Thursday, August 23, 2007

The end

I herewith break the silence that has been the consequence of extensive moving preparations, travel, work and social events on top of my regular general life in Belgium. It is but for a brief moment though, that I come back, and it is to say good bye: on Tuesday the 21st of August 2007 we; the boys, the Husband & I, left Leuven, Belgium and moved to Cairo, Egypt. It's a new chapter beginning in our lives, and the end of An American Swede in Belgium.

Thank you all for your patience, time and interest. I has been my pleasure entirely, I'm sure. In shallah Allah. God's speed.

By Lovain

PS. Should you be interested in the sequel, then you are welcome to visit my new blog "The Fugates in Cairo".

Monday, July 23, 2007

Foreign childen in Vollsjö; a novelty indeed

"Oh my goodness; they´re so young and already speak fluent English!" the Skåne ice cream truck sales woman burst out when we were trying to decide on what to buy from her. I had heard this joke before; my father used to say while in France on holiday "Look at these kids; so young and already fluent in French (a very difficult language at that)!" Only, I quickly realized that the Skåne ice cream truck sales woman was not making a joke - she was seriously amazed. Granted, Vollsjö is a very small village, and not exactly a tourist attraction, but it´s situated about a 40 minute-ride from Denmark, and EVERYBODY in Sweden has cable - the fact that children may speak other languages, and not all Skånska, should not appear odd. But I guess it did.

By Lovain (vacationing in Sweden)

Friday, July 20, 2007

A sign of life

I'm not dead. I just haven't been able to blog over the past month. I've been working full time. The Husband has been working on his doctorate thesis. The boys have school off. Our friends had babies, and those babies got baptised. Other friends' children had birthday parties, and in general, we're trying to spend time with our friends, knowing we will miss them come September.

Most of all though, we're moving. We're lived in Belgium for 11 years, and although we never really intended on staying, we've accumulated enough things that moving is quite a bit of work. A lot of work, actually. Not only do we have to choose a small amount of our things that we can bring (and try to get rid of the rest), we also have to pack those things very well and put them all down on an inventory list (including a list of all our DVDs by title), following a complicated system that classifies everything by durables/consumables and container. Add all the paperwork and general arranging moving entails (passport renewals, supplier notifications, address change notifications, etc.), vaccinations, sorting and one million other things that I can't think of unless I check my 4 feet long list of things to do, and you have a very busy life. Happy and excited, but busy.

To top things off, I decided several months ago - BEFORE I realized what a lot of work this move was going to be - that now would be a good time to go visit family in Sweden for 2 weeks. So tomorrow we leave, the boys and I, on a 7 am flight to Copenhagen. When we get back, I have to go back to work for 2 weeks, and then we leave for Cairo.

By a stressed - happy and excited, but stressed - and busy Lovain

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

My 4 year old's linguistic abilities

"May I please have some more chips with deodorant on?" the youngest one leisurely inquired. "I'm sorry, what?" I said, wondering where this was going to lead. "More chips with deodorant on!" he emphasized, when I realized that he meant Nacho Cheese Dorritos, which he had been eating. Dorritos - Deodorant; why not?

Later that day, the youngest one also tried on his new "hacking shoes" we got him for our hikes in the desert.

By Lovain

Pastries baked in Spain, consumed in Brussels a couple of hours later

This morning a colleague picked up some pastries for everyone at his local bakery before going to work. My colleagues often bring treats to keep the group happy, so there's nothing remarkable about the offering, however this particular colleague lives in Barcelona, Spain (he flies home every weekend). I'm sitting in an office building in Brussels having pastries baked in Barcelona this morning. It's a small world.

By Lovain

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Leuven SOLDEN (sales) to begin

Every year on 1 July the official sales period starts in Belgium. The month before has a block on sales and reduced prices, however the law is no longer respected, and clothing stores will have promotional events all through the month of June. The sales remain a big event however, since past collections will be sold at a heavily reduced priced, and real bargains can be made. This year, the sales will start exceptionally on 30 June, due to 1 July falling on a Sunday. I have, probably along with 5 million others living in Belgium, a list of things we need, and plan on hitting the stores as soon as they open on Saturday morning. Wish me luck!

By Lovain

Monday, June 25, 2007

Saturday mornings

One of my favourite moments of the week is when I go to bed on Friday night and turn my alarm clock off, knowing I don’t have to get up early in the morning and rush off somewhere. Saturday mornings are if possible even more enjoyable; still the entire weekend lies ahead of me, but I’m already enjoying it. The boys will sleep in, come and lay with us for a bit and then go downstairs to have cereal and watch cartoons, while the Husband & I enjoy an extra hour in bed, alone. On Saturday, the youngest one who had been laying in between us, got up after a couple of encouraging words to go with the oldest one downstairs, pointed at his recently vacated 2/3-of-the-bed space, said “and DON’T take my spot!” and then added “and DON’T lay on top of each other!”

How in the world...?

By Lovain

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

deciding on an American/Swedish/European classical home schooling curriculum

In the light of our children's upcoming 3 years of home schooling, over the past few weeks, the Husband & I have been discussing elementary education.

It is quite obvious the Husband & I were schooled very differently. My education had a broader historical, geographical and linguistic approach, while his was more detailed in sciences, math and personal development. While my history and science education started with the Big Bang and moved forward in time carefully covering the ice-age, stone-age and bronze-age, the Husband's started around the civil war, and then later covered the classics without really focusing on the development in a broader sense predating the Egyptian and Greek cultures.

The emphasis in my educational background is a result of many causes, I'm sure. The regional influence is certainly obvious; around the area where I grew up in Sweden, a large amount of findings from the stone- and bronze-ages have been excavated, and the impact of the ice-age is visible in the pysical landscape all around. Because Sweden is a small country whose history and development are largely intertwined with those of the larger region, and because Swedish is a language not widely spoken, a broader geographical and linguistic education has been important. Further, the social and historical development of Europe ranging from the Vikings, the Roman Empire, the Crusaders, the Feudal society to Fascism and Socialism have contributed to a very specific history not comparable to that of eg. the people of United States.

Together the Husband & I are now trying to decide on a curriculum for our children's homeschooling, and with a compromize of American/Swedish/European schooling, it should be very interesting.

By Lovain

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Inspirational injection: a Kant conference

On Friday the Husband came back from his conference in England, all worked up on Kant and God. A conference is like an injection to him; he gets as inspired by confirmation and cheer, as he does by opposition and scepticism, and apparently the discussions had been extraordinarily vivid and exctiting this time. Followed by intese e-mail and chat discussions between the Husband and his friends and colleagues at universities in Egypt and Turkey, this conference proved to be a prosperous affair academically.

By Lovain

Another baby, another joyful addition

On Thursday our good friends J. & R., the AA-couple's (AA in this case referring to countries) baby arrived. Late, but more expected than a lot of babies born, the baby girl was delivered by c-section, and I thought I immediately could related because I had two of those myself and I know how scarry and painful it can be, but then J., the proud father, told me that R. had smiled throughout the entire operation, and remembering the tears that ran down my cheeks, tears of fear, as they cut open my stomach during the oldest one's birth, I knew the AA-couple will do great. With tons of child-related experience, great minds and lots of love, they'll make perfect parents.

By Lovain

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rushing to present "The Postulation of God’s Existence as an Act of Freedom"

What’s in here?” The Husband motioned to his backpack, and I told him what I had packed for him as he was printing his paper while taking a 2-minute shower. “I made you a sandwich and your passport is in the small outer pocket!” I yelled after him as he took off on the bike to catch his train.

When I had got home from work an hour earlier, the Husband had been in a state of near panic; the boys were unfed and unattended to, nothing was packed, the paper wasn’t finished, let alone printed, the Husband couldn't find his wallet, belt or decide on which shoes to wear, and the house was a disaster!

One hour of rushing around, and the Husband was now on his way to Birmingham, England to present a paper on Kant and “The Postulation of God’s Existence as an Act of Freedom”. It had been close; he nearly didn't make it, but as always, my dad was right: when things were difficult, seemingly endless or impossible, he used to say, “Things always work out.” And I guess they do.

By Lovain

Monday, June 04, 2007

Miserable day; post expensive tooth surgery

Yesterday a periodontologist numbed my mouth, pulled out my broken tooth piece by piece, drilled a large hole in my jaw bone, attached a titanium screw, added artificial bone around the screw, stitched it up with 6 stitches and charged me 1000€. Today I am not only broke but also in terrible pain. My face is swollen and my mouth very sore.

The worst of it all is that I’m only half way to restoring my tooth. In a few months I will have to go back to have the middle part attached to the screw; the part that my new tooth will actually fit onto - 200€, and two weeks later the new tooth can be fitted at the additional cost of 1000€. I know we can’t afford it but what are we to do? All because a different Belgian dentist didn't know what she was doing four years ago!

By Lovain

Friday, June 01, 2007

Drinks and Dutch on the Oude Markt in Leuven

Last night I met up with a few of my former colleagues for a drink on the Oude Markt. It was great seeing them again, and we were a colorful crowd indeed; using Dutch as our language of communication, we - a divorced Finnish mother of three, two Swedes, a Polish father of one, two Belgians and an Italian - had a great talk and a good time!

By Lovain

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Philosophy students and blood donations at work

The Red Cross came to work today and employees were invited to donate blood. I've never donated blood before but decided to do it. After having filled out a number of forms, answered several questions and undergone a quick medical check, I was asked to sit down in a reclining chair, whereupon a male nurse tried to find a good vain with a disturbingly large needle. After 5 painful stabs he finally managed to locate one, and my blood started draining into a, in my eyes, really large plastic bag. 10 minutes later a different nurse concluded that I had donated my 400ml quota, removed the needle and put a bandage around my arm. She asked me if I felt all right, gave me a soda, and said "Thank you for your donation."

As I stepped into the elevator a familiar face, although not familiar enough for me to recall a name, smiled at me and a young man said "Excuse me; are you the Husband's wife?" I confirmed his suspicion, and he proceeded to tell me that he had taken one of the Husband's classes a couple of years ago, and the he started working here yesterday. He told me his name and I vaguely remembered a deliberation a few years ago. Before we could converse any further, he had reached his destination and all I had time to say before he got out of the elevator was "Welcome aboard!"

It's such a small world.

By Lovain

Friday, May 25, 2007

A cold and a robbery; a busy week

My inspiration to write has been somewhat lacking lately and as easy as it is to blame it on my busy life, as busy as it has been, I’ve always been able to write a piece here and there with ease in the past. Once in a while I think of a line or a topic to write on, but over the past couple of weeks in particular, I’ve rarely got to actually typing it out. Thought here I am, finally, with a cup of tea, a croissant (actually it’s more like a plethora of pastries – I had trouble choosing just one at the bakery), and a quiet morning to myself. The boys are in school and the Husband is recovering from a whole night of writing.

I’ve been home with a cold this week; a process commencing with a sore throat and fever on Sunday, and culminating today in an immense amount of snot that makes its own appearance about every 30 seconds. The Husband bought me Kleenex.

On Tuesday, as I was leaving the house to take the boys to school and go to the doctor, I couldn’t find my wallet. After the doctor’s visit I went by the grocery store thinking perhaps that, although highly unlikely, I might have left it by the cash register the previous day. I had been in a bit of a haze due to my cold. I’m very meticulous about putting my wallet in my purse however, and the lady at the grocery store told me that she thought I had done just that, and my wallet wasn’t in the grocery store. When I came home, the Husband had figured out what had happened: while we were asleep somebody had broken in to our home through the back door, walked through the house and taken my wallet out of my purse. The Husband had namely found my wallet and my bank cards (that I had blocked by now) strewn out on the lawn at the bottom of our garden; 50€ and several meal vouchers (worth 6,15€ a piece) missing! He had also noticed the fences were damaged, indicating a possible escape route. I called the police, who immediately came by, had a quick look, took our statements and told us to keep our doors locked at all times. Honestly, the Husband & I were a bit disappointed with the whole thing; no dusting for fingerprints, no DNA testing, no picking up miniscule pieces of fabric with tweezers, nothing; just a look and a statement. Where was Grissom? How are they ever going to catch the “eeaves” as the youngest one calls them, without a proper crime scene investigation? We’ll never know.

“Did the eeaves take our Pokemon cards?” the youngest one immediately inquired, when I told the boys about the burglary. “No, they only took mama’s money” I said, whereupon the youngest one turned to the oldest one and said with a relieved tone of voice “they didn’t see our Pokemon cards!” No; if they had seen them, we all know they would have taken them.

“The complete works of Moses Mendelssohn is laying right here, open!” the Husband exclaimed, pointing to his desk close to the back door “This book is worth $300! They could have taken it, but they didn’t” he added with a relieved sigh. No; as likely as it is that a couple of 16-year-old petty thief kids would know to appreciate the value of the complete works of Moses Mendelssohn, they only took my money.

It's pretty obvious it was kids; they didn't take anything but money because a thing might lead their parents to know they had been stealing. I'm happy they didn't take our computer with the Husband's thesis in it, or our DVD player or television (and yes, we're lucky they didn't notice our Pokemon cards and the complete works of Moses Mendelssohn).

By Lovain

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

French poem recitation

When I picked up the boys from school on Friday they had Mother’s Day presents in their hands, and on Sunday morning they gave me the presents. The oldest one had made soap and bath salt, and the teacher had included a card in Dutch. The youngest one helped me open the present from him; it was a banner saying “Leve Mama” (Long Live Mother) and a card with a short text. The youngest one took the card, held it in front of him as if he was going to read it (the youngest one doesn’t know how to read yet) and said a poem in the most perfect French I have ever heard.

Ma Maman

Connaissez-Vous Maman?
Elle est si belle
toute gentille
Je l'aime tant!!!

By Lovain

Monday, May 14, 2007

I love chocolate!

If I was in New York, this is where I would be heading right now: the Max Brenner restaurant.

By Lovain

Friday, May 11, 2007

Most invasive surgery: c-section or a tooth implant?

On Wednesday evening I went to see a periodontologist (or is it a periodontist?), who explained the tooth implant procedure to me. He was a tall, fit, studious nerd –obviously not a parent, possibly gay - seemingly very skilled and as far as I could conclude from a quick Google search, academically very active. He told me I would have a sheet over my face, and that although not being able to feel any pain, I would feel what was being done to me; the drilling into my jaw bone, the pulling and the tugging, something that could be disturbing to some people. "So like my c-section?" I suggested, remembering the feeling when Dr. Schroyens pulled - for all he was worth - my stomach muscles apart to expose my uterus, and then, with a midwife pushing down as hard as she could at the top of my belly to squeeze the baby out, proceeded to pull out an 11Lb baby through a 4 inch incision. It didn't hurt (at the time) but I was fully awake and could certainly feel my body literally being ripped open, all the while worrying about the baby.

"Oh no!" he exclaimed "this procedure is far more invasive!"

By Lovain

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Unfortunate dental problems in Belgium; all our savings in one tooth

Yesterday was an unfortunate day.

Last weekend my most recently filled tooth (the only tooth ever fixed here in Belgium) broke, or actually cracked, and the outside part and the filling came loose. The next day I called around for a dentist and found, after dialing quite a few numbers, one who was willing to see me this week, yesterday. In the meantime the cracked tooth got infected, and my doctor prescribed me antibiotics which I have been taking. Yesterday when I finally could actually consult a dentist, the tooth was still wiggly but no longer hurting. The dentist, a seemingly nice lady in her late 30’s, administered a light anesthetic, and proceeded to break off the tooth entirely, then pulled of the loose filling, and x-rayed the entire side. She showed me the picture and said that the tooth had broken in such a way that fixing a crown to it would be complicated and not very durable, and suggested an implant instead. She said it would be more expensive but that it really was the only alternative and that it would last for the rest of my life. She illustrated the two possible procedures on a small white board, and wrote out the amounts; next to the picture of the (in reality not possible) crown she wrote 700, and next to the implant she wrote 700 by the fake root, and then a 1, a 2, by the fake tooth, and I had time to think “Only an extra 120€? I can live with that!” but, oh horror, she added two 0’s instead of one! The entire procedure, which is not covered by our insurance, would cost approximately 2000€ altogether. God help us. She then set up an appointment for me with her associated dental surgeon who would be placing the fake root – a screw – in my gum, charged me 50€ and said “See you on Friday!”

