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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Captain of our Ship

All this busy-ness and I don't want to forget to tell you that we celebrated the Mister all weekend earlier this month. He is getting more handsome, successful and fit by the moment. Brilliant! He will read this, deny it all and suggest that he IS getting funnier. That last bit is up for debate.

If I weren't so busy swooning I'd be jealous.

Of all the many wonderful things (lots of them under-celebrated) he does for his adoring family, one from last year surely will stand out for years to come.

On our farewell tour of Europe (which was an incredibly precious week), the Mister rented us a boat. To sail the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily. And he stayed out on the water all day, relenting to cheers of "let's not go back" until our cheeks were rosy and bellies were empty. That day may very well forever be his Best Dad Adventure.

He may never again be able to pull off such perfect bliss. But that doesn't keep us from eagerly going on a hike in Nashville or seemingly endless road trip across the US or make any of our train trips throughout the UK less memorable. He's charting the course with a steady hand and a full heart.

That one glittering day on the water with the Mister at the helm. Our moving worries and fears stowed and the sun shining extra bright on us all. Peaceful. Playful. Happy. Content.

So happy another year to our favorite guy. My original lovey. The instigator of all of our best fun and worldwide adventures, too.

For always steering our ship so well.

Hooray and love always. From your entire crew.


Friday, February 21, 2014

It is All So Clear Now

Just when we thought we couldn't dote over him any more, Biggest Brother got the world's most adorable specs this week. I can't stop talking about them and staring at him, telling him he's SO CUTE. And now he can see who is doing all the chattering.

We also bought him a pair of soccer cleats not too terribly much smaller than the Mister's.

But make no mistake: even if he'll read this on his own electronic device, swaps polos and lo-tops with me and looks like a blonde Clark Kent, he's still my baby.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

High Top Highlights

Big Brother's basketball season just ended and I don't think I've chatted about it yet. It was fantastic and he was incredible! Like Cross Country, this was a new sport for him. He worked so hard and had a ball.

He apparently was also taking flying lessons because most of the season's pix show him off the ground. Check out the air under Number 5!

I always enjoy watching the kids from a distance. Is it just me or did you also love well baby visits just to observe the inspections from across the room? There's something about that perspective when you're usually rightupclosealldaylong.

And even from across the gym, we all felt the euphoria seeing the bench cheer for their first (hard fought and overdue) victory. That's Big Brother raising his Gatorade water bottle in triumph. Gatorade water bottles being as on trend as anything Under Armour at my house. We're back, America and we're buying all yer stuff!

It seems perpetually right that the whole family gather around to support for our Number Two guy. In the spring we're likely to have 2 or 3 athletes (here we go, sports schedules!) so it was perfectly sweet for Big Brother to have us rooting just for him en masse again.

We had such fun cheering for Big Brother and his really nice team. And there was extra time for bleacher bonding, too. The kids would want you to know that most schools had great snack bars. Ours even served sausage biscuits. Fun for all.

That's Biggest Brother and Big Sister caught holding hands.

Time for playing and coloring on the bleachers. You'll note Big Sister has adopted a sporty look like Big Brother. Buddies!

Sometimes (actually many Saturdays) we left too early to get hair brushed. Eeegads. This one is crying out for her favorite hair brusher. You know who you are. It surely isn't me. Do you think dreadlocks would go with Big Sister's Peter Pan collared school uniform? We might be going that way. Or a little bob.

We're so proud of Big Brother and loved a weekly reason to celebrate him. I'm tickled he wants to play again and that I have twelve months to master the rules.

Congrats to our sport! Number 2 in the family, Number 5 on the court and Number 1 in our hearts!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Be Mine. Still. Again. Last One!

Happy Presidents' Day! We awoke to a treasure trove of American flags and stacks of our favorite President's biographies, sticker and picture books on the breakfast table. I love a theme! We're still on our Winter Break which is sure cause for celebration. So it is plenty festive here and I can't start the week without wrapping up all the Valentine's fun. 

We spread out the work for the class cards over a few days. This was a homework assignment we could all love. Sweetly simple. Construction paper, stickers and candy. 

Baby Sister wasn't suspended from the ceiling during her efforts. I just cannot get that picture to go right side up. She worked so diligently printing her love notes. The boys' cards were just as dear.

Not content to send away all our well wishes, we hung some around the house.

The breakfast table always gets in on the act.

I want to frame this envelope from Baby Sister. Such a keeper.

The pig of course, hopped right up on the table to read one of his favorites in front of the camera. He's such a ham.

Happy everything from here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Hearts and Sparkles

All the best to you today and always from the land of pink doilies, chocolate, stickers and construction paper. We're enjoying our first day of winter break and lots of love. More soon and meanwhile, be mine!  xo

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sweets for My Sweets

Love is in the air, friends! And soon to be in a few little tummies, too.

I'm really tickled with how these turned out for Big Sister's class party. There's still time to whip up something for your loves and these tasty little confections can be yours in a few simple steps.

Step One: I used a boxed gingerbread mix adapted for cookies, rolled out and cut hearts. Gingerbread still seems very seasonal and offsets the sugary icing, sprinkles (and then chocolate!) in a way that plain buttery sugar cookies don't.

Step 2: I iced them with royal icing (the back of a baby spoon works well to smooth the icing to the edges) and quickly dipped in colored sugar. (You'll see that I started with a little zig zag of royal icing thinking that would be plenty of decoration. Pure craziness.) Royal icing sets quickly so the cookies needed to be iced and sprinkled one at a time.

Step 3: They still seemed plain and a bit unfinished and we always have chocolate chips in the pantry, (and we have a pantry now! hooray!) so I melted a bowl's worth of dark chocolate and piped the edges. I prefer a baggie with the end snipped over a pastry bag. Clean up is a snap, too.

Step 4: Sample. Always. They are easy and cute. And because they're so sweet I kept them fairly small.

Be mine!

Oh! And I almost forgot (well I did forget but came back to add) that these were broiled if you can believe it. Our oven is due to be replaced (which also means I can talk about getting a new "hob" soon too) but the broiler works. I put them on the lowest rack and set the broiler to low. It took about 10-15 minutes (with lots of checking) and I let them cool longer on the cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack. success! love! cookies!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Always Prepared

I know Baby Sister is over-represented of late and I promise to update on the other people soon. But meanwhile, she is perpetually doing (and often wearing) something I want to make note of for a future slide show. Or letters to her at camp and college. I feel it is my duty as her mother to document, catalog and bust out laughing at her sassy ways.

She wore this the other day to build a fort in the backyard with her siblings. A SWAT helmet, princess gown and cowboy boots. Sure. This is how your contractor dresses, right?

The fort building was one of those all hands on deck projects that was best left to small hands. I helped source supplies when asked but otherwise let them to it. Best I could tell though, "making a fort" primarily involved excited gathering of lots and lots of things from inside the house and storage room and yard (blankets! string! tarps! flashlights! sticks! cones! and because they're my children, snacks!).

Initially, Baby Sister went out in an old red tutu of mine (circa 1975) and cowboy boots. (Sorry I didn't get that shot.) There seemed to be lots of animated negotiation regarding fort location and structural design. At some point there may have been two teams of forts being built. Lots of the team meetings were apparently held on the tailgate of my SUV over snacks.

I often wonder which of their current interests and activities (not to mention personality traits) they'll carry with them for a lifetime. So if years from now Baby Sister has a career in architecture, remind me to send her this on her first day of work. Also snacks.

Friday, February 7, 2014

We've Got Spirit!

Last week we had an all-day all-school "Faith Rally" which I'm sure I can't describe quite right to do it all justice. I'll try: imagine the best of a week of vacation bible school moments rolled into one day. With fantastic music. It is Nashville!

Uniforms were kept tucked in drawers and out came matching t-shirt and jeans. (Those are the outfits they wore in the photo above but as you might gather, that snap was from the fall. It is frosty here now.) While much of the day was filled with quiet worship, reflection and prayer, there was also great, noisy rejoicing, singing and dancing. More than a few times I had to turn away from hundreds of smiling little faces joining together in songs of praise - adorable hand motions and all. I kept my trusty red bandana in my back pocket. It is so moving being with happy, spirited children.

We were broken into groups with kids from all grades sprinkled in together. And everyone's favorite - the 8th graders paired with their kindergarten buddies and the 5th graders with theirs. So many times I saw students helping and modeling their best in a way that parents and teachers didn't have to do anything but stand back and watch them work together.

