Friday, December 29, 2006
Friday, December 22, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Today I’m back at work however still very reserved when it comes to food. Yesterday I had a couple of yogurts and fruits; this was all I could stomach, while the youngest one, 3 ½ years old, felt remarkably better and spent the day asking for food. (Children are amazing!) First I gave him a yogurt and told him to eat it slowly. He finished it and asked for more. I gave him dry toast, then toast with butter & jam, and then tea, apple, banana, grape fruit, noodles, more toast, more yogurt, rice with chicken, egg rolls and eventually he finished off the day with crackers & cheese; all generous portions. Those 3 lost pounds were quickly regained, I’m sure. Today he was as good as new, excited about the birthday party at Broekveld this afternoon. A boy in the oldest one’s class is turning 5 and the youngest one is invited as well; imagine his joy.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The Husband is going into Brussels later this week to see if he can find it there, for less. If he is unsuccessful, I’m not sure what we’ll do. I try to put this whole matter into perspective: there are so many children out there that never have anything; neither food nor clothes, and therefore my son should be grateful - we should all be – for being able to celebrate Christmas at all. It should not matter that we can’t buy our children specific toys.
When I was little, my brother & I usually got the most amazing gifts for Christmas. My family was upper middle class; not poor, but not excessively rich either, and both parents came from economically underprivileged families, which meant we never received gifts outside an occasion. Then, however, we would often be privileged, and for Christmas in particular, Santa brought us gifts we had never even dreamt of asking for. I must have been about 9 when I received my very own new modern record-player with huge speakers to put in my room. The present I received from Santa was actually just a record, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love”, and at first I thought it was a joke, but then my father told me it actually came with stereo equipment and I didn’t believe him. Another year I got skies & boots; at the time a very expensive gift. I did not always expect the most fantastic gift, but my brother & I knew that our wish lists to Santa Claus would usually compare roughly to what we actually got. Except for one year; it was the year my mother spent the 2 weeks before Christmas at a women’s conference in Stockholm. I had asked for a Barbie bride and nothing else. I was only 5 years old but I knew it was more than doable for my parents. However, come Christmas, inspired by the 1970’s feminist idea “give boys dolls and girls toy cars” my mother had decided at the very last minute NOT to get me that Barbie, but a stuffed dog instead. I never particularly cared for dogs, and I hated that dog. Just thinking about it still puts a lump in my throat.
In sum; I understand that this is a privileged dilemma that I am struggling with, but I want my boys to enjoy Christmas as I did when I was little, and, if possible, avoid a stuffed dog trauma.
Friday, December 08, 2006
A new tool was launched at work today and my job was to make sure everybody made it onto the shuttle together, so to speak. I'm not responsible for the development of the tool; to do my work I simply had to assume its working. The reason I have a minute to write this blog entry is that NOTHING is currently working, not even our phone lines. Somebody is working on the problem, somewhere, and eventually things will start to pick up, but in the meantime, all we can do is wait (and let the company loose money). We’re in the middle of the tornado, so to speak. Did I mention I’m happy it’s Friday?
Monday, December 04, 2006
The Sinterklaas legend is as follows: Once upon a time there was a severe famine, during which a poor man, a father of three children, was unable to provide enough food to support his family. In a moment of despair the poor father abandoned his children in the woods. Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas), a holy man, passed by and returned the children safely home after having given them plenty of food. Because of this legend, Sinterklaas is considered a friend and benefactor of children, and comes to offer them presents on December 6, the day of Saint Nicholas. Sinterklaas is accompanied by his helper “Zwarte Piet” (black Peter), a colored boy.
Sinterklaas came to the party & sat, surrounded by his helpers, on a throne, and all the children lined up to greet him, sit on his lap, have their picture taken by excited parents, and receive their gifts. When it was the boys turn, one of the helpers asked them what she had asked all the other children “What are your names?” the boys said their names, “How old are you?” the boys told her their ages, “Where are you from?” the boys went silent. I knew they probably couldn’t answer. Most of the other children attending the party are in Leuven temporarily, are usually not born in Belgium, and have a precise country of origin. The boys are born in Belgium where they’ve spent their entire lives so far, but they have an American father and a Swedish mother, and they will, within a couple of years, move to a different country; Sweden or The United States or anywhere else work might take their parents. Where are they from?
