31 December, 2005

Happy New Year!

Happy holidays, everyone! Only have a minute to write-- we're at my parents' place in Jordan (Ontario) and it's snowing outside and looks so peaceful!

Which is about the opposite of the atmosphere here inside-- the kids have been relatively quiet and well-behaved up until now, but their energy reserve is reaching a critical point and they could explode any minute! We're going to pull on some snow boots and go outside and explore the beautiful nature reserve behind Mom and Dad's house.

Aside from having to dodge the two little ticking time bombs that keep whizzing past we're feeling relaxed and happy. Had a fun Christmas with T and C in NJ and are really enjoying hanging out here with my Mom and Dad.

This evening we're going to go to a family-style New Year's Eve celebration. Apparently they ring a bell and celebrate the new year at 8pm!!! Which is perfect-- I usually dread that tension-filled countdown til midnight! It will be nice to get it over with early and then relax for the rest of the evening... ;-)

22 December, 2005

Good wine and a new gadget

Am feeling a lot better today. Turned in my three-months'-notice this morning, and as CH has said, it's nice that we've received closure before the end of the year.

M and I received a good bottle of Medoc as a gift a few months ago and decided to save it for the day we made this decision. That day has passed in a haze that was (unfortunately) not alcohol induced, but we've bounced back and I think we're going to open it this evening.

Was interested to read more about the chateau it comes from and just did a search on Altavista. Unfortunately failed on that front, but found a fantastic gadget called Babel Fish. If your Altavista search pulls up websites in a foreign language you can just click on a "translate" link at the end of the entry and Babel Fish automatically translates the web pages for you!

I've had a lot of fun playing around with it! And am so grateful that I don't have to physically insert this Babel Fish in my ear like you have to do in Douglas Adams books. Yech!

21 December, 2005

What were they thinking?!

Am still feeling too shellshocked and worn out to think up anything interesting to post.

But I have to laugh remembering a post that Defective Yeti wrote last week about that horrific "My Humps" song by the Black Eyed Peas.

That song is just about the most tasteless piece of trash I've ever heard! And it's everywhere! One of the comments on that posting that cracked me up:

"To me it doesnt become truly appalling in quality until the part about "all dem breassss inside dat shirt"

It doesn't even rhyme. If it was "all dem breasss up on dat chesssst" then I could give it a pass."

20 December, 2005


it's gone through. am not sure if I want to laugh or cry right now. maybe both. We'd decided earlier that I would at least stay here until the boys finish school at the end of June. So there's some time to process it. Am completely shellshocked for now...

19 December, 2005

A glimpse of what he'll look like at 12

Watch out, girls!

I guess I can forget about grandchildren...

We had a busy day yesterday and B and S were even more wound up than usual at bedtime. In theory they were upstairs changing into their pajamas, but the giggles and thundering footsteps told me otherwise.

I was in for the shock of my life when I walked into their room: let's just say they were doing scientific experiments to better understand magnetic currents.

By sticking two magnets together.

On either side of their scrotums...

18 December, 2005

Now we know why Rudolph's nose was red

Took a deep breath before plunging into the shark-infested waters of the supermarket yesterday. As with every Christmas season, people are becoming increasingly frenzied as the countdown begins.

Of course I realize that this is normal human behavior, but somehow it still takes me by surprise every year again. And that doesn't make it any safer to deal with when you're half-panicked and flailing wildly yourself.

Leave it to the Belgians, though, to come up with an appropriate solution. As many of you know, beer is not the only Belgian passion. Wine ranks right up there as well, along with various carcinogenic fried delicacies.

So some genius at Delhaize decided to manufacture a dose of holiday cheer by setting up a wine tasting right in the middle of the swirl of shoppers. There was actually an unmanned table set up with uncorked bottles of decent-quality wine! And the atmosphere was hilarious! Everyone standing around, sniffing their glasses very seriously and peering at the color regardless of the flourescent lighting.

The architect of this particular sales gimmick should be shortlisted for the Nobel peace prize! I was actually able to finish my grocery shopping with my kneecaps intact and without being hit by stray bullets! Shoppers were practically whistling in the checkout lines!

Merry Chrishmash...

17 December, 2005

Look out Dieter Zetsche!

S has really taken off with reading. Something has clicked into place and he's reading everything that's not nailed down. This morning he was trying to sound out the word "cent". And of course the "c" tripped him up. So we reminded him that sometimes "C" makes a "sss" sound and asked him if he could think of any other words that worked this way.

YES, he shouts, triumphantly: SUBARU!

Is this a consequence of living with a bunch of males? The auto industry has permeated every aspect of our lives! Some days I feel like a member of a cult!

Am remembering when B was two and we asked him if he knew of any words that start with the letter Z. What was his answer?

Sebring Convertible...

Which actually might have been a premonition about a move to Germany, because that's definitely how the Germans pronounce it: Zebring .

15 December, 2005

Pass the eggnog...

Just back from our office Christmas party and am feeling positively grinchy. It all just felt so forced and fake. Too many politics in the office at the moment for people to really relax and let down their guard.

This picture was taken as Santa was handing out presents. S is so full of expectation here-- and his present was the second-to-last, so I saw him growing increasingly worried that Santa had forgotten him.

The heartbreaking thing is that the office Santa seems to have mixed up his gifts and S got a christmas ornament while other kids received playmobil and fierce-looking dragons. He was so incredibly disappointed! And what can you do except to sympathize and say that even Santa can make mistakes sometimes.

Fortunately, though, C bought a present for him as well-- some hotwheels and a stopwatch, which were perfect!

