Thailand

This trip started the same way as a few of our other adventures = with an episode of “Somebody Feed Phil.”

Phil, the host of the show, went to Bangkok. And made a whole beautiful episode about it.

After watching a most magical hour of television, we declared that we would go someday. We started doing a little bit of research – price, locations, etc. and then put it on the back burner.

Also – like every other trip we’ve taken, this trip was fueled by our need to eat. I should disclose that, as of late, I have fallen desperately in love with Thai food. As in – I make Red Thai Curry once a week and just force my family to eat it with me and smile.

Everybody, eat Thai Curry.

Green or Red, I don’t care.

And then, eat Pad Thai.

Don’t question me.

So, anyway….

When I realized that we had a possible kid-free block of time to get away, that just HAPPENED to be during Thailand’s dry season, it was decided. We began our quest to eat in Thailand.

It was going to happen. I was going to make it happen. I didn’t care if I had to eat peanut butter and jelly for 3 months after. We were going. We worked out the logistics with the kids and booked a flight to Bangkok.

Well…. actually we didn’t just willy-nilly ‘book a flight.’ We actually pulled up the flight, found the times and connections, put all of our information in, and got ready to pay.

And then CHICKENED out and went to bed!

I talked to my friends the next day about it – they got me back on course. Rich came home and we booked our first-ever flights to the other side of the world. Honestly – we were terrified. It sounds easy, but it just wasn’t. Even though we were so excited – it’s just SO FAR. Far away from our home. Far away from where our kids would be. Far from our comfort zone. All of it.

Everything looks good on tv and on your computer screen. It’s easy to watch Phil or Anthony Bourdain. They have teams and people that help them. But for you there’s no real way to know what you’re getting into.

Every once in a while you have to do something that scares the bleep out of you.

I mean…. safely, of course.

But you know, “You only get to go around one time” and all that.

 

So, off we went. We flew from London to Bangkok, and I got a heavy dose of scary right off the bat with our ride from the airport to our hotel. I became CERTAIN that our cab driver was partially blind. The rear-view mirror had so many decorations hanging from it, he might as well have hung a disco ball. PLUS the entire back window was stuffed to the top with random things – so he couldn’t see out of the back. I’m not always like a super-stickler for the rules, but I’m not exaggerating – we broke multiple “road” “laws.” There was a lot of shoulder driving.

By the time we pulled into our hotel, I was actually vibrating with terror. Anyhoo – we survived, and resolved that we would take public transit back to the airport even if it took twice as long.

By the way – we booked Thai Airlines for this. And I give them a huge thumbs up. Really great service, food, comfort. Two meals – served quickly. Then they blessedly LEFT US ALONE – so we could attempt to sleep. Which if you haven’t done a big flight, is not always the case. There was a foot rest and a good seat recline. The stewardesses changed clothes midway through…. Everything, awesome.

Our hotel had a rooftop restaurant and we decided we should probably eat dinner there.

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Ga.. it was so swanky. They had a chair for my purse.

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And they served pretty food. And it was all really good.

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The staff at this hotel were so over-the-top. I know they are just doing what they think is best to stay competitive, but I have to admit, I was borderline uncomfortable.

Everywhere we went around and inside of the hotel – we were escorted. And when I stood up from dinner to go to the bathroom – I cringed a little because I knew that some one would materialize next to me and escort me to the bathroom.

And sure enough, someone did.

Halfway through our meal, they asked if we would like to switch tables to one with a ‘closer view.’ The table they suggested moving us to was, like, a table and a half in front of where were already sitting and there were no other people in our way. The weather was beautiful, our food was good, we ALREADY had a great view, we were very relaxed and  comfortable. We declined their offer – twice. But they insisted. Someone picked up the purse chair. A few other someones magically appeared and moved everything else, and I just floated to another seat. Then they asked if we would like them to take a new picture of us. Why not at this point…. so, here we are at our new table.

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Now – I’m not digging on the service people AT ALL. They were amazing. Rich and I have both been servers. We recognize and appreciate good service. And although I felt like they were slightly up-my-butt, they were so kind and genuine and smiley that it was hard to hate it that much.

The great thing about Thailand is that the pound (and the US dollar)- go  VERRRRRRRY far here. We would have never stayed in a place this outlandishly luxe in Paris or Rome. But here, we can afford it! And we can pretend to be fancy, and nobody even knows we’re not! One of the fun things about staying in a swanky hotel is that there are cool little touches  like a “travel buddy” in your room, which is a cell phone that you can just take out with you if you need it, and make free international calls.

We had just a teeny bit of jet-lag going on. Despite our long travel day and dinner, we were up and ready for the day at about 3:30am. Body clocks are a bitch. This gave us time to be productive, however. Rich sorted out the purchase of a vehicle for us in Illinois, and car insurance while I researched what we should do for the morning.

Then, we were able to take full advantage of the breakfast buffet right when it opened at 6am.

AND THE BREAKFAST BUFFET.

You guys.

You don’t even know.

I could gush and gush for DAYS about this breakfast buffet. It was seriously unlike anything I’ve ever seen in person or on tv. Better than anything in Vegas. Just, seriously, probably the best in the entire world. And since I was too shy to take any pictures – because of the staff army – I won’t really go on about it anymore here. But, just imagine the most beautiful, decadent spread of food. From every asian and European culture. And then add sushi, freshly baked naan. Then a while-you-wait crepe, waffle, and pancake stand. Then a order your egg stand. Croissants that rival Paris. Then a PIZZA OVEN.

I still can’t believe it.

I mean, you don’t know what to expect from a “breakfast buffet” in Bangkok, you know?

The setting of the breakfast restaurant too. GAAAA.

Poolside – 20 stories up.

So, moving on – inside the hotel everything is sparkly and amazing and outside at street level it looks like this:

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Obviously quite a difference.

The the extremely luxurious right up next to the run down.

For the morning, Rich wanted to go to the Chattachak Market. It’s a famous weekend market that has everything under the sun. It’s also a good dose of culture. The elevated train provided us with a great view of the city on the way.

We only went the wrong way on the train one time.

The city is absolutely sprawling. And again – there would be a high rise next or a sparkly shopping center butted right up against a shack, slum, or dark alley. It was hard for me to get used to.

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We arrived at the market and stopped at the first stall we saw serving Mango Sticky rice. Mango Sticky rice was on the absolute have-to-eat list. It’s a sweet sticky rice, served with fresh Thai mango and a little bit of ice cream. This really isn’t something we can get -or even make – at home. It’s so special and so Thai. We loved it long time. As we went on with our trip, and continued to eat Mango Sticky rice daily…. sometime twice daily….. we realized that this first one was the best. They were all excellent. But this one, the way they’ve got it layered so you can eat it while you walk – gives it the edge. It all melts down on top of itself and YUM yum YUM YUM!

This delicious dessert for two set us back $2.

 

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We ate and wound our way around the vast market.

Endless stalls. Some touristy things, but mostly not.

Just a lot of everything, crammed in like sardines.

 

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Rich wanted to stop and try the fried octopus. This was his face before he tried it. Doesn’t he look happy? He was not happy after he tried it. Haha – not everything in Thailand is delicious.

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We meandered around. I bought soap and art and trinkets for the kids. Then we found our way to the food area.

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And this, right here, where the ducks are hanging down dripping fat – and you might spot a few fire hazards – is where we ate lunch. In the middle of a loud, crazy, food hall.

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Pad Thai was our first, natural choice.