Our Belgian health insurance is in my opinion generally quite impressive. We pay around 50€ a year and most things are covered. A doctor’s visit costs 23€ and we get around 19€ back from the insurance. If I’m sick, I don’t loose any salary income. Dental, as it turns out however, is almost entirely left out. According to my dentist, a regular filling is covered, but dentures or in my case an implant are not.

The Husband did not take the news lightly. 2000€ is our entire buffer. In pain although numbed, I called work and said I would not be able to make it to work that afternoon, and the Husband and I recalculated our budget. We will manage, indeed, but only barely, and we will not have anything extra with us when we arrive in Cairo.

After a couple of tormenting discussions, the Husband went to pick up the boys from school, but took longer than usual to get back. Apparently as he had entered the school yard, he had seen the youngest one crying on a bench, and must have lost the key to the bike in the process of comforting. Not being able to recover it, he had detached the bike cart from the bike which was left by the school, and walked home.

The youngest one had got his pinky jammed in a door and it was red and swollen. I checked it for fractures, and it was obviously very painful.

As we sat down to dinner, we felt disheartened. “I think we should all just go to bed right now” the Husband said, “before anything else bad happens to us”.

By Lovain

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Drink bottle gymnastics

Today we bought a new drink container for the youngest one to take to school. When I opened it up for the first time to rinse it out, I found the detailed instructions for how to clean it thoroughly, and decided to take a look at them before throwing them away (who keeps cleaning instructions for a bottle?!). Step by step I, a mother of two with a masters degree, read through the instructions, ignorantly thinking it was one of those things you could read once and then throw away, and then determinately handed them to the Husband. “Here!” I said, “Read these; how to clean this drink container might seem obvious, but when faced with it, I think having read these instructions will seem like a good idea”. The Husband, a (almost) professor of philosophy with a BA in physics, studied the instructions meticulously, and concluded seriously after a while “here, I think we had better keep these”!

By Lovain

Friday, May 04, 2007

Finding out about living in Cairo, Egypt

As part of my research for our upcoming relocation to Cairo, I bought a couple of travel guides, but however well they describe the city from a visiting point of view, they don't give you much of an idea of what it would be like to live there. I found this blog however, written by an Australian diplomat wife, that beautifully, with a humorous twist, paints a picture of her life in Egypt.

By Lovain

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Relocating to Cairo, Egypt in 4 months; no reason to stress?

Seeing that 1 September really isn’t that far off, and seeing that I haven’t seen one single entire chapter of the husband’s thesis yet, I was getting ‘a bit’ worked up about our forthcoming relocation the other day; how’s the husband going to finish his thesis all the while I work full time, the kids are home during their summer break, and we have to arrange everything for the transfer; vaccinations, dentist visits, VISAs, passport renewals, packing and moving house, insurance, bank account transfers, etc.?! (OK, I was getting really worked up, almost to a level of hysteria.) “Honey, just calm down” the husband said with a cool voice “No matter what happens between now and then, on 1 September we’ll still be in Cairo. I’ve accepted the offer, and we’re going to Cairo.” Of course he’s right; everything will be taken care of, I know we simply have to do what it takes, and there’s no reason to stress, however knowing that I’ll have to plan and execute most of the practical arrangements (and think of everything from canceling our grocery store card to buying myself a hijab), all the while working full time, I’m still a bit worked up - but just a little.

By Lovain

Monday, April 23, 2007

We're moving to Cairo!

Who would have thought that we would ever live in Cairo, Egypt? But it's official; the Husband has accepted the offer from the American University there, and we're moving after the summer. My head is spinning.

By Lovain

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What's another year?

This past Tuesday I turned 34. My colleagues took me out to lunch, the husband and the boys celebrated me with a steak dinner, cake and presents, and today the Amazing M. & Mr. Speedo threw me a wonderful birthday picnic at the park. It was a beautiful day; knowing that we all have great adventures lying ahead of us, we fully seized the day, and as I watched the husband, the boys, Mr. Speedo, the amazing M. and their 2 oldest children (the baby was snug in my arms) sing me "Happy birthday" I felt everything but old.

“Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years." (Oscar Wilde; Lady Bracknell, Act III)

By Lovain

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Are we moving to Cairo? What do you think?

For as long as we have been together, the reason for our stay here in Belgium and our focus has been to finish the husband's doctorate so that he could get a good academic job in the U.S. We've never intended on staying in Belgium. The husband's career has been the director of our life, and along with it we have, all this time, been expecting and anticipating the final move and our settling down; buy a house, a car, enroll the boys in a school in a middle-sized town in America, and finally build our American life.

In a shockful state I now find myself trying to decide whether or not we really want to move; leave the safe Belgian social security system, leave my new fantastic and well-paid job, leave our nice rented house in the quiet suburd of Leuven, leave friends and familiar places, the children's school and our life as we know it, and move to Cairo, Egypt; not the U.S. but yes, to a muslim country in northern Africa.

The offer is nice, the community seems nice, and the experience would be nice; yet I keep thinking "what are we doing?!" Any ideas or reflections you might have in relation to an important decision like this are more than welcome!

By Lovain

Four happy friends in Belgium, spring of 2007

By Halloween these four best friends will be thousands of miles apart. Doesn't it break your hart?

By Lovain

Spring planting

Knowing that this probably is our last summer here in Belgium, we intend to take advantage of our lovely garden, and the husband & the youngest one enjoy gardening this spring.

By Lovain

Lots of beer to soothen the fear; when finishing a doctorate and a move to Cairo lies ahead

The husband went out for drinks last night with Mr. Speedo, and didn’t fall into bed until sometime after 4:30 this the morning. “Mr. Speedo was in full kebab-mode,” the husband said, excusing his own drunken state and the late hour. “Sounds like you had a good time,” I mumbled, and then told him to let me sleep a little more before the boys wake up.

I hope they had fun together, and managed, if only for a few minutes, to forget the stress that they are currently under, the pressure that is on them, and the hard and difficult times that lay ahead of us this year. Seeing that they are nearing the end of their doctorate studies, they’ve applied for jobs this spring; Mr. Speedo more actively than the husband, since he couldn’t rely on his wife for financial support (visa status implications) should there be a gap between doctorate graduation and a job offer. The husband initially decided it was too early to apply for jobs, especially in light of my starting a new job, however after pressure from a friend, he sent in an application to one university.

Mr. Speedo applied for 10 open positions in the U.S. and Canada, and got two interviews and one offer from a university in northeastern Canada, which he has accepted. The husband applied for one position at the American University of Cairo and got one offer, which he will accept later this week.

This drama in our lives implies several things: first of all it means that both our families will be leaving this country in one form or another this fall, going separate directions. Secondly, it means that both the husband and Mr. Speedo will need to have finished their doctorate dissertations by the end of the summer. Along with the knowledge that our lives are going to dramatically change over the next year, it’s the latter of the two implications that is causing the husband and Mr. Speedo stress. They have to finish their texts!

So if they both needed a few Rocheforts and kebabs to relax last night, then I grant them that; whatever it takes, as long as they finish.

By Lovain

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy feet

Last night we rented Happy Feet, and the boys enjoyed it tremendously. For those of you who haven't seen it, it starts out with 2 penguins getting together (by matching their special songs), they have an egg, and then all the females go off during the winter to catch fish while the males stay with the eggs. I asked the boys what was happening, and to them, this was the most natural constellation of all. "But the mamas are going to work, and the dadas stay home taking care of the babies" the youngest one said with an explanatory voice.

Well of course. It's the world as they know it.

By Lovain

Friday, April 06, 2007

Back to school for shoes, goggles and giggles

This past week I’ve been back to school. Since the company I work for is in a business I’ve never officially studied, I’m taking courses these first couple of weeks to learn all about the trade. It’s like being back at the university again, only this time it’s the real world business university studies, meaning you don’t get to drink beer in between classes, your mother doesn’t send you food or do your laundry, you don’t get to record lectures and exchange notes with class mates, and most importantly, you don’t have 4 years to finish; we are expected to learn everything about the subject - a matter you take at least one semester to learn about at the university - in a couple of weeks time, and there’s no flunking, no retaking exams; we simply have to know all the stuff by the end of the course. Needless to say, I’m tired. Excited, because I love to learn; happy, because it’s an interesting course, but really quite exhausted from trying to take in a lot of information in a short amount of time, and tired because I can’t throw my books on my desk when I come home and lay down on my bed while calling friends; I have 2 boys and a doctorate thesis writing husband, remember? A dirty house, dinner, dishes, laundry, shopping, Easter crafting, Batman games and bill paying awaits me every evening, and though some of these responsibilities are things I enjoy very much, it’s still difficult after an 8 hour day of intense university level lectures.