B sidled over at some point with a funny look on his face and said: "That wasn't the real Santa." and when I asked why he said "Because he shoes were brown." ???

14 December, 2005

Trip was ZU- PAH!

We're back from our visit to Stuttgart and really enjoyed it. Still no final word on M's package, so we can't make a decision, which took a lot of the pressure off. We had a lot of fun!

Looked at some houses, and just explored the area. Loved Tubingen, which is a quaint little college town up in the mountains. If we do decide to move we would like to look for houses in that area. (It was cloudy and my pictures were dreary so I borrowed this one from imogen)

It was a real comfort to realize that because of my Dutch I can actually understand a lot of German. Get the feeling that it wouldn't take much to at least build up a foundation, and realize that the kids will probably adjust quickly to the German schools.

I feel really sick, though, when I think of leaving the friends I've made here. I am very open and have a lot of acquaintances, but it's very rare that I find people who really "get" me. And I've actually found a couple of them here. And we'll be able to e-mail, but it's just not the same. Have to get used to the fact that it might take a while to find that again, and that can be a depressing thought.

Otherwise I think the move would be very positive for all of us. I look forward to the chance to explore another culture in-depth and to try my hand at a new language... Maybe I could even learn to like spatzle! ;-)

07 December, 2005

What goes down must come up...

Does this look like a boy who has just received the bike he has been asking for from St. Nikolaas? Poor little guy managed to pick up a stomach virus and spent the early hours of tuesday morning hanging over a bucket.

Major milestone in the life of a parent: B is now old enough to actually hit a bucket from 2 feet away-- he's finally become a good shot!

M worked from home to stay home with him, and within a few hours he was good as new and pedalling around the living room.

Have to leave tomorrow at 5:30 am for a conference in Paris. And am currently seeing double and am experiencing strange rumbling noises coming from my own body. Was feeling sorry for myself but didn't have time to sit down because S arrived back home early from football practice after throwing up on the field... lovely...

This weekend in NL to celebrate Sinterklaas. (again. am starting to tire of that man...) and then monday through wednesday in Stuttgart for a "look see". That's actually what they call it. Can't read that term without thinking of "Monkey see, monkey do" for some reason. Ugh, was going to make a banana joke and my stomach lurched.

All in all too much on our plates at the moment. (urp.)

I'll close this with a couple of photos of a toy B got when Sinter Klaas came to school. The good Sint has obviously picked up a few of his toys in China this year...

05 December, 2005

This is just too weird!

OK, so now I'm really paranoid. After work this afternoon I turned on my car to head home-- the radio came on and was blaring the exact same man sharing his ideas about mind control and conspiracy theories! In fact, he just picked right back up where he'd left off when I'd arrived at work 6 hours earlier! Very spooky!

Mind control and electronic harassment

So I was playing the traffic game this morning on the way to work; aggravating other drivers who try to speed past everyone waiting in line and cut in at the front. This is the reason I do not usually drive to work-- I get so annoyed at their arrogance and refuse to let them cut in front of me, which usually leads to red, screaming faces in their car and a point to the end of the line from mine.

Anyway, was flipping through the radio stations and came across one that's usually just static. And there was an interview going on in english, which is very unusual. And the sound was weird-- very digitalized, and obviously the signal was being disrupted by the FBI or jammers from outer space.

So of course I stopped to listen. And the guy being interviewed had apparently written a book about government sponsored mind control. He was postulating that LSD was introduced by the government in the 1960's as a sort of mass experiment in mind control. (??? Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't people take LSD in order to lose control of their typical thought patterns?)

And then he started expounding on electronic mind harassment. He cited two different occasions when he felt as if there were some magnetic forces beamed at him. Oh, and one time in a mexican restaurant when his face suddenly got very red and flushed. (I'm sure that had nothing to do with the salsa or margaritas!)

Sadly I missed the end of the interview. But now I'm worried that maybe he was talking directly to me--- Could this be a warning? I've noticed a couple of dot gov IP addresses in my blog traffic lately-- maybe I'm under surveillance?!

03 December, 2005

Revelation of the day

S just realized something very important: It would hurt if you dove into a pickle-juice filled swimming pool without goggles and opened your eyes!

Pressure cooker

The tension level at work is out of control lately. Yesterday I had (at least) one person hyperventilating at my desk! (and it wasn't me!) I might have to find a kevlar suit -- next week I've got to ask for two days off to go have a look around Stuttgart.

We're getting closer to the deadline and still haven't been able to make a decision. (It's hard to decide something when the goal posts keep getting shifted, hidden, sold for scrap...)

M is still negotiating salary, among other things. We've been going over spread sheets ad infinitum to play out different scenarios. I really hate having to think too much about money. Confided to CH that sometimes I wish I lived in a society where we could pay for everything in livestock. It just seems so much more straightforward to me!

But then she reminded me that in those societies I'd have to share my husband with three other women and feed and clothe their children...

30 November, 2005

100 things

Seems like everybody's posting a list of 100 things about themselves on their blogs. And I think it's a completely hackneyed, sophmoric idea. Yet I get a guilty pleasure out of reading them for some reason, and I find myself reading them. all the way through. Go figure.

So here's mine. Apologies in advance. Feel free to close the window whenever you realize you've got better things to do. (like scrub the tub or shave the cat...)

