Friday, September 30, 2011


Addie came home from school in tears. Sometimes I feel like this is the preface for anything I say these days. “__ came home from school in tears.” I noted when she stepped off the bus from gym class that she seemed rather disappointed looking, but we all have bad days. I thought no more of it until she reduced herself to a waterworks factory 20 minutes later sitting at our dining room table. “My gym teacher, Jean Paul, screamed at me today in class because I couldn’t do a cartwheel! It was my first time ever and I flopped. He yelled so loud in front of everyone….”  “Well Addie, I’d like to know what he said specifically, because if it was inappropriate, then we must address this issue in a slightly different way. “
“He wasn’t inappropriate….I can’t remember what he said, but it wasn’t inappropriate.” Her bellowing clearly revealed that she’d been chastised in front of the class for no more than a lack of cart wheeling ability. We can argue all day about appropriateness or not, but this guy was a subtle as a sledge hammer.

Suddenly, I felt guilt pressing on me as if the weight of the world. How the heck did I forget to teach my kids to cartwheel? I have schlepped them all over the planet, have shown them wonders of the world, exposed them to cultures, languages, music and people, but a stinking cartwheel? How did I miss that? Couldn’t I have scheduled that inbetween groceries, making dinner, translating French homework, laundry, swimming and violin lessons? Most days life around here seems busier than a one-legged River dancer. Cartwheels? When I gave birth to each of my four children, no one burst through the Labor and Delivery door to remind me to teach them how to do a cartwheel someday. It’s not my fault is it? Am I a total loser mom? I mean, a cartwheel? How did I forget cartwheels? Spinning. My brain was spinning.

So, given a cup of tea and a slightly long pause, I determined to take this bull by the horns. Traipsing the girls into the yard, I proceeded to direct a lesson on how to do a cartwheel. This seemed to be as easy as putting a 6 legged cat in a bucket of water. After showing off a few cartwheel moves of my own, and then nearly missing doggie doo, I diverted lesson 101 to making everyone help poop scoop instead. Once landmines were cleared, the girls had a go. The scene that proceeded was something that resembled an octopus sucking down a starfish. There were arms and legs flailing every which way. It was, to be gentle and kind, an extremely ugly picture in all directions. Occasional moments passed when I thought someone might leave the yard in a neck brace, laying on a stretcher. (Put nothing past this crew.) Since cart wheeling apparently takes more than 5 minutes to teach, I retreated to make dinner while they continued to wave arms and legs around everywhere, nearly missing doggie landmines that remained unnoticed. Honestly, for the moment, I’d given up. Mr. Gym Jock Jean Paul was getting the best of me. I even found doo doo on my shoes. Bummer.

Later that night, feeling the task at hand , I resorted to You tube, and Google searches for “how to teach a cartwheel”. I tell you, there are some incredibly stupid videos out there under that search. Don't waste your time. Feeling further pressure, I called the first two people I knew that might help; Mom- a trained physical education teacher, and my sis, Julie, a once fab gymnast who would love, no doubt, to see Addie cartwheel past this issue and onto more important things. Mom’s advice was to tell the kids “hand -hand- foot- foot, and lay a line down for them to follow,…Then watch your face cause you’ll probably get kicked”. Great advice mom. Gym Jock Jean Paul has me heading for a black eye to boot. My sis made a phone call to Addie after school and gave her support and instruction. With a new found confidence, Addie went to bed with marks on her calendar to indicate practice days for her cartwheels. Kids are so stinking resilient. If I had been through what Addie had experienced that day I’d have gone to bed hugging Ben and Jerry’s and a Kleenex box. Gotta love the power of humiliation.
Well, here we are a week later. We’re not quite there yet. We’ll save that for another blog post. But we’re back at practice and it’s going, let’s say, …slightly better. (Less like an octopus eating a starfish and more like just a sinking starfish.) They decided to practice before swimming lessons, so they donned their swimming suits and set to work. They placed leaves in a line, following grandma's instruction, and tried to hit the mark. To increase strength in their arms I recommended head stands. Of course, the kids made me demonstrate this too. (A presentation which proved to be about as useful as a fart in a spacesuit, but it‘s good to know that this body can still accomplish a headstand with the help a 800 mg of Motrin and an ice pack).

It’s hard to make a comeback when you haven’t been anywhere, but this kid, she’ll make it.
(And hopefully without a trip to the local ER). Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned….

