Friday, September 30, 2011

Yes you can...

Yes you can play with your children while wearing a dress. You can go down and be a slide, a climbing rack and cuddle bear. You can play 'turtle turtle" (which envolves wrapping a 4 year old in a heavy duvet and holding it while he escapes to the play house and giggles "I RAN AWAY". Or you can be a Lego playing mommy horse.

I often hear from women who say they wear sweatpants and oversized T shirts because it is more practical than a dress. In four years of motherhood to two rambunctious boys, there are very few things (like rock climbing) I have found that I can not do in an appropriate dress, and many a thing that I should not do in an oversized T shirt and faded yoga pants: like going to the store. I represent myself, my husband, my children when I go out of the house. And sure, I actually might not have had the time to brush my teeth that morning, but that does not mean I need to look like a non tooth-brusher. Oh, trust me, I do not look like those super fashionable moms who never have a hair out of place. Being able to actually use the hair dryer and style my hair luxury moment for me. And luxury does not happen every day. But it takes just as long, or even shorter, to quickly put on a pretty dress (or a pretty pair of pants and an attractive knit top), as it is to put on sweats. The name of these pieces of clothing speaks to their purpose: yoga pants are intended to do yoga. Sweats to exercise in. Unless you are doing either, they are not really suitable for the activity. Okay, yard work and deep cleaning the attic might be okay, but honestly, you can mop a floor as well in a halfway decent pair of pants or a nice skirt.

These clothes will get dirty of course, but so will your over sized T shirt. Both can be washed. And little hands with apple sauce are no less jarish to look at on a "Go Cardinals' sweater than on a nice blouse. So go ahead... no need to break out the pearls and heels, but consider what you give your husband to look at. You may not have a personal trainer and designer mineral water to sip, but you have a wardrobe (even if filled with trift store finds) that can show him you care!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inclusive language

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I love being a woman. Sure there are the hard parts that we all know, but over all, I am so happy to be a woman. I glory in womanhood so to speak. And the ways of Christian womanhood is one of the most wonderful, blessed roads to discover.
It therefor surprised me to learn that there was a new, more gender-inclusive, translation of the bible. Now I do not have anything against new and more accurate bible translations. In fact there recently has been a new bible translation in Dutch and I was very interested in the process and the why and how of changes and so on.
But to change a translation to be more 'gender inclusive' does not seem to be an attempt to improve on translations, but more a .. tampering to fit the spirit of the times.

I stumbled over this article which brings up a lot of good points, and thought to share it here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Birthday celebrations

It seems like Joseph did not just have a birthday, but a birthday month. We started celebrating on labor day. After that, several cards came in the mailbox, so the festivities felt as if they continued. My mother arrived from Belgium for his birthday celebration on the fifteenth, which made the rest of the week feel like a vacation as well. On the nineteenth we had a party. Some guests were asked at the very last minute, but they came and we had the loveliest of easy going birthday parties.

We re used some paper plates from earlier birthday parties, I made a cake (but you read all about that in the previous post) and we served soup and hotdogs. The children sat at their own little table in the playroom, which is across the hallway, open to the dining room. It was informal, simple, and so much fun.

Two days after that big birthday party, came the 'real birthday'. The intention was that there would only be the little snacks as a celebration that he took to preschool. But there still was a big gift from Mimi.

And then mail brought a box full of Lego's from his Godfather (Pooh Lego duplo which Michael also LOVED). And since it was Ama's last evening she wanted to spoil both of her boys one more time by giving them Clifford and TBone stuffed animals. We made a box of homemade Auntie Annie's pretzels, which are a big favorite. Despite a lot of 'help' they turned out quite nicely too.

So in the end, Joseph's real birthday turned into a third birthday party anyhow.

Only one more week till Michael's Saint's day, and then about a month till All Saints and All Souls and thus Halloween. Then a short few weeks till Thanksgiving, Saint Nicholas, and Christmas is glistening close again. Oh my!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

For everyone who admired the cake, here is the cheat sheet:

- Bake basic cake. (cheat, and use a mix, because you don't want to complicate your first cake decorating effort by worrying about how the cake itsself will turn out.

- Follow instructions on the box and on the cake form carefully (butter and flour the form) so that your cake comes out in one piece.

- Do a little dance for joy!

- Take a box of store bought icing and discover that you bought 'stiff decorator icing, ideal for borders and roses'.

- Start to slightly panic.

- rejoice when reading on the back label that you can thin it out with water, milk or cream.

- Add cream, a dash of lemon and stirr like crazy.

- Find out that you have made it too thin and that the icing is sliding off the side.

- Pray.

- Find your prayers answered when you realize that you could just add some of the stiffer icing that is still in the jar.

- Smear it all over the cake and smooth lightly with a spoon or knife, because you were too cheap to buy the palette knife in the store.

- Beam proudly at your white, mostly smooth, cake!

- Mix some blue foodcolouring into some of the white icing.

- Make a big mess by not being careful when putting it in the squeezing/ piping bag.

