Jace turns six!

Why is it so hard to see your baby grow up?  If I could keep him this cute and lovable forever, I would.  He’s my sweet little buddy who still loves his mommy, holding my hand, snuggling and sharing his endless thoughts with me.  Quite a contrast when you’re raising teens boys sometimes.

Picking out treats to share with his kindergarten class was a serious deal to him, so we got Krispy Kremes, which were a big hit.  I feel bad that we can’t have a friend party this year – but he’s just getting to know kids and they’re all spread out so it’s complicated.  He didn’t seem to mind as long as there was a family celebration with cake and presents.


Proudly wearing the birthday crown home, he couldn’t wait to share how they celebrated at school.


Our friends stopped by to wish him a happy birthday and drop off a gift.  We’re so grateful to have them nearby – it’s been great to have boys the same ages with similar interests.  We’ve already enjoyed several park outings and Lego playdates.


We knew we’d better start with cake since we knew he’d have no interest once the presents were opened.  He chose chocolate and made his wish.  (I wish I hadn’t used my portable camera for this event since they turned out really grainy and discolored – oh well.)

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The joy on his face when he opened each gift was priceless – his brothers all picked out Legos for him and we did too.  It’s his absolute favorite thing.  Since they provide he and his brother endless hours of building creativity,  I can overlook the mess and pain they cause spread all over their room.

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His favorite thing of the day was Lego General Grievous, which he has begged to get for a couple years.  It’s finally in a more reasonable set and he quickly put him together.


Thank heavens Nathan loves to build Legos for anyone and in no time, he and Lynn had a few things built and ready to play with.

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Jace got a skype call from his grandparents which made him happy.  He was eager to share all of his new creations.


Life without this little guy wouldn’t be as sweet.  We love you Jace and hope year six is an awesome one!

A week earlier, I had a turn celebrating another year.  The boys were so anxious to share the gifts they individually picked out which was really sweet.  Those macarons were amazing!  Lynn and I had a great night out with dinner and a West End show  and it was a wonderful start to a new year ahead.  I’m savoring every moment of this last decade of mine.  Eeks.

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Back to London {August 2014}

With school starting for the kids in a couple of days, it was time to head back across the pond.  Knowing we had to attend the school’s orientation the very next day, we were worried about jet lag.  Of course no one slept a wink on the 10 hour flight.  Ugh.  This will be a treat.

Trying to pack as light as possible while slipping in as many things we can’t find in England (Crest toothpaste, Melatonin, medicines that actually work, good deodorant, favorite snacks, etc.), we loaded up all our bags and settled on the plane.


Tyler couldn’t bear to leave his new guitar home – buying a new (soft) case to take it aboard.  He was so cautious taking a great care to get it there in one piece and was so very close to making that happen until the very end when it was sitting atop the luggage cart and bumped (by an unnamed brother) crashing to the concrete.  While it still plays fine, it now has a little extra character on the backside.  Poor guy.


If only these sleeping masks did the trick.


Nathan warmed up with the giant socks on his arms.


New School

The main criteria we had for staying in London an extra year was getting the kids in school.  While I appreciate the time I had with my kids the previous year and all the experiences we shared, I knew homeschooling was not my cup of tea – at least not with four boys in a small apartment stretched from Kindergarten to High School.  Kudos to the parents that can hack it.  I know my limits!

Applying to various private schools was the most stressful, time-consuming endeavor.  It felt like applying to college, times four, with all the essays, reports, teacher recommendations and interviews.  By the time we had to decide to extend our stay or go home, all four boys hadn’t officially been accepted.  Taking our chances, we made the decision to stay – crossing our fingers things would work out.  When we heard over the summer that all the boys got into the same school, it was the greatest relief!  For the first time ever, all my kids would be in one school (instead of four) and I would have nearly nine hours to myself.  Such a drastic change from last year!  Not that I’m excited or anything.

With only a few hours of sleep, we headed over to their new school for orientation day.  The boys were greeted with friendly classmates who showed them around the expansive school and we admired the beautiful grounds and learned all we could for the coming year.

Once a mansion-house to a family of Barons in the mid 1800s, it is now an international school outside of the hustle of the city.  The school is beautiful inside and out with several restored or original rooms showcasing the beauty of the 19th century.  There are students from around sixty countries so the boys will be exposed to many new cultures and friendships.




Nathan lucked out getting the teacher he visited with last year.  The entire class had moved up, so he even knew some familiar faces.


During WWII, the inhabited mansion was bombed multiple times and one landed in the well shaft of the courtyard now memorialized with children’s sculptures.


Hyde Park

After a few long naps and settling in a bit, we ventured out to their favorite park at Kensington Palace knowing it would be one of our last times to soak up summer.  The construction around the pond is finished and they now have access to feed the swans again.

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Can you believe it’s been 17 years since Princess Diana’s death?  A memorial was starting at the Palace gates.


Walking throughout the extensive park, the boys spotted a tree with Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears A Who” clover.  “There’s a speck on mine,” Jace shouted.

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Hyde Park is massive and somehow we missed seeing the Italian Gardens until now.  They were really pretty.

