Thursday, May 31, 2012

D+T=Y(ou) Part 4

She wanted to be proposed to standing up.
She had told him that.  It was the way she had witnessed Nicholas propose to Sharon on Young and Restless.  And at the time it seemed absolutely perfect.
No one else around.  No getting down on one knee.  A single question finished off with a warm embrace.
Intimate and simple.

She also told him she didn't want a ring.  She mentioned something about it being impractical, and preferring something she could use - like a washing machine.
So practical.  So boring.

She is so lucky he had a terrible memory.

It began with notes in her mailbox.  Simple one line questions that offered no answer.  For an entire week there were tiny notes left for her - each with a different question that eluded to the life they had dreamed up during late nights under the stars.  Each on neon colored paper and typed out in order to add to the mystery - as if she would have no idea who had slipped them into her campus mail.

Finally one day he took her out to dinner to her favorite restaurant.
He hid the ring that she had said she didn't want in his sweaty sock and prayed to his God that the elastic would hold that precious gold circle in place.  He fidgeted with it while they waited for a table.  He checked to make sure it was still there while she looked at the wine list.
He hoped she wouldn't notice.
She was afraid he was getting athlete's foot.

Eventually she got up to go to the restroom, not realizing how much her life would change with that simple quick trip to the loo.  While she was fixing her hair, he was trying out different places on the table to put the ring.  While she was washing her hands he was trying to decide whether to leave the box open or closed for effect.  While she was walking back to the table, he was trying to wipe the smile off of his face.
Because he already knew her answer.
And she already knew he was going to ask.

And no one got down on one knee.  No one blubbered through tears of surprise.
Instead, a sly smile was shared.  She giggled and blushed.  In a crowded room it was intimate and simple.  She opened the box and the ring she never wanted suddenly seemed like something she could never live without.  He had designed it.  She has yet to see one even sort of similar.

It sure beat a washing machine.

She is so lucky he had a terrible memory.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three 

Part Five

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ten Things I Know to Be True...

... on Tuesday.

  1. constant sunshine + 18 hours of sunlight + 75 degree weather = the possibility of a perfect week.
  2. Greys Anatomy ended the season on a real bummer.  I'm still trying to figure out how mad I should be about it.
  3. Yesterday on my morning walk I turned the corner and the sea took my breath away.  It was smooth as glass.  My brothers would have wanted to ski on it.  But there wasn't a soul around.  No boats, no people, no cars.  I couldn't stop smiling.
  4. This self-proclaimed "city girl convert" might be turning into a "sort of small town close to a city girl convert."
  5.  I do not miss 90 degree weather.
  6. Yesterday I wouldn't answer Liam immediately and he shouted at me "Mommy...TALK!"
  7. Miles has an approach to spiders and bugs that teeters between pure intrigue and arachnophobia.  It's really a bit much.
  8. I just read an article on the internet about how to lose all of the baby weight in 33 days after the baby is born.  Unfortunately I found out that I really needed to start the process before I was ever pregnant.  So I'm just going to chalk it up as a loss this time and go big or go home...literally.
  9. If you go to bed late, they will wake up early.  Every time.
  10. If all the mothers of the world would stop judging each other and realize that we're all equally insecure about how we're doing it, then maybe the world would be a better place for our children.  Why don't fathers deal with this problem?
For a background on how Ten Things came to be, click here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

i'm sorry.

There are some kids that just love to act as the moral compass for themselves and all of the other less gracious children that roam our earth.  Their parents have raised them with a definitive answer to what's right and what's wrong and they know EXACTLY where the line is.  And they also know where everyone else's line is...and they aren't afraid to make wrongs right.  When I was little I believe we called the "tattle tales".
I have that kid.
Oh no no no no....not the kid with the moral compass, but the kid that those kids are drawn to like a magnet.
I have the kid that kids love to tattle on.

If I walk up to any situation and hear the phrase, "Are you his mommy?" I can pretty much recite word for word what is coming next.
To be fair, my kid is clumsy, and rammy (Firefox says that's not a word, but I beg to differ.), and can be somewhat careless.  He is also ornery and doesn't always listen.  These aren't great traits to have on a playground full of responsible, level-headed, moral compassing older children.

