Saturday, January 31, 2009


I've blogged a lot lately about my wonderful life. And it is. I love being a wife. I love being a mom. I am exactly where I want to be and have to be at this point in my life. Yet I want to insert a post now and again to avoid hanging up a picture of roses and cream that isn't real.

Sometimes... it's not as fun.

Most of the day went by okay. We did spend a frantic half hour this morning looking for a lost dvd that needed to get back in the mail. And just after we had finally given in and called the dvd rental company to just bill us for it, we found it. It appeared that someone, whose name I will not mention but whom I believe to be taking his liquids from a sippy cup, managed to get his hands on it and dump it behind the tv. We contacted the rental company and all was well.
The rest of the day went by well enough, but... busy. One of those days in which even your todler free time seems to be stuck with lots of little duties and you are just looking forward to doing something fun and happy.

The highpoint of the day however was going to be a treat. A former collegue of my husband and his wife, a couple that we had gotten closer to while both husbands were working together, were back in town. And they were going to hang out with another collegue who invited us all. I looked forward to chatting with them again and I envisioned an evening of fun, talking, and playing 'oooh... he is so adorable' with Joseph. I loaded a big bag full of toys, snacks, books and a sippy cup as well as diapers and wipes to make sure I was prepared for everything.

I was, except for the idea that my son would go into hyper energetic overdrive for some reason, in a magnificent house full of antiques, expensive electronics and other child magnets.
Instead of reconnecting with the group, my husband and I alternated and often even had to play double sentry, in guarding a 16 month old acrobat who for seemed to have morphed into a flying derwish.

While Joseph certainly usually is a very active little fellow, this kind of over kinetic behaviour was foreign to me. I skidded in my pumps over the beautifully polished floor, grabbing tile coasters from cute little side table, folding away tablecloths, grasping for video game remote controls and stopping him fifty times or more from climbing halfway up the winding stairs, sticking his hands through the bannister and flipping the lightswitch that was now within his reach like a disco ball. I guarded potpourri, put books that were stacked artistically on coffee tables on shelves and generally tried to be a living shield between my usually pretty careful son and the realm of destruction.

Everyone was very supportive, very kind, and very understanding. But I was unable to have any conversation that lasted longer than 30 seconds. I managed to finish half of a cup of sage tea, after it had gotten cold, and stuffed a brownie in my mouth while another woman held on for dear life to the arm of my todler who was throwing a fit because he wasn't allowed to run back to the stairs.
Here was this group of fun, well educated people, with great lives, that I used to belong to less than two years ago. And now I didn't even manage a simple conversation with them. Most of my conversation consisted of 'what?' (not even the much more elegant "excuse me" or "I'm sorry, I must have missed it, what were you saying? which I used to utter when I had missed part of a conversation) while I tried to prevent another disaster or allow my husbands a few minutes of peace while he talked with his collegues.

I wanted to sit down and talk, to laugh about the eighties video games that were uploaded. To look in amazement at the Planet Earth DVD's they were playing. Instead, I felt alienated, lonely and ackward and sad.

I came home and I looked at our house, beautiful too and full of potential, but with plastic todler furniture in the middle of our living room as an eyesore of a contrast to our pretty leather sofa. With some toys that we missed during pick up time laying around here and there. And some stuff hastily crammed out of reach on higher shelves as a growing todler reaches a new level. I see baby wipes on top of the tv, and no side tables with pretty little knick-knacks because anything within reach is fair game for a todler who is just learning about boundaries.

On a day like today, it is good that I have memories of last tuesday, when I just had to tackle, tickle and kiss him senseless because I realised I am the luckiest woman in the world, with a wonderful husband, insanely cute baby, and the best job in the world. Because today, it does not feel like it.
And that's okay. Today will become tomorrow, and I will giggle at his antics, be in utter admiration as Joseph discovers a new word, and think when I snatch half an hour of knitting during naptime... ahhh, this is the life. Just not today.

Why I love blogs... follow the rabbit trail

Today I went over to visit Emma who has one of my favorite blogs. As always I enjoyed her posts, and followed a link to "A quiet simple learning life" another charming blog, about a written morning message. I was rather interested, because an art easel is the next thing on my wish list for our cute little boy. This seemed like something I could easily fit into my evening routine, even after following our little tornado all day.
Of course if you find a blog with an interesting idea, you can not just read that one post. Who knows what little gems you might miss otherwise, right? So I usually at least skim over the first page of posts if I discover a new interesting blog.
In the second post, a learning room was mentioned. Now doesn't that sound interesting?
How could I resist a peek? Following the link, I was lead to a third blog, "By sun and candlelight" which has indeed THE most charming 'learning room' I have ever seen.
I am not an official homeschooling mom. But I am a mom who is teaching her 16 month old wherever I can. AND.... I have a completely empty room in the front of the house. Can you hear the little wheels turn in my head?

When we were looking for a new home, we found this house, which is perfect in almost every way, except that it was a bit too big for us. Still, with a price well within our budget, a national blue ribon winning school district, a big yard, a lovely house move in ready and even decorated in colours that we liked, we counted ourselves blessed. We still do. And having 'too much room' absolutely is a luxury problem.
Currently we have two empty front rooms. One of them will contain a dining room by Christmas. The other for now is designated as 'library' which means that it contains two scruffy, 'moved-too-many-times' overfilled bookcases. And that's it.

Here is how the room looked under the previous owners.

