Year End 2017

It’s the end of another year in this crazy thing-we-have-going and here is the wrap up:

the year:

We started out the year deciding it was best for us to change houses. Overpaying for rent is only cute for so long, after all. And right on Easter morning we found ourselves in a new home.

 

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Right before the move, we hosted my brother and his girlfriend for their spring break. They thoroughly toured London, and spent a day in Paris. It was so great to see them!

And oh, ya, Bear turned THREE and STARTED NURSERY!

 

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Our new garden has featured lots of wildlife for us to enjoy; including lots of birds, cats, squirrels, and even a few foxes (that had to be removed). But when the animals aren’t using our garden, it gets a lot of play from us.

No matter the weather. And mostly for a lot of wrestling matches..

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After the move, we turned our attention to three things – that frankly – we’ve really dropped the ball on, with the kids. Swimming, biking, and piano lessons. With no major travel plans in the mix this year, we finally focused on these activities.

We bought a bike for Harry, and he learned how to ride it! We signed up for a gym and took the kids swimming every week, and we bought a digital piano (with generous help from Grandma Janice) and began Harry on lessons.

(I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of us swimming because they don’t allow cameras in the pool house. Sad face.)

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In May and June, Harry and Finn have birthdays. Harry split his birthday party with a classmate at the trampoline park. And Finn split his birthday party with two classmates at a community center gymnasium (on one of the hottest days of the year!).

 

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Inbetween their birthdays, Rich and I took a little trip to Corfu, Greece.

And it was AMAZING.

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This year I finally feel us coming out of the baby-zone fog that we’ve been in for so long. The diapers, the baby food, the bottles, the night wakes. Slowly, we’re getting rid of things like bibs, burb cloths, and a diaper genie. We’re not using our high chair as much or the stroller or the baby gate. We don’t have our ears up to the baby monitor constantly – even spent a few nights with it OFF (on accident). We don’t have to leave detailed instructions and time tables for sitters when we leave them with the kids.

I mean, we still have a two-year-old, and we are still in the baby-zone technically – but all I’m saying is that I see and feel the shift coming. And it is a THING OF BEAUTY PEOPLE. Something we are definitely completely ready for. We’ve done it thoroughly and completely….. and for us – we’re ready to “get out of the pool” and totally “dry off.”

We’re not only ready for the next season, we are excited and looking forward to it.

Speaking of the next season, we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary.

 

ANYWAY – near the end of the school year the boys each have the British traditional “Sports Day.” It’s so fun and cute. Even the parents participate a little bit.

 

 

And just like that, the school year was over. And on the last day we celebrated with donuts! On the first day of summer break, the boys ran around the house like silly little boys.

Then it was Viv’s birthday. And then lots of family took turns visiting. Mom and I took day trips to the Cotswolds and Brussels. And Rich, Harry, and Finn, along with Rich’s family, took a few days visit to Edinburgh, Scotland.

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We also took a few really fun family outings in and around London:

quite a few visits to HAMPTON COURT PALACE –

 

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a few visits to KEW GARDENS (Royal Botanical Garden), where we were gifted a membership from Erika and family!:

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the DIANA MEMORIAL PLAYGROUND, at Kensington Palace:

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the LONDON ZOO

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Open-air Monkey area – where there is nothing between you and the monkeys.
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We spotted a low one (in the bush).
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Walk through – open, GIANT spider exhibit!

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Another open exhibit. This time, amazing leaf cutter ants.

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The lemur exhibit was also open-air. See some behind Finn’s shoulder.

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And then of course, our everyday-type visits to the local parks, walking around our neighborhood, and visiting the Natural History Museum.

 

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Just as quickly as it blew in, summer was over.

And then, of course, the boys went back to school.

 

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When the boys started school, Viv decided it was a good time to try potty training. It’s slow going, but positive. And she’s steadily doing very well.

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And not normally a big deal, but Theo was really REALLY struggling with ‘going number 2’ on the big potty. Months and months and months went by and he made no progress. And then one day, he just decided he was ready.

And it was one of the best days of my life.

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And Finn lost some teeth. Which also isn’t normally a ‘big deal.’ But shortly after loosing a couple teeth he took a really hard fall on the stairs and slammed teeth first onto an upper stair. It was seriously one of the goriest things I’ve ever seen. The lower picture, is a few days in, so the bruising is less than the initial day. The dentist assured us that as long as nothing was cracked or hanging that he was fine. And they confirmed that his adult teeth have no damage underneath. But, I think (we) Finn got lucky on this one… because had those teeth been adult teeth, this fall would’ve knocked his front teeth out. And on adult teeth, obviously once they’re gone, they’re gone. Instead, he got lucky and just further loosened the teeth that were already loose.

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School Pics. Finn’s face.

 

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And HALLOWEEN. Halloween always creeps up on me. Erika texted me a picture of her boy’s costumes mid-October and I was like ‘Crap, I forgot about Halloween and costumes.’ But we did alright, I think.

 

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In November, we had house guests – Hollee and Jon, and then Isaac came back. So fun.

And we went and visited Santa, and Viv shocked us by being totally fine with it.

 

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We decorated. And then a string of lights went out on the tree. So, we undecorated and redecorated the tree.

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And then Grandma Janice came!

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And we went back to Kew Gardens for their “Christmas at Kew” event which features singing trees and light shows. The kids didn’t care that it was cold, wet, and muddy.

Finn, especially, had the bestest time ever.

 

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Christmas cookies, of course.

 

 

And then church on Christmas Eve.

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And Christmas morning.

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Right after Christmas, Grandma Susie and Aunt Patty came!

We went to our local theater for the British traditional Pantomime show. This year it was “Jack and the Beanstalk.” We then ventured to the city center for dinner at Rainforest Cafe, a visit to Kingdom of Sweets, and to see the Christmas light displays. And Finn insisted on wearing his Meerkat shirt OVER his adorable sweater. And I just wasn’t willing to fight the battle that day.

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Then with a little leftover Christmas magic, we were able to score three tickets to the hottest show on the planet.

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Also Aunt Patty and I went to Westminster Abbey.

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Then, the three of us visited Kensington Palace and had afternoon tea there. We followed that by briefly browsing around Harrods.

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AND THAT takes us to New Years Eve.

…Where we were all promptly in bed by 10.

Because we are party animals.

 

Then there’s just the regular everyday….

 

 

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And Theo and Viv’s year-long favorite pasttime… NOT playing with toys.

Just turning the living room in to a soft-play area.

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Lastly, after much discussion, our 2017 birthday donations went to PreEmptive Love.

 

the babies:

 

Harry

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Harry is awesome. He’s smart and thoughtful. A great helper. He’s grown (literally) and matured a great deal this year. Typical to his type-A-ness, he continues to thrive with “rules” and “structure” and he also continues to do very well in school. He’s a perfectionist and an over-achiever. And he puts a great deal of pressure on himself – on everything from swimming to math to piano. We’re always working on his resilience when he’s frustrated and this year he has made improvements.

Change is still a little hard for him. When something is new or different, he is initially resistant. Even small things like wanting to switch his favorite animal from a fox to a tiger. But overall, he’s doing very well.

At school, he’s an absolute math whizz – able to solve three digit addition problems in his head within seconds (ex. 365 + 738). He also SHOCKED us and his teacher, by asking to give a power point presentation to his class. I guess a few of the other kids had done this on occasion.  Not as part of a project, just an independent power point presentation. So he made one. At home. All about sea life. He spent an entire day working on it, and then confidently asked me to email it to his teacher. I was nervous and hesitant for him, but did as he asked. And a few days later, he told me that he gave the presentation to the class and that it went really well. He was nervous at first, but felt fine after he got started. Just wow!

His confidence has grown, socially, as well. He seems comfortable with his friends and asserting himself with strangers. Making better eye contact and speaking more clearly to others. We also signed both boys up for Rugby. And although Finn openly dislikes it, Harry really enjoys it. And he has asked several times for us to help him be “faster and stronger” and to help him practice rugby. Up until now, he’s been very lukewarm with any sort of sports. He did a round of tennis lessons this summer. He was a positive participant, but his interest quickly fizzled. But, with Rugby he really enjoys himself and wants to continue. We are shocked. When I asked if he wanted to sign up for next term, he was like “Of course I do.”

