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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Belgium: The Coast and Brugge

Last week after our visitors left, I knew we needed to get away for a few days because 1. Hannah was off school for the half-term break, and 2. We tend to mope around the house for days after visitors leave.

It’s pathetic, really.

So, while Shawn zipped into work for a few hours to finish some things up, I packed our bags.  My morning was slightly thrown off, however, when I realized that I’d been bitten by a tick and wasn’t able to reach it to safely remove it by myself and ended up at the doctor’s office. 
But that’s a story for another day…

When Shawn got home from work, we set off.
We drove three hours to a little coastal town in Belgium called Oostend. 
This was the first time we’ve been to the North Sea.

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We rode up and down the boardwalk on this bicycle for four.  Shawn and I pedaled and the kids rode up front.  I felt like we were part National Lampoons and part Willy Wonka.

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This is how Finley rode most of the time.  He loves the wind on his face.

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The next day we went to Brugge, a picturesque little town that’s known as the Venice of the North because there are lots of canals.  Most of the town has been unchanged since the 16th century, so there’s much history to be learned.  I’ve been wanting to visit Brugge since we moved to Luxembourg, and I’m not sure why we waited so long.

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We had booked a bicycle tour through the town, but when we arrived we were told that it had been cancelled for “lack of interest.”  I said, “Well, we’re interested.”  That was a no-go so we did the next best thing: a carriage ride.

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The belfry is the most famous landmark in Brugge, with a narrow, windy staircase that goes all the way to the top.  Shawn read in our tour book that the belfry slants slightly to one side.  Hannah was concerned.
“Is it going to fall over?” she asked.
”Well, it’s been standing for about 700 years, so probably not today,” Shawn told her.

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Once she was assured that the tower wasn’t going to fall, she and I climbed all 366 stairs to the top.
When we looked over the edge, she said, “Oh wow!  You can see the whole of Brugge from here.”

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There’s no way anyone would want to carry a baby all the way up those winding stairs, so Finley and Shawn waited for us at the bottom. 

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Next we went to Church of our Lady to see Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.  This is his only sculpture that left Italy during his lifetime.

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m not crazy about European chocolate.  I know.  I think, however, that there’s some kind of law or something saying that one simply cannot go to Belgium without eating ALL THE CHOCOLATE.  So, I decided to put aside my chocolate biases and expand my chocolate palate. 
After visiting about six shops and tasting the samplings, we stumbled on this gem:

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It’s a precious little family run business that had the best caramel/chocolate pralines ever.  We bought a box, and embarrassingly, they didn’t last much past the drive home.

So if you’re planning a few days away in Belgium, rent a family bike, climb the belfry and taste all the chocolates. 

You won’t be disappointed.

I promise.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

That Time We Had Teenagers at Our House

Last week we had some visitors here in Luxembourg.  Shawn’s cousin and his college roommate/BFF were spending the first part of their summer break traveling around Europe and our maison was the final stop on their itinerary.

Now, listen.  It’s been a long time since we’ve hung with the 19 year old crowd, and I wasn’t sure we’d be able to keep up.  (We’re just about to cross from the smack-dab middle and into our late 30’s, but I like to think of us as still young, and perhaps even a bit hip.)

Here’s a little recap of their visit.

The boys arrived in Luxembourg from Paris on the high-speed train.

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Hannah was over the moon excited to have them with us and take them to her favorite restaurant and show them around the city.

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Since they had yet to tour a castle, we couldn’t let them return to America without seeing the Chateau de Vianden. 

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Hannah put her cousin in the medieval guillotine. (I think that’s what it’s called?)

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After staying in hostels around Europe, these boys were in moderate to severe need of a home cooked meal.  (And also some clean laundry.)

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I stayed back in Lux with the kids while the guys headed to Rome for a few days.

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When they returned, we took them to the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, where over 5,000 American soldiers are buried.

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It’s hard to believe that this guy was the ring bearer in our wedding nearly 14 years ago, when he was just about Hannah’s age.  It’s also hard to believe that he has a beard.

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During the month of June, the city of Luxembourg is hosting an exhibit (much like the elephants) called “Jouez, Je Suis a Vous” which means, “Play Me, I’m Yours.”  There are 16 pianos around the city, each decorated by community groups or schools, and anyone can just sit down and tickle the old ivories.  Clearly, a duet was in order!

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Now before anyone goes getting their knickers in a twist, please know that this is legal here.

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Perfectly legal.

To E and K – thank you for visiting us.  We loved having you in our home and showing you what our life is like here.  Come back anytime!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Better Late Than Never: Finley’s First Birthday

I’m terribly late in posting this, but here’s Finley’s first birthday!
(He’s 14 months as I type this.)

As I said earlier, I had some drama with my laptop but now it’s fixed.
Apparently all that was needed was a new (cheap) power cord that Shawn brought back from the US and she’s ready to chug along again.
And also, for the last I don’t know how long, I had to have the laptop plugged in at all times because it would not hold a charge.  And now it charges right up.  Who knew?

AAAAANNYYY-WAAAAAAY…
Back to the birthday boy.

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He’s really looking more and more like a little boy and less like a baby.
At his one year check-up he weighed 21 pounds, 5 ounces and was 29 inches tall.

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Being far away from family when your little one reaches such an important milestone is hard.  On that day, there was nothing I wanted more than to have all of our loved ones gathered in our home to see Finley on his first birthday.  Our little family and a few of our close friends here in Luxembourg celebrated with cupcakes that Hannah and I made.  She said that we should make green icing since Finn’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day.
I couldn’t have agreed more.

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At first, he was hesitant.

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But once he figured out that THIS TASTES GOOD, he was shoveling it in by the fistful.

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He also got spoiled with gifts from friends here in Luxembourg, and packages sent from America.

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Happy first birthday, Finn Man. 
We love you more than you know.