This past week, however, I also got my first paycheck, and believe me: I love my new job! Today I took the boys into town and let them pick out a nice pair of shoes each. They both chose black leather tennis shoes – really nice looking and great quality – and it was such a joy being able to buy them shoes from a real shoe store and not the grocery store or Aldi, knowing the shoes wouldn’t hurt their feet or break in a week. As we passed the swimming department of the sports store, the boys notices they had goggles for kids and immediately looked at me beggingly with their sweet great big eyes (we go swimming quite a bit, and goggles are always missed).

This evening before bed, the boys raced around the house wearing pajamas, their new shoes and swim goggles, happy as only 2 boys in pajamas, new shoes and swim goggles can be. I’m so lucky.

By Lovain

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Not enough mother, not enough blogger, not enough wife, not enough friend, not enough person

Two weeks into my new job and I’m starting to feel a bit less distant and out of control; I’m still tired and have not accomplished a whole lot this weekend, however I did go shopping, cleaned up the house, washed all our clothes and spent time with the loved ones. I even managed to watch a movie “Little Miss Sunshine” which I enjoyed tremendously. The Husband & I laughed heartily, and the movie made me feel satisfied; happy with my life. The boys rented “Flushed away” which was a good movie as well.

At the end of the weekend, I do feel I could have used more time, however, mainly with the boys and the youngest one in particular; he comes into my bed every night, and has been especially clingy and winy. Both of the boys blurt out “mama” at least every 5 minutes (be it while I’m trying to get some extra sleep in the morning or while I’m blogging or reading), as if to make sure I’m there. I’m accepting it (everything, in fact), however it does make me feel stressed (naturally). I spend every minute that I’m not at work with them, and I’m not sure what else I can do - yet, it’s clearly not enough, which is frustrating. In addition to not feeling adequate when it comes to being a mother, I’m also tired and stressed because I never have a minute just for myself: I don't get to write witty blog posts, I don't have enough time to cook fantastic meals, I can't get that extra scarf I need to wear to work because I can't drag the boys into a clothing store and I can't leave them, I can't read, listen to music and relax; I can't even take a shower without the boys hovering around the bathroom "Mama! Are you in the shower?". It's stressful.

Still, I feel better now than I did last week and I know we’ll be able to fine-tune this whole affair to the point where things will be all right.

And may I just add; Greg Kinnear is awesome!

(While writing this blog post, I 1/drew the outline for 3 Batmans and 2 The Incredible Hulks, 2/got the boys drinks and snacks, 3/found a specific book the youngest one "needed", 4/admired 5 pictures and commented on color schemes continuously, and 5/finally broke down from the asking & asking and gave up trying to write a witty blog.)

By Lovain

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My work in Brussels

I work on the 6th floor in this (by my standards) enormous building. I'm a 2 min. walk from Rue Neuve; Brussels' most famous shopping street. If you're ever in town, let me know!

By Lovain

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ending my first week by un-neglecting

Me starting a new job is a big issue in our household; not only will it have a financial impact but it’s also a practical adjustment, not to mention the intellectual and professional challenge it presents me with. We have hence been talking about and anticipating this change for several weeks now, and on Monday when the day finally arrived, the Husband & I were excited, thrilled and worked up.

Once my first pay check arrives, we will finally be in a situation where we don’t have to worry about money every day, and having done this for so long, it will be a welcome relief. I can finally buy new sneakers for the boys!

Looking back at this past week, I’ve learned a lot already, and I’m challenged every day in a very stimulating and professional manner. The first days I felt like a talented amateur violinist who had just been hired for a position in a professional orchestra: I knew how to play a violin, but had never done it under these circumstances! Over the past couple of days I’ve started to feel more comfortable, however, and even though I know I still have a lot to learn, I know I’ll master everything eventually. Most of all, I know I’ll enjoy the road there.

Practically, the adjustment has been less smooth. In trying to give myself a good start professionally this week, I find myself having neglected other parts of my life; the Husband, the boys, friends and household duties. Luckily, the Husband has stepped in, valiantly, to make lunches for the boys, bring them to school, and take care of the immediate house needs such as dishes.

Luckily it’s Friday today, and I intend on spending my weekend catching up on these uncared for matters. There is nothing, namely, more important than family, right?

By Lovain

Monday, March 12, 2007

First day of work

Today was my first day at my new job. In my, for the occasion, newly purchased suit, I entered a huge building in the middle of Brussels this morning, received a security clearance and a badge, and was picked up by one of my new colleages in the lobby.

A day of "Hi! I'm Lovain. Nice to meet you!", lunch in a new cafeteria, a number of "I understand" or "OK, I'm sure I'll get the hang of it"s later, I'm surprizingly tired but enticed. I'll do it all over again tomorrow.

By Lovain

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

My painful movie experience: Borat

Last night the Husband had rented Borat: cultural learnings of America for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan for me which I watched while he was over at Dr. John’s translating Baumgarten into English. I laughed, but it hurt. The movie was painful to watch. It was painfully amusing, and sometimes not funny, but in general I was laughing AND suffering at the same time. Does that make any sense?

By Lovain

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

My 3-year old's pee-pee problems

While Mr. Speedo & I biked to a car-sharing meeting yesterday, I told him about the youngest one’s “penis-problem”.

Since a couple of months now, the youngest one has had problems dealing with “his pee-pee staying big”. He’ll wake up in the morning, alarmed on the verge of tears “mama, my pee-pee is big!” and I’ll tell him to go to the bathroom “it will go down after you’ve gone pee”, and now it has happened a few times and he’s no longer upset (although still disturbed) because we have talked to him about it, but the first time this happened he stayed in the bathroom for a long time. After about 10 minutes we went in to check on him and he was standing there next to the toilet with his pants down, silently crying; big tears running down his cheeks. “What’s the matter, youngest one?” I asked and between the sobs and snivels he told me “I went pee but my pee-pee STILL STAYS BIG!” he said, and then he burst into tears again.

Mr. Speedo laughed so hard he nearly fell of his bike “and this is when you pointed at him and burst out laughing, right?” and then he added with a slightly more serious tone of voice “we could really mess up our children’s lives, couldn’t we?” before letting out another big laughter.

By Lovain

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My 30-year old husband

Yesterday the Husband turned 30 years old. He is 4 years younger than I am, and most of our friends are my age or older, so the Husband was usually “the youngest one”. When I talked to my friend A. (who’s a bit older than I am) she said “the Husband is turning 30? Well that’s about time!”

I remember my 30th birthday; I was just about 9 months pregnant with the youngest one and not very concerned about my own age or what I had accomplished before that day; I was having children. The Husband has spent the past few months fretting about his age and achievements however. The thesis might have taken the Husband longer than planned, but we did have 2 boys in between, and I think being happily married with 2 children, on the verge of finishing a doctorate and landing a professor position is not a bad accomplishment at the age of 30, is it? I am proud.

By Lovain

Our baby has arrived

On Friday morning my friend the amazing M. gave birth to her 3rd child; a beautiful baby boy. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks as I hugged her a few hours later. He was perfect! It was a quick yet painful birth (as births have been known to be) and afterwards the amazing M. said this was her very last birth. If Mr. Speedo wanted to have more children then he could have the next one, she said.

Well, Mr. Speedo, I guess it’s “1-2-3 strikes you’re out”.

By Lovain

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Swedish culture & the Swedes

I found this amusing list “you know you’ve been in Sweden too long when…” here, and below is an excerpt containing my favorites. Most of the observations made me go “aaaahhhh” or “oooohhh” with a nostalgic, longing kind of sound. Sometimes I really miss Sweden.

1. You no longer snigger when you see grown women walking around with their hair in plaits.

3. The first thing you do upon entering a bank/post office/chemist etc. is to look for the queue number machine.

4. You accept that you will have to queue to take a queue number.

5. When a stranger on the street smiles at you, you assume:
a: he is drunk
b: he is insane
c: he's an American

11. The reason you take the ferry to Finland is:
a: duty free vodka
b: duty free beer
c: to party need to get off the boat in Helsinki, just turn around and do it again on the way back to Sweden.

12. Your coffee consumption exceeds 6 cups a day and coffee is too weak if there is less than 10 scoops per pot.

14. A sharp intake of breath has become part of your vocabulary, as has the sound ”Jah hahh”

15. Your native language has seriously deteriorated, now you begin to "eat medicine", "open the television", "close the lights off", “take a beer”, ”look upon everything” and tell someone to “follow with me” or "you needn't to!" You start to say “for 2 years ago” and expressions like "Don't panic" creep into your everyday language.

16. You associate pea soup with Thursday.

23. The fact that all of the "v's" and the "w's" are together in the phone directory seems right.

24. Your old habit of being "fashionably late" is no longer acceptable. You are always on time.

25. Hugging is reserved for sexual foreplay

28. You hear loud-talking passengers on the train. You immediately assume:
a: they are drunk
b: they are Finnish
c: they are American
d: all of the above

30. You know how to fix herring in 105 different ways.

31. You eat herring in 105 ways.

38. You no longer see any problem wearing white socks with sandals.

39. Indoors you wear sandals with socks, regardless of the season.

40. You no longer correct people who say MAC Donald's.

43. You know that "religious holiday" means "let's get pissed."

44. You enjoy the taste of surströmming and lutfisk.

49. You eat jam with savory dishes

51. You accept that 80 degrees C in a sauna is chilly, but 20 degrees C outside is freaking hot.

53. It no longer seems excessive to spend 1,000kr on alcohol in a single night

57. Having to book seat numbers at a cinema makes perfect sense. And you sit in your booked seat even if there are only 2 other people there and your seat is in the front row, on the side.

60. Someone calls you a ”good moron” first thing in the morning and you smile acknowledgement.

63. You associate Friday afternoon with a trip to systembolaget.

64. You think nothing of paying $50 for a bottle of 'cheap' spirits at systembolaget

65. You know all of the “telephone times” by heart.

73. You wear warm clothing when it's 25 degrees plus in April - because it's April.

74. You wear shorts and t-shirt when it's barely 10 degrees in July - because it's July.

75. You get extremely annoyed when the bus is two minutes late.

76. You think women are more than equal than men and deserve to have better positions in the work place.

81. You've been engaged for four years and don't have any plans to get married.

83. You and your friends know exactly the same information, and have the same attitudes and beliefs in the value of Social Democracy.

85. You think that if you smoke a joint you will wind up in an insane asylum. [or become a habitual criminal]

90. You think black rimmed glasses are cool. Your wardrobe now consists of 20 different shades of black and grey.

89. You stop explaining to people what Christmas Crackers are and accept that they aren't - at least in Sweden

94. You don't question the concept of 'telephone time'. It seems reasonable that no business can be conducted on Friday afternoons. [or the entire month of July]

95. You assume that anyone who apologizes after bumping into you is a tourist.

96. You feel discomfort if you can't find the nummerlap machine.

97. You reach for your pocket 20 times a day as mobile phones ring all around you.

98. You actually care if your mobile phone meets the fashion standard - and so do your new Swedish friends.

99. It seems reasonable that even those begging for money at T-centralen reach for their pocket as the melodic music of the Swedish mobile phone resounds.

100. You get into a Mercedes taxi cab and think nothing of it

101. Paying $6 for a cup of coffee seems reasonable.

102. You understand that when a colleague asks you out for "a drink," it will probably be a long night with a severe hangover the next day.

103. You start to think that having a sauna in the nude with a bunch of strangers is a necessary part of daily life ... and a necessary part of business.

104. You start to differentiate between types of snow.

107. You become extremely skilled at assembling pre-packaged furniture kits.

109. You get to the movies early so that you can watch the commercials.

114. Your shed becomes the first stage in the recycling process and you can't get in it for bags of paper/cardboard/bottles, refundable glass/plastic, recyclable glass/plastic/ containers/etc.

116. When offered a bottle of beer the first thing you look at is the alcoholic percentage.

120. You use the alcohol percentage-per-kroner standard for measuring the quality of beer and wine.

121. You think it is normal EVERYTHING is regulated and you obey the rules voluntarily.

133. Even you can hear your own accent.

134. When someone asks you for "sex" you assume they mean half-a-dozen.

137. You expect to find the glove you dropped in February hanging on a post in June

138. Bringing dead sticks indoors at Easter and hanging colored feathers on them seems a good way to celebrate spring.

139. Pigs say ”nerf nerf”, frogs say ”kvack, kvack” and roosters say ”kuckeliku”

140. You immediately think that a bottle of wine contains 75cl, and a carton of cream is 3dl. And you can’t for the life of you remember just what 500ml is in dl or cl.

142. You talk of –10C as ”10 degrees cold”, when in Australia +10C would be considered cold. And who else calls +1C, ”one degree warm”!

143. You know that ”Extrapris” goods are cheaper, even though your English mind translates the word as ”extra price”

144. You will squeeze past somebody rather than say excuse me.

146. The first thing you do in the morning is to switch on your car heater.

150. A fun way for people to pass a wintry afternoon is to watch a Bandy match outdoors when it's minus 20 degrees.

151. Everybody has an outdoor thermometer at home and they all compare temperatures when they get to work.

153. You ringed somebody yesterday instead of you rang them.

154. Your husband is very long instead of being very tall

158. You pour filmjölk (soured milk) on your Kellogg's Frosties.

176. You think nothing of spending all day at IKEA looking for a piece of furniture and then spending the whole next day putting it together.

179. You can't throw a plastic bottle away with out having a guilty conscience.

181. You not only order a pizza with asparagus, banana and béarnaise sauce on it, but you actually like it and wonder why they don't offer it back in Australia.

183. You find yourself munching on Kalles Kaviar and hårdbröd at 3 A.M.

184. You get used to hotdogs being called sausage and you eat them as the "meat" part of a meal without a bun.

187. You hide 5 or 6 bottles of spirits in your suitcase, one or two in your backpack, and put just one in the duty free shopping bag.

188. You think horse meat is a totally acceptable sandwich topping.

189. You think there is nothing wrong with planning Christmas around Kalle Anka (Donald Duck).

190. You don't even think about what you are saying when you are off to the shop to buy your favorite brand of cat food, and you say, "Be right back love, I'm just gonna go get some Pussi"

191. You start calling Coke "cola".

192. You get up for a cigarette at 2 AM in July and put on your sunglasses first.

193. You have 53 different recipes for strömming and you're about ready to clip number 54 from Dagens Nyheter.

197. You know the words to more than one 'snapsvisa' and sing them without difficulty.

199. You would never ever even consider using a metal knife on the butter.

202. When visiting others you try to go in first. If it's locked THEN you ring the doorbell.

203. While visiting England someone gives you directions and says, "It's about 5 miles down the road." You in turn ask, "Are you talking Swedish miles or English miles?"

204. You start spelling the days of the week in lowercase! monday, tuesday....

205. You find that you can't spell in English anymore. You now replace C with K. Like panik, automatik, seasik, arithmetik.... and you try to remember does papper/paper have one or two p’s in English?

206. You no longer make appointments, but instead you book times.

207. You read text instead of sub-titles.

217. You can identify the people on Big Brother and Expedition Robinson.

219. You can name the toppings of at least ten different pizzas just by name (which is coincidentally more than the pizza-baker can himself)

222. You ask for a Big Mac and company outside of Sweden.

224. Someone cuts you off on the freeway and instead of giving them the finger; you simply mumble "eedeeyout" under your breath.

226. You no longer think it odd that you talk to your kids in English and they answer in Swedish.

229. You say “I’m almost annoyed” when you’re as furious as humanly possible.

233. People buy you a drink in November because they remember when you bought them one in March.

234. You have no idea what "The X-files" is but you watch "Arkiv X" as soon as it's on TV.

242. You refer to weeks by their number.

243. You carefully dissect the restaurant bill so you know to the exact kr. how much everybody owes.

244. You know the catalogue numbers of all of your favorite wines at Systembolaget.

245. It's May. It's 15C degrees. And you're stretched out on your balcony in your bikini trying to get a head start on your tan.

