28 February, 2006

Too bad this isn't an audio blog!

I was just thinking about my day and realized that the golden thread that ties everything together is the fact that each image is characterized in my thoughts by very distinct sounds.
  • Like the sound B's head made when it hit the tiled floor as he flipped off of the couch in the living room.
  • Or the frenetic tapping sound made by hailstones as they danced across our windshield.
  • The wild, joyful shrieks of dozens of children enjoying their spring break at the indoor playground we hung out at this afternoon.
  • The triumphant "HA!" that S made as he finished his fourth English-language reader this evening.
  • And the giggles and thuds currently emanating from my "sleeping" children upstairs...
But I suppose the most lasting impression I have from the previous 24 hours is one of horror. Yesterday afternoon I went for my customary walk with D. As usual we tramped through the fields near our house and around a rather noxious "lake" where she can run without a leash. And then last night M and I saw a report on the news about the "nature reserve" from which I'd just returned.

The airport has apparently used that particular reservoir as a dumping ground for toxic waste for many years. Cancer rates within a 2km radius are exponentially high, and experts have advised people not to even touch the soil in the area due to high levels of cadmium and other heavy metals.

And as I watched the program I realized that I was slouched down on the couch with my feet up on the coffee table. peering out over my shoes. which were still covered in mud. from the hot zone behind my house...

How ironic-- here I am buying organic fruits and vegetables and even then peeling and washing them. Avoiding most meat and pre-packaged foods; Limiting any chemical products that we use around the house; And living within 1 km of a toxic waste dump.

Which leads me to the final sound for this posting: one long, bewildered sigh...

Dance fever!

I took this short film of S goofing off yesterday at the science museum. I think I've watched it six or seven times now and it's cracked me up every time! (It's 2.7 Mb, so it might take a second to get the downloading started...)

Happy multimedia day!

OK, I'm really on a roll! So far I've blogged about sounds and have uploaded a short video clip. will round it all out with a couple of pictures before I shut down for the evening...

"Gator" by S. (one of a series of about 700 drawings) Further proof that boys are unique creatures...
Our nephew Stijn came to visit this weekend! :-)
And he's as car-crazy as all the other males in this family!

27 February, 2006

Welcome to my Blog Ness Monster!

Allow me to introduce you to my rapidly growing blogging habit: my very own Blog Ness Monster. Like the stuff of other legends she started out small, little more than a tadpole, really. But over the last few months she's developed a life of her own.

Oh she's elusive, all right. Many's the hour that I forget her existence, but then something funny will happen and I'll sense her long neck craning over my shoulder to get a better view. My kids love her! (But then again, what kid doesn't love a good allegory?!)

My husband is less charmed-- after all, Nessie is growing steadily and she does demand a lot of attention. But then again, so do the kids, so I'm thinking that if she can be reined in a bit that she'll ultimately win him over.

When I'm not indulging in the care and feeding of Nessie I'm tending to my other pet projects: my two sons, my husband and my dog. We're most frequently spotted around Brussels, although rumor has it that we will soon be exchanging this habitat for the rolling hills of southern Germany.

So that's Nessie in a nutshell. Elusive. Enigmatic. I just hope she's not dangerous! (And that she's not planning on breeding anytime soon!)

26 February, 2006

7:30 am Sunday morning...

What a difference an hour makes! B "slept in" until 7:30 this morning. Unlike his brother he still hasn't been seduced by the siren song of violent Japanese cartoons and came in for his morning cuddle.

I was feeling more rested this morning and really enjoyed the interaction-- especially once I got him chatting to divert him from his mission to keep me warm.

At one point he said something funny and I grabbed him in a big bear hug and said:

B, promise me that you'll always cuddle with me like this, even after you've grown up!

A rumble arose from M's side of the bed: Do you think he's really going to want to be in bed with us like this when he's 35?!

To which the answer was obvious: Why not?! I'm 35 and I'm looooooooooving it!

25 February, 2006

6:30 am Saturday morning...

It's weekend and I was hoping to be able to get in an extra half-hour sleep this morning. It wasn't in the cards, though, because B was up, bright and early and wanted to "snuggle" under the covers. I use the term loosely because half the time that means that he wants to squeeze me in a python-like choke hold, and the rest of the time he just wants to wriggle aimlessly around under the covers.

As you know we've had our fair share of heating woes lately. Some nights our bedroom temperatures hover just above arctic tundra levels. So being the responsible father that he is, M has taught his offspring an interesting survival technique: if your bed is cold you can burrow down deeper under the blankets and warm it up with your breath.

Which is fine if you're doing this in your own bed on your lonesome. It's a different matter entirely when you do this at 6:30 am. as an act of love. to warm up your mother. who would have been content to survive the wee hours unassisted.

On top of it all B has a really sticky, gloppy cold at the moment. So that even if I could have ignored the rain-forest effect that was steadily growing under the sheets there's no way I could ignore the coughing and sneezing that was accompanying his efforts. In that closed off area he was creating his own hot zone that any terrorist would have given his right eye to bottle up and use to achieve world domination!

The cogs in his head were obviously producing more than just phlegm, though, because when he finally did pop out he made the following two observations:

1. No one has ever made a sweater that is so big that it reaches up to the clouds
2. Have you ever noticed that you can't see your own head?

I don't think I have anything to add to those two profound thoughts so I'm going to leave you with that and go drink another cup of coffee...

24 February, 2006

Showdown at the OK corral

Am in the office and the big boss just came in. (The one who likes to steal surreptitious glances at my breasts when he thinks I'm not looking.) We're the only ones here and I've made a pot of coffee and he's such a despot-- I know he's expecting me to bring him a cup as well when I get mine.

and I'll be damned if I'm going to grant his nasty misogynist wishes!

I suppose I could just go pour myself a cup; but there's a big chance he'll ask me to bring him one too and then I'd have to seriously hurt him and would probably end up being arrested and sharing a roach-infested cell with a psychotic inmate before being paroled 6 years later, just a skitterish version of my current righteous self.

I'm thinking the passive-aggressive route is probably the best one to take this morning.

So here we both sit, smelling coffee and I'll bet he's drooling as much as I am. It's down to a battle of wills and I'm determined to win even if it means falling off my chair and lapsing into a caffeine-withdrawal coma...

23 February, 2006

Necessity is the mother of invention

B has hit an age in which he's discovered the power of words and his creativity is soaring. Which is a wonderful thing-- can't tell you how often I've stepped back into the shadows to eavesdrop on a mission to outer space or a doctor's appointment with a sick stuffed animal.

But basically, since his imagination is moving nonstop, so is his mouth. That kid can talk. (and talk and talk and talk and talk.) And it's not just the kind of talk that you can tune out into the background-- he peppers it with questions which he expects you to answer. correctly. with no pauses or backpedalling.

Today I received a CD from a friend and really wanted to listen to it when we got home. Put it in but couldn't hear a single refrain from the lyrics because of a never ending stream of ideas erupting from B's mouth. And he was so earnest and so sweet-- you'll be happy to know I forced myself to put back the duct tape and rolled-up socks that had somehow magically appeared at my fingertips...

And just as I was about to lose my marbles-- EUREKA! it came to me! I turned the music up as loud as it would go and started running laps from the kitchen through the livingroom into the hall and back. The boys looked a little startled for a moment but then kicked off their socks and followed suit. And then the dog followed them! So I ended up playing a half-deranged pied piper with a band of giddy followers in a single-file line. It's too bad I don't have video footage to include here!

Am happy to say that this little party trick kept them happy and occupied for a full half hour! During which time I actually got to enjoy my CD, even if I could only hear about half the lyrics due to the doppler effect...

22 February, 2006

Carnaval at the nursery school

I had such a fun morning! The nursery school celebrated Carnaval today and I helped serve crepes and lemonade to 100 fairies, tigers, super heroes and mustachioed swashbucklers!

And let me tell you, these kids could put it away! You would never suspect that a tiny, fragile-looking princess with a gem-studded tiara could polish off four crepes in under 5 minutes! It was astounding!

At one point I was clearing plates from two sated lions and a jester when one started giggling and whispered to the other that I am an angel. And since I happened to be standing next to a minute golden cherub I assumed that they were referring to my beatific smile and upstanding character.

"So you think I'm an angel?" I laughed back.

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! NO! I said you're English!" chortled the lion. Whoops-- engel / engels. Coulda happened to anyone!

Then B's class filed in. And I went around dutifully with a new batch of crepes and brown sugar. Was chatting with the kids-- there are only a couple I don't know so I asked their names.

When I got to B I asked him what his name is. He looked a little confused but then smiled and told me. Which caused all kinds of consternation at the table:


I'm not sure about the teacher, but I found it highly amusing...

20 February, 2006

The true nature of this blog revealed!

Three of the most recent search phrases that visitors to my blog have used are:
  • sexy German ladies photos
  • nude bars Brussels
  • Brussels nightlife naked
Which I find absolutely hilarious! I had no idea my posts were so titillating!

And the search term that people have used most often to enrich their lives through my ubiquitous blogging personality?

"Schnitzel recipies"!!??

I have also noted that any post in which I mention either or gets a *lot* of traffic. Do you remember Mr. Subliminal, that SNL character from the later 80's? This almost makes me want to do Mr. Subliminal experiments and write things like:

Yesterday I climbed into my () minivan and () drove my children to () soccer practice... ()

Just to see what happens...

19 February, 2006

Way better than Eurovision Song festival!

The elementary school put on a song festival yesterday and each class got to take the stage and perform. And of course it's no surprise that when S's class paraded out and started to sing my heart filled up and felt like it was going to burst into a thousand pieces!

It's funny how your emotional triggers change as you age. I can remember feeling enraptured at concerts as a teenager or college student; when I saw Depeche Mode I wanted to climb up on the stage and dance. And I was so excited that I screamed my lungs out at a special jam session by the Cult.

But it's only as an adult, when my little boys are performing at school functions, that I feel so overwhelmed by emotion that I want to climb right up on the stage and eat every living creature on it! (They were all that cute!)

There was a very interesting cultural aspect to the show as well. Flemish schools tend to be more traditional than Dutch ones and there doesn't seem to be as much pressure for young children to be tough / cool / confrontational. In addition, Flanders isn't struggling to define its social identity the way the Netherlands is at the moment.

All of these factors are surprisingly evident in the type of plays that the directors of our school choose for the children to perform. There's something so innocent and endearing about these productions, which is refreshing in the digitized, glossy, fast-paced world we live in today...

Unfortunately my camera couldn't handle the dim lighting so I'll be bartering favors from one of the other parents so that I can plunder her photos. Will post something soon...

17 February, 2006

Pop quiz

Which kid am I now going to swear takes after his father?

(am not sure we should have been encouraging this particular party trick...)

Just call me Florence Nightengale: the sequel

It's hard to forget the worry-factor of the first year after you have your first-born. Especially when they're sick; every sniffle, every colic is cause for concern. Can remember more than a few scary moments when I was petrified by indecision: is he becoming dehydrated? Is that cry different than his normal one? Hasn't this fever lasted far too long?

And then, of course, they become older and less fragile; better able to articulate exactly what's bothering them.

(and being my children they articulate it almost too well. Like the time when a 2 1/2 year old B announced loudly in a crowded waiting room that his diaphragm hurt. Half of me wanted to shout "DID YOU ALL GET THAT?!" The other half wanted to throw my jacket over Baby Einstein and sneak him out the door before NASA nabbed him for suspicious paranormal activity.)

Over time one starts to approach the care of sick children the way one would a WWF match-- your viral opponents may put on an impressive show, but if you're lucky a smackdown probably won't cause the little darling any lasting injuries...

But there's a fine line between remaining optimistically unruffled and lounging on one's laurels when playing Dr. Quinn, medicine woman.

This morning when S woke up with stomach cramps I wrote it off as something that he'd be over before the end of the morning. No fever? No diarrhea? No problem! Gave him a big hug and sent him on his merry way to school.

They called within a half an hour. He had thrown up on his desk. And was morose. And embarrassed.