- Pipe blue lines on the cake, because the stars you started to try all around the border require more practice than you had (none).

- Do not leave well enough alone.

- Mix up a batch of red icing.

- Grumble and growl when you notice that the piping tip you wanted to use is completely shut, probably because somebody stepped on it one time or another!

- Try to remove tip from icing bag.

- Discover that this is not so easy.

- Run your sink full of coloured icing water, barely avoid stomping your feet like a four year old and end up with your mother saving the day!

- Realize that the only suitable piping tip that is left besides the one that has been stepped on is.. the one you just used for the blue icing.

- Resist the temptation to curse.

- But do wail and moan. You are after all, human!

- Just cut open the piping bag you used for the blue icing to free the tip that has also become stuck.

- Make a mess anyhow, turning the water in your sink purple, as well as your hands.

- Pipe red lines of icing in between the blue ones

- Pipe a big four in the middle.

- Plop the thomas candle on the front so it looks like he drove out of a tunnel.

- Put three plastic Thomas figurines on top.

- Have a cranky birthday boy interrupt you all through the previous steps by whining and have your mother foist him off.

- Contemplate on whether you really WANT to make him a birthday cake, but bask in pride when it is all finished.

- Add candles at last moment.

- Wonder whether you were insane for doing this when you could have just BOUGHT a cake!

- Serve with a smile and do not tell this story to anyone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Schooling, homeschooling

Life as a mother is much simpler in Belgium. At 3 years old your little boy or girl goes to school and you do not think twice about it. Schools are free to give religious education, and if you do not like one school, you go to another. So thoughts of homeschooling are very rare.
Here in the US, with a diverse group of friends, you end up feeling guilty and doubting yourself no matter what you decide. Do your friends who homeschool their children love them more? Is it okay to enjoy the silence even if you miss your little boy? You pray, you consider, and then you make a choice. And whatever that choice is, I guess you keep doubting whether or not you do the right thing. School is not biblical? Homeschool is not academically challenging, especially with a second high needs child under foot? School instills a different type of discipline? School might undermine parental authority? I went to public and Christian school and on to a secular university. think I became a devout, well adjusted, happy and academically enriched adult. But to so many people that I admire, sending your children to school seems anathema. And to other people that I admire, even the possibility of homeschooling gives them hives.

For now, Joseph goes to a christian preschool for 3 hours 3 days a week, and we love the school. But already I am worrying about future decisions. Catholic elementary school? We love the one at our church, but do I honestly want to spend thousands of dollars on it? Do I want to homeschool? Does it matter whether or not I want it? Is it automatically best for my child? I loved school. I might not have loved all the social aspects, having been an ackward and weird teenager, but I think school enriched me.

I don't know. I can only pray and make choices for the best.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It ain't always pretty: the religious education edition

I usually have the cutest stories about how my boys grasp some theological concept, or do something sweet and inspiring. I have promised myself years ago that I would try to always give a true picture of motherhood though, and religious education is not without it's pitfalls. Or funny moments. Or both. Yesterday we hit a hattrick in 'Oh God!' moments, and well, most of them were not of the type you see in church.

The christian children's cd we often play in the car.

I guess it started shortly after noon. I had taken Joseph home from preschool where he had a very good day. Apparently all his good juices had been used up though, because he became a severely disobedient boy. He needed to go to time out. Time out has been in place as a practice for a long time. He needs to sit on a little chair, in the corner for three minutes. Afterwards, we talk about why he had to go to time out, what was wrong and what he can do better next time. It's a system that works for us. Only this time, Joseph was not having it. He tried to get out. Now I was not having that. Each time he went off that little chair, I put him back on and added 30 seconds to the clock. It took over fifteen minutes for it to sink in that he was not going to get away with it. And then he just seemed to accept it. I went to the kitchen to put some things away and all of a sudden I heard him sing from his little time out chair:

"In het heetst van de strijd
in het holst van de nacht
in het hol van de leeuw
ben ik sterk in Jezus' macht."

(in the heat of the battle,
in the deep of the night,
in the den of the lion,
I am strong in Jesus' might.)

hmmmmm... does he KNOW what he is singing???

Later that afternoon, I had to intervene after Michael had managed to get into the bathroom and flushed the toilet. I ran up, always afraid that he will have some cars jammed in that will flood our bathroom, but no such thing. Pfieuw! Lucky! I removed Michael from the bathroom and life went on.
Half an hour later Joseph needed to go potty. For some reason, recently, he wants to to on the toilet instead of the small potty. Okay by me, but all of a sudden Joseph stopped and refused to go on. He pointed at something. I sighed and expected to see a small speck of dirt or a shred of toilet paper that had been left behind. Instead, I clearly saw a small object that I must have overlooked earlier at the bottom of the toilet. I reached in. (Yes... I am a mom. I reached in) and retrieved a two inch, very heavy bronzed statue of Our Lady from the bottom of our toilet. In the category of things-you-never-thought-you-would-say "Michael, we do not flush the Virgin Mary." ranks definitely high on the list.

