Category Archives: family

it was all a dream: postscript

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Did I ever tell you the story about this fortune?

Hi.

I didn’t want you to think our plane from London had gotten sucked up by the Bermuda Triangle en route to the US two weeks ago, and we had been living a dual life on a mysterious island run by the Dharma Initiative ever since.

That didn’t happen. The flight home (“home”) to Virginia was fine. Uneventful, really. Actually, eventful. For some reason Bryan tended to the kids the entire eight hours and I watched two movies, got hooked on some newish tv and read my book. That’s kind of like a Bermuda Triangle-thing to happen. Eerie but maybe exciting.

I’m checking in now because I finally have five seconds to do so, and because I want to make sure you know that I have read each and every one of your recent comments over the last few weeks and all the emails that have been sent to me personally.

I feel you.

And thank you.

I feel humbled by your support of this blog. (I feel uncomfortable too. Self-deprecation intermixed with random bouts of self-fandom (but only self) is more my steez.)

That said, I have my big girl pants (is it pants pants or trousers?) on and I am taking everything into consideration. I guess as they would say in the country from whence I just came: Watch This Space.

Our last few weeks in London were exhausting in a good way. So many goodbyes. So many things to try to see and do one last time. And the weather was so profoundly bad, it ripped at least 50% of the life force out of all of us. Can you believe I put weather on the list of things I would miss? I meant to say “narrower possible range of temperatures” but instead I said “weather” and now I have to spend my whole (hopefully very long but also quality) life living with that error. We had a last-minute pub night, dinner with friends at Mr. Chow, received many beautiful gifts that are incredibly meaningful to me and all very coincidentally feature something London or Britain-themed, and then for our very last weekend we were in a hotel which kind of befitted the surreal element to leaving a place bittersweetly. Nothing was cinematic about that very last weekend. No flat to look at longingly one last time. It was raining too hard to indulge in one last walk through Regent’s Park. Instead we managed to spontaneously make plans with four different friend sets and their kids on our last full day and so Jonah had at least four opportunities to faux-spear someone with a toy sword. And we ate unremarkable room service. Not bangers & mash or fish & chips, but just something generic and hotel-y. It’s like the gods knew I would want an easy transition.

But this next part is like a movie. You see, separately Matt & Trish and Melissa & Nick had requested to see us off at the airport on Sunday. And I said No multiple times. Why would someone want to say goodbye that way? It seems like so much trouble and a waste of their Sunday. What if they were just offering to be nice? Bryan – because he is normal and has a normal brain and normal self-esteem – told everyone they could come if they wanted to. And it was a good thing he/they did. 1. Because ultimately they were there for our kids, and our kids loved having them there. 2. Trish wrote out like 15 luggage ID tags for me. 3. Everyone helped with the luggage and Bryan couldn’t have his normal luggage-related outbursts. 4. I totally cried and cried and cried in the line at security looking back at our friends. Because no matter what I write or photograph or say, Jonah and Simon will never know how much they were loved by these people in the very beginning of them.

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I pulled myself together after Security. I mean, is anyone ever still crying after Security? Can you imagine a Hollywood blockbuster where the heroine has to take off her shoes, then her coat, then check her pockets for loose change, then remind herself what earrings she’s wearing, then take her laptop out of her bag, then ask someone if a Kindle counts but everyone in line is glaring at her, then – because everyone in line is glaring at her and it’s making her nervous – fumbles through her purse and realizes she has no fewer than five little pots of lip balms and glosses and she forgot to grab one of those little plastic bags from the beginning of the Security line and now she has to withstand the fiery death stares of all the people who knew to grab the bag at the outset because THERE WERE HUGE SIGNS TELLING EVERYONE TO GRAB A BAG and it’s especially stressful because no one ever even knows if lip balm is a liquid or a solid and it’s such a grey area about lip balm really, then wait like an a-hole at the end of the conveyor belt seeing the first tray of her stuff come within reach but then stop while the Security person viewing the video screen stares and stares and stares and rewinds the conveyor belt and stares and then forwards it and the whole time even though there is nothing even remotely exciting inside and it’s obvious that even if there was, no one would catch it. Oh and then the part where it takes another hour just to get dressed again and re-pack everything and do it awkwardly while holding on to the end of the conveyor belt for balance. There’s no cinematic crying after that.