So Sunday when I walked up to our playground here and was approached by a girl and a boy that had to be around 6 and 7, I knew what was probably coming.
Girl: "Are you his mummy?"
Me: (apprehensively) yyyeeeesssssssssss...
Girl: "I was going down the slide and he was climbing up it (which I had seen her do just moments earlier) and he stepped on my hand and kicked my leg.
Boy standing beside her: "And when I was sitting at the top of the slide he pushed me down."

Okay...let's pause for a minute.
I know what my response should be.
I know this.

What I wanted to say: "GET A GRIP!  You're SEVEN!  He's THREE (and will be four in four days - but that's beside the point)!  He's a little clumsy and careless and it was probably an accident - except the pushing down the slide part....BUT YOU'RE SEVEN!"


Don't worry.  I didn't say that.  Instead I made Miles apologize to the kids, although I could tell by the look on his face that he was totally confused about the entire thing.

Why did I not make excuses for him?  Because friends, I wanted to.  I wanted them to understand that he is just a little boy with a lot of energy.  I wanted them to back off.  I wanted them to realize that tattling is annoying.
But instead I made him apologize to them.
Because although I'm 95% sure that the first complaint was an accident, and the second was probably him trying to be playful, it somehow hurt these other kids.  And I want my son to learn that apologizing isn't just for when you did something naughty, which I'm pretty sure is what he thinks at this point.
I want him to learn that apologizing is also important when you had the best intentions, but they were ill received.  I want him to understand that his actions affect others around him and he needs to be gentle and loving, and every once in awhile he needs to take it down a notch.
I want him to be an asset to society.  I want him to be the change we need to see in the world.
I know adults that could stand to apologize every now and again....even when they had the best intentions.  I know an adult sitting in this desk chair that could swallow her pride every once in awhile and send out an apology, even when something was simply mis-represented.
And I can think of a whole lot of us that could benefit from an occasional and deserving apology.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dear Boy - Happy Birthday.

Miles!  You're FOUR!  TODAY!
In the famous words from Quincy on Little Einsteins, "I CAN NOT BE-LIEVE IT!"

This is where it all changes buddy.
This is where people stop calling you a "toddler" and start calling you a "little boy".  This is where you stop fitting on my lap in a nice neat little ball.  Where you start preferring to hang out with the boy volunteers rather than your lame mama.  This is where I sit back and watch helplessly as you start to laugh at things like bodily functions and peeing outside wherever you want.  Do you realize you're only a fourth of the way to getting your drivers license? - An American law I hope desperately they change before you actually turn 16.
There is someone else I'm also thinking of today and I hope you remember them as well - someone that I'm sure is thinking of you, and missing you.  Someone who won't get the chance to teach you how to tie your shoes and won't get the pleasure of your goodbye kisses every morning before school.
Little boy, today I sent a letter to your birth mother so that she could someday read all about what you are like exactly at this moment.  You are the type of human species that would be selfish for me to keep it all to myself when there are other women out there that love you so much.
So what did I tell her?
  • I told her that you love your little brother and that you often refer to him a "buddy", but sort of in an ironic patronizing way that makes me giggle.
  • I told her that you give out hugs like they are candy - willingly and lovingly.
  • I told her that you are strong and fast - boy are you fast.  That you love to kick a ball and play baseball whenever you get a chance.  
  • I told her that you're smart.
  • I told her that you are growing up too fast and this mama can't hardly handle thinking about where the years have gone already.  I'm afraid to blink.
  • I told her that you love food and will try anything - as long as there isn't a slide waiting to be slid down or a ball waiting to be kicked.
  • I told her that I'm dying to know who you look like - her or your father - because you are so handsome that it takes my breath away.
  • I told her you love movies, and quoting them, and re-enacting them, even after just one viewing.
  • I told her that you couldn't possibly be more loved than you already are in this life.
My dear, sweet, rowdy, fast, ambitious little boy.  I love you.  I miss rocking you to sleep.  I miss watching you crawl around on the floor with monkey clenched between your teeth.  And I miss the way you used to walk over to our bed every night to cuddle up between us.
But I look forward to so much this year.  I look forward to teaching you how to ride your new bike without training wheels.  I look forward to  you opening your presents tonight at your party and seeing what is in store for you.  I look forward to the jokes you tell me everyday and the silly scenarios you come up with.  But right at this moment I look forward to you waking up so that I can be the first to wish you a "Happy Birthday."
Happy Birthday my sweet boy.  Oh how you are loved.
birthday cake for school. Step aside Martha Stewart.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I am Spartacus

