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Weeks Eighty through Eighty-Five

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 But I never made it to Budapest. It was time to go. The countdown clock was slamming every second in my ear and each morning felt like a mad dash to plan out: Things to do, People to see, and Places to go. I barely ate, I barely slept, adrenaline coursed through me to the point I’d randomly start to shake. There wasn’t enough time.

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In all the other places I had lived, saying goodbye was pretty easy. Hugs, a dinner, good lucks and wish we could have hung out mores. But saying goodbye here was gut wrenching and created a vacuumed-out hollow hole in the middle of my chest.
I aced my Psychology of Adjustment course in college so, (un?)fortunately I was conscientiously aware of every step taking place inside of me. Fear, Anger, Bartering, Denial, Acceptance, Remorse, Numbness…any thought that flew through my mind fit into a category and I systematically dealt with them. I should have paid myself.

But I took action. I tried to live every minute as fully as I could and just continue on being me. But visions of the present were already slipping into the past. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, wondering what to order from the non-existant waiter, among the symphony of the urban street, every moment felt like an art-house film noir.
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Summer was in full swing, complete with the amazonian sized mosquitos that were plaguing our house. (poor girl) But school was out and we had to fill up the day. Honestly it was so I could avoid the 100 question repeat that I had to answer daily. (Where are we going, where’s my stuff, why did you give away the iron)

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The kids and I headed to Gouda in The Netherlands to meet up with some friends for their cheese festival.

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We had a good time but it was unseasonably warm and the smell of cheese and heat isn’t a very good one.

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Zane wanted this picture and set it up.

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Would you look at those hydrangeas. At 6 dollars a stem in the USA, this is a gold mine.

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You know you are in The Netherlands when all of a sudden the GPS lady in your car says, Turn right onto the Ferry.

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We went to go visit the old windmills. Quite historical, somewhat interesting, really hot.

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I didn’t even think about how this rickety wooden pier probably wasn’t safe for all these kids jumping up and down on it. Oh well, the water was shallow anyway.

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Days were met with heart-wrenching things like this. Lily tried to bribe us into staying by delivering this note under my door. (Emma & Emily were her Pre-K teachers)

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And nights were filled with hanging out with our friends as much as possible. We spent a fortune in babysitters but there really was no other option.

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Around every turn, I took a second to look at what I was leaving behind. Not in an angry sense but in a mental photograph sort of way. Soon my daily views would turn into master planned communities and “old buildings” that were constructed in the 1990s.

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Trying to remain positive. We had to. I never made it to Croatia.

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During our vacation to Germany, I decided to go to Nice overnight. Friends had rented a house there for the month and I’m pretty sure everyone knows if you invite me to something, I’m going to show up.

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It was 36 hours of pure fun.

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We beached, we ate, we danced.

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The bar was constantly being lit on fire. (if you don’t know about my affinity for all things pyro, you should by now)

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We had a great time. I never saw Portugal.

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When I returned back to Brussels the reality was really hitting. I remembered how I felt after I had been in Brussels for 5 months and still had not really found any friends and how all that had instantly changed the moment my kids started school in September.  I wanted to scream WHERE HAVE YOU PEOPLE BEEN!  The International School of Brussels introduced me to life long friends and for that I will always remain grateful.

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And the same goes for my kids. You couldn’t ask for a better set of children that you would want your kids to grow up around.

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As the days counted down we said goodbye to neighbors and friends. Exchanging small gifts and tokens with promises to visit in the future. I think they all know better that that is not just fluff talk for me. You should see what I have mentally planned for 2014. I didn’t see Athens.

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The hardest part (when I was able to see outside my own sadness) was the kids. They are at an age now where they understand what it means to leave, to move. This was my day to day life. Jason was traveling on business and I was left to get the house in order, coordinate the packer/movers, and all the while help these two cope with what was going on. I was beyond mentally exhausted but had to establish the balance of letting them feel the real emotions of life, but also help them work through them.

