Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011


Merry Christmas Friends & Family!
We moved! And that pretty much sums up the entire year; organizing, purging, fixing, staging, listing, showing, negotiating, packing, loading, storing, waiting, closing, cleaning, painting, unloading, unpacking, organizing…and renovating--which will likely continue for many months to come. Good thing HGTV is our favorite channel. It’s amazing how much effort is required to move five people a few miles across town.

Our favorite part of the moving process was six weeks of “homelessness” between houses. We passed the time in Brussels, Belgium where Brent spent weekdays working at his company’s European office while Michelle and the kids explored the country (poor Brent). Morgan’s friend, Ima, even joined us for the first week. On weekends we packed up our diesel Peugeot station wagon and unlike most Europeans, we drove! We took advantage of Brussels’ central location with weekend road trips to Paris (sunset atop the Eiffel Tower—très bonne), Amsterdam (charming bike rides--and unforgettable half-naked people in the park), Germany’s Rhine River Valley (amazing hikes to beautiful castles), and Belgium’s Ghent & Bruges (picture perfect postcard towns). We ate lemon sorbet and croissants to our heart’s content and discovered a new found love of real Belgian waffles, Speculoos cookies and Belgian french fries eaten with tiny plastic forks (yes mom, the fresh fruits and veggies were great too).

On the way home from Europe we stopped for a 24-hour whirlwind tour of New York City. Ethan was so jet-lagged he fell asleep standing-up in the corner of the subway station—among other places. But breakfast in central park and cooling off in a downpour at the end of a record heat day were memories well worth a little sleepiness. After a few days back in Chicagoland we headed out for one last roadtrip to Utah and then Colorado for the wedding of Michelle’s youngest sister, Rachel.

The kids love adventure as much as their parents and did great with all the travel and transition this year—nevertheless they were happy to get back to their favorite activities at home. Morgan is almost thirteen (7th grade) and constantly amazing us with gravity-defying gymnastics tricks. Isaac is ten (4th grade) and loving his travel soccer team, reading Harry Potter, playing the piano and creating with Legos. Ethan is six (1st grade) and proud of the one-mile and ½ mile races he ran this year. With Ethan in first grade, Michelle is alone on school days—but still anxiously awaiting the day she finally feels bored with nothing to do. Brent works in Marketing at Fenwal, Inc. by day, then puts on his paint jeans and works on home improvement projects at night. Despite our whirlwind summer he also trained for and ran the St. George Utah Marathon.

This year has been nothing short of eventful. As we head into the holiday season we are especially grateful for our Savior and the love, guidance, protection, comfort and peace provided us while making big decisions for our family this year. May you also feel His love and peace this holiday season and throughout the coming year. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gymnastics Meet Season Begins

Morgan's first meet of the season was yesterday. She's been with several of her teammates since kindergarten. It's amazing too see how far they have all come. Their routines are so fun to watch.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Shine On

With 6 out of 10 lights burnt out it was time to take matters into my own hands. I'm happy to report the bulbs are changed and I made it down...but I really hope they last awhile, I'd rather not climb up that death trap on a regular basis. I had no idea that banquet tables weren't solid until I was half way up the ladder. The plastic surface is a bit squishy in fact.

Shine on vintage '80s brass light fixture, shine on!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Kind of Town

Last night Brent and I spent a pefect Fall evening on a cheesey (but fun) dinner cruise on Lake Michigan. What could be better than spending three hours talking with your one and only while enjoying beautiful weather and the beautiful Chicago skyline. I do love this city (and my one and only - xo)! Thanks Mom for holding down the fort.
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Packing Light?

My mom is coming to visit tomorrow, here's the message I got from her today,

"Hi, Michelle, it's Mom. I was just wondering if you have any 3-pound weights. If you have them then I don't have to travel with them. I'm getting all packed so let me know!"

