Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Scenes From Ohio

Last Wednesday, we got up early(ish) and went to Southern(ish) Ohio.
There’s a place called The Wilds, where you hop onboard an open air vehicle and go on a safari-like trip through a wildlife preserve.

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Cousins waiting to go on safari

We got up close and personal with all kinds of animals.

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This one was my favorite.

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The birds loved Hannah…

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...and my shoes.

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The next day we woke up early and headed out to the lake for some boating with my mom, Shawn’s parents, aunt and uncle and the cousins.  It was the most perfect day – warm, sunny and we practically had the lake to ourselves.

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The captain.

Along with the boat, we rented a jet ski.  Shawn’s uncle spent most of the day taking the kids for rides.

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We tubed.

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Do you know who that is out there?  It’s my mom.  Oh, yes.  It is.
She also went on the jet ski.
Who knew she was so adventurous?!

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Finn had a great time, but he was so happy to get that bulky life jacket off at the end of the day.

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So, what else have we been doing while we’re home?
Well, my sister came to town.

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We got facials and manicures and took flowers to my dad’s grave.

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And Finn got his hair trimmed.

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We spent lots of time with cousins…

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…and tried to get everyone to pose for some pictures.  But sometimes you just gotta take whatever you can get.  (I hope these kids recreate this one in 20 years.)

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Shawn was here in Ohio for just one week – he had to go back to Lux for work, but the kids and I stayed for a bit longer.  We’ve been spending time with family and friends and enjoying some of our favorite foods and places that we miss when we’re in Luxembourg. 
Although, I haven’t been to Target yet.
Oh, the shame.

Later this week, we’ll be heading back across the pond.
That’s one overnight flight and two layovers with two kids.
Or, as I like to call it – a personal test of endurance.

So I’ll see you on the other side…if I pass.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

August

It’s the first week of August, and that means that most of Luxembourg has closed up shop and everyone’s either on holiday or has headed to their country of origin.

That’s what we’ve done.

We left Luxembourg what feels like 30 hours ago, flew to Amsterdam and then on to Detroit, where I’m writing from Gate A59 as we’re waiting on our final connection to home sweet home.

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So far our travels have been smooth, so here’s to hoping that the rest is, too because I’m so tired I can barely stand up.  I suppose that going out with my girls the night before a transatlantic trip wasn’t the best idea, but I wouldn’t have missed it.  I’m so sad that two of these ladies are moving away this summer and I had to say au revoir to them just before we left. 

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We sipped Crémant and laughed until we cried.  I can’t say enough about these girls.  They’re simply the best.

And speaking of Crémant, I promised a few friends back home that I’d be bringing them a bottle, but when it came down to it, I just couldn’t make it happen.  Because on top of all the other stuff you have to pack in your carry-on luggage for two kids, the thought of wheeling my bag through security, onto the plane and then stowing it in the overhead compartment in the same manner one would handle a crate of eggs didn’t sound like much fun.  Neither did opening my bag to find four bottles of busted Crémant.  So, if I promised you a bottle, I won’t show up empty handed.  I’ll swing by Giant Eagle to pick us up something REAL FANCY.

In the few weeks between school letting out and our trip to America, we did a lot of swimming and hanging out at the pools with out friends.  Luxembourg has beautiful swimming pools, and despite the fact that we live in the home of the Speedo, it’s always a good time.
Oh, and here’s Hannah receiving her swimming award at the end of the school year.

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During the summer months, the Grand Ducal Palace opens its doors for folks to take a guided tour of the place.  This is something we’ve never done before (not sure why) so Hannah and I booked tickets.  There were no cameras allowed on the tour, but let me tell you that the inside is spectacular!  Just like you’d imagine the inside of a palace to be.  Even though Luxembourg’s royal family doesn’t actually live in the Grand Ducal Palace, there are royal living quarters but they weren’t of the tour so I was kinda disappointed about that.  Not that I’d be snooping around in closets and cabinets, but I was curious. 
Oh, and also – I should have known, but the palace is not air conditioned.  I don’t know why I was expecting air conditioning because no one in Europe has air conditioning.  I felt kind of sorry for all the royal family who have to sit around in fancy, stuffy clothes because that palace is hot as blazes in the summer.

Well, we’ve got big plans for our time in the US.  Hannah’s going to Vacation Bible School this week at a local church.  Last week I told her that I signed her up.

”Oh, ok.  What language will it be in?” she asked.
She’s such an expat kid.

We’re also going to be doing some swimming, boating, spending time with family and friends and whatnot and whathaveyou.

And by whatnot and whathaveyou, I mean enjoying the air conditioning.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The North Sea: We Liked It So Much We Went Back

And this time we took friends!

Last week after school let out, it seemed like a fine time to head to the beach.  So we packed up our car (and Shawn’s sleek, shiny car top carrier) and headed back to the Belgian coast with our British friends.  These folks have become like family to us since we’ve lived in Luxembourg.

IMG_2466aThe Brits

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The Americans

We stayed in a cute little cottage in De Hann, Belgium and spent our days at the North Sea.

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We had a very serious bocce ball tournament.
In French, they call it boules, which I think is funny because that’s the same word they use for scoops of ice cream.