Friday, December 01, 2006
Most people, I imagine, have a reverse situation, this is at least my impression here in Belgium. People claim that they are believers of God and strong in their faith, but they do not practice it accordingly. Belgium is a catholic country and in some sense you notice, however it’s still striking how little it’s visible; surprisingly few people go to church on Sundays for example. During Christmas however, the whole city of Leuven is transformed, and the live-sized Christmas crib on the main square next to the church constitutes the centerpiece of the celebration. When baby Jesus is placed in his crib on Christmas Day, we enjoy seeing him along with all the other Belgians, celebrating faith.
Every night this week I’ve told the boys the story about how baby Jesus was born; the stable, the star, the Shepards, and then I sing them a couple of Christmas songs about the event. I know they also talk about this in school but the boys have been so focused on Santa Claus, the Christmas tree and PRESENTS this week that I wanted to add a bit of nuance. I’ve tried to emphasize the generosity, serenity and magic element of Christmas, and I have great hopes that this message will get through to them by the time Santa comes. I want them to enjoy the anticipation and magic this season offers, as I’ve always done.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
While I enjoy the jogging, I don’t like to be out alone on the dark, deserted biking/jogging paths in the evenings. I still do it; but even though we live in a nice neighborhood, I’m always a bit scared. I’m a big and strong woman; I know how to run fast, and I know how to fight; should somebody attack me I would be able to get away or at least put up a significant resistance. If I’m nearing the end of my run, however, I’ll be absolutely exhausted, and quite vulnerable, run-wise and fight-wise, which is worrisome. I wonder if it’s illegal in this country to carry around a knife. I wonder how other women deal with this fear. Certainly I can’t be the only one.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
“Are you OK?” I asked.
“Yes but I have to go diarrhea AGAIN!” he urged.
“We’re almost home, youngest one. Try to hold it. Just hold it.” I told him, whereupon he grabbed his behind with his hand and held onto it.
“No, not with your hand.” I said with an obvious tone. The youngest one looked up at me with a surprised face, almost shocked.
“Wh… Wha… With WHAT then?!”
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Last Saturday I went to the grocery store and was startled when I reached the meat section. Lo and behold; they had turkeys, on special. A whole section filled to the brim with fresh turkeys. What possibly had possessed our Belgian grocery store to suddenly start selling turkeys at the end of November?! Nobody knows, however our yearly dilemma was solved. We don’t need to order a turkey, but can simply get one at the grocery store, like normal people, a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Or can we? It’s not possible that they’d sell turkeys only one random week in November, run out, and then not have them again until Christmas, is it? Well, our unison answer was, this IS, after all, Belgium.
Tomorrow I shall, a bit nervously, return to the grocery store and hopefully, with a bit of luck, I’ll be able to buy a turkey.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
In Sweden, when your child is sick, the insurance system makes it possible for you to stay home and care for your child while receiving 80% of your salary. You can choose to transfer this benefit to a relative or someone else, should this be necessary. In Belgium, you have the right to stay home and care for a sick child 10 days/year, unpaid, with a doctor’s note certifying that your child really is sick. Because this is financially difficult or even impossible for a lot of parents, your insurance does provide you with an alternative; if your child is sick, you can call your insurance company, and they will send somebody to your house to care for your child while you are at work. I never ask somebody I don’t know to baby-sit my children even when they’re healthy, and the idea of leaving my sick, needy child with a complete stranger, no matter how certified, is intolerable. In my experience, most Belgians will ask a relative, usually a grandparent, to take care of the sick child, however with our families thousands of miles away, we don’t have this option. As so many times before, the husband’s work had to suffer, and he is home caring for the boys today.
I’ve travelled a lot and I have lived in several countries; since the Husband & I got married we’ve lived here in Belgium, always maintaining a close bond with both our families. The fact that there is a physical distance only became obvious when we had children. As parents, we now recognize our loss: we appreciate the value of having an extended family at hand, and the ability to rely on grandparents or siblings to be there for you, as you would be there for them, should the need arise. We can’t ask grandma to stay home with the oldest one should he get sick. The boys’ grandparents will not be able to attend the “grootouderfeest”. The Husband stays home with the sick boys, and we will both attend the grootouderfeest; we manage, however we also recognize one of the drawbacks of living abroad.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
My friend A., a home schooling caring mother told her children to "go away!" as she proceeded to tell me that they got all this from yesterday's event. As the whole family drove to vote, they had discussed certain issues and explained the procedure to their kids. In particular the issue "should selling wine in grocery stores be prohibited or not?" had been discussed (this was one of the extra questions on the MA ballots).