This has been the year of the Pokemon for Harry. He is absolutely obsessed. He told me in early November “Mom, I’ve thought about it. The only thing I want for Christmas is Pokemon cards. That’s it. My whole Christmas, all Pokemon cards.”

Me “Are you sure??”    Him “Yes, tell everyone.”

His sweetness is so cute too, sometimes. He still loves and cherishes each of his siblings. And he is just the best and most supportive and patient brother to all of them. He loves and dotes on Vivi all the time. He’s so thoughtful and worried about them. One time, both Harry and Theo had cuts on their face. Harry says “I want Theo’s cut to heal before mine.”

And we love his perspective on money. When we told him we bought a lottery ticket and explained to him the whole deal, I asked him what he would do with the money if we won. He says “First I think we could get a new chair. Then maybe some decorations for the walls and maybe a shelf in my room. Then some Pokemon cards and then some Pokemon figures on my birthday.”

He loves and excels at games of all kinds. He can even handle most adult board games. Recent favorites include Blokus, Monopoly, checkers, Kingdominos, Exploding Kittens, and Love Letter.

He has also really taken to his piano lessons. Although understanding rhythm has been a challenge, the structure and counting of music makes sense to him. The logic of it suits his brain, and he’s learning almost effortlessly. A big part of it is his teacher. He loves her and I over hear him talking his head off during their lessons. Telling her everything about his life – including his bunk bed, our plans for the day, how mom and dad went to Corfu and bought him a notebook, daddy’s work schedule, the monster disco, invertebrates, and anything else that enters his little brain.

 

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Mother’s Day card from Harry. (You have been taking care of me and I liked it so much.) (Put a picture of the whole family in this box)(Mum and Dad bring me to these places – with world map.) (Everywhere you bring me)(Did you know? Everywhere you bring me was brilliant)

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Mocking daddy.
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Helping Viv.

 

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Secret Spiderman kit, he’s tucked in the drawer under his bed.

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Finn

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Or as we call him, Captain Underpants. This year, Finn has continued his wardrobe habits. And there’s really only so much we can do about it. Most days – underpants it is.

He’s sunny and happy and silly. With a true sense of humor that makes us laugh all the time. He’s also incredibly stubborn and sometimes insensitive.

He’s incredibly observant, with a memory like no other. Harry was given a “Simon” toy for Christmas. And Harry – like a normal person – took several tries, most of the day, and worked up to remembering a sequence of 19. Pretty damn good if you ask me. So, finally Finn steps up. And on his first try gets a 20. For real.

Like Harry (and their father), he excels at Math. He can quickly add sums in his head.

Conversation I had with Finn walking home from the park, after working with Harry on riding a bike.

Finn “Mom, I want to ride in one of those baby seats on the bike.”

Me “hahaha, Finn you’re way too big for that. We just need to get another bike and you can learn to ride it. And if we all want to ride together, we’d need to get a bike for mom and dad, plus two baby seats, one for Theo and one for Viv.’

Finn “How much is an adult bike?” Me “Probably $150”

Finn “How much is a kid bike?” Me “$80”

Finn “How much is a baby seat?” Me “oh, probably $100”

Finn “We need two baby seats, two adult bikes, and one more kid bike. So for everything we need it would cost $580”

Just that fast.

Changing his favorite color this year, took much thought and consideration. He was nervous about it, but told me that he’d like to change his favorite color from red to silver. But then had a panic and changed it from silver to blue.

He has built on his love for all things animal and earth. I often find him reading from his animal encyclopedia on his own. Or find it open in his room, because he was reading it. At Kew Gardens he runs amuck with excitement wanting to read every plaque and every scientific name of every tree and plant. Same at the Natural History Museum – which he basically has memorized. And during our zoo visit, he said “I just LOVE it here at the zoo.” “I’m just SO happy here mom.” He literally cries if he sees us squish an ant or a fly.  I wonder if he’ll become vegan sometime soon. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit. For Christmas, we got him an Ant Farm, and it just lit him up. He most definitely considers the ants his pets.

He likes to test out what he learns in school. Asking to repeat experiments that he’s done at school and quizzing me on French. His teacher tells us that he excels, but that she doesn’t always know if he’s paying attention. But when she talks to him or sees his work, it’s clear that he’s understanding everything.

One time I wrote “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” on the the kitchen chalk board and he couldn’t stand it. Probing me and begging me to change it. “Mom, it needs to be You ARE.”  And I said, “Well, it’s just a different way to say it. It’s grammatically incorrect, but it’s charming that it’s an incorrect on purpose. It still has meaning.”  He thinks about it, still frustrated, and says, “Ok, then, WHO is you?”

Me “Fine. Just change it, smarty.”

He became OBSESSED with wanting to go to swim school. I could sort of put him off for a few days. But of course, he got smart on me. He started with “Can I go to swim school, mom? Can we go swimming?” To which I could answer “Um, ya, maybe, let me look around” and then started asking “Mom, WHEN are we going swimming?” And then he started making arbitrary deadlines, “Mom, in three more days we’re going swimming!!” We did buckle down and sign up for a gym with a pool so that we could start trying to teach him to swim. He loves it and is full of enthusiasm even when he struggles.

He took the same approach when he randomly decided he wanted to make gummy bears. He asked me one day “Mom, can we make gummy bears?” And I said “I don’t know, I have no idea where to start on that.” And he says back “Well, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” Again began asking “When we could make gummy bears” and sure enough I had to figure it out.

And he began wanting to try all kinds of new food, which was awesome. Requesting to try hot chocolate, and guacamole, and tea, and salmon, and tzatziki, and smoothies, and RIBS (his favorite), to name a few.

His sense of humor is real. He can understand most of Rich’s little dad jokes that go over Harry’s head, and recalling inside jokes between us. A few minutes after Rich told him the “What’s black and white and red all over” joke, Finn came back with his own:

“What is brown and yellow and green all over?”      “What?”          “A sick giraffe” hahaha.

 

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The day that he mysteriously came home with his shorts on INSIDE OUT.

 

Theo

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Theo’s main stepping stones this year were starting nursery (half days M-F), and potty training. He’s learning how to make friends, and blossoming more into his vibrant little self. He’s sweet. So sweet. And fun and loving. Silly and musically inclined. And he loves his brothers and his sister so much. He began referring to Harry and Finn as “his boys” and to Viv as “his girl.” Saying things like “”Sorry Vivi, I gotta go play with my boys” “Daddy! Don’t scare my girl!” and “Hey let’s go to the zoo with you and mommy and my boys and my girl.” And most days, at school pick up, he greets me with “Love you mom.”

He alternates between playing with the big boys and playing with Viv. And seems to enjoy both equally and effortlessly. I have a feeling this will be his life. Although, he’s been increasing his time playing with Finn, while Harry is starting to a have a few separate interests, Theo and Finn have bonded a lot over their general silliness and love of video games. And more recently….. Theo’s “new found love” of wearing only his underwear. The big boys taught Theo how to play all of the video and computer games that they play. And he can totally hang with them! It’s crazy. They love to include him when they can.

He began attempting to drop his nap. He got into a pattern of not wanting to lay in his bed for nap time, so I let him lay on the couch for a while. Where he would fall asleep without fail everyday. At the end of the year, he takes one to two naps a week.

In late spring he FINALLY quit banging his head in bed. We moved him to the big boys’ room in a big boy bed and he stopped almost overnight. Partly because he didn’t have a crib side to bang on, I assume. When he gets upset or sick, he’ll still – even now – sit up and rock back and forth or get on all fours and rock back and forth. But, overall he’s doing great.

When he would rock in his crib, it was always a steady banging beat. And now, he sings more than either of the other boys ever did combined. Randomly, one day, he just started singing “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and pretending to strum a guitar along with himself in perfect rhythm. So, I think it’s related and natural for him.

Also natural for him, is kicking a soccer ball and riding his balance bike. He’s an instant whizz. In addition to something that comes natural for him, is a love of guns/weapons. I mean, seriously, obviously I certainly don’t promote violence or guns. We don’t have any anymore, and the other boys don’t even have any gun toys. But as if he’s born to do it, Theo fashions guns from everything – mostly legos. And his most treasured toy this summer was his bubble gun. And when it broke (because damn bubble guns always break) he says “Mom, I was thinking daddy could take me to the bubble gun store and get a NEW BUBBLE GUN!!!” For Christmas, I found a little play gun set with holsters. Needless to say – he loves them.

