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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wheels Down

These little people have been amazing. Their travel togs crack me up. The girls in Piggy Wiggly tees and the boys in their last day of school signed shirts.

We had safe travels and are ticking through our to-dos from the hotel while awaiting delivery of our shipments. Yesterday we got the smalls their (cute!) school uniforms and we're keeping busy shopping for cars, school supplies, furniture and a giant Target cart-load that made us feel like we were moving into the dorms. With four kids.

A few things we've noticed include how freezing we are in air conditioning, how much salespeople want to chat, and really, just everyone wants to talk and talk and talk. And we're pretty chatty people ourselves. You also should see the size of the hair bows at the school uniform shop. About the size of Baby Sister's face. Fantastic. 

We've received a warm welcome from seemingly all of Nashville and had Mexican food, too. So far, so good. Not yet out of the hotel, but a slow re-entry might be just what's required. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

At Last

There are so many lasts in this move. Maybe even more so as Biggest Brother has just completed Year 6 at a British primary school. I suspect we have had the type of send offs we won't again witness until he graduates from high school. A rousing production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (you've never before seen Lysander play the drums!), a Leavers' Mass, Year 6 disco. All have been great but tinged with the sharp understanding that it is our end at Our Sweet School.

If you have already graduated a small or two and think what we've endured in the last few days isn't going to compare, please spare me that truth. That news would surely give me a terrible tummy problem. As it is, I'm keeping busy going to the new house photos online (surely someone's stats from the UK are through the roof!) in some sort decorating zen/happy place/visualization.

Sunday found us at the Serpentine restaurant - our favorite spot for on a nice night. Picnic tables overlooking the water. Room to run and play. A walk to and from dinner through the park. Even if sometimes we (or Uncle Gary!) end up carrying a scooter or two. Then we ended up getting ice cream. And going to the Serpentine playground. On a school night. In that desperate, grasping way of not wanting it to end.

That last bit could characterize most of everything we've done in the last few days. It has been exhilarating, rewarding, exhausting, and completely and utterly draining. I felt fragile. Worn and frayed. Laughing through tears, but oh, my gracious it is hard to stop the tears. I woke up the other day with a raw face from my bandana having grazed it too many times the day before. It isn't pretty.

The worst possible had to be our departure from the park near school the day school broke up. The park where we forged our best friendships. All of us. Imagine the dearest friends times the six of us - clusters of smalls crying with our smalls in the middle while grown ups hugged and cried on the fringes. Then the circles would overlap which would trigger more crying, well wishing, embracing, promising to stay in touch and blessedly, laughing about the tears.

In the movie of our life that plays in my mind, I hope to always remember looking back through the gates at Paddington Park Gardens seeing our favorite Londoners holding each other and waving and cheering us on. Dorothy didn't get such a sweet send off from Oz. We are so incredibly blessed to have joined such an amazing community and exceedingly grateful for the home our friends have made for us here. If it is heartbreaking to leave, it means we have absolutely loved our time as Londoners and even more so, our beautiful friendships.

But now we are ready. While I suspect there will again be tears, we are indeed ready to turn the page, excited about what is ahead, and thankful for our lives and each other. We're counting on new friends not yet met being in Nashville waiting with open arms. We can only hope.

It is nearing the end of the packing here and we'll be out of the house by the end of the day. To a hotel after a pub dinner and wheels up in the morning. Prayers, well wishes, and good thoughts welcomed and encouraged.

And you can be sure before too long I'll be writing to you again. Thanks for coming on this journey with us. It has meant the world to share it with you.  xo

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ready, Steady, GO!

This being our third time to participate in Our Sweet School's amazing Sports Day, we were fully prepared, packed everything needed (and then some) and even the Mister and I were in team colors (Go, RED!). Which means, of course, that we're moving soon. Right? Seems our pattern that just as we get it all well sorted, it is about time to go.

Sports Day might be one of my favorite UK traditions. Think Field Day with very British charm. With people shouting, "Ready, Steady, GO!," parents attempting to do the events, lots of laughing and absolutely adorable children supporting each other in ways that would make you cry.

One of the best bits was just getting there. While we often run into another family or more en route to school, on Sports Day our 274 was positively jammed with friends from Our Sweet School. This might be the closest the smalls ever get to riding a school bus and it was an absolute delight!