A Young Tiffany: Future president?  Future Warrior?  or Future Swimsuit Model?  How about none of the above?
 Names matter.
I mean, they aren't everything.
But they matter.
For name is Tiffany.  I have never met a Tiffany that is over two years older than me.  I know a million Tiffanys that are my own age.  My best friend growing up was named Tiffani.  Trendy right?
I found out two weeks ago that my parents didn't really have any other name picked out for me, and just sort of found it one day when they actually got to the point where they HAD to come up with a decision.  In fact, they picked my name out at a lamp store (seriously.) right before I was born because they couldn't both agree on any names.  Just like that.
My mom: "Hey like this lamp?"
My dad: "Sure."
My mom: "It's called a Tiffany Lamp."
My dad: "Cool"
My mom: "What do you think about that?"
My dad: "I think they can name a lamp anything they want."
My mom: "No, for a girl's name."
My dad: "Oh.  That sounds nice."

And so it was.
I also found out that my younger brothers were going to be named "Erin" or "Hannah" had they been born with two X chromosomes.

Those are such classy, sophisticated, smart, lovely names.
Kind of like "Tiffany."
Just kidding.
When was the last time the heroine in a movie was named "Tiffany?"  When was the last time someone who wasn't blonde and a little dumb was named "Tiffany" in a Hollywood flick?
Do you really think a "Tiffany" will ever become Secretary of State in our lifetime? (Of course, Hilary I guess could have had the same argument.)

I thought about changing my name as a child.  I remember I really liked the name "Lindsey".  Remember when Phoebe from Friends changed her name to "Princess Consuela Bananahammock"?  I could have been blessed with a powerful name like Yolanda, or Pink, or Spartacus.  

I don't blame my parents.  They didn't know.  I mean, what's not beautiful and sophisticated about our favorite stained-glass lamps that frequent the decor of our local saloons, bars, and pool halls?
I blame the movie industry.
My parents had no way of knowing.

As a temporary resident of the European Union, my name has sort of taken on a new meaning.  Once I leave the Center where we work and live I come across people everyday that are surprised by my name.  They've never heard it, or met anyone with it.  The other day someone told me they could tell in my email that I was American because I had such an "American name."  Who knew? Here there are no stereotypes attached to my name and I get to pave the way for Tiffanys in this tiny little corner of this tiny little island.  I get to decide how Tiffanys that come after me are perceived and received.  I sort of like the idea of this...

Which has me thinking a lot about names for this baby.
I had a whole list of names that I loved from before.  Some were popular names and some were old fashioned.  But now I'm looking at Irish names.  Because someday we'll go home to middle America and he or she will have this special Irish citizenship.
And maybe people will be able to tell by the signature at the bottom of an email that there is a pretty unique story to tell about the beginning of his or her life.
Names may not make the person, but they can create a pretty awesome tagline.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Movie Monday: Two Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

It's been brought to my attention that I haven't posted a movie in some time.  
Enjoy. :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012