What it lacks in presentation, it more than makes up for in taste. Holy moly.

We split this, and that was a mistake.

Anyway – plate of delicious freshly-made-by-expert Pad Thai at market = $1.89

 

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We left and took the sky train. Then we walked back to the hotel, where I snuck a couple pictures of how street food looks.

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Walking the short distance from the SkyTrain to the hotel, we passed 5 massage parlors. They had their services and prices posted out on the sidewalk. We started doing the conversions in our head… they were offering 1 hour massages for about £8 ($10). Normally – I wouldn’t have considered such a thing in such a place. But thankfully we had done our research. Thai massage is like a hotdog in New York or beer in Germany. It’s what the people do. It’s a culture thing. They are offered on every corner of every street. Prices are low and quality is high. I mean, if you want, you can pay for an expensive massage – inside your fancy hotel. It will cost four or five times as much. But if you want to be one with the people.. and your wallet, you get an authentic Thai massage for $10 down on the street.

And that is exactly what we did.

Our feet were a little tired from the market and we had just enough time for an hour massage to refresh us before our evening activity.

We walked into the massage parlor and ordered a couples massage. They took us to one of the rooms and then shut the curtains. There were two mats on the floor and a little pile of clothes on each mat. The clothes looked sort of like medical scrubs. They were the color tan. We took a guess that maybe we were supposed to put the tan scrubs on. I still don’t really know if were supposed to, but we did. And then the Thai people entered and began.

I quickly learned that Thai massage is very…..stretchy…. in comparison to other types. My little lady bent me all kinds of ways. She sat on my back and pulled my arms backward. She put her feet on my thighs and pulled my feet up. Since we were on the floor, that gave her all kinds of access and leverage. I mean… it was like a part rub down and part extreme stretch. It was foldy and bendy. 

As soon as I realized what we were doing, I was worried about Rich. He is NOT the most flexible. This is known. I was worried he was going to be in so much pain. I turned my head to look at him, and when I did I saw a small Thai man crouched on top of my husband’s back. Pressing and pressing. Working hard into Rich’s shoulders. Rich had his eyes closed so it was hard for me to read him. But he made a few grunts…. and only one cry of pain. If you had a tight spot – those people found it. Like a blood hound. And then they just “massaged” it until you started to cry. I remember willing myself to relax my trapezoid. “Just relax it. Melt it. Just melt it. Smooth it out. She won’t find it. She won’t. Just relax the entire area. Please don’t let her find. AH! She found it. It hurts so bad. Jesus Christ! How strong is this lady!”

At the end, each masseuse sat on the floor and cradled our head in their lap.

Sounds intimate. Because it is. But you just let them do that. You don’t question it, ok. They hold your head and they massage it. 

When all was done, I felt relaxed and loose with only one real tense spot. And surprisingly, Rich felt good as well. He admitted that it hurt, but that maybe he’d like to go again tomorrow and ‘get better at it.’

This whole experience cost us about $28.

Our afternoon/night activity was a Chef’s Tour of the backstreets of Bangkok. I heard about this from a blog I read. Turns out, it’s INCREDIBLE. Instead of visiting any other “tourist” places in Bangkok, we placed our priorities in eating. We figure that’s a good dose of culture. Knowing where and what to eat on your ONE DAY in Bangkok is completely overwhelming. This tour had great reviews, and we had booked in advance. It was a no-brainer for us. I’m so glad I found it.

We took a TukTuk to get to our tour meeting spot. And, I was much more relaxed in that than in the cab.

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We met our tour group – which literally consisted of 3 other American couples – in the China town of Bangkok.

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We met in a hotel on this major road. Then our guide rounded us up and took us around the corner. When they said the tour was ‘backstreet,’ they meant it.

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This is our tour guide. His name is Nuuht (pronounced Nut) and he’s been a chef for 20 years. He also grew up right in China Town. When he took us to this first stop on the tour, he introduced the woman behind the steaming pot, and told us she’d been making him noodles right here since he was 8 years old. Can you believe that? And, naturally, the noodles she served us – cooked somehow right in her little back alley corner were incredible. It was a wonderful way to start the tour.

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Our guide proceeded to lead us around for FOUR HOURS and we absolutely ATE OUR FACES OFF. Somethings were better than others, I will admit. And some things were so spicy we really couldn’t even eat them. Some of us on the tour did better than others. We had… maybe 17 different things… Tea, Dumplings, Guava fruit, more noodles!, soy sauce ice cream, chicken, wheat grass, pork, more, more, more, and more. And then, finally, Mango Sticky Rice of course.

 

And Chinese donuts with green vanilla sauce served from the only donut cart in Bangkok to receive a Michelin Star.

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We ate most meals outside, on the side of the road or in an alley either on a chair or a stool or crowded around a small table with our tour friends.

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In between all the food stops, Nuuht took us through shops that were preparing for Chinese new year, and into a temple, and a history museum.

 

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Being a local that grew up in the area, Nuuht was knowledgable about the culture and the food. He would tell us about the history of the dish we were being served and often tell us about the family who was making it – lots of whom were his friends. He had water bottles for us, which was thoughtful and needed in the heat. Obviously we ate things we’d never eaten, but I was shocked at how many sights and sounds and SMELLS we experienced that neither of us had ever seen/heard/smelled before. We walked through alleys with absolutely disgusting mystery smells. And then we’d turn a corner and smell the most delicious curry kabobs being grilled on an open flame.

Nuuht had a helper person who went ahead of us and waited in line, ordered the food, and procured chairs, stools, or a table for us. We were really really glad to have all that help because most of the menus on the street look like this:

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A few highlights of the tour…

We rounded an alley corner and Rich saw this man pulling up noodles, and goes “Oh, I hope we’re eating those.” And we were. And we did.

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This was the family run stand where “worker noodles” are served. Named worker noodles because they charged all of 40 cents for a giant bowl of noodles and pork. So they attracted all the workers. Pure gold are the work noodles. I’d pay good money for the broth alone.

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A surprisingly delicious treat: soy sauce ice cream!

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Towards the end of our tour we walked through a market street that was closing down for the day. It was quiet. And in one of the cramped little shops, the owners were huddled around a steaming noodle pot, eating dinner with their two girls dressed in pink and grandma on the side.

It made me so happy to see it. I creeped a picture of them so I could remember it forever.

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This is our group of adventurous eaters.  At the end of the tour, at the only proper table we sat at all night.

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When we were done, it was night-time in China town. Which meant a whole new level of crazy.

I have never eaten so much in a four hour time span. I felt like I was on some sort of competitive eating show. Needless to say, when all was said and done there wasn’t much else we could do but take a TukTuk back to the hotel and go to bed.

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Here is the link to the tour we took:

https://achefstour.com/tour/bangkok-food-tour

We were always able to talk to the kids before we went to bed, because our night was their morning. They were living their best life.

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We woke up the next day and spent the morning being leisurely and eating the amazing buffet again. We had a flight to catch, but not until 1:00. And, despite my vow to never get in a Bangkok cab again, we decided to get one back to the airport. Second time – not near as bad.

The hotel booked us a limo driver. That’s a technicality.

We were heading out of the hustle bustle of Bangkok down to the “islands” of Thailand. More specifically, Phuket.

The scene here was quite different. On the way to our resort, it looked basically like this:

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(Yes, your eyes are correct, that’s a scooter with two adults, a child, and a new born actually in mothers arms.)

