We have begun our third year here in Belgium - time flies! And I haven't blogged since the beginning of this year so it is really time to recap and catch up here on the blog!
Our last year in bullets:
- Harald started créche in August 2014 and Isolde her second year in Belgian maternelle in September. Consequently Peter's parental leave finished and he started working for his Swedish employer but remotely from Brussels (until January 2015, more on that below).
- Kids caught the chicken pox in autumn but luckily it didn't clash (but almost!) with our week in the sun at Lanzarote in November. We stayed in a really good hotel (resort) there, which we can really recommend. However, if you don't like black volcano sand you should choose another Canary island (we only went to the beach ones, but our kids probably prefer the pool anyway).
- We had mainly family visitors during the autumn - Peter's parents - and Maria and Daniel (who are practically family) and in early November we also went home for a long weekend and had the opportunity to celebrate my cousin H's 40th, which very coincidentally happened to be the same weekend. In the spring both sets of grand(parents) visited and we had brother-in-law and uncle Martin (not my brother Martin but Peter's sister's husband) here for a few hours while he was here on a work trip. Our good friend and Harald's godmother Jessica also came twice, once to spend the night and once just a few hours on her way to the airport after work meetings (it's convenient that we live so close to the airport).
- Christmas was spent in Sweden, as usual. We stayed about two weeks, and since Peter was still working for his Swedish employer at that stage (until 31 December), we were able to stay in one of the company's apartments for parts of the stay and with my parents or in my sister-in-law's flat for the rest. As usual we had a pretty busy schedule trying to see as many family members and friends as possible, but we had time to relax as well. There was no snow at all unfortunately and especially Isolde was disappointed. Hoping for a white Christmas this year instead!
- I did a number of work trips to Sweden, one per month on average both in the autumn and the spring. One of them was the December one mentioned above, when Peter also had a work event in Sweden, so we made a family weekend out of it. One of the trips was to Göteborg (which was nice as I could catch up with Heidi who lives there) but otherwise I always go to Stockholm, which is perfect in terms of seeing family and friends. Next year I may however go to other parts of the Sweden once or twice, and I hope it will be somewhere I haven't been before and preferably up north. I really enjoy my job, though hectic at times, and I don't mind the work trips either but sometimes once a month feels a little often. But I shouldn't complain as I often can meet up with friends and do some shopping to stock up on Swedish goodies or necessities. We are lucky that Peter was working from home earlier and now since the beginning of 2015 has been a stay-at-home dad, so we have not had many logistical issues with my work trips or work in general. Now he's applying for jobs and I hope he finds one soon for a variety of reasons, but it will of course be a bit more tricky when the kids are sick or when one of us is working a lot or travelling. Normal situation for most people of course, but we have been spoiled for a long time now.
- In October our good friends and neighbours the Swedish-Welsh family unfortunately moved to Wales so we had to say goodbye for now to them, but in March we went to visit them with our Swedish-Spanish and American friends, and at the end of this summer parts of the family came for a quick visit here (and to pick up items we had stored for them in our garage). On that March trip to the UK we also visited our friends Chris and Jacqui who lived here until spring 2014 (and before that in Sweden) and met very briefly - a few hours in a park - my friend Kim and her family. We also stopped by an old school friend, Nathalie, who I hadn't seen for a long time, and met her sons for the first time.
- Peter's grandmother passed away late winter/early spring so he went home for the funeral. It's always sad of course, but at almost 94 and suffering from dementia I'd like to believe it was only a relief for her to move on.
- We celebrated the kids' birthdays with their little friends and families and of course mine and Peter's birthdays too, but less fuzz about ours naturally.