When D and I were first married we were poor.  He was in school and I changed diapers and wiped noses full-time at a daycare that paid me $8/hour (I also wrote out a curriculum and formed little minds, but that doesn't make it sound as martyrish.)  I also worked a second part-time job three nights a week to make ends meet and he received a meager monthly stipend for his work at the university.  We had a lot of help from our families, whether it was house payments or giving us a car.  Somehow we made it.  We were happy and we even saved some money. 
Us with our dear friends at the height of our poor-ness.  Can you even recognize us?
 I don't remember how we did it.  What I do remember are these things:
  • Only being able to go out to eat if we had a gift card or someone else was buying.
  • Not being able to buy new clothes for the first year, and worrying every time individual pieces were ruined by the little kids at work.
  • Only having one car and having to ride our bikes to work - even in the winter.  (Picture Dustin in snowpants on his bike - seriously - he wore those.)
  • Making gifts instead of buying them.
  • Our $10 Christmas present exchange limit.
  • Pulling outdated furniture and home-goods out of the dumpster behind my second job so that I could furnish my home for free.
  • Thinking that my life would be so much easier if I just had the money to...
But I also remember these things:
  • The anticipation of being able to indulge in the $4.99 pizza special once every two weeks at the local pizza place, and savoring every bite.
  • The pride at walking out of a store with a desperately needed shirt, dress, or pair of pants that I had researched and saved for.
  • The thought and planning that went into creating a gift for someone...and the pride that I could do it on a budget.
  • The excitement of opening a creative $10 gift from my husband that he had stressed and planned over, and it being completely a surprise.
  • Allowing my creativity to flow with furniture and home-goods that I pulled out of the dumpster at my second job, or off the curb in front of someone's house.
Eventually we got jobs in our chosen professions - good jobs - jobs that made us happy.  We started earning close to four times what we did those first few years of marriage.
And there were things we could indulge in, and there were things that were easier.
But there was a loss.  We lost something.
It became clear to me last week as we were sitting at a worship and the speaker was talking about this very thing.  When we allow ourselves to indulge just because we can - rather than giving some of it away, or saving a percentage of it for something else - we lose something that we didn't realize we would ever miss.

Life after Corrymeela will be different for us.  Dustin is thinking about going back to school and I don't want to commit myself to work so much while my kids are young.  I know it will be hard and we will miss the lifestyle we had before.  There are times when we already do.  But I hope I can look back on the words that rang in my ears last week - heart-changing words - and that I can embrace these changes.
I hope that we can work hard to pay off the obscene amount of college debt I have created, or even save up to help our kids a little bit with their own post-high school lives.  I hope that we remember how to appreciate the experience of going out to eat, and make it something special rather than something every-day.  I hope that we remember the cost of a gift is so much more when it is paid for with time and love instead of money.  And I hope that my kids are raised like Dustin and I were - not wanting for much, but knowing what it is like to scrimp and save for a dream dear to their hearts.

Oh, and I also hope that they can be satisfied with making junk sculptures for fun and playing with dirt and sticks rather than with expensive toys that we will  obviously not be able to afford.

But that might be pushing it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Yesterday Miles' class went on a fieldtrip to the local gardening center, which I didn't even know existed.  It was really short notice and I almost didn't go.  You should know that I hate missing meetings (which I had to do), I am awkward (like most normal people) in new social situations - especially in a different culture where I'm not sure what to expect, and I was terrified that Miles would behave 10x worse if I was there to egg him on.  However, after giving every excuse in the book I put on my big girl pants and decided that this was one of the reasons we were here - for me to have these opportunities with my children.

I'm so glad I went.  Miles did a good job, and he kept looking up at me saying, "you're here with me?" which made my heart swell.  AND we only had one verge-of-a-meltdown, which in my book is a win.
Waiting for the city bus to take us to the gardening center.

Checking out the bunnies and chickens.

Following the maze.  They thought he should be in the front since he is the "man" of the group.  I guffawed.

