Friday, September 28, 2012

The Car Wash

The kids LOVE the car wash. We don't use it often, so for the most recent trip, video was taken so we can go to the car wash anyday, right here at home.....

4th year Birthday Wishes

Oh my. I can remember when our oldest was just turning 5 years old and I felt that she might as well be walking out the door to college. Now the youngest is going to be 4 years old and I'm wondering who pushed fast forward on the clock?
Arleigh is quite looking forward to his big birthday and he's compiled a special wish list for our family. His top wishes are posted here, below.  I love how simple these wishes are....
  •  a birthday cake with candles
  • some presents to unwrap
  •  bubble blow
  •  a bag of candy
  •  a bunny costume
  •  a jar of flowers
Love that! We'll be working hard to be sure these birthday dreams come true. In the meantime, Arleigh, slow down please? No need to rush the growth chart my child! 

Cornfield Fun

We haven't been able to get to our 'pick your own' farm yet this season. We're hoping perhaps this weekend, but the schedule is always running tighter than intended. Hopefully soon.
Today, for no good reason, we romped through a corn field. Corn in Europe, is not usually harvested for people to eat. Rather, more often, it is used to feed animals. Therefor, it's still on the stalk until well into the autumn season.

This corn field just happened to be en route to where we were headed, so stopping for a quick game of hide and seek was no big deal....


In the US, I'm not sure most farmers would necessarily care for some kids stomping through their fields. Who knows? But in this case, the farmer passed by on his tractor and waved. He was busy harvesting huge potato piles, as big as houses, to soon be made into Belgian frittes.
We hope the animals enjoy their corn on the cob, for we certainly enjoyed a few minutes in the field!

Local Trash Collectors

When we lived in Guam, we used to go for walks around the jungles and beaches with the intent to clean up. Trash often laid strewn in areas where it was clearly not washed up from the shore, and the litter left behind by others was quite sad to see. As a family, we'd make a group effort to just do what we could on occasional outings. It was incredible what we could pick up in just a measly stroll for 30 minutes to an hour. In working together, on our own, we want the kids to learn to do the right thing, even when it's hard and it is a mess made by someone else. We want them to learn that you don't just do the right thing when you're at cub scouts, or with your school group, or for a ribbon. You can make a difference on your own.

There are rules of course- no one can touch nasty things like syringes, or cut glass. Everyone must keep their gloves on until the end. And we stay together and help each other so no one accidentally wanders off or gets hurt on brambles or nettles.
When we camp, we use the motto 'leave it better than you found it' and we encourage this at home as well- especially in the bathroom, which is often left with squiggles of toothpaste, washcloths, or an unflushed toilet. So far, not much progress within the house, but outside our home, that's a different story.
We haven't set out on one of these collection walks for awhile, as our schedule has been ragged. But last night, we took a brief walk, just a few blocks around the neighborhood. You wouldn't believe the trash we collected...
No doubt it's now better than we found it. Kudos to the local trash collectors!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tour of Duty Live in Little Rock

I received an email asking me to post a little 'ditty' on our family blog to advertise this military wives' retreat. I'm always happy to help another gal in the line of 'duty' so here it is....

I'm not attending, as last I checked there were no free flights from Belgium, but perhaps someone out there is interested? Here's the guest speaker's invitation....

"Y'all, they have free childcare!" If I happened to live in Arkansas, that would be reason enough for me to attend. You must register though.  Here's the 411 on that...

Registration Information

What:Tour of Duty Live, a weekend of Bible teaching led by Sara Horn and worship led by Andrew Mackert.
Where:Baring Cross Baptist Church
7541 Warden Rd.
Sherwood, AR 72120
Schedule:Friday, 6 to 9 p.m.
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m (Lunch is included)
Cost:$25 registration fee includes copy of Tour of Duty and lunch on Saturday.
Childcare:Free childcare will be offered for children 5 and younger.
When to Register:Registration opens August 27! You must register at

To those of you who can make it, have a great time!

