About Us

There are four of Them: three girls and one boy, little stair-steps all. There are two of Us: best friends, co-parents and truly in love. The Six of us have epic adventures full of laughter and love, occasionally containing tears, but always together.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Birthday Cake

PrincessE asked for an artist's palette birthday cake this year. Dadam and I were up to the task, though it was a week late since we arrived home from Rome ON PrincessE's actual birthday. Being the flexible kid that she is, she allowed us to have two celebrations for her birthday.

(Wait a minute, maybe she's just really smart. "Sure, Mom. I understand. So we'll have two birthdays for me. Yeah, that's just fine!!")

Anyway, here's the fab artists palette. We think it turned out swell and she liked it too!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Orders

While we were in Rome we recieved a cryptic email.  It said we had orders.  Dadam and I went through all the possiblities and while all signs and logic pointed to the fact that it was not Boulder, I was in denial.  He got back to work today and the orders say Los Angeles.  It is not what I wanted; not for our kids, not for us, not for me.  Disappointed does not begin to cover how I feel and I supposed I should leave it at that, before stronger words issue forth.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Big One-Oh

Dear PrincessE,

Ten.  Ten years old.  You are ten.  When did this happen?  Seemingly over night, when I was off and busy doing other things.  You are double digits.  I swear you seem taller to me today, than yesterday; more grown up, straighter.  It's like 10 is under your feet and you are standing on it, it's your podium - a starting block for pre-adolescence. 

This year has been a ride.  It's our last year here in England.  You are disappointed about not getting to finish Year 6.  I am sorry that things have worked out like this.  But you are facing our impending move with your standard positive-things-will-work-out-just-fine attitude.  It's lovely.  You are concerned about the best friend you are leaving behind, but you aren't too worried for yourself.  You've got your head up and you are looking towards a new adventure.  It's the same head down, tackle it head on attitude you have about most things.  You don't give up, you don't bend to the wind.  You have learned to be true to yourself, speak honestly and try really hard not to let other people get you down.  It makes me so proud of you. 

Being honest, this year has had its struggles socially.  The pool of girls in your class is very, very small and it is a bit clique-ey.  You have found one good friend and the two of you are sticking together and weathering the storms.  Even for your birthday party, you just had her over for a sleepover and that was enough.  You were content to be with someone who really likes you for who you are, rather than needing a big group of people to reassure you. 

Even with the often challenging social situation you are open and sunny.  You are loud and a bit bossy, not much has changed since you started talking. You are also extremely helpful, generous and thoughtful.  A decade in, I think I can say with certainty there are somethings about you that are just part of your fantastic personality. 

Reading has become your go to entertainment.  If you get quiet I know I'll find you somewhere in the house, nestled down with a book, storming through it.  Aunt Kiwi sent you two books for your birthday and I know you'll be finished with them in weeks.  You love to share plot summaries and talk about what scary/happy/exciting things are happening.  You talk about the characters like they are old friends and what they are going through, you experience a bit of as well. 

You also have continued your love of art projects.  The Highlights magazines get a thorough pouring through each month and you carefully circle and mark the projects that you would like to do.  And you do them.  It's so nice that you feel free to try new things and can take the initative to follow through on creating a project.   Once you've made something, you often give it away.  You have really started to dabble in sewing and embroidery.  I need to be more relaxed about letting you do it so that you can really start learning. 

Academically you are flying high.  Gone are the days of uncertainty and feeling a bit behind.  You have made leaps and bounds in your Hebrew studies and are now in one of the higher levels.  Conquering maths has been an amazing accomplishment and you are also excelling in reading and writing.  In fact, your teacher recently pulled me aside to let me know that you are assessing at the national average for the end of Year 6.  Though I never questioned your ability to do it, I am relieved and proud of how hard you have continued to work. 

I often ask you if you'll help the little girls.  If you aren't up for it, you know you can say no.  And sometimes you do.  But more often than not, you say "sure" and take care of whatever I've asked you to help with.  You also will offer to help them and you do it with no sense of keeping score or needing reciprocity.  And I have noticed how much you love little babies.  You will leave playing on the computer at our local kids hangout to come and play with the baby sister of a classmate.  You'll make a fantastic babysitter, I can see you earning lots in high school!  Your responsiblity and care will take you far. 

You miss nothing.  There is not anything that happens in our house, around, next to or within ear shot that you don't register and file away for future use.  It shocks your Daddy, but it doesn't surprise me.  You are paying.attention. 