  1. The first “100 things” list I read was posted by a friend who died in October
  2. The rest I’ve seen are from people who are still alive
  3. I am a dog person.
  4. I had to go through four cats before I figured this out
  5. I’d like to have a virtual kid so that I could name her after my dad (and kill two birds with one stone. :-))
  6. I have fulfilled my quota for real children
  7. Even after 12+ years I still think my husband is the best thing since sliced bread!
  8. I am my own paradox: I can read books on Buddhism and listen to gangsta rap within the same 24 hour period
  9. Some days I think this is a sign of open-mindedness
  10. Some days I’m convinced this is a sign of a mental disorder
  11. I am fanatic about nutrition—haven’t bought anything in 10 years without reading the label
  12. I eat peanut butter at least twice a day
  13. There’s nothing sweeter in life than a sleepy kid who smells like lavender
  14. I have read (and enjoyed) most of the books on the Brooker prize list
  15. I was raised in Florida and have made 4 major moves since graduating college
  16. Might have to make another one in the next couple of months
  17. I definitely do not miss living in Florida
  18. The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite movie
  19. I am grateful to whoever decided that dark chocolate and red wine are healthy and should be enjoyed often
  20. I love warm, sunny days
  21. I love camping—especially in our camper
  22. I love to go running
  23. I am the slowest runner on earth
  24. I hate worthless shows like MTV’s Trailer Fabulous
  25. I can’t help but watch worthless shows like Trailer Fabulous
  26. That said, I probably watch less than 10 hours of TV a week
  27. But I spend waaaaaay too much time on the internet
  28. I’m trying to be better about buying organic food
  29. I get suckered into spending too much money in health food stores
  30. I want to be doing yoga at 93 like my great Aunt Irene
  31. I wish I was a better photographer
  32. I wish I could finally (magically) become proficient in French!
  33. I am a bleeding heart liberal Democrat
  34. My brother is a hard-core Republican
  35. He’s still one of my favorite people on the planet
  36. I can’t stand uncomfortable shoes—I change my shoes every day before I leave work to walk to the train station
  37. I have a hard time dealing with conflict, even other people’s
  38. I am left-handed
  39. I can type almost as fast as I can think
  40. Which is amazing since I cheated my way through typing in 10th grade
  41. I met my best friend in 10th grade—caught her eye by tripping and falling over in front of her.
  42. Have I mentioned yet that I’m not exactly light on my feet? Probably should have started this list with that one…
  43. I don’t understand how Matthew McConaghy won “sexiest man alive” this year! (Can someone please explain this to me!?)
  44. I subscribe to Newsweek and Nutrition Action Newsletter
  45. Halloween is my favorite holiday
  46. One of my grandmas came from Transylvania… (and I am Count Dracula!)
  47. I love the smell of freshly mown grass
  48. I am not a city person— I need to see a whole lotta green every day
  49. Bread: as dark as possible
  50. Coffee: as light as possible
  51. Milk: as much as possible
  52. Cheese: as stinky / sharp as possible
  53. I have three bare lightbulbs hanging from my ceilings because I’m indecisive and overwhelmed in lamp stores
  54. Daily goal #1: I try my best to be a good person
  55. Daily goal #2: I am trying to learn to be more patient
  56. I stopped drinking soda when I graduated college
  57. I am now 15 – 20 pounds lighter than when I was in college
  58. I try to alternate between books in English and in Dutch
  59. Pig Latin was my first “foreign” language ;-)
  60. I am not a gadget person
  61. The one exception is my iPod mini which I looooove
  62. I do not have a green thumb but wish I did
  63. My next house will definitely not be one with “character”
  64. My cousin is married to my brother-in-law
  65. I use my kids as an excuse to read Dr. Seuss books over and over again
  66. I am addicted to blogs and blogging
  67. Favorite artist lately: Abigail Washburn—she plays the banjo and sings in Chinese!
  68. According to Meyers Briggs I am an introverted extrovert
  69. I am an NPR addict and consider streaming media to be a gift from the gods
  70. I left the US in December 1992
  71. And went back temporarily to live in Michigan from 2001 - 2004
  72. I really enjoy living overseas and do not plan to move back to the States
  73. I actually feel more American when I’m over here than I do when I’m back in the States
  74. I have trouble staying awake past 10pm
  75. I’ve recently finished an online web design degree with Baker College
  76. I often had to stay awake past 10 to do it! :-)
  77. I am a cautious optimist
  78. My star sign is Gemini
  79. I think astrology is ridiculous
  80. Have I mentioned that I love to read? (real books. eBooks will never replace real ones because you can’t smell them!)
  81. The two places that top my wish list to visit are Thailand and Australia
  82. My ideal job would be as a part-time webmaster for a heart foundation or other health-related organization
  83. My cat just threw up on the carpet while I was typing this
  84. At UF I wrote a 50 page thesis on “A Socio-political Definition of Women’s Status in Russian Society and Its Reflection in Literature”
  85. Based on the title I probably would put it back on the shelf and ignore it if I ran across it in the library
  86. I love the library—have great memories of doing activities there as a kid
  87. I am utterly amazed that you’ve made it this far!
  88. I love clementines. I could eat a half kilo of them at one sitting
  89. I don’t like marzipan but I try it again every year because they can make it look so pretty!
  90. I love to go hiking out in the woods or the fields near our house
  91. I have had 5 (paying) jobs since college
  92. Dixieland jazz makes me evil
  93. I actually enjoy working with HTML
  94. I got my certification for Microsoft Office User Specialist for Word and Excel
  95. This is completely nerdy, but I needed a backup in case I couldn’t find a job when we moved back here
  96. I’m glad I found a job, because I think I would hate having to teach Word or Excel to people
  97. Like I said, I should probably work on patience.
  98. I am trying to morph into a soccer mom but am having a hard time with it
  99. I love my PT Cruiser (little bit of product placement / marketing for Chrysler in there)
  100. I am so glad to be finished with this!

