Monday, November 25, 2013

Hot off the Press

We're baaaa-aaack! Well, not really in full force. We're just stopping by here for a little, overdue update. Because my camera is broken and will remain that way until the rainclouds drop money, we'll keep posting to a minimum .(Perhaps, that is a relief to some of you?)

So before I get ahead of myself, here's a quick and dirty update. Ok, just quick, not so dirty.
We moved from Belgium this summer. Matt left early and I flew back with the kids in June. Me, 10 suitcases, and 4 kids on a 10 hour journey. It was not fun. But awaiting at the other end of that very long trip were family who we dearly missed and were so happy to see.
We stayed with family and friends through the summer, wearing out our welcome everywhere we went. We had no idea if we'd be able to sell our home in Norfolk and move to DC, or if we'd live in Norfolk while Matt would commute from DC on weekends to see us.
Turns out- the house sold in Norfolk. So we moved to the greater DC area. (We're really way way outside of the city in a rural setting that we quite enjoy).
We unpacked 3 large moves which consisted of a lot of stored items that we never recalled having purchased and having been so long without their use, sent them off to auction. Thanks mom and dad, for kindly storing all that stuff that we didn't really need after all. What can I say? Living in Europe taught us a lot about ourselves.
Whilst unpacking, we celebrated Arleigh's birthday. My camera has been broken for some time, and is not likely to recover. So the camera phone has taken on a call of duty...I miss the use of manual mode.
You see, a lot of great moments have been lost due to me fidgeting with the cell phone camera. I know it shouldn't be so difficult, but it is. I miss my camera. It was an extension of me and ugh, I feel like someone cut off my darn hand! Stuff like this is what I have now....
 Hence, the lack of posts lately. You see?

I digress.....
We plugged away at settling in. Our place was formerly a small organic produce farm. We'd like to continue in that spirit, though we honestly don't know what we're doing. Giving it our best though, we are now equipped with a small tractor, and are starting with soil sample testing. We'll see where this leads us. Hopefully onward to a little fun, a lot more learning, and great food.
We love our new community. It's small, and that was important to us. We wanted the kids to experience exactly this sort of place if  the DC area was going to be our future. School is doing well and we're happy to report honor roll results for the first term in the US school system. (Which is impressive if you could see the wreckage of spelling based on 4 years in francophone school).

When we left Belgium, Emory said "If we are going to move to DC, I want to go to the White House for my Birthday!"  Today he had the opportunity of a lifetime and dream come true. He was able to tour the West Wing because a good friend offered to make this wish come true. No photography is allowed inside, so all photos were taken outside, but we did get to see the West Wing and it was rather different than what we'd expected. Emory was grinning from ear to ear the entire time. We can't thank our friends enough for the opportunity. I hope the kids remember this forever. Here are some pics, hot off the press and straight from the visit....

Stella, seriously? Why do you have to do that?

Matt will deploy in early 2014. Our intention was to stop the blog when we returned to the US, but Matt has requested that I continue, so that he might get a good overall glimpse into the flow of every day updates in his absence. I can tell you those posts will come at a slower pace, but I may keep posting, at least for the time being.
To those of you who know us, please know the door is open to you and we have plenty of guest room space. Come and stay awhile! To those of you who don't know us, but check in here, we're still a circus act.
More to come, eventually.
Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Namma's 94th

Namma, Matt's grandmother, celebrated her 94th birthday this week. The kids had a great time with festivities, from water balloon launches, water guns and the slip n' slide, to ice cream cake, there was no shortage of activities...or food. Believe me, quite an affair! For us, it was fantastic to play with the cousins and spend some time with them after so many years away.
Some snaps-


Thanks Jeannie and Gary for hosting all of us.
 Namma, this was so much fun and we're glad we could finally be here to help celebrate.
We can't wait for your 95th! Happy Happy Birthday!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Aunt Karrie

If we can, when we're up home visiting family, we like to make the trek to see Aunt Karrie. It's a day trip, and never disappointing. She (unnecessarily) showers the kids with gifts and they consequently believe that Christmas in July always happens at Aunt Karen's :) Thanks Aunt Karrie for a great visit. Now we're just going to be waiting for you to make the trek to Virginia to see us!

