Having a Look About

Covent Garden gets its Christmas on!

Covent Garden gets its Christmas on!

It’s Day Two of the “Five Months in Five Days” series, and we’ve arrived at… drumroll…November!

What’s that?  No suspense?  No surprise?  You guessed that was coming?  Hmmm.  Why was there no spoiler alert??

One of my favorite kinds of street entertainment!

One of my favorite kinds of street entertainment!

Jump Start the Holidays

One Saturday night early in November, we took a little outing down to Covent Garden.  What a nice surprise to find the halls all decked and the crowds feeling festive!  I usually hate it when any season starts before its time.  Don’t show me Easter candy before Valentine’s Day; and please keep the red foil hearts in the warehouse until after New Year’s Eve!  But then, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.K., so what’s to keep us from starting the Christmas season in early November here?  In any case, the early Christmas vibe at Covent Garden that night was working.   A string ensemble entertained on the lower level– dancing around, spinning their cellos, and rocking the garden with the rockin-est of classical music– while a crowd watched from the tables nearby and the steps and balconies above.

IMG_0796This year’s decor featured spinning disco balls that cast snowflake lights all around the halls.  It was like some well done mashup of a party and a stage production– I kept feeling that tickle of anticipation I always feel when the Nutcracker Overture starts and the curtain comes up to all the people going to Clara’s family Christmas party.  (Does anyone else love that scene and get that same feeling??)  I snapped a thousand pictures on my iPhone– very few of which actually turned out at all.  We peeked at the macarons in Laduree, I ogled the soaps carved so beautifully into flowers at one of the stalls, and Clay let the kids pick candy at the ‘penny candy’ stall.  I think we even went upstairs in Pollock’s Toy Shop to see the puppet theatres and other old-fashioned toys.  When we’d soaked in the atmosphere for a while, we stopped for mulled wine and hot chocolate at one of the outdoor cafes with those tableside heaters that look like torches inside glass tubes?  It was too cozy!  (In fact, it was  probably was a little too cozy for the 20-somethings on a date at the table approximately 30 millimeters from ours… but it didn’t bother us!)

About Town

The Horseshoe pub is always on the list of stops.

The Horseshoe pub is always on the list of stops.

We had a full house for Thanksgiving, with Will and Chloe home for the holiday.  Since they had already traveled several time zones to be with us for a few days, we decided to stay in London.  We managed to procure a nice, farm-raised turkey– for something like an elbow and an ankle, if not an arm and a leg, as most of the British turkeys were apparently not on the market until December.   But we celebrated a proper American Thanksgiving, right down to the pumpkin pie.  And we had American guests– two of Chloe’s friends (one ASL, one Marblehead) who were in London without their families.  I was so grateful to have the whole family together this year.  We packed a lot into those days.  Here’s a look…

View across the courtyard at The British Museum.

View across the courtyard at The British Museum.

I love this bookshop across the street from the British Museum.  Can anyone place the name Jarndyce?  Leave your response in the comments! (no fair googling it!)

I love this bookshop across the street from the British Museum. Can anyone place the name Jarndyce? Leave your response in the comments! (no fair googling it!)

My favorite umbrella shop.

My favorite umbrella shop.  Yes, they have whole shops devoted to umbrellas in London.

Quinn was so happy to have the Bigs home.

Quinn was so happy to have the Bigs home… we ALL were!

Before Will went back to the U.S., Quinn decided he really wanted a #4 buzz cut like his big brother.

Before Will went back to the U.S., Quinn decided he really wanted a #4 buzz cut like his big brother.