Does it not look like a perfect place for a learning room? At this point, my sixteen month old has not mastered the art yet of sitting still and doing something for a few minutes without mommy having to make a lunge to grab him. I admit, that is exagerated. In fact he can sit for an extremely long time and focus on something, like a buckle, a book or a pair of shoelaces. But sitting on a chair and doing puzzles seems to still be a bit of a stretch.
Still, it won't be long before he wants to sit and colour a bit. Or play with play dough. I think it would be a wonderful idea to have that room reserved for 'quiet learning activities'. It would not need much. A few new nice bookshelves, perhaps my rocker for alphabet books on mommies lap, and a table with a nice booster seat. I want to keep it a room without running around or starting sixteen things at the same time. A room with a bit of order and discipline. And a room for priviledge.

At this age, Joseph learns from everything he does, whether it is taking out the tupperware, poking a stick in the grass or following mommy's finger as she points out a squirrel. But would it not be lovely to have a special room for dedicated learning activities when he is just a bit older? Maybe a room to start the day in with a look at an easel? I am tempted. Oh so tempted.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Joseph two sock falls in the pool"

We are working on verbal skills with my little cutie. He understands more and more each day and his own vocabulary grows with leaps and bounds even though he does not see the need yet it seems for words of more than one syllable. At 16 months that's exactly where he should be, but I so want to talk with him. Though people tell me that in a year I will want him to just be quiet. I can imagine. It is said I drove my parents near the brink of insanity with the use of a single word "why"? I would say why to everything, from the statement that we were going somewhere to the remark that a bird was flying.
I try to talk to Joseph as much as possible, and preferably in Dutch. I want him to grow up bilingual, but if I have just finished a conversation in English or have been reading or writing in English, quit often I mix in English words.
Yesterday I decided a little experiment.

I told Joseph we were going outside. To which he enthousiastically replied 'Buh.. buh' (from buiten, the Dutch word for outside). But of course he needed to get dressed first. I thought a little experiment was in order so I told him to 'go get your socks and bring them to mommy'. I barely needed to repeat it, and he brought me one sock. Then, after some more prodding, he brought another sock. From a different pair. It WAS a sock though, so since we were only going into the garden, I put the two different socks on and named him 'Joseph two sock' for the occasion.

The weather was just warm enough not to be glaringly uncomfortable and I was planning on trying a few rounds on my testswatch of knitting in the round on DPNS (isn't it cool to use lingo. The scary DPNS acronym stands for the even scarier double pointed needles). We stayed outside for just over ten minutes though because someone whom I shall not name but who was wearing mismatched socks, decided that the pool needed closer examining.
THe pool is covered with a tarp at this time of year, but the cover has slid back a bit with recent winds, so one can see the water underneath and some leaves floating in.

Hmmm... curious todler, floating leaves and water. Yes, that's a recipe for adventure. He bend close. I stayed closer. He reached in to play with floating leaves or splash the water. I stayed closer. He 'decided' to slide into the frigid water. I was there! Grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and had him out before he could wet more than one shoe and the cuff of his pants. Bless his heart! (I am starting to sound Southern, am I not?)

Joseph seemed pretty confused when I thought this little escapade was reason for us to get back inside. ahhh.. my little boy is exploring the world!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Commitment to loveliness

Emma offers us a new challenge in her commitment to loveliness. Small things really do change a life. So this week I will focus on the following things to allow more loveliness in my own life:

- I will drink more water!
- I will use a bit of make up.
- I will remember to put on jewelry
- I will clean the floor at least every other day
- Make an appointment with the dentist

Courtship and marriage

English is not my first language. And I became fluent in English mostly through reading historical fiction and medieval roleplay. It's no wonder that my language may have a little 'antique finish' to it. Sometimes I am aware of this, but I chose to use the words anyhow, because modern language often seems empoverished compared to the richness I find in expressions that have long fallen by the wayside in every day use. Sometimes I use a word that has long gone out of style with many people without realizing it. My beloved husband pointed out that 'courtship' is a word like that. And that there are a lot of misunderstandings about it.
Courtship used to be the period in which a young man singled a young woman out for special, romantic attention. The end goal was marriage and though no commitment was made in courtship itsself 'stringing somone along' just for the fun of it was frowned upon.

Several people with a more conservative mindset use the word courtship nowadays to describe their ideas on the path to marriage and romance, and my view is only one of them. I admit that I stumbled on the path of courtship more or less by accident. I didn't go out at an early life but that was not really by a religious design and more due to a complicated home life.
Of course I missed romance in my life, and I wanted to have 'my share'. In hindsight, I think I am grateful for what others might considers missed chances. But hindsight is perfect and at the time I sat at home, envying girls who were having dates and young men interested in giving lots of romantic attention to them. How much more wonderful would life be, I thought if I had someone special at my side all the time. I didn't realise then how true it was that someone at your side does make life more wonderful, but that these early relationships are often not serious, that they are aimed at the idea of romance alone and not at the idea of 'ever after' with it's less romantic moments as well.

When I met my husband, both of us were looking 'for real'. At the age of 28, we were both looking for forever so neither of us wanted to waste time on any relationship that was not aimed at marriage. I believe that courtship is the period in which you get to know someone you are romantically interested better than before to see if marriage will be the outcome. Before courtship, there is a simple getting to know phase in which you find out if you are at all compatible. If I want children and a man does not want them, we can still persue a friendship, but it is no use to go on a path that would lead to lifelong expectations. Is there also that extra spark? Something in the other that makes you think: this person is someone I would love to wake up next to every single day for the rest of my life. This person is someone I would love to have children with, I could feel an intimate heat for this person as well as a daily warmth.