Monday, September 24, 2012

They deliver....

It's old news that Matt was hit by a car this summer while riding his classic Cannondale bike to work.
Getting hit by a car seems to be a right of passage in Brussels. He lived to tell that tale, but his bike was totaled. Since that accident, life as we knew it ceased to exist. Dear husband seemed to mourn the loss of his 20+ year old bike. ( I mourned the purple but inevitable yucky scar left on his cheek....That's not nice is it?)
Well, anyway, he scoured the internet. Researched shipping. Priced bikes in shops across the country while the rest of us sat in a blazing hot car and waited outside as he perused bike frames, seats, and the cute girl in bike shorts behind the bike shop counter.
Eventually, after long debate and endless conversation about replacements, Ridley put me out of my misery. Thank you Ridley bikes. A Belgian company, Ridley delivers your new bike to your door (if you happen to live in Belgium that is.) Guess what? We happen to still live here, so isn't he lucky to have been hit by that car?

Just like the purple scar, it's a lovely parting gift, courtesy of the man paying no attention in the black Mercedes. Thank you.
And thank you as well Ridley. May peace and happiness be restored to our home.
Now cruise on dear. Cruise on!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Double digits -She's 10!

Addie, 10. It's incredible. I swear those contractions back in San Diego seem like only a week ago.

We started the day of celebration in double digit life with a 1/2 day at school. Breakfast in bed traditions were sadly postponed over the morning school rush. After school Addie, in true form, set out to bake cookies for her class to share for her birthday. While she was stirring the pot for icing I couldn't help but to notice how grown up she seemed- cooking over the stove in a big apron, calmly attending to her little brothers when they screamed, helping Stella to restock our kitchen spice rack...ugh, she's really growing up.

One of her favorites for dinner- chicken pot pie, especially made today and stamped with a big 1-0.
  After dinner- cake and paddywhack time....

Addie the last 10 years have flown by, and I'm bracing myself for the next 10. I hope that you always
continue to keep an open mind. This has afforded you the opportunity to live in another country and visit 20 others. Along with hard work, it's given you the gift of a second language and the ability to connect with people from diverse cultures. May you always have an open mind.
You began school in Montessori, where you learned to think for yourself. Thinking for yourself and positively inquiring with an open mind, will take you places that perhaps no one could have imagined.
I pray that you stay safe and healthy. Be aware of your surroundings and continue to use your body with physical activity. Whether tennis or swimming ,challenging yourself in another running race, or learning something new,  know that there will always be someone faster and someone slower. Someone more powerful and probably someone struggling as well. The only thing that matters is you and your quest to keep your body healthy and strong. Looking at the changes in you from birth until now is nothing short of amazing. You were beautiful when you were crinkly and crying in the delivery room and you are beautiful now and every moment in-between. Please don't let society hover over you or mold you into something you think you should be. You were made to be the way you are supposed to be.

 Remember that YOU are in charge of YOU. Always.
This goes for your actions and your reactions, to everything and everyone.
It's tough to master, especially when the world around you tends to forget, using fingers to point in all directions and naming others often to blame.
When someone else makes a bad decision, YOU get to choose how to react.
When someone else makes a good decision, YOU choose how to act.
When you make a good decision, YOU are in charge of you.
When you make a bad decision, YOU chose how to act.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
You are in charge of You.
You chose whether to wear a smile each day or sulk in misery.
Your thumb. Addie you are in charge of you.
You may chose whether to pick your socks up off the floor of walk over them 20 times.
In your teens, you will surely choose whether to attend 'that party', or be with 'that crowd', 'date the cute guy', or walk away. You are in charge of you.
You choose whether to walk past someone else suffering or ask what you can do to help. This is always your choice.

