31 May 2008

Black and white and read all over

We've been waiting for this moment.

And our time is now.

The newspaper my grandma writes for in rural North Dakota features the name and location of a subscriber on each masthead. For months now Matthew and I have hoped we might appear.

On May 12, 2008, we did.


That's us in that scroll on the left!

See?!


YES! Thank you, Grandma Edy!

29 May 2008

Postures

I am repressing my embarrassment at how ungainly and dorky I look doing this (and believe me, although none of these are flattering, some of the outtakes are really choice) for the sake of showing the children being quite cute.


Lily and I have been doing yoga together. She is so darling at it, really follows for almost all of the thirty minutes. Soren's usually napping when we do it, but was able to participate this time.

Perhaps his inexperience shows?


These photos sort of sum up life with the kids these days. Lily is following so diligently, interested in what Mom is doing and pleased to be included in something adult. Also, she's wearing her special leotard and has a pigtail. Her clothing and hair get a lot of attention these days -- from her, not me. I've taken a somewhat reactionary stance and find myself trying to strategically land ("Oh, this again? I love this one!") on the story of Leah when we read from her excellent children's Bible, and talk in a non-hokey way about what it means to be beautiful in our hearts (at a time other than when I'm applying mascara or something).


Soren is carefree -- participating in what's going on sporadically, but busy doing his own thing. He is, as ever, a Luvbug.


And Sprout's making his or her presence a bit more known (31 weeks in these pictures).

28 May 2008

Me as ELO via SNL

Do you recall those Saturday Night Live skits with Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer as that nerdy singing and synthesizer playing married couple? They may be my fave characters on that show, ever. One of the most memorable songs was a riff on "Evil Woman" at a school renaissance fair.

+

We need to extend our residence status and Matthew's work permit, so our relocation agent forwarded forms for us to sign. On it, my birth year is listed as 1077.

=

Why for the past couple days I have been singing, "Medieval WOMAN!"

27 May 2008

The English Patient

Despite my early and continuing affection for Flemish (see, e.g., the hardware store sign, "Doe Het Zelf" -- you too can figure that out, I bet), and the fact that our town is Flemish, Matthew and I decided to study French. Here's why: We are so close to the French area; I'm delivering at a French hospital; Brussels proper is more French speaking; we both majored in Spanish so thought there was a better chance of getting a reasonable handle on French in the amount of time we'll be here; and French is more of a world language. Those last two are the big ones.

My French-speaking (and English too, of course -- most Belgians speak at least two languages) gynecologist, when we discussed early this year how comfortable I would be at the French-speaking hospital, agreed with me that it would help if I learned a little French. I mentioned that since we live in a Flemish town, I would like to learn some of that as well.

"PFFF!" she scoffed. "What are you going to do with Flemish?" (Surprised silence from me.) "The only people who think you should learn Flemish [a dialect of Dutch] are the Flemish -- not even the Dutch think so!"

Now that she knows I'm studying it, my doctor speaks to me in French quite a bit. Some terms probably won't be that useful, like "pelvic exam" and "blood pressure," but the conversational stuff is great.

At the end of a recent rendezvous avec le docteur, when it was time to pay, I ventured, "L'addition, s'il vous plait?"

She just laughed at me. This is the phrase one would use at a restaurant to ask for the bill. "No," she said. "With a doctor, you have to be more polite." Isn't it nice that my doctor just has a good chuckle at my rudeness and gladly writes the proper phrase on a post-it for me?

25 May 2008

7:51 a.m.

After I peered across Matthew at the clock this morning, I pumped my arm in the air in victory. Sweet victory! Yesterday we hung room darkening drapes in Lily's and Soren's bedrooms. I really didn't want to buy window coverings for a house we won't live in for that long, but the sun rises really early in Belgium in the summer -- someone told us 4:30 a.m. is the peak. So we bit the bullet for the sake of family rest.

And this morning, our children, who normally rise around 6:30 or 7 a.m., slept until almost eight o'clock and were remarkably chipper at breakfast. Return on investment, baby! WOOHOO!

