Though we're currently celebrating America's Independence Day in Oslo for the fourth time in a row, and though we're watching soccer as part of that celebration, Jonathan and I do miss lots of things about being home for this wonderful holiday. I rooted around through our photo bank for a few of the things we miss the most (and made myself terribly homesick in the process):




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Every year, our home church puts on a BBQ. This includes food, games for the kids, music, and a car show. Jonathan participated in the car show for a couple of years, showcasing his beloved 1990 Jaguar XJS V12. Pretty sweet ride. Sometimes we miss that car.

The July 4 BBQ is all about relaxing and being a kid again. This includes juggling. My man can juggle anything, even lawn flamingos. This also includes water wars. Somehow I was always a target in these super soaker battles, and I unfailingly ended up drenched to the bone. That's young John Cromie on the right, looking every inch the BBQ nightmare scenario he was for me.

As the sun goes down, the crowds retreat to their homes for blankets and sweatshirts. Our way home included this beautiful stretch of South Livermore Avenue.



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Then it was back to Robert Livermore Park. Jonathan would sometimes bring his glow-in-the-dark frisbee to entertain us as we suffered through some terribly amateur rendition of the national anthem. And finally, the fireworks. It's a great show! Colorful and loud. On the right you can see little Stephen Youd in his mom's lap, covering his ears. (Today, this adorable kiddo is over six feet tall and wandering the halls of my old high school. It doesn't make me feel young!)



My family also uses July 4th as an excuse to compete, competition being the Pancoast way of making life worthwhile. Dad comes up with a schedule of sports (or random games) and runs them like a mini-Olympics. The name of this tournament is the Fourth of July Scar-Belly Open, or FOJSBO for short, and it's an hilarious way to spend our nation's birthday.


My brother and sister-in-law, just two of our cutthroat opponents in FOJSBO's opening year. (Sarah, you need to stop laughing. This is serious stuff. Just look at how Dad handles the coaching of his teammate in the Disc Golf round. And how he handles Mom's less-than-ideal throw. And how Jonathan makes sure to eavesdrop on their strategy.)

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Matching shirts for all competitors were introduced the second year. Don't the Pancoast men look dashing in big, blue stripes? (We ladies were less jazzed about the stripes being horizontal. Just saying.) Another addition that year was a brand new Pancoast: Jacob Owen. Here he is, obviously thrilled to the gills about being seen out in public with his weird relatives.



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Like the real Olympics, FOJSBO has evolved over time. Table games were added in 2008, resulting in hypertension and bloody knuckles. Worth it. Also added: Photobombing.

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Possibly the most important facet of FOJSBO is the trophy. (What's the point of winning if you don't get a big, shiny reminder to lord over your sad, loser opponents the rest of the year?) Jonathan and I took home the cup in 2009.

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Left: Dad winning and being such a good sport about it in 2006; another pair of humble winners in 2007 (oh, wait, that's us again).


Once, a couple of our friends showed up and eked out a victory.



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Yes. They won. Over the family. And took the sparkly trophy... just snatched it out of our hands. As you can probably guess, we handled it well.


And that was it. The last Independence Day we spent at home in Livermore with our family and friends. In 2011, we moved a world away, and had new national holidays to celebrate . But July Fourth remains special, perhaps even more so now that we have distance and perspective.

There are ten thousand things that drive me crazy about my home country, but there are thousands more that I admire and miss. Tonight, I'll be dreaming of barbeque smells, corn on the cob, music by The Beach Boys, water balloons, five dollar flag shirts from Old Navy, red-white-and-blue Jell-O, car engines revving under the hoods of muscle cars, George Washington, my funny parents, my brothers, their wives, my nephew, and even the friends we hope to challenge to a FOJSBO rematch one day. Oh, and the Declaration of Independence. We the people. We the people. Because that still includes me.

Happy Birthday, America!