One thing I was reminded of that I love about Not-America is communal space airport seating. You wait in the middle of a huge atrium of shops and duty-free offerings and food and drink and you only go to your gate at the very last possible minute once the gate is announced. It’s like flight as train travel. I like it. Anyway, so there we were in communal waiting mode in Heathrow’s Terminal I-Can’t-Remember. And all of a sudden a little traditional Irish music duo sets up on chairs in the middle of it all and begins to play staggeringly perfect melodies as soundtrack to The Leaving. Violin, guitar, I think, I don’t know exactly. I only knew that I was dancing with my kids and thinking wait, maybe I can conjure up some tears again! Then Bryan hands me a book he had been secretly making for three months of photos of our entire five years. Dayenu.

And now, we are post-London. A tour through it:

My mom was standing there outside baggage claim with a Thomas the Train balloon. I knew she would have a balloon. A seven word sentence that encapsulates so very much.

I walked to the wrong side of our rental car to get in the front passenger seat.

I ate bacon the very next morning. The American kind.

Servers at restaurants keep giving me ice in my drinks and refilling them before I can ask or be asked. Mind blown.

We bought a car. I’m still not used to the idea.

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The NCAA Tournament started and I honestly and truly was confused for a second. For five years Bryan had been deprived of live sports-viewing and it was awesome (for me). And now it’s not awesome (for me).

We started to clean out some of the 9,000 boxes we keep at my parents’. I’m a reformed hoarder but I can’t part yet with every note I ever took in law school. It’s sort of like as long as I hold on to my Criminal Procedure II final exam outline, the reality of my $100+K student loan debt and unemployed status will remain only a light-hearted and whimsical cocktail party anecdote. Should we ever be invited to a cocktail party.

We keep getting to see Amurrican friends, and our friends’ kids. Thanks for having us back, guys.

The sun keeps shining. Every day it shines and I think “what luck!” Eventually I will take it for granted but for now, it is so exciting!

I’ll be in Virginia for another month with the kids before our Brooklyn palace/shanty is ready. My parents/step-parents are loving on us and taking care of us and it feels good. They didn’t want us to live far away but we came back and now they never have to worry or feel sorry for themselves again! Except sometimes Bryan mentions job offers in Hong Kong for fun.

As our Between Countries And Moves vacation, we spent five days in Charleston, South Carolina visiting my younger brother and sister-in-law.

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If you’ve never been, you are crazy. Go see why Conde Nast readers just voted Charleston the #1 top city to visit in the United States. When I hear all the upwardly-mobile British people yammer on about San Francisco and all the cab drivers recounting their last five trips to Orlando, I want to grab and shake them and say CHARLESTON! GO TO CHARLESTON! It’s beautiful and Southern charming and has beaches and is a foodie haven and people are so ridiculously friendly and they really do say y’all and it’s actually American enough to have started the Civil War. What was San Francisco doing while the rest of the country was fighting over slavery and someotherstuff?? Probably boring crap like prospering on the Gold Rush and legalizing gay marriage. Lame.

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Also, in the South they do things like drive pick-up trucks and wear visors even when not golfing and eat grits and drink sweet tea and run for office using actual nicknames like “Teddy” and play Cornhole.

Micah and Janelle were like the best hosts on Earth. Micah wanted the kids so badly to himself, he got Bryan and me a night in a hotel downtown. His Uncle Energy is 24-7. They had toys and books for the kids and Janelle had organized an art project and baking and had – wait for it – made tater tots from scratch.