A theme of the day was "vocations" and we heard from a Dominican sister (their order is the heart of our school) and a priest about how they were called to their religious life. We also talked about how many ways people around us serve and do good work. It made my family think so much about the Sisters and how fortunate we are to be the beneficiaries of their devoted service. It is really awe inspiring. I recently heard Ann Patchett (a former Nashville Catholic school girl herself, I think) in an interesting discussion of the women who dedicate their lives to teaching as sisters and nuns. I'll try to find it someday. It was on NPR, of course. (I'm telling you, I'm in the car. A lot.)

It is often hard to slow down enough time to reflect and the Faith Rally was just that. A day to focus on what really matters. You'll love that even Baby Sister's tiny class was involved. When over 800 of us (students, faculty, staff, parent volunteers) were gathered to sing and dance in the gym at one point, the 14 of them were watching (and dancing - they'd learned the songs, too!) from a second story overlooking the crowd. They were fully part of it but not in the throng. A special part of the day was a dark and quiet prayer. Lights dimmed. Soft music. Kneeling. Baby Sister told me when all of the groups had gone, just her little class tip toed in and did their own devotion. I have to think the Holy Spirit shone a bit brighter after hearing those prayers.

The day was the culmination of a week of spirited activities. A bit high school homecoming week. My favorites being "Parent Appreciation Day" and "Student Appreciation Day." I love a theme.
So on the day we appreciated the students, mine awoke to their pig and various tigers on their breakfast bar. Of course.

Balloons, themed plates, fun treats packed in lunches. Pom poms, too. And would you know this all happened on the same week as Candlemas? Something we'd not celebrated until we moved to London and were treated to new and beautiful traditions. Also amazing crepes. So in all this reflecting, I think that as hard as coming and going and parachuting in and out of places has been, we are so fortunate. Blessed. Because in - and by - each place, we are greatly enriched by being able to share in traditions that we'll carry with us. Traditions that will become part of our family's journey, our narrative, soundtrack and snapshots. These things that will leave imprints on us.

The kids must think it is great fortune that their school mascot is a tiger and thus, Frosted Flakes for breakfast. But it seems to me like true providence that they get to go to school altogether again. That they share so many teachers and friends and that we've been again embraced by a loving community. It gives us a real strength of spirit.

And you would have felt it, too had you'd seen Biggest Brother getting his groove on in the gym!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

That's So DEER!

Have you noticed animal heads just about everywhere lately (see also: shelter* magazines and blogs) or is it just my having moved to the American South where prey hangs about as wall decor?

As we're way more gatherers than hunters, taxidermy isn't terribly likely to appear on our walls. Not to mention that the kids are seriously spooked by a few of our larger stuffed animals. And, not judging if you've got a 6 point buck or two adhered to a pillar or post, but didn't you see "Bambi"?

But much like my bust (!) I still sort of wanted something like a deer head without the commitment.

This is not the Mister's (or my own Big Brother's) favorite of my design ideas, so it may not be a permanent fixture during our residency. Perhaps you can replicate it at your home so it will live on there.

You should know that my favorite antique shop has two enormous animal heads on display. One is a moose and The Mister would have to tell you the provenance of the other. I'm no zoologist, but it has large horns, a huge face and sort of a snout. Like the bull when Bugs Bunny was a matador. The Mister says you'd have to have a huge room for them to be yours. Almost as if you were bringing them home alive to traipse among LEGOs and furniture. And kids. That big. (Very "Mom always said, 'don't play ball in the house.'") That's surely not the only thing keeping us from pulling the trigger on either of those purchases. But a girl can dream about draping them with seasonal somethings or other. A giant moose in a lei? Draped in vintage Christmas ornaments? School scarf? A jaunty hat?

There's always our next house.

But meanwhile, here's how you can ensure no animals are harmed while providing whimsical walls. In a few easy steps.

Step 1. Purchase Foam Reindeer at 75% off Christmas sale. Are you doing the math? I'm not, but I can assure you it was a steal!

Step 2. Construct reindeer. It is cute already, right?!

Step 3. Spray paint the whole shebang white except the faux wood (faux bois, for you fancy pants). Oh, and see that giant fishbowl I used to hold it in place? I bought that on the Marylebone High Street with Big Sister one New Year's Eve and promptly broke it shortly after this shot. Argh.

Step 4. Hang in previously boring hallway. Step back and giggle. Await arrival of rest of family.

*Doesn't the term "shelter magazines" seem more than a bit silly in hugely understating the concept? Shelter? Shelter is a hut, not a glossy publication of wallpaper ads, absurdly expensive sofas and Viking stoves.  A bit like calling foodie blogs "sustenance" manuals. I digress.