Dudley Dog


It was with much sadness and heavy hearts that we had to put Dudley dog to sleep today.
The kids said their good byes, and took some time with him, but that didn't make it easier.
He's been with us since well before the kids came along, and even in his very old age, he never snapped or even gave us cause to be angry with him. He was an amazing dog, who logged over 40,000 flight miles, traveling with us as an important part of our family, no matter where the military orders. At age 15, he'd surely lived a full life, still loved a walk in the evening, and a treat when offered. We're going to miss him more than words can say.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Garage Sale

This posting is to update all those who are trying to check in on us. Matt is still in training in Louisiana. Since the last post, we've visited Aunt Betsy, Grandpa and Grandma, and a farm where we stayed a week. Some great pictures of the farm but we're going to hold off on posting all that.
Now we're back at Grandma's house and holding a garage sale there to help her clean some things out. (Like great grandma's wigs which the boys are so proudly sporting in this picture). The house in Norfolk has a pending offer and closing is set for mid July. House hunting in the greater DC area begins in early July. Stay tuned- this summer seems filled with surprises, ups and all too many downs.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Making the Rounds

Summer is full on, now that there's no school for us and we're in limbo with our international move.
so we decided to spend a few days here and there visiting family and friends. This week is Aunt Julie and hopefully next week, Aunt Betsy, if all goes as planned.
We kicked off our time in VA Beach with a little crabbing on the dock and Uncle Pete took the boys for a boat ride. Fantastic summer fun!

Doggity dog Charlie says it all in this summer time pic- jowls flapping in the wind, nose raised to the summer sun, and a great breeze blowing those ears to yesterday as he flies ahead in the boat skimming the water- ahhhh, yeah, let the summer begin!

A few days with the Brickeys

We made it, and upon arrival, Aunt Julie, Aunt Bets + Uncle Pete met us after a weary journey. We hauled the 10 suitcases to cars, fed the kids quickly and then they dropped us off at our first place to catch up from a long time away- the Brickey house.
There's nothing like a bit of respite upon arrival with old friends. Well, no rest for the weary honestly, but it was great fun with all the kids. Most importantly, our kids realized that they have friends waiting with open arms here to show them 'the American way' and the Brickey's made it an incredible and fun welcome.
Thanks Paula, for opening your door and your heart, all over again!

PS Miss Paula- thanks for introducing them to the dollar store. Great fun :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One last run

One last run for frittes -
and chocolates
and a little shopping for keepsakes and taking in the sights
 and waffles of course!


As we were leaving the Grande Place I told the kids to take one last look. "Enjoy it." They spent a moment looking around and then we started to walk away. Emory stopped though and asked if we could go back. He stared at the Grande Place, looked up and said "It's just so beautiful. I want to remember it." He took a minute more, seeming to study every crevice of architecture, and then said "Ok, I'm ready now." So we all headed home. It was a great last run.

Good bye home haircuts

Man, we've got a lot to miss around here. But frankly, as a mom of 4, I know one of the things I'm gonna miss most is not having to drag everyone into the salon for haircuts. Eeesh I hate that. Miss Venera, a neighbor and friend, has been coming to cut heads of hair at our house since our first months here. In fact she's the only person who's ever cut Arleigh's hair (so far).
Thank you Miss Venera for all the hard work, patience, and knotty hair you've put up with!
She offered to do one more cut for everyone to send them off looking sharp. Here are some pics from the moment-


No, not 'Au revoir Belgique'

A mom from school and good friend, Arna, made this cake for the kids as a farewell gift. Isn't it beautiful? We were so taken by her kindness, to make something so special (and yummy!) for us on our departure. Over the course of several days, we're enjoying every last bit of this. Though over those same days, we chatted a lot about our time here, and adjustments coming to "the new county", America. For the kids, America is essentially "a new country" and they don't remember much at all about the culture. They know they miss their family there, but that's about all.

When we arrived, I'd gathered some travel books on Belgium. One of the authors in those books recommended that visitors don't try to do every attraction in every place, or try to see everything in Europe on one trip. His recommended approach was instead, to 'visit as if you know you will come back' as such an attitude makes it much more enjoyable.