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Then we got back to Virginia and explored the new Air & Space museum at Dulles with my dad and step-mom.

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Then my mom had a Passover Seder and there was great company and legendary brisket.

For some reason this is the only picture I took that came out.

For some reason this is the only picture I took that came out.

Then the kids did an Easter Egg Roll in my mom’s neighborhood. I kept almost dying of preciousness.

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Then we came down to my dad and step-mom’s for a few days. And they had a million family members over for Easter. And it was lovely. And my dad put a Peep in every single dish. And as I have mentioned before, the Brits do not have Peeps. Which says so very much about the vast divide between our two cultures.

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And now

well, now this blog has officially gone off-topic.

Maybe we’ll meet again soon.

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Filed under family, food, friends, photos, travel, weather

the tail-end of the year of the dragon

Hi, everyone (reading this)! Happy 2013! If your New Year’s resolution was to read more really long not-that-interesting blog posts, then … you’re welcome.

Our Christmastime/Winterpalooza was really nice. So many people skip town that London gets really quiet and peaceful almost. Luckily our Aussie friends stayed and so we had Christmas Eve lunch with them at – where else – Wagamama. And Greg came to visit the weekend right before the holiday and it was great to have him for like the 5th time or something. In his honor, we all made the terrible decision to order Papa John’s late one night. This bad American pizza does not improve on other continents. And did you know they charge extra for the garlic dipping sauce now?

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IMG_2546We bought this beautiful Winterpalooza tree this year but after just a few days, it completely dried out. Watering is not my forte- I think because I am Jewish and therefore ill-equipped in holiday decoration management. So it looked a little Charlie Brown-ish for about a week or so, but that did not dampen the pure elation and joy that little kids bring to Christmas. I feel like Jonah is at that sweet spot age: old enough to know about all the secular aspects of Christmas lore, old enough to fervently and excitedly believe in Santa Claus, and old enough to get ridiculously excited over every detail, like seeing a picture of a snowman or leaving carrots out for the reindeer, but NOT old enough to be greedy nor understand quantity, volume and monetary value when it comes to gifts. He gets as excited over a jar of bubbles as his much-requested Mike the Knight toy. We really enjoyed one of our last years before our kids start asking for iPads and mobile phones and gaming systems and cold, hard cash for bail. We also got Jonah into Elf – a win for everyone.

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Even though this was not our first rodeo, it had somehow escaped us that Boxing Day is like the biggest, craziest shopping day in the nation (and what’s with the 1/2 price perfume thing??). So when Bryan set out to exchange a shirt at Zara, I got some desperate SOS messages on my phone- in one of them he said in the store “It looked like God threw up human beings”. The possibilities for that visual have delighted me for days on end.

Bryan’s office was closed through the new year so we basically had our first ever, true Staycation. London was pretty much overcast and rainy almost every single day of it, but we did not let that deter us. We visited the:

Horniman Museum

IMG_2635Horniman is a private collection of natural history, musical instruments, photographs etc. on a huge family-friendly expanse in South London and I had been wanting to go for a while. We really enjoyed it, and the bonus at the very end were the views to central London.

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V&A Museum of Childhood

IMG_2651This is another museum I had been wanting to check out for ages. It was so engaging and good for kids and adults alike, that we ended up there twice in a two-week span. It’s a collection of child-related toys, objects, and clothing from the 1600s to modern times, as well as containing numerous fun activity stations for kids like a sand pit, climbing frame, arts & crafts, robots, light show etc. So basically while the urchins were distracted, Bryan could absolutely FREAK OUT about seeing an intact Tyco electric racing set (no seriously, that is him looking longingly at it) and I could exclaim victory when finally coming across a Jem and the Holograms doll.

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And it reminded me I had the Heart Family too!

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And I am drooling for this vintage Maclaren. Wish they still made the pattern.

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Windsor Castle

IMG_2725Who knew when we spontaneously decided to finally visit the castle and charming town, we would be sharing the train with 9,000 die-hard rugby fans going to a match at Twickenham. Decked out in their gear and drinking and carrying on, no one could believe we didn’t want to alight at Twickenham. Yes, we were the only people left on the train after that. I have never felt so American. The day was very rainy and there were lots of people queueing and crowded in at the castle and there was the obligatory welcome audio message from Prince Charles (his posh/congested accent grates), but the castle was totally worth the visit. Pretty spectacular actually. We couldn’t take pictures inside, but managed a few in the pub afterwards. It looked pretty similar to the Queen’s State Apartments.

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Science Museum

IMG_2785I take the kids to the Science Museum all the time, but it was fun to go with Bryan and have more time there and also on a day when over a school break so the place was teeming with families. There is a lot I have never even explored there and it just solidified for me again that it’s one of the most amazing museums we have ever been to. Jonah always loves the space shuttle and astronauts and planes and this time we took the kids to an IMAX 3-D. It was Simon’s first ever movie and he wouldn’t wear the special glasses, so I guess sorry about the vertigo, my toddler. There was also a bubble show every half hour that I have to admit even I was pretty into. But no matter how many cool things to see and do, nothing can ever compete in the eyes of a little kid with the water feature and toy boats in the playroom in the basement. It is a mass of young children going ape-shit with excitement and equally with paranoid horror that someone might steal their boat. It’s a frenzy, a free-for-all, a total and utter scene of toddler/preschooler crack-addled chaos. And the parents all just hover around trying to take pictures and break up gang fights.

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Our New Year’s was low-key and IMHO, perfect. We went out for dinner, had a dance party at home (to Jonah, the elevator scene in Gangnam Style has not jumped the shark) and then Bryan and I stayed up to watch the British chat shows where things happen like celebrities do shots of Jager through the nipples on an ice bust of Alan Carr, play games like “Who would you shag?” and pummel a piñata of Boris Johnson – thus reminding us this is not American TV.

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The fireworks looked incredible and I didn’t feel bad passing out at 12:15. My inspiration came from the hilarious Albert Burneko in Deadspin:

One of the things that changes when you become a haggard, grayfaced grownup is how you spend New Year’s Eve. When you were a hip, attractive, energetic young person, you spent the night traipsing between crowded, noisy bars, meeting interesting people and talking excitedly about your plans for the future, and your whole goddamn life was like a sexy neon-lit music video, and you were immune from consequences, and, God, you were just the fucking worst. Now you’re old, and the overwhelming odds are that you’ll spend the evening at a similarly old friend’s home with fellow exhausted parents, desperately fighting to stay awake so you can feel if only for a fleeting moment as though your entire life were not the property of your job and/or kids.

And if I couldn’t love Waitrose more, they were selling Jell-o shots for New Year’s.

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OH and how about the Redskins?! Since the Jets are the embarrassment of the League right now (but read Bryan’s blog anyway), I think it’s fine for us to dig into the roots on my side of the family for once and Hail Victory. Both my brothers will be traversing the country this coming weekend for the playoff game, and Jonah and Simon will be wearing burgundy and gold.

I also wanted to thank so many of you for helping make my dad’s book so highly ranked in several Amazon best-seller categories. I was blown away by how many friends of ours contacted us to let us know they had bought copies – sometimes multiple – to gift to someone for Christmas or Hanukkah. It means a great deal to my father, who is passionate about history and writing. And it means a great deal to me to know you would support my family that way.

It’s going to be a good 2013, right? A time of renewal and hope and courage and I am sure the US Congress won’t do anything to depress us. That would never happen. Plus, Baby Kimye is coming. And Royal Baby. And I am getting a new niece or nephew!!! That’s the most important one: the baby coming straight out of Seattle and into my heart. Yeah, 2013.

