30 March 2008

Easter weekend part two

On the egg hunt there was some sharing,

some grabbing,

and a little destruction,

but we all enjoyed being outside,

and singing along with the sound of trains in the distance.

Easter weekend part one

We got our first substantial snowfall over Easter weekend.

It was just two inches, so Matthew and the kids used up pretty much all of it making this lovely creation.

That night we had an Easter party picnic campout with popcorn and fondue in the family room while we watched The Sound of Music.

If you recall, the opening scene is Maria singing on the Alps, until she realizes she's late for a service in the abbey. "Where's that girl?" Lily kept asking, as if she were an extra in the following scene, where all the nuns were wondering the same thing: "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"

How do you solve a problem like a family campout? Soren ended up in his crib after repeated popups and hair pulling, and I ended up in our bed. Lily and Matthew made it all night though.

28 March 2008

Accent the positive

Matthew has an odd setting on his laptop now that he's in the European system with his company. It took eons it seemed to get him all EU-ed up -- he was having a hard time keeping his schedule properly since he'd get alarms from Outlook that a meeting was starting at 3:30 a.m., e.g.

One issue that hasn't been tweaked is that sometimes accents randomly appear when he's typing. So I just got an email from him that read:

"Yes, thát could work well."

But maybe it's not a computer issue, and he's just trying to charm me by saying things sort of French-y.

25 March 2008

Take a chance on me

This woman is:
  1. My Solid Gold Barbie from 1982, aged and starring in a telepic entitled "Barbie: Twenty-Five Golden Years Later, Still Solid!"
  2. A member of ABBA
  3. Proud of her superior mothering. She doesn't play with her kids -- why, she'd soil her white suit! -- but she does right by them, darn it.
  4. Wearing an armored chestplate
  5. Really a man
  6. Sporting a mullet

She may be one or more of those things, but she also is selling Princess brand small appliances. 

Matthew bought me a popcorn popper for my birthday, and I actually jumped up and down when I opened it, I was so excited. It was like we were in the '80s, and I just bought a Toyota. What a feeling!
"What's a home without a princess?" the tagline for this product asks. I could write a dissertation about what is wrong with that line, but I will restrain the inner English/gender studies major and just tell you that we will never have to worry about what a home without a princess would be like.

21 March 2008

On the go with Auntie

We went into Brussels with Lauren, saw the Grand Place and Manneken Pis, ate some waffles . . .

We also went to the Stokkel market. My sweet husband told me to pick out a bouquet for my birthday. There are tons of beautiful flowers there, but there is one particular booth I admired last time we were there for its creative arrangements. Once I had selected one, Lily was just desperate to carry it herself. I relented reluctantly.

This photo was taken a couple minutes before Lily, bless her little heart, tripped. The bouquet broke her fall.

It, and she, rebounded surprisingly well.

We also went to Brugges on a rainy, rainy day . . .

And then headed a few kilometers further to the North Sea.

One might have wondered from all the Yahtzee score sheets accumulated during her visit, whether we took Lauren out of the house at all. We did! And now we miss her.

19 March 2008

Chim chim chiree

While Lauren and I were in Paris, Larry Poppins came to visit!

This was Matthew's first overnight of solo parenting, and he kept the kids busy with lots of fun things. Thank God for fathers. It's been so windy here lately. I respond by staying inside. Matthew, on the other hand, gets excited: "We can fly a kite!"

So one of their outings was to the huge grassy space in front of the gemeentehuis (government building) in our town, to fly one.

Look at Lily, kite flying pro!

Soren was there too, but he was, as usual:

18 March 2008

It's going to take some time

At one intersection in Paris, Lauren started to cross against the light, and I stayed behind. (This probably sums up our older/younger sister tendencies.) There I stood, waiting for the green walking man to beckon me, for a really, really long time.

So long, in fact, that my sister felt the need to document the time elapsed as she waited for me. That's me in the blue jacket across the street -- directly above the face of her slowly ticking watch.

But look! I'm so far away from her here. That's because the road was so wide. Also, a couple pushing a stroller headed out after the wait became a bit ridiculous, and had to break into a run halfway across to miss oncoming traffic.

17 March 2008

One half year

Six months ago today we arrived in Belgium. So, how has half a year of overseas living gone for us? It's been hard but not as hard as I wondered if it would be, or maybe it's that it's been hard in a different way than I imagined. I am, however, quite surprised at how fast it's gone.

This is an entirely insufficient summation of this experience, but I didn't want to go to bed without commemorating our half year anniversary, however poorly. For further details on how it's gone, see supra.

14 March 2008


At the end of my twenty-week ultrasound yesterday, the doctor went 3-D for a while, which I've never had before. Isn't this crazy? Sprout looks like Soren to me.

(Have I mentioned? We, along with probably every other expat who has had a baby here, are referring to him or her as our little Brussels Sprout, or Sprout, more often, or Grouch, as Lily sometimes chooses.)

As I left, the doctor (the ultrasound doctor, not my regular gyn) said, "So, it'll be a wonderful surprise."