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The weather was perfect for kite flying.

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And Hannah wore her daddy’s shirt when the evening air became chilly.

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We ate dinner out, and grilled enough meat for six families on an itty, bitty disposable grill.

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When it rained, we simply put panchos on the girls and continued our walk along the shore.

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These two shared a room with bunk beds and spent hours working on their rainbow loom bracelets and necklaces, which they called “Scooby Doo’s,” and continually cheered, “We’re knitting for England!” and “We’re knitting for America!” and my favorite, “We’re knitting to save the world!”

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For our last day, we crossed the border into Holland and rode bikes. 
Shawn and Hannah did this:

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I rode with Finn on the back of my bike.  The lady at the bike rental place warned us that kids always cry when you put a helmet on them.  Finley, however, loved it.  He didn’t want to take it off.

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As much as he loved the helmet, he apparently thought the rest of the bike ride was a snooze fest.

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We stopped for lunch at a little café on the beach where the kids could play in the sand before and after we ate.

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Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Luxembourg. 
But one last thing: a group shot of the Brits and the Americans.

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Because we were riding for England! Riding for America!
We were RIDING TO SAVE THE WORLD.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Last Day of School

I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but school’s here are on a different schedule than in the US, so today’s Hannah’s last day of Year 1, which is the US equiv of Kindergarten.
I have to say, I’m a little sad.  She’s loved school this year – her teachers, her friends and her classwork.  I’ve loved getting to know all the other parents.

We received Hannah’s final report in the post this week and she did so well. 
She’s grown and learned and we couldn’t be more proud of her. 

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Last week there was a paper airplane challenge at school to benefit The Make A Wish Foundation of Luxembourg so the night before she and Shawn got to work.

”You can help me with this, I presume?” she asked when he came home from work.
”Well, I’m an engineer so I think we can build a pretty good paper airplane,” he winked at her.

Shawn was in charge of design and Hannah got busy making it look nice.

”Make sure it’s symmetrical, Daddy,” she reminded him.

(I have no idea where this vocabulary is coming from.  I’m certain we don’t use the words presume or symmetrical in our house often.)

The next afternoon, she burst through the school gate with a certificate in hand.

I texted Shawn with the good news.
Me: Hannah’s airplane won!
Shawn: Yesssssss.  You see, it pays to have an engineer for a dad.
Me: There were three categories.  Guess which she won?
Shawn: Best design?
Me: BEST DECORATED

Cue the laughter.

Anyway, school’s out at noon today and Shawn will be home from work early.  We’re starting our summer break off properly with a long weekend trip to the beach with friends.

 

Totally unrelated to school (or paper airplanes) my friend Merrin has just released a CD of children's folksongs called Bluebird.  My kids and I have been listening to it on repeat and we love it!  It’s delightful and Merrin’s voice is like a nightingale.

You can click here to preview or purchase the album on itunes, or if you’re in Luxembourg, you can purchase a CD at Chapter1 on 42 rue Astrid, L-1143.

 

 




Thursday, July 17, 2014

That Time I Went on a Juice Cleanse

Alternatively titled: I Wanted a Ham Sandwich

So, I did a three day juice cleanse/detox this week.  And no, I’m not going crunchy/hippie on you, it’s just that in the past few months I haven’t been exactly taking care of myself as I should and it was time that I did something about it.  All the French bread and cheese had caught up to me, and let’s not even talk about all the chocolate that I inhaled in Brugge a few weeks ago. 

There’s this new place in Luxembourg that makes organic cold pressed juices and their detox package was on sale so I decided to give it a try. 

Here’s one day’s worth of juice:

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I kept a little journal, and here are some highlights.

Day 1: I started with a glass of warm water and a squeeze of lemon, as instructed, to alkinalize (is that even a word?) my body.  The first juice was more of a smoothie made of spinach, romaine, apple, banana and lemon and I felt surprisingly full.  The nutritionist where I got the juices told me that light exercise was best during a detox, so I went on a walk in the woods with some friends.  After, I had my second juice of the day, which, in the end I would say was my favorite: beetroot, apple and celery.  Very refreshing.  Now it was lunchtime and I started to get a headache and feel slightly lightheaded.  I also wanted a ham sandwich.  Instead, I had the third juice: cucumber, pineapple and mint.  I did a few chores around the house and when Finn took a nap, I laid down, too.  I woke up feeling groggy and had a headache, so I texted my sister, who’s done cleanses before and she told me to “pound water.”  This is what I did and it really helped with the headache.  Around 4:00 I had the 4th juice: carrot, apple and ginger.  At 6:00 I drank the fifth one: kale, apple, romaine, cucumber and lemon.  I was surprisingly not hungry at all, but it’s an odd feeling to drink your meals all day long.  I missed crunching and chewing.  Especially on ham sandwiches. Around 8:00 I drank the last juice of the day: almond milk, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and spring water.  I went to bed full and happy.

Day 2: I started off the same and followed the numbered juices just as I did the first day.  I had on and off headaches, some waves of nausea and lightheadedness and also some muscle aches.  I drank 3 liters of water throughout the day and I was tempted to throw in the towel around dinnertime because I just wanted some real honest to goodness food.  But, I pressed on and after the kids were in bed, I sipped the almond milk and was so full that I couldn’t finish it.  I enjoyed the taste of the juices more on day 2 and noticed that my skin seemed smoother and clearer than normal.

Day 3: I slept fine the night before but woke up with some goop in my eyes, feeling groggy and with a lower back ache.  After a little research, I learned that all of these are signs that your body is sloughing off the junk that’s been building up for lots of years and that the aches mean that your body is cleaning out the toxins in every nook and cranny. I started to perk up after about half of the morning smoothie.  I went into the city to do some shopping and really started to feel good.  By noon, I was feeling full of energy and the headaches were completely gone.  I happily finished day 3 with no problems and even thought of ordering more juices and going for another two days. 

I’ll definitely do a juice cleanse again, maybe after Christmas.  I may even try a 5 day cleanse!
While it was a bit pricey (but eating healthy is always more expensive, isn’t it?) it was worth it.  I felt hydrated, and have gotten rid of a bunch of junk that’s probably been hanging around for a long time.  I’m also not craving sweets like I had been and I feel really energetic.

So, today was my first day post-cleanse and I pretty much stuck to a gentle diet of carrot soup, fruit, salads and lots of water.  I thought I would go hog wild and eat ALL THE JUNK FOOD in my house, but I didn’t.  And not just because I didn’t want to undo all the good that I’d done over the last three days, but I just didn’t have a taste for any of it.

(Not even a ham sandwich.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Strawberries and Shenanigans

This year Shawn and Hannah planted a little strawberry patch in our garden. 
(In case you think that we have a garden in the American definition of a garden, now is a good time to tell you that Europeans call their backyards gardens, and a backyard is a cement slab/patio at the back of the house.)
To clarify: Shawn and Hannah planted a little strawberry patch in an area of grass located at the back of our house.

Anyway, their plants recently bore their first fruits.

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On the day we bought the plants at Hornbach, which is like the European version of Home Depot (they have an orange sign and everything), a woman approached Shawn and asked him a question (in French) about the strawberries.
He politely explained that he doesn’t speak French well enough to help her so would she mind if he spoke English? 
The woman rolled her eyes, gave and exasperated sigh and walked away.

The French have a phrase for expressing anger: J’en ai plein les bottes, which literally translates to I have full boots and basically means I’ve had enough.

Apparently this lady’s boots were really full because she tracked down a manager, brought him to the strawberry plant table, pointed her finger at Shawn, and complained loudly about his poor French.

Now, I don’t know if it was the shirt he was wearing or the way he was meticulously sorting through the plants with a certain horticulture expertise, but it became apparent that this woman thought THAT SHAWN WAS AN ACTUAL EMPLOYEE OF THE STORE.

The manager stared at Shawn, then back at the woman and explained that there was nothing he could do about this man’s ability to speak French because he does not, in fact, work here.

I don’t know how we get ourselves into these kind of situations.

*****

You may be wondering why Finley is not wearing pants in this picture.

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Here’s what happened:
We were walking to school to pick up Hannah when a bird flew overhead and pooped directly on Finn’s jeans. It took a minute for me to register what had happened and later that day when I texted Shawn to tell him about it he replied with some nonsense about it being good luck.  Well, maybe for Finn it was, but it certainly wasn’t for me, as I was the one who had to clean it up.  And I was in a big hurry to pick up Hannah, get the kids back to the car and get to my doctor appointment. 

Then I realized that I didn’t have a change of clothes for Finn because OF COURSE I DIDN’T. 

So we headed to my doctor’s office and the receptionist showed us into the little room to wait.  Hannah plopped down onto one of the chairs and discovered that if she sat down with enough gusto, the leather chair made a tooting sound.  This reduced her to a heap of giggles because when you’re six, there’s not much funnier than toot noises.   Then Finn started laughing because when you’re a boy, toot noises are funny, no matter what age you are.  And I started laughing because the whole thing was just so ridiculous.

So, to recap our day:  a bird pooped on Finn, my doctor walked in to find all three of us laughing at toot noises and Finn was sitting in his stroller without pants. 

I bet I’m his favorite patient.

(And I think Shawn may be Hornbach’s favorite customer.)   

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, America

We woke up a few minutes early this morning to take some pictures before Hannah went to school.
(I’ve mentioned before that the school calendar here is different than in the US and we’re not done for two more weeks.)

Finn was more interested in the cars driving by and Hannah was excited to get going so she could tell her teacher that today is America’s birthday.

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Earlier this week, I filled up my car with gas, or petrol, as it’s called here and I went inside to pay.  I said hello to the cashier and told her I’d also like to purchase a car wash (in French.)
She immediately switched to English so I asked her how she knew that was my native language.
She laughed and told me that I speak French with a strong English accent.
I asked her if she could tell the difference from an American accent from, say, a British or Australian.
What she said next made me giggle.
”I can’t place English accents, but I can usually pick out the Americans because they’re just…so…cool.”

She’s right.
Americans are cool.
And so is America.
Happy Birthday.