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Filed under beautiful joy too, celebrities, culture i guess, family, fiscal responsibility, holidays, london, photos, politics...sike!, royals, sports, tv, weather

as they shouted out with glee

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Filed under family, food, holidays, london

proudest daughter ever for all time forevermore

My dad’s (the one and only Ronald Utt) book – Ships of Oak, Guns of Iron: The War of 1812 and the Forging of the American Navy – was officially released this week! I have been jumping out of my skin with happiness for him. I know how hard he worked on this book, and all the research and editing and long hours involved. My copy should be arriving to me any minute and I will start on it without haste. It looks pretty light and easy, right?

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Only for my dad will I read historical nonfiction and something not yet on my Kindle.

If you still need that perfect holiday gift for a history lover, a never-ending student of the world, or someone who desperately needs a sturdy doorstop (Dad, sales are sales), buy your copy today at all the huge chains where books are sold. Summer even saw this display at Costco!

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In such rarefied company. And Summer went that extra mile and propped it up. LYLAS!

I can even put in a good word with the author to get your copy signed. I sort of know the guy.

Also, I am the proudest ever daughter of my mom who does 50 billion praise-worthy things a millisecond. The most recent one being that she was Freshly Pressed on WordPress and also that she had my father inscribe her copy of his book to “his favorite ex-wife.” Divorce humor… HAHAHAHAHAHA. It’s so funny it hurts.

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Filed under celebrities, family

stuffed

I am pretty sure stuffed is British slang for effed, so congrats to me for today’s HILARIOUS double entendre.

Here is the email from my mom which started my day yesterday:

Subject: Powerball results

You almost won except you didn’t have any of the numbers.

Now let’s go back to Thanksgiving. Remember it?

It was great. I hope yours was too. It’s a pretty popular holiday, if airports and Facebook status updates are to be trusted. And every year I live in another country, my appreciation for it scales new heights. We enjoyed our meal with Bryan’s dad, who had been visiting for the past week. I did all the mediocre cooking, which I must say I enjoyed. In my extended family, there is no way I will ever get to cook for Thanksgiving again so I savored the small and easy audience. Bryan and his father are not picky, and will also gladly eat turkey for days on end, in every incarnation. Also, my father-in-law is an excellent carver. I told Bryan to pay attention since his own carving needs some practice. Usually it looks like a dingo has attacked the turkey before it makes it to the table.

As one of the only Americans and Jewish kids at nursery school, Jonah gets the privilege of having me come in every now and then to teach a little bit about our different cultural traditions. I am not sure I will ever get used to an audience of 2-4 year-olds (they bum rush a lot) but it’s fun and funny anyway. I never take pictures inside but here we are modeling some of the Thanksgiving hats we made for the kids to wear when they acted out a scene between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians:

Guess who designed the templates? Martha Stewart. She’s cray.

The Jets blew it big time. WEIN.

We did a million things during Poppy’s visit, like going to the zoo, the park, the jungle gym, Winter Wonderland, shopping and the Natural History Museum. And the kids totally are in love with him. Jonah is in a scared-to-sleep-in-his-room-alone phase so they had lots of sleepovers.

     

And all this time I have been negligent in giving our newest nephew his blog debut! Bryan’s sister, Lindsay, had Luke in like a 1 hour labor and then the next day was back in her normal jeans. Luke is also redonkulously cute, and I have heard a very easy baby. I love Luke big-time and can’t wait to give him big hugs. Luke, you give me a good reason to log in to Facebook. The shareholders thank you.

 

And 900 other people have told us lately they’re preggers. 2013 is going to involve a lot of joy.

Here is someone I love who was always joyful:

My stepmom’s mother, Mary Jo, passed away last week- leaving behind 4 children, 7 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. She died in the same room where she was born, and in the house she grew up in and raised her family in Washington, DC. It sounded transcendentally beautiful to me, and I hope she is having a good ‘ol time right about now. I know how much she will be missed.