22 May 2008

Live from Brussels, it's . . . TUESDAY NIGHT!

Matthew and I were playing Scrabble the other night when we heard a child talking to him or herself. It was 9:30. The kids had been in bed for a couple hours. Matthew went to investigate and found our son in a state of partial disrobe.


He had to bring Soren down so I could appreciate the visual, too. The boy was so alert and slap-happy funny we let him hang with us for a while.


He enjoyed using the letter trays as boats. Incoming email did break his concentration at times,


but as you can imagine he was a great help in strategizing letter combinations. Yes, Matthew has resorted to double-teaming me to win at this game. Of course, his teammate's current favorite word is "poopy." (Second favorite word remains the ever faithful "cars.") So I'm willing to acknowledge Matthew's victory as asterisk-free.

21 May 2008

Bearing gifts, we traverse afar

They're his Minneapolis co-workers, and in one case, his boss. To Lily, however, it was "Daddy's workers" who came for dinner a couple weeks ago.

We neglected to take a photo of them (?!), but after they left Matthew took a photo of the beautiful macaroons they brought us from their day in Paris.


They were light, crisp cookies with flavored fillings, not the moist bundles of coconut we call macaroons in the U.S. Both are quite tasty, but as far as style goes, hands down to the French, huh? I wanted to lacquer them and keep them as a kitchen tchotchke.

A couple weeks earlier, they sent this orchid as a get-well gift to Matthew, along with a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates.


They are so good to us. I also could have taken a photo of the food items and Cars and Thomas themed underwear they brought (potty training looms for a certain blonde boy).

As they left, his boss told me to make sure he really rested the following week, because she was concerned about his back. What a gift it is that Matthew works with and for people who are so kind.

19 May 2008

Have a berry good day!

Is it a girl or a boy? I am wondering this a lot these days, especially as we struggle to settle on a boy's name. (Suggestions?)

But I'm starting to have an idea of what the baby may look like.


Not because of my girlhood affinity for Strawberry Shortcake (birthday party theme, bike, and chair and table set handpainted by my mother), but because of my diet of late. We are really digging on strawberries! We have them after almost every dinner, with a little bit of cream. This container is one meal's worth for our family.


Matthew complimented me on this photo, and made some reference to "being replaced." I'm doing all the driving and the heavy lifting (IKEA bookshelf and table assembled and lugged upstairs, against Matthew's strongly worded preference, a couple weeks ago) these days. Let's put this in B-school speak. If I venture too much into photography, Matthew fears he may become "redundant." Next stop: Running a sub-3:00 marathon!

14 May 2008

Resting

Over my birthday weekend in March, I went to a B&B in the Ardennes with three other women. A RETREAT! When my friend told me her idea to organize this, I jumped all over it and told Matthew it was what I wanted for my birthday (that, and a popcorn popper advertised by a member of ABBA).

All four of the women were mothers, so leisurely meals of conversation were precious to us; one morning we sat around the breakfast table for two hours. (Only one of us knew all the others -- one woman invited three friends who did not know each other.) Mostly, though, we had alone time to read, pray, nap, walk, write. I spent most of the time in my room, on the bed, surrounded by many books (or, what I imagine heaven to be like). I would read from one for a couple chapters, then set it down and pick up another. I came back Sunday evening refreshed and refocused.

My friend organized this because she has been thinking and reading a lot about sabbath, of taking a break from doing and instead just being. Matthew and I are trying, with fits and starts, to integrate this into our lives: slowing down one weekend day. One thing I love about Belgium is that so little is open on Sunday. There is a mini grocery store in the town next to us open for a couple hours in the afternoon, but we've never been, and Matthew and the kids have walked to the bakery, which is open in the morning. But otherwise, we have to opt out of our lives as purchasers of goods.

So, the Belgian government forces us to do that, but of course we could keep ourselves busy all day long on a Sunday, doing paperwork, straightening, laundry, etc. Someone mentioned to me (I can't remember who -- it may have been a not-so-casual mentioning, like by a pastor in a sermon) that God modeled this for us although he didn't need to rest. God doesn't get tired -- omnipotence and all that. So there is some goodness in it separate from a cure for tiredness.

My friend remarked that this is the only commandment that people brag about breaking. (I like to dissect an argument, and I am now imagining felons boasting about heinous crimes in jail. Oh come on. I'm talking sociologically normal people.) Busyness can be a badge of pride.

I'm pretty much over that badge. If I were a Girl Scout, and had that badge on my sash, I would rip it off, and stomp on it. Take that, stupid badge! My stepping out of the work world when Lily arrived was a choice we made in part because I knew that life would feel overfull if I worked in the job I would have been working, and that I do not function well or enjoy much of anything, even good and lovely things, when they are spaced right next to other (possibly also) good and lovely things. (I do not believe this it is true for everyone, and I also know that there are many other factors to consider in this decision. Please don't mistake this for a general call to stay at home motherhood.) But it's amazing how busy even life at home felt at times, with various activities that made the "stay at home" part of the label sort of laughable.

The hard part about moving to Belgium was saying goodbye to everyone we know and saying goodbye to everything we do -- and yet I am seeing the real goodness in at least the latter, in having had our slates wiped clean. Now we must choose what to take on, rather than agonize over what to cut out because life feels too hectic.

We haven't had the most restful past couple months with surgery and visitors -- one necessary, the other fun -- and we're nearing a season of little rest thrust upon us by Sprout. (Although really, we might not feel real rested in those early newborn days, but babies do make you slow down -- all that nursing! That is a sweet slow time too.)

For the next couple months, I really desire restfulness for us. Eating outside, walking in the forest, watching the kids play in the plastic pool in the backyard, schooling Matthew at Scrabble, etc. (Oh, you don't think winning by five points qualifies as "schooling"? Don't quibble. Ooh! Potential Scrabble word: quibble. Do you know qintar?)

And now you need a rest after this long post. Whew!

12 May 2008

Sun revelers


We've really been delighting in the weather. It's been in the mid 20s (high 70s Fahrenheit), sunny and cloudless. We are loving Belgian spring! or should I say: Nous aimons le printemps en Belgique. I should, because I need to practice my French.

Two weekends ago we went to the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken, owned by the Belgian monarchy and open to the public for three weeks every year.


All the recent photos of Matthew have shown him supine. Here he is, up and at 'em! Staple-free and less gimpy every day. The balance is tipping; I gimp-ify exponentially each day.


Our friends Jamie and Suzanne came! And, they brought their three-month-old son, Evan. Aren't they intrepid travelers? If you're like everyone I've spoken to about their visit, right now you're thinking, "Wow, they're crazy!" or "Wow, they're brave!" or both.


Yes, both! Last fall when we discussed the possibility of them visiting with a babe, Matthew and I thought around three months might be a good stage, because newbies sleep a lot and are pretty portable.

Two things we didn't take into consideration: baby jet lag (poor Suzanne got almost no sleep her first night here), and baby driving resistance, which we had experienced with Soren when he was about four months old. Listening to a baby screaming in the car, knowing there are many more miles to go, and that no real comforting can be accomplished through all the seatbelting -- when I experienced it, it's possible the words, "I want to die," came out of my mouth. Don't worry; the kids couldn't hear me over all the noise. I recall turning classical music up full volume in our rental car and praying for a music coma to wash over all of us.

Well, we Jacobses never saw Evan cry in the car. We thought he was a perfect baby, all four of us.


Lily just loved him. The phrase, "Oh, he is so sweet!" was uttered countless times during their visit. She got to hold him, and help feed him a bottle, and just enjoy his sweetness!


Soren had a more complicated relationship with Baby Evan. As you can see from this photo, he also loved the baby. He wanted to hold him and did a lot of head kissing. He woke up in the morning asking where the baby was.

But the baby concerned him a bit, as well. Was the baby going to steal his beloved race car t-shirt? Doubtful, I kept reassuring him. Nonetheless, several times when they were here, and even during the few days they left us to travel through Normandy, Soren mentioned, "No baby. No t-shirt." What prompted this fear? Evan touching his shirt once. Little did Soren understand that it was just a random flail as Evan has little movement control.

