Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Boys

Long before we started having kids, I decided that having two children of the same gender right next to each other was just trouble. It was trouble for me as a kid, and I am all about avoiding trouble. So I decided to separate the boys with a girl, and the girls with a boy. Done--girl, boy, girl, boy, girl.

It turns out that all that planning may have been unnecessary.

We took my parents to the Chateau l'Hulpe for a picnic last Friday to celebrate the unbelievably beautiful weather. We brought a blanket, bagettes and books, and Benj brought a football. Matthew was reluctantly recruited to throw the ball with Benj, and the show began. Benj went out for the long pass, and Matthew watched it drop. Benj fired a short cross and Matthew let it wizz by. Now, Matthew is perfectly capable of catching the ball, he just wanted to read, and the whole ball tossing episode was messing with his plot line.

Benjamin wanted to play ball.

The next pass was accompanied by the warning "If you drop this I will tackle you."

Matthew dropped it.

Benjamin came tearing across the grass and Matthew went down.

He caught the next one.

Then he dropped one, and Benj charged him again.

After a few minutes of Benjamin running full speed right into him, Matthew got creative. The next time he dropped the ball, he waited until Benjamin was almost on him, then he dropped to the ground and curled up--evasive maneuvers.

And, after a few carefully timed defensive curls Matthew was reading once again.

I don't think I needed to worry about competition.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Please don't check the date. Or the date of the last post. I have no excuses.
Well, that is not exactly true. I have lots of excuses, just no good ones. And now that I am feeling the need to catch up, my computer has crashed. I am typing on the home computer and it has no pictures of Istanbul or Italy or France or Matthew's Play or Sarah's Engagement or Moldova or Africa or the most beautiful Belgian spring I have ever seen or Utah or lemon tarts or Chicken Man or David's parent's visit or teaching or the massive Brussels service day or Anna's International Award hike or fresh asparagus or anything remotely recent. So, although there is not much interesting going on on this page today, there will be...soon.
We are still here. The potential is out there.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Some days...

Sometimes my days start out like this:At least I am not the one in the big truck and being a mother does not require head to toe neon.
See, even on a bad traffic morning there is a silver lining in all those clouds.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sun Favorites

I just downloaded approximately 5,000 pictures onto my computer than have been languishing on the external hard drive, waiting for some long overdue attention. Since it is still cold here, don't smile to broadly all my Texas friends, I thought I would turn on the visual heater and call up some warm memories. A random assortment of warmth:
Jubes and I at Kinderdijke in the Netherlands.

Sun shinning through the passage at Knowth burial mounds in Ireland.

Belgium triumphant on the Cinquantinaire Arch just a short walk from our house.
The harbor in Split, Croatia.

Fall sunlight on the Japanese Pagoda on the Royal Grounds at Laeken.

Pictures at the Flea Market--my destination of choice on sunny days.

Matthew and Julia on the beach at Etretat, Normandy.

The Sea of Galilee.

Toledo, Spain

Kyaking on the Lesse River in the Ardennes.

Proof that every so often, bathing suits can be worn in Belgium.
Bring on the spring.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I have made a discovery. I have SDD.
Although related to the more famous SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), SDD is less recognized and often goes undiagonosed.
I also have SAG, but that is personal.
SDD, Seasonal Defective Disorder, causes mental defects during the darkest months of the year. These defects include confusion (I can't remember if I need to get dressed today), selective memory loss (mostly in relation to New Year's Resolutions and household maintenance projects, oh and unpaid parking tickets) and general lethargy (Can someone put in the next DVD for me?).
Unlike SAD, SDD vicitms remain rather chipper and good natured in their defective period. Unfortunately, their families members often suffer periods of depression and hopelessness.
Recovery is sudden and usually coincides with a 7:30 am sunrise. Sometimes any sunrise at all will shock the victim into partial recovery, but beware of relapse caused by susequent gray, cold mornings.
These symptoms often mimic the behaviors common to 11-13 year old boys, however SDD sufferers rarely forget to bathe and generally change clothes daily (unless they are stuck in a pajama rut).
It is usually only after recovery is well underway that victims recognize the patterns of defectiveness that are completely obvious to those closest to them. Family support is essential in these fragile times.

