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Adventures in Belgium

I’m working feverishly on a new photobook for my mom, actually two!  One from her visit here, with the kids, and one from our big sisters get-together in Belgium in July.  I’m hoping to finish & get them on her doorstep before she flies back to the states this weekend.  I can’t believe how fast this summer has gone.  Cole is already back in school, Tess & Dane start on Monday and the weather is cool bordering on crisp.  I love fall, it is my favorite season, but looking at our summer pictures I do feel a little sad it’s over.

Our weekend in Belgium went especially fast.  I’m guessing it’s because we had so many people in one small, adorable, dare I say “quaint” little house.  We brought seven, Annelore came with three, Manon came without husband or son, and my cousin Heidi, our honorary fourth sister, joined us with her daughter Zoe.  Then we had friends come to visit and time flew by.  I mentioned that I loved La-Roche-en-Ardenne, a small castle in a smal town in the ardennes. I  think I even mentioned how much I love the bird show.  We hadn’t planned to attend the bird show, but it started right as we needed a breather from climbing all the stairs in the castle.

By now most of you have figured out I’m an extrovert, and you probably guess it’s a family trait.  This is so true!  All of us are by nature out-going, exuberant, and the first to volunteer for everything.  Heidi is no exception.  On our castle day, our bird show day, volunteers were needed.  Heidi got picked for the very best volunteer spot!  She got to wear the falconeers glove, and official falconeers helmet, and “catch” a falcon!

ps: I so don’t believe that’s a real falconeer’s helmet, but Heidi is a very good sport!

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I took 700 pictures last weekend.  700.  I struggled to pick just one for the newsletter.  I really debated putting in the one of my sister, Annelore, right as Soren surprises her.  It wasn’t the big bear hug, or the scruffy beard, that surprised her but the fact that he was there at all!  I hadn’t told her, we kept it a secret, and he even stayed off his beloved facebook so it wouldn’t betray he was posting from Stuttgart.

I thought about the one of all of us, standing at the castle’s gate, but with 13 people it is hard to see anyone well.  Or the one of all of us at the table, one of my favorites, I love a full table and we had a very full table.  I also thought about putting in one of the 100 or so perfect shots I got of my beautiful little niece, Aeden.  But I couldn’t pick just one.  I finally picked this one, taken halfway up to the medieval castle of La-Roche-en-Ardenne.  I love that you can see part of the gorgeous surroundings, the ruins of the castle, and a smattering of my kids, sister and cousin perched upon the castle walls.

We are huge Games of Thrones fans, and last summer, the day he arrived home, Soren insisted on buying a bow of ebay so he could learn archery.  Since then archery has become a little bit of a passion in our family, and when we saw the long bows out at the castle everyone immediately jumped in line to try their hand.  My grandfather is surely beaming with pride, having been crossbow champion multiple times over.  Even Dane and Amadeo tried, though their little arms weren’t long enough to hold the span of a long bow.  Tess, amazingly, was just big enough for the smallest bow and turned out to have near-perfect form and excellent aim.

After the Long Bow Championship of 2012, we made our way up to the castle and explored its nooks and crannies.  I instantly daydreamed of life in the 11th century and imagined the hustle and bustle a castle this size must’ve seen.  As with everywhere in Europe, a bar serving beer was tucked into a corner.  As soon as we sat to drink one or two, the falconry show started up.  That turned out the be highlight of our trip!  Both the host, and his sidekick monk, delighted and entertained us.  We learned new things about owls, eagles, vultures and falcons and were treated to fly-by’s overhead.  Heidi, my cousin, even got to wear the falconeers glove and demonstrate how light the big birds are.  And the little ones all lined up to let a vulture walk across their backs.  It was a perfect day.

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