Two trips with two fun families for some of the most delicious cheese and beer we've ever had. Check in soon over at Belgium with Kids for a wordier description of our visits!
We just spent two nights in Bruges and if someone were to make a word cloud of it, except not a cloud more like just a list, it would go something like: cold rainy COLD dangerous stairs traditional Flemish step-gable houses really old stuff Christmas bells KIDS' NIGHTMARES so much walking medieval medical instruments aaaahhh primitive Flemish masters how many things could my kids get maimed by in this city canals and vistas down them Venice Venice Venice medieval TRADE capitalism so expensive but why does the indoor port have to be gone? stroller wheels on cobblestones WAFFLES chocolate beer horse! drawn! carriages!
Being a person who falls no less prey to the monster of internet jealousy than the next, I've always struggled with how much to blog about travelling. I'd be lying to you if I didn't say my first reaction upon seeing Europe photos when I live anywhere else is--I won't put a rosy lens on it--green-faced, angry envy. But I'm sure you're all much better people than I am, and the long and the short of it is that I've decided that it would be stingier to keep it to myself. (After all, you clicked the link...unless I baited you into that? I will TOTALLY take you to Bruges if you come visit. After we get thoroughly lost while driving there because I get lost when talking and driving, as anyone who has had the misfortune to visit me anywhere knows.) Anyway, this is my pledge to you that I will share 20 photos (or fewer, if you're lucky) of anywhere we take a major trip to.
If you're not an Instagrammer, you've missed out on some serious self-indulgence ly prolific photography of Old Town by me and my phone. Well, good news folks, with about 5 weeks left here (OK, 3 if you take away our upcoming vacation don't panic Martha don't panic don't panic) I am in full panic mode and actually brought my real brand spankin' new camera (thank you Pater Familias) on our walk tonight, along with my Sherpas (Nate, Phil & Ted) and minions. So I've got a tiny taste of the neighborhood for you. Over a year in, I still can't believe we got to live here. It's like grown-up Colonial Williamsburg, which explains all the William & Mary grads who live here (go Tribe! ... er, Ebirt! ... er, Griffins! kyyeerrrrrr) And now that I've used the words gypsy, Sherpa, and Tribe (apparently) in inappropriate ways and used five parenthetical expressions in one paragraph, I think we'll move swiftly onward to the illustrative part of this post.
an aside on what dads are for
It crosses my mind that some people don't look at that and think "beautiful". But I do.
(Because in Old Town, you go on walks and find boxes of free books on the brick sidewalk.)
I feel like this post should be profound, since I'm once again using beautiful photos taken by Kristie...but it ain't. Babies fry your brain (temporarily) (no seriously, it's temporary. It's science. Once they're not needy little finger-biters anymore [Oz seems to be teething...] mom brain goes away!) Please note: Oz is now 4 months older than he is in these photos!
They say motherhood is made up of a series of precious moments that you can never get back or something. As Oz has recently stopped nursing himself to sleep (of his own accord), I thought I'd record his new bedtime moments for posterity.
Moment 2: Oooh, what's this safely-firm-yet-squishy thing She's putting me down on? This is nice.
Moment 3: I see bars...
Moment 4: SUDDEN INTAKE OF BREATH
Moments 5-7: PANIC!!!!!
Moment 8: Despair.
Moment 9: ...z.
All of these gorgeous photos were taken by Kristie Coia a few weeks before we left Oki.
I was alone in my parents' kitchen, emptying the dishwasher and microwaving a sweet potato for Oz, creating with my own tinklings, drawer closings, and aromas that gentle pre-dinner commotion. The Welcome Wagon was playing tinnily from my cell phone.
Up on a mountain, our Lord is alone, without a family, friends, or a home / he cries ooh, ooh, ooh, will you stay with me? / he cries oh, oh, oh, will you wait with me?
Max trotted in and I figured my sister must have let him in from outside, where she was playing with our kids. I looked out the window and saw Eva's fuscia-clad back, determinedly hunched, the hands at the ends of crossed arms just poking out from under clenched elbows. I could feel the attitude before she turned around to say something to those behind her, her brow furrowed and nostrils flaring. I know her so well, I can tell in a 2-second glance that something is up. I almost went out to "fix" her attitude until I remembered that my older sister is, in fact, an adult and mom of two and can probably handle it.
Jesus, help me find my proper place / help me in my weakness - my cell phone sang on.
A wave of the bigness of raising a child washed over me. I think I know her so well. I do know her so well. Her favorites and least favorites, what overwhelms her and what she thinks is cozy, what she's going to think is totally amazing (she doesn't know it, but she's going to have her dream come true and get to go fishing for her birthday!). But every day she grows and surprises me with what she's learned, how she's matured, what new aspect of life she can observe and what subtle change she will notice. My temptation is to think that I'm the world's resident Eva-expert who can always tell whether she or her playmate is in the wrong. Well, OK, I mostly am. But she is more than my idea of her and more than the sum of her parts. She is not just me and Nathan all blended up and rebaked; she is not just a beating heart and a head of dark golden hair and an attitude; she is fearfully and wonderfully made.
She is her very own person. Always has been. Now that she's almost four she's just showing it more. She is not a vanity project for me to shape up into my idea of perfect, and it would be awfully presumptuous of me to act like she is. All I can do is teach her the best things that I know, pray that her heart grows to love the truth, and equip her as completely as I can to choose her battles and fight them well.
Last night, as at least 61 of you know, I posted a certain picture on Facebook of the Good News Girl ethereally perched in a tree, with a gentle breeze tousling her silky golden locks and her thoughtful gaze turned toward the camera. Or so her mother would describe it.
This picture also makes me a little sad because I see a hint of the toll this move was already beginning to take on her, and I am definitely not projecting there. Shhh, self! (Being an Army brat who turned out Perfectly Well Adjusted And Normal, Duh! I was not worried about inflicting this lifestyle on my offspring...until I had them.) It was in March just before we left Okinawa. We were stressed out, sort of reeling from a certain program's rejection (but happy to be headed back to Virginia to be near family!), living in extremely cramped quarters in the hotel and on this day were having a last play date with some friends at a playground. Wow, I seem to have gone on a bit of a tangent there, because this is my point: these are the next few pictures I took: