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...