Stacking the wood

Was having a terrible day at work yesterday. Felt my blood pressure rising and escaped with a colleague for a cup of coffee. Had to laugh when he quipped: "In this job we should be putting out fires, not stacking up wood all around us!" Too true!

The sad thing is that I really like what I do! Or at least the webmastering side of it. But the chaos and politics in the office make it very stressful most days.

CH keeps telling me to make a mad dash before I get to the point that I need electroshock therapy. (and this is almost always written in capital letters with lots of exclamation points.) I'm definitely searching the jobsearch sites and have seen some interesting full-time positions, but nothing part-time yet.

I'm always surprised about this-- Belgium is so well organized on all the social fronts-- I would expect there to be more part-time or jobshare positions available.

We seem to be coming to a crucial moment in negotiations with M's job anyway. (How many times have I said that so far?) If we finally can make a decision and end up staying here I think I'll be a lot more motivated to surf the want ads. And if we end up moving I'll have a whole new set of challenges to blog about... ;-)

28 November, 2005

Count your blessings

Thank god for Flanders' fields and dogs who do death-defying stunts to retrieve half-empty water bottles!

Had such a stressful day today, and left work early to get some fresh air and exercise with D before picking up the kids. Just what the doctor ordered...

Hi Lisa! ~wave~

26 November, 2005

Be kind to (mothers of) the homeless

The other day at school B was too busy to go to the WC on time and leaked in his pants. And we're not talking a couple of drops; this "leak" would have impressed a seasoned plumber-- even his socks were wet!

So it's freezing outside and luckily a compassionate aide found a change of clothes for him before he went out to play. After school we came home and got sucked into the usual hectic routine before heading out to S's soccer practice several hours later.

Once there B and I went into the canteen to drink a cup of coffee with one of the other mothers. For some reason I'm always really clumsy around this woman-- I drop things, I interrupt her conversations with other people, I walk into walls. I get the feeling she thinks that I grew up in a barn somewhere and that my parents were siblings.

So there we are talking and I'm proud because I haven't spilled anything on myself yet. And I see her looking at B's socks. So I look too, and I'm surprised to see that they're pink, with little hearts on them. Oh yeah, that's right. school socks. whoops. But I don't want to embarrass B so I redirect this woman's attention back to our conversation.

And she's a nice person, so she didn't ask whatever questions were forming in her mind about my taste in children's clothing. It's warm in the canteen, and so B takes off his jacket. All of a sudden she stops talking and her jaw drops.

And it's only then that I fully realize my folly-- I hadn't even thought to change B into his own clothes when we got home, and somehow I hadn't noticed the pants. Blue nylon track pants that are completely pilling and are so stretched out that they've lost their form entirely. Shiny, horrifying synthetic material. If B wasn't wearing rubber souled shoes he might have spontaneously combusted when his legs rubbed together!

And what does one say in a situation like that?

"Ha ha. Yes, the school seems to have run out of their designer line this afternoon." or

"Gee, I must have had one scotch too many not to have noticed that outfit..."

I thought about pinning it on M. I thought about running away to Chicago. In the end I just glossed over it all and finished my coffee with my obviously homeless waif on my lap. And the sad part is that I was relieved because at least he wasn't dirty...

24 November, 2005

Oh really?!

S has a friend over to play right now. And during their snack he informed me in one breath that giants drink beer, zombies drink wine, and his grandfather sells houses for money...

I totally forgot that today is Thanksgiving! I was inhaling my cheese sandwich at lunch when I realized that I should actually be eating cranberry salad and pumpkin pie! And this afternoon is hectic so I think I'll end up cooking a simple supper.

I'm starting to warm to the idea of Thanksgiving eating chicken soup in my fuzzy slippers. Of course I'll still count my blessings-- not cooking a big complicated dinner will just add one more to the list!

23 November, 2005

Honey I shrunk the dog!

Honey I shrunk the dog!, originally uploaded by dyevushka.

I think I'll get her a hamster wheel for Christmas...


I've discovered an innovative use of new technologies! SMS's are particularly effective at hounding spouses who forget to make doctor's appointments! I got 50 free SMS's when I uploaded my Pay and Go card and have put a lot of them to good use. One every hour is just enough to make a point without causing said spouse to snap and go postal. Mobile nagging-- sponsored by Proximus!

The photo to the left is a roaring contest M and S had last weekend. It's actually a relief for me to be able to see the picture now without having to hear the sound effects.

B snuck a piece of candy yesterday evening on his way up to bed. When he got caught and punished he started to cry and said: "I don't like you anymore. My friend Thibault would never have taken that candy away from me. He's nice"...

Very true. But he also spits on you when he talks. Every fluffy cloud has a dark side, kiddo.

22 November, 2005

Need a laugh?

linked to a really funny . Apparently this guy is selling a pair of leather pants with a history-- scroll down to the description-- it's hilarious! (the answers he gives to people's questions are really funny as well!)

19 November, 2005

Hypothetical question.

Can one be arrested for animal cruelty if one mistakenly tries to extract a dog's nipple with a tick removal tool?

So far gone I'm not even aware of the dementia...

I've been following a few different blogs recently. Two of the better ones are and , which are apparently extremely popular. They are wry and funny, but the common thread that connects them is a disillusionment with motherhood and life in general.

I can definitely appreciate their humor, but I have a hard time identifying with the idea that family life is unequivocally depressing and undermines any chance we have at sanity.

Every now and then I have days that I'd like to fake my own death, but I'm basically pretty happy with my situation. I don't think my mental state has deteriorated at all.

