

Before there was a perma-chill here, one school morning I showered too late to blow dry. So I pulled my hair back and tucked it under a bandana. More Marsha Brady cleans the attic in a kerchief than Axl Rose, but so not something I would attempt in another locale. I'm pretty sure if you ran into me in such a state you'd find a way to...well, comment.  Not here.

Even my embroidered capris don't merit mention here. My lime green pants did in Illinois. A dear friend and I were once chatting on a La Grange street corner when I was wearing those pants. She waved to a friend driving by and said to me, "He's also from Virginia. He probably knew you were, too. From your pants."

In London, you should know that "pants" mean underpants. I was indeed, in British terms, wearing lime green trousers.  Did I also tell you that once I shouted across the Marylebone High Street to a friend — a man to whom I'm not married — that "I LOVE YER PANTS!"?  Interestingly enough, he was wearing kelly green trousers.

Here I feel like pausing and mentioning that the Mister was wearing a pair of khaki shorts embroidered with red lobsters the day that nearly 10 pounds of Baby Sister rocketed into an Illinois hospital room. His East Coastness caused great excitement among the Midwestern nursing staff. They huddled all around his cute get up. The Mister was never more interesting than when I was moments away from delivering a baby. No one noticed poor ole me. Way too busy with: "What are on your shorts?  What are those, crabs?! No, Shirley, I think they're lobsters?!" I pretty well suffered from antenatal and postpartum benign neglect as I delivered my 4th baby into the world. Virtually alone. Without any medical assistance. But to a father wearing cute shorts. Harummph.

For our school's international night here, we were dressed full-on American. I wore a pair of corduroy patch plaid Lilly Pulitzer pants that most sensible Americans wouldn't wear to mow their lawn, Big Brothers and the Mister in USA shirts and baseball caps. The girls in red, white and blue. As we got off the bus in front of Selfridges, Big Brother said, sheepishly, "People must think we're TOURISTS!"

Really, the only thing I wear here that has ever merited mention was a ball cap. I have worn one exactly twice and in similar emergency hairdo status as described above. It was then that my girlfriends agreed at the school gates that I did indeed look American. I'm so terribly sorry for all my fashionable American friends, that this is apparently a legacy we've dispatched abroad.

I've got a few more months to do us all justice.  Here's hoping!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Keeper of the Flame

This guy turns 11 this week. He's long been the QB our team, king of the castle and all around BMOC of our brood. He is adored and adoring.

Biggest Brother is also quite possibly one of the very nicest people on the planet.  He gets that from the Mister. He's even tempered (see also: the Mister), helpful, sweet and also really funny, too (it is that last bit for which I'll take a little credit).

This time last year we celebrated his birthday in Scotland in an old house. The Mister taught him how to build a fire in the fireplace and tend it. And this guy loves, loves, loves a job of any sort. Who knew how handy that skill would come 12 months later in a 250 year old farmhouse in Normandy?  Surely not us, as when we booked the house we were hoping more for luxury than rustic.

But I digress. When I get through the mountains of laundry we brought across the English Channel, I cannot wait to tell you about our third (!) and most recent trip to France this week.

Meanwhile, it is safe to say that when we brought this little guy home from the hospital, we thought ourselves a bit brave for being an hour and half from our families. Who knew a decade later this "baby" would have adventured throughout the US and across Europe?!

I've started telling him recently how much I really like him.  He thinks that's funny and I suppose that is because I've not quite explained myself:  I surely love him, but it is also that I hugely LIKE to be with him. Remember those Greek variations and nuances of love? One of those. I'm not going to look it up, but you're with me, right? I would genuinely choose to be Biggest Brother's friend. I enjoy and seek out his company (as does most of Our Sweet School and all of Our Sweet Family) and am so happy when we're together. I love Biggest Brother, but I also like him a lot.

He's a super keeper of flames to boot. That guy knows his way around a coal-fired something or other that did a marginally good job in heating a charming house. He has added paraffin heater skills to his repertoire, too. I'm telling you, in 10 years - maybe less - this is the guy you want with you on your European travels.

More soon on Normandy. It was spectacular. Even if it snowed. And is snowing in London still.