Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Routine, Just What The Doctor Ordered

Well, life is slowly getting back to normal and today was a great day.

To start off, I took the boys for our usual Sunday morning swim at the pool in Cuesmes. It's an older pool but the friendly staff and kiddie pool make it a favorite place in our books. Both of the boys can wade the whole area and Brendan has started to enjoy snorkeling. Even to the point where has started to float and swim on his own while hunting down our newly purchased pool rings which sink to the bottom. As for Tadhg, he loves playing with the toy boats which Nana & Papa bought a ways back.

After that, we headed to the Base, did some groceries and then ended up at the indoor soft play, Imagipark. The boys love it and we actually spent almost two hours there. I really enjoyed watching Brendan and Tadhg following each other around the different play areas. I also love the way I can send Brendan off to find his little brother. He'll lead him back by hand and say "Look Daddy, I found Tadhg and brought him back" with a big ear to ear smile.

From there it was a quick lunch at home followed by their afternoon weekend nap.

Then, the prescription for us as a family once they woke up... I climbed up into the attic, pulled out a bunch of winter boxes and we all suited up in our snow kit and headed out into the backyard. It has been snowing all day and the backyard just had a wonderful feeling of winter about it.

I got busy building a snowman while Siobhan got the boys some shovels to make piles of snow.

While finishing up the snowman, the boys even had a jump around on the trampoline. Brendan put the eyes, nose and buttons on while Tadhg did the scarf. All said and done, we made a snowman, had a jump on the trampoline, shoveled some snow, threw snowballs (at least Brendan did) and we all sat down to have a cup of warm apple cider (yum-yum).

Siobhan will be back up and blogging soon but until then, we just wanted to say 'thank you' to everyone for the great support. It is amazing how life can change very quickly and it is nice to know that when going through a difficult time, friends and family are there to help out.

Oh, two more quickies... This is Tadhg after stuffing his face with the last of my profiteroles and chocolate sauce which B & J brought over last night.

And to my surprise, even Tadhg has become interested in using the mask and snorkel.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Boats, bonfires, family and fireworks

We're just back from a week away in Scotland. I'll point out some of the highlights with the photos below but I kept forgetting the camera in the caravan or leaving it at Caitlin's so there were more.

So here's a quick run down of what we got up to.

Ferry from Rotterdam to Hull- a great way to go. Cuts out on hours of driving and you can get a good nights' sleep on the boat.
We stopped at Nik and Fi's on the way up and spent a lovely afternoon in the park, eating pizza out and then did a wee bit of guising (or trick or treating). Here are all the cousins dressed up.

From left to right: Niamh, Brendan, Tadhg, Aedan and Eilidh.

They went to three houses, including Niamh, Aedan and Eilidh's granny's house and sang twinkle twinkle little star, incy wincy spider and some Bob the Builder to earn their sweeties. So much fun to look forward to as these guys grow up :)

We helped Uncle Phil out with some Busking for Cancer Research. Lots of fun standing out in the (bitterly cold) lane. Tadhg and Brendan ran around and played. Most people just averted their eyes and shuffled by but a few kind souls were quite generous.

Steve and Brendan had a morning to themselves in Dundee while Tadhg and I went to St. Andrews to hit the charity shops. The boys went to the Discovery (below) and swimming at the big pool.

Most days we set out from the caravan park in a different direction for a walk. Brendan loved the bmx track with this balance bike.

We went to Kinshaldy beach one day, with Paddy, Tasha and Cash. Tasha, Tadhg and I lingered at the new wooden obstacle course type playground while the others headed over the sand dunes for the beach. When we caught up with them ten minutes later, Brendan was half naked and Steve had his jeans rolled up and they were splashing in the sea.
The North Sea.
In November.
And Tadhg wanted to join the fun.
Oh well, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Kids are made of tough stuff!
We played here (below) a couple of times- the point where a wee stream meets the estuary. Steve got stuck in a built a dam, Cash spent half an hour trying to free a giant tree branch from the under some giant rocks, Tadhg threw stones and Brendan and I played with our shadows.
One of many memories of Tayport that always stands out for me is walking the dog on the common and going down by the river/sea and watching and hearing the birds. A new information board by the caravan park tells us that the Tay estuary has the largest winter gathering of birds in Scotland. I love it!

