We'll soon be packing our bags for more trips and it wasn't that long ago that we were traipsing around Normandy. I'll have to fill you in more later but the photos alone tell a story. It was a wonderful getaway.
Cab to Victoria, train to Dover, then ferry from Dover to Calais, and in between lots of hopping on and off shuttle buses at Dover! Our transportation lovers' dream trip already.
White cliffs of Dover.
Stayed in a lovely 250-year old farmhouse in a tiny village outside of Vire that served as a hospital during WWII. A great spot for day trips. The trip was timed perfectly to Biggest Brother's study of the war for Year 6. We read a good historical fiction for children about the war last year and brought two non-fictions with us as a guide during the trip. It was invaluable to see this part of the world while recounting the history together.
Keen to keep our bodies as nourished as our minds, we toured the museum in Camembert. You know I love a good museum and one with films included? And all about cheese?! It is a wonder I'm not still there.
A bright and sunny Easter Sunday at Mont Saint-Michel. We'll surely be talking of it next Easter.
Big Brother's favorite touring pastime is finding "secret passages" tucked into narrow, winding streets.
And in a very poignant part of our lesson about WWII, we toured the DDay beaches, Pont du Hoc and the American Cemetery in Colleville. Big Sister asked amazing questions and in such a tiny voice.
Really wonderful museums along the beaches.
Last day was touring beaches of Deauville, Trouville and Honfleur.
Big Sister wasn't so sure about getting sandy out of season! The seasons are changing here a bit too quickly for me. The clock and calendar pages are surely zooming. I fear all too soon I'll find us packing boxes. But in the meantime, we have a few more adventures planned.
And sometimes the best bits aren't planned at all. We were gone over April Fool's Day and in the car for long stretches on this trip. Big Brothers spent an inordinate amount of time creating a very realistic faux text message purportedly from the ferry service customer service department announcing a delay in our return trip and forwarded it to the Mister's isomethingorother. It was fantastic. Perfectly executed by my smalls. They are funny!
Maybe I'll start crafting something similar. Perhaps a note from the Home Office requesting us to stay on the the UK for a bit longer!
I'm keeping a mental list of "what I'll miss" about London. It is such a lengthy treatise that I'm surely squeezing out (admittedly already limited) space for learning a foreign language and helping with homework. So I'll have to bore you with it in its entirety soon. Meanwhile, though one of the things I'll miss about London is the horses.
Yes, I hear you. I suspect there are a few horsies in Nashville, but I'm not thinking about that yet (until next week when we're touring our new environs for a few days!).
It came as a delightful surprise to be surrounded by equine life in a major city. We have the great fortune of being across the park from the horse ring and trail, seeing the Household Calvary in formation many mornings and random fancy carriages trotting about. Then there are mounted police.
The horses have never become routine and we're always shouting "HORSES!" when we see them in any sort of procession -- urging each other to the windows to catch a glimpse. I love to see the ponies from Hyde Park Stables crossing Bayswater Road. Doing so on foot can cause my heart to quicken, so I'm in awe of riders who stride across 4 lanes of traffic on horseback.
And Biggest Brother's Year 6 PE has included learning to ride. Didn't see that coming either.
Stay tuned for The List. It is going to be awful. Blubbery, weepy, hideously sentimental. I'm going to miss the throaty rumble of cabs, the keening of bus brakes, cheese. Oh how I will miss the cheese and the glorious wonders of European dairy. I will miss it all. Full stop.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Mother of 4 who loves her smalls and her husband, And Now We Are Six is also devoted to the collection of ribbon, LEGO minifigs and glass cloches. She fancies wrapping and giving little presents and misses NPR. She longs to win dishwasher loading and sleeping competitions - two talents she regrets remain so hidden. Life in a somewhat distant past involved government and public relations (the favorite being crisis communications - skills still being used most days!). She dreams of opening a bakery and boutique filled with her favorites (ribbon, pretty paper, children's books, classic toys, vintage treasures, pastries, coffee, and hostess gifts). Meanwhile she is busy finding much comedy in her family learning British English despite everyone having said, "At least you speak the language." She tries to balance being a tourist who happens to live in London with learning to bake in Celsius. Thanks in advance for reading and even more, for cheering from afar. And for overlooking poor grammar and punctuation. Beginning with the blog title.