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Lily got to close the door on our house for the final time. I didn’t even realize it until I took this picture the day the kids and I left it. Lily never saw the Eiffel Tower.

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We traded our house for room service and breakfast in bed. Not too awful.
But what was awful was checking into the hotel. We had to check in with Bailey. My cat hates travel and the poor thing has lived in 10 places in her 12 year life. You would think she’d be used to her carrier, airplane and car travel by now. She is not.
As we closed up our house, I loaded Bailey into the car. She started screaming like normal. But then as we are about to pull up to the hotel a horrific smell hits me and I realize that she has gone to the bathroom in her carrier. Not something solid and removable but nervous, sprayed, liquified devil potion. It was all over my front seat and the valet was walking up to open my door. The kids were yelling typical 5 year old comments and I was frozen with “what the hell do I do.”
I grabbed a plastic sack from the back and wrapped the bad end of the carrier, I threw a shirt down from my luggage onto the front seat and handed the keys to valet with an “I’m so sorry” look. My car was being sold the very next day but I couldn’t even think about that right now.
I entered the hotel lobby, with its beautiful marble and travertine floors while my kids continued to giggle and laugh loudly. My daughter informed me it was dripping on to the ground and I continued to walk as fast as possible. I checked into the front desk and apologized to the lady, explaining my cat had had an accident. You could instantly tell she was not only horrified, but not a cat-person.
We dove into the elevator, got into our hotel room and I dropped the cat in the carrier straight into the bathtub and slammed the door. The bellman brought in our bags and Zane proceeded to tell him in detail that they cat had pooped all over the place. I tipped heavily and got him out as soon as possible.
I spent the next hour cleaning up my cat, the soft sided fabric airline approved carrier and my embarrassment. Jason wasn’t even in the country but somehow dammit this was all his fault and I think crushed a few soap boxes with rage.

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But we had a nice private balcony. Always a favorite.

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Even though we were in a hotel, goodbye’s continued and without my car or the house everyday echoed Mr. Norman’s words, the clock moves so slowly but time goes fast. I never made it to Madrid.
I had promised to take a shot of an infamous Australian Rum. It pretty much stripped my esophagus but didn’t taste half bad.

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Then we set it on fire.

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Zane took this picture with added screen effects.

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Yasmine, my first friend and the best language tutor on the planet.  I stepped into her office on a freezing January day, probably still jet-lagged, and in less than 18 months regained a harness on the French language.

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The next few days I met friends for lunch and with the added ability to walk to all my favorite places, I re-realized how in love I was with Brussels. Auschwitz was a two hour travel away, I didn’t get to visit.

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I’m so fortunate to have had made such a great group of friends there. While I was busy trying to hold my family up during the move, I needed people to hold me up. They were there every step of the way.

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This was our final dinner in Brussels. And of all places, The Hard Rock Cafe of Brussels located on The Grand Place. We had never been! But we got to share it with one of the loveliest families you will ever meet.

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I still miss the cold Belgian beer…

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And the random things you can see daily if you just open your eyes and walk around. I wanted to buy that house in the south of Belgium.

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We hit the airport for an uneventful flight. Jason and the kids were up in Business class and I was in Coach. Cats aren’t allowed to fly Business. If it weren’t for FAA regulations I probably could have bribed someone to take the cat under their seat allowing me up front. It was probably better that I was by myself. I spent a lot of the flight time in a not so very good place.

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Without a wink of sleep, we arrived in Texas and I drowned my sorrows. We were fortunate though to be taken in with family hospitality so that in the following weeks, while I searched for a house and cars we didn’t have to live in a temporary apartment.

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The kids enjoyed being back with family and it seemed that they were slowly forgetting what had just happened the day before.

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I spent a large majority of my time sitting at these chairs on the back porch. I wasn’t used to air conditioning yet and sitting inside or going into Target caused my skin to prickle up and my arms to fold inward. I remember the swans walking across the frozen pond across from my house.