If you feel all that, and you also feel that you are compatible in your ideas on what you want for marriage, there is room for courtship. The both of you are seriously on the path to marriage. You are looking now if there are any impediments. You are getting to know eachother better and making sure that both of you will be happy and ready for a lifelong comitment. Only if you reach this stage, I believe, should you allow your romantic feelings to be truely part of your relationship.
Once you are ready for that and ready for marriage, the engagement is the next step. Here you commit yourself to that marriage and the remaining time is mostly needed for practical preparations. In our case, in between paperwork to leave for another country permanently, leaving a job, and planning an international wedding, it took us six months.

I enjoyed planning my wedding and I enjoyed my wedding day. But it was not some 'magical, once in a life time oportunity to be a princess' which is what some bridal shows make it to be. From that day on, I was a queen on every day for my husband. And every day he has made me feel that way, with tender care and simple love. Has he sometimes left his socks laying around in the living room? Certainly! Has he once forgotten to come home early when I needed to go to an appointment. Absolutely. But what do these things count amongst the constant cherishing that after three years still surrounds me? I have some bad habits too.
While not expecting my husband to be perfect and being aware that I am not perfect either(none of us are) we did manage to make a strong marriage between us. I am certain time will test us more. And I hope that we will weather each single storm with grace and Gods help. But we know that at least the foundation we have is strong and that the love we have for eachother encompasses romance, but goes beyond it. And that is a blessing beyond any words I can use here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A quick thank you

I just wanted to give a quick thank you to all the ladies who are visiting from the link on LAF. If you are new to my blog welcome. I hope you may find some articles that interest or entertain you.
And a great thank you to the people who have been regularly commenting here and there. Your encouragement is what keeps me making time to write.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Is it friday already?

This week seems to have flown by. Despite a difficult start, it feels good for us to be back in a routine, no matter how tentative. I am looking forward to todays feminine friday challenge and to the weekend. There is nothing as nice as having the whole family together. There are so many wonderful things waiting around the corner that the routine will most certainly need to be kept well in check.

Yesterday we found out of our good fortune to be able to take a spiritual retreat in the beginning of may. Joseph's grandparents are looking forward to a grandson sleep over, and while I certainly will miss him (last time I managed only to call three times a day) I am looking forward to a few days of just my beloved husband and the Lord.
We are going on a retreat to Mepkin abbey. There is no specific program, just the chance to live along the monks and rest your spirit, taking time to be with God. I am looking for a book perhaps to give our retreat some structure. Does anyone have any tips or must reads?
Of course I will take my bible and probably my knitting. But May is still far away. Before that, we will have a visit to my in laws in february, and they offered to keep Joseph on Valentines day. We might either go see a movie together or have a simple dinner. And then my mother will be here near the end of March for both of our birthdays.
Lots of simple joys to be planned in the months ahead of us.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fantastic Five Meme

Here's how it works:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by e-mailing you 5 questions.
3. You update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You include this explanation and an offer to interview others.
5. When you receive the comment from another, you will send them 5 questions.

Colleen, from Martinfamilymoments was kind enough to send me my five great questions, which I have answered below. Please let me know if you would like me to interview's fun!

1) If you could vacation anywhere, where would it be?

oh, now that is a tough one. At this very moment I would love to be in Belgium with my mother. I also have had this lifelong desire to lay on a beach and drink something silly out of a coconut shell. Aside from that I might want to go back to Lourdes with my husband, or perhaps visit Asisi. Or go on a long tour of the USA to get to know more of my new country. *laughs*

2) What is your favorite movie and why?

Oh, I think I have a hard time chosing. I think the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice? Does that count as a movie?

3) Do you have any hobbies?

Many! I am a proud medieval roleplayer, I love embroidery though I do not have the time for it at the moment, I knit and I am a speed reader. If I had more time I would develop more hobbies, I would like to learn to make cards, spend more time stamping. Oh, and I love cooking, so I would do some more creative cooking!

4) Tell us about your love story...

I have the greatest love story of all times! My husband and I actually met over the internet through Catholicmatch. In his profile he mentioned being interested in people that lived in a 100 mile radius from either Stanford or St Louis. Hmm... I lived in Belgium. I decided to write him anyhow, since he seemed like a nice, interesting man and I thought that if we were meant for eachother, he would change his mind. So I mailed and mentioned that while I lived further away, we might be able to just become friends. We did. And we exchanged emails. And then we exchanged daily emails. We started to talk on msn as well as getting to know eachother better in our interaction with others by posting on christianforums. It was early december 2004 when I met him, and I would turn 29 in march 2005. It was funny. He intended to send flowers for my birthday, but they arrived three days late. The florist called to tell me he wanted to deliver flowers and if I was at home. I would not be until the evening and I had no idea who would send me flowers a few days before my birthday. So I called my mother, I called my best friend, but neither of them new of anything and of course they were incredibly curious and when the flowers arrived they wanted to see them and know who they were from!
The flowers were for me the first sign that we were definitely on the road to more than friendship and we began courting, finding out if a marriage between us could work.
In the summer, Bill traveled to Ireland with his family and flew over to Belgium to meet me for the first time in all reality. I was so nervous throughout that entire visit, but I fell for him completely when we were playing trivial persuit. I fell for his nerdy brain and his kindness. Saying goodbye was hard. My mother and I went to meet his family over Thankgiving. Things were getting serious so fast. I would not recommend it to anyone on a rational level. In fact I have in the past (and continue to) council anyone against it. We were very, very serious in what we talked about, from atitudes to cooking, finances, to philosophical topics. I am not saying we were not lovey dovey, but... we were not JUST lovey dovey. And we were incredibly honest, which is the only way any relationship, but especially a long distance relationship can work. We tried to go on 'dates' now and again where we would go see a movie at the same time, each on our own continent, which was around noon for him and in the evening for me. We talked about who would move where, what we wanted from a family, how we wanted to stand in life. There was a whole lot of talking and on the day after Christmas in 2005, Bill proposed at the side altar of Saint Joseph in the Cathedral of our Lady in Antwerpen. He said there was one more gift he had for me for Christmas and one thing he wanted for the new year, me as his wife. I asked him if he was certain I could make him happy as his wife, and then said yes. He had selected a magnificent ring with a saphire, remembering I didn't want a diamond.

We organized an international wedding in 6 months time and were married in that same cathedral on July the 8th 2006, after a civil wedding on July the 7th. It was one of the most wonderful days of my life. We walked to the cathedral instead of cars or anything. After the wedding we went to take pictures for about half an hour just in the city around us. And then we went and had a happy wedding dinner and dancing with our friends and family.

I followed Bill to America a few weeks after the wedding, while he went ahead to prepare our new home in South Carolina where he had just accepted a job at the university. Most love stories would end here. It's where the fairy tale said: and they lived happily ever after, and where the reality often ends the romance. I have been married less than three years, so perhaps I do not have mucht to say yet. But my marriage has been even more magically romantic than the international courtship that went before it. There is not a day that has past in which I have not felt blessed to have married my husband. We have had some more difficult days to go through together in the 9 months of sleep deprivation after the birth of our son, and we have exhausted days as well as good days. We have days of clean kitchens, great meals and a happy and accomplished feeling. And we have days of 'ugh'. But my husband left a note on my keyboard the other day, with a kiss on it. Just because. I call him once a day at work just to see if he has a good day and tell him something funny Joseph has done. But there also is the sacrificial love that prompts him to do things he probably does not like or forgo things he probably would love to do, to make life more wonderful and easy for me. And I try to do the same to him.
The romance before marriage was wonderful. The reality of married life is ten times more sweet and poignant.
pfiew, aren't you glad you asked, hm?

5) Do you have any great regrets or successes you'd like to share?

My greatest succes story probably is the one mentioned just above. Regrets... hmm... I auditioned to get in theater school and managed to get through all selection rounds except the last. I was heartbroken at the time, but quickly realised it had been for the best. I wish I had known more about the working of academics when I went to university, I would have probably attempted to get my Phd.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What is blogging?

I have read a few posts while browsing through other peoples blogs about why they blog. Some people write from a deep, inner calling, others want to share their families, some people hone their writing skills this way, others use the blog to connect with other likeminded souls and so on.
But what is a blog actually, or what is it becoming. Blog is short for weblog. The first time I heard about it years ago, it was described to me as an online diary that was accessible to others. That seemed utterly strange to me. A diary was a place for your inner most private thoughts. Why would you put that online for others, strangers, to see?
I believe some people indeed hold blogs like their private diaries finding a freedom in the anonimity of the medium combined with a comfort in knowing that some people 'out there' care about them without the need to truely face them. In a way the internet functions like the screen set up in confession boots for them, a filter of identity that allows to share the inmost and most private in an environment they feel as safe and hopefully judgement free.
Can you imagine the uncomfortable feeling of being cornered at a party by someone you vaguely know who has had a glass too much and tells all you did not want to know about his or her current divorce? A 'tell all' blog gives many people the same uncomfortable feeling. With of course one difference: at the party it is very difficult to get away without causing a scene. On the net, we can easily click away, without a comment or a trace. Even people who prefer to share their intimate secrets in their blogs do not foist them on unsuspecting strangers, because those strangers have the choice to simply move on, without rudeness or ackwardness on their part.

Many of us now keep our blogs more like a 'log' or a chronicle. We chronicle our daily lives and opinions, while keeping that remarkable step back into discretion about things that are too private to share with a bunch of strangers, and often here we agonise, because we have things to say that we think might be interesting to others, or on which we truely want other peoples opinion, but over which we still feel some hesitance about speaking out in such a public sphere. (That is where my 'intimate subject' button appears, on topics that are just a bit more sensitive than I would like to talk about in a full voice amidst a big crowd.)

Most often we will read about happiness, activities, maybe some sadness,some doubts about theological, philosophical or political concepts, but few people will strip emotionally naked and many of us prefer this type of writing.
We want to get to know you, but we do not want to know your inner most secrets. Not until we have met you in person, or corresponded seriously for a few years and have formed a close personal bond, which would allow some soul sharing.
We want to root for you during problems, share in your triumphs, whether they are a new house or a finished craft project, and pray for you during your doubts or hurts on profound issues. Yet we acknowledge that there is another part of you, a private side, something that is for your eyes only, or maybe shared with those that are a part of your most intimate circle, your family and closest friends.
It does not mean that the people we meet through blogs are not real to us, or that we do not care. We often even become quite emotionally envolved in the lives of just a few of those people whose lives we follow through their blogs. We wish and hope for them. Sometimes we even cry for them. We care.

To say that 'meeting someone over the internet' is not real, would be the pinnacle of irony for me, since I actually met my husband over the internet, and here I am, less than five years later, feeling blessed by this every day. It is not the medium itsself that creates the distance, it is our own feeling of reticence, propriety and distance. For each of us this feeling is different. It is partly culturally determined and partly personal. That accounts for the diversity of blogs all through the internet.

