14 August 2011


Matthew and I have been married for twelve years today. Cheaper by the dozen, baby!

When I was crushing on my terribly handsome guy friend in college, no part of my daydreams around him involved considering whether one day we would be able to navigate the intricacies of parenting three children, moving internationally, changing jobs, buying and selling a home, and expecting a baby together in the course of one year (and oh yeah, that cycling accident too). We could not have planned it -- we had no idea what lay ahead for us -- so I consider it all grace that we have grown together and loved each other through it all. And today especially I am thanking God for this marriage that brings me such joy.

So much joy that I want to sing this to him -- both parts, why not: Tammi and Marvin are all the other needs to get by (although, aww, this video is way better because Tammi and Marvin are in it: Ain't No Mountain High Enough).

I can't wait until we renew our vows and have a big party with all our friends and family for our ?th anniversary, and I get a beehive and we sing this song. (Right, Matthew?) Please RSVP in the comments with what song you will perform at this event.

(If you do not have a tune in mind, I am also looking for a partner to help me with the best song from the 1980s. This song is irresistible. I will need to acquire black leather pants and a Cosby sweater so I can do Philip Bailey's part. I may not have the vocal range for it, but I do indeed have the lip syncing range. Ee-eesy LOVER!)

28 July 2011

Air America

We received our air shipment a couple weeks ago. To save space in our sea container some strange items ended up coming by air -- strange in that they are items we did not feel a pressing need to possess while living in a temporary, furnished apartment: a box spring and a love seat.

We had to save space in our sea shipment because we were maxing it out. Ick. We have too many belongings. I know almost exactly how many we own because I had to fill out a detailed insurance form listing the quantity and estimating the replacement value of everything we own that was sent by air or sea. Please don't ask me how many items of baby clothing we possess. It's embarrassing to the point of absurdity. Much consigning and craigslisting and donating to occur this fall.

But we also put some things in it, purposefully, that sit here shaming me. My KitchenAid mixer, used weekly in normal life, sits in the corner of the counter, cool and detached. We need to get reacquainted in a few months. Not just the mixer, but also my kitchen scale. And the flour, even, and baking soda and baking powder that I bought on one of my first trips to Cub -- they are unopened in the cupboard. We don't have many baking pans in the apartment, for one thing, but I just have no desire to whip up a batch of cookies.

The depths I have sunk to as a hostess became apparent when my father-in-law was here a couple weeks ago. He made an impromptu visit to help us address all the items we had to do on the house we're selling. (Don't you wish you had a Handyman Fairy? We are blessed!) One evening after eating pizza out, we all stopped at Walgreens, I ran in to pick up a couple items, and I grabbed a treat for us three adults to enjoy once the kids were asleep. So, for dessert, I served my guest one Reese's Peanut Butter Cup out of a king-size package. Help me!

My favorite item to arrive was an inadvertent one. The pile of items we designated for the air shipment was placed next to a bookcase in our home in Belgium, and the movers asked if we wanted all the books in it packed for the air as well. We didn't, but nonetheless one snuck in: The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Every time I see that behemoth on our dresser I feel a little jolt of amusement at the idea of trying to read through it in the midst of this unusual summer.

27 July 2011

The Repatriate

We've been back in Minnesota for one month and one day, probably the wackiest thirty-two days of my life. It's been a month of much house hullabaloo, as we learned the night before we flew out of BE that we had an offer on our old house, which we had started planning to move back into for a couple years in the interest of being settled before the baby arrives, and two days after arrival found a house we really liked and made an offer on. The process of getting to "pending" on both homes was not without a few snafus (if you have two hours, we'll tell you all about it), but we are cautiously optimistic that as of mid-August we will be rid of one and into the other.

Also occupying our time: buying two cars, seeing a new midwife group, getting insurance, finishing up with Belgian odds and ends (so happy to no longer be paying electricity there, given our "catch-up" bill that caught us by surprise a couple weeks ago).

Until our sea shipment arrives, we are living in a furnished apartment and are very thankful for the space and for the outdoor pool that we're using almost every day. But I have had much phone and email work organizing and researching, etc. and the kids have been a bit trapped inside since I can't send them to a backyard. And we are way out west and feel a bit out of things somehow.