248. England, Scotland and Wales can all be called England.

250. If you meet someone you haven't seen in ages you just stay right where you are chatting away even if that happens to be in the doorway of a very busy department store.

252. Christmas presents are opened somewhere between Donald Duck and "Karl-Bertil Jonsson" on Christmas Eve. Whoever heard of doing it the morning of Christmas Day?

253. If no TV station airs "Ivanhoe" on Christmas Day you become extremely irritated.

254. You just have to watch "Grevinnan och betjänten" on New Years Eve.

260. You find it reasonable that reviews of non-Swedish movies with a Swedish actor in them should use at least half of the space available to discuss how good or bad the actor was in it, even if he had just one line.

262. You watched "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" just to see Pernilla August.

265. You don't get surprised when kids come trick-or-treating during Easter, all dressed up like witches.

266. You don't find it odd to find movies with a "translated" title. It's perfectly normal for a movie to get a completely different English title than the one it has in the rest of the world.

269. You use the word "or" as a question.

272. You think it's normal that people take shoes in a bag to the theatre

278. You remember to buy the weekend grog supply before 5.00pm on Friday

279. It is your birthday YOU have to make the cake

281. You start collecting travel brochures and talking of trips to tacky places like Gran Canaria just for a fix of sun.

282. You agree to pay 500kr for a basic hair trim.

284. the most interesting report on the news is the weather.

285. You start to believe that everything in Sweden is actually good.

286. When you say good bye to someone you depart by saying 'Have it so good'

287. When you make a mistake or an accident happens you say 'It was not the meaning'.

289. You get annoyed when you realize you have to say “not too much and not too little” instead of “lagom”.

290. You either run for the last pendeltåg at 1 am or choose to party on until 5 am when they start again rather than endure the horrific night bus home, as a taxi ride would require taking out a 2nd mortgage.

292. You find yourself eating bay-con for breakfast and talking about Bill Clin-ton and taking a trip to Lon-don.

293. Anything good and in particular food is “giant good”.

294. ICA is not I.C.A - it's eeka.

295. The wash cottage is not a holiday resort but a very competitive environment, where the rules should never be broken and in particular never go over your time by even a minute or you risk a lot of sucking and muttering from the next in line.

296. A recipe for drugs is not instructions on how to make them.

297. Gift is not a present but it could be dangerous (whether it is poison or marriage)

301. When talking about centuries the Swedes all seem to be a hundred years behind.

303. You know what 'What seventeen' means.

304. Swedes saying Va' to you is still annoying (even after ten years), not to mention that there is no real word for please, or?

307. You eat pizza with a knife and fork.

308. You only leave the country to stockpile cheap alcohol.

312. You no longer find this list funny, just painfully true.

313. You know the names of two or more Swedish ministers.

314. You get excited when you hear someone speaking English.

323. You put both jam and cheese on toast and call it breakfast.

324. You were excited when Kalles Kaviar released "Kalles Randiga".

325. You eat caviar from a tube.

329. Your wallet contains more plastic than a Hollywood superstar.

332. You make liberal use of compound words never heard of by Webster or Roget.

337. In chess, you refer to the knight as a horse, the rook as a tower, and the pawns as farmers or peasants.

339. You feel a certain sense of pride when you see Swedish people in films or on foreign TV shows.

340. Drinking is the fundamental pillar of your social network, be it coffee or alcohol.

342. A “big strong one” is a beer.

345. When someone asks you "Hi, how are you?" you actually take time out to explain how you are.

346. You automatically try to dress the same as everyone else.

347. You know the words to the frog song.

348. When you stop converting Swedish crowns into your native currency.

349. You are no longer surprised when you see full-frontal male nudity in a commercial or on TV.

350. You make fun of tourists.

358. It seems sensible that you need to be at least 25 to buy a bottle of red wine.

361. When you see that the time is 3.30 and you say it’s "half TO four" (halv fyra)

363. You think there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

372. Pronouncing Euro as “Evro” makes sense.

374. You're complaining in January not because it's minus 10 degrees, but because there's no snow.

375. Your house is starting to look like the showcase to IKEA.

390. When you reply 'Yes, thank you' when people ask you how you are. (Hur är det? Jo tack.)

399. You start thinking about the weekend on Wednesday morning.


By Lovain

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Family relations: my brother came to visit

My oldest brother, his wife, their youngest child and his girlfriend came from Sweden to visit us this weekend. The boys were still sick and could not enjoy the visit as much as they had wanted, however I had a great time catching up with the family. We see each other so rarely, and my brother and I are very bad at calling each other so we don’t keep in touch regularly; when we do meet, however, it’s never awkward and always very nice.

My oldest brother is 10 years older than I am, and by the time I was a teenager, he had already moved out and got married. He met his wife in high school; a beautiful girl from town (we lived outside), and they quickly got married, built a house and had children. By the time they were 25, the beautiful wife already had her own lucrative business and they were leading a well-established upper middle-class life in our home town; they still do. Their friends are their old best friends, they shop in the store we always shopped, order pizza from the same places, and go to the same bank their savings accounts were opened at when they were born. They travel and enjoy life, and now that their children are grown, they can enjoy turning 43 with all its might. They’re a very happy couple with a very stabile life; simple and good, and I envy them.

Yet, it’s the life I chose not to lead. Noo-nooo! I had to complicate my life; go off to college, study abroad, work in Europe, make friends I can’t see on a day to day basis because they live all over the world, and worst of all; marry a foreigner, an American at that! My family knows me well enough to understand my choices; I do however suspect that they sometimes think I’m quite strange. I’m the odd sister with an American philosophy professor husband who lives in Belgium.

I do love it when they come to visit though.

By Lovain

Our cultural weakness: Adam Sandler

Monday night we rented Click with Adam Sandler. The Husband & I (are embarrassed to) admit that we are big Adam Sandler fans, and will eternally forgive him for all the foul language and bad jokes he ever have and ever will produce. On Monday evening we forgave him for all the dog-humpin’, the label offences and other transgressions as we laughed out loud for an hour and a half.

By Lovain

Monday, February 19, 2007

A series of unfortunate illnesses

Every other week, all children in school are checked for lice. So far, the boys have been mercifully spared such dismay, but last Friday afternoon when I picked up the boys in school, the oldest one’s teacher came up to me and told me they had found lice in the oldest one’s hair; the very same boy who is very particular about his hair – washes and brushes it several times a week, and asks me on our way to school if it looks just right. The teacher said there were 9 children in his class alone who had been diagnosed with lice. On my way home, I picked up shampoo and a comb at the pharmacy, and as soon as we entered our home, the de-licing process began. Both boys’ hair was taken care of, and I ran 12 full washing machines that weekend, washing, freezing, evacuating and vacuuming everything possible. In the oldest one’s school-bag I found a note verifying the discovery, displaying a louse and a nit under a piece of tape attached to the note. The quest to eliminate took up most of my weekend. The Husband was bed-ridden, still suffering the remains of the stomach flu going around the week before, and I was left to battle on my own. It was arduous, however I was victorious, and I hope I never have to go through it again.

The next week commenced well, however on Wednesday the 5-year old started running a very high fever, and spent the rest of the week in a feverish state. The 3-year old went to school on Thursday, but around noon we received a call from the school, asking us to come pick him up. He had diarrhea and a fever. I spent Friday taking care of the boys; trying to get them to at least drink something, mostly to no avail. On Saturday afternoon our long awaited visitors from Sweden arrived; my oldest brother and his wife, their 17-year old son and his girlfriend, but the boys were not 100% and could not enjoy the visit as they wanted. They went to bed early while we sat up catching up, chatting; “familizing”. Sunday the boys felt better however the family had to return to Sweden in the afternoon. For comfort we took the boys to the movies to see Ben Stiller play a museum night guard, and they enjoyed it with pleasure.

First the stomach flu, then the lice and now the fever; is it over?

By Lovain

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Proof of existence: the Husband's philosophical work

Today I found a document open on our kitchen computer displaying the magical words


The purpose of this study is to show from historical and systematic grounds that teleological motives lie at the heart of Kant’s critical turn, and hence that a precise analysis of telic structures can be used to illuminate the basic strategy of the critical system’s most foundational arguments and, following upon this, the unity of Kant’s philosophy as a whole.

It really has begun. Which means it might soon be finished. Which in turn means relief, happiness and joy.

Today was a good day.

