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

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My Christmas break is already over

After 1 week holiday, I’m back to work today, tired from not having readjusted my sleep pattern, and wondering where my Christmas week went.

The weekend before Christmas was hectic; Friday evening our Canadian friends threw a Christmas drink party which was nice but went late so the boys spent the entire next day in a grouchy state. We spent Saturdaythe 23rd of December in town along with 3 million other Belgians, trying to aquire wrapping paper. I had this crazy idea that we could just run in, get some wrapping paper and be back home within an hour. Silly me. It took closer to 4 hours and we ended up paying a fortune for paper that was ugly and of bad quality. Sunday afternoon – Christmas Eve - we could finally sit down to a nice Swedish Christmas meal with Mr. Speedo, the amazing M. & their children. The food was great, of course, and we had a nice time however all the kids were worked up and didn’t play well together; after dinner the Husband & I spent the evening wrapping presents, using our million-dollar wrapping paper. Christmas morning was great; the boys were so excited about the presents under the tree, and we took a long time opening them, enjoying the moment for as long as possible. We stayed in our pajamas most of the day; had turkey dinner, read, played and watched the new movie Santa Claus had brought “Monster House”. It was a calm and joyful Christmas Day.

We then spent the next couple of days inside, playing with all the new toys, going through the games, the paints, the crafts and the writing/counting exercises. We also got past halfway through the first “
Little house on the prairie” book. Friday evening our friend R. put all the kids to sleep at Mr. Speedo & the amazing M.’s house while the four of us went to the movies and saw “The Departed”. After the movie we hung out and ate too much Mexican layered dip. The next morning we had pancake breakfast together and in the afternoon The Husband, I & the boys went over to our Canadian friends for drinks.

New Years Eve we had a group of friends over for a small New Years Eve party. We had lots of food, drinks, and the men had whiskey & cigars. After midnight we had chili and/or chili cheese dogs for good luck. The oldest one passed out with a fever around 9 pm and missed the whole thing, but the other kids stayed up lighting sparklers & toasted in virgin Champagne at midnight (along with the 2 pregnant women present). We unpregnant ones had real Champagne.

Yesterday we cleaned up the house (2 huge confetti canons will require you to do that) – the youngest one swept & I washed all the floors – and just hung out, ejoying the last day - and that was it; Christmas break 2006.

Happy New Year everyone!

By Lovain