I am never certain if this is a guardian angel with a baby
or Our Lady in a shrine: are those wings or not?

Because we are an undeterred family and had made some resolutions after our last vacation in Hilton Head, after all of this it still seemed like the right day to start an official moment of family prayer. Now we pray often in short bursts through the day: before dinner, before naptime, before bedtime... and whenever something just comes up that allows for an opportunity to learn about faith, and kindness and living for others. But we wanted a moment as a family where we can pray all together.
We decided, for now, on a decade of the rosary. Two parents, two children. Two rosaries. One big chunky kids one for mommy and the children, a normal one for daddy. We were just a few moments into the prayer when Michael wiggled off my lap (not unexpected) then decided to get the "Holy Baby ball' out and try it as a soccer ball.

Holy Baby: we bought the ball for Joseph, not knowing who Holy Baby was.
Years later, Michael got the Holy Baby doll, because he loves the little cartoon.

Well, hey.. at least he got some of the idea. Joseph, almost four, should be able to sit still for the five minutes this would take. After he started to run around like a crazy mustang hyped up on a few gallons of starbucks, he was coralled on dada's lap. He sat quiet for a few moments, then decided to consider it a rock climbing adventure, with dada, not Peter, being the rock. We got to the end of the decade, though most of the prayers were said upon a half chuckle. Today: round two. Are we crazy, or what?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflection on 9/11

We should never forget 9/11. We should never forget what happened that day. The wound that was given to all that is normal and innocent in this world.
But in remembering, let us not keep the evil of that day in our hearts. Those that we call the heroes of 9/11 did not go into those towers to help others out of hatred or avenging what was done.
They went in there out of love and duty and honour, giving their lives for that of others. That is the legacy they left us, and that is what we will honor. Not the legacy of hatred that those that kill and destroy want to bequath us. We reject them. Like Satan we rebuke them. Vade retro Satana! But the legacy of the purest of love "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." that has been show on that day by so many, that is the legacy that we will hug to our hearts.

We should remember as Christians what we ought to pray to be able to do: forgive. Not because what was done to us is right, or good, or in any way justifiable. But because anger and hatred will hold our own souls captive. Forgiving those we love and those that love us is easy. Forgiving those that hate us is hard. We can not do it without God's help. But we must make the decision that we want to forgive, even if we feel we can not. The desire to forgive, asking God for the strength to be able to do so, is the beginning of opening our heart to His grace.

A reminder from today's readings:

From Sirach:
"Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven."

From the Gospel of Matthew:
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Take a good look at this picture. Go ahead... click on it and make it as large as it can get. I like this picture. I think I look pretty in it. The moment I saw it on the little camera window, I said; "Oh, sweetie, that one looks great!" Well, of course I look great in it was what I meant. Joseph is making a weird face as he is trying to pull his hat off.
Unfortunately, when I pulled the picture up on the computer, I saw it. Ghasp! GREY hair!!! My long mane, my pride and crowning glory, my vanity (I will admit it), and now, there is silver creeping through it.
Now I had noticed over the last three years that maybe once every four or five months I would sprout a grey hair, but I always considered it an anomaly. A harbinger of things to come, preferably in about ten years or so. I am only 35 after all. Surely that is too young to start going grey.
But recently they have crept up more frequently. No, not that I have big chunks of grey going through, but instead of once every four months plucking out a colourless hair, it happened more frequently. Like every month. Or every week or two. And now this. The first photographic evidence of slender silver threads sneaking through my hair. It shocked me.
I was really considering of having my hair cut pretty soon. I LOVE it long, but it was getting harder and harder to 'put up' without giving me a headache, and at the end of a day with the children (or after an hour or two on some days) I was starting to look unkempt. I was considering going pretty short, to let the curls come out again, and with the intention of letting it grow back to my shoulders again. Like in this picture.

But now I am hesitating. Should I cut it? Or should I wait and ride out my long locks as long as I can? After all, once the grey really comes through, keeping it very long can look rather unkempt again. And I want to keep on looking elegant and growing older gracefully. Not a dilemma I thought I would face in my thirties! So, what is your advice?


It took us a while to get rid of the sickness that had permeated our house. It was stubborn and lingering and annoying. And the whole rhythm and routine that I had gotten into as well as the great progress that I had made in getting the house nice and clean had gone out of the window.
Luckily when we finally were better there was a treat in store for us. My wonderful husband's wonderful parents and sister came to South Carolina for a weekend of relaxation and an advanced birthday celebration for Joseph. His real birthday is not till September 21st, but since my mother in law just starts a new job the week before that, celebrating a bit early seemed appropriate.

For me, it meant several pairs of extra hands who loved taking the boys to the pool, playing with them and urging me and my husband to get the extra rest we needed, do our work, or go out to dinner with just the two of us. We did. We talked. We had time to speak about some things we want to change, some things we love, some things we want to try. We had time to walk hand in hand under the moonlight. We felt recharged.

And we had some lovely cake and presents too of course!!!