Kirk's busy season started which means long workdays with uncertainty about exactly how long his team is working. But unlike in the States he doesn't have to work many weekends, yeah! This uncertainty is compounded because he has no idea of his expectations since everyone speaks informally in French or Dutch - and it would seem pretty bold to everyday be asking, "What time do you think we are leaving tonight?" He tells me he just works until he sees others starting to shut down their computers. Last night that was until nearly 11 PM. This uncertainty must be just as difficult for Kirk as it is for me!
I am thankful for Connor's companionship. We have a lot of fun together and I am always aware of this incredible blessing of time to enjoy all the toddler milestones - every new word, watching her imagination take hold, and rediscovering with glee things I take for granted. It is however an every moment of everyday kind of relationship. I am amazed just how mentally and physically exhausting motherhood can be while still not feeling like much is getting done.
I know I am just on the cusp of so much with putting down roots and making friends in Brussels. I remain very hopeful, optimistic, and confident in the future. I have been reading some fellow "Georgia to Brussels" expat blogs lately and I am in awe of how together these women are and how they were able to get with a routine and goals here. I take it as great inspiration to do the same. I mean how much can one complain when the world is at my feet and every weekend brings a new travel adventure?!? I think I am still just adjusting to a slower pace of life (yet faster pace with Connor) and a culture that can often be intimidating if not rude - all in the midst of a grey, wet, cold winter.
It is not that we are total homebodies though. No. Connor and I have been on a broad array of outings - I make it a point to leave the house everyday. Sometimes if it is raining it means we go to the McDonalds down the street to play on their indoor playground. Connor has really taken to "Ronald."
In this photo (below) I want you to gape at something that is a common site in Brussels. You may only notice Ronald but look more closely and you will see a huddle of folks in the doorway in the freezing cold taking a smoke break. Everyone here seems to smoke - young and old - even when it is negative 7 degrees!
I am trying to be a tourist in my own hometown, and learn as much as I can about Brussels. Yesterday we went for a tour of City Hall in the Grand Place. I tried to go the day before as was per the published schedule, but when I arrived they said the daily English tour would not go as planned on Tuesday because the staff were going "out for a drink" - oh, okay. We returned on Wednesday with Connor strapped in her stroller joyfully singing. As I bought my ticket the woman was very hesitant about Connor going on the tour. She asked very directly "Is your baby going to cry?" Ummm - I don't know. I promised her if Connor did become fussy I would of course leave. Then she wanted to be sure I wasn't planning on bringing the stroller on the tour. Ummm - I was. If I don't Connor will be running all over kingdom come. The lady then makes a big scene and ordeal to get special permission for me to bring the stroller on tour. Geez.
I tried not to act like the spectacle I was becoming so I just joined the awaiting tour group, assuming they would speak their French and find a way to make this happen. I started rolling Connor's stroller back and forth and bumping noses with her each time she came towards me. Every time Connor would let out these hearty peels of laughter that echoed in the foyer. Her laughter helped my nerves that she would indeed cooperate with the tour. She managed to charm the security guard and all the waiting tourists. It was comforting to feel all their smiles at Connor. By this time the ticket lady - who was apparently also the tour guide returned with her boss and blessed the stroller going on tour - but only if we stayed on the carpet. I was touched when one of the other tourists came up - a Brit of course, gotta love the Brits - and said he would help me with the stroller if I needed assistance. Eureka! We were in.
So we did manage to go on the 40 minute tour. I was instructed to stay 1-2 rooms ahead of the group at all times (I guess because Connor was happily cooing off and on). I felt a little like an outcast, and didn't hear much of the presentation. But it was one of those tours where they describe every single painting - so I wasn't too sad. I had fun with Connor and I am happy to report that she was an absolute ANGEL the entire time. By the end, the hesitant guide lady had totally warmed up and she was announcing us to her fellow coworkers in City Hall as we passed. I heard her say "C'est la premiere fois pour une bebe" (This is the first time for a baby). I was a proud mama!
So you see, in between reading Madeline and Goodnight Moon to Connor a hundred times a day, and trying to find our place in the new city - we are busy. Just still a tad lonely. I am so happy Courtney and the Willinghams are both visiting in the next month and my "Hints for Living in Brussels" class begins next week. In the meantime I think I will go paint my toenails bright pink to liven up the dreary weather!
Just for a smile I wanted to end happy. I am intrigued and learning so much everyday. These are a few of the things that make me chuckle over here. 1 - Connor likes to slide down the hall with her ski pants on. 2 - There are delicious fancy chocolates everywhere! 3 - Quite an outdoor presentation of fish at a local cafe! 4 - During my walk to music class there is a bag of bread like this just sitting alone in the cold outside the hotel in the street. Only in Europe would you see this! I just have to wonder how long it sits in the heart of downtown Brussels and if the bread freezes in the freezing temperatures. 5 - On our street there is a patisserie that always has bread loaves in animal shapes. I wonder how long they take to create. They are cute - which is "mignon" in French.