When I asked my friend A. "so, who did you vote for? Did you win?" she told me that she had not won. Massachusetts's two U.S. senators (since 1985) are Edward Kennedy (Democrat) and John Kerry (Democrat), and they are not threatened by my friend A.’s disapproval; it’s a Democratic state indeed. As she proceeded to point out, these elected officials are in fact supposed to be representing the people of the state of Massachusetts – us - however, quoting her husband Affleck-T. she concluded "but I don't think they're doing a very good job representing me."
My friend Untravel has also made a few interesting post election comments. He is of an entirely different political opinion than my friend A. It might be his Swedish heritage influencing him. The Swedish liberal press, of course, is musing: "President Bush has been slapped in the face and his next two years in office are going to be a painful struggle." This schadenfreude despite the rise in popularity the American president has had in Sweden since he participated in the inauguration of the new Swedish Embassy in Washington DC. “House of Sweden” last week.
The Belgian press appears to be more interested in the sacrifice of Rumsfeld but here it seems that political affairs tend to evolve around persons, not parties or ideas.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Following the American elections yesterday, Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994; and the control of the Senate hinges on races in Montana and Virginia.
Britney Spears files for divorce from Kevin Federline. This time it’s supposedly for real. Why do I care? Because there are children involved.
So there you have it. The American society might or might not see changes in the near future, and the Hollywood divorce rate has again been confirmed.
A note on our local news today:
The Husband managed all his responsibilities yesterday, and is spending the day with the boys. As I left work this morning, Batman & Superman were discussing the destruction of ‘the monster’ behind the living room chair over a bowl of cereal.
My Brazilian colleague A. is busy preparing his art exhibition in Brussels, and I’m helping him with the translations of the titles of his works (they’re currently in French and my Brazilian colleague A. doesn’t speak English). It’s not as easy as it sounds. How would you, for example, translate the catchy phrase “Bien faire et laisser dire”?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
“So you didn’t go shopping?”
“No, not yet - I’ve been working! And now I have this translation I have to finish before my meeting tonight. I have to go get the boys AND I haven’t done the dishes yet.”
The Husband hence had to go pick up the boys and let them come with him to the store, which meant shopping took about double the amount of time. After the shopping there wasn’t enough time to prepare a proper dinner, the Husband somehow had to do the dishes while entertaining and feeding 2 hungry boys, and the translation… Well. Granted, the Husband is a brilliant Kant scholar and I’m sure he got great work done on his thesis today, something that’s really important. But still, wouldn’t better organization improve even further?
I would have done the dishes this morning (or even last night), picked up groceries on my way home from taking the boys to school, worked on my translation until it was done, then moved on to other work until it was time to get the boys, fed the latter an easy dinner bought at the store, and voila; all done. As the headline Jay Leno read out loud the other night stated “it’s not rocket surgery!”
Monday, November 06, 2006
When on Sunday morning I checked the Aqualibi website for the exact opening hours however, I noticed a small potential problem: There's a 'slips-only' law in Wallonia - only Speedos, and not shorts are allowed. My friend Texas-born M. & I go to the pool all the time, but I could not say for certain what he usually wears; I never noticed. He could be wearing Speedos for all I know, but something told me I should mention the regulation to him so I did. Indeed, he said; he never wears, and in fact would never wear a pair of Speedos. When deciding how to handle this dilemma, we first decided it might not be a big deal; he would bring his usual shorts. After all, this is Belgium. What is a law? After having looked at the website however, he called me back to say that he thought this might actually be a strict regulation. If it is, it would be foolish to go to Aqualibi only to be told he wasn’t allowed to enter, or worse; they would make him rent a pair of Speedos! Stores in Belgium are closed on Sundays, so running out to get a pair was not an option. Finally we decided to postpone until next Sunday, and in anticipation of the forthcoming event, my friend Texas-born M. promised me he would adjust his wardrobe accordingly. My friend Texas-born M. shall become Mr. Speedo.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
A couple of weeks ago we went to a special carnival shop and got white make-up to cover the youngest ones face & hair, and black make-up to create Jack the pumpkin king’s eyes and mouth. As soon as we got home I had to put the make-up on my son and it looked great. He looked just like Jack the pumpkin king. So much that when I turned him around and he saw himself in the mirror he freaked out and started crying, and I instantly had to wash his face. We have since been trying to convince him that the Jack the pumpkin king look is perfect, however he has not been persuaded. Hence the no make-up yesterday.