He is slowly but surely coming out of his eating funk. This time last year, I could barely get him to eat anything that wasn’t tan or brown, and he was losing weight. And now he eats several different fruits and vegetables, and will at least try something if I really ask. He’s learned to love oatmeal again, and spaghetti, and Japanese noodles, and fried rice, and ribs, and salsa, and hummus, and carrots/apples/sweet potatoes/bananas/grapes/peas/corn and hamburgers, and lots of other foods I never would’ve thought he’d work back up to.

The evolution of their eating habits is such a frustrating and tricky thing. But I find that patience (even though it’s pull-your-hair-out-annoying) is really the only thing that works. And nothing has made Rich and I happier than to see him enjoying food again.

His teachers tell me he does well in school, especially in Math. Weird, huh? But at home – following his brothers – he loves a good puzzle. I mean, just really loves to do puzzles. If he gets to pick which toy he wants to play with, he asks to pull the puzzles down. I would be interested to see the correlations between doing puzzles and being good at math. Because I haven’t been able to stop my boys from wanting to do puzzles. Right around age 2/3/4, all three of the boys asked to do puzzles everyday. And now, they excel at math. Got to be related…. maybe? Not sure. But Theo – as if it’s required of him – loves and wants to do a puzzle ALL THE TIME.

 

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With his gun of the day, built from Legos.

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Viv

Princess of the house. And not because we treat her that way, but because she has decided that it is so. She calls herself princess and our house a castle… all on her own.

She’s loves girly necklaces and bracelets, and everything pretty, pink, and sparkly. She, however, is not soft or gentle. While she may be shy when you first meet her, once she gets comfortable around you, she’s happy to be your boss. She’s tremendously loud, and there is no quieting her. No matter at home or in public. She rarely just talks. She mostly yells or cries for communication. She’s a tiny tyrant or a tiny storm. Uncontrollable, loud, and demanding.

And she already knows how to use her voice to manipulate her brothers. When I’d put the baby pool out in the garden, as soon as she saw me filling it up, she’d run outside – usually with clothes on, and get in the pool. And then she’d stand her ground and screech at the boys when they tried to get in the pool. Yelling “ME!” or “MINE!” She cries and asks them to bring her things. And they do. If I won’t give into her wishes, she’ll run to one of them to solve it.

She knows how it works.

When she’s not busy bossing us around, she’s incredibly sweet and silly. And just absolutely melts our hearts. She coos over all of her clothes and accessories, and her princess shows and movies, and her little playhouses and dolls and stuffed animals, and ponies and unicorns and tea sets. She has a bunch of Beanie Boos that she calls her ‘friends’ that she leaves in her crib. And she has a little stuffed doll she named “Daisy.” She loves to play with her Bitty Babies and push them around in the stroller. She loves it all. She loves for me to do her hair, get dressed and then admire herself in the mirror. She loves to call her self ‘cute!’ and ‘prettiful!’

She relishes if she gets to “help” me in the kitchen. Just absolutely loves it. And towards the end of the year, during certain times in the day, I’ve started letting her join the boys upstairs for playtime (without me to supervise), and she just thinks she is SO COOL.

She’s gone through a few weird phases, but for the most part she’s a great eater. And she’s not afraid to make a mess, still in some situations (like Oatmeal) preferring to use her hands to eat instead of her spoon.

She’s also not one little bit afraid to get dirty outside. In fact, if the boys are outside – she will be too. And she’ll be tromping around, picking up bugs right with them. In fact, she happily caught a snail in the garden and then proceeded to stick her finger into the snail. Totally grossing me out, along with all three boys.

I started having to give her ‘time outs’ for various infractions – mostly hitting Theo, when she didn’t get her way. She’s a little young for a time out, in my opinion. So I wasn’t sure if it would work. But it did and she has quite a few time outs depending on the day. She just likes to do as she pleases – which isn’t always the best.

 

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In search of a little break, and little bit of outside social interaction for Viv, she started going to a Nanny one day a week for the morning. And she’s made a little friend of her own, named Charlotte. They have the cutest little friendship, and it’s fun to see her excited about something outside of the house and her brothers.

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She loves to climb. All around. She has no fear, and it’s terrifying… but she does have great balance. Crazy girl.

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Her major love of the year was her scooter. After enough practice in the house, she’s really mastered it. And, she just goes and she LOVES it. It’s practically a part of her.

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Most recently, often dressing up at Hero Princess:

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kid words:

“I can spell Lion: a  s  q  t  a.  And I can spell Lemur: l  d  s  t  r  e. ”  (proudly smiling) Theo

“Vivi just has a twinkle in her eye.” Harry

“Viv is so cute I just want to punch her!” Harry

“I’m cute.” Viv

(while Harry is at tennis lesson)  “I hope Harry’s having fun.” Finn

“Mom, do you want me to carry the backpack?” Finn

“Mom. Theo and me are best buds.” Finn

“Mom. You’re such a newb.” Finn

Me, after being out “Theo have you been a good boy or a bad boy?” (half kidding)

“Both.” Theo

 

“You want to go to the potty mommy?” Theo

“Oh yes, I do” Me

“Great! Then you can go to school and get presents!” Theo

 

“It’s not a mess, it’s a party!” Finn

 

“Let’s high five! yes!” (slap) Finn and Theo

“Let’s face five!”

“Ah, no guys. Don’t do that.” Me

 

(watching descendants with Harry) “Wow, those are some good dancers.” Me

“Of course they’re good dancers, they’re pirates.” Harry

 

“Mom, are you gonna clean up the stuff on the counter. I like it better when it’s clean.” Harry

 

“I tagged someone today in rugby” Harry

“Oh ya? Awesome!” Me

“Ya… he was running right at me. And I was worried that my team might think it                   was weird if I didn’t tag him. So I did…. it’s part of the rules.” – Harry

 

“This shirt is SO COOL MOM! I LOVE IT!!!” Theo (about a Captain America shirt)

“This meerkat shirt makes me really happy” Finn

“I spy with my little eye something that is beautiful… you mom!” Finn

“YESSS!! I’ve always wanted a cookie jar SO BAD. And now we have one!! We have a cookie jar!!!” Finn

“I want to move because I just really like putting all of our things in boxes.” Harry

“Packing-up is my middle name.” Harry

“I want to clean up so that uncle Isaac thinks we have a nice house.” Harry

“Mom, do you want to hear a really loud fart?” Harry

“I belong to you, mom.” Theo

 

“Finn, at school, the teacher says you don’t ever raise your hand. But I think that you know the answer and you just don’t raise your hand because you’re too shy. Is that right… Is there ever a time when you don’t know the answer?” Me.

“Never.” Finn “There’s never a time when I don’t know it.”

 

(hands me a Minecraft toy) “You love it, don’t you.” Theo

 

(Theo licking the table) “What are you doing??” Me

“Something delicious.” Theo

 

“Mom, I’ve thought about it for a long time, and it makes me a little sad… but I’ve decided to switch my favorite animal from a fox to a tiger.” Harry

 

“Mom, why are you sad?” Finn

“Oh, I’m not sad. I’m just very tired. We’ve had a long fun day at the zoo and now                 daddy had to run into work which means I have to get all of you home, fed,                           bathed, and in bed by myself. And i’m just tired right now, that’s all.” Me

“Well….. maybe you shouldn’t have had so many kids.” Finn

 

“Mom, I gotta get my shoes on. Go outside with my boys and my girl. I love them all. Yep. That’s true.” Theo

(Finn says he never wants to get married) “FINN. If you see a girl and you think she’s beautiful and she sees you and she thinks you’re handsome then you’re gonna get married. There’s nothing you can do about it.” Harry

(Verbatim string of words from Harry, with no prompts or responses from me, riding the bus home from shopping) “I always buy the best gifts. We always try to do the right thing. I’m a great friend. Our family, we always make it in time – we always make it to the bus.”