So anyway – once again the contrast was stark between the resort areas and the surrounding areas. More stark of a contrast than I anticipated to be honest.

Phuket is a big island with lots of different style beaches. We weren’t sure if we wanted a lively party beach or a calm secluded one, so we split our time there in between two hotels.

We checked into the first resort, which was supposed to be the upscale, calm, retreat style beach.

We had a little meal. Curry and mango sticky rice, of course. Even though we were in a “luxe” area, we decided to stay at a lower priced, more basic, resort. We caught a good deal, of course.

The beach was calm and beautiful. And the room was stark, but functional.

 

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After our meal, Rich wanted to try to find another inexpensive massage. So, we went out on the (slightly dangerous) trek down to the street in search of a massage parlor. We found three immediately. We entered the third one we found and booked an hour massage. For the hour for both of us was about $40, including tip.

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I even snuck a few pictures.

And to keep me honest, I took a picture of the prices.

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These massage prices were a little bit more than we paid in Bangkok – assuming because we’re out on the island. But, regardless of the price increase from the city,  we got folded and molded and stretched for second time. This one did not have uniforms for us to wear, but did include ear flicking.

And afterward, Rich said “I want to come back here again tomorrow. Get another massage. And I’m going to win next time.”

I strolled through a Seven Eleven…. even in a small island in Thailand, a few American comforts can be found.

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Ok, then we returned to our room for the evening.

And this is where our plans started to changed a little.

There were ants in our room.

Not a big deal. It’s a tropical island. It’s part of the deal. The staff came and sprayed.

The end.

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And then we got up and went down for breakfast.

And it was stale pastries, questionable food sanitation, and basic drinks.

There wasn’t much I felt like I wanted to eat.

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We forged on.

The Thai laws are very strict on beach chairs, so I had bought these blowy-air-up chairs at SevenEleven. The trek down to the beach involved climbing down rocks.

But this beach.

I mean, forget it.

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All beaches are public in Thailand, and this one definitely felt like it.

As we sat on the beach at our secluded, discount luxury resort, we found ourselves disappointed.

And I asked Rich “Do you want to consider switching hotels?”

Without hesitation, he replied “Yes.”

Here’s the thing….

The food did me in. Our first meal in the restaurant was only ok. It was really expensive and service was terrible. The one and only terrible service in Thailand.

Then, breakfast was terrible.

I don’t mind being in a “basic” hotel. And I wanted to be in a secluded location. But, if I’m secluded, the food has to be great. If my only options are expensive, slow, restaurant and stale bad breakfast – I’m not happy. The only other way for us to get food was to trek back down to the street. On foot, on a narrow non-lit, non-sidewalk, on the side of the road.

The beach was beautiful. But the climb down to it was rocky and hard. (by the way – the reviews said this. But I figured since we are young and kidless, we could handle it)

The room was fine. Despite the no-fuss decor, and the ants, I would’ve probably stayed.

But it was the food. When we woke up to that (sorry people) terrible breakfast, I felt despair and disappointment. I know what you’re thinking “Of course you hated it, you just went to breakfast wonderland in Bangkok. Duh.” And that is not it at all. This breakfast was bad all on it’s own.

The whole thing. It’s just not we were looking for. In order to be this secluded – we just needed more.

So, we finished up our time on the sand and went back to the room and booked a different resort for the next two nights.

Done.

We went back down the dangerous road for some GOOD food because we were starving. We asked the people at the massage parlor where to eat and they pointed down the street to this place:

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This was the view while we ate.

 

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I know it doesn’t look like much. But, as is often the case, looks can be deceiving.

It was a family run little place. With the son working the tables and the mom working the kitchen. Behind me, Grandma was doing laundry.

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Mom working in the kitchen knows how to crush some Pad Thai.

This time we ordered our own plates. Smart.

And fried shrimp.

Whole meal, drinks and tip = $14

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After the meal we got another massage.

Winning.

Rich declared himself the winner of his massage this time.

Then is was time to pack up our things and make the switch to our new (hopefully completely amazing) resort.

There was definitely an awkward moment or two telling the staff we were cutting our stay short and that we didn’t need a ride to the airport, but just to another resort up the road… ah… ya…

Now…. we may have over-compensated for our disappointment at the first place.

Within 10 minutes drive of the first “resort” was another beachfront all-bungalow style resort. We pulled in.. You know that scene in Home Alone 2, where Kevin first enters the Plaza Hotel? It was like that. It was the most luxurious place I’ve ever been. Bangkok hotel included. The whole lobby area was just open. Like, no walls or windows, just open to the outside all the time because that is the level of paradise that we are dealing with….where your building doesn’t even need walls.

The staff was incredibly accommodating – but never too much. The resort had a pool and beach front access – with chairs. They cleverly got around the “no stuff on the public beach” law – by creating their own little beach inward of the actual beach line. There were little poles marking the beach line, and they set their chairs there, and then every morning pulled out low-slung sand-colored bean bags onto the actual beach.

And just in case you needed, they had a few kayaks and a catamaran for guest use. For free. And there’s a library so you can go pick out a book to read on the beach.

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The placement of this resort was also clever. It’s technically public, but since it was built into a cove, access to it is virtually impossible from the side. This helped us to feel more secure leaving our belongings on the chairs if we wanted to go for a swim together. Which we did.

The water is JUST FINE.

When you are ready to head back to your room, which is a bungalow on the side of the mountain, you just climb the stairs until you arrive there. Or, if you prefer, you could ask the front desk to drive you in a golf cart back to your room.

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The details in this place were off the chain.

Little fruits and fresh flower bracelets. A beach bag, fans, sun hats, and umbrellas. Bug spray and aloe if you need it. The whole room and the towels smells like eucalyptus. The little flowers in water make the bathroom smell like honeysuckle. Events and amenities. Free Yoga.

Cookies for turn down.

I mean. It was ridiculous.

If you are somewhere for just three nights, you think “Oh it’s just three nights, we can skimp it.” But I tend to think the other way “We’re probably never coming back here. We already came all the way to Phuket. We don’t have the kids with us, so we can be selfish. It’s only three (or in this case now two nights) we should go all out.” Plus, in Thailand the food and activities are way cheaper than normal. So, splurging for a nice resort is much more doable. As I mentioned before – super luxurious is within reach of normal people like us, in Thailand.

After the switch, you couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces.

The front desk told us that there was a beach barbecue happening tonight. And we said “Yes, sign us up for that please.”

We relaxed in our beach chairs while they were setting up.

 

Oh by the way, here is where you can rinse your feet if they have sand on them. We wouldn’t want anyone spraying any sort of water hose. So you stand here, and you ladle yourself out some water to rinse your feet as if that is something you do all the time.

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Also – side note: I’m writing this nearly three months after traveling. It’s exhilarating going back through my pictures and notes to put this blog post together. But that’s nothing compared to the fact that I have stubbornly, knowingly, NOT removed my nail polish. Clinging on to every bit of it any way I can.

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Ok, back to the beach.

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Then, of course, we came back to attend the party. There was a little light on my menu. So I could order a drink in the dark. It’s the little things, man.

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They had everything out here on the beach. Impossible things.

And the staff…. They had to drag all this stuff out there. And keep it fresh. And keep the pests away. And take my plates away, and drag them all back inside. It’s not lost on me what it must take to put something like this on. And they were so happy and genuine.

And again, I was blown away by Thailand.

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Checking in again with the kids. They couldn’t be having a better time.