And a Few Other Things

Also in November?  Mudlarking– digging around in the muddy banks of the Thames at low tide for whatever you can find!  It’s a time-honored tradition– and a way that some folks made their living back in Victorian times.  Claire’s class had a field trip to see what it was like, as well as to study the ecology of the Thames.   One kid dug up the sole of a hob-nailed boot– perhaps not valuable, but certainly old and interesting.  But mostly we did a lot of fishing around in tidal pools for freshwater shrimp and other “treasures” of the biological kind.  The group I was chaperoning collected a great Chinese Mitten Crab specimen– the guide looked it over and was excited to show the kids because he was obviously a ‘warrior’ who had survived a lot as he was missing some of his limbs.  Trouble is, while the children were mucking in pools down the way from our bucket, our little crab became a seagull’s lunch.  We’d left the poor old warrior out like a buffet for the birds!  Yes.  I felt bad about that.  What?  You think I should have let the kids go play near the river while I stayed close to the crab?  Still, it was fun to be down on the Thames, and the kids loved it, which is always so great to watch.  Coincidently, not long after the trip I picked up a book called DODGER, by Terry Pratchett.  It was a treat to read, with all kinds of Victorian characters– real and fictional– springing to life.  And yes, there was mudlarking in it.

We closed out the month with another bit of Christmas: a carol singalong at the church of St Martin in the Fields.  It’s one of my very favorite places in London to hear live performances, and it was really special to hear all those English carols we’ve listened to from the Chieftains for many years.  Last year Clay and I went to hear the Messiah by candlelight there.  This year we went to the sing along with the Littles instead (because they were begging me to take them out caroling, and I simply had to find a different way to scratch that itch!)  The church is in Trafalgar Square, so it’s also a great place to go for a nice little hit of London spirit– what with the National Gallery, the Nelson column, the fountains and the lion statues, all the theaters and all the diverse London people.  It’s also a beautiful, beautiful place.  I love the window behind the altar (look closely and pick out the cross and the Light in the center).  It was created and installed after the old, traditional stained glass window was shattered during the Blitz.

The sanctuary of St Martin in the Fields during a Christmas concert.

The sanctuary of St Martin in the Fields during a Christmas concert.

The older I get, the more I want to pause at this time and breathe.  And call it cultural conditioning if you want, but most of all I want to be thankful.  November seems like a very good time for that.

Five months in five days?

Time to pay the piper

Time to pay the piper

Much as I’d like to blame my blogging lapse on something dramatic and interesting– like an extended backpacking trip in the Himalayas with no satellite uplink for blogging.  Or perhaps an amnesia-inducing, but otherwise injury-free fall from a scenic overlook in Scotland?  Or more realistically, British Telecom and Virgin media internet services were down… for FIVE months!  Could happen, you know.

But no.  It was just me.  I checked out for a while.  I don’t know why, exactly, but every time I sat down to write (which was, admittedly, not that often), I could hardly finish a paragraph, let alone write a coherent blog.  Please hold your thoughts on whether I am ever really coherent.  With encouragement from a friend (you know who you are), I am back.  And I’ve set myself a challenge:  to summarize the last five months in five blogs over the next five days.  I don’t know if any of us has the endurance for this, but here goes…

Edinburgh in October

Edinburgh Castle from across the Princes Street Gardens

Edinburgh Castle from across the Princes Street Gardens

The Scottish countryside above Edinburgh.

The Scottish countryside above Edinburgh.  Nearly at the top of Arthur’s Seat.

It only takes a little more than a 4-hr train ride– part of it shockingly gorgeous, with the North Sea on one side, and the vast, rolling, sheep-dotted Scottish countryside on the the other– to get to Edinburgh, Scotland from London.  And what a great city it is!  We spent a glorious weekend there at the beginning of October: sunshine and architecture and history and bagpipes and castles and hiking to the top of Arthur’s Seat, an enormous bluff (or crag or small mountain or something) at the edge of the city.  And haggis and whisky, of course.  One must have the whisky to get past the thought of what is in the haggis…(hint: comes from a sheep and is cooked in a sheep stomach! I know, ewww!)  Maybe once was enough for the haggis, but we will definitely head back to Edinburgh again.

With Madeline and Bo near the University.

With Madeline and Bo near the University.

