Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Packing it Up

So, we're busy packing for a camping trip to the Netherlands.
Each of the kids gets a list which they complete...this helps to insure that they get to pick what they want to wear, and what they need will be in the bag. A time saver too- I don't have to pack 4 extra bags, just check them.
This packing system seems to work like a well oiled machine- and due to the amount of travel we do, this machine gets oiled.
So Emory, Stella and Addie have a list to prep in a night or two.
Usually Arleigh and I work together to organize his bag, but this time, he decided, at a full 2 1/2 years of age, he was going to take charge of his own bag and pack a list as well.
What do you need Arleigh? What should we put in your camping bag? You are spending several nights in the wilderness at a reserve, you will not have a store for food, or modern utilities at your expense. You are among the wild. You are there to live simply. To survive without extras. So what shall we put in your bag Arleigh?

This is what he just couldn't live without. And he packed them all by himself.....

perhaps firewood? ;)
Great thinking kid.

Better Late then Never!

The eggs were filled, the food was purchased, then plans had been set. Our favorite British family and great friends were going to celebrate Easter Sunday with us. We were ready.

Unfortunately, sometimes the best plans are changed, and we ended up sadly, postponing our celebration to fly home to be with family for Grandma Hill's funeral.
A rain check was given and graciously accepted. This weekend we had a wonderful time together. The menu changed a bit- from Easter ham and sides to BBQ, but the egg hunt was still delivered in great fun.

Nothing like hidden eggs filled with surprises to get the kids on the move.
No one seemed to care that Easter seemed long past either.

So, definitely, better late than never!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stella got a ticket

Stella decided to take some very bold moves on her bike Friday- bolting out into traffic, riding in the oncoming lane, and staying in the middle of the road. Despite our warnings for her to adjust her attention levels and bike safely,  she continued to make serious and unsafe decisions. So we gave her a ticket.
The payment for first offence was to view multiple bike safety videos. Some by the NTSB, others by pediatric programs etc.
(Siblings could watch as well of course).
Next offence, if this occurs, will be loss of her bike and "biking school" where she'll have to attend nightly class with dad and pass a drivers test before she can be 'road ready' again.

Losing a license, a bike, (or your kid) can be a bummer, so we're hopeful she considers being a safer biker.

On the track for Retrak- Fun Run

Some great friends asked us if the kids wanted to join in a charity fun run. The response was an overwhelming "yeeee-ahhhh!" from the sticky seats, so we signed up. Addie and Stella- 1 kilometer, Emory 0.5 kilometers, and for Arleigh- whatever distance he wanted (but 500 metres was the plan).
Everyone arrived excited and ready, except Arleigh who was still ill. Emory inevitably fell ill while we were waiting for the race to begin, and is now in bed with a temp. So Addie and Stella were the only ones who actually ran in the race for Retrak, an organization to help African street children. To learn more about Retrak, you can click here. Or to read some of the stories from African street children, helped by Retrak, click here.

Prior to the race, African drummers were playing, and the kids were welcome to join in. So they did.

The race began and our friends children took a first place, in one age group, and two second places in two other categories. Our kids ran their butts off, and came in dead last. Luckily, this race was not about a competition, it was about helping other kids, learning sportsmanship, and having fun. All of those goals were well accomplished. Luckily our friends' children are great sportsmen as well, and when they finished they turned around to cheer Addie and Stella all the way into the finish.

Way to go Addie and Stella! This was one run where everybody won something.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Poor Bucka

Poor Bucka. In the midst of successful potty training, he has been swept with a flu virus that has, well...

wiped him out. Last night he learned that the potty can be used for vomiting.
(Previously his spectrum of potty use was for "flushing toy cars", washing hands, checking if "things sink", and the typical primary uses of 'dropping stinkies' or making water yellow.)
Poor thing. Let's hope the vomiting ends soon.
Let's hope he recovers quickly- and puts those "underwears" back on.
Let's hope this isn't the same scene 20 years from now in front of a college dorm,
with beer bottles scattered around him.

Out of complete guilt because the others have video postings now and someone wants to know where his video is. Because there is, in fact, a lack of video of Arleigh playing his tiny violin
(which is totally adorable, but harmful to the ears), here's a video clip of the little guy chatting about boo boos and band-aids.