Students at Our Sweet School are divided into 4 color-coded teams and siblings are always on the same team. This year, Biggest Brother was the captain of Team Red! If you've got to do your part in tug of war, I'm telling you, this is the guy you want to inspire you to victory.

Here's the winner of the Nursery Egg and Spoon Race. That was super to witness as it personified the maxim that "slow and steady wins the race" but watching her smiling while repeatedly falling down and getting right back up in her sack race was even better.

I'm confident the Mister and I aren't the dreaded helicopter parents, but we did offer about a kazillion suggestions to Biggest Brother on what he could say to fire up his team. Perhaps enough that he feared we were going to hoist a few cue cards. 

I am terrifically proud of my little team these days. For all the fun they've had with their school friends, for always trying so hard, for being living proof of getting back what you put in. You can be sure that I embraced the theme of RED for the day (everyone's packed lunches included red foods and napkins!) and also that I'm planning to host my own sports day in a big Nashville backyard before too long. 

So much to cheer for. Happy, healthy, strong. That's a sure victory before the first race has begun. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Day Fit for a King

Your girl Friday is in the waning days on the London beat. Tonight's assignment included happily walking across the park to celebrate the arrival of the Prince of Cambridge. Hooray!

We were awakened by booming thunder like I haven't heard in years. Which you don't hear very often here and oddly, wasn't accompanied by rain. Turns out that was just about the time the royal couple was heading to the hospital. Then while I was at the palace and not too long before his birth day came to a close, again the skies crashed with thunder. Seems sort of a poetic cosmic frame for such an important day.

Tomorrow is our last day of school. We needed this fantastic distraction from the prolonged goodbyes and the beautiful but equally excrutiating end of the year-ing. News of the baby's birth was well worth getting 3/4 of the kids out of bed to watch the BBC report. It also inspired me to take an evening stroll.

Of all the everydayness we've relished in being Londoners, there have also been spectacular world events on our doorstep. So it is a fitting end to our time here that the baby has arrived to such fanfare. Even that outside our flat. And you should know if it had happened days after we'd left I was going to be mighty out of sorts. Even more so than I already am.

Future monarch and joyous celebrations for the British aside, this is a super, hugely welcomed and perfectly timed point of light for my little clan! I'm hoping the Mister and I'll go back to the Palace tomorrow and I'm going to put together newspapers for our scrapbooks and my buddy at Camp Seafarer. You may call it denial, but keeping busy keeps the crying at bay. So does writing to you, so thanks for that.

Also, how amazing is it that I actually saw The Easel? No. I couldn't read it up close, either. But. Hooray, the baby and doubly so that we got to feel even a tiny bit a part of it.

And you know of my special feelings for the Victoria Monument. How fitting to see Charity keeping vigil over the crowd heralding a future king, now just hours old.

Meanwhile, I'm off to figure how much "God Save the Queen" paraphernalia I can squeeze into our air shipment.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Running with the Night

If only because Lionel Richie is playing Hyde Park and his concert is filling my living room. Which is a bit hot and dark. It has been in the high 80s for days (in London, this is news, friends!) so I'm keeping the lights off and windows open. Our fan is on the ship. Look out, St Swithin's Day! It promises to be a sunny 40 days ahead. We're blue we won't get to witness that, but also cheered by the amazing proper summer send off we're getting from London town.

And it has been a bright few days here in many ways. We had a few weekends worth of grand festivities in the past days. I think we might be on fast forward until the end. It is good to be distracted from being sad.

Friday we celebrated great report cards and I treated myself to a pair of overalls good enough for Prince Harry's girlfriend to wear to Glastonbury. I think my homework coaching, rucksack packing, reading log completion and spelling list mania has earned those. Also that vintage typewriter.

Saturday morning found the Mister and me in the garden of Buckingham Palace for the Coronation Festival. I must have said a kazillion times, "I'm having SO much fun!" Picnic lunch from John Lewis, displays by all the royal warrant holders, Pimms. The whole lot of it was super. Hard to find a favorite bit except of course, my date!

Meanwhile, half of our people were off to birthday parties. Then we transformed from palace guests to flat hosts for Big Brother (turning 9!) having his first slumber party. It was a great time with sweet boys we'll miss terribly. But no fooling, I did a quick calculation sometime early this morning and comforted myself with the knowledge that it is likely quite a while until we host another slumber party. I may sleep most of that time.