The party was a huge success; lots of friends, food, drinks, candy, kids’ play & games, A Nightmare before Christmas and The Shining. We had a Happy Halloween.
When we woke up the next morning, the oldest one asked me “mama, what day is it today?” and I told him it was Wednesday the 1st of November, the day after Halloween. “Next time it’s Thanksgiving” he said. How right he is.
Friday, October 27, 2006
When I first started here, I was not introduced to anyone. The structure of the company was not explained to me, I was not shown around and the person who hired me did not give away any information on how things actually work. I was given a desk, a phone and the basic instructions “take care of anything that comes your way”. Over this past year I’ve somewhat figured out who is responsible or part of the managment, but I’m actually not entirely sure; especially not after the coffee machine incident last week.
Apparently there have been complaints regarding the coffee for a long time, and eventually this April we found out that 2 candy machines and a new coffee machine had been ordered and would be installed in June. Because it was a fancier brand, the coffee would no longer be free but cost 10c/cup. Last week (yes, end of October; another Belgian custom that never fails to stand out) the new coffee machine was installed (no sight of the candy machines yet though). Already the next day, the company had to come back because there was a problem. People had immediately started reporting that this coffee was much worse than the old one, and that there must be something wrong with the machine. I don’t drink coffee but I do like a cup of hot chocolate now and then, so I proceeded to try the “chocolate de Luxe” which I indeed, had I not seen the label, might have mistaken for “burnt water de Luxe”; it was terrible! There wasn’t something wrong with the machine, however, and eventually INGE, this lady that I have still to place on my hierarchical chart (I know she is NOT part of the management however), had a tasting session that ended in the typical comment “het valt mee”, which basically means that “it’s not bad”, or “it’s all right”, whereupon everybody shrugged their shoulders and returned to their desks. So on this verdict, the coffee machine company left, and here we are now: we have a coffee machine with worse coffee than before AND we have to pay for it. Nobody is taking on the task of rectifying the error because well, NOBODY is responsible.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
My Swedish friend U.’s boyfriend was sick last week, a cold as well, and he certainly outdoes the Husband when it comes to self-pity: My Swedish friend U. told me that he laid around the house talking about his upcoming death and ran down to the pharmacy for new medicines every day. He too, however, has got better.
My Polish colleague G. who had a baby last month was taken to work this morning by his wife and baby. I got to hold Rube in my arms for a few minutes and experience one of the most wonderful sights in the world; baby Rube smiled at me. I don’t care how tacky it sounds or how sappy it is; a baby smile can totally make my day!
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Last Wednesday I woke up with a throat infection and have since been absent from work until today. When I finally returned to my desk this morning, my Brazilian, single, Madonna-fan colleague greeted me with a cheerful “Welcome back! Did you enjoy your holiday?” I still don’t feel 100%, I’m tired, stressed and lethargic; I couldn’t help but suppress his joke with a short lecture on parenthood: The doctor can very well write a note that lets me stay home from work, but the mother in me can’t call in sick – the boys still need food, clean clothes and baths, a ride to and from school - only to mention the essentials. Nobody else is going to take over these tasks while I’m sick; hence being sick while a mother is not a holiday. My Brazilian, single, Madonna-fan colleague will probably never have any children (he's a Brazilian, single, gay, Madonna-fan); however I think he got my point. Everything is different when you have kids.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Things I've learned from my Children (honest & no kidding):
1. A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft. house 4 inches deep.
2. If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.
3. A 3-year olds voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.
4. If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20x20 ft. room.
5. You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.
6. The glass in windows (even double-pane) doesn't stop a baseball that was hit by a ceiling fan.
7. When you hear the toilet flush and the words "uh oh," it's already too late.
8. Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.