“I’m so big now. This watch just makes me feel like a high schooler.” Harry

 

“I broke my necklace..” Me

           “Oh no! I loved that necklace!” Finn

 

(shopping in Lush, shouts) “Everything in here smells disgusting!!” Finn

(reading animal encyclopedia) “Elephants eat grass and roots and leaves.” (eye roll)                        “Everybody knows that.” Finn

“I’m ready for a cell phone mom. One of my own. I can call daddy. I’m ready for it. I am. I’m ready.” Harry

“I’ve got all the funkiest moves.” Finn

“These flags have a good and beautiful design.” Finn

“This muffin is attractive to me.” Finn

“Daddy is at work… just using his fixers.” Theo

 

(I gave Harry a bag of M&M’s after a successful trip to the store, on the bus home)

“How many can I have?” Harry

“As many as you want. It’s your bag to share with Finn.” Me

“How many are we gonna have!?!” Finn

“Well…. we don’t want to be unhealthy… so I was thinking 3.” Harry

“Ok, ya. I was thinking 5.” Finn

“Ok, yes. 5 will be okay.” Harry

“Yes!!” Both

 

“What if me and Jerome were walking down the street and a thousand girls were behind us?? In love with us??!! Haahaha” Harry

(Looking at his class picture) “Look at me…. I’m so smart and handsome.” Harry

 

“Mom. Does the water we drink come from the sewer?” Finn

“ahhhh, no.” Me

“OH, WHEW!” Finn

 

“If you’re going to play rough, then you’re going to get hurt. And when you get hurt, you just have to deal with it.” Harry to Theo

“You’re my favorite mom.” Theo

(when Erika and Jake were here) “There’s two mommies AND two daddies here. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!” Theo

“I’m proud of you mom.”Theo

“I’m not hungry because while all the other boys were playing tag rugby, I was eating all the sandwiches.” Finn

 

“We should look back at our Christmas list, and cross off the things that we already got from Grandma. C’mon Finn” Harry

“Na, I’ll just look at my toys to remember what I got” Finn

 

“I’m so happy just demolishing all these ribs.” Finn

 

“How’s your day going?” Harry

“No where.” Theo

 

Birthday Interviews

Harry –

  1. Now that you’re 8 what’s different? I’m smarter.
  2. How tall are you? um… really tall.
  3. What are you really good at? Coloring and drawing!
  4. What’s your favorite thing to do? Play Nintendo 2DS!
  5. what’s your favorite thing to eat? Hot dog
  6. Favorite friend? Thierry
  7. What do you want to be when you grow up? Lego builder
  8. What does daddy do at work? Works in a big office doing computers.
  9. What do you like best about mom and dad? I like best that mom is kind and creative and good at cooking. And dad is kind, and he’s also creative, and he’s fun. And he’s funny.
  10. How strong is dad? Super strong, like strong as an elephant.
  11. What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? um…. cook. because she’s really good at it
  12. What’s your favorite thing about Finn, Theo, and Vivian? I like Vivi because she’s cute and she’s funny. Theo is creative and funny and nice. The only thing I like about Finn is that he’s funny.
  13. What do you think of girls? um… I don’t know. I think they’re cool and smart.
  14. If you could have a super power, what would it be? Super strength, because then I could punch villains and jump high to kill villains.
  15. What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? Having 22 pounds (GBP). And going to Daniel’s party.
  16. Where do you want to go on vacation? something where a paradise was… ah, California!
  17. Are you going to get married someday? um, actually I think I am. Because I think I’m handsome. And you do too.
  18. How do you make cookies? Mostly, um, I forgot the first bit, but I know the end. What you do last, so mostly you get the cookies out of the oven. No – first you, oh now I remember. You have this dough, and you add chocolate chips and you mix it together in a bowl in a mixer. Then you put it on a plate in the oven. Then you get it out, it’s cooked and you use this thing that makes them into circles. And then you put them back in the oven and they are flat.
  19. Can you tell me a joke? Ah… no.
  20. What do you think of God and Jesus? I love them.

 

Finn –

  1. Now that you’re 6, what’s different? I’m taller.
  2. How tall are you? This tall – points to measuring chart.
  3. What’s your favorite thing to eat? PIZZA!
  4. Favorite friend? Yusef… since he was my first one.
  5. What do you want to be when you grow up? A zoo keeper.
  6. What does daddy do at work? He works on the computer.
  7. What do you like best about mom and dad? Mom is nice because you make breakfast for us. And dad is nice because he plays games with us.
  8. How strong is dad? Really really strong!
  9. What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? To eat breakfast.
  10. What’s your favorite thing about Harry, Theo, and Vivian? ummm.. Vivi’s cute. Theo’s kind. Harry is smart because he tells me everything he knows.
  11. What do you think of girls? They’re beautiful.
  12. If you could have a super power what would it be? Flying and laser eyes.
  13. What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? Swimming in the swimming pool at swimming lessons.
  14. Where do you want to go on vacation? Japan!
  15. Are you going to get married someday? Nope! I’m going to live with you.
  16. How do you make cookies? Um.. I don’t know. I like snowman cookies.
  17. Can you tell me a joke? Why was the pteradactyl in the toilet? (why?) Because the P was silent. hahahahaha
  18. What do you think of God and Jesus? They’re AWESOME and smart and good.

 

Theo –

  1. How tall are you? 3
  2. Now that you’re three, what’s different? I’m three.
  3. What’s your favorite food? um… carrots
  4. Who is your favorite friend? ahhh.. Joe.
  5. What do you want to be when you grow up? ah, 4. ah, 100.
  6. What does daddy do at work? He builds.
  7. What do you like best about mom and dad? I like best a kiss from mommy, I like a kiss from daddy.
  8. How strong is dad? 180.
  9. What’s mom’s favorite thing to do? Build on the legos.
  10. What your favorite thing about Harry, Finn, and Viv? A kiss from Harry. A kiss from Finn. A kiss from Vivi. Hahahaha
  11. What do you think of girls? hum…. a kiss?
  12. If you could have a super power, what would it be? Ah, a super man.
  13. What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? I fall down.
  14. Where do you want to go on vacation? Trains.
  15. Are you going to get married someday? I did.
  16. How do you make cookies? French Fries.
  17. Can you tell me a joke? Yes! Do you want to hear a construction joke? (yes) I’m still working on it. hehehe.
  18. What do you think of God and Jesus? That you want to give them a kiss and when I give them a kiss they give Vivi a kiss.

 

Mom Fails

Keeping the bathroom clean…. because boys. A plumber came to re-caulk the bathtub. He bends over and touches some liquid around the toilet and says “Now, is the toilet leaking?”

Me – “Ah, no. Wash your hands. I have three boys. Sorry.”

Forgot about Theo’s fundraiser. I was in Greece. He made a parfait to “sell” and I didn’t tell Grandma she’d need to buy one.

After the move, found condoms in the Pokemon cards.

Finn went to school and couldn’t get his new PE shoes on bc they still had the paper in them.

Accidentally packed Theo’s shirt for Finn to change into after morning rugby. And when I picked him up from school he was wearing Theo’s tiny shirt.

Took Finn to Harry’s piano lesson, where he suddenly needed to poop. And the only toilet is right next to his lesson room – which is within earshot. Harry couldn’t stop laughing and was also super embarrassed from Finn’s pooping sounds in front of his teacher.

Accidentally bought two shampoos instead of one shampoo and one conditioner. Put one of the shampoo bottles in the cabinet for later. Used the shampoo and bought new conditioner. Used them both, needed more. Incorrectly *remembered* that I had extra “conditioner” in the cabinet, so I bought shampoo, thinking I would now have a shampoo and a conditioner. When I got home realized I was wrong, and once again had two shampoos.

Long story but the words “Fu*k slime” came out of Finn’s mouth.

Ruined an entire batch of lentil soup by adding sugar.

Added spiced peanuts to my huge batch of trail mix for the kids, instead of regular salted peanuts. Had to dump out the entire batch and pick out the peanuts.

Set dry oats on fire in microwave.

 

and… *special edition* Dad fails:

Rich decided to go through the volunteer training class at school so that he would be able to volunteer on field trips. When they asked for his children’s classes and teachers, he proceeded to write Theo – Reception, Finn – 2D, and Harry 4S. All three of which are incorrect. He said the writing “reception” was just a total fluke that he didn’t realize until afterward. He knows the Theo’s not in Reception, but in Nursery. And he got the big boys’ year group right, but just the wrong teacher initial letter, which is totally understandable. It’s just frustrating, and slightly hilarious to get all three completely wrong.

Ordered the wrong bunk bed. Once put together, it was non-returnable. Put it together before he realized it was the wrong one. Had to order a second bunk bed and sell the first… for a third of the price.

 

The words “what does ‘eat a D’ mean??” came out of Harry.

Again long story, but all Rich on that one.