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Day and night I sat searching for houses, cars, furniture, my new life. I tried to stay off of Facebook but could not. I selfishly didn’t want to see (my) life continuing on overseas. Yet anytime I felt my pity-party putting on the party-hat I tossed it aside and did something else, something more productive.

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Like drinking Shiner and eating Freebirds.

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Going to see the Astros and friends we hadn’t visited in a long time.

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Celebrating my friends and what is going on in their lives.

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Re-entering life after Belgium. I wish I would have taken that day trip to Venice.

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After only being back in Texas a short while, Zane, Lily and I packed up and took the yearly vacation to Destin, Florida with Nana & PawPaw.

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The house was beautiful and perfect for our large party as always.

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Luckily my kids are roadtrip pros and the long drive didn’t even phase them. Have mini-ipad, will travel.

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They enjoyed spending time with their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents

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And I needed the time. Lily sneakily snapped this picture of me as I was sitting alone, on the beach, at dusk, staring at the ocean. Even typing that out sounds so melodramatic, but hey, it’s a process. I never made it to Scotland.

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We had fun, made memories and it was a week worth doing.

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And when you don’t have that many responsibilities, you can end up in a situation where you’ve poured yourself two drinks and didn’t even realize. Switchoff.

I’m closing it up there. I wish I would have made it to 104 weeks (and beyond) but you get what you get and don’t get upset. The process of separation is still ongoing, some doors need to close, some will always remain unlocked but luckily with fantastic inventions like, airplanes and the internet, no one is really ever that far away. This move hurt. It hurt a lot. It will hurt so many of my friends someday too but I’m thankful I got to go through it before a lot of them so I will know how to help them heal when their day comes.
I’m so happy about all who have kept up with this blog, your comments, emails and enthusiasm for it kept me going every week. This makes my 4th blog and the 5th will be starting up shortly. I hope that you will continue to stay tuned and find out what’s next in my life. I’d really like to know too but you can’t have everything when, how, and exactly how you want it, shucks.
Until then, thank you Brussels.

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Remember when we moved there?

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Week Seventy-Nine

We decided to take a vacation right after school got out based on the recommendation of a friend. If an Austrian recommends some place for you to go near Austria…you go.
I’m so glad we did.
We went to Sonnenalp Resort in Bavaria Germany. It is one of those places where you have zero stress. Your meals are served right down stairs, there’s pools, spas, activities, golf, horses and a kids club. After our experience in Dubai at the kids club (things did not go well) I was a bit hesitant as how this would go. However, I was pleasantly surprised that they ran in there and the next morning I woke up to them asking WHEN are we going to class!?!

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Our morning started out ok with our morning meeting regarding expectations in the car.

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Then, traffic hit. Car turned off, in park, sitting and waiting.

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Once we hit the Autobahn we started flying again.

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Until we hit more traffic.

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However, once we arrived we realized that the 10 hr drive was definitely worth the wait.

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I was also a tad bit too excited about a closet. Haven’t had one in a while.

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Pick up kids from kids club and chow down on dinner.
Such a relaxing and easy place to be.

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If only JTH would STOP working.

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Dad…stahp.

More Golf…IMG_2764

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More Food…

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Horses…

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And plenty of other activities to keep them busy.

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While there we also drove down to Neuschwanstein Castle.  As you may already know this is the castle that Walt Disney based the famous “Disney Castle” after.  Mr. Disney had quite an obsession with Germany and in turn took a lot of “influencing ideas” from here.
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Here’s a tip if you ever plan on going. Order your tickets ahead of time online. If you do you get to wait in this line (none)
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And if not, you have to wait in this one (which snaked around outside too). If you don’t have the ability to get the tickets online, then show up around 4pm. There’s no one there.