By Lovain

Our Hamster Charlie

By Lovain

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My blog has a new look

I decided it was time for a change. Let me know how you like it!

By Lovain

Lovain (Executive Editor, Brussels)

I came to Belgium as a Political Science graduate student, and having studied European Studies and International Relations, I entered a career in European affairs and ended up working as a lobbyist for a large technological company for several years. When the boys arrived I quit my job, deciding that I was not able to combine a career with having babies according to my standards (see my post on having a baby in Belgium), but about a year ago the Husband’s full ride ended, and I had to start bringing home the dough again. It worked out quite well since the boys were just old enough to start school (3 years), and I found my current job very close to our home; flexible hours of my choice, international work environment, independent responsibilities along with no overtime. The transition from being a stay-at-home-mom to full-time-working-mom could not have been aided better. My work is not exactly in my line of interest but it has been interesting enough and I have learned a lot. At this point nevertheless I’m happy to take on a job that I know I will fully enjoy; my passion for writing (accompanied by my previous work-experience) will become my profession: I’m going to be an Editor!

By Lovain

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I quit my current job for a better one in Brussels

End of last week I quit my current job. I have 6 weeks notice, and after that I will start working in Brussels. A large company there made me an offer I couldn’t resist. I have been pursuing this change for a few months now, but at the present that it has actually come this far, I’m nervous; not so much about starting a new job (I’m very excited about that), but about all the practical consequences. Will I never be able to take the boys to school or pick them up? Will I be even more out of shape or feel even more pressed for time? How will this change affect the boys? And my relationship with the Husband? Last year when I decided to pursue a career in Brussels, I said to the Husband with worry “but if I work in Brussels I won’t be there as much for you and the boys” whereupon he replied “that’s OK, honey, your big pay check will”.

I’m aware that millions of women feel this very same guilt and worry, but still; these are my boys we’re talking about and I want to be there for them. In the end though, I’m sure it will work out; we really don’t have a choice at this point in our lives, and realize we simply have to do the best we can with what we have. Besides, at the end of this year (when the Husband’s thesis is long gone finished) everything will be different.

By Lovain

My friend's enormous pregnant belly

I had not seen my friend the amazing M. more than briefly for a couple of weeks (exam period), and when she came over on Sunday I found myself staring into a gigantic belly. “Oh my God! Your belly is HUGE!!” I could nothing but burst out. She smiled. She’s 36 weeks pregnant and usually very slender and tall, but now she has a bulge the size of an I-don’t-know-what that pretty much takes up your entire view when you look at her. I have seen plenty of pregnant women; I myself was not exactly a petit expectant, but this is something extraordinary. If she lets me, I will take a picture next time I see her. I expect the baby to drop very soon, and even though her belly may grow a bit more, it will not look as big any more.

By Lovain

Monday, February 05, 2007

I got puked on

Following Mr. Speedo & his daughter’s barfing episode Thursday night, the youngest one & I found ourselves in the exact same situation Saturday night.

"The thing about Mexican Layered Dip is that it doesn’t look much different coming back up" I thought, as I was trying to rinse it out of my hair.

By Lovain

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kids are sick all around Leuven - it's the season!

When I dropped the boys off in school this morning, I ran into my friend Mr. Speedo.

“Where’s the youngest one?” I asked.
“She’s sick” he said, adding the nature of the illness; stomach related.
“How are you doing, Speedo?” I had not seen him for a while, and he looked tired, even a bit shaggy.
He did not answer “all right” or “tired” or “feeling yucky”, he said: “I was awake all night with princess throwing up on me. She had 4 changes of clothes and I had three”.

Now there’s proof that a picture says more than a thousand words!

Passing another friend on my way to work, she yelled across the street "one child off to school - one is home sick!"

It's that time of the year.

By Lovain

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Trying to find a new job in Leuven

For the past few months, I have been looking for a new job. I enjoy my current job and it’s conveniently located 15 minutes from my house by bike, however I make very little money; not just in general, but also for what I do. Since I currently am the sole provider for my family, I need a salary that covers all our expenses, and the pay check I receive each month does not hack it. Since the company’s salary scales are rigid, I have to turn elsewhere for a raise.

I’ve found that it’s easy to find a new job, however it’s difficult to find the perfect new job. I know the amount I’d like to make, what I’d like to do, and that I’d like to work in Leuven, but so far, I’ve found no job that fulfills my 3 criteria. I have realized that to do what I would like to do, and to make the money I would like to make, I would have to start going into Brussels by train every day; consequently loosing time earmarked for my boys. Disheartening as it is, I have no choice however, and have entered the selection process for a handful positions, all currently in the last stage. On Friday I had 2 final appointments, both in Brussels, and this week, hopefully, I’ll have at least one offer.

By Lovain

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My cute, adorable, sweet boy!

The other day when I picked up the boys from school, the oldest one was particularly happy, and told me “mama, I made a new friend today!” He then enthusiastically proceeded to tell me that it was a griiirl with long hair “like you mama”, and “blue eyes JUST LIKE you AND me” and “I played with her ALL DAY mama” and “she speaks ENGLISH just like you & me, mama, because she comes from where KANGAROOS live”. He was so excited about this girl - she must be new in their class, obviously from Australia - but when I asked him what her name was he thought for a while and then said he didn’t remember.

We were silent for the rest of the way, but when I pulled up the cart in front of our house he suddenly said “El-E-O-nOOre, mama, that was the griiirl’s name! El-E-O-nOOre. I remember now! Isn’t that a REALLY REALLY PRETTY name, mama?”

Isn’t the oldest one REALLY REALLY adorable?!

By Lovain

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Things to do at home while recovering from pneumonia

Things I did while I was home sick:

***Watched Australian “My restaurant rules” episodes on TV, as well as any other show that happened to be on whenever I’d turn the television on (often “Oprah”, some type of home make-over show or an old episode of “Spin City”)

Why do people get so much pleasure out of watching a TV-team redo some stranger’s home? How come these shows are so popular? Really, I wonder.

***Watched the movies “Batman” with the boys, and “World Trade Center” with the Husband

Neither the Husband nor I knew exactly what this movie was about, and we were quite surprised to find Nicholas Cage stuck under a collapsed building during the majority of the movie. It was not a bad movie however there was not much to it, really. We already know exactly what happened, and we can imagine the feelings and difficulties the families of the involved heroes went through – the movie depicts this well – but well; it’s not a movie I’d want to see over and over again.

***Read “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder out loud, mainly to the oldest one

These stories are fascinating. When I was little I watched the series on television, loved every single episode, and now that I’m older I enjoy the stories, scenery depictions and sentiment in a whole different way, still remembering the influence Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, baby Carrie and Jack had on me as a child.

***Read “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson, who is recognized for his witty and entertaining travel books, is one of my favorite authors. In this book he takes the reader, not to some place, but to some time; his childhood. He gives a very vivid and exceptionally colorful image of childhood life in the Midwest in the 1950’s, and I particularly loved his portrayal of his father. Bill Bryson is a candid author, and in sharing this part of his life and memories with me - his readers, he furthered my admiration and high regard for his authorship and person.

***Read various children’s books to the boys

“Where the wild things are” is a current favorite, but they also enjoy any other children’s book we possess. Do you have a favorite you would like to recommend?

***Drank lots of tea accompanied by cough syrup

I miss the teas of Sweden. There are tea shops here, but not like in Sweden, and I can’t find my favorite tea “Rhubarb & Cream” in this beer-drinking country.

***Stayed pretty much out of touch with everyone & everything.

I didn’t blog, talk on the phone or even e-mail much, and I didn’t really keep up with the news either. It makes you feel strangely guilty after a while.

By Lovain

Our children talking to friends on the phone

Last night after dinner, out of the blue, the oldest one came up to me with the phone in his hand and asked “which button do I push to call Einstein (his best friend)?” Puzzled, and curious to see where this was going, I simply showed him, and told him to wait until someone answered, say his name and ask to speak to Einstein. “Hello? Hello?” he said, until someone eventually answered, whereupon he said his name and asked to speak to Einstein. I turned the speaker phone on, and could hear that our friends Mr. Speedo & the amazing M. (Einstein’s parents) were playing along, handing the phone to Einstein. The conversation went something like this:

Oldest one: “Hello Einstein.”
Einstein: “Hello oldest one.”
Oldest one: “But we went to the store and daddy bought a puzzle cheetah for me.”
Einstein: “Oh.”
Oldest one: “It’s only a small cheetah. See you in school tomorrow! Bye.”
Einstein: “Bye.”