"Do YOU know the gender, though?" I asked.

"Oh yes," she said. "I did at the last one [at twelve weeks], too."

Ack! And she had it written on a paper in front of her for my regular doctor. Ack, ack! I say we don't want to know, so why was I craning my head to get a glimpse at the paper?

Furthermore, why does she need to note it for my doctor? How knowing the gender of our baby affects her care for me, I don't know, but then I also can't explain why her dressing nicely makes me trust her more.

What do you think? Any guesses as to what we're having?

13 March 2008

The first cut is the deepest

Matthew has been in more pain again so contacted the neurosurgeon. She scheduled a second MRI for last Saturday to see whether there had been any improvement in his herniated disc, and there has not. He now is scheduled to have surgery on April 21. He will be in the hospital for three days, and will not be able to drive for one month afterward, so probably will be working from home once he is feeling well enough to do so.

We're thankful that there is an end in sight to this pain, and that his surgery was scheduled quickly, so that his convalescence won't bump up against our new-baby-ness.

That we had pretty much accepted the idea of surgery is evidenced by the fact that when I phoned Matthew to inquire into how his appointment went, he announced, "I'm goin' under the knife!" in a chipper voice. He is anxious to be well again. And to run free like the wild gazelle that he is. Gazelle? The fast running animals I am imagining all seem vaguely feminine. Maybe, to run free like a wild man-eating panther? RAWR!

12 March 2008

Les deux soeurs à Paris

Lauren and I took an early train to Paris the first Saturday she was here, returning late the following day. We rocked Paris like a hurricane. Day one we went to Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, Le Bon Marche (Paris's oldest department store -- a weird choice and not one I'd recommend), Hotel des Invalides, and the Eiffel Tower. Day two we went to the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Pantheon.

We stayed in a nice little place just a few minutes' walk from the Eiffel Tower, thanks to our travel agent, Matthew Jacobs. When we arrived to check in, we pressed the button for the elevator and stood there, waiting.

"It's there," the desk clerk pointed out helpfully.

So it was. And so we entered. I entered, and felt the elevator dip a little, then Lauren entered, and then the door closed on the backpack she was wearing, and she was thrust into me. It was a small, small, elevator.

"We're never riding on that again!" we said when we got off. But then we did, every time, because it was funny to, and we enjoy a laugh. Here we are on it:

That's kind of the thing about Europe. Everything's smaller. So our perfectly fine hotel room was quite small. "Oh, I'm glad I have my own bed, because I like a little privacy," Lauren said upon seeing the two twin beds, individually made, but pressed together.

Here we are at the Eiffel Tower. Isn't my sister a beauty? That's just one of her many lovely traits; she also, for example, has a lot of discretion. It probably comes from being a nurse. When we were ascending on the elevator to the top platform, and I was almost crying in fear, she restrained herself from sharing what she was wondering, which was how just a few metal railings could support us.

The audio guide that I used at the Louvre, despite Lauren's objections that I wouldn't talk to her, was amazing! I don't think I will tour a museum without one if I can avoid it. You don't have to have a three hour tour (although you can), you may just enter the number of the piece you're looking at (only one or two per room, usually, are coded for this), and hear about it. I loved it! And Lauren needn't have worried about me not talking to her -- I still did, only more loudly.

And oh, by the way, I LOVED THE LOUVRE. Not that you would go to Paris and not go there, but, really, it was so overwhelmingly amazing. Savvy traveler Lauren noticed in the guidebook that it's free the first Sunday of the month, so we scored there too. (The Pantheon was free, also.)

Lauren got to be pretty good at taking self-portraits of the two of us. We were so hyper-vigilant about pickpocketers that we were not about to actually hand our cameras over to anyone and trust them to just take a picture and return the camera. Here we are enjoying crepes.

Unfortunately, I looked this dorkily excited (a la lemur face) in about half the photos.

Lauren's also generous, and really not a complainer. So she carried the backpack all weekend (we packed all our things into one) so I wouldn't have to. What a sister!

11 March 2008

Baby driver and tiny dancer

We had a birthday party for Soren when Auntie was here.

Someone told us Deus was deemed the best beer in Belgium so I bought a bottle of it for Matthew at the grocery store a while back. We've been saving it since it comes in a big bottle and the inch I'll try puts a lot of imbibing pressure on Matthew. Lauren's here + it's a party = Break it out! I don't know what they're doing here, really, but, here are Matthew and Lauren, enjoying this beer which is to be drunk out of champagne glasses.

A big two-year-old eats his cake with a fork, sophisticated-like. The memory of him shoving an entire piece in his mouth at his first birthday seems so distant . . .

Soren opened a lot of gifts. What a lucky turkey. Actually, he opened maybe one gift, saw these cars from Gammy and Poppy, and was pretty much done. He played with those and shoved aside the others, not only not wanting to open them, but not even wanting them to sit on the table and interfere with his car playing time.

Gammy and Poppy sent some gifts for Lily too . . .

I think all these photos came from Lauren's camera, so thanks to Auntie for documenting the celebration.