We've had some experiments in adolescent behavior.  You've been trying on different attitudes and some no-so-nice behavior.  But the waves have been few and far between.  You've also noticed your changing body and so you've been asking some questions and devouring the books we got you about puberty.   Adolescence and puberty are around the corner, probably closer than I would like to imagine.  But I know that when those changes really begin, you'll be asking questions, processing, talking and just dealing with whatever those changes bring.  Just like you do with life. 

You are an amazing, beautiful, smart, funny, kind, thoughtful, sensitive human being.  I love being your Mum and guiding, teaching and hanging on with you through this crazy life.  I'm excited to experience California with you, it has a special place in my memory and I hope that it will be an adventure you cherish the memories of.  With as friendly and confident as you are, I think you're going to do great and I can't wait to share it with you.

Happy Birthday!
I love you, my big girl PrincessE.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rome Day Five

By the last day we still hadn't gotten to see The Colosseum. We had tickets and knew we wanted to go, but there's not much we could do about the government wanting to keep people safe. (Important, yes, but inconvenient for us.) There was also no way to check and see if it was open other than heading down and seeing if the doors were open.

After a leisurely breakfast we headed out into the glorious sunshine! A lovely walk and we were at the Colosseum to find: open doors!! Yay! It was a zoo and we were happy to already have tickets and walk to the head of the line. Once inside we made our way around, reading the signs and enjoying the view. There was an extensive temporary exhibit discussing the fire of 64 during which Nero is rumored to have fiddled. There was definitely a massive fire in the city, but it is unclear how it started. The kids were fascinated by the maps and artifacts. It was pretty cool. There were also extensive signs about the games held in the Colosseum, animals used, shows put on and even what the audience did while watch the shows. We were so glad to have gotten in. It was definitely worth it.

After we finished there, grabbed pizza lunch and enjoyed it in the park, we walked down to the massive ruins of the Roman Baths. We have been to a few roman baths here in England. We knew they were important. But we had never seen baths like this. The complex was MASSIVE. The building was built to have 1600 people using it at once. There were two libraries. There were larger than Olympic size pools of fresh water, rooms with under floor heating, heated pools and rooms with workout equipment. Although all the sculpture and marble has been carted off to decorate and create other buildings, there are still large sections of intact mosaic flooring. The bustling business and social center it once was is truly believable.

Then it was dinner time and time to pack up and go to bed. What a week! Rome is incredibly beautiful. The unexpected treasures around every corner made our walks a delight. The history and beauty comes together in a timeless and fascinating city. I'm so glad we had a chance to experience it!

Rome Day Four

Headed out to see a museum that began its illustrious life as Hadrian's mausoleum and ended it as the castle to which the pope would escape if the Vatican was under attack! The lower section of the fortress is a massive piece of amazing engineering with a sloped path running a full circle up from the entrance at the base to a huge room where three urns would have originally stood. The top of the fortress has been fortified, four turrets and an outer wall added, and beautiful apartments for the Pope created. There is also a raised walkway that is still connected to the Vatican. This way, if the Pope needed to escape, he could quickly get to Castel Sant'Angelo.

We enjoyed exploring that and since we were so close, we headed down to look at the Vatican. Before we came on this trip we had already decided we wouldn't go in. We'd heard that the crowds were horrible and that you are basically on a "conveyor belt" of sorts where you are not allowed to stop or speed up. Added to that, the stuff we really would be interested in seeing (the Sistine chapel, for example) is difficult due to its size or distance away. So we stood in the Vatican courtyard, talked about the Catholic church and Dadam dodged the Politza to grab the Vatican cache (not officially sanctioned).

After a lovely pizza lunch in the castle park, a play in the playground and another cache, we headed off to the Shelley/Keats museum and the Spanish steps. The museum was a small one (tiny actually) but was interesting. It has Keats' bedroom and some information on American and British artists and writers who came to Rome for inspiration and culture.

We walked up the Spanish steps and the down past the Pantheon again. We wandered by the column of Marcus Aurelius and back to the bustling plaza outside our flat!

We enjoyed a delicious dinner of fried fish, apparently an invention of the Romans, and quite different to the fish and chips available in the UK. And then some sleep before our last day of sightseeing!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rome Day Three

We decided to try the Colosseum again today-no dice. But the massive archeological complex of the Palatine Hill and the Foro Romana was open. These are the ruins of the emperor's complex and the roman forum. It was super cool and slightly bummy.