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There are 3 ways to get up to the castle. Horse, Bus or walking. We chose to take the horse. Which made for an uncomfortable and immature ride. The horses that were carrying our buggy had terrible stomach aches and were releasing all sorts of noxious fumes in our direct path. I was turning green while Zane and Lily couldn’t stop laughing hysterically.

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We finally made it to the top!

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The entry foyer was pretty packed full of people. However there isn’t really a line to go in. Your tickets have a tour time on them that runs every 5 minutes. You simply wait for your time to go up on the electronic board, your group lines up and you begin your tour of the castle.

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The views from the top were breathtaking.

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And the castle, spectacular.

After a week of relaxation and fun we had to head back to the in-between real-world of Brussels to prepare for our move.  But first, we stopped by Strasbourg, France to help take a break from all the driving.  It’s a great town and I wish we had more time to spend there.

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You know you are close to a city center when you see the fluorescent purses…

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See look, I was there.

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Later Lily told me they both wished for a swimming pool. Birthday candles…offering candles…meh.

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This astronomical clock was unbelievable. I wish we have been allowed to get closer.

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It was a great trip and I’m so thankful for the recommendation. Although I had fun, the undertones of the bittersweet were ever present.

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Week Seventy-Eight

The school year was over and it was time for the end of year picnic. It was a great way to wrap up the year and get outside and enjoy the weather.
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Zane and Lily enjoyed saying goodbye to many of their favorite friends.  Sadly, for many friends, they didn’t realize this really was goodbye.

This week I had also discovered that we would be moving back to Houston as of August 1.  Besides the move the hardest thing for me was that I was not allowed to share this news with anyone.  I’m pretty sure people thought I was insane running around making desperate plans to find out who was going out of town and when during the summer. “NO, WHAT day will you be getting back, uh huh and what time does that flight land?…ok..can I see you that day?”  crazy woman.

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A few close friends I told (such the rule breaker am I) and they were holding me up all week with their friendship and support.  (there’s tears under those glasses)
Don’t know what I’m going to do without them.

After school had let out for the year, the next day we and some school friends headed to “The Dinosaur Expo”.  It sounded cool in theory but what it really was, was a “let’s scare the shit out of some little kids” loud-a-thon.

They had large animatronic dinosaurs, roaring and snapping at all who walked by.  Zane did SO much better than he would have done a year ago.  The just grabbed the nearest adult by the hand and politely asked “Can we walk faster!?!”.
At the end there was a dinosaur dig.  But really, it was a sandbox.  No one was monitoring anything to show them how to actually excavate something under earth.  That’s when nerdy Val stepped in and demonstrated proper brushing technique.  My poor kids, I’m always going to be that mom.

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Lily and John seemed to keep themselves occupied at the dinosaur crayon rubbing station.  As Lily put it, it is cleaner than that giant cat-box over there.

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Our cute little dinosaurs.

IMG_2660Quote of the day came from Lily.  “Look mommy, that dinosaur is dead and bleeding just like Jesus.”  That girl has visited too many Gothic and Roman churches since moving over here to Europe…

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Week Seventy-Seven

Happy 5th Birthday! You blink and bam, those little wrapped bundles of scream turn 5 years old!
Just like each year let birthday ramadan begin. A full week of celebration begins now.

You probably don’t remember but last year we took Z&L out of school for their birthday and went to the Netherlands to Efteling. They had such a great time I decided to do it again. I asked them if they wanted to go but they said they only wanted to go with their favorite friends “kay-ton & john”. My friend Kate and I pulled all our kids out of school the day before their actual birthday and drove up north for a day of amusement park fun. Fortunately, it was not as packed as it would be on a weekend or during the summer. Unfortunately there were BUSLOADS of children that were pouring into the park when we got there. As the day wore on the crowds thinned out and we never had to wait longer than 10 minutes for anything so no complaining is really necessary.
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Lily decided to ride next to Clayton half the day and John the other half. The girl keeps her options open…

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Smile if you’re a twin.