He's now home, tucked safely in bed. And me? I'm here at the kitchen table blogging about guilt and the shifting sands of being a parent. No matter how seasoned you think you are motherhood has a way of lying calmly in wait in a dark closet to jump out at an unexpected moment with a double serving of humble pie. with a big, fat cherry on top...

16 February, 2006


OK, background images uploaded. Is this better? Darker? Lighter? Another background color altogether? Any other constructive criticism?

Post 100!

I've reached a milestone! But unfortunately I don't have anything profound to talk about today-- am only thinking skin-deep at the moment.

Was glad that a couple of you dared to comment and send me e-mails on the new skin; feedback is actually very welcome and really helps! The nice thing is that I put this skin together using a style sheet so that I can change colors of each element with just one small modification.

The one thing I can't control, however, is the way that coded colors show up on your screen. so the rich, velvety green that I was seeing here might have looked like antifreeze on yours. And the soft mossy green I've got now as a stopgap to save your eyes might not even show up on some browsers.

So on my list of things to do today is to create images which will fix the background colors. But that certain item comes after some more urgent ones, like cleaning the kitchen, feeding the children, taking a shower and other things that I barely managed to accomplish yesterday because I got a little too focused on coding, layout, etc...

15 February, 2006

New skin!

So as you can see I've been busy! I've been working like a woman possessed this morning. I love graphic design and it's really been bothering me that I've been using one of Blogger's standard templates. It was nice to have a basic website until I got up and running but I figured it was time to make my mark on the aesthetics of this site.

Plus, most of the designs I do for clients have to be sober and conservative. It's been fun to play with a splash of color!

I have always loved Peter Max's artwork-- had a couple of his picture books as a kid and remember savoring every image.

Happened to be in St. Petersburg back in 1991 when he had a big exposition there. According to his website it "drew the largest turnout for any artist in Russian history"! It was one of those serendipitous finds-- absolutely thrilling!

Feel free to leave me feedback on colors / layout / etc. This is a work in progress!

14 February, 2006

No blogger is an island.

This weekend I was feeling pretty down and on top of it all I had blogger's block. It was a small comfort that this malady strikes even Lucinda, but she somehow manages to turn it into something funny! I wasn't feeling even the slightest bit humorous. If you could have taken a picture of my mental state it would have looked like Marty Feldman. but then uglier.

And then I started ruminating about why I am keeping a blog in the first place. Is it just a pointless exercise or am I actually contributing something worthwhile to the blogosphere? There are so many parenting blogs out there and after a while most of them start to sound the same!

Then, surprisingly, on the very weekend that I'd decided to bag blogging altogether, three wonderful things happened!
  • CH coee-called my blog and let everyone know that she's reading it every day!
  • Blue Sloth, one of the better-known bloggers, stopped by and left a nice comment
  • And a package of fantastic (real!) books arrived for me in the mail from my virtual friend AfricaKid, who has excellent taste in literature and music.
Suddenly I realized that I've been (wrongly) thinking of blogging as a solitary occupation. I'd completely lost sight of the whole social dimension to these online diaries! These people made me feel great, and I've only ever even met one of them in the flesh!

So I've found that spark again. And plan on blogging happily ever after...

13 February, 2006

The quest for the perfect valentine's day gift

Valentine's day is coming and I'm determined to do something special this year. Which basically means not forgetting it altogether as I have been known to do in the past. Neither M nor I are big on commercialized holidays and we are woefully inept when it comes to traditional romantic expressions of our undying love for each other.

So this morning I took to the net in search of inspiration for a fitting gift for my special someone. And I found lots of inspiration, all right. The kind that makes one want to beat one's head against a wall rather than continue sifting through sappy, cliché expressions of everlasting luv.

Some of the more creative ones included:
  • A set of Hamster Hearts coasters produced either by a cooperative of 3 year olds or a PhotoShop savvy hamster.
  • This stunningly tasteful trinket
  • A unique bean message-- I'm thinking someone in the greenhouse is thiiiiiiis close to snapping
  • A valentine shaped spud. Nothing says LOVE like a tuberous root vegetable! Yes, this is a real potato. Which would be clearer if the seller could actually spell it correctly!
  • A springy "be mine!" hat. If I can actually convince my husband to wear this I won't have to worry about him having to fend off any (other) female admirers.
Just to let you know I'll be bidding on all of these. This post is just my way of staking out my territory early. So don't even think about buying them-- go find your own romantic bargains!

