Wednesday, March 27, 2013

cows, chickens, pigs, and friends!

Tuesday was one of those unexpected days where you're just not sure how it's going to go . . . and lucky for me it turned out incredible! Our day started at Genneper Park on the south side of the city where we planned to meet some friends from the Toddler Massage class we took. It was a Mums & Tots event so there were several other women from our Baby Toddler Play group there as well. After driving around endlessly trying to figure out how to get there and where to park, we finally made it to the playground where our friends were. Except that we weren't too thrilled with the playground there because it was definitely big-kid oriented and there wasn't really anything fun for our little guys. That plus the fact that it was below freezing -- we were kinda miserable. 

We decided to walk to the nearby farm, which ended up being about a ten-minute walk away from the park (and now 15 minute walk from our car -- sans stroller). The farm ended up being really awesome and Liam was in heaven seeing all the animals! He got to feed hay to the cows . . .

. . . and then saw some very young baby calves . . . this one was born on March 23, just a couple days earlier!

a slate above each calf said their name, birthday, and gender

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

a two-party kind of day . . .

Last Saturday I had a very busy day trying to make it to two parties -- a baby shower for a friend followed by a birthday party for 4 year old twins! It also happened to be very windy and snowing that day . . . holy cow was it a crazy day!

I headed to my friend Sam's house that afternoon for the baby shower celebrating Meredith and her soon-to-arrive son. It was really fun seeing old friends and meeting new ones . . . unfortunately I did not take a single picture, so I will have to see if I can steal one from Sam sometime soon. We played a few games, got to know each other better, and oddly enough discussed more "how did you meet your husband?" stories than baby stories. It felt like a wedding shower instead of a baby shower, haha! But it was really interesting hearing marriage stories from the several different cultures that spanned our group -- from American to British to Croatian and Dutch, everyone's traditions were unique! It was so funny to compare engagements and ceremonies and ring-giving. It hadn't dawned on me that we all do these things differently!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Couples Night Out

This weekend we had the great opportunity to attend a Couples Night Out with 20 friends from the International Women's Club! Kelly planned the whole night and picked a beautiful restaurant in Riethoven called Vandeijck. The restaurant used to be a farmhouse and is located right across from the church in downtown Riethoven. The restaurant prepared a three-course menu for us to pick our meal from ahead of time, though other courses were included that everyone was served. The servers were extremely kind, helpful, and informative about all the food we ate that night . . . thank goodness, because there were plenty of times where we weren't quite sure what we were eating!

I will go ahead and apologize in advance for the quality of pictures in this post -- they were all taken with my iPhone in dim lighting, so they are by no means clear and crisp, but you will get the picture (ha! no pun intended!).

It all started off with a little (big) appetizer while we stood around chatting with our drinks . . .

. . . Liam lately (19 months)

Another month gone by, and Liam is growing mentally, physically, and developmentally right before our eyes. It truly is amazing watching this person grow . . .

Friday, March 8, 2013

All your questions answered!

I've been getting a lot of questions recently about our move back to the States, so I thought it might be easiest to answer them on here. Granted, the answer to some of these may change in the coming months, because as you know, things don't always go according to plan! As of right now, however, this is what we know . . .

Q:   When are you moving back to the States??

A:   As of right now, things are looking towards the end of April (!). That seems SO soon, considering we were contemplating staying through the summer. Keith's contract is up here on April 30th, so all signs point to that date. Can you believe that is in SEVEN WEEKS?!

Q:   What about Barcelona??

A:   Some of you know that our original plan was to have the movers come sometime in June, then spend 6 or so weeks in a furnished apartment in Barcelona while our belongings made the long trip home. We would then come back to Georgia sometime in July to meet our stuff. Now that Keith's job wants him in Georgia sooner rather than later, Barcelona is up in the air. If we do decide to go, it probably won't be for the full 6-8 weeks we were thinking, but rather a few at best. I'm kinda bummed about that part of it. We are still trying to decide what to do in this situation.

Q:   What about your dog?