….. too funny not to add, love you honey.

 

 

 

OKAY! That’s it. 2017 locked up and in the books.

 

Goodbye, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Good Night.

To you, to you. To you and you and you.

 

 

 

 

Cotswolds

Its mom and me, again. On another girls day out.

This time – it’s the Cotswolds.

A picturesque country-side region of England (sort-of) west of London.

We took a big tour bus out from city center for this day. We did this in mid-July and the weather was absolute perfection.

There are quite a few Cotswolds tours that leave from London everyday, and many of them just do one or two villages and then go on to visit something else, like Stonehenge or the Downton Abbey house. But we decided that we might feel shorted on our Cotswolds time if we did a combo tour. So we went all-in with a four-village 3/4 day tour to the Cotswolds only.

 

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We had a great tour guide for the day. She gave us lots of information on all types of things including the sheep and wool trade of old century England and the construction of Cotswold-stone walls. We like learning, so we liked this.

In general it was a little busier and more commercialized that we realized. Which was fine… just not what we expected. See here:

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There were some great antique shops along the way that I found surprisingly charming. I bought a vintage necklace for Viv and the perfect teal vase.

 

The flowers were gorgeous everywhere.

We ate a very traditional lunch at a very traditional 18th century pub.

We posed by 14th century English cottages… that people still live in right now.

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If you read my post about Brussels, you’ll notice I’m wearing the exact same outfit.

I dubbed this ^ my official day-trip outfit.

It has everything I need. Moving on.

 

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We found our bus tour to be slightly odd on timing, and almost rushing us around. We think they could’ve cut one village to give us more time in the others. And our bus was sold out, and honestly a little tight on space. That being said – a bus tour is still nice because doing something like this on your own – driving – would have been much more stressful.

Regardless of that, we had a nice quiet day and at the last adorable village we enjoyed tea and scones by the river.  #win.

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Brussels

When my mom visited us this summer, we made sure to carve out a few days for her and I to do something fun. We went around a little on what those “somethings fun” should be but we landed on Brussels.

From London, you can train it to Brussels in about 2 hours.

Ka-Ching.

We took an early train there and an evening train back.

Spent the day. And it was just lovely.

Mom looked ahead, did some research, and found a handy little “walk of Brussels” tour on Pinterest. Turns out Brussels is blessedly walkable. Party! I would just like to say thank you for being walkable Brussels.

I like it, I appreciate it. I see you.

It makes your city even more destination-able than it already was.

Not having to worry about transit in foreign country = happy me.

Our “tour” ended up being perfect. I mean, as far as I know. We saw all the ‘major’ things.

We had plenty of time to eat and dilly around the chocolate shops.

That’s all I need.

 

Our Goals for Brussels –

Eat Chocolate

Eat Waffles

Eat Fries

Drink Beer

 

Secondary Goals –

“Touristy” things that might be in cahoots with or on the way to chocolate, waffles, fries, or beer.

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We arrived at the main train station (Midi/Zuid). We had previously googled how to take the train to the first stop on mom’s Pinterest tour, which was a beautiful park and palace.

We completed the first part of our day with ease and efficiency.

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And also – at the top of our walk we walked by this huge building with these massive flags hanging all over it.

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And I was like, “Oh look the German flag. Must be their embassy.”

And mom was like, “Are you sure, I don’t know. Could be a fancy Belgium building.”

And I was like “NO way, I definitely 100% know that is the German flag – geez mom, don’t you know your flags.”

We shortly found out however that I was wrong and that ^^ is in fact the flag of Belgium.

She graciously didn’t rub it in my face. But in my defense THIS is the German flag:

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Flag lesson over.

From there, we walked by some fancy museums (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Musical Instrument Museum, and Magritte Museum) and onward to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.

I have to say it’s pretty standard on the scale of “beautiful European Cathedrals.” I don’t know how to describe it like an Art Historian or an Architect. I mean, I know just enough to be dangerous, so it’s probably best if I leave it to the professionals. Just know that I’m always impressed and I never tire of seeing these places and being in them.

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From there we walked to the Grand Place. The Google definition of Grand Place is:

“Huge city square completely encircled by elegant historic buildings dating back to the 14th century.”

And that’s precisely what it is and it doesn’t disappoint.

It’s huge, vibrant, and beautiful.

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From there, you walk the surrounding area. You shop and search for Chocolate, waffles, and Fries.

You also search for the Mannekin Pis, which is this litte statue of a boy peeing.

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It is very important to the Belgiums. They dress him up in all sorts of outfits, and there are mini’s of him all over the shops.

I didn’t really like it. I don’t know…  I think that’s why I don’t even have a picture of us with it. But what’s weird is that I was compelled to buy a little statue of him at the train station. And here he sits in my house.

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Everyday, all day.

I don’t have an explanation.

 

Moving on – we were getting hungry and mom had done some research on where to find THE BEST Belgium waffle. And it happened to be right next to the Mannekin Pis.

 

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Mom got sweet – Strawberry and Nutella. I wasn’t quite ready to brave the sugar coaster, so I got a cheesy/savory waffle pocket.

Both were yum yum yum. Yummy yum yum. Double thumbs up.

Then mom got some Nutella on her white shirt, which is hilariously typical and I had to take a pic. Sorry mom!

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Other waffle displays we left uneaten:

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From there we continued to peruse and follow our Pinterest tour, while taking in some of the funky street art and some of the Belgium famous tapestries and lace.

I learned something new – Belgium is (additionally) famous for tapestries and lace.

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And then the chocolate shopping commenced.

You see one chocolate shop and it has the most beautiful display and the most amazing looking treats and the most incredible SMELL.

And you’re like “This shop is amazing!”

“I want to buy chocolate in here.”

But then, you remember you’re a lady and you’re required to shop around.  “If I keep walking I may find something that I like even better….”

And you can continue to do this all day in Brussels. Because there is literally a chocolate shop every 20ft.  Some of them have a folk-y sort of feel. They have chocolate treats but also a lot of other types of sweets and fun colored lollipops. In those shops – I would feel comfortable letting my kids come in. They have pretty colored tins, and mix-and-match bags.

Others are not that way – they are quiet and white with chocolate so elegantly styled and presented that the chocolates look like make-up instead of candy. And they have, like, 30 chocolates total in the whole store and that’s it. Nothing else fun. These shops are SERIOUS. No kids allowed. (I mean, I’m sure they’re allowed) Just in general, however, you feel like you should behave yourself.

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And then there are some in the middle. But either way, walking around you start to realize that some of the shops are doubled or even tripled around the city. This makes your lady brain relax a little. You can go ahead and start buying some chocolate – you’ve hit all the options.

Mom had again researched ahead where we should eat fries. The place was called Frit-land, and it was about mid-point in our walk. Obviously lots of other people had decided they were going to get their fries at Fritland too. Because when we happened upon it, the line was loooooong. But we were there and we decided to wait. We waited for 30 minutes and didn’t move. We jointly decided that maybe we weren’t going to have Frit-land fries and started making our way back to the Grand Place.

Once we left, the line seemed to loosen up a little, but not much. I’m not sure what was going on there. I think there might have been a big group or some sort of problem. I don’t know. How long do people wait for fries? How long does it take to make and distribute fries??

Not sure, but once back at the Place, we found a place to sit. Mom ordered cheese, fries, and a (Radler German style) beer for us to share.

 

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After snack time ,we made our final chocolate purchases and decided we needed to give ourselves plenty of time to figure out how to get back to the train station.

Even though we had googled and screen-shot-ed directions ahead of time, we found ourselves utterly confused at the French/Dutch/German speaking train station. We somehow figured out how to get tickets and then also found the platforms. But we COULD NOT figure out which train we needed to get back to Midi (which is the international train station). We kept switching platforms, trains kept coming, boards kept changing. We felt like we couldn’t make sense of anything. There didn’t seem to be a lot of (helpful) English speakers, or employees. I had a real mini-panic-flash that maybe we wouldn’t figure it out. Even when we thought we had it figured out and finally, bravely, decided to get on a train… I was not confident.

The root of our problem was that we didn’t realize that our destination (the international train station) called Midi or Zuid goes by two interchangeable names. We were only looking for Midi. So, we’d find Midi on the board – run to the platform – to only see the trains going to Zuid! And then repeat.