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Filed under family, fashion icon, food, friends, holidays, sports, translation

hoping, remembering, and things that are red

So when I was still working at the law firm in London, and after my first maternity leave, I had this officemate Mike. I have mentioned him before. I miss Mike. I could always count on him to recommend poets I would never read, to know more about American politics than me, and to sporadically and perhaps accidentally offer me sage life advice.

One day I asked him pleadingly to tell me whether kids were as much fun and lovable as they got older (at the time his were 12 and 8, or something like that). He not only told me Yes, but he described on many days, in detail, the exchanges he had with his kids, the things they did together, the ways they enlightened him and astounded him and brought him unparalleled joy (and heartache. like kids of every age do).

I will forever and a day keep Mike’s words close to my heart. Especially when yet another morose piece on Oh-My-God-Your-Gorgeous-and-Sweet-and-Chubby-Baby-slash-Toddler-slash-Preschooler-will-Grow-Up-and-You-will-be-a-Shell-of-a-Human-Because-You-Will-Miss-Him-Her-Them-So-Much shows up on my Facebook Newsfeed.

I’ve said it before, and because I have a blog and have the privilege of having long conversations with myself, I’ll say it again: it’s pretty negative and depressing and irresponsible and well, sort of pathetic, to publicly put that juju in the air. In to the mommy discourse ether. I am waiting for the day when someone writes a beautiful piece on the joys of having older children and grown children and it goes viral. Something – holy shit – HOPEFUL. Until that day, I guess we should all just kill ourselves because our kids are going to grow up.

Speaking of death, and I have been doing a lot of it here for the minute (sorry about that), it was just Remembrance Day in the UK and elsewhere. “([A]lso known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day, [it] is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World war I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.” (Thanks, Wikipedia. I promise to donate soon.)

Being this is my fifth Remembrance Day living here, I sort of went about the motions of buying my poppy and wearing it, like pretty much everyone else. And then on Sunday I was aware of all the beautiful memorials and services and events around town. And as it coincides with Veterans Day in the US, I saw a few status updates from friends on the military heroes in their own lives.

But it was an email from my dad that reminded me the UK has a more public display of remembrance than the US currently does.

Hi All: I always wax nostalgic when I see our Brit cousins wearing their red poppies on what we call Veterans Day, which had its origins on Armistice Day when WWI ended on the 11th hour of the eleventh day of the 11th month.  When I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s it was common for everyone to wear a red poppy on this day (and/or Memorial Day) but for some reason this tradition has died out in the U.S.
When I was in Britain three years ago this weekend, and found myself in the midst of a sea of red poppy-wearing Brits, I happily bought one and wore it on the streets of London, like nearly everyone else there (check the photos of Parliament these past few days) and felt more complete as a human and in tune with the America of my youth.

I am sure there are complicated reasons for the difference in the two nations having to do with population demographics, country history and the fact that the US also has a Memorial Day. But nonetheless it would be nice to replicate the spirit of the ubiquitous poppy. My dad has decided to try. So look out for poppies near you next November!

And speaking of the color red (don’t you love my segues?), Faye sent this to me and it’s awesome: http://lookatmyfuckingredtrousers.blogspot.co.uk/ I almost took a picture of a guy in the park Sunday but got shy. I have been needing to get Bryan a pair.

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Filed under culture i guess, family, fashion icon, mommyblogging

“you’re the best nene i ever saw”

Said by Jonah the other day. And then today: “You’re a good NeNe.” At least twice. Even Simon’s all over her. And that is so unlike him.

Things we’ve been doing with the beloved NeNe include bowling during half-term, Boo at the Zoo, Camden Market, car show on Regent Street, jungle gym, walking, cooking, eating, reading stories, reading stories and reading stories. And building forts.

       

Also, my US presidential election ballot arrived today. Even though I already sent a ballot back. ?

Luckily, New York is not hanging in the balance of my vote.

Also, it’s Guy Fawkes Night. There have been fireworks.

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