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Back to Thailand – early in the morning I walked myself down the beach, where yoga was held.

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It was blissful, as you can imagine.

Then, I met Rich for breakfast. With high expectations.

I was not disappointed this time. We are on an island people.

How does this happen?

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After that we went out for the day. The resort helped us hire a driver for the day. He picked us up at the hotel, took us first to the temple, then to the Big Buddha, then to a regular indoor shopping center, and then back to the hotel. He would park and just wait for us to be done at each location.

We had him for 5 hours and he charged 2,000baht. Which is about $60.

No brainer for us.

First up, the oldest Temple in Phuket.

Outside and around the temple, it’s crowded with stalls.

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Coconut water, like that…. gross. We saw all these other people walking around with them. Rich wanted to try one. Big Nope on that. Tastes like feet, if you ask me.

Avoid gross coconut water, enter temple. Appropriate attire must be worn. Shoes must not.

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Then it was Big Buddha time.

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From a buddha temple to a shopping temple.

Lastly, our driver took us to the shiniest shopping center on the island.

I added to my trinkets for the kids collection, grabbed some coffee and headed back.

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Instead of having the driver take us back to the hotel, we had him take us to our little street restaurant. Since our new resort wasn’t far from our old resort, we could be dropped off here, and walk back.

This time I ordered Green Curry with a banana smoothie, and Rich went with Pad Thai again. And this time, Grandma was coming out what I assume was the shower… or maybe the sauna, walking across the restaurant in just a towel. We were sad that we weren’t returning here.

Whole meal = $12

Grandma show = Free

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Rich went back from one more massage, while I walked back to the resort for some beach time.

Then, in the evening it was time to dine out on the beach again. This time, at the beach restaurant. It’s not your usual surf-side fare.

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We woke up to another beautiful day and another beautiful breakfast spread. And then soaked up a few more hours at the beach.

But, then it was time for us to move to another part of the island. The supposedly more “happening” beach side. As we drove north, the area was definitely more developed. Just, a lot more access to regular things nearby. As we pulled into our resort, I immediately loved it, but it definitely had a more ‘happening’ vibe thing going on.

The lobby continued with the no-walls theme.

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We took a walk around. The grounds, the beach, coffee bar, everything, beautiful AGAIN.

 

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At the front desk, they told us they had bikes we could take out.

We like to do that. So we took them out and rode through a little nature preserve. Came out on the other side at a shopping center.  There, we ate a chain restaurant. We should’ve known it would be terrible. Yuck. It was.

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Back to the hotel for a good night’s rest… because we had booked the sunrise island tour. Now, yes, we’re on an island. But this tour is out to the itty bitty little islands that surround the big island. It’s called “island hopping.” It can get pretty overrun during the daytime regular hours. So, this early tour was recommended to us to fight the crowds.

Also – our thoughtful hotel arranged for a breakfast box to be waiting for us in the lobby at 4:30am. Since, we weren’t able to partake in the breakfast buffet. Sad.

Our tour picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the Marina – all in the dark. And as we finally were heading out to the first stop, the sun began to rise.

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Tour provided snacks and water for the first stop.

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Then they took us to two snorkeling spots on two different small islands.

We like all that.

We were able to snorkel around coral reefs, and at one point the guide (underwater) brought a puffer fish over for us to hold. We’ve got it on video.

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Then is was time to head to the swimming cove.

Our tour guide was so great.

Taking pictures for us and pointing out wildlife.

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Then it was time for our last stop, on a little beach with a restaurant.

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By the way – food here. Not good.

 

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I had been super worried and precautious about mosquitos the entire trip. They like me more than most. I did spray and wore bracelets and I didn’t have any bites the whole time. But here. On this little island. I had too much fun and I let my guard down. I came back with three mosquito bites. But, thankfully, nothing else.

And back to the boat with our left over fruit.

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We were back at our hotel by 3:00, which was another perk of doing the sunrise tour. We had time for a little siesta on the beach with coffee, and shower before dinner.

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Then, as if they were trying to compete with each other, THIS resort had a beach side barbecue. With a show!

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Then back to the room for a chat with the kids who just woke up. We’ll be home soon!

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Last morning. One last extravagant breakfast spread.

Happy happy joy joy.

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And back to the Phuket airport.

Where we fly to Bangkok.

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Then from Bangkok, back to London.

We stayed the night in London, grabbed the rest of our belongings from storage at Rich’s office and flew to Chicago.

Upon landing we drove a rental car to the car dealership we’d been already working with.

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In our newly purchased van, we drove downstate in the snow and ice.

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And little bear was the first to greet us in the morning.

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Needless to say, we loved the whole thing.

I HIGHLY and a-millions-times-over recommend traveling to Thailand. Even though it might scare the bleep out of you.

 

Here’s where we stayed:

Bangkok Hotel:

https://www.lebua.com/tower-club

 

First Phuket Hotel (budget):

http://www.surinbeachresortphuket.com/

 

Second Phuket Hotel (bungalows):

https://www.thesurinphuket.com/?gclid=CjwKCAjwkcblBRB_EiwAFmfyy5Q8LR32XOcaJp2UMO3fvcOFXo1g29hWHBdLfkRo_07uTZ4fLQ1YaBoCTCEQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

Third Phuket Hotel:

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/hktbr-renaissance-phuket-resort-and-spa/

 

Year End 2018

WHAT.

It’s the end of the year again.

We did ALOT this year… so I’m just going to dive right in.

We started the year with a little bit of snow, which rarely falls in London. Needless to say, it was exciting.

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Theo’s buddy Joe

 

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Viv started off the year STILL in her high chair, which is hard to believe.

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It’s since been removed from the house and given to another family.

And we are now a house without a high chair.

Onward and upward!

Also at the beginning of the year, Theo was in morning Nursery. Which meant that he got to come home in the afternoons and play. I usually required him to play quietly in his room while Vivian napped. And if you ask him… that’s what he did.

But… pictures tell the story of what really happened in the afternoons.

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As in all the years before this, the kids favorite toy remains the same: household items.

Like… uhrg.. why do we even buy them “toys”?

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With imaginative play still being at the forefront of how they spend their time together. They like to play store and school, and travel and pirate ship, and most recently “HOUSE SIMULATOR” Not “House.” My computer-nerd-raised children play “House simulator” where they give themselves awesome fake names like ‘Sophie’ and ‘Tyler.’

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Every once in while they get to make a mess with Playdoh….

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and rice…

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And sometimes I let them go crazy with the craft boxes.

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Which – most of the time. Not all of the time, but MOST of the time results in armor or weapon construction.

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I don’t encourage fighting. I don’t know why they are constantly preparing for battle.

——————

We feel ourselves creeping out of the baby/toddler phase and into the fun-time kid phase; which is great because we can move away from Candyland and into more challenging games. Turns out, all the kids are natural gamers. Harry and Finn -especially- are able to understand complex rules. So we introduced them to Settlers of Catan. They can now play, and *legit* win. And I’d put Theo and Viv up against anyone in a game of Memory. It’s such a fun phase to enter with them.

Competitiveness is high. Sportsmanship is low.

But…. we’re working on it.

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I discovered an adorable youTube channel called “Cosmic Kids” that does absolutely adorable (and fun themed) kids yoga sessions. I try my *hardest* to push it on all the kids, with Theo and Finn being my best participants.

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Theo’s friend Frasier sat in on one class.