A:   Our plan is to get Murphy back the same way he came here. There is actually a pet relocation service that will pick Murphy up at our home, take him to the airport and get him safely on a plane to travel back to Georgia. After arriving in Atlanta, they will then also drive him to wherever he will be staying until we arrive. It is much less stress on us to do it this way!

Q:   Will you move back into your old house?

A:   Yes. We have been lucky enough to have the same tenants in our home the entire time we've been in the Netherlands, and they have been fabulous. Keith and I actually talked about letting them continue to rent while we possibly look for another house. In the end, we decided to go back to our house, which also works out for our renters who need to leave in May anyway. God always has a plan!

However, since it takes our belongings anywhere from 6-8 weeks (or longer?!) to arrive, we will likely be in a furnished apartment until then (location: TBD). I'm hoping we can use that time that the house is empty to make a few improvements, like change the carpets, paint, etc. before we move all our things back in.

Q:   Will you go back to teaching?

A:   Not right now. I love staying at home with Liam and this opportunity has allowed me to do it a bit longer. Keith is supportive of whatever I want to do, so right now I plan to focus on my family, and feel so blessed that I have the option to do so. With as much as Liam is learning on a daily basis, it is so awesome that I can use my skills as a teacher to help him grow into the amazing little boy he is!

Q:   What will you miss about the Netherlands?

A:   A lot! One big thing I will miss is all the friends I've made. Joining the International Women's Club and the North American Women's Club have introduced to me to some incredible ladies. It's amazing what a small world it is once you begin talking to people!

I have been SO lucky to be a part of the Baby Toddler Playgroup through the IWCE, and have made some lifelong friends here. I can't say enough about these women. We are mostly all in the same boat -- some here for a short while, others for longer, others indefinitely, but all away from "home." We understand the frustrations and challenges that go along with that. We are all raising kids the same age and are each other's support and listening ear when needed. After meeting on a weekly basis with these women and their children for over a year now, I will definitely miss them when we move.

Besides the friends, there are other things I will miss as well. I love that we can walk or bike almost everywhere. It is not necessary to get Liam in and out of his carseat anytime I want to go to the store or the park or go shopping. I really love just popping him in the stroller and all of us walking somewhere for lunch on a weekday afternoon, getting some fresh air, and enjoying the scenery.

I will miss the slower paced lifestyle here . . . things just seem to be more relaxed and not so stressful for some reason. I will miss the fresh breads, delicious cheeses, and local produce -- groceries don't last as long because there are less (or no) preservatives, which means we eat less junk and processed foods here.

I will miss how close we are to other European cities and countries -- traveling here has been easy and cheap and such an experience. I will definitely miss going away for the weekend to find a completely different county, culture, language, etc.

I will also especially cherish the time that Keith, Liam, and I spent as a little family here . . . it is so bittersweet to think that we are leaving Liam's first home. For the last (almost) two years we have been spoiled by the amount of time the three of us have spent together. It is amazing how much we have grown through this experience.

I could fill up this post with more things, but I'll stop now!

Q:   What things are you looking forward to when you get back?

A:   I cannot wait to see my family and friends! It'll be a wonderful reunion that I am truly looking forward to. I can't wait to hold my nieces and hug my friends and spend some quality time with those I love. It will be awesome for Liam to be around his family and friends, whom he asks for all the time. This is without a doubt numero uno on my list.

I am also ecstatic about going back to our church! We definitely found a home at StoneCreek and I am beyond excited to get back there. I miss our small group, our wonderful pastor, and the many friends we've made there. I always looked forward to Sunday mornings, and that has been a huge part of our lives that we have missed while living here.

Otherwise, the "American" things I'm looking forward to are things like my favorite restaurants (hello Chick-fil-A and yummy Mexican food!), variety in the grocery store, Target, less expensive clothes (goodbye euro, hello dollar!), stores open in the evenings and on Sundays, etc. etc.

Although most Dutch people speak English, almost all written communication is in Dutch. I am excited to be able to clearly understand and communicate back home -- especially in regards to things like calling the doctor's office and understanding the menu options, or reading our mail, or reading labels in the grocery store. I can't wait to read a recipe and be certain I can find everything I need at the store!

Ok, I guess that's it for now! If you have any more questions, let me know and I will try to answer them for you. See everyone on the other side of the pond very soon!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Living the "wine" life . . .

On Tuesday night I was able to participate in something so fun and right up my alley -- a wine tasting club! The club is hosted through the International Women's Club, so I had several friends there and also got to meet some new faces. Lucky for me, Luciana's house is only 4 kilometers away so I rode my bike there and back (a feat in itself!).

First off, a little about our Wine Connoisseur . . . Luciana is a certificated tester of wines, ambassador of  champagnes, Spanish wines, Friuli, etc., Professor of tasting and wine judging, and the list goes on! She has been tasting and judging wines for 8 years after leaving a career in engineering to have more family time and raise her daughter. You can follow her on twitter @winetalkgroup to see what kinds of tidbits and information she had regarding wine!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Is it Gent or Ghent?

Our family adventure this weekend was to the city of Ghent, Belgium, a mere 90 minutes away . . . we decided to get an early start and woke Liam up at 7:30 am and threw him in the car in his pjs -- this ended up being a great plan because he was in shock for the first half of the ride and didn't say much, so we were able to make it all the way there without so much as a peep. After finally finding a parking garage we dressed Liam in the car and headed out to explore the town. It was a pretty cold day, but at least it wasn't snowing!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The White City

With a move back to the States on the horizon, Keith and I want to take advantage of our weekends here in Europe and do a little exploring while we still can. This past weekend we decided to go to a little town about 40 minutes away called Thorn. Keith had been there before but this was my first time. Thorn is different than most villages here in that the whole town is white-washed, so it's really neat to walk around the narrow streets surrounded by all white brick buildings, cafes, and antique shops. It is known as The White City, even though it is not exactly a city, but a village. The church is big and beautiful, located right in the center of town, as it is in most villages.

view of the church from the pancake house
However, I think we made a not-so-great decision to go on this particular day because it started snowing on our way out there, and didn't stop until we were back in Eindhoven that afternoon. It was COLD and WINDY and SNOWY and we got there at a time when nothing was open yet. We tried to check out the church but there was a service going on, so we didn't think it would be prudent to bring an energetic 18 month old into the sanctuary. Everyone raved about the pannenkoeken huis (pancake house) so we headed there just as they were opening. I swear y'all . . . best decision we made that day and worth the drive there and back just to eat there!

First of all, they were SO child-friendly (much different than Barcelona, ha!) and Liam was able to play at a Lego table with a bunch of blocks, and even hang out at a touch-screen monitor where he could play games, "color," and be entertained while we waited to get our food. The menu at this place was ridiculous too -- every kind of pancake you can imagine with all kinds of savory or sweet options. Everything on the menu was numbered and it went up to the 800s! They made the typical Dutch pancakes, very thin and big, but these were just a tiny bit thicker than usual and man, were they good! Keith opted for half ham and cheese and half blueberry (kind of like having lunch and dessert on one plate!), I had a cinnamon and sugar pancake, and we got Liam an apple, raisin, cinnamon, and sugar kids pancake -- we all were VERY satisfied with our choices. Liam loved having raisins in his pancakes, so it definitely gave me the idea to try it at home for him.

After lunch we just let Liam walk around a bit on our way back to the car, but it was so cold and snowy that we just decided it was best to head home. I wish we could have enjoyed more time in Thorn, but perhaps we will be able to make it back on a nicer day. I still don't regret it though because those pancakes were to die!


Monday, February 18, 2013

saying goodbyes . . .

I'm not gonna lie . . . it's been a rough couple weeks here in the Netherlands. We've been having to say goodbye to some of our best friends here as they move back to the States. First there was Jennifer's family, who are going back home to have their third child. It's possible they will be back after the baby is born, but there's no guarantee we will be here depending on when they come and when we go. Jennifer lived right down the street from me and we were always getting together, plus it was easy to catch a ride with her to other play dates on days that Keith needed the car. Most car rides started with Liam and Abby holding hands in the backseat and ended with them fast asleep, heads back, mouths open. Here are just a few of the pictures as evidence:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

. . . Liam lately (18 months)

Well here we are . . . Liam is officially a year and a half old. It is so bizarre how quickly time flies -- he is no longer a baby but a toddler, slowly but surely turning into a little boy. As usual, these are some of my favorite pictures of Liam this month.