In the past my mom's been known to travel with a full-sized industrial blender, her own mini-trampoline, fresh vegetables (not small snack-sized bags to munch on the plane but full grocery store bags of vegetables), 2-pound bag of flax meal, salt, green drink mix..and the list goes on. So naturally throwing a few exercise weights in the suitcase would not be a problem.

As you might imagine, she prefers to travel Southwest --where bags fly free.

Can't wait for your visit mom...and can't wait to see what comes out of your suitcase this time! Love you!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When the kids are all in school then I'll have time for...

For years I've had big plans. Plans for what I'd do with ALL my time when the kids were all in school all day; Read, write, paint, organize, declutter, exercise, cook, be crafty...and generally just become the fabulous person I've never had time to become. Well it's week three and so far there has been no transformation. Just as I was about to embark upon my new life of self refinement we decided to buy a project house. All my plans have been put on hold and days are filled with searching for flooring, painting, decorating and other such fun. My to-do list is huge. Even with kids in school all day I don't seem to be checking much off my list. But this weekend (with Brent's help) we did manage to paint the front door and shutters (thus the photo). So although my kids are no longer joining me for midday trips to Target, I'm still learning to exercise patience. Rome wasn't built in a day and apparently I can't accomplish everything I'd like to in two weeks unaccompanied by children. Darn!



Now...back to work on the inside!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Christmas is Coming...

School hasn't even started yet (tomorrow's the big day for my crew), but I had to post this cute Christmas idea I stole from my friend, Melissa's, Pinterest board (thanks Melissa).

Wrap 24 Christmas storybooks you already own. Put them under a small tree in the kids bedroom. Unwrap one story each night.

Pure genius fun. I will be doing this. Maybe I'll wrap them this week so I don't forget. I hate it when I forget about a cute and clever idea I stole from someone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Movie Night in Belgium

Harry Potter 7 part two released today in Europe. Morgan desperately wanted to take the chunnel to London for the midnight showing there. We'd heard rumors of the huge HP fan party that it is. It sounded fun, but a lot of driving (4-hours) for a movie. So, we went to the 7:45 PM show close to home.

We LOVED going to the movies in Belgium. First, the regular popcorn was kettle corn style (sweet). Yum! Second, the seats were amazing. They were wide, with a nice wide armrest between, and comfortable mold-to-your-body styling. Finally, the screen was huge and sound system was great. Ah, perfect for the final chapter of Harry Potter. ...oh, and you get a reserved seat which was so convenient.

The only downside, using the bathroom cost $0.35 (as do many bathrooms in Europe).

Our movie was the "VO" version (version original) which meant it was in English with French and Dutch subtitles. We thought it might be tricky to find it playing in English, but apparently a lot of people like to hear the actual actors speaking, so it isn't uncommon for movies to be shown in both VO (with subtitles) and French dubbed.

We all loved the movie. As soon as the movie finished Ethan announced, "THAT WAS THE BEST MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE! WE HAVE TO BUY THAT!" He kept repeating it over and over. I have no doubt he is watching the movie over again in his dreams right now. After we came home I heard him in his room talking to his teddy bear and telling him about the show. Then during his prayers he said, "Thank you that we were able to see Harry Potter 7 part 2 because it was the best movie I've ever seen in my life."

The rest of us loved it too. Usually Brent and Morgan hit the midnight show and the rest of us catch it later. It was fun to see this one together as a family.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Amsterdam - By Ethan

The biking was really fun we saw these trees that were dangling down into the water but one of them wasn't and we couldn't climb on that one because there was a party by it.

I didn't get to get my own bike. I had to go on a seat behind Dad. The seat on the bike looked really small but I actually could fit in it really well. When we were walking trying to find the place where we get our bikes I saw these two people a mom and a sister but the sister wasn't on the back, she was sitting in this thing where you carry stuff you need like a book or coat or anything like that. It was really cool and I was thinking about riding like that, but instead I got a seat.

We saw a giant chess and a normal chess. There was fake board painted out on the ground. There were still the same colors (black and white).

