Sunday, March 28, 2010

Playing Games

Grandma likes to play card games.
She's been teaching the girls how to play a variety of games, which I'm sure they will continue to play with each other,
long after the grandparents head back home.
I can remember playing card with my sisters while camping. I'm glad someone is taking the time to teach them, as we simply haven't bothered to teach them any games. We're looking forward to playing around future pass times.

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Lookin' Sharp

He's been on the hunt for quite awhile for a cap.
Baseball caps stick out in a crowd. You really don't see too many people wearing them around here.
We've graced the doors of fine hats shops and street vendors too,
searching for just the right cap in the right color, and the prefect fit.

He finally found it!
I have to say handsome,
you're lookin' sharp.
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Best Wishes

Aunt Julie got married yesterday in a small ceremony at home. We couldn't be there, which was really tough- late notice, changing plans, and a whirlwind of things going on here. So we wanted to send our Best Wishes for a lifetime of happiness to Aunt Julie and the newest family member, Uncle Pete . We are looking forward to the wedding ceremony in Spain in a few weeks. Can't wait to see you all there. Congratulations Julie and Pete!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Street Musicians

Love them. They add a fabulous ambience to travels over winding cobblestone and quaint shops scattered through the city. This guy must be American- he sings clearly in English and plays songs you’d hear on a U.S. radio station.

This guy plays from train to train on the metro system. If you’re lucky, you can hear him play his accordion in the beginning of your day, and again on your way home.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Welcome to Belgium

They are here. Matt's parents arrived on a military flight yesterday in Germany. I drove with the kids last night to pick them up. If I hadn't been driving, I'd have been snapping photos, trying to capture the kids overflowing excitement. Grandma and Grandpa are currently resting. They are trying to shake the jet lag and store up some zzzzzsss for their next 6 weeks in Europe. Meanwhile, the kids suggested we welcome them with a breakfast from the local bakery. Yummmmmm!
Welcome to Belgium Grandma and Grandpa! We hope you enjoy all that Europe and 4 little grandkids have to offer.

Land of Nod

Man, I just love snuggling this guy. He takes a nap about two to three times a week, after half a day of school. He sets pillows out in the playroom, gathers blankets, his ‘doggy, monkey, and bear’, tucks them in and sets off for the land of nod. Often, he asks me to lay beside him until he falls asleep. I find it all too much  fun to pretend I’m sleeping so that he settles down and falls asleep himself. Occasionally we find ourselves peeking at each other to see if the other is sleeping yet. This event is then met with smiles, giggles, and sometimes, tickles. The cycle repeats itself until eventually, one of us finally crashes.

I realized that the naps and snuggle time will probably draw to a close over the next year. I’m gonna miss those naps a lot.

Winter gave up, ...finally

Winter finally gave up around here.
"Can I get an AMEN!"

We loved the snow while it lasted. We truly savored the opportunities with the kids to point out what a winter sky looks like, capture snowflakes on our tongues, sip hot cocoa, and search for lost mittens over, and over, and over. Admittedly though, we’re glad spring is on its way.

We celebrated the newfound sunshine this week with a little time at the playground.
The sun occasionally slid out from behind clouds, granting a chance to pull out bikes and the scooter that Stella got for Christmas. She was like a pro on that thing. Quite honestly I envisioned her 10 years from now, tearing up skating ramps in California sunshine. Completely frustrated once we hit ‘trail dirt’, she drug her scooter the rest of the way up to the playground.

I can’t wait to watch them feed the ducks this summer, head out on family bike rides, and exhaust themselves at parks and playgrounds all over Belgium. For now though, spring seems to be transitioning us slowly from boots and hats to lighter gear. We’re welcoming the change.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Clippin Coupons

 They have found a new use for the commissary receipts. To pretend they are reading Santa’s “naughty and nice” list. I suppose you’d have to have a decent imagination to consider $3.76 half-gallon of milk means that Martha makes the “nice” list. More power to ‘em.

Another sister to the rescue. This time it was Aunt Julie. When I was caught, back in December, searching for coupons by unraveling newspapers and magazines that family and friends used for packing Christmas gifts mailed to us, I think my parents were slightly surprised. They promptly assisted, sifted through the packaging as well though, to help find savings. I explained that although the commissary will take coupons, we don’t usually see much of them here. Obviously the Brussels Sunday paper doesn’t boast a flyer for Smuckers jam, or Downy soft fabric softener.
The commissary can offer a decent savings over economy grocery stores, but there is no generic or 'store brand' offered at the commissary. Coupons help a lot. Our grocery bill is usually significant. Although there are no offers for produce, which consumes a large chunk of our bill, there are lots of coupons for other things on the list. It’s just difficult for us to get our hands on those coupons.

