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

Tuesday's

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.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

this is water

Quite coincidentally, I stumbled upon this video. It was thrilling to watch however. Well, thrilling, maybe not exactly, but the message was definitely inspiring. As it portrays the most important message we try to set upon our kids every single day. "You choose". "You have decisions." "You can decide how you will act, how you will respond, how you will carry yourself." "You have made decisions and those decisions have consequences". "Yes, he hit you, but you get to choose what you'll do about it." "There is not good behavior and bad behavior, there are only good decisions and bad decisions." I feel like a broken record repeating these phrases over and over and over and over. But I believe them to the core.

So, this video, was such a relief, to hear someone sharing the same message. So important that I'm adding it here to the family blog. We all have choices. How we respond. How we act. What we do, and what we don't do. This reality, that you are in charge of you, is really empowering I believe. So, tomorrow, they'll hear all over again that they can make choices, and they will continue to hold the power of decisions, to shape their world and color it as they choose. Fingers crossed that they make good choices, cause it makes my job a whole lot easier.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day, 100 + calories saved

Arleigh babbled on and on about he was making the "biggest" Mother's day gift at school. Each week he did something special. Early on, he talked all about making the secret creamy chocolate sauce and having to measure the butter and sugar with his teachers. A week later he rambled about decorating a fancy jar and how beautiful it was. The next week he talked incessantly about baking cookies into a heart shape. Ohhh these were fabulous cookies, and a big surprise! "Shhh, it's a secret"!
Days later, he talked about wrapping the gift- how lovely the paper was that he'd drawn pictures all over. The surprise was wrapped in the utter elegance of a 4 year old's markings. It was just about more than any mom could take. I was just dripping in anticipation I tell you.
Last week, all I heard about was a count down "Three days until I bring home the big surprise!"...."Only one more day mom, until the Surprise will come home with me!"
 
Finally, the treasure of all Mother's Day treasures came home.
And it lasted, less than 5 minutes.
 
That's right. After hours of endless discussion about the grande gift, it sat on the table only 5 minutes (long enough for Arleigh to hang up his coat, wash his hands, and eat an after school snack) before Arleigh tore open the big secret Mother's Day gift and began dipping heart shaped cookies into a soft chocolate sauce contained his a decorated jar. He was kind enough to share with his siblings and a visiting friend, and then explained that I might like to keep the (empty) jar. Nice eh?
Classic Mother's Day.

 
Happy Mom's Day to all of our favorite mothers out there!

Memorial Day

It's coming up....Memorial Day. Do you have your BBQ menu planned out? Heading out for the Memorial Day sales shopping? Taking some time with friend's from the office? Somewhere else, they spend the day a little differently, and mark it in quite a solemn way.
Every year, Belgian children sing the US National Anthem, on the US Memorial Day weekend,  in honor of US veterans who served here. I wish more Americans realized the ongoing appreciation so many years after the war, in places like this. We won't be able to join the occasion here this year, although we know their singing will not go unnoticed for those who are able to attend. Check it out-
it's bittersweet.


First Holy Communion (round 3)

Emory made his first holy communion last week.
Would have been posted earlier, but computer troubles got in the way.
Congrats kiddo!
Lots of hard work this year to get there, and you did it (when you weren't made to sit in humid, hot, bleachers at the pool watching your big sisters' swim meets).
For Emory the best part was the cake reception afterwards,
 while he reported that "that little wafer didn't taste very good."


 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Confidence

I've said we'll miss a lot of things about living in Europe. We're sure of it. But it became obvious to me last week outside of a Belgian supermarket, one of the biggest things we'll miss is the lack of over confidence. Europeans are not really so in-your-face about their opinions. They're happy to sit down over a coffee and chat for hours about differences of opinion, but they certainly aren't going to blast it across kingdom come to get their point heard (unless of course, they've organized an orderly demonstration for that). They tend to hold strong opinions and values, but keep opinions to themselves in a more quiet manner.

Anyway, as I was walking to the car, a truck passed me. Not just any truck, but a waffle delivery truck. I'd seen the delivery man taking loads of waffles into the store. The truck whooshed past me and the words written across advertisement on the side the truck seemed to scream out in plain and simply. The ad on the side of the truck read "Probably the best since 1950".

This is the Belgaufra motto "Probably the best..." Not "We are the Best makers of waffles in the world" or  "we make the bast darn waffle this side of the Belgium" not even "the best since..."
No. The ad reads 'probably'- as if to open the door for contention. The motto seems to imply 'Perhaps we're the best, and we think it was around 1950 that we got there, but we're not sure. It could have been 1951. Or maybe we're not the best at all?" There is no illusion or haughtiness in their motto. They don't assume anything. Were they made to knock themselves down a notch to "probably the best" after a double dare was lost with another waffle company? Did the business start from a shy, unassuming lad who just wanted to put food on the table and didn't worry about branding? Who knows?

Nevertheless, I love that they aren't so off putting, or arrogant, as to stamp a motto across products that they are indeed the best darn waffle company since 1950. It is in fact, a matter of opinion of course. I love more, that they don't have to use arrogant confidence or assume they are "the best" in the business to actually sell waffles. They seem to be doing fairly well for themselves. After all, they are "probably the best..." Here's the company website Belgaufra
Yep, we'll miss the toned down aura of personality and market. And "probably the best"waffles too.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rail Bikes

 
Today was a public holiday in Belgium. and thus a day of no school. So we ventured out with the intention to do something that we can't easily do in the US. We miss our bikes, packed away in the move, and so we wound up at Rail Bikes. Belgium has several rail bike lines that run on old railroad tracks. We peddled a busy 14 km today, everyone taking turns to rest or peddle.
Well, except the little guy, who couldn't actually reach the peddles. He said he'd "like to rail bike 100 more times" though. Apparently it's just that much fun to ride along and watch everyone else do the work.
The journey winds through tunnels, over roadways, bridges and streams, past chateaus, old train depots which are now converted cafes, beckoning bikers in for a little snack.
And it's not expensive, a refreshing change of pace overall. 
 Emory plunked himself down right on the old train track, front and center of a rail car to eat his lunch.
Overall though, the highlight for the kids? Watching the men on each end of the trip rotate the bikes to make them go back in the other direction. I think the boys could have watched every single car be turned on the tracks. Emory seemed to be studying each gear, lever, switch, and crank. I'm fairly certain he'd have been happy to be left behind watching this guy work all day.
 

Two fer Two

 
Toof number two fell out last night...and I hadn't even marked the occasion from the departure of tooth number one. Sadly, that's what happens when
your birth order is child numero three in this clan.
Lost in the shuffle, I haven't even filled in the pictures for his baby album.
How sad is that? Forgive me dear child. I still love you.
Check out his letter to the fairy though- mom gets all the blame for this one.

"Dear toothfairy. When my mommy tickled me, I swallowed my tooth!"

 The first one was swallowed while eating his dinner. The second, was swallowed when mommy was tickling him. The toothfairy has been rather understanding about the lack of teeth under the pillow,...for now. Perhaps she's been understanding because the kid writes such well annotated and courteous notes!

'Dear Toothfairy, When I ate my dinner I ate my tooth on accident. Love Emory'