But then again, maybe I'm in denial. After all, I actually let someone warm his feet on my cup of coffee this morning while I was slumped on the couch and didn't give it a second thought until now...

18 November, 2005

Life on the farm

OK, so I think I've realized why I was so happy in my last post. I try so hard to be a good role model and it's refreshing to see my positive behavior reflected back at me. Unfortunately they mimic bad habits as well, like eating while standing and wiping their noses on their sleeves when they've forgotten their tissues...

We've found an amazing veteranarian. This guy actually doesn't mind when I ask questions about the dog's health and last week, when D needed a biopsy, he let us all look at the cells under the microscope-- I couldn't believe it!

(Belgians apparently have a different relationship with medical professionals, and as a proactive, inquisitive American I seem to step on a lot of toes.)

So D is very small and very calm for a labrador and I asked him if he thinks she's purebred. His theory is that she's a lab with a pancreatic problem that keeps her from absorbing nutrients. This has no effect on her general health or lifespan, but the symptoms themselves could be corrected with some special enzymes if I felt it was necessary.

Hmm. Let's see. So we could pay for a medication that would cause her to become heavier and develop lab ADHD. Naaah. Thanks, but I think I'll pass on that one.

16 November, 2005

Out of the mouths of babes

I just experienced a beautiful moment.

This morning was more hectic than usual-- I was tired and my patience had worn thin. The kids were moving slowly and were showing signs of that peculiar sort of deafness that seems to strike them whenever we need to get out of the house quickly. I found myself saying "Put your shoes on, B. Please put your shoes on. Put your shoes on. No, put your shoes on. Please put on your shoes. PUT! ON! YOUR! SHOES! RIGHT NOW!"

And then, right in the middle of my gale force commands S turns to me and says calmly: "Mom, be kind. You're so stressed, and the louder you speak the more upset he gets and the less he's going to work with you."

And he was so right. How bizarre to hear my own words come out of my six-year-old's mouth! And how amazing that he was able to cut through the stress and see the situation for what it really was! I'm so grateful for insights like these and glimpses of the type of character my children are developing.

15 November, 2005

Excuse me??!!

And the fallout from 50 Cent exposure continues. B turned to me Saturday in the middle of a crowded market and said "Move your foot, BITCH!". And then gave me an angelic smile.

Unbelieveable! I don't know if other children listen to lyrics this closely, but I am amazed at B and S's uncanny ability to pick out the foulest words on the CD and flaunt them in public places. I've ridiculed Tipper and the mercilessly over the years but I definitely see the need to do a little censorship of my own lately-- I'm not sure I understand the glamorization of pimp/ gangster culture myself so I don't know how I would explain it to children under six!

13 November, 2005

Bizarre Dutch traditions

We went up to Dordrecht yesterday so that the kids could see St. Nicholas arrive on his boat from Spain. Once he hits dry land he mounts his horse and parades through the streets, accompanied by hundreds of "Black Petes".

Black Piet is an eerie creature, with clear blue eyes, who bounces around like a jester and amuses young and old with wacky hijinx.

As a bleeding-heart liberal democrat who grew up in the South I have a hard time deciding where I stand on the Black Piet issue. The image is a little too close to the (b)lackeys holding lanterns that dotted Floridian front yards in the 70's. And although I am assured (by white Nederlanders) that no one finds him offensive I still have my reservations...

More proof of bizarre Dutch behavior-- sprinkles for breakfast! I'm fighting a losing battle against sugar as a breakfast food. Apparently it's a necessity in order to qualify for Dutch citizenship... (Jump right in at any time, Tara!)

10 November, 2005

Honey, does this make me look fat?

So B just told me that my eyeballs are fat. I wasn't quite sure how to respond to that one. Is this a bad thing? Could this be considered a sign of affluence in certain communities? Or is it part of the aging process, like my own unique version of mid-life flab?

Met up with an old friend from Washington DC yesterday. We haven't seen each other in more than 3 years and were able to pick right back up where we left off! That kind of friendship is a rare and valuable gift...

09 November, 2005

Our "friend" Adolf

All conversation with my neighbors in the last couple of weeks turns invariably towards the riots around Paris and the ensuing unrest in neighboring countries. They refuse to consider the problem in socioeconomic terms and insist that it is solely ethnically based.

If "we" hadn't let so many of "them" in then we wouldn't be in this mess. One of my more fanatic neighbors has even said that "foreigners" are no better than lice and should all be exterminated-- our friend Adolf would have taken care of this problem quickly. !!!

I am completely shocked and sickened each time that I am confronted with this sort of closeminded view! And it frightens me that this kind of talk is so common that they don't even stop to consider that I might find it offensive!

I've tried to make the argument that the problem is more complex than they are suggesting. I have reminded them that my family and I are also foreigners in this country. They just counter by saying that some foreigners are more desirable than others and smiling in a patronizing way at my percieved naivete.

We chose to live in rural Flanders because we thought that the small-town atmosphere would provide a feeling of tranquility and safety. I can tell you, though, that recent conversations with people in this neighborhood have made me feel anything but that...

08 November, 2005

Lost my mind in the suburbs

Lost my mind in the suburbs, originally uploaded by DrJoanne.

I just love this photo! Have been playing around with Flickr lately and am really enjoying browsing through people's pictures. You can search by keyword or browse by using tags, which are a sort of metadata used to classify files.

I've just started a , so it's only got a few things in it at the moment but I'm looking forward to playing around with it and adding some new things soon!

06 November, 2005

No, it's *MY* turn!

