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...