From Happy Birthday to Happy New Year

We are in the depths of winter here� Grey, dreary London has become freezing and dark! It gets light around 8 AM (I won�t say �the sun rises� because that�s being too optimistic) and it starts getting dark around 3:30 PM.

We�ve had really cold weather lately � and Theo especially seems to have too much California in his blood. He walks around the house shivering and pleading, �I�m so cold� despite the fact that he is dressed in tights, undershirt, turtleneck, sweater, long pants, wool socks, etc. He even refers to nighttime as �when the sky is black� and daytime as �when the sky is white.� Not much blue here �

We�ve even had a few days of snow. Upon discovering this out the window one early morning, Theo declared that �someone spilled milk all over!�.

England still hasn�t caught on to central heating, so our little radiators are doing the best they can. In the morning, we look like a Victorian family all huddled around the fireplace getting dressed! I�ve even resigned to sleeping with a hot water bottle every night.

Since we last wrote at the end of August, I must say that more has happened around here with the kid�s development than in any other update. So, buckle your seatbelts, it�s going to be a roller coaster of a ride!

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The 1st of September, Madeline and Theo started preschool. They go three mornings a week, from 9:15 AM to 11:45 AM. They settled in immediately, much to the credit of their fantastic teachers Nicola, Janet and Lisa.

Within a week, their language skills just took off. Theo.'s first complete sentence came mid September- � Mom, there�s a booger in my nose and I gotta go get it (with my finger).� A few weeks later that was followed by �Hey mom! A funny noise came out of my butt!� We are so proud.

At preschool, they are learning their colors, shapes, numbers, letters and much much more. When studying shapes, Theo was shown a red rectangle and taught to say �rectangle.� Next, he was shown a blue square but Theo insisted that it was a �blue tangle.�

After a few months, I have really started to notice a British accent creeping in. Peter Rabbit is now Pe-tah Ro-bit, zebra (zee-brah) is now zeh-bra and Santa Claus is Father Christmas.

One week, the kids were studying emotions. There was some minor confusion when my kids were declaring that �sometimes my mommy is mad�, which to the British, translates as �sometimes my mummy is legally insane.� True on both counts, I suppose.

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The 15th of September was cause for a huge backyard birthday party! We had about 14 little friends come over and they really got into it! The parents ate and drank, while the kids played in the ball pond I hired. Mom made cakes in the shape of merry-go-rounds. Their very favorite presents were the umbrellas I had been promising them for 2 months.

Potty training came next. Madeline is our star in that department. We talked about it for about a week, and when the big day came she was so excited. Off with the diapers, and on with the cute new undies! Every time they sat on the potty, they got a sticker on their potty chart. If there was a pee-pee, they got a little chocolate candy. For the number 2�s, a big piece of chocolate was the prize.

They figured out right away how to get lots of chocolate-- a drop of pee-pee now, another couple of drops five minutes later, and so on� Mom quickly put a stop to that sham by insisting on a certain quantity before getting the reward.
They are both up on the big potty now, Theo standing there like a real little man doing his business. We still can�t get him to do number 2 in the toilet, but we�re working on it. OK, enough potty talk!

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ready for a rainy autumn!

Next on the agenda was moving to big beds. We got these cute little sleigh beds made in junior size. Both kids are really happy with this change, and pretty soon we�ll be able to take off the guard rails. Along those lines, we�ve also gotten rid of the high chairs and now they sit tall and proud at the big table.

Theo and his �tuk tuk� (dummy or pacifier depending on your country) were strongly encouraged to part company. One chilly October morning, mom went to the local toy store and picked out 3 toys she thought Theo would love and asked the sales lady to keep them behind the counter. Back at home, Theo and I roamed around the house collecting all his tuk tuks and put them in a big bag. He was allowed choose one to keep for bedtime only. Then we went to the toy store and Theo got to pick one of the toys in exchange for the whole bag of tuk tuks. He decided on the red guitar, and handed over the bag to the sales lady as payment. He said a fond �bye bye� to his cherished friends and hasn�t looked back since. For the first few weeks he would occasionally demand one, but we would remind him about how he had traded all his tuk tuks for the guitar and he would just shrug his shoulders and go play. Whew!

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Madeline is really getting into girlie things, like dressing up, putting on mommy�s makeup and playing with her dolls. One time in a clothing store, she insisted on trying on a little outfit. She then looked at me with these big brown eyes and asked �mommy, am I beautiful?

We�ve had one big wedding this season � Jorge and Michelle...

Paulin

... and lots of babies! Gontran�s sister, Virginie and her partner Stephan had Paulin, Theresa and Nick gave Alexander a sister and me a goddaughter, Sophia, Linda and Peter Doyle had Casey, Trae and Chris Terrell-Diede have a beautiful baby girl named Gwen Piper, and Sara and Scott Levy are due to have their 1st any day.