We had snow for about two weeks in January -- Liam loved it!
Liam in his new snow pants

Bien venido a Espana!

You all know that we have loved living abroad and try to take full advantage of our surroundings while we're here. One way we do that is by planning trips to cities we wouldn't normally get to go to. The first week of February Keith had to go to Barcelona for work, so we thought that would be the perfect time for a family weekend away. It happened to coincide with Carnival, which meant that most people had off work in the Netherlands that following Monday and Tuesday, so it was easy for Keith to take off as well. Keith's birthday also happened to be that Friday at the end of his work week, so what better reason to take a trip??

Day 1 - Friday

lunch in the airport
Liam and I flew out Friday afternoon (all on our own, God bless me), and met Keith at his hotel to pick him up and head to our apartment for the next five days. The location was perfect, walking distance to several sites we wanted to see, on a busy shopping street, and close to plenty of restaurants (more on that later . . . ).

I am SO glad Keith got an apartment that was in conjunction with a nice hotel in Barcelona. We had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living / dining room and a full kitchen -- plus maid service every day. It was the perfect arrangement to have with a toddler. Once we got settled at the apartment we walked a block away for dinner at a local tapas restaurant. We all got something delicious for dinner (the chicken and veggie risotto -- OMG), and kept Liam fairly busy while he sat in the booth because there were no high chairs. Turns out, we would come to find that no restaurant had high chairs. Like none. Zero. And we tried, oh did we try! On our very last meal over the course of five days we finally lucked out with a high chair. We figured either there were no toddlers in Barcelona or people just didn't take them out to eat. The latter I suppose . . . sigh.

We put Liam to bed as soon as we got back as it was already getting late, and he went right to sleep, exhausted from the day's events.

. . . futbol, not football

Last year Keith and I went to a soccer game and were lucky enough to have friends in town to go with us. It was our first European futbol game and we've been saying ever since that we want to go to another game! With the impending departure of our close friends Lindsey and Josh, we decided we needed to take advantage and make it a double date night before they left town. Turns out we were able to score tickets to the same exact game we saw last year -- PSV vs. Den Haag.

We decided to order pizzas for dinner and stay at home to get the boys ready for bed before our sitter came to stay with them. Everything went smoothly and we headed to the stadium with plenty of time to get our tickets and scope out some cool gear in the merchandise shop. The ticket package we got comes with vouchers for merchandise and food or drinks inside the stadium, so we all got a little something, including t-shirts for each of the boys at home.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

. . . Liam lately (17 months)

My sweet boy is only a month away from being a year and a half old -- where has the time gone?! Seventeen months hasn't been that different than 16 months, but here goes nothin' . . .

Merry Christmas!
Liam loves Mexican food!
Still no stats -- just a running, growing, crazy boy who makes me laugh every day! It's funny to see him next to his friends because although he is younger by at least 5 months (and up to 10 months) from the kids he hangs with the most, he definitely holds his own and is even taller and weighs more than a few of them!

His eating habits have stayed the same -- three full meals at 9 am, 12 pm, and 6 pm, and a snack around 4 pm after his nap. He eats what we do, and has done a great job feeding himself with a fork. The spoon is a little tougher because he hasn't quite mastered scooping, but he's working on it! It can just be a little messy at times. : ) His favorite fruit is still grapes and he loves roasted carrots.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Liam lately . . . (16 months)

Liam turned 16 months old while we were in Georgia for Christmas, and it's amazing the things he was doing while we were there. I know I say it every month, but it is SO cool to watch him grow and learn new things!

At a playground by the Charles Bridge in Prague

home for the holidays . . .

After a busy November, the time finally came for our month-long trip home to Atlanta. We were a little nervous about how the plane trip would go considering how awful it was when we traveled in August! This time however we booked Liam his own seat and brought on his carseat. I also bought Liam some new toys and wrapped them up so that Liam had something new to unwrap throughout the flight when he was getting antsy. These two things SAVED our trip. Liam was a dream during the whole flight! I think having him in his carseat tricked him into thinking he had to stay in it. He only got up twice during the flight to walk around and play in the back with the flight attendants (who loved him of course). Amazingly, he took a one-hour nap at the very beginning of the flight, and was awake for the next eight hours -- no joke. And he STILL was awesome.

However, that lack of sleep came back to bite us . . . we flew in the same night as a birthday dinner for my mom's 50th and we literally went straight to dinner from the airport. We all looked awful and Liam was a pill during most of dinner. He finally started to warm up when we put him and Bailey next to each other -- they kept each other entertained and Bailey would not stop trying to kiss and hug him! She was so excited to see her cousin!

Since I am just now taking time to write this all down, it is amazing how quickly the month flew by! We had play dates with friends, Santa sightings, lots of shopping, road trip to Alabama, a baby shower . . . the list goes on and on! We were also so happy to witness my brother getting married the week after we arrived, and then go to my cousin's wedding right before Christmas. There were so many awesome things to celebrate while we were there!

So here is a picture dump of our time with a few comments here and there . . .

Ruxi's painting

Living in the Netherlands has introduced us to so many incredible people. One of my friends, Ruxi, is a very talented artist and I have admired her work for some time now. I discussed having her paint something for us and Keith and I were able to pick out what we were looking for. In downtown Eindhoven there is an old Philips lighting warehouse called the White Dame (Witte Dam) that now has a restaurant in the bottom of it (Usine, which happens to be one of my favorite places to eat in Eindhoven). Keith has always loved that building, so it seemed natural to choose that location -- it is Philips that brought us here, and we "lived" downtown (in a hotel) when we first moved here, passing that building every day. Ruxi chose a view of the building that also captures the more modern part of the city -- a huge store called the Blob that sits across the street from the White Dame. It is the quintessential mix of old and new, blending the history of Eindhoven in one scene. She also painted the street that passes between them, all in her rich, gorgeous colors that match perfectly with our style and decor. In the painting the White Dame isn't actually white (though it is in person) . . . it's the big red building on the right, with the Blob in white and orange on the left. Below the White Dame are the umbrellas that sit out in front of Usine, and the street that curves around the corner. We couldn't have been more happy with our first work of real art -- HUGE thanks to Ruxi for capturing perfectly the feel we were looking for. I absolutely love it!


After our weekend in Prague we had a pretty low-key week, but I was really looking forward to a fun weekend. On my actual birthday I was suprised with flowers from my parents and from Keith -- all beautiful that Liam LOVED to smell all week!


As our time in Europe is dwindling down, Keith and I have been trying to cross cities off our "must-visit" list. My 30th birthday seemed like the perfect excuse to do just that! We decided to go to Prague for a long weekend and were lucky enough to have our good friends Lindsey, Josh, and Jackson join us! Keith and I spent Friday afternoon to (early!) Monday morning there, and our friends came Saturday to Sunday.

When we first got to our hotel on Friday we did a little exploring and found somewhere to eat lunch. Lucky for us Keith's boss is Czech and was very familiar with downtown Prague, where we were staying. All we had to do was send him a text to say where we were and ask for a recommendation and voila! It was done. So our first restaurant recommendation was for a tiny little restaurant around the corner from our hotel where Keith and I got some savory crepes. Luckily they were between services so the place was pretty empty, but otherwise it would have been hard with a toddler -- not a lot of space and no baby chairs!

Afterwards we began to wander and found ourselves downtown on the main strip. Let me say now that because of where Prague is located, the sun sets extremely early -- so when we were walking around at 4:30 pm it looked like it could have been 10:30 pm! I actually didn't mind it for two reasons: first, Prague is beautifully lit up at night, and second, I actually felt like a real adult who goes out in the evenings! Haha! Seriously though, I can't remember the last time we were out all "night" with Liam. So it was nice to enjoy the night (or five o'clock, whatever) without worrying about bath and bedtime just yet.