On Bonfire Night we joined Kath, Lee, Ella and new baby Isobel and went to one of the big bonfire and fireworks parties in Dundee. The fireworks were pretty spectacular but I didn't see a lot as Tadhg was not at all impressed with the noise so he and I speed walked straight back to the car.
It was lovely to hang out with the Cowies and meet Isobel. Brendan, Tadhg and Ella watched a WHOLE movie after the fireworks so we were able to eat a yummy Indian takeaway. We're hoping they'll come over next year and either stay for a bit of meet us in France somewhere.

One of the top highlights of the week, also not caught on camera, was a whole night out for Steve and me. Caitlin and Billy moved in to the caravan to watch the boys while Steve and I went out for a very special and very delicious dinner in the Thai Restaurant we had seen on the telly recently, Nahm Jim. As we walked around St. Andrews building up an appetite for dinner we popped in to a B&B to check out the rates. The owner offered us his last room for two thirds of the normal rate so we went for it. A wonderful meal, a walk around town and a proper night's sleep. We were still wide awake by 7 in the morning though, no matter how much I had dreamed about sleeping in! Super breakfast, with haggis of course, and then we went off for some more walking and a dose of nostalgia for me. I bumped into an old teacher in the street and then went by my old school and had a lovely catch up with my physics and chemistry teachers who are still there.

On the way back to the ferry we stopped in to see Michael, Glynis, Eimear, Naomi and baby Michael. We only had a couple of hours but it was wonderful to see them.

All in all a fairly good week and we do feel as though we caught up on some sleep and are a bit more rested. The last few months since we moved here have been a little tiring as we try to find our feet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sick days

Brendan is off school for the second day in a row today. He has a terrible cold and the same chesty cough he seems to get every winter. Steve "worked from home" yesterday morning while I taught my English class and today we're having a lovely slow day. Indoors for now until it warms up a bit. It's a wintry day today.

We've made some orange and raisin cookies.
A not-so-well Brendan eating cookies for breakfast.

They went upstairs earlier and I heard a lot of giggling and bossing going on and then they came downstairs both dressed as firemen.

We love playing games by Orchard Toys. Especially If you see a crocodile, don't forget to scream and Shopping List. They are perfect for cozy days inside when the weather is yucky.

I normally blog when the boys are asleep but thought I'd get a quick post done while they were playing happily. Tadhg, however, has reminded me that that is a silly idea by smashing a mug on the kitchen floor. That's the second shattered piece of crockery in as many days. When we head to Scotland next week I'm going to take advantage of some free babysitting and head to the charity shops to buy up any game by Orchard Toys, any wet weather gear that is roughly the right size for either boy, any next size up shoes for Brendan and maybe some kitcheny things to replace all the broken ones.

It's hard to find second hand clothes and shoes here in Belgium and I can't bring myself to buy new stuff. Shoes especially are really expensive. I bought two pairs of boots for Tadhg the other day at a brocante (car boot sale of sorts) for 3 Euros each but they came in their original shoe boxes with original prices of 89 and 103 euros. They are lovely shoes but those prices are ridiculous.

Must go and spend the day with my two lovely but boogery boys.

A garden update

We've cleared the weeds from around the tree and Steve put up a tire swing using old climbing rope and a scavenged tire we came home with from a walk a while ago. There is just about enough room on another branch for a small plank swing too.

The ground is still full many of the nettle roots we haven't pulled yet so it will need to be properly turned over and cleaned up before they pop up again next year.

Here's Brendan showing off his "bandage" after a particularly bad brush with nettles. It was actually my fault and I was stung just as badly. I was pulling weeds around the garden and had a handful of nettles and thistles (with gloves on) when Brendan and Tadhg started a massive fight over something in the sand pit. I just completely forgot about the weeds and somehow picked Brendan up as he was about to attack Tadhg with a (sharp, metal) spade and promptly dropped him again as both of us were badly stung and scratched by the particularly vicious weeds. He reacted badly but a cold, wet napkin made it feel a bit better. I was still feeling it the next day... ouch!!

We harvested some lovely fennel bulbs yesterday and will do something with them today. I've never really used them so some research is required. Brendan wasn't really looking at the camera but was daydreaming when I took the photo above. I can't remember what we'd been talking about and have no idea what he was thinking but he stood there for a long while.

We've found a wood man not far from us and have asked for some logs and stumps. Hopefully they'll come soon and we can have fun deciding where to put them.

I've also sorted through the winter clothes and have tried to make it easier to get dressed and undressed by the back door- for those times when I just MUST put the boys outside IMMEDIATELY before I tear my hair out :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What did we do!?!