It was not even a minute later that the phone rang. It was Einstein’s sister Pretty who wanted to talk to the youngest one. That conversation went something like this:

Youngest one: “Hello Pretty.”
Pretty: “Hello youngest one.”
Youngest one: “But we went to the market store and daddy bought a puzzle cheetah for August.”
Pretty: “I got Jules.”
Whereupon the youngest one held up the phone and excitedly told me “Mama, Pretty got Jules like ME!”
Youngest one: “OH! You got a big Jules like ME?”
Pretty: “But it’s a little Jules.”
Whereupon the youngest one held up the phone again and animatedly told me “Mama, Pretty got a LITTLE Jules!”
Pretty: “I made a bed for Jules.”
Whereupon the youngest one held up the phone again and told me “Mama, Pretty made a bed for Jules!” and I told him to ask her if she wanted to play together with their Jules, and to tell her that he was going to bed, and to say good-night.
Youngest one: “you want to play…? I’m going to bed now. Bye!”
Pretty: “Bye!”

3- and 5-year olds. We’ll never know.

By Lovain

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Surviving my third pneumonia

I am finally starting to feel a little more energetic. I think what bothers me the most when I'm sick is not the pain or the fever but the inability to halt the complete destruction of the house taking place before my very watery, fever-dim eyes. When I don't have the strength to fight the advancement of Kant research material laboriously and gradually seizing control of the kitchen table, not to mention the distribution of toys around the house and other disorders stride, everything turns into a mess, and this bothers me an almost alarmingly lot. As soon as I have the strength to exceed primary functionality, I commence the expurgation.

How did it get this bad? Last week I was on the Atkins diet, happily loosing a pound a day, when I found myself coughing oysters; eventually on Monday, I went to the doctor and got a sick-note after the suspiscious diagnose "viral bronchitis". I "should feel better by Thursday" she promised. On Tuesday I had however to attend a screening day I had been scheduled for for weeks; a simple matter that turned into a day of torture (subject for another blog), and by Wednesday I felt worse, suffering from fever, worse cough and aches. The next morning I went back to the doctor and was immediately sent home with a prescribtion for penicillin and bedrest. To top this off, the oldest one came down with a fever Thursday night, further adding to the family misery. A couple of unfortunate days indeed: I am however glad to report that we all are on the mend now.

By Lovain

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The youngest one's nose scab

When I got home from work the other day, I was met by the youngest one by the door, and he had a scraped-up nose. It looked awful! Covering his entire nudge, the scrape had bled and was already starting to get infected. Anxious, I picked him up and asked him what had happened. “A boy pushed me” he said, not acting too disturbed by it. “Your nose!” I said and touched it gently to asses the damage, and then I asked him if he was hurt somewhere else, checking his hands & knees. He proudly held up his hands to me and said with a broad smile on his face “look mama, I didn’t catch myself with my hands! My hands are not hurt at all! I only caught myself with my nose!” Fantastic.

By Lovain

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

4 will become 5: we are expecting a pet

After a week of asking, begging, pleading and entreating, I’ve given in to getting the Husband & the boys a hamster. A man at my work announced that he had baby hamsters for sale, and I released this information at home, which resulted in a week of deliberation. This week has now come to an end, and I’ve decided to stop opposing. It’s mainly the Husband who has persisted, and seeing that he is a responsible adult, I’m certain he can take care of the little animal - with the boys’ help, of course.

The Husband will purchase a cage and food today. The hamster arrives on Thursday. Now all we need is a name. The boys have been discussing “Zorro” or “Avatar”. Any other suggestions?

By Lovain

Going on a diet: Atkins, Atkins, Atkins!

When I started working a year and a half ago, I began to comfort eat. I would eat whatever was convenient; croissants for breakfast, dürums for lunch, pizza/hamburger/big servings of pasta for dinner, and then cookies and other snacks in the evenings, often accompanied by beer or soda. I’ve finally decided to turn the trend around, but it’s a lot of work to shed the extra pounds; between 30 and 40 in total.

After a couple of days of Atkins, my body is starting to protest “WHERE ARE MY CARBS?!” I almost feel like I have the flu; headaches, a little nauseous, bloated and tired. They do warn you about this, and since I’ve gone through this diet before (3 years ago - a while after a birth) I know what to expect. If I can get through these next couple of days I’ll be on the road to happiness. Last time I lost a lot of weight in very little time, but I didn’t have to walk around hungry, and after the first week you do feel great. It’s not a diet I can live with for an extended amount of time; I simply love fruit & any dish involving potatoes too much, and I’m not much of a meat & fat fan (although I love a good steak), however it’s a good way to start off a general and improved diet. If I can loose the first 20 pounds within the next month, I’ll be very, very happy.

By Lovain

Friday, January 05, 2007

In the news: twins in Brazil born a year apart

This is pretty cool: Earlier this week, in Venda Nova, Brazil, twins were born naturally, not only on different days, but different years. Marcos was born at 23:59 on the 31st of December 2006, and his brother Mateus at 00:01 on the 1st of Januari 2007.

By Lovain

Thursday, January 04, 2007

2006 in sum: bad & good things that happened to this American Swede in Leuven, Belgium

Here are a couple of lists to sum up the past year:

Good things 2006

*The start of my blog
*Our Sweden trip (see the August 2006 archive)
*Grey’s Anatomy & Prison Break (I'm a bit embarrassed to add these shows, but I got such immense pleasure out of watching them that I simply have to include them)
*Our trips to Aqualibi, Antwerp Zoo and the Museum of Natural Sciences

*My French improved curtesy of courses at work
*Events with Old & New friends; parties, BBQs, brunches, dinners, Thanksgiving, New Years

*Going to the movie theater to see "Walk the Line" with the Husband

Bad things 2006

*My former colleague T. The Dane died suddenly (see my post Wednesday, September 13, 2006)
*The Social Democrats lost the Swedish elections
*We lost our car (see my post Friday, September 15, 2006)
*I gained well over 15 Lbs or around 9 kgs (How did I let that happen?!)
*Our private economy (a family of 4 living on 1 tiny salary is difficult!)

By Lovain

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Belgian post-related experience: after 10 years here I can still be surprized!

On Wednesday the 20th of December, Taxipost (the package delivery service of the official post company here in Belgium) tried to deliver a package to us however we were not home, so they left an incomplete note in our neighbor’s mailbox. The note had options on it; “please call us for a new appointment”, “we’ll come by tomorrow again”, or “please pick up the package”, but nothing was filled out. Just a scribbled delivery number. First thing Thursday morning I called the number on the note, hoping to find out what we needed to do to get our package before Christmas, was put on hold for about 10 minutes, and finally got to talk to a nice lady who told me she could not help me and said I had to call the depot directly where the package was being detained. I called the number she gave me, and got, after a while, to talk to a not-so-nice lady who irritably took all my information and put me on hold, obviously punishing me for interrupting her tetris game. After a minute she was back informing me

“We will come Tuesday the 26th of December”.
“Tuesday?! Is it not possible earlier; today or tomorrow Friday?” I asked pleadingly.
“No, not possible” she said sternly “Tuesday”.
I had to try once more, however not very hopeful “Monday is Christmas Day, and the package contains my childrens' Christmas presents from their grandparents, so we would really appreciate it if you could deliver the package before Monday” I said, thinking I had at least tried.

“Saturday” she then said “we can come on Saturday”. Just out of the blue. What the…? What?!
“Oh, wonderful; Saturday” I said, wondering if I should push my luck and ask her why in the world she had not suggested this option earlier.
“OK, good b…” she started to conclude the call.
“Excuse me, but what time would you be here?” I intercepted, whereupon she proceeded to let me know that they would be there between the exact hours of 9 am and 3 pm. “Wonderful”.
“OK, good b…” she started with her now exceedingly irritated voice, so I intercepted again
“I wish you a wonderful holiday, mam, and a happy new year! All the best”.
“You too” she mumbled, and hung up.

Our package surpizingly arrived on Saturday morning. The boys got their presents from Grandma & Grandpa. Belgium can still amaze me.

By Lovain