Planting sunflower seeds.
This last picture pretty much sums up how my son and I are so similar.  None of the other little kids would eat their crusts, so Miles went around and collected all of their crusts and ate them.  I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ten Truths for Tuesday

Ten things I know to be true:
  1. Mother's Day is less about mothers and more about husbands fumbling around trying to show how much they appreciate their wives (sometimes at the last minute) so that they don't get in trouble and have to do their own laundry for a month - all while channeling it through their kids that are completely clueless but undeniably cute.  The channeling is the secret, because if the gifts and acts are lame - the mom can't get mad because they were delivered by cute tiny people.
  2. I am still trying to figure out what to do with the scribbles art that Miles brings home everyday from school. As an art teacher and artist I'm torn, but I'm definitely not about to clutter up our lives with scrap papers that he doesn't care about himself.  I'm also not about to invest time and money into one of those cute filing/scrapbooking/displaying things everyone pins on Pintrest.  So far I've separated it into three categories:
    1. Drawings that were somewhat intentional and sort of represent something.  Usually these are drawings that I can tell took longer than 10 seconds.  
    2. Drawings that he obviously didn't even try on and was just trying to quickly get through so he could go find a car to play with.
    3. Drawings that his teacher obviously "helped" with.
  3. The peanut butter here might be better than the peanut butter at home.  I'm still testing this theory and will let you know when I'm certain.
  4. When I hear a child crying in the church preschool my first thought is..."Is it Miles?" overlapped by "Did Miles make that kid cry?" 
  5. I wish I could tell you that the answer wasn't usually "yes" to the above questions.
  6. Last week I felt especially pregnant.  I promised myself that if I was ever lucky enough to get pregnant again that I wouldn't complain.  So just pretend that you can see my face and it reflects a painful smile/grimace, but that I am trying very hard to look gracious while doing everything in my power to not lose control of my bladder.  But I'm NOT complaining.
  7. I'm officially addicted to Downton Abbey.  Not like Grey's Anatomy or Friday Night Lights addicted - but the idea of rich people sitting around making money while doing nothing in a giant drafty house while trying to find their husband without ever getting to touch a person or show affection is really interesting to me.  I like to think of it as a sociological study of the region in which I am residing.  Kind of like how I used Friday Night Lights as a sociological study of Texas and Grey's as a sociological study of Seattle and hospitals where everyone sleeps with everyone else and is really attractive.
  8. Seriously....SO. MUCH. PEE. TO. CLEAN. UP.  always.  I don't know how my mom did it with three boys and a husband.  It's like they're all armed and dangerous.....and careless.
  9. Popped balloons = broken three year old hearts.
  10. It's amazing to watch people walk into this place - Corrymeela - and become transformed by it.  Especially young impressionable people.  It might be the most amazing part of my job.
For the original Ten Truths Post, and an explanation, click here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

D+T=yo(U), Part 3

We basked in sunshine that summer.  If I remember nothing else, I'll remember that our eyes reflected the sun.  Your father will say that he doesn't remember it ever raining so much in one season, but all I remember is the sunshine.

Looking back, perhaps it had to do with where I was, or who I was with.  The big brick house I rented for the summer - two hours away from home - filled with memories quicker than I could take notice.  My two jobs at the camera store and restaurant had me busy waiting tables and talking to old men that couldn't believe digital photography would ever become a "thing."  But those were just tiny details.  His sandy blonde hair and his old motorcycle fill in the gaps that aren't filled with sunshine.  Glasses of cheap white wine we pretended to like, clinking together on the porch mixed with picnics and laughter fill in the other spaces.  But in reality it is all a blur.

I suppose that is what happens when you are in love, you blur everything together into one giant heep of goosebumps and deep sighs.

Do you know that you used to write me poetry?  It always rhymed, was extremely silly, and made me laugh.  Laying on my pillow next to the neighbor's flowers he had plucked out of the yard on his way over.  I'm sure they made fun of him for it.  I'm sure he got some major slack with his man-friends. But it was exactly what won your mother's guarded and protected heart over.  It was either that, or the sandy blonde hair and old motorcycle.

I know, I can't remember a single date we went on that summer.  I don't remember going to the movies or out to eat.  But I do remember whispering secrets to each other from my bedroom so my roommates wouldn't hear - our exciting new love filling every thought and breath I took that summer.  I remember the poetry and the flowers.  I remember meeting his parents for the first time.  I remember him meeting mine.  But most of all I remember that motorcycle and his long sandy blonde hair.