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Zane was not impressed that they started the show late.

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You could feel the fire on your face. No release necessary.

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All our knights.

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The day concluded with a water show…with FIRE

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Capes were definitely necessary for such a show.

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This wooden roller coaster has two coasters racing at the same time side by side. Our coaster lost, which is a bummer but the ride was fantastic. It’s been a long time since I could get on a roller coaster but luckily I had two boys with me that were at the height minimum! Hopefully in a year or two, Zane and Lily will welcome their new addiction with me.

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Lily’s last photo as a four year old.

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The next day, Zane and Lily’s teacher helped them celebrate in class.

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Then we headed over to my friend Elpida’s house for another birthday celebration complete with delicious strawberry tarts.

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IMG_2582And present opening.  Lily got a new pair of roller blades and Zane got a new razor two wheeled scooter.  They also got new backpacks with walkie-talkies and legos.

Birthday Party Pictures
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I can’t remember the last time I had a birthday party, let alone a week long celebration…this year, I think I need one.

IMG_2571Random shot but I detest driving next to these guys.  I won’t even stop my car next to one at a red light.  Those metal poles are held on with cloth cords that have slack in the them. That’s a lot of nope.

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Week Seventy-Six

The week before the kids’ birthday was one of continual stress and temper control. Zane and Lily would be turning 5 and now fully understood all the aspects of what a birthday is and what it entails. Every morning I was met with at least an hour long discussion about “WHEN is it going to be my birthday!” “WHEN am I going to have my party!” “WHAT presents am I going to get!” “WHO of my friends are coming”. Every morning, same answers.

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The weather had surely picked up and getting back to the outdoors seemed to be first on everyone’s priority list. With school winding down all “the moms” were finding our kids still had way too much energy when we got them home. So, we just kept the party going by leaving school and finding more activities to wear them out. This day we headed to Rouge Cloitre in the forest for a picnic and good time.

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Random picture while I was driving around the Congolese neighborhood looking for parking. Dolls heads…not creepy in the least.

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Isn’t he a ham. I know all moms say this about their sons but the kid could be a model if he didn’t have the attitude problem.

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On Sunday we had dinner at Brasserie Maridal, which is one of my favorites. The food is decent and overpriced but they do have a huge playground. You can sit outside and dine in peace as the kids do monkey things in a monkey environment.
Poor Zane couldn’t take it anymore. He tried to lay down on the sidewalk. He played so hard that he couldn’t even get back to the car. Poor guy, he needs to save his energy for his birthday next week.

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Week Seventy-Five

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Well as you can see the sun is finally shining! It only took half the year for it to make an appearance but we are getting temperatures in the 70s that are making life a little brighter. The construction though…still remains a thorn in all our sides.

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photo 4To celebrate our first warm weather weekend we packed up and headed to the beach with a few friends. We had been to the Belgian coast before but on the advice of a few of Jason’s co-workers we went just across the borders into The Netherlands to the Cadzand-Bad Beach. The dutch windmills signified we were close.

**Pictures of sand in them are courtesy of my friend Kate who was smart enough to remember to take pictures.

IMG_2607Upon arrival there was one small problem. It was so windy it was making it hard to have a good time and also it was pretty chilly. Probably around 50 degrees. But, with some windscreen rentals, the sun getting higher in the sky and food/drink being brought out, the fun-times commenced.

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The best part about going on trips with other families is that the kids keep themselves pretty much entertained (We had 16 kids total). Sure you have to break up a few fights here and there and remind them to share their shovel instead of wielding it like an ax but it is much more relaxing than the whine that is obtained during solo family outings. (Where did Clayton’s body go! (don’t worry he’s hiding in the huge whole they dug)

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IMG_2597Zane is fast, but is also a cheater.

IMG_2601We had more food than we knew what to do with but the wine was broken out after deciding 11am was late enough in the day to be civilized.

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photo 5It was a great trip and the ride home was silent.

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