Sophia

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On October 31st we had a big Halloween party, American-style, with a pi�ata, bobbing for apples and trick-or-treating. Madeline was a butterfly and Theo was a turtle. Made by Mom of course! Halloween is getting more popular every year here in England-about one in 15 houses participates. The holiday, however, made some major adjustments as it crossed the Atlantic. The trick-or-treaters are adolescents over 12 and the costumes are more gloom and gruesome (no ballerinas here!). But little Theo and Madeline were out there anyway. We had lots of carved pumpkins by the door and decorations on the windows.

Typically, we were vandalized again this year�pumpkins stolen, eggs thrown and flour dumped all over the front yard. The English kids go more for the tricks than the treats.
We�ve introduced the twins to lots of new activities, including bowling, kite flying, visiting farms and ice-skating. They are both really adventurous and love trying new things.

Bowling

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We went to Norfolk for a long weekend, borrowing our friends Lucinda and Nick�s cottage.

The kids (and parents) really loved seeing the sea and running away from the waves.

We�ve been so lucky to have lots and lots of visitors in our home over the past few months:

Grandma and Grandpa Matey from California (who Madeline calls gamma and gamma).

My cousin Ben and his girlfriend Anne. Theo was so enamored by them that when they were all packed up and leaving, Theo came around the corner with his little wicker suitcase, ready to go with them. He said, �see, I got my favorite ball in my suitcase � let�s go!�

Teya, my friend from my Paris au pair days, and her friend Amy visited here for a few days, then Gontran�s sister and brother-in-law Blandine and Fred came. Our latest visitors were another sister and brother-in-law, Anne and Carl, here with 4 of their 5 kids.

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November saw the last of the afternoon naps. Those 2 hours of peace are sorely missed, but on the good side, the kids are now in bed by 6:30 PM as opposed to 9:30 PM when naps were still on the schedule. Early to bed does mean a little earlier to rise. And during the long winter months of darkness, it is really hard to face two bouncing 3 year olds at 6 AM. So mommy told them that they couldn�t get out of bed and wake mommy up until it was light (starting around 7 AM). Theo totally misunderstood me, and the next morning at around 5 AM, he was bouncing up and down on his bed, looking out the window and calling for me. �Look Mommy, it�s the sun! So it�s wake-up time!!!� Mom groggily retorted �no, my boy, that�s the moon��

That leads us on to the Christmas season, which we started by spending a week in Denmark. Copenhagen�s Tivoli Gardens were really decked out festively! During the month of December, it is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, with lights, decorations, Santa, amusement park rides and singing. In fact, the whole country goes Christmas crazy, so the twins were lapping it up!

We took the twins to their first ballet- the Nutcracker, performed by the Royal Danish Ballet. Much to our surprise, we were seated just 7 seats down from the Queen of Denmark and her entourage! Copenhagen is a gorgeous Scandinavian town. We really fell in love with that place.

Hey! Theo! That�s not a urinal!

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Next stop, Christmas in Lille with Gontran�s family. Bon-papa was happy to pick us up at the train station. As usual, the food and presents were overflowing!

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Madeline�s favorite gifts were the Cinderella costume Tiphaine gave her and the outfit Mamie sewed for her, with a matching one for her doll Carrie!.

Theo 's favorite part had to be playing with all of his 15 cousins!

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We came back home on the 22nd to spend Christmas here with just us four. The house was decorated inside and out. Unfortunately, the vandals were at it again and they tore down and destroyed all our front yard lights. It is very, very rare for the English to decorate outside their houses (maybe a wreath on the door, but that�s all) so I guess our lights on the bushes were not appreciated.

We had a blast telling Madeline and Theo all about how Santa would come down the chimney�even left cookies and milk out for him on Christmas Eve. We played up the whole reindeer on the roof thing when Gontran went up in the attic and made stomping noises. Gontran and I spent Christmas Eve drinking Champagne and setting up the train track set for Theo.

Big big on the gift list were bikes! Since Halloween, the twins were infatuated with bikes they had seen in the store. I used that as a major negotiating/blackmail tool�anytime they were acting up, I was right on top of it with �if you are naughty, then you can�t get a bike for Christmas�� It even got to the point where they were using that threat on each other � "Don�t hit me or you won�t get a bike!� Once, Madeline accidentally broke the glass table, and looked up at me with big puppy dog eyes and asked �Does this mean I won�t get my bike?�

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Madeline had her heart set on the pink Barbie bike. After much consideration, we agreed that the Barbie bike was a big hunk of junk that wouldn�t last more than a

month. So, I bought a really good pink bike, and then added all the Barbie accessories- basket, seat cover, bell, baby seat for her doll, etc. Theo had his heart set on a green bike (his favorite color). You should have seen their faces when they came running into the living room on Christmas morning to find the two bikes next to the Christmas tree!!!

We spent a wonderful morning tearing through wrapping paper and searching in stockings. In the other living room, we had another Christmas tree with 2 more presents- a great dollhouse for Madeline and the train set Theo really wanted.

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To all our friends and family, we send

our best wishes for 2003