I think what is most important is that, how much or how little we chose to share, we share the real us. Maybe not the most intimate us, the deepest us that belongs only to those we allow into our innermost circle. But the person that we would meet on the street. The internet can be a mask we wear or a medium we use. The choice is ours. Wether you chose to share your families recipes or your recipes for a happy life, your joys or your worries, with most people enjoy in a blog is to have the feelign that they are finding someone with whom they share something. An ideal, a hobby, a way of life or a quirky sense of humor. There are many reasons why I visit different blogs, and each one is special in their own way and for their own reason.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm hosting Christmas celebrations next year

Since I will travel to Belgium in October to attend a friends wedding, I will not be able to go back home for Christmas this year. It was a realisation that had been slowly dawning upon us. I wondered for a while what kind of Christmas this would make. Would we stay here in our own home and forgo travelling for the holidays? Would we go to my in laws home in Saint Louis? Would we travel to their vacation house a few hours away from us and celebrate there together?
But since yesterday, it has been arranged: My husband and I will be hosting Christmas celebrations next year, for at least his parents and his sister and my mother.
Maybe this is my final step into adulthood? It seems like a passing on of the torch. My mother has always been the hostess for Christmas. My mother in law for Thanksgiving in the three years that I have celebrated it. And now it will be my time to be the hostess for a major holiday celebration.
Most of my memories of Christmas are wonderful. Filled with extended family as a child. Though I remember my objections to the smelly cheese platter that was a stapel at our Christmas feast equally well.
As I wrote about here, the last years have seen some traditions change as well. My husband and I have formed our own family now and need to do some things different as it suits our needs.
Yet this is so big. While I have no doubt my mother will be willing, even longing, to help out with the cooking and everything, the end responsibility of the celebration will be in my hands. It's an awe inspiring gift to be responsible now for shaping the first memories my son will have of Christmas.
I want it to be centered on Christ first and foremost. The Word became Flesh. After that, I want it to be focussed on the love of our family and the gathering together. All of that I would like to see wrapped up in pretty decorations, a good meal and lots of fun. Oh my... only eleven more months you say?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good intentions

I did not have much inspiration this morning. Strange after a few days with more to write about than I have time to write down.
A few days ago I wrote a little article about good intentions that I thought worked out very well. Maybe it's a good thing to share.

A new year always feels like a brand new slate. I used to love to watch the movies about Anne of Green Gables, and especially the quote. “Every day is a new beginning. With no mistakes in it. Yet.”
A lot of people become jaded over the years and stop making good intentions at new years because they 'do not stick'. It's sad though, because if we only attempted things that would surely work out, we could better give up on this whole Christianity thing anyhow.

Each day we strive to become more like Our Lord. To be a woman like His Blessed Mother. And, while I keep trying, I am pretty sure that at the end of my life, I will still be falling short. That does not mean that my attempts do not count, or that they do not help me improve myself.
I may not have the spirit of sacrifice of Our Lord, but I might offer my husband that I will go to the store alone and let him stay in and watch TV. I may not have the meekness of Mother Mary, but I may learn to bite my tongue before a sharp word falls from it more than ones. Of course I will fail now and again, and will go back to more selfish behavior, but then it is time to aim my eyes right back on the cross, look to My Best Example, and return to work.

So, let us try to make more time for prayer, be more healthy, keep a cleaner house, be kinder, be more organized, and get more done. When we do not reach the goal, we will probably be closer to it than before we started trying. And as sisters in Christ, we will be there to support each other, and always, always point to the One who is there, as the only One who has reached perfection.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I seem to have blogging momentum these last few days. Inspiration and time rarely collide, but I have a lucky streak at the moment. Inspiration for this post came when I placed a hanky in my purse.
I love handkerchiefs (but that is something for another post). A big box of tissues might be the best thing for a day on the couch with a horrible, horrible cold, but out in public, a woman owes herself a nice handkerchief. Or in case of lots of sniffles when you have to be out, a nice package of printed tissues.

As I put the handkerchief away, I looked down on it and just smiled because it was so utterly pretty and feminine. I reliased once more how important and affordable it actually is to surround yourself with beauty and elegance. The picture on top are things I quickly grabbed from around me to illustrate the example.

I hesitate to deconstruct elegance, but just to convince everyone how easy it is to add some touches of feminine style to your daily life, allow me to talk price.
The pretty picture frame with a picture of my husband and son cost about 6 dollars on sale.
When we moved I decided to order some adress cards online. To my utter surprise it cost barely anything to have a stash of pretty adress cards delivered to our doorstep. Adding a nice, full colour design didn't cost much at all, and I have received so many compliments on these cards. Wouldn't you like it if next time someone asked your phonenumber or your adress on the go, you didn't have to dig for a pen and a scrap of paper, but you could nonchalantely hand them one of your personall calling cards? I'm a stay at home mom, and I've used these
While I was at the the staples website, I added some pretty adress labels, now they finish off my letters with a little extra touch, even if it is just a bill that needs to be payed.
Also at Staples.. (I bet you didn't really associate that store with elegance did you?) I found this nice printer paper with the flowery border. I use it to write letters on, make notes on, work on. It makes me happy. It's not as expensive as pretty stationary (though for some lovely notes, nice stationary is hard to beat), and it can serve for every day use.
The handkerchief was about 12 dollars in a specialised lace and linnen shop in Antwerp. That last is on the expensive side perhaps for a handkerchief, but I have several of simple white cotton or linnen that I embroidered myself.

Little touches just complement a life of femininity. A dash of perfume on that handkerchief perhaps? Or a flower plucked from the garden to add to a budvase on your desk.
Even amidst todlers and oatmeal crusted highchairs, it is nice to see those little touches of style here and there that give life that feminine flair.