It seems that the boatload of transactions and to-dos have numbed me a bit to the reverse culture shock, but here are a few observations:
  1. Lily, upon seeing the typical yellow school bus of America: "Are those old-fashioned school buses, or just the way school buses look here?"
  2. Soren is fascinated with American makes of car. BMWs, Audis, are so boring and ubiquitous in Belgium. Dodges? That's novel. Ford Mustangs, Pontiacs, Buicks, Chevrolets: They are exotic to him.
  3. Clara, upon waking at 3 a.m. on our first morning in America, went into the bathroom and after a few minutes called: "Mom! The [] won't go away!" Watching her try to operate toilet flushers has been a recurring amusement for me. Gone are the buttons in the middle of the tanks.
  4. Soren also felt like the water was coming up to get him when he flushed. The toilets here have a lot more water sitting in the bowl than in Europe.
  5. A license plate we saw two days after arriving: 2LAZY2P. It was probably later that night that I told Matthew: "Let's just get fat, get huge cars, get a huge house, and do all our shopping at Costco." I felt a bit anti-America for the first couple days. Then I got too busy to think about it. Now I feel like it's settled down a bit and I'm seeing more of the advantages of being here.
  6. I can't remember how to prepare or plan meals, and grocery shopping overwhelms me. So many options. Plus the kids ask for so much more in the store than they did in BE -- again, the novelty? My love for cooking is dormant.
  7. We miss our liters of milk (smaller containers seemed fresher) and the taste of the milk, especially Soren who is a milk connoisseur and would notice if I bought a different brand in BE.
  8. OH CUSTOMER SERVICE. I will save this for another day.
I'm not sure how much longer I can maintain a Belgian blog. But I sure have liked writing here, the discipline of being (er, somewhat) regular in writing. We shall see.

18 June 2011

European Vacation + Chinese European Vacation + Modern Parents

Some interesting reads about Europe:

In short: way less.

Fascinating -- the group ate only Chinese food, spent most of their time on the bus, and had a tour guide who was very critical of Europeans.

And then, for fun, a superlong Atlantic article re parenting that I very much enjoyed:

05 June 2011

Translating official mail: Will/won't/do/don't #5

I WON'T miss using Babelfish to translate official mail we receive. Here's one sentence I just typed into the program, from one paragraph of a nine-paragraph document we received after selling our car:

Voor belastingplichtigen die hun hoofdverblijfplaats of maatschappelijke zetel in het Vlaamse Gewest hebben, is de Vlaamse Belastingdienst bevoegd inzake verkeerbelasting, belasting op de inverkeerstelling en eurovignet.

I WILL miss seeing these endless Dutch words. Hoofdverblijfplaats? I love it.

And I will miss the amusing translations and the bluntness. The document from the DIV (= DMV) directs us to others for follow-up questions, and then explains in paragraph 7: Each contact with the DIV about these matters is "volstrekt nutteloos," = "total useless." Oh, nutteloos!

02 June 2011


One more post for my vlog this week. Soren's class did a singalong last week. His role: a duckling. That song is second below; first, a common French children's song, "Savez-vous planter les choux?" ("Do you know how to plant cabbage?") He's the tall one in the middle with a duck bill on his forehead.

On the duck song, you can hear his teacher (our beloved Ewa) trying to slow the pace down, but the children see the end in sight and plow ahead for it. Around 4:00 she gives up.

Earlier, one of Soren's classmates played a tune on the violin. Four-year-old + stringed instrument -- you get the idea. In the middle of it, Clara asked loudly, "Is this a song, Mommy?"

01 June 2011

A Royal Viewing

Breaking news: Did you know there was a royal wedding? We watched it! Our friends David and Sara arrived that morning for a visit, and were happy to view some of it with us. David took these photos (Matthew was very newly injured at this point and thus unable to use his camera).

All the kids enjoyed the procession, checking out outfits, watching the cars and seeing the guards, but Clara just about flipped her lid: