29 March 2010


Soren's birthday party with friends was late for his mid-February birthday, but not this late. I'm just slow getting photos up. We did it the first weekend in March.

Matthew had the idea of taking them into the forest. I was a bit nervous for the two-block walk to get there:

They were good listeners but it did involve some shouting.

They just kept going once we got into the forest.

The nationalities included: Czech, Danish/Cypriot (I had to look that up -- it means from Cyprus); British; Swedish/British.

And a couple of exotic Midwestern Americans!

Matthew had a sheet for each kid with images of items to scavenge for: acorns, feathers, leaves. They ran around filling their little bags.

Then he hid little Cars alarm clocks for their party favors. It was such fun to watch them running around, so excited when they discovered one.

To this boy, in his thank you note, Soren had me write, "You are my best friend."

Soren's choice for lunch was one of his and Lily's favorites: salami rolls (in the center of the picture below). Intrigued? I will share the recipe: Take a slice of salami, spread it with cream cheese, lay a big old cucumber spear in the middle, and roll. If we slice them into one-inch pieces and lay them on their sides, we call them Salami Sushi and feel very posh. Either way, they're irresistible!

Except to all of our guests, of whom not one even touched our magical, delightful salami rolls. I note for future party fare, not to introduce new flavors for the guests. But honestly, these boys! None of them had a pot of yogurt, or a carrot stick, or a cherry tomato! They ate grapes, and (imported, in our suitcase last month, in a huge economy size box, to Matthew's great packing joy) Goldfish crackers, and cake.

These kids are so lucky they have a dad who thinks of scavenger hunts and likes decorating cakes, because my interest in cake extends to baking and eating. If it were just me, I'd stick a candle on it and throw some sprinkles (which isn't so bad, now, really, is it?).

16 March 2010

Hair compare

In a comment recently, Nicole asked whether the older kids' hair was as short as Clara's is at this age. I wasn't sure, so I looked for photos of the other two at 19 months.

Read on to learn the answer to this mystery!

(Do you sense the irony in my voice? I realize that this post's appeal may extend only into the grandparent readership, plus Nicole.)

(Also, do you sense the fear in my voice when I use the term "irony"? Ever since Alanis Morissette was dragged through the coals for using it to describe things that are more unfortunate than ironic, I am scared I'm misusing it. See also "surreal.")

I'll keep you in suspense no more. Their hair was longer.

Lily at nineteen months. I forget how blonde she was!

She could even wear pigtails!

Soren had the most, though. His first haircut was around this age.

Here's him visiting with the neighborhood girls right before his haircut. If you click on it you can see his curls. (Again, a note for the grandparents.) The summer before we moved these sweet girls became interested in being mother's helpers to me. One afternoon I packed while they played with Lily and Soren. Oh, girls! I wished I could have packed them up and taken them with us.

Here's one of my favorite photos of him, taken after he got it cut:

Clara's is shorter. She gets many compliments on her perfectly styled hair.

Has it been cut? people ask.

No, no. God is her stylist, and he is SO good with pixie cuts!

In this photo she is doing her new car or crib trick -- taking her socks off, and putting one on a hand.

10 March 2010

Minnesota, part 3: Birthday explosion

Before we moved to Belgium, Soren had only celebrated one birthday. He looked like this:

Oh, he was so perfectly chubby!

But we were in Minnesota over his fourth birthday, so boy did he luck out. Two parties!

First, at Auntie's (so cute) house, with Grandpa Al and Grandma Julie and Great-Grandma Millie, and Auntie's sweet roomie Kim, giver of the huge balloons.

Toot! Toot! It's my birthday!

Reading Clara's new book with Grandma Millie.

Next, at Poppy and Gammy's house, with something none of the kids had ever tasted: an ice cream cake!

What is that magical gel icing? Mmmmm.

Please excuse his hat hair. Fifty-cent stocking cap from Target hair, that is!

(One of my highlights, besides seeing people we love, was going to Target. I'm somewhat embarrassed about how much I enjoyed going there. I kept saying to Matthew: "Everything's so much easier here!" In the U.S., I meant, but Target embodies that in many ways. A cashier who asks me how I am! I know he doesn't really care. I still like it. Another customer, shopping with a child herself, who engages with us! No, I don't really want to try to make a new pal at the store, but random, sort of shallow, friendliness . . . maybe I'm culturally programmed to sort of like it. It's weird. A huuuuge stroller with seats for not just one, but three children, with belts, so that Clara doesn't stand up over and over, causing older ladies to tell me in French to stay by my cart because it's dangerous. Somehow I just breathe easier at Target. Not easier than I do at my own home or outdoors -- it's not that I feel best when I'm shopping -- but much easier than I do in my Belgian consumer moments. Which, I'm sure, is why Target gets so much of Americans' dollars. Maybe it's OK to not feel "whew, so comfortable!" shopping. But, I did, for a week, and I'm not gonna lie, it was nice.)

Lily read some books to Aunt Annie.

Gammy is on to you, little monkey.

Soren watched some Olympics with Poppy, before saying, around 8.45 (very late for him), "I want to go to bed now." Enough birthday for this big boy.

05 March 2010

Minnesota, part 2: North Dakota (The Oxymoron Edition)

(Oxymoron, I mean, since North Dakota is not, in fact, Minnesota.)

Since we were already up north for my grandfather's burial, we decided to drive a couple extra hours to visit my other grandparents (my mom's parents) in rural North Dakota.

We stopped in Grand Forks on the way to pick up some groceries.

In Belgium, Matthew laughs (privately, in our car) at people's overdressing, especially people who are running. He claims vicarious overheating just watching them.

In the midwest, there seems to be a different phenomenon: cold nonchalance, or, dare I say, bravado. Am I reaching if I suggest that there may be a belief among certain upper midwestern men that exhibiting imperviousness to cold is manly?

I don't know. Maybe this man's down coat, scarf, hat, and mittens were in the dryer, and all he had clean was his sleeveless shirt.

On to the farm.

We took a brief walk -- it was cold, and our kids don't have winter boots. I tried to get some at Target but they were gone -- by mid-February, just gone! What do the new arrivees do? People just moved, from, say, Florida? What a welcome: Suck it up until next year!

I didn't get any photos of Lucky, a dog the kids have never met before, but he made quite an impression. When we were in the airport about to head back to Belgium, Lily asked me, "Do you know who I'm going to miss as much as Auntie [my sister]?"

"No," I said, patting her hand, and feeling so sorry that she is old enough to miss people.

"Lucky," she said, wistfully.

Clara visited with her great-grandpa.

and delighted in the piano.

This is my grandma: Sitting with a cup of tea, surrounded by books.