Springtime Sewing

Ok. Ok. I'm a little behind on the blog. I know.
Usually the number of posts rockets up in the spring. There's more light and more time, because sun doesn't set until very late in Belgian summer. Usually the opportunities increase tenfold in the spring to get out with the camera and shoot stuff. That means more posts- however meaningless.
But lately, I've been trying to teach myself to sew. Never really enjoyed sewing anything at all. A practical skill of course, but this seamstress lacks patience and time, honey.
Addie, our oldest kiddo, has been interested in sewing since she was about 4 years old. She has continued gradually to build her skills and has reached the point at which I either needed to advance my own skills or find someone to help tutor her behind the sewing machine. She was given some of her late great grandma's sewing materials which offered a renewed interest in sitting down at the machine. Since my French language skills are still behind the curve, the lesser of two evils, and cheaper option, was to try to learn to sew. Violia! The first, wearable results of this production....

In all there are 4 new A line skirts hanging in the closet.
Sadly, they are all made from IKEA fabric, as at 4 euro per meter, it's the cheapest fabric we can find.
Other fabric places nearby start at about 9 euro per meter! (Yikes!)
So, wearing the IKEA fabrics makes me wonder if someone will recognize the skirts from
their bedspread, pillowcase, drapes, or lounge chair.
So sad. So true.

As for Addie, you can check out her new duds here.
It's been lovely, threading and re threading, ripping out stitches, and redoing along the way.
Much to be learned yet.
Perhaps next spring though-
For now, I'm ready to pick up the camera again!

A moment of correction in spring concert...

Madame Francine, our violin teacher is not always a stickler, but when she knows the kids can do better, she persists in getting it out of them, always in a gentle, and often comical way. Here, she knew the group could, and should have played better. So she made them "do over". (Addie and Stella are part of this clip- Stella on the far left, and Addie is 1-2 kids over to the right.)

Spring Violin Concert Perpetual Motion

This song is not Stella's favorite, so it's ironic that Matt videoed, of all songs in the concert, this one.
She's on the far left. Video quality leaves something to be desired, but we thought grandparents and aunts might like to see concert clips anyway! For Addie's clip in the concert, playing a Minuet, CLICK HERE .

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Something tells me this kid is gonna be dangerous.

Music soothes the savage beast

Spring violin concert this weekend
75% of the offspring played various songs.... from Bach and Gossec to Twinkle Twinkle

25% slept in the back row on the floor

Music truly soothes the savage beast.
(We'll try to get video uploaded in case you have trouble getting to sleep as well.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Summer Grilled Veg with Couscous

A new favorite recipe- perfect for summer weather, healthy and delicious....
Slice up 2 large onions, 2 yellow squash, 2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers, 1/2 pound asparagus trimmed and cut into 2 inches,
1 eggplant. (or substitute whatever you have in the fridge that might work.)
Throw veggies onto a pizza platter or large tray in single layer to cook on grill.
Drizzle with a tad of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, thyme, and pepper.
Cook couscous (about 1 cup dry) as directed.
Throw veggies on the grill or wood fire and turn occasionally til nice and cooked, blackened by the grill here and there a little.
Add veggies to couscous and sprinkle with feta.
Dig in.

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First Holy Communion

Addie, with the rest of her Sunday school class, made her First Holy Communion today. She wore the dress that I wore on my First Holy Communion, which was a lovely treat.
 (Thanks again mom for saving that dress and veil so kindly for the last 30 years. Who knew?)
 Sadly, our family wasn't here to join us for the special day and we miss them all.
 Still, we celebrated after the ceremony with a table full of goodies and cake. Emory and Arleigh celebrated by eating several slices of that cake. Friends and neighbors came to help celebrate too, making the day very special for Addie. Miss Venera arrived at 7:30am to do Addie's hair for the occasion as well. We're really lucky to be surrounded by such spectacular folks here in Belgium.
Congratulations Addie!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Wishes

In the car, on the way to violin lessons...
“Whaddaya want for Mother’s Day breakfast in bed tomorrow mom?”
They have been so psyched for Mother’s Day, making crafty little gifts at school and reminding me ‘it‘s a secret‘. Anticipation of the Mother's Day gift grand opening ceremony, (when I give the performance of a lifetime), was almost more than they could handle. If they hadn’t been strapped into their car seats for this conversation they’d have fallen over.