So here's a photo of our baby with his new haircut. He instantly grew up. So much so that Steve thought he was old enough for a beer.

And just so that it is in the same place- here's another "before" picture of the hair.
Sometimes the only way I can get the supper made is by allowing Tadhg to "help" and keeping him away from his brother. Man they fight like... well, like brothers I suppose. They also play well together too. But not right before supper. Or before I have an English class. Or at any other time when I need to "achieve something". Hey ho, that's what it's all about :)


Last Saturday we got up fairly early, as usual, and threw out ideas of things we could do. And as usual, we couldn't make up our minds! At about 10 ish, after pottering around the house a bit we decided we definitely had to get out (we all get along much better with each other if we don't hang around inside too long on weekends) and so I suggested Bruges and within about 10 minutes we were in the car and on our way. I wish we could get out the door that quickly during the week when we do actually have to get somewhere at a certain time.

Bruges is beautiful. It isn't a particularly busy time for tourists but it was fairly busy anyway, although we didn't have to wait to find a horse and cart or a boat tour.

I couldn't resist snapping a photo of Steve walking hand in hand with his boys- so cute. They both had a wonderful day. We parked at the train station and took the free bus into the centre. We jumped on a horse and cart first, then did a bit of walking, then had lunch, did lots more walking, a boat tour, more walking, went in a few shops, passed by a few museums (thinking we'll come back without the kids one day) and finally headed back to the station and home. A great day all round.

Oh, and note that long haired photo of Tadhg which is an appropriate "before" shot. His long golden curls are no more! I'll need to get the "after" shot from the camera and put it on here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stories and chat

Brendan and I were reading a story in which a new baby was born.

Brendan: Mama, why is the baby in the mummy's tummy?
Me: It's growing and waiting until it's ready to come out.
B: Why does it come out?
Me: Because it's big enough so it's ready to get out of there and see the world.
B: Oh
Me: You were in my tummy too you know, and then you decided it was time to come out.
B: But when I was coming out of your tummy, I was coming out and then I went back in and then I couldn't come out.
Me: Why couldn't you come out?
B: Because there was no room and I was pushing and something was in the way, there were bricks in the way.
(all of this with extra gestures- bumping his head on "bricks")
Me: Then what happened?
B: I was stuck
Me: But then what happened?
B: Then the bricks were smashed out of the way and then I came out really really fast.

Wow, do you think he remembers his birth? :) Not that there were any bricks involved but it may have felt that way to him I suppose.

I think I should start writing down some of his stories. The other day, as we sat round a fire in the garden, he told a very long rescue story that became quite elaborate. I have a habit of prompting him by asking questions but I'm trying to just keep quiet and listen sometimes. More often than not now he needs little prompting anyway and goes off on various flights of imagination. It's often obvious which story or cartoon or real event is his inspiration but sometimes he totally surprises us with something completely random and interesting.

Tadhg is into imitating his big brother. It's very comical- he's so exact and quick to copy. It's just as well Brendan doesn't find it annoying. Our favourite time of day is when they wake up and come through to give us a cuddle and kiss and sometimes climb in to bed for a bit. Then, once they are both awake, Brendan says "Come on, Tadhg" and they toddle off to his room to play with trains or do puzzles or read books. We just lie in bed listening to them playing and Brendan speaking so lovingly and gently to Tadhg.
This morning we watched as Brendan went to the loo saying "I need a wee. Come on Tadhg, come and watch me doing a wee... This is how we lift the seat and then I pull my trousers down and then I do a wee like this, are you watching Tadhg? And then I have to pull my trousers back up like this and then we can flush the toilet. Okay, let's go back to my room now. Come on, Tadhg."
The peace usually lasts about 20 minutes and then they start to argue and push each other around and that's our cue to get up and head for breakfast.

I'm gathering some photos of our village and the centre of town and will get them on here soon. We just had our friend Anthony over from Canada for a visit. Steve and Anthony went to Amsterdam at the weekend and then to Vimy Ridge for a day trip. We also went back to the wonderful Parc Paradisio for the 4th time this year and generally enjoyed Anthony's company, sitting around the fire, talking about life, our dreams for the future, and various topics such as Afghanistan (arrghheucchh). Oh, and sharing "annoying" you tube clips.