I couldn't really find anything to get for Amsterdam [souvenir] but then I remembered I really wanted this hat that matched my coat for winter. And I'll wear it all the time when we stay where our apartment is (I'm wearing it right now).

The boat tour on the water was fun. When were were in Brugge we were on a little boat tour and the boat was small. At Amsterdam the boat tours are big instead of small.

We went to this watch like store (we have the movie of it [The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom's House]), they had this button that makes this noise and it means to go into this hideout. The hide out was really small and damp and cold and wet. Me and Isaac got to go in it. There was this little way where everyone went in it to hide. People had to hide in there because there were people coming trying to kidnap them or kill them because there was a war. There was this part where they take them away and they say, "work is freedom".

I liked Amsterdam. My best part was going to the park where there was a big swing and Isaac pushed me.

Amsterdam, Day 2 (7/10/11) - By Isaac

PANCAKES IN THE PARK - For breakfast we had pancakes in the park across the street from our hotel. The pancakes were like crepes, but a little bit more thick. I had bacon and cheese, Ethan had bacon, Morgan had strawberries and whip cream, Dad had ham and cheese, and Mom had apples. We all loved our pancakes. They were delicious.

I AM AMSTERDAM SIGN & PARK - In this park there was an "I am Amsterdam" sign that was made out of metal. You could climb on the sign. The I was the tallest letter and I went on top of it. Morgan climbed on top of the M, and Ethan climbed up on top of the E. Next to the I am Amsterdam sign there was a playground. At the playground there was this round swing. I pushed Ethan and he went super high. He was all the way sideways. There was also this net type thing that you could climb up. There was also a slide. The slide was very steep.
VAN GOGH MUSEUM - We also went to the Van Gogh museum that had over 200 paintings from Van Gogh. I love Van Gogh's style of paintings. I like his style because he makes gloppy blobs of paint on his paintings. I like that it gives the picture texture and makes it more real life looking. In the museum there was a treasure hunt for kids. On the treasure hunt they gave you a puzzle piece of a picture and you had to find out what picture it was. It was hard. If you did the whole treasure hunt and turned it in at the front desk you could get a prize. The prize was a little postcard with one of Van Gogh's paintings on it.

BIKING - While we were in Amsterdam we went biking because Amsterdam is famous for biking. There is more than one bike per person in Amsterdam. On our bike ride we rode our bikes around a gianormous park [Vondelpark]. In the park there was a river and the river had a couple of trees that feel over and were touching the bottom of the river and sticking out of the water. We climbed up on the trees. It was really fun. On the other half of our bike ride we rode around the city. We rode over steep bridges. It was hard. The bike ride was VERY fun.
I had a really fun time in Amsterdam. I hope we can go back again.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Recent Jumble of Happenings By: Morgan

I can not believe that I forgot to tell you guys about the sock monkeys Ima and I sewed while on our trip! They were a LOT easier than they look and turned out SUPER cute!!!

Ima left!! I am sooooooo lonely! Just kidding! I have my family to keep me company but I do miss her. She did make it safely to Sweden and is having a great time with her her grandparents. Right after she left, Ethan said, "Finally! Ima left! Now I don't have to be squished in the back seat. Yes!" I thought that was pretty funny. Later he confessed that he would miss her.

Yesterday morning, my mom made us Belgium pancakes (crapes) for breakfast. Though she is just a beginner, I thought that they were great. Ethan on the other hand thought they were just okay.

It seems like these past few days we have been just hanging out at our apartment watching "CBeebies" (A T.V. channel fo toddlers in English) Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Batman Begins or Gnomeo and Juliet. On CBeebies there is a show called "Small Potatoes." It has a very catchy theme song that we have been humming these past few days. Just talking about it gets it even more stuck in my head! "Small potatoes, small potatoes..." (See the link to hear it) Speaking of potatoes we have been eating lots of potatoes here but I don't know why. We have also been playing lots of games on our iPod Touches. One game that Ethan has been playing a lot recently is Tiny Wings on Isaac or I's iPod. One day when he was playing he said: "Dad. I'm playing a game called Tiny Wings but I don't know why it is called Tiny Wings. I think it is because there is this one guy and he is like this bird and he has tiny wings so he can't fly so he jumps off mountains instead." My dad and I just laughed though Ethan had no idea what we were laughing at.

Last night we were watching Lord of the Rings and my dad is totally OBSESSED with Lord of the Rings. He was on his computer while watching it and still said every line before it was actually said.

When we were still at the bed and breakfast, I was sleeping and my dad came over to my bed where he kept his cologne. While he was putting it on, I (kind of) woke up and said:"Dad, I can smell you!" and went right back to bed. I always smell his "purfume" and point it out to him.

I recently started reading "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl." I started it yesterday night and am already over half way done. I wouldn't be reading it so fast but we are going to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam this weekend and my parents want me to have a good time at the museum. They think that by me reading the book it will be more meaningful to me. I don't know. We'll see how it goes.

One strange thing about our apartment that I wanted to poin out is that there are 3 bathrooms, 2 showers/baths, and 1 toilet. Speaking of bathrooms, we ran out of toilet paper even though it hasn't even been a week. We got some more and it has astronauts on it. To my mom, I was like: "Poor astronauts! This is going to be a much harder job than landing on the Earth's moon." Maybe we'll get the dinosaur ones next time. They probably won't mind as much.

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July in Belgium

We really missed our neighbors on the 4th of July! For the past few years we've BBQd together then ridden our bikes to the high school for the fireworks. Needless to say, there were no fireworks or BBQs this 4th. We thought about popping over to England to say "ha, ha we won!", but then thought better of it. So, we made do with a red & white meal (served on blue placemats) and red, white and blue sundaes for dessert. We were going to make a flag cake but couldn't find a cake mix or anything that resembled Jell-o at the grocery store. Since our kitchen isn't stocked well enough to cook from scratch, we settled on ice cream instead. Before dinner we took a walk through the beautiful Hallebros Forest. In the spring it is covered in a carpet of bluebelles, but now it's just a beautiful dense forest. There were tons of runners out and Brent was itching to sprint off and join them.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ghent, Belgium - by Isaac

Church--While we were in Ghent we went to our own church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). At the church there were headsets we wore to translate what the Dutch were saying into English. It was cool because we thought we were just going to be listening to Dutch and that wouldn't have been so fun. It was great becasue that way we got to listen to sacrament meeting and understand what they were saying. When they were passing the bread Ethan ate his and said loudly, "THIS BREAD IS WAY BETTER THAN OURS!" We all laughed.

Castle--We went to this awesome castle and in the castle was a dungeon. The dungeon was 18 feet deep and cold and dark. There was also a torture room. In the torture room there was a thing that would chop off people's heads and there was also a torture where they pour water down their throat. There was also a well full of water that they would drop the prisoners in to torture them.

Graffiti--The graffiti street was a street full of graffiti. You couldn't see as spot where there was no graffiti. When we were walking down the street we saw a guy spray painting graffiti that was really cool. The graffiti was kind of cool and it was on windows and doors and was just everywhere! It was so cool. There was so much graffiti because it was allowed (legal) on that one particular street.

White Tile Game--Whenever there is white and black tile in a church we always play this game where you can only hop on the white tile. If you touch the black tile you are out. We've played this a lot while we've been here. It's a really fun game.

Climbing the Bell Tower - We climbed this humongous bell tower. The bell tower had about a 100 bells. It was five stories high, but each story was like two stories high. The ceilings were like double size. While we were climbing up we heard the bells, they were loud and beautiful.

Eating Speculoos Ice Cream - I LOOOOOVE Speculoos Ice Cream. Speculoos is my favorite kind of ice cream. I love it so much because I love speculoos and I love ice cream. Speculoos is popular in Belgium. There is speculoos ice cream, plain speculoos, and speculoos cookies. It is just famous here.

Eating Belgian Fries w/Tiny Forks--In Belgium they eat everything with utinsels (even pizza). They even eat fries with tiny forks. We think it is kind of wierd, but here they think it's weird that we eat french fries with our hands. That shows how different our countries are. So we decided to try something new by trying to eat french fries with forks. It was fun.

And that what's we did in the city of Ghent! I had so much fun! -Isaac

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Brugge, Belgium - by Ethan

My favorite part of Brugge was seeing a guy play a weird instrument. We went on a boat tour. When we were on the tour boat there were two dogs in a window, one dog was laying there and sleeping on a pillow at the open window. At the boat tour when we were waiting for our turn there were bathrooms and it was really funny because there was no sink. There was another funny bathroom where the boys and girls shared one sink and the urinal was right by the sink (where the girls are too). When we ate dinner there was a rope that blocked you off from the upstairs like at Great America when they put a string in front of you and it means no more people can come in or a chain that means you can't go that way. Isaac and I couldn't get down from upstairs. So we just went over the rope. That's all I have to say. -Ethan

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lillois, Belgium (just outside Waterloo) - our new digs!

We have a new apartment! It's actually quite large by European standards (4-bedrooms, kitchen, living room, two bathrooms). We are most excited about the kitchen and laundry. Eating out is great once in awhile, but after 10-days of eating lunch and dinner away from home I'm ready to cook again.

Morgan's room has it's own shower and sink, the hall has a tub/shower and double sinks, and the only toilet is in it's own little room (next to the hall bathroom). So, we have four bathroom sinks, but just one toilet. We all get a kick out of this European style bathroom set-up.

We are right on a busy road, so it isn't quiet and tranquil like the B&B was, but the slightly more urban feel is kind of a fun change. We were excited to step out our door and walk 1/2 a block to the bakery for croissants in the morning, but sadly found it wasn't open (it looks like it may be out of business). The train is just a block away as well (although getting around in our diesel station wagon with GPS has been so easy, we tend to drive everywhere).

Ottignies, Belgium - by Michelle

The first 10-days of our visit we stayed at Le Manoir de Morimont Bed and Breakfast in Ottignies (just 5 minutes from Brent's office). Our inn-keeper, Gert, was gracious and kind and so sweet with the kids. He made them hot chocolate every morning for breakfast, and provided many typical Belgian chocolate treats for breakfast. They were in heaven with chocolate sprinkles on their toast, chocolate cereal and chocolate wafers to melt inside a hot croissant (mmmm). The B&B was up a tiny lane nestled in a forest with paths for running and walking. Brent had running trails to explore in the mornings, the kids and I had cool shady paths to explore in the afternoons. Best of all there was a river that ran right through the yard (or garden as the locals would call it). The kids made a lean-to fort in the river and had fun playing with the sweet dog, Ferrah. We are sad to say goodbye to the beautiful Le Manoir de Morimont, but it will be very nice to have our own kitchen again as well as a washer and dryer in the apartment where we'll be for the rest of our stay!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Morgan's French Lesson For YOU!!

Imagine an English man sitting next to a French woman. The man wants to start a conversation, so he tries to get to know the woman.

"Bak dom? Escusemoua?"
"Ah, bonjour. Como tally vous?"
"Bonjour. Bien, merci."
"Bien, bien. Esku voo company le engle?"
"No. Jne compapa le engle"
" Oui oui. J copo apu le francais. Ba tre bein!!"
"Hahaha! Oui oui. Esku vooset American?"
"Oui Madmouiselle. J suit American."
"Desole. J dois y aller! Ouivre! Merci!"
" Ouivre Madmouiselle, ouivre."


"Excuse me? Excuse me?"
"Ah, hello. How do you do?"
"Hello. Good, thank you.Bold"
"Good, good. Do you understand English?"
"No. I do not understand English."
"Yes. yes. I understand a little French. Not very well!!"
"Hahaha! Yes, yes. Are you American?"
"Yes Miss. I am American."
"Sorry! I have to go! Goodbye! Thank you!"
"Goodbye Miss, goodbye."

J espere que vous avez appris un peu le francais! Restez branches pour plus de lecons de moi!

I hope that you learned some French! Stay tuned for more lessons from me!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Napoleon Who?

Michelle: Morgan, do you know who Napoleon was?
Morgan: Napoleon Dynamite?
Michelle: No, not that Napoleon.
Morgan: Then I don't know him.

This conversation took place while driving through Waterloo, Belgium (where Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815)...maybe world history comes a little later in the middle school curriculum?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Speedos and Other European Fun

Yesterday and today were hot hot hot. The thought of wandering the streets of a cute new town didn't sound quite as appealing while melting in the heat. So, we stayed close and tried to blend in with the locals.

Today we planned to visit the seashore (about 1-hr away), but there was a huge storm on the coast that was forecast to stay all day. So, instead we visited the local pool just down the trail from our B&B. We noticed odd signs that seemed to say shorts weren't allowed in the pool. Thankfully we saw many boys in board shorts, so surely they meant street shorts, right? After the kids had swam for awhile a lifeguard alerted us that the boys board shorts were indeed problematic, speedos were required for all boys. At that point I started noticing that boardshorts were actually male cover-ups. The boys would wear their board shorts while out of the pool with Speedos underneath. No need to worry the lifeguard informed us, for 1.50 Euro we could rent speedo boxers from the front desk. I looked at Isaac, and got a great big, "No way! I'm not wearing one of those!" Followed quickly by, "and, someone else has worn it too? GROSS!" Thankfully everyone had had their fill of the pool by that point and were ready to go anyway (although Ethan made it clear he'd have no problem wearing a Speedo--no surprise coming from the boy who was photographed in a yellow bikini last summer). We wandered back to the B&B and the kids spent several hours building a fort in the river that runs through the garden while I sat in the shade on a bench and read "The Hunger Games".

Yesterday we did some much needed laundry. No one spoke English at the laundromat or surrounding shops, so we did a lot of smiling, nodding, pointing, and hand gesturing to communicate. I'm getting very good with the phrase, "jin compapa le France" (I don't understand French...spelled phonetically, our French auido CDs have not taught us to spell yet :-). Isaac thought going to the laundromat was awesome. The other kids were less enthused. We all had fun trying to iron on the enormous ironing aparatus. The right sleeve of Brent's dress shirt turned out perfect, sadly, I couldn't get the rest of the shirt to go into the machine straight, so the rest was terribly creased. After several attempts we gave up and stopped at the dry cleaners (which are WAY more expensive here--3Euros/shirt (about $4.50) as opposed to $1.25 at home!). Brent discovered that professionaly pressed & starched shirts aren't standard work wear here, so next time we might just try a regular old iron.

Yesterday evening we took a beautiful hike/walk (or a "tour" as our innkeeper calls it). The area where we are staying is in the hills/forest with hiking paths and bike trails all around. The kids had a great time walking through the river and exploring the woods.

Ima leaves us tomorrow to continue on to Sweden :-(. It's been so nice having a 4th child to even out our family. We will miss her!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

1st day Paris - by Isaac

Outside the Louvre

In the morning we woke up at 6:00 the were on the road by 7:00 it was a 4 hour car ride to Paris [traffic]. When we got to Paris we drove to the Louvre when we were at the Louvre we [kids] were so tired and almost feel asleep. After the Louvre we sat on the side of the river and wached the tour boats. Then we ate amazing crepes yum! yum! yum! yummy! Then we walked to Notre Dame's Cathedral cooooooooooool and preeeeeetty! Then we ate dinner at a pizzaria [in the Latin Quarter]. Finally we went to the Eiffle Tower - tall! At the top we watched the sun set then we climed the stairs down FUN!!!!!!!!!! Finally I bartered with a guy selling keychains.

The Mona Lisa

Playing in the dirt outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame
Top of the Eiffel TowerThe kids (with our adopted daughter/friend Ima)
The family