I looked back into the rear view mirror. Calmly, I answered.
“Do you want to know what I really want?”
Hesitantly, their response...“Okay”

“I want your father to pick up his pajamas and underwear from our bathroom floor.
I want to go to the bathroom when the toilet has already been flushed.
I want to not have to tell each of you to brush your hair 6 times a morning.
I want to not have to wipe up sticky places after you eat.
I want to not have to clean toothpaste off the sink, and counter, and floor.
I want to see backpacks hung in their place, and shoes away in the cubby.
I want the laundry pile to be a reasonable size, before I mention that it’s unreasonable.
I want a Roomba.”

(They were giggling and chuckling, as if they purposefully taunt me daily.)

OK. Fine.
I’d like a veggie omelet with toast and jam.“

Fast forward less than 24 hours.

I stepped over pajamas and underwear.
I flushed the toilet and then went to the bathroom.
I said “please brush your hair” approximately 18 times total today.
I wiped up the table, the counter, the kids table and the chairs.
I cleaned toothpaste from all tile surfaces of the bathroom.
I nagged about homework completion, backpacks prepped, shoes put away.
I folded 5 baskets of laundry.
I made myself a veggie omelet and toast but didn't bother to eat it in bed. I'd already made the bed.
In the end, I didn't get anything I asked for. Instead, I settled for this.
Look closely, Emory says the gift he made me, which looks like a mosaic tile to most of us, is a “diamond”.

Did you hear that? I got a diamond for Mother’s Day! Best darn diamond a mom could want. And to boot, a charming photo of Addie stuck in play dough in a flowerpot, and a blazing yellow, garden fence, Popsicle clip. That’s all way better than a reasonable laundry pile. Love those kids I tell ya.
Love 'em more cause my legs are skinny on the card...
Honestly though,
I’m still holding out for a Roomba….

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are lucky enough to be a mom! 


So, Arleigh has a little jet lag. No Problem.
Bedtime routine goes something like this
1) jammies, brush teeth, bedtime stories
2) snuggle in bed, goodnight kisses
3) lights out

Arleigh seems to think there is a 4) 5) and 6) to the routine now.
We've taken to ignoring him.
He gets back up. We put him back in bed -minus parts 1) and 2).
Last night I was looking for something in the office. Matt was outside mowing the yard.
I heard a strange, loud, mysterious, "bruwm- bruwmch- bruwm- bruwmch" noise in the kitchen.
(The landlord just replaced the broken dishwasher and I thought we were breaking it again.)

Instead, I found this scene...

The person who must have needed this chair was nowhere to be found.

Let's have a closer look shall we?

Yep. Mr. Two -Year- Old climbed out of bed to make himself
a 'tawburee' milkshake, pushed buttons on the blender and
viola- the kitchen was covered in pink.
Milk and 'tawburees' were shakin' all over the place, from floor to ceiling.
When I called out "Who did this?"
He snuck around the corner and with a mile wide grin, answered. "Me did!"
This time routine went
1) change jammies,
2) lights out
3) celebrate sleeping child with strawberry milkshake


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Addie and I made salsa this weekend. It's easy, much cheaper than buying, tastes fab- you can alter it easily too to adjust for taste of course. It's a great basic recipe that can be altered- like a little chipotle flavor? throw in 1/2 TBS of adobe pepper sauce. Like more heat? Add more seeds from the jalepeno peppers. Want to use up leftover corn or black beans? Throw 'em in!Like your salsa with more tomatoes and salty, then add as needed.

6-8 Roma tomatoes - we also added 3 small vine ripened tomatoes

1 TBS oregano

1 TBS garlic minced or chopped (I used from a jar)

2 red, yellow, or orange (mild) peppers

5 TBS cilantro fresh- diced

3 pinches black pepper

3 pinches kosher salt

2-3 jalapenos (diced and seeded) - add seed for heat - we used seeds from 1 out of 3 of the jalapenos

3 ounce can of tomato paste

1/4 cup lemon juice (increase in 1/4 cup increments if salsa is too thick)

1TBS cumin

2 TBS sugar

The original recipe called for boiling and skinning the tomatoes, but we didn't bother- we just went "fresh" and chopped it all up, stirred it together and dug in. Not Belgian, but really yummy!