 

Finn and I had a day date at our favorite place – Kew Gardens. Where we explored the seasonal Orchid display, the temporary dried flower art installation, and the permanent collection of wood and paintings by Marianne North. We had the best day.

 

Daddy took Theo for a morning adventure to the Natural History museum.

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Vivi was (and still is) really into wearing as much jewelry as possible and riding her scooter. Watch out! She’s fast.

 

Other around-the-house favorite pictures of mine:

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Finn surprised me with a highlighted mustache one day.

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The kids who were not spies.

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Vivian clawed the chocolate out of a chocolate pastry.

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Viv decided these two guys were perfectly suitable friends for Anna and Elsa….

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We took the babies to the pet store, while the big boys were at a Rock Climbing course. We rode in a car. It was all very exciting for them.

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Then we have some featured books, science information, and artwork.

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“The angry Ice Cube” and “The Lion that Couldn’t Roar” both by Harrison Norman

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“Community’s that I belong to is Sainsbury Local, Southside, Aldi, Homebase, church, and school because I…..something ineligible, my closest community is my home!” Finn

Then we have our March birthdays:

Daddy first:

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Then Theo:

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All throughout the year we continue to use and love London’s public transit system. And I always think the kids look too cute on the bus and the train.

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On Spring Break we took the kids (back) to Paris, and to Paris Disney. There’s a whole other separate post about that. It was a great family time. And I’m still dreaming about the croissants.

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The Hamilton Gods smiled on us AGAIN. Somehow, I won the ticket lottery and we got to go see it for a second time. From the front row. We loved it just as much the second time around.

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Then, we had a random mini-summer in the middle of spring.

Took advantage of that.

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We started ATTEMPTING to garden.

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We got back to doing our favorite thing… hanging out in the green.

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Then, Harry went on his residential. Which is basically like going to camp for a few days with your entire year group from school. Praise the teachers.

We made sure he was prepared.  He’d had several sleepovers at friend’s house. He practiced showering on his own. He was excited and nervous, and he was only 8, but he went right on. And he had a great time.

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While he was gone Grandma Janice and Papa Greg arrived!

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One of the days he was gone happened to be his birthday. They put a banner on his door and sang to him in the mess hall, and made him feel special.

And when he got home, we celebrated too.

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This leads us to half-term break, which is a week we get off from school at the end of May. For this we ventured with all the kids, and Grandma and Papa, to Hamburg, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic – both of which have dedicated posts.

I can’t speak highly enough about this trip. We had a truly GREAT time.

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Then we went into summer…

I got to come into the Nursery garden one morning.

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We played in the park some more.

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We explored the expansive woods and green at Wimbledon Common.

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All the boys had the traditional British Sports day. Go Green House!

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Even the parents get involved. This is the dad’s relay. Every one is a good sport.

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Theo asked if he could “go stand in the flower bed” and I was like, “Ok….. sure…”

And when I turned my head, it was too late.

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We went to Ikea. I told the boys they could only buy the giant animals if they were willing to carry them home themselves.

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Ipads and naps.

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Theo – one of our trickiest eaters – tried (kids) Sushi and chicken curry.

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Finn got attacked by a wasp. But still has nothing but love for them and only good things to say about wasps. He told me why the wasp felt threatened by him and had to sting him. NEARLY RIGHT ON THE EYE.

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I refused to buy Finn a £5 tub of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream at the store, offering him lots of other options instead. I mean, I just didn’t feel like paying £5 for that tiny tub. But then he played his trump card and told me he wanted to buy it with his allowance money. So he did. And he stretched that tub over three or four nights, declaring each time that it “WAS SO WORTH IT.”

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Gotta always play in the dustiest corner of the house, near the power outlets.

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Then in June – sunshine Finn had his turn.

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On sunny days, we’d get out the wading pool for Viv and then she’d join me for a little yoga and light sunbathing.

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And we also have morning cuddle time.

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I had breakfast with an old friend, in town from the US. Hi Mel!

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Finn’s class had a “graduation” from Key stage 1 (which is years Reception, 1 and 2). Those are his best buddies Hamza and Leon.

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We had a few special visits to the kids *favorite* restaurant, McDonalds.

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Then mom came and her and I ventured to Amsterdam for a girls weekend, and then she stayed with the kids so Rich and I could have a weekend in Barcelona. Both of those trips have separate posts.

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Ok! Then school ended for the year and we promptly left for our summer visit to the USA. This trip also has it’s own lovely post.

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Then we returned, with three weeks to spare before school picked up again. Getting re-adjusted to the London time zone was hilarious with breakfast being lunch, and lunch being dinner and everyone generally confused. The first day Rich went back to work, the kids and I all casually slept until 11:30. Whoops! Once we got better adjusted we fell into a better groove.

The summer weather in London is something I prefer. Warm, but never too hot. So – for most of our remaining summer, I usually stuffed a bag of food and drinks, our giant blanket, and we went to the park mid-morning and stayed until the kids told me they wanted to go home. Which was usually NEVER, or sometimes at 4 or 5 in the afternoon.

 

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While taking this (above) selfie, Harry’s exact words “Mom, we’re so energetic!”

“Yes, lol, Yes you are.” I said.

While in the US, Vivian turned three. But I realized when we got home that we didn’t take her obligatory number picture. Better late than never.

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I had seen some pictures and done a little reading about this Lavender farm outside of London.. so I arranged for us to have a morning there. And although the Lavender wasn’t quite as Lavender-y as we had seen online (blame the dry summer, and our late-season visit) it was still fun to be outside exploring a new place.

And! The kids got to mingle with the royals.

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Then it was time to head back to school. Our school has staggered start dates for the younger years so that each child ‘can have plenty of attention on their first day.’

But, it’s not that way in the older years – so the big boys started together on the first day:

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The following week Theo and Vivian got their turn:

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And now – the whole crew goes all together to school in the morning.

And EVERYONE is very very happy.

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Finn’s class had their performance fairly early in the year.

And as usual we were very impressed.

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I arranged for us to have a family photoshoot. The pictures are so special to me that I made a separate post. We caught one of the last sun-filled days of fall, and we had a great time.

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In the fall Finn also (FINALLY) learned how to ride a bike. And I don’t have any pictures because I was to busy running beside him.

While Finn was getting his “bike riding lessons,” Theo insisted that he have lessons as well. So he did. And now he can ride a bike too!

Viv is still on her balance bike. But by summer, I’m confident we’ll have four steady bike riders.

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Then is was time for Halloween, which is a little down-played here in London, but still lots of fun. The school hosts a “Monster Disco” for the kids, and all the boys very happily attended it. And, on Halloween night I stayed home to hand out candy, while Rich took the crew out. He stayed out much longer than I would have, for some pretty epic trick-or-treating.

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Right around Halloween, Rich’s company solidified it’s future plans – which meant that he was needed back in Chicago. For a change in role and a big move-up in the organizational chart. We weren’t expecting it. We thought we’d have a couple more years in London. But, it doesn’t really matter. Rich couldn’t pass up this oppurtunity. We have been incredibly happy in London. The kid’s school is amazing, and we’ve met so many wonderful people. We are so sad to leave, but equally excited for what’s ahead in Chicago.

 

Over Thanksgiving, Rich’s mom came (back) to visit, and to stay with the kids while Rich and I hopped over to the US for a friend’s wedding. Love you Hollee and John.

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Then Rich and his mom travelled to Brussels for the day, where they ate lots of fries and chocolate.

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And on Grandma’s last day, we squeezed in an afternoon tea together – girls only.