First, those Romans were amazing, ambitious and busy as heck. The ruins are massive and extensive. They cover a huge amount of square footage and even include buildings that had three or more stories!! There are still beautiful avenues and they have re-erected a few columns and statues. There are also two surviving commemorative arches. It was cool. But the bummer of it was there was zero signage. We did get the audio guide, but it was more into naming the. buildings and less into giving history and background. Of course, there are lots of pieces of information the archeologists just don't know, but still! Signs people!! Also, the kiddos quickly lost any interest in looking at foundations of thousands of year old buildings. So wrangling them got a bit old. They did hold on a very long time and we finally left in the mid afternoon and found lunch.

After grabbing a cache at the Colosseum, we headed to the Capatoline Museum, which hosts an amazing variety of Roman statuary and pottery, plus loads of art and other sculpture. We wandered around there for quite a while. The building is built on top of the foundations of several Roman buildings and so there is even archeology to look at in the basement of the art museum!

Looking out over The Forum from the museum.  The Arch of Septimius Severus is on the left and the Temple of Saturn is on the right. 
The Arch of Septimius Severus
We're number one, at the Capitoline Museum. 

The stadium complex on the Palatine Hill.  Palatine Hill was where most of the emperors had their palaces. 

One of the Capitoline Museum buildings.  Breathtaking, no?  And the geometric design on the floor of the plaza was made by Michelangelo! 

Looking down the Forum towards the museum.  The Temple of Saturn is now on the left. 

More bits of the Forum. 

Rome Day Two

Super Dadam again made his way out for yummy breakfast pastries and came back with pastries AND feet long-long stem roses. Ooh, he is such a catch! Breakfast eaten we headed out to the Jewish Quarter. There is a museum about the Jewish Quarter in Rome in the basement of the Roman synagogue. The history was fascinating. Rome has had a Jewish community for 22 continuous centuries. They were forced, by papal edict, to live in a very small ghetto between the 14th and 19th centuries and then in the 20th century were victims to an ethnic-cleansing program and the Nazis. However, the community is thriving and in the very early part of the 20th century, they built an amazing and gorgeous synagogue which is still in use today. For security reasons you can only see the schul by private tour, which we took, and which was well worth it. The sanctuary is the most beautiful I have ever seen. It has the only square based dome(the very top of the building) in the city. It was painted the most vivid colors and had marble columns. Oh it was amazing. We weren't allowed to take photos for security reasons, but we did buy a book to share and remember.

We had lunch in the Jewish ghetto at a kosher restaurant, yum. Then it was off to the Pantheon, the most well preserved Roman ruin in the city due to it having been turned into a church. We stopped at Plaza Navona, a gorgeous long oval plaza, blazing in the sunshine, with several massive ornately carved fountains. We wound our way through the tiny city streets and then, as we turned a corner into a busy plaza, the buildings parted and there was The Pantheon. It was breathtaking and amazingly huge. Just amazing. We went inside and checked out the engineering (ahead of its time) because the tip of the dome is empty! It's done that way so there is natural light coming in all the time. They have designed the floor so that the rain drains away. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We stopped at a local coffee shop and then at a fantastic gelatto place. The gelatto was AMAZING and every single flavor you could imagine. After that we wandered around a bit more, seeing some odds and ends hidden and stuck here and there. We ended the day a bit early and just came back to the flat and had some quiet time. What a lovely day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rome Day One

Got up and SuperDadam got us brekkie from the local corner store. Then it was time to explore. We wanted to go to the Colosseum and surrounding areas, so we started out. Dadam picked up a few caches on the way and it seemed every square held a beautiful fountain or Roman ruin.
We got to the Colosseum and discovered that due to the snow and ice they've had here in Rome (first in 26 years) they've closed all the archeological sites so as to keep tourists safe. (We actually didn't discover this until we were back for the evening, until then we just knew it was closed but didn't know why. They aren't huge on signs here.)
We found lunch and then wandered into the massive monument built to honor the king (Vittorio Emanuele II) who united Italy in the late 1800. There was a regimental museum and a beautiful view over the city.
Wandering further, we headed to the Jewish Ghetto in hopes of seeing the Jewish museum there, but we got there only an hour before close and decided to put that off until day two. We went over the river to Tiber Island, had a lovely walk and grabbed another cache. Back home for pasta dinner and well earned bed. Can't wait for tomorrow's adventures!

Everywhere you look there are Roman ruins.  These at least have a fence around, some of them are just sitting in the open!!

Old Roman building in the Jewish Ghetto. 

Colosseum and Arch of Constantine

Jumping for joy outside the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. 

Hospital on Tiber Island.  There has been a hospital here since Roman times. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012


We are leaving for a family vacation to Rome tomorrow. Yay!

But, being the control freak I am, I'm a bit nervous. I know, erm hope, that everything will be just fine and we'll have a great time. But since it is a foreign culture and a city with tons of tourists, there are some things to be watchful for. I'm okay with that. The kiddos are all old enough that they too should be included in the "things to watch out for" briefing.

Unfortunately, my timing is a bit off and I decided to have this little talk with them while we were packing. It wasn't the packing that was the problem, in and of itself, it's that I had just warned them not to take any clothes that are irreplaceable. There are just a few items that fall in this category (homemade items from the grands and great grands for example) but I know that the el-cheapo airline we're flying is notorious for losing luggage. Like forever. And this would not go down well with the kids.

What I misjudged is that even the thought of losing marginally tolerated clothing caused Noodle to come unglued.

"What if they lose our suitcase?" chin quiver "And all our clothes are in them!?" big eyes begin to pool with tears

After calming her down and a few more minutes of packing, I set off into the Street Vendor Warning talk. We've been warned that the street vendors use their children to trick tourist children in to buying things. It's not nice. The adults distract you and then the vendor-kids drop things or get tourist-kids to hold whatever tchotchke they are selling. Once tourist-kid has a hold of said item, vendor-kid yells "pay us for this item". Not a great situation. And not great for super helpful kids like ours. (Trips to any store always involve scouring the floor for any item that may have ended up there unintentionally. And then scouring the store for where the item belongs or who it might belong to.)

We wanted to warn them not to take anything from anyone. Well, on top of the loss-of-luggage lecture, this was too much. There was silence in the bedroom.

We tried to down play the negative and really stress how much fun it will be. They seemed re-enthused after dinner. I know it will be great, I just want them to be informed and prepared. Maybe my quest for complete honesty could be tempered. No one is ever going to have to file a freedom of information petition about me. That's for sure.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Four Love of Words

Watching and helping the kiddos learn to read has been an interesting experience.  As you would expect, they've each taken a different path.  PrincessE and The Boy-child are both professional readers.  They are on to young adult and teen fiction.  When they get home from school the first thing they do is grab a book.  Lu-lu is still coming in to her own.  She was back and forth about being read to for a bit, though now she really likes to listen to stories.  And while she is quite capable of reading, she'd rather read out loud to an audience than read quietly to herself.  I was feeling a bit concerned, but then I remembered that it took PrincessE a bit of time to come to reading to herself and Lu is only six.  She'll get there, I'm sure.  Noodle is, like everything else, putting her own stamp on things.  Her reception class began working on phonics as soon as school started in September.  By December, Noodle was one of the top in her class and had started attempting to sound out the occasional small word.  At the beginning of this term she and three of her classmates began to go to the Year 1 class for reading.  It's been an amazing transition.  Noodle has been off school poorly quite a few days this week and today at the grocery, she was sounding out nearly every word she saw.  The whole trip was a cacophony of phonics.

This is such a fantastic stage.  Prior to this, all the knowledge that little brain acquired has come from visual/verbal input.  They watched us and listened to us and they learned.  But everything they learned came through the filter of the people they interacted with.  When they begin to read a whole other level of learning opens up to them.  They can glean knowledge and get exposure to a world full of ideas by simply reading what is around them.  And this is magic of the greatest power.  They can learn all.on.their.own.  They can travel to wherever those words take them and no one is filtering or editing or controlling where they go or how they get there.  And studies show it's not really that important *what* they are reading, it is simply the act of decoding words, visually, with ones brain, that grows and expands their grey matter.  What an amazing process.

So here we are.  A majority of us are literate, nearly 100%.  And I feel, it's already happening, a shift in our world; days filled with the magic of books, a few read out loud, most enjoyed in quiet solitude.  It's a far cry from the days of toddlerhood when we would read book, upon book for hours on end.  I know reading out loud is not out of the picture yet, it's just something that is happening less and less.  Parenthood shifts, children grow, life brings change. 

"C-O-M-E-T, Mummy, that sign says 'comet' ".  L-O-V-E Mummy, what is "lovvvyuh"?  "That says 'love'", Noodle."  And so it goes.