Other things Soren felt a bit concerned about: Evan sitting on my lap or using items Soren hasn't for over a year, including a stroller, chair, and activity mat.

Here's when Soren ran away to China to escape the baby's greedy, greedy grabbing of all of his formerly rejected belongings.


But really. These little moments of jealousy were few and far between. It was a joy for us to see how much delight both Lily and Soren found in this sweet little boy.


We headed to Gent for the day with the Andersons before sending them off to Keukenhof this morning. We visited a cool castle (although we shuffled the kids quickly through the torture room so they wouldn't ask us about that drawing of a man straddling a wooden barrel with weights tied to his feet, or the dummy lying with a funnel in his mouth).


And I got the best Mother's Day gift a gal could ask for. He's still my baby, at least for a couple more months.

09 May 2008

Kookyhof

Keukenhof's website's FAQ section lists about twenty-five questions with details on parking, prices, etc. You can't just glance at the list -- you must click on whatever question piques your interest to be taken to the page with the answer.

One question asks, "Is there a small train in the park?"

Oh! Let's find out. Click.

"No, there is no train in the park."

Hmm. This calls to mind that saying, "The only stupid question is the one unasked." Really? REALLY?

05 May 2008

Keukenhof


We had another round of visitors last weekend, but I'm still catching up on writing about our adventures with Gammy and Poppy. The day before Matthew's surgery we all drove to Keukenhof, a huge flower garden near Amsterdam that is open for two months every spring. They claim it is the most photographed place in the world. I'm willing to believe it -- Bill and Matthew were awfully busy behind their cameras.





Tulips definitely ruled the day,


with daffodils a close second.


But there were a few of my dearly loved hydrangea,


and lots of other flowers I can't identify for you without googling and then pretending like I knew their names all along.


I was especially enamored of the areas designed to look like Dutch canals.


The kids got the full money value of our Keukenhof admission in the amount of animal interaction they had at the petting zoo.


Also, they got in nearly every photograph anyone was taking in that area. They were really busy caring for the beasts and weren't about to let some silly photo op take them away from their animal husbandry.


We drove to the coast after we left Keukenhof, and Lily was desperate to dip her toes in the North Sea.


Until she actually felt a drop and decided the sand was cold enough for her.


In summary: Keukenhof beautiful, North Sea cold.

01 May 2008

Sisterly pangs


Enough about what's going on in Belgium. As I type this, in Rochester, Minnesota, my sister Lauren, already an R.N., is attending her pinning ceremony, and tomorrow she graduates with a Bachelor's of Science in nursing. She begins work next week at an awesome Twin Cities hospital (where Soren Gabriel entered the world). She has worked so hard for so long and is so well suited to the profession of nursing, with her lighthearted spirit, unflappable demeanor, and serving heart. You should be so lucky as to have her for a nurse one day.

I am so lucky as to have her for a sister every day.

WOOHOO! Congratulations, Lauren Beth!

Mont-Saint-Michel

We spent one day in Normandy visiting WWII sites, and the second day at Mont-Saint-Michel. This is a town built onto a rock. (I just found it described as a "tidal island.") An abbey takes up most of it.


Wow. This was an amazing sight. We parked at the base and walked up the narrow streets and through the abbey.


We got pretty wet (I believe there were six umbrellas along, all left in the car), but it looked so beautiful all wet and gray that I was kind of glad we were there on a rainy day. All of us but Bill had hoods on our jackets, though -- maybe he would comment otherwise.


With all the abbatial exposure he's had in the past several months, Soren now picks them out in guide books and magazines: "Abbey!"


A few times recently when Lily has been on Skype with a grandparent, and asked what she has been up to, she says, "Well, we went to Mont-Saint-Michel . . . " pronouncing the name with such a lovely French accent.


The kids are still talking about missing Poppy and Gammy a lot. I don't blame them. Grandparents are always a lot of fun, but especially so when compared with the two Gimpy McGees they've got for parents these days: post-back surgery Daddy, and easily out of breath and slightly waddling Mommy.