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Then rib dinner with just me and Finn.

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And a unscheduled lunch and shop for Vivian.

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Another thing I had read about and heard about for a while was this beautiful Hindu Temple IN LONDON. It is called the Neasden Temple and it is the real deal. It was built entirely by the community and is completely hand carved. At the time is was completed, it was the largest Hindu temple outside of India. This visit had been on my “to do” list since we moved to London and I came across it in the London Pass booklet. But I kept pushing it aside because it was a little bit of a trek – a little over an hour, and a couple switches on public transit.

But now that I knew we were leaving, this became very important to me. It’s not likely we can take the kids to India anytime soon. But this, we could do. How special to be able to expose the children to this amount of culture right here in London.

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Once inside the rules are strict.

No shoes, no pictures. But let me tell you – it was incredible on the inside.

I got these pictures from Google:

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And they sort of do it justice.

Intricate wood and marble carvings like you can’t believe.

We were welcomed in with open arms by easy going, warm people that commented on how cute the kids were. The kids, like the adults, were expected to follow rules of where and how to sit. But they did. And we were lucky enough to attend a short Hindu ceremony while inside.

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Then, in early December my brother and his babe came to visit. We love spending time with them and we went out for amazing food and an escape game.

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“Hopper’s” Sri Lankan cuisine. Yum to the max.

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We Won. We are the best.
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“Bravas Tapas”    BEST LIFE.

Then, all together, with Ike and Bailey, we went to Christmas at Kew. For the third year in a row. It didn’t disappoint.

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Then, it was time to visit Santa. I let the kids decide what to wear for such an occasion. Viv wore her best Christmas dress, Finn and Then went with pajamas, and Harry went with his favorite cargo pants.

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Then, because of our move timeline, Santa made a small drop at our house a little early.

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Everyone was in on the big gift – a Nintendo Switch.

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Then we had to go back to school and wrap things up.

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Theo has a towel on his head as part of his shepherd costume…lol
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Viv’s class Christmas party. And because she doesn’t normally have a meal at Nursery, she got to bring her party snack in a Darth Vader lunch box!
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And Daddy got to come in one morning.

 

Then Grandma Susie arrived!!

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And we took the boys to the British Christmas tradition – Pantomime. This year’s show was”Aladdin.”

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After the Panto, it was time for one last Sunday Roast at the Pub.

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Then on Christmas Eve, mom and I took Viv for afternoon tea.

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And we met the boys at church. And we tried pretty hard.. but no one was in the picture-cooperating mood.

 

Then on Christmas day – I finished packing up our first load of bags while Rich made a delicious Christmas dinner.

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And the day after Christmas Mom and I took the kids and 12 bags to the airport.

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This lasted for 15 minutes.

We flew to JFK, went through border patrol, took all the bags off the luggage carousel and had them carted to the domestic carousel. Went through security AGAIN, and boarded a second plane to Indianapolis. Once there, a driver picked us up in a massive three-rowed van and whisked us to my parents’ house.

It was an ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTING day. But we did it. We survived it with no major incidents. Nobody threw up, nobody pooped their pants, nobody threw a major fit.

The planes were on time and so were we. And although it was probably the most tiring day I’ve ever had, that travel day couldn’t have gone any better.

Once we were safely at Grandma’s house and had a good nights rest, we began Christmas-ing more properly.

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Family Photo – We’ve got daddy on the video chat!
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Even uncle Isaac made a beaded princess necklace.
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Fort making kit from Grandma. Big hit, naturally.
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In the Car! To have more Christmas!

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Now. That was all of 2018.

I LEFT THE CHILDREN at my parent’s house and flew back to London on New Year’s Eve.

And that completed phase one of our move back to Chicago.

With Rich’s last day (in London) in the middle of January, it didn’t make sense for the children to return to school. So we decided it was best to send the children on home to America.

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I landed and joined Rich in move-out mode.

We tirelessly worked. He patched holes and re-hung doors that we’d removed.

I sorted and sorted and sorted.

Similar to our move to London, we got rid of EVERYTHING.

AGAIN, we are moving light. Because the cost of sending our goods over the ocean doesn’t outweigh the gain, we’ll start over again in Chicago with a new house and new furnishings.

I prioritized and we packed up a few boxes of absolute essentials that we shipped over ourselves.

 

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FedEx came and picked up our boxes.

Cleaners came for the End of Tenancy Clean.

Property management checked us out.

And that was it, our time in this London home was over.

Rich and I moved into an AirBnb in North London so he can finish up work. We are looking forward to a footloose and fancy-free time, where we can really enjoy each other and our last few nights in London. Then we will join the children in Chicago.

——————————————

 

KID WORDS____________

“Mom, this is the goodest thing ever!” Vivian at Christmas

——–

“Mom. It’s good that Captain America can drink alcohol and not get drunk. Because adults like to drink wine. Especially strong muscular adults. That’s who I always see drinking wine.” Harry

——–

Viv brings me books: “Here mom I brought you these books.”

Me: “Great! Do you want to give some to daddy”

Viv: “No. These are just for us. No boys.”

——–

Theo: “LITERALLY!?”    “SERIOUSLY?!”    “NOT FAIR!”

——-

“Mom, there are always new things to discover.” Finn

——–

Vivian (riding her balance bike through the house) “I’m super cool!”

Theo, to her “No, you’re super beautiful.”

——-

“Grandma’s house is huge. Made for running around… which is weird because grandma and grandpa don’t run around as their special talent.” Harry

——–

“Mom. Do you know how a star-nosed mole traps its prey? I’m gonna give you a clue.” Finn

——–

“I hurt my feelings” Vivian

———

“I’m looking up facts about pigeons” Finn

——–

Me: Can anyone name a country or a city in Europe?

Harry – Scotland!

Finn – France!

Theo – Captain America!

Theo – Joe!

Theo – I really want to go to the park

——–

“I’m worried because I really need to start deciding what I’m going to be when I grow up. I only have 9 years left.” Harry

——–

“I wonder what Viv is going to look like on her next evolution.” Harry

——–

“We’re so energetic” Harry. Referring to himself and his siblings.

——–

“You need a butt to poop and to sit.” Theo

——–

Harry watching Mr. Rogers “I can tell this hasn’t had very much editing.”

——–

Me “How was your day?”

Vivian “Sparkly and fun.”

——-

Me: I’m sorry you can’t have any TV before your nap today.

Viv:  YES!

Me: No, sorry.

Viv: I’m gonna cry! I’m gonna wake you up!

——–

Viv “mom. I really love daddy.”

——–

Finn, talking to the Google home “Hey google, play SWEET guitar music.”

——–

Viv, after putting the bean bag RIGHT in the door way. “This looks like a good spot!”

——–

“Did you clean that all by yourself?” Theo, to me

——–

“You don’t want to be a princess, Vivi, you want to be a pirate!” Harry

——–

“I’m proud of my life and I like who I am. I have the greatest mom and dad and siblings.” Harry

——-

“Mom do we have any jet packs?” Theo

——-

“Mom, I need a hot second.” Finn

——–

“It’s gonna be awesome when we have a giant rocket ship.” Theo

———

After 45m swim assessment “How bout we top this off with a little more swimming.” Finn

——–

“The birthday boy is pooping” Theo – on his birthday.

———-

“So, when we go to Paris, I won’t have my popsicles right?” Finn

——–

“Nobody’s respecting me when it’s close to my birthday” Finn, 20 days before his birthday, not wanting to go to bed.

——–

“My room needs an upgrade” Harry

———

“Mom. Minecraft was invented a long long long time ago…. in the 90s!” Finn

——–

“I’ll take care of the babies tonight mom. I can tell you’re tired. I’ll put their pajamas on and put them in bed.” Harry

——–

“You have to get up in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT to help Vivi? That’s so awful for you!” Harry

——–

“I’m gonna turn into a wolf soon.” Theo

——–

“I don’t like my eggs with dirt on them.” Vivian, referring to pepper on her eggs.

——–

“Can you please read a book to Viv?” Me

“Ok, but I gotta get paid.” Harry

———-

“You’re forcing us to do this!!” Finn, after I sent them outside to help Grandma shuck corn.

——–

Viv orders at a restaurant “Yes. I would like strawberries and blueberries and cherries.”

———

Finn sees two dead bees next to each other of the ground. “Look mom, two dead bees. Right next to each other.”

Me “Maybe they had a battle.”

Finn “YA! A battle to the death. It was a tie!”

——–

 

HARRISON ______________

Harry is smart and awesome and kind and sensitive. He had a year of continued growth in school, with his teacher saying that “He’s quite the mathematician.”

He loves being in charge. Of anything. But especially, he loves to be in charge of whatever he is playing with his siblings – he’s the head creative on tent building, the shop manager, and the ‘dad’ of playing house simulator. And, for the most part, they are happy to oblige. And he loves each of his siblings so much.

He likes to create – books, cards, anything. And he’s very typical-first-born type A. Saying things like “organize and collection are my two favorite words mom.”

He is hilariously analytical and often applies logic to simple situations like video games and playing in the park.

“Mom they add these songs to Roblox to add interest and enjoyment.”

And he came home from the park, where they had built a “base” within the trees, to tell me the strict advantages to letting other people into the base. “Mom, it makes us more creative. We have more stamina. And we can build more things.”

He’s also oddly good at explaining his emotions and they often just spew out of him. He’ll tell me “I’m feeling stressed out about my new swim instructor” or “I’m feeling really nervous but also excited about going to residential.” And he’s also quite sensitive – often having a tear in his eye during the sad parts of a movie.

We took a big step with him this year and (after MUCH begging and conversation, and him telling us he was the ONLY one in his class without a phone) got him a cell phone. He was so happy he cried when we gave it to him.

He’s so much fun and we love watching him grow.

 

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Besties Thierry and Jerome.
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Other bestie – Loic… and Jerome again too.

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Harry Birthday Interview

How tall are you? About, nearly 5 feet tall.

Now that you’re NINE what’s different? I don’t know. Nothing.

What’s your favorite food? Donut.

Who is your favorite friend? Loic.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Still thinking about it. Maybe a builder or a toy maker. I think both of those jobs make a lot of money.

What does daddy do at work? He works on computers and he fixes them.

What do you like best about Daddy and Mommy? That daddy will play video games with me. And then, you always make good meals.

How strong is daddy? Really strong. He’s ripped.

What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? (Harry asks me back):Is it cooking? Is it taking care of us?

What’s your favorite thing about Finn, Theo, and Viv? Finn – that he’s really funny. Theo because he’s really honest. And Vivi because she’s really cute.

What do you think of girls? I like the girls in my family, but the rest – like in my class or in the world except for Pippa (piano teacher) – I don’t like. And I like Marta and Dori. (sitters)

If you could have a super power, what would it be? Super human strength. Because then you can jump really high and that’s basically flying.

What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? I don’t remember that well. When we went to Paris was the best thing.

Where do you want to go on vacation? Japan, because that’s the most common place where they make toys. Because all the toys we have say ‘made in China’ and all the Pokemon cards are really cheap there.

Are you going to get married someday? don’t know. well I’ve been planning if I do, but not if I don’t. I would buy lots of fancy stuff and I would buy whatever she liked. That’s why I want to make lots of money. And getting children by intercourse. That’s all.

How do you make cookies? You need chocolate chips. That’s the main thing. You need dough. You need milk. Then I don’t know. That’s the three things you need to make it.

Can you tell me a joke? I don’t know know any jokes. hahahaha

What do you know about God and Jesus? That they are special to us. That they’re our father. And that God is Jesus’s dad. And that God can do lots of powers and he lives in heaven and Jesus was born in a cabin. And then God is in our heart. There is different religions that believe in God. That’s all I know.

 

 

FINN____________________

This year Finn has grown is all sorts of ways. He’s his funny little self. He’s naturally quick-witted, often understanding jokes that go over Harry’s head. He’s charming and smart. When I sat down with his teacher for his conference, she just flat said “I love him. He’s so funny.” Like Harry, he’s creative and loves to draw. And also like Harry, he’s a natural math whiz.

He LOVES to swim. So, we’ve kept that going. And he loves nature. So, we’ve kept that going… as if we had a choice.

This is him, climbing trees at park. “Mom I need a stick to make a prehensile tail. Marmosets have tails just to balance. But monkeys have prehensile tails to use as a fifth hand. So I need one so I don’t fall out of the tree.”

Me: “Well, you are a human. And I’m not sure if we can fashion any sort of tail that will work like you need it to.”

Finn: “I would live my whole life in a tree if I could.”

If you get him on his own, then you get the full encyclopedia. He will pepper you with questions and facts about all kinds of things in no sort of order.  “Mom. Let’s think of food chains.” “Mom do you know the difference between a Llama and an Alpaca?” “Do you know how much an ant weighs?”

I’ve had several IN DEPTH conversations about snake breeding with him.

One of the things that excites me most about him this year is his love of all things food. He wants to make food and try food. He’s always requesting new things he wants to try, unique and fun things. He wants to try it all. And he likes a little bit of spice – he loves to use Siracha and mayo to make his own dipping sauce. Like… we have to have it in the house now all the time. I think we have a future foodie on our hands.

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Birthday Interview:

How tall are you? 41cm, oh sorry, 1 meter. I’m one meter and 41 centimeters

Now that you’re SEVEN, what’s different? ah, nothing.

What’s your favorite food? BBQ ribs!

Who is your favorite friend? Hamzah

What do you want to be when you grow up? Um, biologist.

What does daddy do at work? Fix computers

What do you like best about Daddy and Mommy? The best thing about daddy… um… is um… he gives me video games on my ipad. And mommy gives me snacks after school and every Friday you give me treats.

How strong is daddy? Strong enough to carry me and Vivi and Theo

What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? Yoga

What’s your favorite thing about Harry, Theo, and Viv? Harry – plays with me on RoBlox, Theo, plays with me every time in the morning. Viv, when I make something she tries it out.

What do you think of girls? I don’t know. um… I don’t know.

If you could have a super power, what would it be? To turn invisible cuz then I could sneak up on Theo.

What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? My Birthday! Hahaha. No! Daddy and Mommy give me my ipad. Swimming at explorers hotel with daddy.

Where do you want to go on vacation? I want to go to Mexico because it’s a hot place. No, I want to go to Japan because they make really yummy candy and they make really fun video games.

Are you going to get married someday? No. Easy… because I don’t want to smooch. Because I don’t want to have a baby.

How do you make cookies? You have to have sugar, chocolate chips, … I don’t know. Mix them up then you put them in containers, then you put them in the oven. Then when they’re done you push them in your mouth and then you’re going to laugh with excitement because you’re so happy that you ate cookies.