We got on the right train, though, and it was only a few stops before we arrived at MIDI/ZUID. Even with all that messing around, we ended up getting to MIDI way earlier than we anticipated. We had about 2 hours to kill, so we sat outside in the nice weather and had a nice dinner at the station.

With that much time to kill, we realized we would’ve had time earlier in the day to visit one of those museums we walked by or wait in the long Fritland line. But that’s just something you learn on your first time in a new place. We still accomplished our scholarly goals, and had a fun day together. The train back left around 7, and we were in London by 9 and home by a little after 10.

Adventure day to Belgium – done and in the books.

 

Corfu, Greece

 

GREECE.

oh, hello my love.

Greece.

Corfu to be exact.

Reflecting back on Corfu, my only thoughts are of utter bliss.

Just ahh…… brain melt type bliss.

 

Taking THIS trip to THIS place was one of the best things we’ve ever done.

1.Get Married

2. Have Kids

3. Go to Corfu

 

We knew we wanted a quick get-away once grandma arrived in June. So we stirred around about it for a few days and shopped deals. But, per the usual – we became overwhelmed with options. One night we really focused and searched all kinds of things. From Iceland to Venice to Budapest.

We both became frustrated and decided to go to bed.

It was midnight, Rich was brushing his teeth, I just clicked on one more random “deals in Greece” link on TripAdvisor. Corfu came up.

Flights, hotel, food. A price we thought was great.

He says, over brushing his teeth, ‘just book it…’

I would like to say ‘we have always dreamed of going to Greece’ or ‘we researched thoroughly where we wanted to go’ and all that. But truth is at the end of a long a somewhat depressing evening, we picked Corfu on an exhausted whim.

Booked at 12:30am.

We took a VERY early flight out of London. I think we left the house at 3:30am, and had the most charismatic cab driver take us to the airport. We never take a cab. Cabs are to be avoided at almost all costs. But the train to the airport doesn’t run all night. Enter cab… begrudgingly.

This put us at the airport at 4am-ish. The airport at 4am was strange and unexpectedly lively. Families with children, large groups, all kinds. Some people were drinking beer and some were eating breakfast. It was really weird and, like kinda fun or something. I don’t know – I was just really happy at the airport.

Fly out at 6. Three hour flight, time change, cab to hotel – arrive at hotel around 11ish.

This is my ‘no make up, been up since 3am – but relieved to be in Greece face’

 

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The Resort.

Ok, so, let’s clarify – we went to Corfu. But also we went to a RESORT in Corfu. A resort that markets and caters heavily to Brits and western-type travelers. Like…. if you just stayed at the resort and didn’t venture off anywhere – I’m not sure how ‘Greek’ your experience would be. You’re here and you’re going to experience Greece, but also don’t worry because you’ll have all the things you’re used to, also…. if you want them.

Like air conditioning or fried chicken.

They served very good food with authentic Greek options, but also lots of “Brit” and “American” options. And then, of course, there was the beautiful authentically Greek seaside scenery that I suppose you would experience with the resort. But that would be the extent of it.

Which – btw – THERE IS ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with.

It was hard for Rich and I to want to leave the resort. We almost didn’t. Like, I could totally just live there full time. I could promote it – do commercials for it. I can’t say enough positive things about. I’m just making the disclaimer that I think we ‘cheated’ a little in not doing something more ‘authentic.’

But do I care?

Not one damn bit.

Do not fear, we peeled ourselves off our beach chairs and left the resort.

We did. We cultured.

So. there.

My favorite thing about this resort was the quiet.

Lack of sound.

Basically just the ocean sounds. And the general sense of having the place to yourself. Which was odd. There were a lot of people at the resort. I know this because I would see them at meal times. But then after the meal times, I don’t know… everyone dispersed. There were several pools – one of which was strictly kid geared. The kid pool had it’s own thing going on. The more adult pools had a party-type thing going on. But our favorite spot was down on the “beach” where it was blissfully quiet and there was a great little cafe.

The coast where we were staying was rocky, but they manufactured a little sandy beach, with a cool deck-type situation where you could wade (or jump) into the water.

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See how there are not very many people in most of those pictures? It was like that often in the resort. Just not very crowded. Quiet, calm.

 

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The Weather.

When we were there in early June = #absoluteperfection

 

The Town.

On the second day, we ventured to Corfu town by way of a bus that picked us up by the resort. It dropped us off in town and picked us up in town. We were able to peruse the town and take a sunset cruise complete with dinner and real Greeks doing traditional dancing.

When we finished eating on the boat – music just came on and the crew of the boat just appeared on the deck and started dancing! Like, clapping the hands up high, twisting, kneeling, walking in a square moves. It was interesting, and obviously something they’d done their entire lives. Sadly I don’t have a picture of that. I guess I was too swept away…. and I was also a little seasick and cold from the sea breeze in my sleeveless top. No matter how warm it is during the day – bring a coat on the ocean, people!

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The Food.

Mostly yogurt and honey. And then, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, seafood and wine.

We had great food everywhere we went.

Most of our meals were at the resort, but we also ate in Corfu town, on our boat cruise, and at a cafe down the road from the resort, perched above the water called Barbayiannis Cheers Bar.

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Yogurt deserves a Gold Star. We’ve all heard of Greek Yogurt. Maybe some of us have heard of Greek honey.

(and as I have in other posts – I would like to point out what a damn fool I looked like taking a picture of the yogurt bowl)

THIS yogurt is…. served in a huge bowl, accompanied by a huge bowl of honey.

You scoop a couple scoops of yogurt and then you drizzle drizzle.

And it’s the sort of experience that makes you re-evaluate. Your brain doesn’t properly process what is happening. There is confusion and shock.

On our first dinner at the buffet, Rich who doesn’t even eat, or really like yogurt says “I can’t believe I’m about to say this… but… I’m going back to get more yogurt.”

We became absolutely crazy for the yogurt and ate it with every meal.

Creamy, light and rich at the same time. Sweet, but not too sweet.

Flavorful, fresh. Cut it with that amazing honey……

I know this is hard to understand. Because yogurt is just yogurt and you move on with life. But all I’m saying is…. GREEK YOGURT IN GREECE IS SO GOOD that you’ll be mad about it.

 

The other.

Besides eating, and visiting the town, we layed around on the beach. That’s always my absolute favorite.

Me, in my beach chair, when we started to get hungry one day “I’m getting pretty hungry. I really want to go get some food. Walk over to that restaurant and eat something seafood-y. Sounds amazing…. but I’m just not sure it’s worth getting up out of this chair. It’s tough babe. Do you think they would bring food over here to us? How can we tell them??”

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We also unexpectedly found ourselves swimming in the ocean. I say “unexpectedly” because I’m not really a swimmer. I LOVE to go to a lake, or go to a beach, or be on a boat. However – I do not like to swim.

I mean, I’m not afraid… and I CAN swim – if it is required of me. When I was a kid and went to 4H camp, and I had to tred water for 5 minutes before they let us take out a canoe – I crushed that. But I never EVER swim for enjoyment. I’ve just never really enjoyed it that much. When lazying about near a body of water, I usually just dip my toes in to cool off, or wade in half way or something.

BUT – Finn went on a kick in late spring where he was obsessed with going to swim school. It was too late to sign him up for lessons, so we started taking him to the pool at the gym and just trying to teach him ourselves. So there I am, studying instructional swim videos on YouTube. And now I’m a swim teacher.

ANYWAY – I had been in a swimming sort of place. I was a little hot on the beach, and I decided to just get in the water for a little bit. I waded in and I found myself wanting to swim. A lot. Like, way more than Rich was up for. Like, I swam way way out by myself. And just swam and swam and swam. Under water, over water. And it was so awesome. It was cool and refreshing, and I had to exert so much energy and then I could eat all I wanted. And the best part was that I surprised myself. I’ve never swam in the sea like that. I’ve never WANTED to. But, I guess I just do that now.

I just had the best time swimming in the ocean like a boss.

Maybe it was all the yogurt. I don’t know…

Here is a picture of how swimming made me feel. And also, how the ocean water in combination with the sun made my hair have legit ‘beach wave’ for the first time ever. And also – the rare occasion in which I let myself be photographed in a bathing suit.

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ON THAT NOTE

feelings about bathing suits –

I have come to a point where I feel I need to wear a one-piece bathing suit instead of a two-piece. (In that ^ picture, my arm is crooked under my chest, showing what looks like belly skin. But I am – in fact – wearing a one piece.) And I think it’s probably easy for most women to understand the reasons why I feel that way.