9. A six-year old can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36-year old man says they can only do it in the movies.
10. Certain Lego's will pass through the digestive tract of a 4 year old.
11. Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.
12. Super glue is forever.
13. No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool you still can't walk on water.
14. Pool filters do not like Jell-O.
15. VCR's do not eject Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.
16. Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.
17. Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.
18. You probably do not want to know what the odor is.
19. Always look in the oven before you turn it on .. plastic toys do not like ovens.
20. The fire department in Austin, TX has a 5-minute response time.
21. The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.
22. It will, however, make cats dizzy.
23. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.
24. 60% of the men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and brake fluid.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
As a mother and the wife of a thesis-writing doctorate student it is very hard to remain horizontally while witnessing the house quickly turned into something resembling the remains after hurricane Katrina. A throat infection leaves you no choice however - you just can't get up; you'll watch the boys turn the living room into a toy storage location/ breakfast cereal dump without moving a fin.
Today I finally got up. I've scrubbed the floors, washed clothes, wiped every surface and cleaned the kitchen. My throat still hurts but no enough to keep me in bed. I'm on the mend.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
As I pulled up on our mini-driveway with 2 tired boys in the back, a Dr. Seuss quote came to mind “That [Husband] I am, that [Husband] I am, I do not like that [Husband] I am!”.
I did pull it off in the end. I found minced meat in the fridge and threw - while cleaning up and doing the dishes - together an, as it turned out, delicious minced meat pie and a salad. The Husband arrived right before our guests with steak & pasta, and quickly whipped up a fresh pesto made from herbs in our garden; as we topped this odd meal off with pumpkin pie (made the evening before), I could nothing but conclude that all is well that ends well. Texas-born M. ate himself sick as usual. We sat around the dinner table while the kids watched The Wizard of Oz, and chatted until way past our kids’ bedtime; although not extravagant in any way, it was one of those Friday evenings I know I will remember - one day far from here - from our time in Leuven.
My oldest son is turning 5 on Thursday and I have a job interview in Brussels that very same day. Groceries & presents need to be bought, the house needs to be prepared for the party; cleaned & decorated, cakes need to be made (1 for school and 1 for the party), party food needs to be prepared and I need to prepare myself for the interview. All the wile I’m working 9-6 every day, trying to keep up with the every day chores. It’s a busy week. I wish I could rest while I sleep – I need it.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Our kids (my 2 and his 2 = 4 in total) go to school every day and in school there are other kids carrying germs, potential colds, stomach flus and goodness knows. It seems like there’s always something going around, and last year they (and we) were sick several times.
Apart from the discomfort any infirmity brings to the family and the sick child in particular; since the Husband and Texas-born M. are finishing their doctorates, they’re not officially employed by anyone and hence should one of the kids get sick, they are the ones to stay at home with the sick child, loosing days of work. A simple three-day cold could mean up to 15 pages of thesis work lost, and at this pressing stage of the thesis writing, it’s an unkind loss.
For now however, nobody’s sick. Knock, knock.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
The linguistic consequenses of reading blogs - I'm an isolated English speaker in Belgium on linguistic life support
The other day I stumbled upon this blog where Linka72 recounts her life as call-center slave. I found myself reading the one post after the other, just to find out more about her seemingly disgusting colleague "Belly" and what happened at her co-worker's FABULOUS wedding.
However interesting these lives are, in reading blogs you will end up with a lot of wording of questionable quality, not to mention useless information, however I find it sometimes acts as life support for my current English (or for my other majority language Swedish, for all that matters). Living away from the country where the majority language is spoken, I find myself linguistically isolated and my English has become obsolete and well, shabby. I can read all the Charles Dickens I want, I speak English at home; to the Husband, my boys and most of our friends, but the fact that we are stuck on this “island”, recycling our own words and, all modern technology aside, are not in the immediate loop, inhibits my linguistic development. I know; I just used the word “shabby.”