Part One

Part Two

Part Four 

Part Five

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Learning Curve

I've officially been a mother for a little over three years now.  I have felt like a mother for just over three and a half.  I have wanted to be a mother for much longer.
I've learned so much in that short time, and my journey has only just begun.
I'm humbled by the thought of what I have yet to learn.
I'm moved by what others have taught me.
And sometimes I'm even frustrated by how little I just naturally know.

helping with my mother's day blueberry pancakes.

But there are things I have learned in these last few years.  Things I never would have imagined or felt.  And, lucky you - I've compiled them into a neat and tidy list.

I have learned:
  • That there is a love so powerful that it hurts.
  • That there are times you won't like your child, but in just a moment you will remember why you love them so fiercely.
  • What it feels like to not like yourself because of the emotions that are brought out in you during the most trying times. 
  • That being alone is beautiful.
  • That a crowded couch is lovely.
  • How to shop for the perfect toy car, truck, train, or airplane.
  • That there is a universal feeling of when you hear a child cry and you pause for a moment to listen in case it's your own.
  • What it feels like to have your screaming child irreparably disrupting the lives of others around you.
  • What relief feels like to hear someone else's screaming child, and to thank God that it isn't your own.   
  • That you don't have to grow a baby inside of you to love it with every ounce of your being.
  • That being able to drink red wine at your own baby shower is a pretty sweet trade-off to hours of labor. 
  • That love can break your heart.
  • And mend it back up again.
  • And then fill it so full that you're afraid it might just burst.
  • What it feels like to see or hear something awful on the news and to instantly picture your baby in that baby's place.
  • What it feels like to cry either happy or sad tears nearly everyday.  Whether it is because of what I know, what I feel, or what I'm missing.
  • That there must have been times when my own mother worried about how I might turn out.
  • That I will always imagine the worst-case-scenario.
  • But I will also dream about the best.
  • That mothers of boys will clean up a lot of pee in one lifetime...or one year.

  • That no one will love my kids as much as I do.
  • Or think the things they do are as amazing as I do.
  • And very few will care when they fall down, or stand up.  
  • How to mend nearly every type of hole in clothing and get pencil marks off the wall. 
  • What it feels like to watch a child's heart break.
  • What it feels like to have my own broken.
  • That I am not my body, or my job, or my wardrobe.
  • That nothing - NOTHING - is more annoying than a high-pitched scream administered in public when one does not get one's way.
  • That I can't judge other mothers and worry about what they are doing or aren't doing, because we are all just trying the best we can to survive and keep them alive.
  • That no one knows absolutely everything about parenting.  And those that think they do usually don't have any children.
  • Why my parents had trouble falling asleep until I got home at night.
  • That I have to follow my gut, because most authors of parenting books are people that followed their own gut with their own children, and started out right where I am.  Either that or they're scholars that didn't spend any time raising their own children to begin with.
  • That I am unfathomably and unfairly lucky to have a caring and helpful partner in this journey.
  • What it takes to get ink out of everything.
  • That life is fragile, and being a mother is not to be taken for granted, even on especially on the days that are hard, and painful, and exhausting. Because the next day will heal my heart and most likely be so much more than what today was.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Okay, now that I have wowed you all with our amazing, smooth, luxurious travels, I am about to give you the real story (dundundunnnnn).  Okay.  The real story isn't all bad.  But it certainly isn't all good either.  My friends, I have learned why people don't go over to Europe with toddlers.  I have experienced first hand what happens when you take a 2.5 hour European lunch with a two and a three year old.  I can tell you first hand where every public restroom in these fair cities is located.  And I know what it is like to travel on a train where everyone is seemingly on their way to important business meetings and your two kids just won't. shut. up.
Because although there were moments like this...
There were also moments like this...

And you saw a lot of pictures like this....

Which were probably followed closely by moments like this...

And brotherly moments like this....
Often ended like this...(did you know they have a "naughty chair" in every city?)

And even though there were moments like this...

There were also a lot of moments like this...


 and this.