However I found myself to be over-dressed in my one-piece in Corfu. Once I noticed it, I started looking. And I only found TWO OTHER women wearing a one piece bathing suit the entire time we were there – and one was a tankini.

At all the pools, at the beach, around the resort. I was (essentially) the only one.

Women of all shapes, sizes, and ages wore two pieces – or sometimes only the bottom piece. And it didn’t matter what they looked like.

It just didn’t matter.

And we weren’t at a nude resort.

IT WAS JUST THE WAY.

Obviously it comes down to a cultural difference. From my standard American perspective the thinking is “If you don’t look a certain way, you better go ahead and cover up.”  This makes a healthy mother of four like me feel ashamed to wear a bikini. Meanwhile, the Italian 80-year old next to me confidently and freely walks the beach in hers. She has no fear of judgment or ridicule or whispers. And neither does the Greek 40 year old, the German 25 year old, or even the Brit 30 year old.

During my laze-ing around I pondered these thoughts. Overall I’m just annoyed. I want to be that comfortable with myself.

I think most of the European/Greek women think “I’m at the beach and the appropriate attire is a bikini.”

I still think about it now – months later.

Modestly is different. That is a different cultural or religious choice. While I think you should respect yourself, I don’t consider myself to be modest. Living in London, I see actual modest women on a daily basis and they don’t show a lick of skin below their neck. I don’t subscribe to those notions and I should be able to wear a bikini if I so desire – because that would be appropriate beach attire and that is the only reason I need.

Or… at least that’s the thought.

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Alright – that’s all on Corfu. I give it 5 stars. Or 80 billion…. however many it wants.

If ever my path crosses again with Corfu, I will be a lucky person. And perhaps a less-dressed one….

 

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Where we stayed:

https://www.marbellabeachcorfu.com/hotel/special-offers/bargain-deals?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIq4DW2s6a1wIVhIeyCh3bjAPGEAAYASAAEgI8dfD_BwE

Changing Houses

Ok… I’m finally ready to write about this.

 

We have changed houses.

Not moved. Because when I say “we’re moving” everybody tends to over-react.

This is me, with almost every other parent/friend at school:

“We’re moving…..”

“Oh my goodness!! Where to?!?”

“Just Gordondale.”

“oh.. oh good. That’s nice.”

When I say ‘changing houses’ FOR SOME REASON it is much better received.

So there it is. We changed houses.

 

Here’s the thing. We don’t ENJOY moving, even though I know our life choices make it appear that way. Rich and I will hit 10 years of marriage this June and we’ve lived in many different homes. 8 to be exact.

Not typical, I know.

Some moves were our choice, others weren’t. For the official record I would just like to chronicle our moves and why they happened. And then everyone will see once and for all… that… it makes sense….

1 – apartment in Washington DC = Summer 2007 – Fall 2007. Moved because Rich took a job in Chicago. And because I was a little whiner who didn’t like DC.

2 – apartment in Schaumburg = Fall 2007 – Fall 2008. 1 whole year! Moved because our year lease was up and we were expecting Harry, and wanted something “bigger.”

3 – townhouse in Palatine = Fall 2008 – Fall 2009. Moved because our landlord foreclosed. Waaa waaah.

4 – townhouse in Schaumburg = Fall 2009 – Fall 2010. Moved because our landlord foreclosed. What? Again? A different landlord? Yes. Double Waaa waaaaaaaaaaah.

5 – townhouse in Aurora = Fall 2010 – Spring 2013. 2.5 years! Moved because we decided to build a house

5.5 – Mom and Dad’s house 🙂 = I lived here for four months with the boys while our house was being built. Rich stayed with friends in Chicago and came home on the weekends.

6 – Oswego house = moved IN Fall of 2013, SOLD and moved out Summer of 2015 because we are insane. Didn’t quite make it 2 years.

6.5 – back at Mom and Dad’s for a month because our house sold too quickly.

7 – Stroud house = Fall 2015 – Spring 2017. Moved because of several reasons.

8 – Gordondale house! Spring 2017 – …………… ?

So… it doesn’t seem that bad when it’s all laid out and explained, right???

Right??

RIGHT?!?!

Right.

I’m glad we agree.

 

A lot of different factors lead us to the decision to move this time around.

Basically we were paying too much in rent.

Way too much.

Here’s the thing: we knew we were going to have to move in October regardless. Our landlord was wanting too much money from us.

Quick tip: if your landlord/rental management agency demands anything over a 3% raise on your rent after ONE YEAR, they are out of bounds. 3% is more than enough to cover fluctuations in the market.

Last summer, our landlord asked for a 15% raise in rent. IS THIS REAL LIFE?!?

We knew that was crazy but we didn’t know what else to do. As a GOOD tenant, you have a little bit of power, in that if you leave your landlord will incur costs and time in finding a new good tenant. The Stroud house is at the top of the market on size and quality alone. And it is completely furnished. We get all that. We were happy to have it. But, we were still paying alot lot lot. At the thought of moving last year, we wanted to vomit… so… we compromised on an 8% raise and re-signed for the year. We didn’t like it, I mean – we already paid ALOT.

This year, though, we’re more settled. Things have calmed down. WE have calmed down. “Changing houses” didn’t seem so bad.

WE KNEW, we just knew, that our landlord was going to ask us for more. We also knew that we were not willing to pay any more. So, we started looking around… and come to find out, prices had gone down and we now pay 500-800/month more than other comparable properties.

ahhh…… what now? NO.

Not cool.

So, we could either wait till October when our lease is up. Keep paying our super high rent and have more pressure to move by an October deadline, or we could start looking now… and possibly leave early.

Here’s the other thing: It’s relatively stupid to pay too much for rent. You don’t have to. That’s the wonderful thing about renting. If you don’t like it, YOU CAN LEAVE.

I recently found out I was paying too much for the hand soap that I like and I was like super mad about it. HAND SOAP.

I don’t like to spend unnecessary money. Not even a little. I don’t think anyone with four kids does. I’m a shop-arounder. I’m the queen-returner. And I’m super practical. I don’t like buying things that don’t serve a purpose. I have to convince myself to buy ‘decor’ items, with the argument that their purpose is to be ‘decor.’ I wear socks with holes in them and shirts with stains because they still work. Stuff like that.

I don’t consider myself to be cheap because I appreciate and see the value in spending money on the appropriate things when the time calls. But I will not pay more for something if I don’t have to.

I’ve got other things to spend that money on.

Horrendously over-paying for rent is not on my list of “appropriate” spending.

We crunched the numbers and decided that even after we incurred moving costs and possibly FURNISHED AN ENTIRE HOUSE, that we could still save money in the long run.

We called the rental management company, asked if we could get out of our lease. They said yes, and that was the turning point. We realized we were going to move.

Sooner rather than later.

And the hunt began.

 

HOUSE HUNTING in LONDON

(specifically Wimbledon)(specifically walking distance of Wimbledon Park Primary)

Being a family of six in the city is sometimes stressful. Searching for a house is one of those times. You have to decide what you’re willing to compromise on. What can we deal with? What are the deal breakers?

Side note on homes in London vs. the homes in America (in general): They are different. Set your expectations accordingly.

Now that the boys are all three in school and doing very well, we were basically not willing to budge on location. The agents kept asking us, “Can you do Croydon? Can you do Putney? Can you do central Wimbledon?”

Me “Are you dim.. I said walking distance to Wimbledon Park Primary. Three times already.”

– I didn’t really say that. But I certainly thought it…

We could move out of the area and save money. We could. Save alot.

We could move out of the area and get a big-giant-house. We could.

But we had time on our side, we weren’t desperate yet. We could prioritize NOT-uprooting-the-boys-from-school.

As we started looking around and touring properties, we realized one thing: we were going to have to go ahead and break our lease. We kinda thought we could have our cake and eat it too. Stay in our house and look for something new. But we began to realize that most properties that are up for rent are empty and not willing to wait for you to give your current landlord “60 days notice.”

“ah, yes, we like this house. can we move in in 3 months?”

…. doesn’t really seem to work that way.

If we weren’t willing to break the lease, we could potentially continue to see properties that we couldn’t jump on… all the way to October. We needed to be free to move in order to snag something that came up. The downside of this, of course, is that you could break your lease, not find anything, and then end up with literally no home.