Added to the fun was seeing Chloe’s good friend (and our family friends), Madeline and her dad, Bo.  Madeline is a student at Edinburgh University now, and her dad was in town for the weekend.  Seeing old friends in a different part of the world always gives me a comforting sense of continuity despite all that has changed in our lives in the last two years.  Kind of a reminder that those years in Massachusetts are part of who we are, and we carry with us the experiences and friendships from those days.  Nevertheless… we had breakfast with our friends, and then we left them to their time together, and we went off to explore Edinburgh.

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The Firth of Forth in the background… no, I don’t have a lithp! Maybe I should just say it’s a bay on the North Sea.

An Edinburgh street...

An Edinburgh street at dusk.

A doorway into a courtyard bearing one of our family names:  Jollie.  The city is a warren of little courtyards and alleyways, and even old ruins of streets and city under today's city streets.  Fascinating place!

A doorway into a courtyard bearing one of our family names: Jollie. The city is a warren of little courtyards and alleyways, and even old ruins of streets and city under today’s city streets. Fascinating place!

The city is a fascinating and lovely place.  I’ll spare you the history lesson this time, but we can’t wait to go back there!

Arthur's Seat looms over the city, and makes a lovely afternoon hike if you want to feel like you're in the highlands.

Arthur’s Seat looms over the city, with Holyrood Park and its walking paths, which make a lovely afternoon hike if you want to feel like you’re in the highlands.

View over the city.

View over the city toward the castle (elevated in the background on the right).

Regatta in a Hurricane

Team meeting by the tent-- Chloe is in the royal blue shirt.

Team meeting by the tent– Chloe is in the royal blue shirt standing back by the boat trailers.

Just a couple weeks after our Scotland getaway, I jetted off to Charlottesville to spend Parents’ Weekend at the University of Virginia with Chloe.  When we booked the flight shortly after leaving Chloe at school last summer, we didn’t know that she would make the UVA women’s rowing team, which would mean she might be traveling to New Jersey for the “Princeton Chase” crew race.  So, after landing at Dulles and learning that she had made the roster for this event, I drove the two hours to Charlottesville for a late dinner with Chloe on Friday night, then took her early the next morning to the boathouse for her bus to NJ, then jumped back into the rental car by myself later in the morning for the 5-hr drive to Princeton (okay, it was a 7-hr drive if you factor in my pit stops at the US Postal Service and at Target, where every American expat longs to visit!).  My Parents’ Weekend experience at UVA was about 12 hours long, and I was only on campus in the dark!

Though I’d been feeling sad that the change in plans meant I would see a lot less of Chloe than I’d hoped, I was excited to see her row.  But then I kept hearing more and more about some incoming storm called SANDY (heard of it?).  Fifteen minutes with the Weather Channel early Saturday morning was all it took to classify me officially freaked out.  As I drove into New Jersey Saturday afternoon, big flashing signs in the highway medians read:  “State of Emergency Declared.”  Not a good idea, really, to drive into a state of emergency.  “Hmmm,” thought I, “I was under the impression there were some pretty smart people at Princeton.  I wonder why they think it’s a good idea to have a boat race in a hurricane?”

Okay, everyone.  There's a hurricane coming, so let's get these boats in the water!

Okay, everyone. There’s a hurricane coming, so let’s get these boats in the water!

I did get to hang out with Chloe some that evening in Princeton, and she spent the night in my room (which was right down the hall from her teammates).  After she left for the race, I put in more time with the Weather Channel, and then some quality phone time with United Airlines– trying to figure out if there was any chance my 11pm flight would actually make it out that night, and looking for anything earlier, or flying from any city I could possibly reach with a direct flight to London (Boston? Chicago?).  All to no avail.  They did offer me flights for the following Wednesday with no ticket change fees!  I decided to stay on the 11pm flight; but, envisioning panicked evacuation scenarios on my way back to DC for the flight, I did stock up on water and snack bars, and I even bought a mid-Atlantic map in case highways were jammed or closed and I needed to navigate without the highway-dependent GPS.  Then, hoping for the best, I went to watch Chloe row.

Chloe post-race.  So proud of her!

Chloe post-race. So proud of her!

What an atmosphere!  The river and the boathouse were gorgeous, and all the teams (a Who’s Who of prestigious universities) had tents cooking barbecue and serving food and drinks for their rowers and fans (mostly parents).  It was a thrill when I finally found Chloe with her team.  I couldn’t believe our little Chloe was part of this!

But despite the big race excitement, there was also a distinct feeling of foreboding in the air.  Everyone knew the hurricane was bearing down, and many of the people there had a really long way to go after the chase.  I heard a couple of the rowers worrying about it in the breakfast line at the hotel (“OK, this is not funny anymore!  I want to go home.”)  Chloe’s novice class race was almost the last one, and by the time it started the wind was beginning to pick up, though the rain held off.  I walked down to a bridge near the halfway point and fell in with some UVA varsity parents who were really nice (well, one guy was a crew snob who didn’t deign to talk with me because my daughter was only a walk-on– why do people act like that??).  What a thrill to watch Chloe’s eight approach the bridge, glide under, and be off!  All in a matter of about two minutes.  But still.  I am SO proud of her for stretching and daring to try it!  She is amazing.

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Just through the bridge. Chloe is in royal blue, near the front. My other pictures had the blades in better sync, but this one is the closest photo, so that wins over form!

A Travel Tale

After a sad goodbye (because Chloe had to return with the team), I hurried off to join the evacuating masses– which turned out not really to be masses at all.  Traffic was fine, and it didn’t even start raining until I was well into Maryland.  I made it to Dulles much faster than I’d thought I would, returned the rental car, and went into the terminal to see just how many flights were already canceled.  The answer?  MOST!  But mine was still on, so I somehow circumvented the massive lineup of people trying to rebook their canceled flights, and got myself checked in.  Then I sat down to wait.  Here’s where it gets interesting.

Some of you may know I have a severe case of “line anxiety”– I am extremely afraid I will be in the wrong place and miss something, or people will all stream around me and I will be caught out, or… I don’t know, maybe I might starve waiting at the end of a poorly disciplined line?  I hate it that I’m that way, but it’s deeply, painfully ingrained from way back in grade school– remember? “No budging!”  You should have seen what a mess I was when we would go to the movies in Paris– where they do not understand what a line is!  At least the Brits are brilliant at queues… even if they are useless at sauces and vegetables.  Tradeoffs…

Anyway.  For some reason, I was able to calmly find a spot and sit down to kill some of the 4+ hours before my not-yet-canceled flight.  I had that surplus of water bottles I hated to just throw out before going through security; and it seemed like a good idea to get my phone fully charged– just in case I ended up waiting out a hurricane in the airport, or elsewhere, without power.  I watched some families waiting nearby, and it made me miss mine.  Chloe called to say she’d made it back to campus.  I decided to work on my Bible study homework for the following week.  Guess what the topic was?  Trusting– really trusting– God.  I read and answered questions, and finally said, “Oh, all right then, God!  I’m honestly going to let go of all this worry and trust You to get me home.”  I meant it.  And then I closed the book, feeling like it was time to go through security to my gate… four hours early.

So I did that.  I stopped at the flight monitor screen just outside the cluster of gates from which my flight was departing.  As I looked at the screen, it suddenly penetrated my consciousness that my flight was being called to another gate way on the other side of the terminal.  So I sped all the way across to that gate– hoping, hoping– and sure enough, they put me straight onto the 7pm flight that had been overbooked just hours earlier when I tried to switch to it.  Apparently people don’t like to fly into hurricanes.

Not only was the flight no longer overbooked, it was practically empty.  They seated me in a window seat with an empty seat beside me (bliss!).  I hadn’t had time to get a water bottle before boarding the plane– no problem, the flight attendants brought water around at least twice before we even took off.  Though the woman sharing the row with me was freaking out about flying into the storm, I felt perfectly peaceful and, I hope, helped her feel more peaceful.  We finally took off some time well after scheduled departure– and we were the last London-bound flight (possibly the last flight at all) to leave from Dulles before Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S.

I felt bad for all the people who were about to get pounded by the storm– while hoping, of course, that it would not be as bad as they were saying it could be.  But I was so happy to be on my way to my younger kids instead of stuck in a soggy airport for three or four days.  As we bounced through the initial turbulence climbing to our altitude, I fell sound asleep and I didn’t wake up until it was time for breakfast over Ireland.  Even then, the nervous lady in my row had to give me a gentle shake.  I have never slept more than a couple of hours on a transatlantic flight.  Nor have I ever landed at Heathrow feeling fresh and rested!  Oh, and passport control/customs was a breeze, because there were no other flights arriving from the East Coast.  It was the easiest flight and arrival I have ever experienced.

I’m pretty sure that’s how it works when you stop worrying and put your trust where it ought to be (would it be inappropriate to say ‘when you put your trust in that Great Travel Agent In the Sky’?)

Life as a Lawn Ornament

My kids and I were Olympics refugees this summer.  “Yes, we live in London.  Yes, the Olympics were, in fact, in London.  Indeed, it would have been exciting to be there,” she says in a weary cheery tone.

But we left.  And though I’m tired of feeling the need to justify it, I’ll explain just once more.  You see, I’m crazy about my family.  Summer is my chance to spend time with the people I love in various distant (from London) places I love.  Not even the Olympics could tempt me away from time in my hometown with my family.  Not even prime tickets to the Olympics– which we didn’t have, anyway– could have tempted me away from time in the mountains with my Colorado-based son and my husband’s family.  Beside, the agency that runs public transport had warned us for months that we were going to be miserable and unable to set foot out our front doors during the Games.  We believed them, and apparently so did a lot of other Londoners.

Anyway.  These Olympics needed to simply keep calm and carry on without me.  The fact that I call London home now made me doubly happy, and kind of proud, to watch them do just that– pretty spectacularly I would say– from various screens across the U.S.

Team photo, 2012

While athletes from around the world went about their business in London, I went about my business in the U.S., performing amazing feats of strength and endurance in such events as the deadlift (suitcases…I momhandled a whole mountain of luggage by myself in Chicago).  Another was the marathon (more than an hour in line for the rental car– with a reservation).  The pentathlon (of remembering-how-to-do-things) in the first hours back in the USA:  drive a car on the correct side of the road, pump my own gas, swipe a credit card (instead of inserting and punching pin), order at the fast-food stop saying “to go” instead of “for takeaway,”  and remembering to ask where the restrooms are instead of where the toilets are (as you must in the UK if you want to be sent to the right place).

Part of the Lawn Ornament Endurance event is to keep a close eye on all driveway activities…

My first gold, though, came in the lawn ornament endurance trials.  I’ve trained for this event through many years of visits to my parents’ home, and I’m happy to tell you that I peaked at just the right time to pull off a once-in-a-lifetime performance.  For several days straight I managed to sit for hours in the Adirondack chair out on the long, shady, front lawn.  The kids rode bikes up and down the long, L-shaped driveway with their cousins.  Mom and Dad and my sister, Heidi, wandered in and out of the circle of chairs throughout the day.  But not me, really– I just sat there.  Early mornings, I took a cup of coffee with me; afternoons I switched it out for an icy Vernors (mmm!).  Evenings, it was sometimes even a cold beer.

Fortunately, this most demanding event did allow me to see several old friends and lots of extended family members while in Ohio.  (Some things are worth breaking your training regimen for…).  I loved each and every reunion, and while I’d love to tell you about some of them– seeing family and old friends, and our puppy Gus again– I think I’ll save that for another day.

You see, today I’m engaged in another event– let’s call it a Paralympic Event, in honor of the games going on now here in London.  (“No, I haven’t been to those, either.  Yes, it really is a missed opportunity, isn’t it?” she said in a sarcastic, weary cheery tone).  My event today is called Techno Hurdles.  Might even be a Steeplechase, given the puddles of chilly water below each hurdle.  It’s a series of challenges, the first of which is to get British Telecom wi-fi to stop hijacking your connection through Virgin Media and sending you pop-up windows to offer their services for a fee despite the fact that they just disrupted the service you are already paying for.  Once you x out and re-establish your previous connection, you have to figure out why the printer and the computer refuse to talk with one another.  Then you have to find workarounds to scan and fax a signature to your daughter in America, because she really needs it today, whether or not the printer and computer are friends.  And, really, I could go on and on, because, (like the Ginsu knives’ ‘but wait! There’s more!’), there certainly are more hurdles to clear.   But you would be bored to read about them, and I would be bored recounting more of them.

Would you judge me harshly if I told you that at 11:30am I am drinking my 2nd decaf, after a regular long Americano earlier this morning?  So yes, my 3rd cup.  Desperate times and all that, mate.  After all, I’m in training.

Half Empty (But Still Rather Full)

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I’ve had a crash course this week in being a half-empty nester.  Chloe left Sunday for the U.S., not to return until some future college break– maybe Christmas, unless we all decide to spend Christmas in the U.S.  Then Clay left on Wednesday morning for a regular kind of business trip– three nights away, returning on Saturday morning.

So it’s been the Littles– Claire and Quinn– and me for the last few days.  What’s strangest of all, maybe, is that because they are not in school right now, we have absolutely no commitments.  We could stay in our pajamas all day and never leave the house.  We could stay out of the house all day and eat every meal out (it’s so CHEAP with only the 3 of us!).  We could stay up all night watching movies, and then sleep all day.  I could neglect to load the dishwasher at night, leave the clean laundry in a pile at the foot of my bed, let shoes build up by the front door until no one can either come or go.

No, I haven’t done these things, not exactly… but maybe bits of them.  Conscience intervenes, you see.  I can’t keep the children in the house an entire day– even if it is raining (but I can let them stay in their pajamas until way past lunch sometimes).  I don’t even want to eat every meal out with the kids (ever watchful of table manners, preventing spills and other catastrophes, and managing bathroom trips alone? no thanks.)  Nix the all-night movie fest, too– we do that on the last day of school, and it takes the rest of the week to recover.  As for the housekeeping?  I hate having piles of laundry in my room (they just get all crumpled and it’s harder to fold them later), and the dishwasher really has to run at night (there’s nothing like coming up for coffee with a clean kitchen!).  There are shoes by the door, though.  Lots of them.  Also mail and umbrellas.

The thing is, all that freedom of having no adult supervision– or at least teen supervision– really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  And I guess maybe I’ve grown up a bit myself over the last 19 years– contrary to all expectations.  Bother.  So where do I find my fun, now that Chloe isn’t here to chat at night, watch a movie with me, or go to a cafe with me (and the littles, of course)?  When Clay’s out of town, there’s no one to handle the TV remote and find old NCIS episodes, stream Modern Family from his iPad, or just talk about things.  And there are no Malteasers in the house.

But hang on.  My mothering instincts must be intact, because I’ve just realized I’ve already been subconsciously working on this problem!  While other, “good” parents spend time reviewing math and working on reading skills in the summer, I’ve been helping my kids learn to play Rock Band on the Wii.  (Oh, alright, we’ll do a math page later!)  We pulled the instruments out of the utility closet last weekend– out of all the things we left in storage in the U.S., we brought Rock Band??  But obviously I knew what I was doing with that– because you don’t know summer fun until you’ve jammed out “Dead or Alive” or “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” with your kids!  Quinn’s got the drums, Claire’s the vocals, and I am obviously the guitar queen.  We’ve got some work to do, but you know, we’ll get there.

Classic Rock, with Paula on drums, Will on vocals, and Chloe on lead guitar.

So hey, my nest isn’t feeling so empty now.  We’ve still got enough kids around to cover the parts.  We might even have to go out and buy the bass guitar if Clay wants to play, too.  But even while I work on making this new nest situation work, I’ll be remembering my big kids so far away.  All my kids are Rock Stars, of course.  But Will and Chloe are the classics.  Love you guys!