Sunrise tomorrow: 7:24

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Just Happened?

It has been quiet on the blog. We have been focused elsewhere. And January is such an odd month, really. Contrast the emotional and physical post holiday collapse with the obligatory introspection and resolution of the new year and your brain is receiving some seriously mixed messages. It is cold, and in Belgium, dark until way after 8:00 am. Prime hibernation weather. All of this goes toward an excuse for 24 days of not much on the Passey blog. Lest you think we have been curled up under a blanket the whole month, here is our January in brief:

Sarah went back to college with puffy cheeks and a great attitude.
Benjamin started physical therapy for his knee.
Matthew earned a part in the Middle School play "Treasure Island."
David attended a conference in Garmisch, Germany.
I taught 5th grade--again.
Anna twisted her ankle and missed two basketball games.
Benjamin aged 15 years worrying about his semester exams.
Benjamin passed all his semester exams.
Anna turned 15 and spent a fabulous weekend in Istanbul, Turkey.
She let me come along to pay for things.
Matthew discovered that his mother has pretty good taste in literature after all.
David explored future employment options.
Sarah got serious about Chemistry.
Julia realized that fractions weren't as bad as she thought.
Matthew developed an affinity for his sonic screwdriver.
Benjamin pined for rugby.
We had dinner with friends.
David did lots of laundry.
I stressed about travel arrangements.
We missed our families, and a wedding.
Julia played the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean approximately 356 times on the viola.
I bought a carpet--a completely unplanned meeting of the perfect carpet with an impressionable mind.
We made more fudge...and caramel.
We got less sleep that we needed.
We worked hard.

One more month mostly gone.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Socialized Medicine

Thoughts for the new year...
We had two surgeries this week. Benjamin had an arthroscopic repair of his torn meniscus and Sarah had all four of her wisdom teeth removed under general anesthesia at day clinic. They are both doing really well. Both spent about 5 hours in a shared room after the surgery. Both had surgeons and anesthesiolgists and were recovered in a pretty standard recovery room. Overall, the facilities and care were pretty comparable to what we would have expected in the US. There were a few differences, however.
1) Sarah's surgeon offered to take Dave and Sarah's coat when they came for the initial consultation. They wouldn't have been surprised if he had offered them a beverage.
2) Benjamin's surgery was postponed by a week due to a one day nursing strike at the Antwerp hospital. Stinks for him.
3) After taking her blood pressure post surgery, the nurses left Sarah alone...all day...until it was time to check out. She slept really well.
4) Not only did the surgeon call to check on Sarah the day after surgery, but he have us his private number and cell phone number in case we had any questions or complications.

Ready for the bottom line? Benjamin's surgery--Dr's fees plus hospital stay--2063 euros ($2,762) with an expected refund of 400-500 euro (+- $600).
Sarah's total cost for hospital care and stay--315 euros ($421). I am thinking that there has got to be more to that one. 315 euro???? Really????

I wish there had been more attention paid to the cost of health care in the US debate, not just who pays and how. We got great care in this "socialized" system for approximately one tenth of what we would have paid in the US. If we can get an MRI here for 157 euros including the radiologist's report, then why does it cost $1200+ in the US with an additional $250 for the radiologist? I don't think the machines cost that much more in the US. Doctors here have very small offices, with generally shabby furniture and minimal staff. Most serve as their own receptionists, nurses, book keepers, and probably even custodians. Our family doctor, the very aimiable Dr Deome, has holes in the seats of his two rattan consultation chairs, but guess what? I have his cell phone number and if one of my kids gets really sick, he will come to my house for the exam. And he will charge me 50 euros to do so--about $75. That is it.

Now I will freely admit that we have never faced serious, long term health issues in our family for which I am profoundly grateful. Maybe my perspective would be different if we had. But I think the word "Socialized" has come to represent for Americans a scary psudo-communist European welfare state intrusion into the freedoms we value. Maybe this kind of healthcare system just wouldn't work for us in the US. But I just wanted to let you know that for me, it seems to work pretty well and I kind of like it. Thanks for listening.