Good mom moments

Yesterday was a good day. One of those days in which you think: wow... I'm doing something important, and I am doing it well! There was not really something special going on, but the house was clean and I managed to keep it up during the day. I decluttered one cabinet, and took plenty of time to play with Joseph. We played with the puzzles and it hit me, wow... I'm doing well.
I am pretty uncertain about my mothering skills due to the difficult first months. These last four months now, there are more and more moments when I just look at him and see what a happy, healthy, loving little boy he is, and I realize that out of the depths of exhaustion, something beautiful must have happened. That by the grace of God, I did well.
Those moments are quite often ordinary, like the quick glimps of success in which I made my fifteen year old todler put all his blocks away before playing with the puzzle and mommy and little boy played a game of who could put the blocks away quicket. When my little boy grabs a book out of the book basket and comes with it to me to wiggle himself on my lap awaiting a story and a cuddle at times it takes my breath away. Of course there are also moments that I just wish I could get on for a few undisturbed moments with the laundry, or an email, but such is life.
When I looked around me yesterday, I felt so content and on top of things. A clean house, a happy husband, and a nice looking healthy meal for our boy. When I brought out the nice little plate with homemade chili with lots of vegetables, lean beef, beans, a little bit of salad on the side and nice strips of wholewheat tortilla, I felt SO good as a mother. I was on top of the world, just because the meal I prepared was healthy and pretty enough to put a picture on my blog.
After such a high comes reality of course in which Joseph dumped his bowl over the carpet next to his little table half an hour later in the thirty seconds it took me to go to the kitchen for a new portion of the chile for myself. After the great mom moment in all it's award show glory, there I was on my knees, scrubbing the carpet before the spots set, telling my todler 'no' in my sternest voice as he tried to smear whatever chili he managed to get on himself on me, while my husband was on the phone with my beloved mother in law.

Ah... mom moments. They come in all shapes and sizes!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

A day late and a dollar short, but I am participating in the wonderful diary like entry, hosted by The Simple Woman's daybook.

FOR TODAY the 13th of January 2008

Outside my window...the street is calm and grey. After days of nice, warm weather, we are turning towards cold. The greyness lays over the stret like a thick blanket. A squirrel hops along across the street, making me smile. I know people call them rats with good PR, but I have a fondness for them. I wonder if it will last once I start my garden.

I am thinking...that I should start the day and get some work done. It's late and Joseph will no doubt wake up soon. If the weather remains so bad we won't be able to go play outside in the garden.

I am thankful for... the cleaning ladies that came yesterday and put my house back on track. Everything is nice and gleaming and I am full of plans to keep it that way. At the same time I wonder if I will be able to. So many fresh starts, and so many relapses. Then again, I am a fan of good intentions. Maybe I should post the article I wrote yesterday on my blog.

From the learning is learning. I am trying this year to learn how to make a sock. Tiffany from Tiffybug knits has been a wonderful encouragement on this road of learning how to knit.

From the kitchen...My kitchen is clean, clean, clean! And I'm going to keep it that way. Today I will be making a nice, big batch of chili in the crockpot. It was on the menuplan anyhow, but with the icky weather, it seems extra fitting.

I am wearing...a fuzzy pink bathrobe. I know that as soon as I go upstairs to get dressed, Joseph will wake up, so I am postponing it a little bit. I should have just dressed before I came downstairs.

I am creating...A baby bootie. My last one of a pair. I'm not sure how much time I will have for it today, as there is some correspondence I should catch up on.

I am keep my house clean. *LOL* If I repeat it often enough it will happen, right? And I am going to write at least two Thank you notes today!!!

I am reading...actually... nothing. *ghasp* With all the whirlwinds of the last days, I have not started a new book yet. There is one waiting on my nightstand, with a correspondance from the civil war era.

I am keep my house clean. Let's see how many times we can repeat it still before this post is over. I am also hoping for a good day today, with a happy baby. Yesterday I missed the fact that there were strawberries in the frozen fruit mix that I used for my homemade fruit yoghurt and Joseph had an allergic reaction.

I am hearing...nothing but the tapping of my keys on the keyboard and the hum of the computer. My ears are tuned to any sounds from upstairs. If he does not wake in the next ten minutes, I will have to go and wake him up anyhow.

Around the house...everything will stay clean today or be cleaned again before nightfall. I so enjoy the gleaming floors. I really must keep that up.

One of my favorite the fact that we are having a routine again. Normal days in which you are not hurriedly running from here to there, filled with appointments. January is shaping up busy enough for me. I am starting to realise I am a homebody at heart.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Keeping the house clean, getting caught up with laundry, catching up with my correspondence, boardmeeting of the womensgroup on friday, and the Stand up for Life Rally on Saturday. Oh dear, I hope the weather becomes a bit warmer for that one!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

I didn't get up in time

Bah! For three days in a row I wake up feeling as if someone has been chasing me all night. I wake up around 5.30 am, and then can't get back to sleep immediately. This morning I gave in. My husband skipped his work out and I skipped getting up early. It's just one day, but I must make sure that it remains only that. Joseph had stayed up later than usual yesterday so he is still asleep. Hurray!
And the house is incredibly clean. (see yesterdays post) hurray!
I promise here and now, that if I have the money, I will offer this same service to my daughter or daughter in law at the time. It was the most thoughtful christmas gift I could imagine. It really is the gift of time. Because since my house is now all caught up, maintenance should not be such a problem.
For the last two years I have loved my little swiffer vac, for day to day to day crumbs. I am finding out that as a mother of a todler you are always chasing crumbs. Last sunday we added a cute little shark steamcleaner to the family of 'small and easy' cleaning appliances. I have a nice, big, floorscrubber which works very well, but which I just do not get out on a day to day basis to remove the dropped spinach underneath the highchair. A quick clean with a damp cloth doesn't seem to do the trick, or I forget to react immediately because I want to eat dinner. Then I forget after dinner and by the time Joseph is in bed, it has hardened into a cement like substance. And then I am not even mentioning oatmeal.
The shark is ready to use in 30 seconds, lightweight and requires no chemicals or anything.
So, after dinner, my husband will keep our little boy buys for about ten-fifteen minutes while I clear off the table and do a quick steaming of the floor. It's a new part of the routine to keep the house clean. Furthermore, I will spend half an hour working during naptime, before taking my 'private time' for email, reading, knitting or anything else, so that we can try and keep up with the work.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The cleaning ladies

I've praised my husband quite a few times on this blog. My in laws however have not been mentioned that often. I have GREAT in laws. No room for mother in law jokes here. They have welcomed me in the family, helped me adapt to the new country, enveloped me in their love and been generally a wonderful support.
This christmas, my mother in law, gave me a wonderful gift. She said that when she had had a baby, her mother in law arranged for a cleaning crew to come once a month for a few months. Not for day to day maintenance, but for those things that you never get to with a sweet little one running around your ankles. She said she wanted to do the same thing for me!

I was thrilled! Especially when I met the man who came to check the house before the first cleaning and he told me that the very first time they came, they would do a deep spring cleaning. He talked about the ladies cleaning things that frankly, I had not cleaned since I moved in here half a year ago.
Besides, since november we have alternated between travelling or being sick. Needless to say, the house needs a bit of attention. Okay, make that a lot of attention. And while I feel pretty guilty at the idea of other people coming in and cleaning my house for me, I am extremely grateful for my mother in laws thoughtfulness.

In addition to that gratitude, the fact that professional cleaning ladies will come into my house today has another positive effect. With the suitcases and bags of three trips, one of them intercontinental, two of them with baby spread around the house, half unpacked and no time for much maintenance tidying when you just run in and out of the house for a few days before hitting the road again, the place had become cluttered. I detest clutter. I HATE clutter. I have almost religious objections against clutter. Unfortunately, like many temptations, clutter likes to keep a close eye on me and if I forgo the fight for a few weeks, it takes control over my house and over me. I become scatterbrained, distracted and don't get any work done.

Still, while I started to do some tidying here and there since last thursday when we we ended the string of holidays, it didn't really have a direction to it. But now, there will be professional cleaning ladies coming in my house. I do not want them to lose their time moving Josephs toys around, or dealing with sixteen little jars and tubes on my vanity table.
In the last three days, I threw out four or five bags of 'stuff', I emptied nearly every single surface, emptied all the suitcases and bags, put all the clothes that were clean back in the closets and those that weren't in the apropriete laundry baskets, and went through Josephs toy and book basket to weed out what wasn't played with anymore to put it away in a bin in the storage closet. The cleaning ladies have not even been here, and my house looks ten times better! Good work!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My new hair style

With all the excitement of the new year, I forgot to mention my new 'do'. Cutting my hair was a big deal for me. I always had it long. Most people will say it still is long, but it has not been this short for well.. ten years.
I love long hair. I love the way it feels and I love the way it makes a woman look more feminine. Unfortunately my hair had become more of a nod to femininity than truely a statement. It was damaged and there had not been a decent cut in it since shortly after my wedding. The last thing I wanted, blogging so often about being modest without being frumpy, was to look like someone who had let herself go.

I have, however, a healthy fear of hairdressers who see long hair and just itch for the scisors to make you look 'modern'. In other words, they just want to cut it all off, regardless of your own wishes. It never seems to be too short in their opinion, and many of the 'stylists' in cheaper salons don't seem to have a concept of what flatters a face or what fits a certain style. There are of course great hairdressers out there, but I just didn't know one. At least not here.
My hair, my 'crown and glory', was not something that I would let any stranger cut. Hair does grow back, but it can take a long time, so I wanted someone I trusted.
So I waited till I went to Belgium to ask the hairdresser that did my hair for my wedding. I admit I had some regrets when a whole lot came off. But it still looks long, it's ultra feminine, and it DOES look a whole lot better. Now I just need to learn how to style it on a daily basis!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm not a prude...

Yes, my first 'intimate subject' button. Read here for more about what this button stand for. For the people new to this concept, the intimate button is a little heads up for readers that the blogpost will contain some sensitive material. They then can chose whether or not to read on. It's the equivalent of lowering your voice when talking, and using a hushed tone.

The inspiration for the button came when I wanted to blog about something a few weeks back, but wondered if I would really like to talk about it in such a public forum. I realised that there are others about probably with this dilemma, wanting to adress something but slightly hesitant about putting it forth this openly. May the sheer curtains of the button help us speak about those more delicate subjects that we still want to talk of.

My inspiration for this post came in... a lingerie store. (See where that button comes in?) I do not think that anything in this post will shock anyone, but it's not a topic I would just speak about on a normal tone during my husbands office party.
It was a few days before new years and after a full year of nursing bra's etc. it had become time to update my underthings, with my husband in mind instead of a baby. I'm slowly adding some nice day to day underwear, but I also wanted something special that my husband would truly apreciate. Not that he does not apreciate me 'as is' but we also wrap a nice gift with a pretty bow, now don't we?
So, off to the lingerie store I go with plans to buy something fun and intimate. I wanted to just look through what was offered and make a selection based on what I thought he would like. Which means that you actually need to look through the various things on sale there instead of just grabbing the first thing in your size and rush back out. Again, not a problem. Except for the fact that the whole store seemed filled with men. Teenage girls with their boyfriends, women with their husbands or lifepartners.

I won't even start on what I think about teenage boys in a lingerie store, but grown women might spare a thought for eachother before dragging men in.
Slipping past another woman in a crowded store and selecting a red little number is well enough as it is. But I just don't want to ask a man "excuse me... could you step aside a moment, I want to look at the lace panties behind you". I don't want any strange men see me debating between a red, black or gold lacy thing. They probably don't even see me, but I do not want the possibility of them imagining how their wife looks in the green negligee she is holding in front, and then shift their eyes to me at three feet distance debating between the little pink number with the roses or the cream garterbelt.
I'm not a prude. I'm in there with the rest of them, delighting in all things feminine and intimate, but is it weird that I do not want a strange man to see me holding and contemplating things that are only intended for my husband? We often talk about clothing that makes you guess what is underneath it. Well, if I were a man, and a woman parades in front of me holding up a sexy little number, it might be hard NOT to imagine her in it.

If you are intimate enough with a man to buy lingerie with him in mind, I hope you know him well enough to know his taste. So please, ladies... leave the men at home! It will make the shopping experience for other women a whole lot more pleasant.

PS. I ended up not buying anything in that store. I felt too uncomfortable browsing. A few days later I tried again in another store where there luckily were mostly women present and found what I wanted.

The new routine

Well, in a way this is the first day of the new year. At least, the first day of the new 'working' year. No, I have not taken on an outside job, but with staying with my in laws until yesterday,we didn't really get into the regular grind of things. Now though, the holidays are over and the new year really needs to start. It started well with me getting up in time, tidying a bit, taking care of computer stuff, and getting cleaned up and dressed before Joseph is awake. It's strange to have the week begin on a thurdsay and it was VERY tempting to just decide to 'let things go' for a few more days and 'start for real' on monday.
But that's the way that those good intentions fell by the wayside. So, that is why my husband did go running on the tredmill this morning and why I did get up to get some work in. I feel great, and I know that if my big boy wakes up now, I can greet him with a happy smile, not a grumpy face!

Plans for today:

- Tidy the house
- Put away the christmas decorations
- Contact two people
- Empty out the suitcase and put everything in the closet where it belongs
- Empty out the bags and put everything in the cupboards where things belong
- If the weather is nice enough, spend an hour or so in the backyard to let Joseph run like a wild man.

Sounds like a happy day, does it not?

Monday, January 5, 2009

After the holidays

With Epiphany behind us, the holiday season is now completely over. Time to get back to the regular routine of day to day life. To tell the truth I am looking forward to it, even as we steal a few more extra days of holiday by spending some time with my parents in law. They are wonderful people that have welcomed me into the family from the very beginning, and of course they are happy to spend time with their overly adorable grandson.

But this wednesday it IS back to normal life. And what has been happening to my good intentions so far?
Well, considering the fact that I arrived home late the second of january, then left again the afternoon of the fourth, I would say we have been doing well. We have gotten up at a decent hour, spend the morning either tending to things that needed tending to, or (here at my in laws where there is not much to tend to) reading and doing some knitting. That allows me to start the day in peace. We are getting close to setting some kind of routine up and have been talking with my parents in law about plans for the entire year. That will give us more room to think in advance about preparations so our routines don't get tossed out so easily.

I am also looking for very EASY and quick recipe's of healthy food with simple ingredients. Many of the crockpot dishes that I've seen seem to ask for cream soups and have too few veggies, while my main objective is to get more veggies in our diet. Unfortunately the time I make dinner when it is not crockpot related is the time when Joseph starts to get fussy and wanting lots of mommy attention: the time right before daddy comes home. So it becomes pretty difficult to make something that requires a lot of chop and prep work. I am going to make this work though.
One day a week will be soup. One day stir fry perhaps. One day either chili or spaghetti with lots of veggies. That way I have four days for variations.

I am starting to feel better, hoping the new year will be a comfortable one, with peave of mind and less of the harried feeling that marked most of last year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Good intentions

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. They do not mean much in and of themselves. But they are the starting point for a change, if you are prepared to work hard and are realistic in your expectations.
I like the idea of overviewing what has happened in the past year and what you expect in the next. Every coach or organisational expert will tell you that without a plan for change, you will probably be stuck doing the same thing and making the same mistakes again.

So...what are my 'good intentions' for next year. I try to keep them simple. At the top of the list is my desire to get back to the balance we found for a few weeks before october began and threw us into a series of interchanging flus, colds and holidays, all of which interrupted the only newly established routines. To manage this, I need to catch up on my sleep again and then simply get up early every day. That way, I have time to pray, eat and get started on my work for the day before Joseph is awake. I can greet my little boy with a smile and if we have a more difficult or busy day, at least the basics of household work have been done.

The next thing on my list is to start cooking more healthy food. I really have no excuse not to. I have a husband who is not an adventurous eater, but he certainly is not picking and will unfailingly thank me for every single meal that I make. And I actually LOVE healthy food as well. I only need to remind myself of this when I make me list.

After those big two follow a host of smaller wishes and desires. I want to lay more contacts for public speaking appearances. I want to be more organised. I want to write more cards and letters. I want to do good work as a volunteer at birthright. And I want to learn how to knit socks.

A big wishlist. But if I manage the big two, just a little feathers on my cap from the second list would be more than enough to make me a very happy woman.