Uh oh...

Whoops! Am only now realizing that I've broken the cardinal rule of webmastering! I haven't taken the time lately to check browser compatibility-- in Firefox this site looked just fine. But apparently IE didn't recognize some of the hard returns in a post I did back in January which threw off the formatting. Sorry!

Feel like I've been parading around smiling at everyone with my fly down and spinach between my teeth! If I do something scatterbrained like this again please drop me a line!

12 February, 2006

Exploding garbage trucks and live cat toys

Dreary weekend. The weather is crappy and M is working a lot. Am trying to pull myself out of this funk but can feel it settling into my bones...

In spite of it all I had to laugh this afternoon. We were putting new batteries into B's remote control car and he warned me not to throw the old batteries into the garbage. I agreed, but luckily I asked what his reasons were: he said that if we turned on the toy the garbage truck would explode!

And had a chuckle earlier this week when I visited our pet food store. They've moved their expansive selection of cat toys over to the wall next to the parakeets and finches. What is the marketing strategy behind this brilliant endeavor? There's no question as to which I'd find more interesting if I were a cat...

09 February, 2006

And this was even worse than An and Jan!

Yesterday's post chronicled my increasing irritation with the Vandervelde family and their accident-proned offspring. Yes I was annoyed with them, wanted to slap them, even, but at least they didn't make me cry!

I've been reading Charlotte's Web to the kids over the last week or so. And have been a little surprised-- forgot how often this book dwells on death. They threaten to turn Wilbur into bacon every third page or so, a fact which causes B's eyes to widen and small shivers to run through his body.

But I'd somehow forgotten just how sad the ending is-- and
Charlotte takes at least 8 pages to die. 8 LONG PAGES THAT I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT ON A DREARY DAY LIKE TODAY!

Why couldn't Charlotte have gone to see a specialist? If Wilbur was so terrific he could have tried CPR-- or at least contacted Hospice!

True to form, though, I was more upset by Charlotte's transition than the boys were. And as soon as we were finished we went back to reading about An and Jan. And today I actually didn't mind...

08 February, 2006

Worse than Dick and Jane...

Have I mentioned that S is reading? And I mean really READING! It's amazing how fast it's all happening-- he started first grade knowing little more than how to spell his name and now he's reading circles around all of us. It's absolutely amazing!

His teacher sends books home with him and every afternoon he reads aloud to us. And while I love to hear him speeding his way through these books I have to say that the abysmal storylines are starting to get to me.

Case in point: an entire book about the wacky adventures of An and Jan, who are twins-- most likely inbred judging by their limited mental capacity.

Today An decides to hammer something in the basement and asks Jan to hold the nail in place. And of course she pulverizes his finger.

No surprise to us, but An is so shocked that she drops the hammer. On her foot. Ma hears them both screaming, freaks out and spills coffee on herself. Pa brings the two kids upstairs and promply bumps his head on the cabinet she's left open. And that's it- story's over!

Pa's behavior throughout the book is less than brilliant. I'm thinking this is not his first blow to the head. Ma probably makes a habit of leaving that cabinet door open-- she's punishing him for running around looking like a yeti!

I'm surprised that S keeps coming back for more. (?) But he's been bitten by the reading bug and the story doesn't even matter at this point-- he's just hungry for more and is devouring everything he can get his hands on.

It's amazing to be able to experience this kind of evolution first-hand; one of those privileges that people forget to mention for some reason when they're talking about the positive sides of parenting...

07 February, 2006

Happy Safer Internet Day!

Am currently siphoning off 75% of all brainpower to the Blogathon. Will post again once I've had a chance to recharge.

05 February, 2006

Happy weekend...

I got my hair cut Friday. I like it but it's a bit extreme. But then again I'm in a rebellious, adolescent kind of mood lately.