Monday, October 02, 2006
The Husband has taught the boys a poem, and they recite it with such rhythm and delight, that every time I think of the seasons changing, I hear their pretty voices:
In winter when the fields are white
I sing a song to your delight
In spring when the woods are getting green
perhaps I’ll tell you what they mean
In summer when the days are long
perhaps you’ll understand my song
In autumn when the leaves are brown
take pen & ink and write it down
Friday, September 29, 2006
I have until now mercifully spared you, my dear readers, my opinions on pregnancy, birth and parenting. My personal philosophy is closely related to that of the Sears family, and in general I advocate natural pregnancy & birth, followed by attachment parenting; breastfeed on demand and practice co-sleeping. You cannot teach your child independence; only found it with security. In practice, this involves me staying home with the baby full-time for about 8 months, and then part-time preferably until the baby is 18 months-2 years.
In Belgium there is maternity leave and paternity leave. The latter is 10 paid days, usually 82% of the salary. Maternity leave is 15 weeks where at least one week has to be taken before the baby is born or this week is lost. The 1st month maternity leave amounts to 82% of the salary, the 2nd month it’s 75%, and the 3rd month 60% of the salary. Thereafter the parents have right to a parental leave which is partially paid. One parent can stay at home up to 3 months enjoying a grant amounting to 558,34 euro brut/month (it can also be a part-time leave for 6 months). This, I’m afraid, is all. In general, a well-meaning employer can also grant the parent an unpaid leave, but this is not compulsory.
In Sweden paid parental leave lasts 18 months and the parent staying home with the child receives 80% of his/her salary for 390 days; the remaining 90 days the parent receives approximately 20€/day. The leave can be disposed of as needed; both parents can stay at home, the father and the mother can take turns staying at home, or the parents can take part-time leave in order to extend it. In order to promote equality, there are also special paternity months that are reserved for the father.
I wish I was employed in Sweden.
10 hours of labor & birth = not difficult
Finding your hospitalized wife’s stuff = very difficult
I suspect his wife, having just gone through 10 hours of contractions followed by 1/2 hour of pushing out an 8-pound baby, would beg to differ.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I, as several of my friends (including the amazing M.), am getting tired of being the wife of the constant doctorate student, and it’s not the wife but the doctorate element that must expire. This earth-shattering Opus Magnum has to be finished so that we can get on with our lives!
Yesterday the Husband kept talking about his “paper” and having to finish his “paper”, and finally I had to say “honey, it’s a thesis; a doctorate dissertation” whereupon he replied “yeah, yeah, whatever…” obviously trying to play some kind of psychological trick on himself. I have come to the point where I reply to any similar folly with “whatever works for the Husband, as long as it gets written.”
Confounding my apprehension, the Husband showed me this week’s work last night: 17 solid, ready dissertation pages. If he keeps this up, we might just have a Merry Christmas after all.
Yesterday my dissertation-writing friend newly-wed R. (who actually is not so newly-wed any more) reported from her office that “the Economics faculty has some guy driving around Leuven in a car yelling inane…inanities…on a loudspeaker!” which made it hard for her to concentrate. This morning I didn’t see any economics goons but I certainly saw traces of their presence around the boys’ school as I parked my bike & kids’ cart in between some broken beer bottles and vomit. The boys immediately noticed, of course “Mama, somebody threw up! Who threw up?” to which I mumbled “the students, sweetie, the students threw up”, immediately exposing myself to 100 follow-up questions: Why did they throw up? Who are the students? Where did they go? What did they eat? Oh, they drank too much beer? But I can’t SEE the beer! the youngest one noted, studying the vomit thoroughly.
Gaudeamus igitur, juvenes dum sumus…
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
I cleaned the house; scrubbed the bathrooms, sorted out the toys in the boys’ room, swept and washed the floors, changed & washed all the sheets & blankets in our beds, did 4 loads of laundry that I folded & sorted and then I scrubbed the kitchen. I also cut back the ivy in front of our house, mowed the lawn, weeded, paid bills and fixed 4 broken lights. I ran errands in town - with the boys - which included, among other, making them sit still in a tiny fitting room while I tried on 9 different swimsuits. I played with the boys in the backyard and their room, we watched a movie and ate popcorn, went to the KERMIS with our friends, and then I spent a bit of quality time with the Husband. I also managed to call my friend & colleague T. the Dane’s widow and my mother.
As the great Margaret Thatcher once put it:
“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it”.
