Note: I left my camera's usb cable at home and can't get it for another few days...sorry for the lack of photos.
Here's a typical day so far, keeping in mind that the university students haven't arrived yet.
6:30am: alarm goes off and it's still dark out, hard to get up. We rouse the girls and wander around getting breakfast, showers, get the girls into their school uniforms and coats.
7:45am: John walks the girls down three flights of stairs to the lobby. I go to the place where we store the stroller and wrestle it into the elevator, then meet them in the lobby, where we strap all the buckles and put their school bags underneath.
8ish: We walk 2km to their school. It's dark when we set out, and by the time we get there, street lights are shutting off. On the way, we pass shops, the former home of the artist Rubens, the national bank building (that's the one I noticed the other day with the flags) and the Stadtspark, a big triangular park in the center of Antwerp.
8:25: We arrive at the school. John takes the girls to their classroom while I park the stroller in a little alcove in the playground courtyard (all the schoolyards are within the boundaries of buildings--it's funny to look into a row of shop windows and suddenly see kids playing behind the next row of windows. For a millisecond, "kids for sale?").
8:30: The school bell rings. At their former school in Virginia, there were never bells. There was a different sense of time. Also, the girls were free to choose their own activities and stay with them as long as they pleased. Although this school uses Montessori materials, there is much more of a sense of the group doing things together at certain times. They have an assigned seat at a table rather than sitting in a circle on the floor, things like that. MeiMei has been weepy the past two days saying goodbye in the morning but we are confident she'll be ok given time for adjustment...after all, it's only been 3 days!
8:35: We head back to the apartment, sans stroller. It's great to park it at the school so we have more mobility in the morning.
9am: We're back at the apartment, having walked 4km already! There's time for the paper (International Herald Tribune), coffee, a walk, or whatever.
11:15: Time to go get the girls! We've found a little place on the corner near their school where we can get a coffee (with a free piece of CHOCOLATE) and sit for a moment before going to the school. We go in a bit early so we can get the stroller out without getting in everyone's way.
11:58: This is my favorite part! A smaller bell is rung by hand, signaling to a boy from one of the older groups to come and ring the lunchtime bell at noon. You have to keep out of the way because he comes running like an Olympian down the hallway, wearing his smart uniform complete with short pants, and rings the bell with gusto before sprinting back whence he came. The traditional atmosphere of the school inspires one to use words like "whence"...
Noon: JieJie and MeiMei come out of their classroom calling Mommy! Daddy! and we all hug. It's back in the stroller and home we go. We keep passing this place called the Tuk-Tuk Shop that sells snacks and broodjes (sandwiches). One of these days we're going to stop in and see if it's as delicious as it looks from outside.
12:30: We're home, the girls change clothes and we have a bit of lunch.
1ish to 2ish: quiet time. That's now, as I'm writing. The girls have been playing with their LeapPads and looking at books during this time. We try to keep them from sleeping...they can't fall asleep at night if they take afternoon naps and then the whole next day is, well, crappy. Or should I say crabby?
mid-afternoon: time for a stroll outside, weather permitting. We're not far from some nice pedestrian areas and we found a playground nearby that might be nice on not-rainy days (which seem the exception).
pre-dinner: tv for the girls, a glass of wine for us, and we all hang out in the combined living room / dining room.
Dinner happens at about 5:30 or so, and then the usual evening routine, some play, maybe a bath, a tv show, a movie (I found Disney's Cinderella in Dutch, French and English--bonus!) or whatever. Yesterday we broke down and bought some books because I didn't bring any bedtime stories. We got a great version of Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child, who does the fun "Charlie and Lola" series, and we got a new retelling of the Aladdin story, and finally a book called "Kleine Museum" that has Dutch words next to closeups of famous paintings--it was a Gen-X indulgence to be sure, one of those purchases that is as much for me as for them. I am reminded of the SNL skit about the parents who were all showing off their exotic baby carriers, all from Europe of course, and competing over who chose the carrier that would make their baby the smartest...anyway, it's a beautiful book and will make a nice souvenir of our time here.
7:30: The girls are in bed, little duvets pulled up to their cute little chinny-chin-chins. They sleep hard after one of these busy days!
8:30: John and I get the sleepies but have learned not to go to bed that early - too hard to sleep through the night. We stay up til the BBC News is about halfway done and go to bed between 10 and 11, ready to start again too early in the morning!