I asked M yesterday what he thought of it and he was hedging so I said "Come on, spit it out" and he said that it was a "bit short and not completely feminine".

and then he mentioned a rumor that one of his colleagues is lesbian.

When I asked: "what does this have to do with my haircut?!" he started laughing-- it was apparently a new topic, but I have to admit his timing was uncanny. Maybe some subliminal association going on there!?

He's right, it's not your standard girlie haircut. But I'm tired of looking like a dumpy housewife. And I think that severe haircuts can look great on women because if they're wearing makeup and are otherwise dressed attractively it you notice their features more.

There's a woman in town who has a black crew cut and yet she's extremely attractive because you really notice her eyes in a way you wouldn't if she just had your standard "do". She's manages to be chic and elegant in a way that no one else can seem to pull off!

Figure I'll keep my hair like this until I get bored of it-- at least it's a change from status quo...

Am having a fun weekend. It's great to have M back home and we're just farting around not doing much. Yesterday CH came over and we rented "The Motorcycle Diaries", an Argentinian film about Che Guevara's coming of age. The cinematography was great and I really enjoyed it.

We also held some high-stakes scooter / bicycle races this morning out on the street in front of our house. Too bad we weren't betting money because I was in good form and was feeling lucky...

As you can see we were pretty punchy by the end.

M is grinning like a lunatic here because the dog knocked me over right as I was squatting down to compose this picture of him speeding past...

03 February, 2006

Knock knock!

I tried to explain the concept of knock knock jokes this evening at dinner. I know they're corny, but I thought that the kids might think they were funny.

And they did, but they thought their own were much funnier than the standard fare:

knock knock
who's there?
Owl sandwich
Owl sandwich who?
Oh, you want a sandwich?

knock knock
who's there
Jellyfish who?
Jellyfish poo.

Knock knock
who's there
Fanta who?
I want a banana!

Almost famous! (NOT!)

So CH got me on TV. sort of. She sent a reporter and cameraman over to our office yesterday to interview us about the Blogathon. Although I didn't practice any lines or facial expressions beforehand I did remember to brush my teeth, which was a breakthrough.

So the reporter came in, spoke to J about the preparations and did a short interview in the office kitchen. Then she tells J that she wants a shot of me and could she please walk up to me and hand me some papers.

So there I am pretending to do something productive with C. Pretending that I am not on the verge of launching a career as a reporter for the BBC. Pretending that I'm not already planning what I'm going to say on Nightline when they interview me about my downward spiral and the aftereffects of life in the limelight.

And suddenly J walks around the corner, and the camera is rolling, and I freeze. Yes, like a deer in the headlights. Like Liza Minelli in those horrifying pictures that were taken after she married that corpse a couple of years ago.

I haven't even seen the footage yet, but think we can safely assume that it will be in good company on the cutting room floor. I guess it's a good thing I've got my degree or I would now be forcing S and B to help me draw up "Will work for food" banners...

02 February, 2006

A Softer World

featured on her blog this week and I love it! These people are twisted and hilarious! Yet another link to obsessively visit whenever I need a diversion.

01 February, 2006

Don't push your luck!

I know that it's horribly unfashionable but I'm about as superstitious as they come. I know that if I test the powers that be by even thinking "Gee, the kids haven't been sick in a while" or "Our stocks haven't lost any ground this year!" that retribution will be swift, fierce and merciless.

Shock and awe, baby!

So this weekend when M gleefully announced "Wow, we've never had a minute of trouble with the PT!" I could already feel the thunderbolt building. And sure enough, this morning, our trouble-free car suddenly had an electrical problem.

M is in Berlin. His car is parked at the airport. It's -1 outside. And of course we were running late. I don't even know why I was surprised, it's all just par for the course.

Drove the kids at a geriatric snail's pace to school. I have now successfully aggravated half the population of Perk, who were all lined up behind me getting their upperware in a twist.

When I got home I rebooted the car and it suddenly it worked fine. Go figure. I'm thinking it's a sign.

My optimistic side is now counting blessings and is thankful that I actually made it to school and back. And the baser side of me is already shopping for a cattle prod to help remind M not to push his luck next time...