Of course; the hallway and closets still needs sorted, the laundry room needs organized as does the attick in preparation of the Halloween Haunted House. And the grass grew long again. It never ends, does it?
“Did you have something in mind for tonight?” I asked, scouting.
He thought for a while and then asked “How many years is it?” He got it.
Does this happen to everybody after so many years? Or is it just the Husband & I that have a different perception?
8 years ago, we had a very small wedding; a simple ceremony in the Warsaw Town Hall, followed by a family picnic in the city park. Rather than a grand event, our getting married was more of a confirmation of something we had already promised each other when we got engaged.
To mark the occasion last night, I picked up Chinese food – Lemon chicken; the Husband’s favorite – on my way home from work, and after having put the boys to bed we watched the final episode of LOST together.
Happy Anniversary, my love.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Fortunately my Polish colleague G.’s brother offered to buy it for 250€, and tonight he’s picking it up. I have signed a contract stating that as of today, our car is of a different owner for the representative sum of 1€. As of tomorrow I shall have to carry our milk home myself.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I left the embassy with a feeling of satisfaction and pride; I felt Swedish – a Swede that had just fulfilled her citizen duty. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful Saturday morning, and I was a voting Swede: we celebrated by going to the Pizza Hut lunch buffet for lunch. After all, one only votes once every 4 years!
The Swedish elections are one Sunday, and it’s a very close call. The parties have joined forces and are divided into 2 opposing sides this year: the blue side and the red side. The blue side is represented by the conservative party ‘Moderaterna’, the liberal party ‘Folkpartiet’, the farmers’ union ‘Centern’ and the Christian democrats ‘Kristdemokraterna’. The red side is represented by the Social democrats ‘Socialdemokraterna’, the socialists ‘V’ and the environmental party ‘Miljöpartiet’. It is the latter group that are in majority for the moment, but as of Sunday, our prime minister might not be Göran Persson any more, but Fredrik Rheinfeldt. God help us.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
On Monday, 4 days later, T. the Dane's first grandchild, whose birth he has been proudly proclaiming and eagerly awaiting, was born.
The Lord Giveth, The Lord Taketh Away.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
My friend the amazing M. is now somewhere around 15 weeks pregnant; we have seen solid ultra sound pictures of her healthy baby, and it is no longer a secret that she is expecting. 3rd time around, her body certainly knows what to do and you cannot be mistaken when you see her: she’s having a baby. We’re all happily expecting our addition at the end of February of 2007.
My other friend has wisely kept her secret, and although having recovered entirely physically from her miscarriage, the loss and sorrow remain. When I confirmed the rumors she had heard about the amazing M. expecting another child, and added the exact due date, my friend’s sadness came over her again. I’m happy my friend lets me share her grief. I have never had a miscarriage but I know what it’s like to loose a family member; you go on living a happy life, but the tears still come back once in a while.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a great philosopher and an interesting man. He devoted his entire life to philosophy and never married or had kids. He never went further than 70 miles from his hometown, Königsberg in Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia), and yet, or perhaps consequently, he produced some of the most read philosophical texts ever. There are millions of pages in several languages written about him and his philosophy. I shall read my share while the Husband works on yet another opus.
Friday, September 01, 2006
I went back to the youngest one’s class room for a last check; he was busy assisting his new teacher in taking care of the younger, crying children in his class, putting their lunch boxes in the lunch box box, and had taken on his over-protecting concerned look. He seemed confident and comfortable.
I kissed the Husband good-bye and went to work. It was a good morning.
40 people with the papilliom cancer participated in the study. After having brushed the protein on the cancer over a period of time, 8 in 10 were fully cured. 2 years after the study the cancer had not returned. Experiments involving urine bladder cancer are currently underway. Here, the protein is injected into the bladder. So far, the study has been as positive as previous tests. The protein actually kills the malign cells without hurting other cells.
Isn’t it amazing? And all we had to do was lactate; something women have been doing for 100,000 years, and I for 5.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
My friend Texas-born M. is ready to give up. However, it’s really myself and his wife, the amazing M., that benefit from the car, and I don't think I can give it up. It makes shopping so much easier (we consume about 10 bottles of milk/week – try dragging that home on your bike after work)!, and no matter what anybody thinks; being able to go to IKEA and buy Swedish food makes me so happy I feel it’s a physical need. Is the convenience worth 300€/family though, seeing that we’ve already spent about that much on repairs already? None of us is wealthy with the husbands finishing their doctorates, not making any money at all, and the wives working for women’s pay, supporting 4 people each.