Before I ramble on, I must, upon my toadstool, say that coupons annoy me. Why do we have to clip a little paper for 60 cents of savings. It’s such an inefficient process. If the manufacturer really wanted the consumer to have the savings, why not just make the price 60 cents lower and save the printing cost? ...Perhaps this is why I am not a corporate CEO. What I do know, is that coupons are time consuming. From the clipping to utilization in the store, the process is a time sucker. So, I decided to keep the kids occupied on the run with homemade ‘Grocery Store B-I-N-G-O ‘cards. It seemed to work well, and prevent a meltdown at aisle 12. I’d recommend it, and would be glad to send you a copy of the ones I made.

Anyway, I digress,...Aunt Julie’s rescue. She just sent us a huge envelope full of coupons after I explained to her that overseas commissaries will accept coupons up to 6 months after the expiration date. Most people don’t know this. Those who do, often make a sincere effort to help out. There are organizations, church groups, and just plain ol’ nice folks out there, who clip and mail coupons to the overseas commissaries.

I often think of those people. Complete strangers, gathered around a table with scissors in hand, chatting away, or individuals cramming an envelope with treasure of potential savings. I’d like to thank them all. If I could trace savings backwards, I’d send them a note to let them know how much we appreciate it.

The economy is tight everywhere. The euro is up and the dollar is down. Savings here and there can make a considerable impact for people who are trying to make ends meet. If you have expired coupons, please don’t throw them away! Coupons are accepted up to 6 months after their expiration at overseas commissaries.You can send them to overseas military families to use. Click here for more info on the program, or google "expired coupons for military" for info.

Fortunately, there is yet another group here, who, when available, visit’s the commissary once a month to attach those very coupons right to the product. It must be a time consuming and tedious job for those volunteers, but it saves military members thousands of dollars a month. We have been lucky enough, on occasion, to make a trip to the commissary when the volunteer group had just been there, so coupons were on everything you could think of. It’s like a slice of savings heaven effortlessly placed right into the shopping cart.

We weren’t so lucky this trip to have the advantage of coupons already attached to the products, but we were lucky to have a stock pile from Aunt Julie. Don’t think you can save money with coupons? Check this out! Almost $80.00 for this trip. For us, that would accumulate to a savings just shy of  $1,000 a year.

So, next time you pass by a meaningless coupon in the paper, or chuck the magazine that had a few dollars worth of savings, but you weren’t interested, please consider stuffing the coupons in an envelope and mailing them off to help the next guy. I can guarantee they’ll appreciate it.

P.S. Thanks Aunt Jul. That was like getting a free check for 78 buckaroos in the mail  :)
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Guess Who?

One guess as to who dressed the kid this morning?

Later, those doting sisters poured their personal attention all over him
as usual, and decided he needed to accessorize.

Go Navy! Beat Army!
Hoo-Ya!...and um, Arleigh, ...Whoo-Hoo baby!
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Making Bread and Eating it Too

They wanted to make some bread this weekend.
So we did. Simple enough.
The hardest part for these two was waiting for it to rise.

Now, they've made the bread,

and they've eaten it too.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

It Was Time

It was time. His light and fluffy strands of hair were whizzing all over the place. Five minutes after brushing it, it’d be standing up all over his head again. So I asked Venera, a friend and neighbor, who cuts my hair to come and give Arleigh his first haircut. I told her that I wanted to take photos. So we sat Arleigh on his toy car for his haircut, but Arleigh had other plans.
He needed held. He wanted security. He begged to be comforted. Instead of getting fun shots of his first haircut, I was wiping tears with one hand and trying to point and shoot in the other. Needless to say, the results were not good.
I suppose it reflects a quintessential element of motherhood for me.
The endless effrort of trying to balance what the kids want and need in one hand, with what I want and need in the other.
In the end, he got a great haircut and the security he needed.
 He looks a lot less shaggy and she was able to preserve a toddler image.
Still, as I waved goodbye to Venera, put Arleigh down for a nap, and returned to collect those little blonde strands of hair, I couldn't help but to feel a little sad.
He's growing up all too fast.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Accidents Happen,...but does it have to be on stage?