We had to jump off the cliff, break the lease, and find a place to move on the fall down.

It may seem like a risky move when you have four kids, and it seems that way because IT IS THAT WAY.

It’s not like we didn’t think we would find something. We knew we would find SOMETHING. It was just a matter of which concession we would be willing to make. Will we have to walk really far? Five bedrooms is out of the question. There just aren’t any. We know for a fact that this 5 bedroom is SUPER RARE. We have to go down to four or even three bedrooms. Will it just have to be ‘not quite as nice’?

All that considered, we just did it. We decided to break the lease early and have some faith. We’ll find something. We will. We’ll find something.

After that there was drama. Most of which, I see no need to re-tell. The landlords tried to fight us on the lease break. We were IN THE RIGHT, legally. There was nothing to fight.

It got a smidge ugly. Lease-break-Gate, I think I’ll call it.

Like usual, we forged ahead.

We were scouring, SCOURING, for a new house in the square inch of land where we wanted to live.

We need to be walking distance from the school. So draw a little circle around the school.

Now – we need to have enough space (that’s a loose term).

So, knock out 90% of the available properties.

Also – we need it NOT to be a million dollars.

And – please-Lord-above could we get a dryer.

And – please-Almighty-Lord-above a downstairs toilet too.

And.. that leaves you with…………… 2 properties.

I know – I’m asking for too much.

But I’m just so tired everyday and I need a new house and I have 60 days. I’ll be a good little shepard, I promise. I have to potty train two toddlers, I really need a downstairs toilet.  Oh, and I need to do six people’s laundry and bedding….

Can I live with three bedrooms if the living space is big enough?

If I have to choose between having a dryer and having three bedrooms instead of four?

I THINK I MIGHT CHOOSE A DRYER….. What world do I live in?

It was honestly more stressful than our move over here, and it consumed our thoughts and time for the first three months of the year.

Then one day the clouds parted, and the sun shone. A new house came up.

A house for us.

A perfect house for us.

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  • 4 bedrooms
  • 2 min WALK TO SCHOOL, even closer than we used to be (which is also by the train, the bus, the grocery store, and the doctor)
  • 2.5 baths (including one on the ground floor!)
  • Laundry! Washer/Dryer combo machine. But, I’m NOT ABOUT to complain about anything.
  • spacious garden with shed!
  • beautiful and new throughout
  • great layout that could easily be Vivian-proofed
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The beautiful front door.
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The view from the entry way.
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Half Bath under the stairs.
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Kitchen from front.
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Kitchen from back.
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The cooker.
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The first thing to function in the new kitchen. Tea and coffee area.
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Living Room.
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Up the stairs…
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First Bath
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I just like this.
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Landing.
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Gonna be boys room.
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Gonna be Playroom/Guest room/extra Boy room
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Gonna be Viv’s Room.
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Another set of stairs.
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Third floor Master Bedroom.
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From the front of the room.
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The view out of the balcony doors. Hello everyone!
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And on the other side of the door, the Second full bath.

 

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Hidey holes for Dishwasher and Washer/Dryer Combo machine.
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Behind the doors. Pantry, Fridge, Freezer.

I jumped on it so fast. I think my fingers sizzled as I called the estate agent.

We viewed it, but I didn’t even need to. It was love-at-first-sight-on-RightMove. We met the new landlords. We like them. They like us. They’ve been in the house for 16 years, they recently renovated the kitchen and the loft. Basically they’re solid. The new rental management agency is solid too – they proved that to us through their very professional behavior through every turn of Lease-break-Gate, and followed that up with winning paperwork and lots of care and attention.

 

I love this house so much.

Let’s get some perspective. Rarely, if EVER EVER, does one “down-grade” or “down-size” into a property like this in London, of this Earth. And that’s probably the most telling of how much we were over-paying on Stroud. And why the whole mess was worth it.

Hands down – I can look at that list up there, and say that this is my favorite house we’ve lived in. Including the one we built. It’s smaller in size than the last two houses we’ve lived in, but it doesn’t matter because it just fits us really well. I’ve always wanted a house the was JUST big enough. Not too big, because I’m weird about unused space. Because every space must serve a PURPOSE… or two or three.

I like things simple. I’m the opposite of a hoarder. This house has room for all of my people, and room for all of the appropriate stuff and no more after that.

Happy.

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This move was very different from all of our other moves.

One, because we didn’t have any furniture or furnishings. We didn’t have the big stuff like beds or a table. But we also didn’t have a spoon or a trash can or a toilet brush. It was all just there in Stroud when we moved in. The only things we moved over here with were clothes, bedding, toys, and a few select kitchen items.

And Two – because it was just a few streets over.

And Three – because the leases overlapped and we had both houses for a month.

When we got the keys to the new house, we began measuring, planning, and ordering furniture. We wanted to try and have it mostly set up before moving the kids over. Deliveries came almost everyday. I ran around to different stores every other day and pieced the new kitchen together.

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And then, I started packing up our things at Stroud. The kids were on break from school. That meant I had mover helpers. I also have four strollers. I’m resourceful. Everyday, I’d load up the strollers with our STUFF and we’d push a load over.

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Theo made sure to always bring his potty seat!

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If you think I don’t know how ridiculous this is, you’d be wrong.

I do know.

And yet, I’m certainly not above this.

Why would I hire movers or rent a truck when it can easily be done this way?

Rich was like “All the neighbors probably see you guys and think ‘Oh that poor woman, her husband is too cheap to hire movers so he makes her move all of their things over one trip at a time. I see her walking loads over everyday, with the kids…. making them push strollers too!'”

I was like “I don’t care what anyone thinks!”

Plus, the kids had fun doing it.

Whatever.

I laughed on a lot of these trips… it was just as bananas as it looks. Papa (who was here to LITERALLY save us) started referring to it as our ‘urban migration.’

Perfect.

But you know what? Nobody ever even gave us a second look.

That’s London.

In the evenings Rich and I, and Papa, would take turns taking loads over and setting up and building furniture.

We initially thought that we would rent a van or truck or something for one weekend. But as the loads slowly went over and our things in Stroud diminished, I looked around and said to Rich “I think we can WALK our whole house over there.”

And he answered back “Ya, I think so too.”

And that’s what we did.

The biggest thing we had was Viv’s crib. Brought over in two trips by daddy, Papa, and the Sit N’ Stand stroller.

By Easter weekend, the kitchen was set up and most major furniture was in place. Our goal by Sunday was to bring over everything we needed for the kids to start sleeping there. Everything left at Stroud could continue to be brought over by the stroller caravan. So, we re-located the kids and all of their essentials. We left them at Gordondale with Papa and went back to start packing up everything that was left.

At this point one of our neighbors knocked on the door

“Um, I just saw Rich walking down the street carrying a television. Please let us take a car load over for you.”

Me “Oh no, really, we’re alright! We’re just walking things over a little at a time. We have another week or so. We’re doing ok!”

Her “No, really, we’re home all day – let us just take one load over. It’s not trouble at all.”

Me, “Well, ok…. maybe. I’ll see.. maybe, ya…? I’ll pack some more and let you know.”

Her “Please do.”

I hustled and packed up the rest of our things, and we knocked back on the neighbors door an hour later accepting their offer to help. It took not one car load, but a gracious two. And after that we were moved in!

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Settling in a new place is always more of a marathon than a sprint, especially with LIFE going on. I feel like we’ve done well, all things considered.

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The garden was an unexpected problem. It was filled with gravel and looked like this:

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Don’t get me wrong, the kids LOVED all the gravel. They knew immediately what to do with all of that. Trucks came out, the whole deal. But it only took a few minutes each time for the boys to start throwing and kicking and for Viv to start trying to eat them. So it shot up to the top of the to-do list. We laid down some weather proof tiles. On top of that we rolled on some artificial grass. We cleared the deck of furniture and pots, and trimmed all the scary hedges.

And, Ta Da! A usable outdoor space for us.

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Now that we have some furniture in place, this is how we are making this house work for us:

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Anyway….

That’s why we did it. How we did it. And where we stand now.

I mean, even as I write this, there are boxes of furniture still to be put together.

Still things to be sorted and put away. Still things to be made “perfect.”

“Decor” to buy….

My list is enormous.

But we’re in, we’re moved, we’re functional and then some. Most of all, we’re relieved we did it and we’re happy.

Onward!