We dug the razor scooters out of the basement for S and B today. The weather was beautiful and M took a break from work and came outside with us. At one point he and I were racing each other down the street and the kids were sitting dejectedly on the sidewalk, bored and waiting their turn.

Some neighbors walked by, and as I whizzed past I heard M explaining, that, no, these are really for the children, and that we were just "trying them out". (Of course he didn't tell them that we'd been doing stunts for the last 15 minutes while the kids watched on... ;-) )

04 November, 2005

"Exhausted" breakfast

I asked B what flavor yoghurt he wanted with his breakfast and he said exhausted fruit. I'm sure he meant to say "exotic", but I had to laugh because it really characterized the atmosphere in the bungalow this morning as we were packing and getting ready to check out.

The weather was beautiful yesterday and we broke out of quarantine to take a long theraputic walk in the woods. The leaves are turning and the skies were a gorgeous shade of clear blue. What a relief to get some fresh air and exercise!

I guess it's not just the chickens that are spawning new viruses-- my iPod seems to have come down with some sort of strange ailment. The last few days it's been skipping through playlists and it ignores certain songs while playing others.

I don't know why, but it bothers me that it blocks songs from Junkie XL right along with those of Journey! I mean, really, if you're going censor music it should at least follow some sort of rules of taste; this is completely indiscriminant!

I can't believe that I'm admitting in a public forum that I actually have anything by Journey on a playlist! I guess I could try and play it off as one of the dangers of drinking and downloading, but then I would have to clear the playcount... ;-)

OK, I guess I'd better close this. I'm supposed to be unpacking right now and have escaped to the refuge of blog. Keep hoping that if I hide for long enough Rumplestiltskin will take care of some of the housework that has been piling up over the last week...

02 November, 2005

Just passing through...

Our weeklong furlough has turned into a test of wills. In the last five days we've suffered through various stages of the following:
  • one stomach virus characterized by spontaneous vomiting (with no access to a washing machine!)
  • one sinus infection
  • one ear infection
  • one avian bird flu variant
  • not one, but two (suspected) cases of head lice! (M just made me put that "suspected" part in there, but there's little doubt in my mind...)
Am unfortunately realizing that one cannot make use of tropical swimming pool facilities if one's children are feverish, nauseous or scratching their heads in a frenzied sort of way.

Other than that we're enjoying ourselves. :-D

We've spent an inordinant amount of time watching Japanese cartoons. Why is everything on kids tv produced in Japan these days? Am now privy to all kinds of inside information on B-Deman and Yu-Gi-Oh! games. Maybe I'm starting to show my age, but to tell the truth, I'd prefer Bugs Bunny any day...

28 October, 2005

Vacation doggie

Am so not motivated today! There are several huge strikes in Belgium today and it seems like everything has ground to a halt. I think only about half my synapses are firing this morning-- maybe my brain is short-circuiting in solidarity with disgruntled union workers?

The boys are off for autumn break next week and we've booked a villa in a vacation park in south Holland. The brochures promise an indoor "tropical swim paradise" for young and old and multiple playgrounds. Dibbes is welcome, and apparently there are lots of trails for hiking, so we're set.

27 October, 2005

How is this possible???!!!

S turns six today!!! I know this is a totally hackneyed thing to say, but I'm shocked! It seems like only yesterday that we brought him home from the hospital!

25 October, 2005

Self portrait

What would you include if you had to draw a self portrait? In general, I think adults tend to focus on their actions or surroundings- they would draw themselves playing football in a park or driving a Ferrari. Perhaps this has as much to do with preoccupation with outside activities as with being self-conscious about their ability to accurately draw the human form.

B was just busy with a string of sketches of himself. And all of them included the same things: head, eyes, body, penis and legs. I don't know which I thought was more interesting, what he chose to include, or what he left out.

It was time for dinner, and there was time for one last self portrait. He told me that he was going to make this one extra special. It started out the same as the others, with him narrating each body part earnestly as he was drawing it: head, eyes, tummy, penis, legs and...

bloody feet. (???)

What I wouldn't give to spend a few minutes in the mind of a four year old boy! :-D

24 October, 2005

Hiking is the best medicine!

Yesterday we enjoyed our favorite family activity: shattering the tranquility in the woods near our house. There's something so theraputic about a good hike in the fresh air to put things in perspective and to escape the pulls of television, email and internet!

M and I relish our role as trail guides, pointing out mushrooms, beetles and fresh tracks in the mud. I don't know who benefits from these weekly outings the most: the dog, who is half-unhinged from being cooped up inside, or the children who run wild and test their strength by shotputting forest detritus of all sizes. (Or more likely: me, me, ME!)

Whatever changes our lives will undergo in the coming months I know we'll be fine as long as we remember to take time to commune with nature and with each other. (Somebody make sure to e-mail me this post the next time I'm cultivating a breakdown, OK?)

23 October, 2005

At least they do yoga before the bloodbath!

I read an interesting article last week about children's tendency to reflect parental actions during pretend play. The author cited an incedent where two children playing "store" with dolls sold each other cigarettes with a clap on the back and a hearty "Smoke up, baby!"

I was just evesdropping on S and B who are deep in the middle of a party with their ninjas. They were serving each other non-alcoholic champagne. Then they all did some yoga and read a "long, quiet" story to each other. I have to admit it was a strange scenario, but congratulated myself on the strong moral values that we are obviously instilling in our offspring.

Before I knew what was happening, however, the ninjas all donned armor and killed each other...

22 October, 2005

Thank God it only comes once a year!

So we just got back from S and B's birthday party. Up until now we've maintained a yearly tradition of opening up our home to a bunch of screaming maniacs and letting them rampage through it. This year we got smart and took the maniacs to the bowling alley.

I'm really congratulating myself for the photo above. In fact, I'm still cracking up about it as I type this. S and S are completely wired on cola, ice cream and lolly pops-- S's arm might even be stuck to the table for all I know.

And now you've got to look past those two crazed children and check out B channeling the dead in the backgound! I'm not sure if you can see the lump on his forehead-- he supposedly did a nosedive in the gym yesterday and came back home with a somewhat dubious story about a mid-air collision.

Yes, his eyes are really rolled back in his head, but I think it has to do more with a sugar overload rather than with the earlier blow to his skull.

I am typing this with my last reserves of strength. Am going to close this now and go lapse into a coma somewhere quiet and out of sight...

20 October, 2005

Now there's a gift!

One of the mothers from S's class called yesterday. Apparently she's been trying all week to get her kid to find out what kind of present S wants for his birthday party this weekend. Each day has been a trial for her-- she's been getting vague answers-- until yesterday. And what has S decided should top his wish list???

A space suit.

For some reason she didn't take him seriously... ???

CH has gotten me completely hooked on Dooce, the blog by Heather Armstrong, whose claim to fame is getting fired a couple of years ago for horrific comments about her employer on said blog. As a result she's earned a lot of publicity, and now has a large cult following. Which is completely justified in my mind, because this woman can really write! I look forward to coming in to work in the mornings for that first cup of tea and a chuckle about whatever has rankled her in the course of the previous day.

18 October, 2005

Semi-permanent resident of limbo

How does one keep little people busy at a birthday party? Put on some really loud house music and let them DANCE! (Or rather run.) We laughed so hard on Saturday-- the boys were racing around like maniacs stopping once every lap to do some interpretive street dance moves. Very entertaining...

M had an interview with another major car company here in Brussels yesterday. In general it went well, but he's realizing that nothing he finds here will even come close to the excitement he's experiencing in his job now. He's running the office here and stands a chance at making another step up if we agree to move. Because this position is so new he'd have to be satisfied with a lateral move in another company or even a step down. This would be difficult after sampling a generous dose of autonomy.

I love the fact that he's enjoying his current job so much-- I can see him growing both professionally and personally because of the added responsibility. And I would be open for a move under the right conditions, but as I've mentioned before, schooling really worries me.

I feel like we're playing that old daisy-plucking game-- just replace "he loves me / he loves me not" with the Clash refrain of "should I stay or should I go now..." Some days I'm fine with it and some days I feel half-deranged.

B's revelation of the day: Fairies are really small. They're even smaller than germs.

14 October, 2005


B turns four today! Unbelievable!

As you can probably tell from this picture he requested spaghetti for his special birthday supper. Next time I'll have to call in the makeup crew to do some touch-ups before I take any pictures...

Guess I can stop collecting schnitzel recipes.

M has just been offered a decrease in salary as an attractive incentive to move to Germany. He actually told them outright that he thought their offer was "appalling". Think the word "pathetic" entered the conversation as well at some point.

They were pretty taken aback by his candor and have said they want to revisit the issue with him in two weeks. They've been so disorganized and apathetic so far, though, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Guess I can put away that dirndl and cancel the kids' oom pa pa lessons. Looks like we're going to be in limbo a while longer, but at least we're a step further in the process... Can't say I'm exactly sorry it's turning out this way. :-)

12 October, 2005

Goodnight Max Brown...

Just found out an old college friend of mine has succumbed to cancer. He was only 40 and went downhill very quickly. He kept a blog over the last couple of months to keep everyone informed of his "transition into the hereafter"-- Max always had a flair for drama... :-)

I've been thinking a lot lately about the insight and immediacy that blogging gives to life (and death). I loved Max when I knew him in college and have followed his life superficially through a mutual friend, but we have unfortunately lost touch over the years. And yet, because of this blog I've been privy to personal, profound moments in (the end of) his life.

Blogging renders the world transparent and sheds new light on previously darkened corners. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

On the one hand I want to know the details-- just out of interest in someone for whom I harbor an enormous amount of respect and affection. But on the other hand, it's been a cold, hard slap of reality to realize with each new posting that something so horrible can happen to any one of us at any time. And that someone so wonderful had to suffer so much.

I would probably have been just as undone if I had just heard from Lisa that he'd died without knowing the details, but I don't know that following along these last few weeks has helped me process it any better...

08 October, 2005


S just greeted M with "WHAT UP, THUG?!"

I think it's time for Michiel to stop playing that 50 cent CD when the kids are around...

Don't be afraid...

Yesterday I had an appointment with the opthamologist-- it was supposed to be a routine checkup / screening for glaucoma but it turned out to be a pretty surreal experience.

I suspected something weird was going on when the doctor shuffled out to get me in the waiting room. He had kind of a dull look to his eyes and was snuffling and groaning like a geriatric pug that a friend of mine used to have.

He kept muttering to himself and laughing and he said "Now, don't be afraid" so often that it ended up having the opposite effect than he'd intended.

After asking a lot of non-eye related questions he got to work-- he measured the pressure in my eyes and then gave me drops in one eye to dilate it and raise the pressure, and then was confounded at the difference in pressure with the undilated, unpressurized eye!!!

He anesthetized my eyes (twice!) gave me drops to dilate my pupils, and then drops to shrink them again. (And now 24 hours later one pupil is still much smaller than the other!)

And he put some yellow dye in my eyes as well-- I didn't realize that he'd made such a mess of it and went to pick my kids up from school. I think I might have resembled a psychopath with my lopsided, yellow-tinged glare. One mother I was talking to actually retracted an previously planned playdate with her kid...

