Goodbye England!

Little did we know that this would be our last Christmas in London!

The kids were at the perfect age for all the customs and magical traditions of Santa Claus. At French school, le Pere Noel visited and let each child choose a gift from his bag. When Theo opened his little gift (a small stocking with candy inside), he got really upset with Santa and looked up at him with big puppy dog eyes, brimmed with tears and said "mais je voulais un camion benne - j'etais tres sage cet annee�" "but Santa, I asked you for a dump truck-I was really good this year�."

On Christmas Eve, we laid out milk and cookies, and just after the kids went to bed, we stomped around in the attic bellowing �ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas.� (much to their delight and awe!).

I really milked it November and December, constantly reminding them to be good so Santa would bring gifts. (Never mind the one time when very naughty children pushed a very stressed out mommy to actually call Santa on the phone to cancel all gifts.) They were pretty freaked out about Santa knowing when they were naughty or nice.

I had to think quick on my feet when questioned about his ability to see them if they hid in the closet to do something bad. The kids worried about poor Santa �burning his butt� when he came down the chimney, so I assured them that I would put out the fire before he came.

Santa was very good to them this year. Santa brought Theo an electric racing set and the requested dump truck. Madeline was in heaven with her new Barbies and make-up.

This year they gave each other a Christmas present. I took Theo shopping for Madeline, and he decided to buy his sister a Barbie telephone. Madeline chose a Matchbox cars �Alien Attack�

for Theo. Both were thrilled!

For Christmas, they each received their first computer games-Barbie Beach fun for Madeline and Train Town for Theo. Theo took to the computer immediately and is really good with the games. Mamie and Bon Papa, and cousin Yann added to his collection by giving him lots of French games, like Lapin Malin and Le Pays d�Adibou. He is really good at figuring out what to do and can type his own name.

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Madeline�s ballet school had a little recital and she really hammed it up!

A few days after, mommy organized a �girls only� surprise. I bought tickets to see the Royal Ballet�s production of the Nutcracker. After school, I showed Madeline the tickets and told her we were going to a real ballet. She was so excited.

Then I looked at the jeans she was wearing and said �you need something really fancy to wear.� A week before, I had secretly bought Madeline a gorgeous pink dress with matching tights, headband and shoes. So I went upstairs and came down with the beautiful outfit. Her eyes got huge and the smile and giggle she gave will stay in my memory forever.

I changed into a nice dress too, but after Madeline was all dressed up, she looked at me and said �But mommy, what are you going to wear?� The entire way downtown, she danced and showed total strangers her new ensemble.

Daddy planned a special �boys only� surprise too. He took Theo to the Monster Car Rally and watched cars race and crash! What a great time they had!

Madeline loves music and knows most of the words to �By the Way� by the Red hot Chili Peppers and Dreamweaver by Gary Wright. She is starting to question the lyrics of my music: �Mommy, why does he want the American Woman to stay away from him?�

We are just at the age when they start to use bad words. Nothing serious, mind you, just the poo-poo, pee-pee nature. We call it �potty talk� that should only be used in the bathroom. So occasionally I will find them both in the bathroom saying things to the effect of �you are a big stinky poo-poo face, and you are a pee-pee fart girl.� Easy answer for when they get caught: �But mom, we are using our potty talk IN the bathroom, so it�s OK!�

Madeline has also developed a serious phobia about trash. Absolutely nothing can ever be thrown away in front of her. That includes lint, dirty diapers, empty yogurt containers and junk mail. I often find her secret stashes of things she�s �saved� from the trash can and hid under her bed. Trash collection day is especially hard on her. She hears the truck coming down the street and goes into a frenzy. She even made the trash men promise to bring back everything they had ever taken from our trashcans.

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We are so happy to announce the birth of another beautiful baby boy, Constant, to Virginie and Stephane.

Our talented friend Barbara Cox, actress extrordinaire, got a super role playing Laura Bush in the hit musical �A Weapon�s Inspector Calls.� Way to go Barb!

I was lucky to be able to fly over to

Memphis, Tennessee to visit the famous Bridgett and her wonderful family. Bridgett and I went on a road trip to Nashville and had a blast. I nearly bought a banjo.

It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to our great friends Suzanne and Ed, who left big city London to start a new life in New Zealand. We wish you every success!

After many many many years in London, and after a few months of Gontran job hunting in New York, we made a drastic decision. On February 20, 2004 we sent out the following e-mail to all of our friends and family:

Dear all,

Even though Gontran has not found a job in New York yet, we have decided to just go ahead and move there. We feel that this is the only way forward and our only chance to achieve our dreams. We�re going to put the American Dream to the test. The moving company suggests 6 months to plan, organize and execute an international move. Well, they don�t know who they�re dealing with! I think I can do it in 12 days. Apparently, if I pull it off, it will be a world record.

Here�s the plan: From March 1-3, we�ll get all our stuff packed and shipped over to the USA (a very complicated customs process). We�re renting a fully furnished apartment in New Jersey for the month that it takes our stuff to cross the Atlantic. During that month, besides looking for a job, we�ll check out which area we want to live in, get our drivers license, bank account, buy a car, enroll in school, etc. Then when our stuff arrives, if it hasn�t been lost at sea, we�ll get a decent, but small 3 bed house to rent for 6 months or more until we get on our feet.

Gontran�s so nervous that he�s tossing his cookies and I�m shaking like a leaf.

Anyway, I�ve got to run and fill out 17 pages of US customs forms, sell all our stuff that has a plug, buy airline tickets, arrange a rental car, find an apartment in New Jersey, get all our medical records together, buy health insurance, sell the car, plan our �bon voyage� party, forward the mail, cancel all my utilities, pack up the house, and bake cookies for the twins last day at school.

The de Quillacq family

PS: please check behind the couch for any loose quarters and send them to us--we need them for the washing machine at the �Stop and Wash� on New Jersey route 9.

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So, all that left was saying goodbye to London, and goodbye to our precious friends.