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Belgian Bicycle Flash Mob

There are a ton of things we'll miss about Belgium when we have to go. Last night the kids and I came up with some favorites, and among the list, was "bike paths".
Another one was flash mobs. Brussels region seems to be full of flash mobs and they pop up everywhere from the Atomium and European Union, to the airport and Antwerp Central Station. (If you haven't seen these preformances, you should at least check this one out. A classic one for Belgium to claim as an all time favorite.)
Anyway, no one can dispute, Belgians love their bikes. We came across this flash mob "bicycle" video and just wanted it to be noted here on the fam blog. Check it out. Some of you who have visited should recognize Gare Centrale. (The preformance take place right where you wait while we purchase your tickets to Brugge. )

Although the flash mobs appear to happen randomly, there is a lot of rehersal and prep behind the scenes. if you don't believe me, check out this video on the behind the scenes work for the bicycle video above.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It Pays

Sometimes, it pays to be spontaneous. Really spontaneous. This show is run with a lot of planning. From what we're eating for dinner on Wednesday night to what we'll be doing the first week of January...we plan. A lot. So when a great family, who we adore, called early Saturday morning and said "what do you think about camping tonight in the south of Belgium?" We set aside the day's plan for violin lessons, soccer practice, laundry, cleaning, and making a few meals ahead, to instead, pack up and get out into nature.
This paid off big time.

We had a great cook out, campfire, hiked, played in the stream, and spent time with some of our favorite people. For the last 12 hours the kids have been asking "When will we do that again?".
All I can think to answer is "Yeah, that was great. It pays to be spontaneous sometimes eh?"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Car Free Sunday 2011 in Brussels

For the record, we participated in car free Sunday again this year. (That's a day when only public transport is allowed to operate. No cars. Public transport is free, not only to raise awareness for environmental reasons, but also to allow people to explore new routes and methods of local transport. Folks get out on the roads with everything from their own two feet to roller blades and tandem bikes.)

We shortened our own bike trip though, because of our newest rider, Emory. He’s up and on two wheels on his own, but he can be noisy about it. If he'd just close his mouth and concentrate, he do just fine. Here’s a good example from the Car Free Sunday, …see how the person on the right is staring blankly at Emory? And you know this person is just thinking “Kid what is your problem? Just drive your bike.” Well, that was a bit of why we got off the road. He was like a stinking horn beeping over each inch of road.

 First we got a snack though. (They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease,..well this squeaker got a snack, as we were hopeful it'd at least turn the volume down.)

Then we got off the road.
Better luck next year, we hope.

Good Clean Fun

I wasn’t thrilled when Arleigh decided to stay home with me instead of joining his siblings at swimming tonight. Heading to the Laundromat has become a matter of gaining a teesy bit of solitary time. It’s not my favorite chore, but sitting there, waiting for the multitude of clothing to tumble itself clean and dry, I usually make time to read, or write, alone. Alone. It’s the alone thing that is appealing to me, not the Laundromat. 
I didn’t fight him on it though. If he wanted to come to the Laundromat, Fine. So be it.
I had no idea what was in store. Once the 8 baskets were unloaded from the car, I unbuckled my 33 inch assistant and told him to “go sit down”. What followed was a 20 minute monologue, meant to be a dialogue, but it streamed from his mouth faster than high speed internet, and was so completely entertaining, I vowed to jot it down immediately. I took notes people, and this is the replay....
“Mom, what are you doing? I’ll help you. Ugh. Dare, the clothes are in. Now what are you doing? You have money? Which hole does the money go in? What if you don’t have money? Can I press this button? Which one should I push? Is there someone else here? Is that our stuff up dare? Can I push a button? Which button can I push? Hey loook! The clothes are ‘pinning! Wheee! Day are going roun and roun! Look dare’s my orange pajamas! Look mom! My pajamas! Do you see ‘dem? The orange ones? Hee, heee! These chairs are like the metro. They are orange. Do you think they are like the meto? Hey look! Dare’s your boobie sling! It’s going around! Our ‘tuff is going fast! Really fast! Do you see it ‘pinning? I like this trash can. Look the lid goes up and down. Rrrrrreeeeeesshshsh- crash! I can close it! Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. I wish we had a trash can like ‘dis one. Dis is a nice one, cause the lid goes up and down.

Mom, is ‘dare a lady in here? What is she doing? Why is she putting her ‘dings in dat one? Does she have monies? Hers has water in it. Look it’s water on her clothes. Do you want me to tell her? Can I have someding from dis machine? I will check for monies. Nope, no money in dare. Nope no money in dare. Nope, no money in dare. Nope no money in dare. Mom, dare is no money here. Mom, do you have money? Can I have some? This machine has food and I’m hungry and thirsty. Look, ours is slowing down. It’s getting slower. It’s going to stop. Hers still has water in it. Mom, my shirt is dirty. You should have put dis one in the washer cause it's really really dirty. Bun Bun is dirty. He has peanut butter on him. He doesn’t need a bath ‘dough.