Liberty and the Mad Hatter on Holiday

I’m observing the UK “Early May Bank Holiday” (I think that means: we have no idea what to celebrate, but we need a paid holiday about right here on the calendar) with an extra Americano on this rainy Monday afternoon.  But hey, I’ve earned my caffeine today.  Clay is working, because he does business with a whole lot of folks who aren’t in England having a jolly-holiday-for-no-apparent-reason.  That means, not only do we not have the pleasure of his company, but Quinn, Claire and I had to schlep out to Quinn’s holiday t-ball game this morning– at a place called Little Wormwood Scrubs.  Really, that’s the name.

Wait– it gets better.  Not only is there a recreational park there, but there’s also a big prison– Her Majesty’s Prison at Wormwood Scrubs.  Let me say it once more, hear the sinister British accent with me:  Her Majesty’s Prison at Wormwood Scrubs. This has the ring of something straight from Dickens, right?  Imagine the dismal scene:  perennial clouds or a drizzling rain, an overgrown field with escaped prisoners hiding in the marsh, perhaps a nearby orphanage or boys’ school with hungry children peering out the windows, an old rag-and-bone shop around the corner, and a street urchin sweeping the crosswalk…

Not-so-very-Dickensian urchin at first base.

Now superimpose a bunch of American kids playing baseball.  There’s just something jarringly off about the whole scenario.  And in truth, I saw no escaped prisoners, orphans or street urchins of any kind; but merely a couple of small dogs– called Nigel and Esmé– chasing balls into the baseball games.  Highbrow dogs for a Dickens scene, no?

This is not your typical minivan.

Because I am stubbornly independent, I didn’t call a car company to transport us to the game.  Have I mentioned all the bullet holes in my feet from my years of independence?  I walked the children to the nearest overground rail station and took a train, then caught a bus to the approximate location of the ballpark.  The park is enormous, so choosing the right place to get off the bus involved some guesswork, but we did pretty well.  After two hours of baseball, we did the trip in reverse, with a stop for lunch.  All-in-all, our baseball game took 5+ hours.  (Now hand over my coffee!)

While I try to revive, I’ll tell you some fun things from the weekend.  First, Liberty.  Liberty of London (really, click the link and check out the photo!).  How have I lived in London for nine months without going there?  This place is like a Disney World of Design for grownup ladies– but everything there is real!  It’s in an enormous, Tudor-style building, with an Arts and Crafts interior and just gorgeous stuff packed to the rafters.  Liberty is famous for its textile prints, and I remember reading about it in various novels set in London.  I guess I thought it was defunct, or that it was just a textile place, or I don’t know what.  But there it sits, right on Regent Street and Marlborough, and I met Chloe there with bff Bretta and her mom, Nancy, for the very last part of prom dress shopping on Saturday.  With the help of a perfectly professional and personable salesperson (say it five times fast) in the women’s dress department, Chloe found something gorgeous, unique, and even versatile enough to wear on a range of occasions in the future.  Stay tuned for pics, FB friends, as American School prom is in a couple of weeks.  Uhh– that is, if she ever lets me take another picture of her after what I’m about to post…

Prior to the success at Liberty, Chloe and I scoured two lesser department stores, and Chloe skimmed another more prestigious one (Selfridge’s) with Bretta and Nancy.  We tried, we really did, to find something that would work at John Lewis.  But as there was nothing even in serious contention, we ended up in the hat department– where Chloe had a blast.  
I mean, this is a girl who hates having her picture taken.  I must’ve taken twenty pics in various hats, with her smiling and posing all the way through!  Secretly, I feared we would get booted from the department, and she later admitted to wondering that, too.

I never did confess to her my other secret fear:  Lice.  In the hats.  She was having way too much fun for me to mention the L-word!  And in a high-end department store?  Surely not.  Right?  Right, friends?