Anyone else want to come and visit soon? We LOVE having visitors. And the spare room is nearly finished. Paris is 2 and a half hours away, Brussels is close, Amsterdam not too far, Christmas markets start next month, have a caravan, have a minivan that seats 7, have two motorcycles, lots of good bread and food and beer, Belgians are lovely and French is fun. Oh, and the chocolate is seriously good. Everyone always mentions chocolate and I just shrugged it off thinking yeah, whatever, lots of countries make good chocolate, but I am not so indifferent now. It really is good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Childhood outside

I love being with the boys when they are out exploring and experiencing the world. They just become enraptured by the smallest little thing. Brendan is into conkers and falling leaves and other signs of autumn at the moment. As well as asking "why?" at least 10o times on a walk. And Tadhg imitates my exaggerated expressions of awe and wonder so perfectly- he'll pick up a piece of grass or whatever and look at it intently and go "wow" and "ooohh". If we are having a bad afternoon or if someone's a little tired we just need to head outside and a grumpy day is transformed into a calm and peaceful one. Until we get back inside, that is, and the fussing or fighting just starts right up again :)
I've taken on a bit too much at the moment but I'm thinking of starting a little outdoorsy playgroup that will get together somewhere (maybe even just the garden) once a week regardless of the weather. Maybe in the spring. I just need to find some like-minded folks now.

We're seriously thinking of getting a few chickens in the spring. This picture shows a couple of the very fancy chickens at a park near us- ours are unlikely to be as good looking! One of my french teachers offered me some young hens that are about ready to start laying but when I asked if the boys would be able to pick them up we agreed that it might be better to wait till spring and get some teeny tiny ones. Anyway, we need to build a hen shed, clear some of the weedy field and put up some more fencing first.
Watch this space.

I'm off the bed now, thinking about my friend Kath who is hopefully birthing her second baby any minute now! It was fun talking to her a few hours ago while she was in labour and breathing through contractions while I jabbered on. Looking forward to hearing of his or her safe arrival tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Here's Brendan and his wee brother just before going to his new "school" for the first time. He's in the first class of the 'ecole maternelle' in the local school.

It's about a 4 minute cycle, 7 minute walk or about 15 or 20 if Brendan walks himself, depending on how many things we stop to look at! Here's part of the route to school with the little shop that we sometimes pop into on the way home.
(Edited to add that he doesn't walk to school BY HIMSELF.I just meant walking himself as opposed to riding in the bike trailer or buggy.)
And this sort of shows the maternelle section of the school. All children are entitled to free school from the day they turn two and a half. So Tadhg could start on June 10th next year- way too early :(

I'm sure I'll write more later about my thoughts on school. Totally mixed feelings about the whole thing.

And finally, I have to include this video. (And a description for once this is printed out... it's a clip showing Brendan strumming on his ukelele and singing along to John the Rabbit by Elizabeth Mitchell. He's really into music- how early could he start lessons do you think?)
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Sharing with caterpillars

I didn't tell them to pose for this, I promise. I was just walking around the garden with the camera. Aren't they gorgeous?! And I hope Brendan never grows out of that jumper. Actually, I take that back. I hope he does grow. Just not too quickly.

Here we are picking caterpillars off the veggies and checking out the egg we found just lying on the lawn. A neighbour on one side has a bunch of hens of different breeds so it may have come from them- but how it got onto our grass I'll never know. Anyway, a few days before this I was out picking caterpillars off the basil plants on the patio and telling Brendan that they were eating our food when Brendan said "but mama, shouldn't we share with the caterpillars?" So I stopped squashing them and we took them to their "new home" at the end of the garden.

Reading books in the garden. We pulled out a bunch of nature-y themed books but of course Brendan snuck in a couple of fire truck ones.

Tadhg and Spiderman bring in the supper ingredients.

Here's the view over the back fence of a lovely field of weeds. We are without a single tree in the garden so we actually have plans for this small patch of weedy field right outside the fence because it has a wee tree in it. Steve and Brendan are planning a tree house :)

Anyone know what this is? Steve bought a bunch of different, unlabelled seedlings at the flower market and we've forgotten what this is. Maybe cauliflower? Maybe brussels sprouts? We'll see soon. If the caterpillars leave it alone.

And Steve came back from the food market the other day with a pumpkin on the back of his bike.

It may look as though we've settled in to the garden but it's actually the only "problem" with this new house and is still a work in progress. This week sometime the landlord and a gardener are coming to turn over the topsoil, clean it of all the bits of bricks, rusty metal and broken glass, add some better quality top soil and then sow new grass seed. Then we have to stay off it for a couple of weeks. ouch. We're in the garden all the time so that will be interesting. It'll give us a reason to do lots more exploring in the neighbourhood.