Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Gobble, Gobble Here and a Gobble, Gobble There!

We may be in Belgium (where Thanksgiving is clearly not a national holiday and fresh turkeys and pumpkin is nearly impossible to find), but that being said we certainly enjoyed a lot of turkeys and pumpkin pie over the past few days!!!
We gathered for a late feast with our American Expat Friends on Thursday. It was fun to pack Connor up in her PJs and pop her in her stroller and walk in the night to the lovely neighborhood of Sablon for the meal, served up with love by our hosts, Matt and Julia Spencer. Connor was the perfect baby as she nestled in and slept peacefully in their bedroom while we partied on.

Then on Saturday we hosted the crowd for Thanksgiving #2 at our home. But since we were unable to find a large turkey, we ended up making TWO small turkeys to feed the group. I have done enough turkey basting for one year! We certainly missed being with our families in North Carolina, but we are very thankful for our new friends and their generosity and fellowship. It helped make the holiday yummy and festive!

We also have a HUGE Christmas market/carnival surrounding our apartment, called "Plaisirs d'Hiver" Our expat crowd enjoyed checking out the booths and rides, while Connor really loved the antique carousels! There was even a big tree and light show in the Grand Place. Brussels has caught the Christmas spirit with street lights, piped music, and mulled wine. Kirk even saw a Sinterklaas (St. Nick in Belgium) in the GB grocery store singing to Frank Sinatra carols and all alone waiting for children?!?! How odd!

And today we went to a new church to ring in the first week of Advent. It was familiar and comforting to sing Christmas carols and to renew and remind ourselves of the reason for the season. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming - so I think we have a new church home. After church we drove 40 minutes to the lovely town of Antwerp for lunch and to poke around. We ate at a charming Irish pub and Connor had fun running around the booth and watching the "Buses" and "Choo-Choos" out the window at the Grote Market square. She left tons of fingerprints on the glass, but oh well - that is part of toddler fun!
This week has also been a breakthru week for Connor and I to find activities to fill out our new life in Brussels. We stumbled upon a great playground we can walk to from our house in the Parc du Bruxelles - equipped with swings and slides, Connor's favorites! The first day we found it there was another mom with an 18 month old girl from Poland. Her husband is a diplomat at the EU Parliament and we managed to communicate through broken English and French that we would have to meet up here at the park again and again. The girls enjoyed each other, despite the cold. Connor and I also joined a French music class called "La Chaise Musicale" on Friday mornings. It is a program of nursery rhymes and songs all in French with a group of English-speaking moms and toddlers. I definitely felt like this was the epitome of "stay-at-home-momhood" (WAY different from my previous corporate working life), but I think it will be a fun way for us to learn more French and connect with other kids and moms. The other moms invited us to join them for "un cafe" after the class, which was so inviting and welcoming.

My favorite memories of the week include:

- Just walking around the Grand Place area as preparations for the Christmas market were underway. Connor and I found the cutest street trio of musicians that we stopped and danced to. They were three elderly Italian guys who were kinda scruffy but they were so peppy and cheerful with their "Ooo-Paahs" and "Bravos" and their accordion and trumpets and songs that we couldn't help but to be drawn into the fun. Connor clapped and danced and for the first time in my entire life, I felt compelled to give money to street artists. I would never have taken the time and interest in my previous life to do this.

- Connor has several new words: "couch" - "bah-bah" for Belly Button - and she knows the turkey goes "Gobble, Gobble" which she will tell you several octaves higher than her normal voice. She speaks so many new words everyday, but these are my favorites. Connor will bring a book to you pronouncing "Read this, Read this, Read this" on and on until you read it to her. Also, this is the view from our living room windows - see all the birds resting on the ledge? Connor LOVES all the birds. They flock and fly all around and Connor runs from window to window shouting out "birds, birds, birds"!!!!

- Enjoying time just the three of us. We have had a grand time with brand new friends this week, but we also got to spend some good time together. When you are in a foreign land you learn to rely on and draw strength from each other so much more than in an environment of comfort. Kirk and I have always had a strong bond and connection, but this challenge has strengthened and renewed it and brought Connor into the fold.

We rejoice in welcoming the Christmas season! --- Reid


Courtney said...

i can't view the photos...anyone else having trouble???

Reid said...

I fixed it --- you were right Courtney. Thanks for letting me know. Hopefully you can see them now. Love ya! Reid