 Your love of reading is such a gift. Books can take you places like nothing else in the world. The ability to connect with a character, or understand a heady plot can be a complete joy. Never stop reading. It's entertainment for both your soul and your brain.
I think you're gonna love the birthday gift the family bought for you. I'm sure they feel the same and encourage you to continue your passion of books.
Don't ever let me, or anyone else, stop you from doing what you're passionate about.
Continue to follow your passions. Always. If it seems like you're knocking and no one is answering, but you still want to walk through a threshold, knock again. And again. Stay with your passions.

Know that we love you Addie. You have a great big family around you that loves you and will always have arms open for you, as you step ahead into the adventures of your next 10 years.
We love you from head to toe. Happy birthday!

Back to School

First time in almost 4 years that I remembered to pull out the camera on the first day of school.
With school lunches, first day anxieties, and wrestling kids from their beds in the early morning wake up, I can never seem to find it important enough to stop and take a snapshot.
It was a conscientious move this time as we'll have lots of changes and adjustments in the next year.
From here on out our lives seem to be more focused on enjoying what we have together as a family at this moment. Today, it was the insane prep to head out the door into a world of adventure at school....
Arleigh- age 3, pre-K "Matrenelle"
Emory age 6, grade 2
Stella age 8, grade 3
Addie age 9, grade 4
Good luck guys!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wildberg Camping

We went in tow with Matt this week while he worked in Stuttgart. We decided to camp instead of staying in a hotel because the hotel costs on base have become outrageous. So, after a bit of searching, we came upon a little place not far from Stuttgart, called Wildberg. Situated along a lovely little river and nestled at the edge of 100+km of bike paths which straddle the waterways, we decided this might just work.

The bike path was just as easy as could be and the smell of the apples from the lingering apple trees made for a dreamy ride. The town of Wildberg is quite small, but the houses are quaint, the bridges are decorated with elaborate flower boxes overflowing with arrangements that tease and dangle over the bridge railing as if to dip into the river below.

In the evening, on our way back from dinner, we passed by a man on his Dutch bike, riding against the backdrop of a pink sunset though  expansive country apple orchards. We watched him for awhile and noted that those scenes are the ones that we wouldn't have taken in if we'd have stayed in a hotel . The type of thing we're not likely to see in the US, those are the glimpses that we'll miss most about Europe. In a blink, that sort of scene pulls us back to a bygone era, far from ipads and cell phones.

Days were spent biking, swimming at the camp pool, and when the weather came into question, we headed to the base to a craft shop where the kids could paint pottery.

Addie decorated egg cups, as a current family favorite breakfast is a "soft boiled egg and soldiers".

Stella loves giraffes, and thought the giraffe mug would suit her perfectly. Sadly, the boys misbehaved and lost their privilege to paint pottery. So they colored in books in a nearby room, waiting anxiously for their sisters to finish.
We were lucky to make one last trip to Stuttgart with Matt. He'll surely return there for work again, over the next few months, but it' s unlikely that we'll be able to join in on the travel because of the busy school schedule and upcoming move. We're truly grateful for those sort of journeys though and will continue to savor every last minute together in Europe while we can. Cheers!

Ritter Chocolate Exhibition

If you ever find yourself wandering around Stuttgart, Germany or smaller towns nearby, but sure to mosey by the Ritter chocolate factory. You'll be in for a yummy treat! The store has all sorts of chocolate and fun souvenirs. The tour is great for kids and adults alike. The museum and exhibition are very well done, providing an interesting insight into the cocoa farmers and their production methods. And you'll walk away with some free chocolate bars- now that can't be all too bad can it?

- oh yeah, we left with a sample of cocoa beans in our pockets as well

The languages offered are English and German. The kids asked to hear things in French, but that's simply not available, so we settled on English....
The movie about making chocolate....

ol'chocolate boxes from the time when Mr Ritter's wife recommended the bars be made into nice squares so that they would fit nicely into every one's pockets....
Arleigh catching up on old Ritter chocolate commercials....