 Mom, can we check? Are dey dry? We haf to put in more monies. Can I do it? I want to do it. Let me do it. Can I push da buttons? Please? I did it! Can I push more buttons? Where are buttons I can push? What do those buttons do? Mom, if our clothes are still wet, we put in more monies. Our tuff will never be dry. I can put in the monies for you. Look! Dare’s your boobie sling again! Whooo! It goes round and round and round. Take a picture of me so I can see my tongue. Can I see it? Can I see my tongue? Let me see it.

When will we go home? How long will we be here? I like dis orange seat. Can I climb into the basket? …..”

This monologue continued for quite awhile until he admitted he was tired and ready to go home, which, quite luckily, coincided with the end of the dryer cycles. This little guy knows how to make, one Friday night of good clean fun. (But next time, he’s going swimming and I’m bringing a good book to the Laundromat).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Go Faster

Aunt Julie and Aunt Betsy are prepping to run their second half marathon within just a few weeks.
Today they’ll line up at the start in Philadelphia and we wish we could be there to cheer them on

just like in the ‘ol days....

An additional 3 kids later, the fan club is still watching from the sideline and sending cheers of encouragement.
So that they know how much we miss them and wish we could be there, so that they know we're thinking of them each step of the way, we wanted to send a HUGE shout out to them, wishing good luck and a happy run!

Most importantly, have fun Aunt Julie and Aunt Betsy! We miss you!
Run Faster!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Daddy's Gone

When daddy goes out of town, it can only mean one thing for dinner....
We fill 'em with anything...usually berries, but sometimes just a sugar crepe with lemon juice squirted over it, or nutella and bananas. Tonight we stuffed those babies with fresh berries and lathered it all with strawberry syrup made from the recent farm visit. (The syrup really is that bright- no color alteration on that photo.)
De-lish! (Actually, I don't know "de-lish"  for sure, the kids ate them all...I had leftovers to be honest. But it looked incredible.

Next time your dad goes out of town, you should definitely try this little french- pick-me-up.
It's ooo-la-la yummy, easy, and quick.
Here's the recipe...
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Blend all ingredients in bowl until very smooth. Pour about 1/4 to 1/2 cup into crepe pan(depending on size), or skillet and roll pan to make thin coating. Cook on medium heat til smooth and bubbles are gone. Flip and cook a minute or two more - should be golden on both sides when you pop it out of the pan.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Birthday Addie

9 years old....
and counting.
Happy Birthday kid.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Apple Harvest

The sun was so hot. Ugh. Leave it to Belgium to cast a hot sunny day at the start of a fall weekend, after a no show summer. The sticky people informed me, it "felt like Guam", and it did, but we had only reached the mid 80s.F As planned, we headed out for a nearby apple orchard to see what we could pick.

As it turns out, we faired very well. In less than 40 minutes this apple pickin crew gathered over 60 kilos of apples, most of which I now need to figure out how to use.

They had a great time along the way as well. Arleigh even tagged a swing at the orchard's edge. 

If we can use up the first harvest of apples, we'll make another trip in October for a winter stock. In the meantime, those brief moments in the orchard will remain a favorite memory and we'll look forward to heading back...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Farm Visit

The annual farm visit to  our favorite Belgian, organic, pick your own farm (click here for the site) occurred this week, before the start of school.
We decided to go twice this year. Once early in the 'late season' and once, later, when the pumpkins and squash fill the fields. We took a few friends this year from school. Because of the weather, some veggies were ready earlier than others. The late season strawberries were plentiful and tasty enough to put up a few jars of jam, strawberry butter, strawberry syrup, and pack a bunch of fresh berries in the fridge for snacking. Just ask Arleigh
 We usually don't pick potatoes, but this year we threw a few in the sack for good measure. Those duds wound up in a hearty beef stew that made us wished we'd picked more.
 And this one was ready to pick- pick right up and squeeze. He's such a character.
 Emory was sure to grab the broccoli and then some. We have a few meals worth of fresh greens from his hard working efforts.
 This kid (Emory) hates tomoatoes, but I think picking the sweet, cute little cherry tomatoes was just too irresistable for Emory, and his good friend August.
 Addie will never leave this place without a bucket of carrots. The kids all seems to gleam at the table when the carrots they picked are served. "Are these the carrots we picked? Oh! They are SO much more delicious because I picked them myself!"
 Our friends pointed out a raspberry patch as well. Typically we head to the farm too late for raspberries. This year, we were treated to a few handfuls of goodies right off the branch.
So, stay tuned! We'll be back for pumpkin patch "zelfpluktuin" sooner than you can say October!