She peed on the stage. Yeah- there she was at the group violin lesson. Surrounded by the teacher and about 10 other students. She was apparently too afraid to ask if she could be excused for a moment to go to the bathroom. Even from the audience of parents, sitting two rows from the back, I noticed the dance she was doing. With caution, I called down to her on stage as the teacher was working with others “Stella” I called in a loud whisper, motioning with my hand waving towards the bathroom, “Do you have to go?” She nodded an emphatic “No!” So I left it.
I wish I hadn’t. I should have drug her to the bathroom because about 10 minutes later, I was wiping up a puddle of urine from the stage floor in front of the other parents and a smiling teacher. Meanwhile, Stella was in the bathroom, bellowing about having to wear wet “pantsies” and never playing her violin again.
This is why she’s still wet in the video, and wearing pajamas. I suppose after an event like that, I’d want to crawl into pajamas too. She had a nice long tubby, and changed into ‘something more comfortable’.
But I was adamant that she pick her violin back up sooner than later. This devastation on the stage, could not allow her to crawl up in a ball and hide. Hard to imagine Stella hiding from anything. That kid has spunk. But she threatened all the way home, so the first thing we did was play a few songs for the camera. Enjoy :)

Latest in Her Repertoire


Performing "Song of the Wind" Together, ..sometimes.

The House Fairy

Of course, you've heard of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and perhaps the tooth fairy.
But have you heard of the House Fairy?
You can be placed on her "appointment list" for a mere 15 green backs.
This list allows kids access to visit her full website, with videos on how to clean their room, organize, declutter, make peanut butter and jelly rolls, among other things. What that appointment list provides the parents, is clean kid rooms.
The kids clean their rooms for the house fairy to visit.
 If they are clean and orderly, based on her "rules" then she leaves a surprise.
 If the room is not so neat, she simply leaves fairy dust.
She often leaves a note on her letterhead as well.
If you room happens to be spectcular, she'll take a photo and post it on her website.
My nosey nancies like to look at all the other kids rooms who made the grade.

Quite honestly, the woman is a hoot, not to mention, odd, but who cares?
 The kids dig her and
it means less chatter about picking up.
She can be found here if you happen to be at wits end.

2 New Things

His newest favorite face...

This can mean "I'm angry with you."
"No I don't like to eat that."
or most commonly,
"I'd like to make you laugh at me."

The second favorite, is this little ride on car.
Truth be told, it's not actually "new".
We've had it since Addie was only 4 months old and I swore then it was the best thing 30 bucks could buy.
We passed the keys to Arleigh this weekend when we found it in the attic.
I had just forgotten about it until we were visiting a friend.
All the sticky people have used it and loved it.
Ride on speed racer!
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Addie tends to be more serious about learning to play the violin.

While Stella is more serious,


...Stella is serious about play.

It's all good. We want them to have fun and enjoy it.
No doubt, they are. In their own ways.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Music Group

This is most of our toddler music group. The (English speaking) moms gather little ones and sing songs with lots of motions, making for plenty of smiles.
Arleigh likes the music and the singing, for awhile. But if there are toys in the vicinity, toys which are new to him, he's all about leaving the band behind to check out which toys will rank his top 10 list.
A little snack never hurts. Who said singing and clapping doesn't build a healthy appetite?
And to our hostesses today, ...thank you!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Merry Christmas to Me

Several months ago, I was internet surfing and came across info that my favorite music of all time, for a long time, DMB (The Dave Matthews Band) would be playing here in Antwerp, in March. With glee, I screamed it across the house to my dear husband, who sweetly responded with "Why don't you get tickets and call it 'Christmas'?"

...If you have no idea who they are, I recommend you start here. They have a unique style, meshing versions of funk, jazz, rock, and blues throughout their music. Of course, I like lots of different kinds of music, but for me, there will simply never be music quite like this.
Ahhh. Merry Christmas to me! We purchased tickets on the floor, found a great babysitter, and set off. It was a fantastic concert. Much to our surprise, the Lotto Arena was quite small and we stood only 20 feet from Dave's microphone. I counted- several times. We were only 5 rows of people back from the stage. Awesome. Having been to various DMB concerts, I can assure, they never disappoint. This was the best we've seen, basically because we were up front and center. Here's a clip from a fellow audience member. Do you see me? Look closely, I'm right down front there, bobbing my head and belting out all the words...

We may never be so lucky again. To be able to be so close, in such a small arena, so we're still in awe.
Rock on DMB!