- In spring we could tick off one of those "when-you-have-kids" experiences: lice! Harald only got one or two, and Peter was lucky to be unaffected, but Isolde and I had a lot! Our friendbours also caught it so we had one fun Friday evening where we were all shampooing each other and the kids :)
- Whilst Christmas was spent in Sweden as usual, we decided not to go to Sweden for Easter and instead join our friendbours P & O for their Easter celebrations in Spain with O's family as well as P's family coming from Sweden. We flew down (with Ryanair, first time in several years) from Paris but missed out on a planned day in Paris beforehand as I caught some sort of stomach bug. It was nice to see the village where O. comes from and meet his parents and sister, and do some excursions in the area including to Zaragoza, the nearest city (also Spain's fifth largest city). I also enjoyed seeing the Catholic Easter parades, something we don't really have in Sweden. And we bought a lot of shoes, especially for the kids, as his village and the nearby villages are in a shoemaker region.
- In spring we also took a day trip with P & O and kids to Aachen in Germany with a shorter stop in Maastricht in the Netherlands on our way back. I love living so in the middle of Europe where it is easy to take a day trip or a weekend trip to another country, or several! We really have to make more such trips! Luxembourg is on the list, as is France and Champagne, but for the latter we'll get babysitters so we can enjoy it properly!
- Late spring, early summer one of the kids' little friends L. was very unlucky and fractured her leg on our trampoline, poor thing (we have a safety net but she twisted her leg while jumping). Luckily she recovered quickly but is staying away from the trampoline for a while just in case.
- In the spring Isolde got a new bike, a real bike. We would probably have got one already in the autumn if she hadn't been so short and most bikes were still too big. Her balance bike is 10 inches and we thought it was unnecessary to buy a bike of the same size. But in the spring she was a few more centimeters and a 12-inch bike worked, just. Having had the balance bike (and a scooter) has really done the trick - she could ride the bike without training/support wheels right away! She found it somewhat difficult to start by herself and also break, but we practised that during the summer, and now we can take quite long bike trips with her.
- In May my friend and Harald's god mother Åsa visited with new baby Lily (new as in 8 months old then) for a few days. It was nice to spend some quality time with them, especially for Åsa and Harald.
- For the ascension weekend in May we went to Normandie to see the D-day beaches and also to Brittany where we visited Saint Malo, Mont Saint-Michel and some other picturesque towns. It was a very nice and interesting mini-break.
- In May (busy month!) I went to London with my mum and my aunt Bicke to do some sightseeing but most importantly, go to the Chelsea Flower Show. It was my present to my mum for her 60th birthday last year. As there was a bit of a green theme to our trip we also visited Sky Garden.
- A few weeks after Åsa's visit we went to Sweden for a long weekend to attend Lily's namegiving ceremony and to see family and friends. We finally got to meet the children's new cousin Fred (well, I had met him briefly when he was just a couple of days old in April when I was in Sweden on a work trip) and my friend Suvi's new baby boy as well as time to go out to the summer house. And have Harald's hair cut, kicking and screaming like the time before that (and after...).
- We have made new friends here in Brussels - an American family who are moving onto Stockholm next summer after two years here. Their son is in Isolde's class and Harald will be in the same class as their daughter next year (they also have a baby girl born in May). There are also some other mothers in the area that I have started to hang out with - Petchie started a sort of ladies' dinner club so now we meet up regularly, but we have also hung out on full family basis as some of them have children in Isolde's class or same year.
- Isolde has been taking rythmic classes at school for a year (and she's continuing, plus some other extra-curricular activities this year). She loved dancing and singing, however, she doesn't always like being told or instructed what to do so it took a few classes before she even wanted to participate. I think it is a mix of wanting to be free-spirited and being a bit too self-conscious.
- We now have a (wooden) toy house in the garden, an inflatable pool and sprinklers, and Peter also got various adult "toys" for the garden, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers and what have you. So we have no excuses now not to do gardening!
- At the end of June, a little bit before my longer summer break, we spent one week in Nice (the apartment of my in-laws as usual) and my parents came down as well for a few days. It was nice to have a week off (with guaranteed nice weather), then work a few weeks again before to Sweden on holiday.
A lot in a year! I'm sure I have missed half of it, but these are the highlights! I will write about the summer and about the adventures of Isolde and Harald in separate posts! I will also post some photos later, but now I just want to publish this post!