Things went much better than I had imagined - I'm learning how to travel with toddlers.  At least this time I didn't have mall security called on me, and my fellow passengers on the plane didn't want to vote me and my family off the island.  Those are both vast improvements friends.
There were a lot of things that we didn't do and didn't see.  Someone laughed when I told them I didn't go into a single museum in Amsterdam, nor did I spot a tulip even though it is tulip season in The Netherlands.  I didn't climb the Belfry in Brugge, and we didn't even leave our hotel on the last day.  
But I'm glad we went.  I'm also glad to be home.  I'm glad I have my bed back and I'm glad that I finally stopped eating so much food.   
After telling someone about our trip yesterday they asked me... "Do your kids know how awesome you are?"  (I'll assume they meant D-train as well, but one can only guess.)  I'll tell you this.  I will probably spend my entire life reminding them everyday how awesome I am.  And if that doesn't work, I'll have them phone my friend that asked the question in the first place.  And if that doesn't work, I'll make them carry my luggage. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chocolate in Brugge

A few quiet moments in a cafe we snuck into after the boys fell asleep in the stroller.
The last place we went to was Brugge in Belgium.  I had honestly never heard of it until we came to Corrymeela and our flat had the movie In Brugge.  It's a great movie, although you'll probably wonder what in the world made me want to go to Brugge after watching it.  Maybe the food?  Because the food in Brugge was just a continuation of magic from the previous day we spent in Brussels.

To say that I attempted to try a piece of chocolate every hour would be correct.  How can you go to Belgium and not have Belgium Chocolates?  And trust me, there were plenty just screaming out to be tasted.  According to Rick Steves, the people from Belgium invented the french fry (a.k.a. frites).  And not to be outdone by my newest boyfriend - the Belgium waffle - these perfected twice-fried frites are serve with tangy mayonnaise.  I'm telling you, like everything else in Belgium, frites = heaven. 
The boys helped pick out some special Belgium chocolates for their grandmas for mothers if those lucky ladies are reading this they can know they are getting hand-selected chocolates...although probably a few days after the American Mothers Day.

We decided to splurge on a carriage ride because it was recommended by friends, and the boys were in heaven.  (I mean, can't you tell by their huge smiles above?)  They loved seeing the horses all throughout the city, and to get to ride behind one was just about the bees knees.
This city is meant to be one of the best preserved  cities from the Midieval times, and the canals that run all through it were beautiful.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an adventure.

And finally one of the last things we did in the city was to search out this windmill - the only one we got close to the entire trip, which was a priority for D-train.  I'm so glad we could walk 10 extra miles to scope it out (just kidding D-train *smile*). 

The next day we headed back to Amsterdam on the train and spent a really low-key day/night in a hotel near the airport.  We had all sorts of plans for things we could do with our remaining 24 hours, but I think we did the right thing by staying in and watching movies in our hotel room.  It was a great way to wind-down a great trip, and trust me - we needed some winding down.  It also made the traveling back on Saturday really pleasant. Unfortunately for you (or quite fortunately) I don't have any pictures of Dustin and I watching Moneyball in the dark.  So just envision two exhausted-looking adults in their stretched out pajamas with two sleeping toddlers between them while starring bleary eyed and zombie-like at the television and eating packaged Belgium waffles in bed. It was beautiful.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Waffles in Brussels

After Amsterdam we took a train to Brussels to visit some friends of ours that moved there in December.  Those boys jumping on the trampoline up there?  They were in heaven visiting the Vastines.  (  But more on that later.  
I only took the two above pictures the entire time we were there because I am a lame photographer, but lucky for you I had two talented photo-composers with me to steal from.
I know you're wondering if we had any good food.  How about if I let the pictures speak for themselves...
photos by Dustin and his iphone
It's a good thing I'm not spending these two years in Belgium, because friends, that would mean me coming back about three sizes bigger than when I left Illinois.  You'll notice I'm making much less of an appearance in these food photos than in the Amsterdam bunch, because a girl's gotta have some dignity.  
In case you wondered, I've met a new food crush and it's called the Belgium Waffle.  There are these tiny chunks of sugar in the waffle.  I must figure out how to make them at home or I'll be dreaming of Belgium for the rest of my life.  