Can you tell me a joke? “Do you want to hear a construction joke?” “yes” “I’m still working on it, hahahaha”

What do you know about God and Jesus? That they are very important and that they made us.

 

 

THEO___________________

Theo is so much fun. He has gone through a lot this year. Going from half-day Nursery to full-day Reception (with lunch!) really forced him to grow up a little bit. After adjusting, he really thrived.

He is our most natural social butterfly. He is quick to make friends. And lots of them. He came home from his FIRST DAY of reception and told me about his best friend Fred. And he and Fred remained best friends. And he is friends with Oli and Frasier and Joe and Seb and Santiago and India and everyone else. And when he sees them on the street he says “HI SANTIAGO!!” He insists on playdates with friends. Getting together with a friend after school is the highlight of his week. And he already asks to have sleepovers.

His teachers say he’s fun and friendly, considerate of the other kids and one of the best picker-upers. He is zooming through phonics and LOVING that he is starting to be able to read, like the big boys. He loves to practice reading any way he can.

He loves to go out – whether it’s to the museum or just to the store. He’s weirdly good at “Look and Find” books, patiently looking until he finds Waldo or whatever. He can keep up with his brothers playing almost anything, but he also loves to hang with Vivian. Of all the boys – he’s the most musically inclined. The only thing he wanted for his birthday was a guitar, and he loves trying to play it. He has natural rhythm and he loves singing songs, and dancing.

 

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Duplo time with Frasier
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bestie, Fred

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Theo Birthday Interview

How tall are you? 4

Now that you’re FOUR, what’s different? giraffes and T-rexes

What’s your favorite food? eggs, no chips!

Who is your favorite friend? Fraiser… and Joe

What do you want to be when you grow up? Seven

What does daddy do at work? He builds. A tower.

What do you like best about Daddy and Mommy? He helps me do Mario 3D world. And mommy, cleaning, because you tell me I have to clean with you.

How strong is daddy? I don’t know. Stronger than an jellyfish.

What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? I don’t know…. Oh ya, cleaning.

What’s your favorite thing about Harry, Finn, and Viv? Harry tells me to play with him and gives me presents, Finn tells me I have to watch him on his computer, Viv plays with me.

What do you think of girls? They have long hair.

If you could have a super power, what would it be? Fast fly! Fast starts with an M

What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? Fraiser let me have some playdoh, and then I gave him some.

Where do you want to go on vacation? Paris! And have some fun.

Are you going to get married someday? Ya. When I marry a super hero, I will fly to the sky like a bird.

How do you make cookies? First you need sour. Then you need chocolate chips. Then you need chocolate oatmeal. Then you put in a pot and it turns to a chocolate chip.

Can you tell me a joke? “How did a worker save the boys?”  “How?” “Going to Pizza!!” …. Uhhh, it’s funny. That’s funny.

What do you know about God and Jesus? It means when a kid gets stronger.

 

VIVIAN__________________

Vivian is so sweet and so loving and so fun. She’s grown and changed so much this year. She loves to talk and sing and do whatever I’m doing. She’s almost perfected her potty training and she still loves her nap. She loves pink and flowers. She loves going to the cafe for afternoon tea. She loves to go shopping. And although she’s increasingly ‘girly’ she loves to jump in and play with the boys. She started morning nursery five days a week. And although she started off being really shy, she began to open up and make friends by the end of the term.

Vivian started noticing the mole near her eye, often thinking it was dirt on her face. We named it her ‘cutie mark,’ just like on “My Little Ponies.” And now, she doesn’t worry about it. However, we did have it officially evaluated by a specialist. It’s healthy and beautiful.

She loves her dad. And he loves her. One day Rich came home with flowers for me. But she spotted him the minute he walked in the door and screamed “Daddy brought me flowers!! Look mom, Daddy brought me flowers!!” And she was so happy.

Another day, I bribed her with chocolate to help Theo clean up the unusually-large mess they made. I never bribe them to clean up, but this time I did because I really wanted her to help. She didn’t help. I bribed her again, but she still didn’t help clean up. Theo finished cleaning up the mess by himself and received a piece of chocolate. Vivian was then, of course, very upset. But I told her that she couldn’t have any because she didn’t help Theo clean up. To which she replied, with tear filled eyes; “Daddy dit me chotate!!”

When I tell her no, she says “Daddy says yes!”

When we walk into the store during the day, she says “I bet daddy’s in here. Daddy?! Daddy!?”

Her brothers dote on her just as much as Rich, and I think we’re in serious trouble.

 

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MOM FAILS                      

 

making coffee without water

making hot water without coffee

making coffee without a cup underneath

check out at the local grocery store without my wallet – TWICE

laundry mat with no laundry soap – TWICE

 

————————————–

 

And that’s it!

2019….. ready or not, here we come.

London’s Calling: family photos

For a while now, I’ve wanted to have our photos done.

Like, OFFICIALLY.

But I was lazy about it. I was bloated from having the babies, and didn’t necessarily want to be memorialized that way. Rich is never excited when I speak the word ‘photoshoot,’ even casually. And, honestly we were traveling a lot so it always got pushed to the back burner.

My pictures of the children tend to look something like this:

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Obviously I could use some help in the picture department.

In addition to that, in the fall we learned that we were moving back to the US. This meant that a “family photoshoot in London” shot straight to the top of the to-do list.

I searched for a photographer, and honestly was intimated by my ‘big city’ options. I didn’t know if I would find someone that would understand our family and be ok with chasing energetic children around who DON’T and won’t “pose” for you.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

And I don’t want them to pose anyway… because then it would be fake.

But, with enough persistence, I found our perfect match.  I can’t recommend her enough.

http://www.margaritakarenko.com/category/family/

Margarita…. the goddess of photographing children. You are the child whisperer. We shall create a shrine and bring gifts of chocolate and cameras to your feet.

Margarita embraced the craziness with patience and laughter. Often, good-naturedly asking me “Is this how they always are?” She set a relaxed tone and captured each child perfectly.

I stressed for a few weeks about our outfits and the weather, and if the kids would be warm enough if the weather changed. I always knew I wanted to have our photos taken in the fall, because I think it’s the most beautiful season in London. But the season is also hit or miss on sunshine and rain.

All of that worry was wasted however. We showed up at Tower Bridge in the morning to an incredible morning sun and mild temperature. The weather held, and the children loved being out in the city. Aren’t they always the best when they are free and outdoors?

I don’t know how to say anything else without being totally cheesy.

But, truthfully, it was magical.

I mean, they went almost an hour without asking for a snack.

That’s some photoshoot magic.

 

We started out in a green space adjacent to Tower Bridge and London City Hall.

 

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And we got a few pictures in, before the boys requested to be dinosaurs for a little bit. Margarita went with that.

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This is the moment that Theo got a bloody lip.

Because we don’t go a day without a bloody lip.

Margarita asked us to jump. And we did.

Rich was next to Theo and upon jumping – whacked him, mouth first, with his heavy duty watch.

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Then we ventured up on to the bridge, where Margarita asked us to ‘walk naturally”:

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And then I asked if we could flex our muscles.

Because we do a lot of that.

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Then she took turns focusing on each child.

Quickly and efficiently, I must say.

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This was on the definitely more candid side… but I just like that Theo and Viv are naturally holding hands.

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Then we walked down and around and back under the bridge on the opposite side from where we started. And the boys continued being themselves.

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Daddy found a second to swing Vivian around, and it was the first time all morning she let out an unguarded laugh.

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