Do you think I should fill the (unneccessary) prescription he gave me?

07 October, 2005

Foggy weather, foggy future...

It's really misty here right now-- you look out the windows and can't see more than a couple of meters. There are huge strikes going on right now throughout Belgium-- it affects public transport, post office workers and some teachers. But unfortunately not Schoolnet. ;-) I am working from home, though, which is always nice. Have my steaming pot of tea next to me and am enjoying the silence.

We should have some clarity about our situation here by the end of next week. Am trying not to think about it too much to "keep the mind from scratching itself raw" as David Mitchell so eloquently puts it...

04 October, 2005

Two new revelations

So I've got two new revelations that the kids have come up with in the last couple of days:

S: Spiders never build their webs on nail clippers
B: You would have to have a pretty big mouth to eat a man's head
I was going to write something further but cannot seem to come up with anything profound enough to add to these discoveries...

03 October, 2005

Adventures in Arnhem

M and I just got back from a child-free weekend. We dropped the kids off in Dordrecht and drove to Arnhem, M's old college town, and our old stomping ground.

We had a fantastic weekend-- spent a lot of time eating uninterrupted (warm!) dinners and enjoying good wines and coffee.

Yesterday borrowed white bicycles and cycled through the Hoge Veluwe national park. The Kroller Muller museum is situated in the middle of the park, 11 km from the entrance, so if you want to see some good art you first have to do a real work out! (Which is really my kind of thing!!!)

In addition to the wide variety of paintings and busts there is a 25 hectare sculpture garden. We saw a fantastic exhibit by Atelier van Lieshout-- very bizarre stuff, but fun to browse through!

Back in Brussels and sorting through laundry, suitcases, etc. Feel completely refreshed and look forward to a new week...

28 September, 2005

Labyrinths and emergency planning measures

Just got back from a hellish trip to Antwerp. My Dutch passport has expired and I had to go to the consulate to renew it. That building is absolutely impossible to find! The street it's on actually stops in two different places and resumes several streets further up!

Which brings me to my newest conspiracy theory: I'm thinking this is a very effective way for Minister Verdonk to weed out foreigners seeking Dutch nationality. Only the bravest and strongest (or luckiest) actually find their way through the maze of one-way streets and dead ends that is Antwerp. Darwin would be proud, actually!

S just asked me point blank what I would do if I ever found a giant squid in the bathroom. I have to admit that one stumped me. If any of you have any suggestions I would be grateful-- it can't hurt to be prepared.

25 September, 2005

I'm baaaa-aaaaack!

I just got back from a training session to further my career as a paragon of internet safety. Couldn't think of a better location-- Thessaloniki.

Luckily we had some extra time to look around as well. Wandered around downtown with friends and spent a hilarious evening at a club absorbing Greek culture.

But it's also great to be home. I've missed my boys! (all of them!) That, and M's morning smoothies...

B's word of the day: Obstacourse (a fun contraction of "obstacle course")

(Hi Willem! ~wave~)

20 September, 2005

Dubious birthday party plans

S and B are nonstop busy planning their birthday party lately. They go over guest lists and menus ad infinitum-- I feel like the mother of a couple of debutantes! Last weekend S came up with an innovative birthday party idea (probably inspired by the facepainting adventure)-- I tried to play it down and hoped he'd forget about it, but it popped up again yesterday.

He's decided that he wants to have an Incredibles-themed party. We can paint masks on all the kids and then they can take off all their clothes and we can paint red Incredibles suits on them all.

OK. Right. Well, at least that would save us money on spandex...

17 September, 2005

This seems to be a recurring theme...

There was a block party in "downtown" Perk this afternoon. All the other kids at the facepainting booth were asking to be transformed into butterflies, clowns and princesses.

Of course my children had to be the undead...

14 September, 2005


It is breakfast time. B is cramming peanutbutter sandwiches in as fast as he can. At some point his mouth is so full that he cannot, in fact, chew or swallow further. (This is, unfortunately, a normal occurrence) He begins to mumble and cry.

S: Braaaaaaa- haaaaaam! Why is your mouth so full?
B: Because it was dark in there.

S is completely satisfied with this explanation for some reason and goes back to his breakfast. B drinks a glass of milk and slows down. Me? I'm still confused...

13 September, 2005

Master Yoda, is Darth Vader my father?

Sometimes I forget how weird and wonderful a kid's imagination can be-- and then I go upstairs and stumble upon intricately choreographed struggles with the Dark Side...

12 September, 2005

Monster is *not* the tooth fairy!

S and B were having a very deep discussion this morning over breakfast:

S: I miss Monster (our cat), but he's dead.
B: The tooth fairy has a stick, and if she died she could tover herself back to life again
S: Yes, but Monster is *not* the tooth fairy.

Indeed. And I'm reminded that I'm not either-- what I wouldn't give for a magic wand these days! S is still extremely nervous about school. This manifests itself in a lot of Jekyll/ Hyde moments. He's such a perfectionist and is so sensitive-- and he's so worried about doing anything that might set him apart from everyone else. Am trying not to think about how he's going to deal with the transition if he has to change schools...

Coen and Annemarie visited this weekend, which was a lot of fun. Stijn is growing so fast and he's fascinated by his cousins! I'm afraid that he's going to be taking back some souveniers from Brussels: S and B were giving him expert lessons in sofa-jumping and reckless tricycle riding.

M took apart the voyager this weekend to remove the towing hook. I guess I don't even have to tell you how cool the kids thought this was!