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The high temperature today is expected to be 73 degrees. Excuse me while I go do this:

Oh man, I am so freakin’ excited. I don’t even care that Moira’s given up any pretense of sleeping for more than two hours (that’s a whole separate post). The idea of being in toasty warm sunshine is just too delicious. So in the meantime I have some photos that help celebrate my joy.

 

Here we have a side-by-side comparison of my ladies and their fluff. Maggie’s the blonde in pink at 9 months and Moira’s the ginger-red in coral at 7 months. Clothing by Carters; hair by Donald Trump. Every time I see it I dissolve into helpless giggles.

Next, we have my summer babe:

 

Scraped knees, hair sticky with sunscreen and fresh homemade jam (oh yeah–we’re 20 jars into jamming with no end in sight), forearms coated in Mommy’s special hippie popsicles (tea, raw honey, splash of fresh-squeezed orange juice). It may average 55-60 degrees, but whenever I look at this child and her white-streaked hair and the golden undertones of her skin, I see endless summer.

Not to be outdone by her carnivorous parents and sister, Moira is tapping into her paternal grandmother’s German heritage:

 

Tom’s homemade spaetzle with a bit of parsley and sea salt, mixed with pork and black pepper sausage. The look of joy on her face when she realized she wasn’t being given yet another piece of fruit to gum could rival a Christmas morning where you find not only the My Little Pony Mansion but also A REAL GODDAMN PONY under the tree. She was that thrilled.

Moira is also pulling herself up to stand on anything and anyone that will support her, taking assisted steps while holding on to anything she can push, and recently retaliated against her sister’s theft of a toy by leaning back on her haunches and launching herself at Maggie in a flying tackle. The tackle caught Maggie around the waist and took her down like a sack of spuds. Now Maggie hides behind me when Moira, as friendly and lumbering and nibbly as the cutest puppy in the window, starts coming for her. Oh, boy, I can see there’s some violence on the horizon in this house.

Moira gets a lot of press for being snuggly and lovey, but don’t count Maggie out. Maggie’s favorite, favorite thing to ask is “Snuggle up on the couch with Mommy and read?” If that doesn’t melt your heart, you don’t have one. Truth.

Hug attack!

In “all about me” news, I cut off all my hair. I don’t feel like buying hair product because it all smells too harsh for me–all those artificial chemical smells give me a headache. So I’m styling it with beeswax/olive oil lip balm and I gave up on baking soda/vinegar washes because we have the hardest of hard water and after two months none of the residue would come out, no matter what I did. Anyway, Lush “American Cream” conditioner smells like clary sage and between that and the lip balm hair-hack it doesn’t look as ridiculous as you might think.

 

And holy GOD, I have enormous broad shoulders. Look at that! Like a linebacker! If you were wondering if we are having any more children, I would like to point out that the smallest of my girls was over eight pounds and they both inherited my upper body. So that’s “probably not.”

And finally, we celebrated the Fourth of July England-style: we didn’t really do anything until someone threw together a last-minute cookout and it was juuuuust warm enough for the girls to wear dresses without cardigans or tights. We clean up nice, eh?

 

That’s not A beard. That’s THE beard.

So happy summer, all! What are you up to these days?

Rule Britannia

This is such an exciting year to live in the United Kingdom.

 

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was last month, and I take back everything I ever said about that being a ho-hum affair. There was a four-day weekend, a flotilla, and the Queen’s visage slapped on every bit of marketable swag from here to Swansea. It’s been such a wretchedly cold, rainy summer (worse than last year, which was the worst in several years) but on the last day of the four-day weekend the skies parted for a bit and we got to indulge in a little bit of our favorite summer pastime: outdoor day drinking.

I really haven’t any kind of a chin, do I?

No matter! The point is that for twenty minutes in June, we celebrated an event not to be repeated in our lifetimes: the sixtieth anniversary of a British monarch taking the throne. Put it this way: for this to be repeated in my life, (God save the) Queen Elizabeth II would have to pass away today, Prince Charles would have to abdicate so Prince William could assume the throne, he would have to live until at least ninety years old, and I would have to live until the age of 88 to see it happen. While life expectancies (particularly for someone like Prince William, treated to every sort of possible health advantage of the modern age) are getting longer, the odds of all those things happening are not high.

However you feel about the monarchy, and I understand the backlash against them, many people here have known only one Queen and they find her and her closet of sensible pastels a stable, comforting presence. She’s like Mr. Rogers with a crown instead of a cardigan. And thanks in huge part to the Duchess of Cambridge (you know her as Kate Middleton, or “That chick with the amazingly perfect hair all the time, how do you beat the English rain frizzies?!”) there’s been an upswing in royal popularity. It’s nice to see.

The other huge event? I’ll give you a hint: it involves the world’s very finest abs.

 

That’s the Olympic torch, guys, and it came through town less than a mile from my house. Go Team GB! Well, not really, but I am pretty pumped to be in the same time zone as the Games. We haven’t stocked up on any (overpriced) merchandise but I did add two London 2012 Games keyrings to the girls’ collection of souvenir keychains. Also, we’re going to take advantage of all the city improvements sans crowds and go to London for a few days in December to enjoy the freshly-scrubbed city at Christmastime.

In non-2012-specific news, Moira’s officially an alien. That is, she’s officially a legal resident of the United Kingdom with the privilege to live, study, and interestingly enough, work until March 2014.

When we had to travel for my grandfather’s funeral we didn’t have all her paperwork in order so we did a little risk analysis with regard to immigration: three out of four members of our party had proper papers, and the fourth was an infant. The most likely scenario is that they let her back into the UK with a slap on our wrists and we get chewed out. Like Brad Pitt says in Inglourious Basterds, “I’ve been chewed out before.” They didn’t even do that–just gave her a visitor visa and told us to resolve it within six months. We did, and she’s good. Alas, the loophole wherein you are given dual citizenship simply by virtue of your birth taking place abroad has been closed, and so Moira may be a resident alien but she is not a UK citizen. Pity, because citizenship to an EU country would open up soooo many doors for her employment-wise later on. (That’s assuming the Eurozone doesn’t collapse and the job situation recovers, which is a post for another day, but let me just say that I am only feeling the slightest twinge of guilt by taking advantage of the monetary crisis to schedule exceptionally cheap travel in the next 12 months.)

And finally, Margaret is by far the most assimilated of our family.

Ever-present hat? Check. Proper mac for the rain, even on a sunny day? Check. Obsessed with Cornish pasties, lamb oggies, and sausage rolls? Check. Calls cookies “biscuits,” her rain boots “wellies,” and pronounces “bottle” as “bot-tol”? Check, check, check. She goes to a lovely English Montessori preschool and routinely comes home covered in Yorkshire dirt, raving about Lottie and Lulu, the school’s baby lambs (it’s a working farm as well). I think leaving will be hardest on her, but hopefully we have until 2014 to deal with that (and maybe longer, if we get a lucky break).

So! Despite our love of Hawaii and the hardship of leaving the islands, I daresay the UK is working out splendidly for us. We can collectively, as a family, exhale: we rolled the dice on a move abroad, and it’s been fantastic. Lucky, lucky us.

24 Hours in Liverpool

I am not a good road trip companion. On any given trip I will a) fall asleep, b) seize control of the radio/iPod and refuse to take requests, and c) complain. This last trip to Liverpool to complete the last of Moira’s UK residency paperwork was no exception.

“Tom, I’m SO BORED. How much longer to Liverpool?”

“A while. You have movies on your iPod.”

“But I’ve seeeeeeeen all those already! I don’t want to watch them again. Can we stop at this next exit for coffee?”

“The girls are behaving beautifully, by the way.”

The barista who took our order at Starbucks was from Florida, by the way, and got into a conversation with Tom about their native land. It led me to consider the sort of life choices that would lead an American to work as a coffee slinger in an industrial park Starbucks located far from any military base or university, and also to remember the sage words of Matt Paxton: “We’re all just five or six bad decisions away from pooping in a bucket.”

I digress. We got to Liverpool and took our seats among those undertaking the task of proving they have a legal, upstanding case to live in the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, they were able to start processing us a half-hour in advance of our appointment at 11:30 and we were done by 1pm, so we had plenty of time to wander the downtown area. We had reserved a hotel room in the city anticipating a much, much longer time processing, but we didn’t really need it. I’m glad we had it, because it gave us time to make THIS happen:

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That’s what happens when you send a fashionista through the Beatles Story Exhibition gift shop, friends. The exhibit was so-so (I can’t even guess how tired the employees must be of hearing “Sgt. Pepper”) and a mite overpriced, but mostly worthwhile because now I get to caption photos with things like “Twenty years ago today / Sgt. Maggie taught the band to play.”

We also ate sushi–high-quality restaurant sushi–for the first time in a while. I have a thing about eating sushi from restaurants more than 30 minutes inland, but Liverpool was nicely ocean-accessible. Moira had her first sticky rice and Maggie grabbed my hand and physically redirected a prime piece of ahi sashimi into her mouth. Initially I howled about the cost, as after the exchange each piece ran about $2USD, but Tom convinced me to just be happy she voluntarily chowed down on raw tuna. She also sucked down miso like it was going to be outlawed tomorrow and stole at least a third of my serving of tekka maki and asked “More shoyu for rice please?” This is the same child who won’t eat MEATBALLS, oh no, but a nice piece of tuna wrapped in rice and seaweed? Done and done.

We’ve also joined 2008 and scored ourselves two iPod Touches (there’s a long story about why we don’t have iPhones but it isn’t interesting and boils down to “OH MY GOD, THEY COST HOW MUCH HERE?!”) so this was Tom’s first real chance to test out city-specific app guides. Our self-guided tour of prominent Liverpool sights–all relating to The Beatles–was a lot of fun. I’m also really glad we had them, because after I bitched about being bored in the car we had this conversation:

“Where is the 7D?” We refer to our camera by model name out of respect, and you would too. That thing is almost its own person.

“I thought YOU packed–“

“OH NO.”

That calls for a FailFace! Take it away, Margaret!

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So we only had our iPods to take photos this trip. A little grainy, yeah, but we got some good shots. Not good enough that I’m willing to forsake the DSLR on future trips, but good enough for the sort of bright-light still shots we’d be taking. Like…this:

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Well-played, iPod. Well-played.

We left town roughly 24 hours after we had arrived, and while we hadn’t expected to make Liverpool a long weekend destination I’m reconsidering. The architecture downtown is fascinating, with a lot of old-fashioned stately buildings next to angular modern structures, and feels a lot like Baltimore–revitalized in some areas, particularly the waterfront, and all urban grittiness in others. It’s worth a deeper look.

And for what it’s worth, Moira’s residency permit came this morning–less than 48 hours after her processing appointment. I’ll give the Brits this: they know how to manage bureaucracy.