Then today we met our French (and Argentinian) friends in a square to celebrate the storming of the Bastille. You can bet that when I learned "la Marseillaise" in 1986 I didn't envision singing it in London with my 4 children. Those sweet friends surprised Big Brother with a cake (from Paul!) and sang "Happy Birthday" to him. In French, Spanish and English.

These are the days we'll remember.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Throwing a Party at a Campsite

Sort of how I feel. Well, not exactly because that would require me to camp.

But I am throwing a party in the flat despite the fact that it looks like moving in day in the dorms. Worse is that I keep rediscovering that everything I usually have around for parties and preparation is on a ship. Somewhere nearing Halifax if you were wondering. Anyway, I'm baking without a cooling rack just as we've been cooking without lids to the pots while favorite recipes from cookbooks are touring the Atlantic. We were a bit aggressive in saying "everything goes!" Sweeping hand gestures I regret a bit now.

Without dust ruffles and pictures and with the addition of furniture that makes my living room look like a pricey dentist's office, the flat seems less like us. I confess to having made a small purchase or two to liven things up. And while the Mister might not yet agree, the inflatable bunny rabbit will be fantastic in our Nashville yard. If only we'd not packed the bicycle pump and could inflate it here.

I do fear that anything that tips our air shipment over weight will become part of my carry-on luggage. Or someone's. Do you think Baby Sister can manage a vintage typewriter in her tiny new pink backpack? What are the odds that I'm going to be able to buy one in the States? With a royal warrant crest? From the 1930s?! Agreed. She can consider it strength training. Good for bone density!

Anyway, this time tomorrow my home will be filled with chatty friends and lots of snacks and whether or not I've seriously procrastinated my to do list, it will be fine. By now the friends have become dear to me and they won't judge if I've not done a good dusting.

I've suggested to those who offered to bring something to bring low expectations. Seems pretty reasonable. I've lowered my own expectations in favor of enjoying the British sunshine (and lording over TN homework assignments, too -- it isn't all park all the time I tell ya!). I had plans to make iced pineapple-shaped cookies as favors. Instead I bought pencils to enclose with our change of address cards in hopes that will encourage our friends to write us soon and often.

And I hear you wondering with the table beginning to be set, where will the smalls eat their dinner?! Rest assured my culinary skills lend themselves nicely to the art of the dinner picnic. This is a derivation of my Richmond girlfriend's term "car picnic" which we've also modified into "Walton's picnic." Don't judge. It works for us.

The sentiments behind the pineapple made it to my table decor.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Our Front Yard

Big Brother once declared Hyde Park the "biggest front yard ever." If a downside to flat living is the lack of outdoor space, we made a great trade by being so close to the park. It will be tops on our list of things we miss when we go from London.

Have you heard the sun came out here recently? And stayed out. The forecast is amazing. Seriously, this made news. Only in London would there be an entire morning news story about how the sun is shining in July!

So we've been soaking up Hyde Park in the sunshine all week (when not slogging away at schoolwork that is...!). We spent lazy weekend days picnicking and playing at the Lido. The boys enjoyed watching royals disembark from the helicopter that landed at Kensington Palace. I speculated they were coming home from a day at Wimbledon.

The girls are often found on the carousel. And the Barbie cars.

I think I could live here a million years and never tire of walking over the bridge and seeing the London Eye and the Tower of London pop up across the Long Water.

I will miss summer nights eating on picnic tables outside the Serpentine Restaurant. The Lido. Paddle boating. The Diana playground. Kicking a ball. Reading the paper while conducting benign neglect parenting. And the summer concert series.  I'll miss that, too.

We sometimes go into the park for the concerts and on a few occasions, even buy tickets. The best purchase was Bruce Springsteen with Paul McCartney in an encore!  With fireworks!  All the above made all the better by enjoying it with my own Biggest Brother, his wife and the Mister. But some of our very favorites of the summer concerts have been enjoyed from our living room. Watching the crowds spill out of the park is the second part of the show to be sure.

Hyde Park has been our front row seat to the Olympics, a favorite spot for the Mister to take the kids while I do whatever it is I do solo, the boys' "football pitch" of choice and where we run and play. We are determined to bring back the impressive European ability to completely relax in a park based solely on our years of witnessing it steps from home.

And it isn't just sunshine that makes the park a delight. Happy times have been spent at Winter Wonderland. 

All year long, Hyde Park has been the best front yard ever. We'll miss it. I'm very sure that I won't be able to hear the Rolling Stones from my couch this time next year, so tonight I plan to enjoy every minute!