The car is a luxury; a luxury that I, however, have learned to not be able to live without.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
A visit to the Brussels Museum of Natural Sciences - try explaining the evolution of man to a 3 year old!
So here we are: in this strange country trying to figure out what will happen. We have no fathers or uncles here to show us how the yearly car inspection works; nobody to help us with the car, and nobody to tell us what to expect should we not manage to repair the car or even pass the inspection. We’re on our own. Will we be able to use our car two weeks from now? Between the 4 of us we have over 20 years of university education, at least 4 Master’s degrees, and yet, we don’t know. We’re just going to have to see.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I love my mother and since the birth of my children our relationship has moulded into something comparable to a sustainable peace. The past conflict is present, however only as history, and time certainly has if not healed all wounds, at least made them acceptable.
Monday, August 28, 2006
You may think I’ve gone mad, but, well; it’s practically Easter. The summer we so eagerly awaited and enjoyed for what seemed like a microscopic moment is now officially over, and things are picking up again. The car has to go in for inspection this week, school starts on Friday, then it’s my oldest son’s best friend (M&M’s oldest son) I.’s birthday, our friends W. & A. are having their first baby, then it’s my oldest son’s 5th birthday tightly followed by Halloween, Thanksgiving, Sinterklaas, family visits and Christmas; Happy New Year! A full final doctorate thesis draft will (hopefully) be handed in, the Husband turns 29, we enter lent, our good friends M&M’s third baby arrives, and swish; it’s Easter. So there you have it, in case you were wondering what I’ll be up to in the next few months.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
While the Husband is in Turkey astonishing the conference audience at the University of Ankara with his brilliant paper on the notion of life in Kant, our good friend Texas born M. has been taking care of the boys and his own 2 children while I was at work. Monday and Tuesday I left the house at 8:30 and didn’t get back until after 6 pm. Texas born M. would cook and keep the house tidy, and of course feed, dress, entertain and maintain 4 children aged 3-4 ½ years for nearly 10 hours a day.
Yesterday Texas born M. decided to take the kids to the big park; the Provinciaal Domein where a plethora of playgrounds awaited the energetic 4. Since our car is at the garage and it’s quite a ways to get there, they went by bike. Texas born M. has a bike with one seat in the front and one bike seat in the pack. We have a bike cart that seats 2 children. Texas born M. attached the cart to his bike, placed the 4 children in their seats; on in the front, in the back and 2 in the cart (all of the kids wearing helmets, of course), and rode to the park. I wish I could have seen it!
Monday, August 21, 2006
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006
At work on Wednesday, my first day after a fabulous vacation in Sweden, I had 63 persons waiting for me to call them back. 652 e-mails in my inbox. My new-found friend K. from Portland said that many mails ought to be a crime. I’ve managed to sort them out however; neatly filed in folders and a lot of them deleted. It took me two days. I wonder what people did in offices before there was Outlook?
At home, the house is in dire need of a thorough cleaning. The husband might have done a significant amount of groundbreaking research and remarkable writing on Kant while we were away, but he didn’t sweep the floors. Or wash the sheets. To sum up, he didn’t clean the house or even keep it tidy. Today, the Husband departs for a conference in Turkey, and while he’s away the order of the house shall be restored.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Apparently, due to the storm, no planes were allowed to land in Copenhagen. Some Swedes on the plane were happy about the alternative arrival, and requested that they’d be allowed to leave the plane. They were closer to their destination than they would be in Copenhagen and besides, one guy didn’t even have any luggage. But due to security reasons, nobody was allowed to leave. We all sat on the plane waiting for 2 hours and then a fuel truck came. The oldest one fell asleep eventually. Around 1 am we left Malmö and flew across the Öresund to land at Copenhagen airport. It was the scariest landing I have ever experienced; I seriously thought something was going wrong when we hit the ground and the plane starting sliding sideways, but we survived. I woke up the boys and we could finally go home to mormor’s house. So began our holiday.
Monday, July 31, 2006