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The next day, the weather took an unexpected turn while en route to Lynn’s office and I was grateful we actually had an umbrella this time.  Looks like summer is officially over kids.



First Day of School

It’s not going to be easy getting all the boys up and ready at 6:00 am to make it to the bus stop – these boys are night owls like their parents.  Time to get a strict schedule!

With supplies all packed (thank goodness we could order the boxed sets online) and everyone fed and ready, we walked to the nearby bus stop and met the other 25 kids in the area joining them on the shuttle bus.

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Jace couldn’t be more excited to start Kindergarten.  He’s been watching his older brothers head off to school for years and was ready for his turn.  There’s only 9 other kids in his class – with only one other American so he’ll get plenty of individual attention – hopefully emerging as a strong reader by the end!



Nathan is set to start 4th Grade.  He seems to think he skipped 3rd altogether since he was home schooled last year.  Hopefully he’s up to speed with his classmates!  Thankfully he has a friend from Seattle who just moved over here for the year, so he’s got a buddy in his class.



The older boys will be starting the MYP  – which is the Middle Years Program that transitions into the International Baccalaureate program the final two years of high school.  It will be quite a change for them having eight classes instead of six with a crazy rotating schedule and different types of classes than they’re used to, but they have new opportunities to learn with a global mindset and even travel throughout Europe with their class.  Tyler is able to take private guitar lessons at school during the day (I think he enjoys getting out of class once a week) and they’re both looking forward to starting sports in winter.


The shuttle bus that arrived wasn’t nearly large enough for all the kids.  There’s 35 between our stop and Notting Hill. The next day, they got the big bus, which they liked a lot better.  It’s so comfy, Jace falls asleep on the 45 minute bus ride home nearly every day.  It was great meeting several other moms and starting new friendships.

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Jace came home anxious to share his first project. “The Kissing Hand” is one of our favorite books about the transition from home to school.   Made me a little teary he’s growing up.

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We’re looking forward to a completely different, new experience here and hope the boys will grow in many ways that will enrich their lives forever.

August Highlights

With just a couple weeks left of summer, we scrambled to fit everything in we could while packing what we needed for the next year abroad.  We spent as much time with family in sunny Chelan as possible, knowing the cold of British winter to come.

We’ve hardly had Tyler home this summer – the start of what’s to be now that he’s getting older.

The little boys had fun with their cousins playing some type of farm game they made up.  After raiding grandma’s garden, they’d make concoctions to sell us.  I’m pretty sure everything was inedible, but they were sure creative and convincing.






Doesn’t this cute girl just ooze personality!  She can sure keep up with the big kids.


Cade was our resident fire builder.





Cade’s practicing his swing – he loves to go out golfing with Lynn lately.



Celebrating Crystal’s birthday with all her sweet girls.


The kid’s know what time the “Lady of the Lake” rides by – a large ferry that makes the best waves to jump.  Lynn loves taking them for a crazy, wild ride.  Not sure why they don’t have their life jackets on in this one – usually mandatory!

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Loving these lazy days of summer.




Sunset is my favorite time of the day here.  The lake is calm and serene.  It’s been so smoky from the fires, though.


It’s the perfect time to fit in one last wakeboard and coast on the paddle board.




The little ones got brave enough to join their older siblings jumping off the dock with no life jackets and swimming.



It’s been a while since Grandma and Grandpa Smith have joined us up at the lake and we were grateful Lynn’s sister and girls visiting from Utah could join us for a few days.



Jace has been dying to reunite with his “bestest buddy and cousin” all year!  These two were inseparable and so fun to watch.


Parasailing is always a blast, even if I hate heights. The panoramic views up so high are actually calming and worth it. Tyler and Cade rode tandem.  I was hoping they’d get dunked a little further, but the driver was too nice.

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It wouldn’t be summer without a sno-cone run. They now have the “Big Kahuna” size which fit with the weekly theme of “Go big or go home!”




Cade kept the little fishing boat running all week with rides for his cousins and brothers.  They caught quite a few fish too.


It’s always a good time around a campfire.  Lynn loves scaring the little ones with ghost stories and grandpa shares childhood memories.




Tyler’s rocking the infant glasses.


For the first time ever, we finally got the majority of my local cousin’s kids together for a picnic in the park.  It’s hard not to feel like I’m looking at their parents at that age!  They are all fantastic soccer players and we had a fun little game together after dinner.


Another birthday celebration – Lynn’s 42


Cade picked out a new suit while school shopping.



The major task of packing the family for another year, getting the house in order and a million other details to pull this extended move off was a bit overwhelming.  Thanks to grandma and grandpa for taking the boys while I tried not to go insane.



Using space bags was a life saver, I just hope they don’t get unsealed along the way or there’s no putting them back together!


Tyler and Cade wanted one more stop at the Rootbeer Store since it’s in scarce supply in England.


Saying goodbye to Lily was another heartbreak for the kids.  She’ll be providing companionship to a senior in college who loves and trains dogs until we return.


It’s hard to believe the summer has come to an end already  Coming home for this time was exactly what we needed, but saying goodbye a second time was harder than the first, especially since we won’t be coming home all year (except for Lynn).  But we’re ready for new experiences and memories to be made across the pond.  And then we’re staying put for a long time!