Chatting with the kids over cake, we realized that it's not going to be an 'au revoir' for us. No, we're not saying good bye to Belgium. We just can't. We have too many special memories and have had too wonderful a time to let it just slip away in to the past. For us the only way to leave (without causing a major scene in the airport) is to know that we'll come back. As the kids are shedding tears,  I find myself constantly promising, we will be back, and Belgium will still be here. So instead, we're saying 'we'll see you soon'. "Bientot Belgique!"
And in the meantime, we're gonna enjoy the last little sweet piece of Belgium.

Carillion ( bells caroling) and violin lessons

Our last violin concert happened this weekend and it was quite bittersweet. To see how much the kids have improved and how far they've come in violin practice is incredible. And to leave, especially having to say good bye to their teacher, who simply cannot be replaced, is tragic. They worked very hard over the last 2 months to be part of a song, Carillion, composed by a friend of the teachers. This was their first honest taste at playing in a group and reading music together with other in separate 'voices'. More to come from violin- but this song is special for the moment.

Addie is in the back left, Stella is back right, and Emory was standing almost directly in front of the teacher on the right, our beloved Madame Francine.

Here are some outtakes from recent lessons-

Exit Interviews from Belgium

**For the record, Addie would like me to clarify that she knows St Malo is in France, not Belgium. We'd just discussed St Malo prior to the interview and she simply had it on her mind. Addie has long said that her favorite place in Europe is St Malo, France and I felt when we were there with her that someday, she'll surely go back. Heck who can blame her? It's really lovely there! Clearly, Arleigh has mixed feelings about his Belgian roots. Perhaps he was just anxious to get to the chocolate shop?

Fete d'ecole (school festival)

Each year, many Belgian public schools have their own school festival or party. Our school holds one as well and the kids look forward to it every year. It creates a lively and engaging atmosphere for the school. Games for kids, music, food, are always part of the plan. I didn't have time to film a lot, but I did manage to get each of the kids performances with their class.
This year the theme of the festival was based on 'a journey around Belgium' and the performance represented the class's class trip that they took together. I had never imagined that I'd have taped my 4 year old doing a jig to Gangnam Style, but here it is!
Perhaps the most amusing part of  the school festival, is when the kids' band and then the parents band, gets up and plays for everyone. It's something we know we'd never see quite the same in the US...parents mingling at the school with a glass of wine or a Belgian beer, kids dancing in the cafeteria, and parents belting out Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" to everyone. Man I'm gonna miss this place!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Prep for Spring Violin Concert

The concert is on Sunday- they've hardly practiced throughout the move. But Arleigh, when they do practice, pretends to conduct them, which is often amusing.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Tuesdays with Madame Christine.
Today was our last lunch together on Tuesdays for awhile.
We've shared many fantastic (and some occasional rainy mundane) lunches together.
She told me today that she was so glad that I brought Arleigh along every time, even after he started school, because he brightened her day so much. She's shared fabulous recipe secrets and taught me how to prep dozens of Belgian dishes. Today she declared that we were both lucky to have "given the gift of taste and discovery" when we made meals to share. I will cherish the Belgian dishes she shared and taught me to make. She tried very hard to improve our French, though I do think I'm a lost cause these days. If it wasn't for Christine and her husband, we wouldn't probably never have visited Honfleur, Deauville, Quiberon, and Saint-Malo, yet those places turned out to be some of our favorites of all our travels and ranking for everyone in our family the top 5 of all our vacations. Through her battle with MS, she has shown incredible determination and courage, teaching us more than any book or classroom could, just through our experiences with her.
But most of all, it was the time. We built a lovely friendship over time. 
I hope our kids have learned from Madame Christine to 'love thy neighbor' as she and her husband are a wonderful example.


Monday, May 20, 2013

This next week or two will be filled with a lot of tears, and "lasts". Today was the last train ride for awhile. Since it was a public holiday, we set off to Antwerp, via train, to an aquarium.
I had forgotten how impressive the station is at Antwerp Central, and just walking through makes it well worth the effort to haul 4 kids there.
When at the end, in the gift shop, the kids asked if they might buy something, I suggested a post card to write to dad. They decided against postcards, or any purchase, stating that they'd rather save the money and put it towards a return trip to Belgium in the future. 
The only comfort in leaving is to know that we can come back to visit friends and places here that we truly love.