Brussels via iphoto
Since we were in the city for less than 24 hours, the Vastines took us to some of the major sites.  I honestly loved Brussels.  They kept saying the weather isn't usually as nice as it was when we were there, but I won't ever believe them.  In my mind Brussels is like a smaller, sunnier, more beautiful Paris.  I definitely hope to go back someday.  If it were up to my boys they would have spent the rest of the week living out of the Vastine's guestroom, playing with Thomas and Allison, and eating "Wendy's pancakes" for breakfast.  In fact, I'm shocked they haven't already packed up and moved in with them since it's all they can talk about.

Above pictures shot by Wendy
I would venture to say that this was one of the best parts of our trip.  Everything about it was lovely - including and especially the company.  They were great hosts and they have a beautiful home with which to entertain the likes of us.  Come to think of it, maybe I'll pack up and move in with them. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pancakes in Amsterdam

Sorry I've been gone friends... I've missed you.  I've been, what they call "off-line" for over a week.  Not really on purpose, but because we were traveling and are too stingy awesome to pay for internet and/or too lazy to try to read things off my ipod.  To be honest, I really loved being off-line - more than I would have ever thought.  But I also realized that life goes on, and if you're not online then you miss things - big things.  In the week I was disconnected I had a good friend buy a house, another have a baby, another move into a new house, and yet another go back to work - all things I care about and want to know about.  So the moral of the story is......(dun dun dun) I need the internet machine in my life - with mandated breaks of course.

But that isn't what this post is about. 

This post is about the adventure we'll call European Travel with Toddlers. Actually, it could be called European Eating with Toddlers, because here is an overview of our first two days in Amsterdam...

To say I travel to eat would be correct my friends.  I love food.  I love good food, and this doesn't even touch the surface, because it got even better after Amsterdam, but I'll leave that for another day.  My favorite food in Amsterdam (because I tried just about everything) were the pancakes - giant pancakes (called pannekoeken) and tiny pancakes (called poffertjes).  I didn't meet a pancake I didn't fall in love with.  They're also famous for their pickled herring, which I was all about trying, but something about eating raw fish (which I am usually a fan of) out of a food truck on the street didn't seem to meet my dietary restrictions set up by the baby doctor.  Don't worry, I more than made up for it by shoving a coveted American-style hotdog down my throat and indulging in multiple Coca-Colas.

Of course we did the typical tourist-in-Amsterdam things - like a boat ride on the canal.

We also learned from our last big trip to Scotland that we needed to allow much more down-time than we (meaning D and me) as see-it-all travelers were used to, so we spent quite a bit of time in the apartment we were renting - which was also full of toys.  If you asked the boys what they remember most about Amsterdam it would be the "big jet", and I'm not talking about the one we flew in on. 
By sheer coincidence we ended up in Amsterdam on the biggest street party day of the year.  Queen's Day - which commemorates the Queen's birthday on April 30th.  All of the big stores close and all that is open are the cafes and small shops.  Every sidewalk space is filled with people drinking, eating, or selling merchandise I can only assume they've been collecting in their apartments over the past year.  The canals are overflowing with party boats and everyone is wearing orange.  It was such a site to see.  These pictures do not do it justice.  We have this knack for booking trips on the biggest party day of the year in these countries (it was Hogmanay at Edinburgh), and although it isn't necessarily ideal to participate with two toddlers, it is an awesome way to see the culture of the city.  

So we didn't go into a single art museum in Amsterdam (don't tell my art professors), and we practically ran through the Anne Frank Huis (they suggested 45 minutes to get through - we showed them), but I know we'll be back someday and will get our chance again.  Maybe next time we won't bring two children under 4 - although they were free for almost there's that.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

즐거운 어린이날

즐거운 어린이날
Happy Children's Day
Today is Children's Day in South Korea - a national holiday celebrating children and their rights.  So to celebrate we gave our boys wooden shoes from Holland - "Klompen" in Dutch. Totally normal and traditional, right?  Well it will all make sense when I get around to telling you all about our adventures this week - the good, the bad, and the ugly (and maybe even the beautiful).  But until then...hug the kids around you, because today is their day, and could you imagine our world without them?