Funny thing about climate economics: you tend to have a lot of meetings in exotic locales (South Africa, India, Japan, West Virginia...) which means that Allen periodically has to travel abroad for duty and country, and has on occasion asked me to join him. I have always demurred, for a variety of reasons: I was pregnant; the kids were too young; I had too much going on at work; I had a bad experience in Paris in high school and didn't want to go back.
But maybe because my passport had expired and I was filled with wanderlust, or maybe because after a hectic holiday season, a few days in a foreign country with my husband was too tempting, when Allen asked if I wanted to join him in Brussels over MLK weekend, for once I said, "yes."
We started checking on flights (and whether the government would broker a budget deal in time lest Allen be grounded by another shut-down while I enjoyed Belgium in January by myself) and checked with the grandparents to see if Grandpa Fawcett could handle picking the kids up on Friday the 17th and dropping them off on Tuesday the 21st while Mom Mom and Grandpa Don took the kids for the long weekend (and Mom Mom would help out Tuesday's drop-off). The stars seemed to align and after bidding the kids farewell, Allen and I headed off to Brussels.
It was a rough start for the kids and Mom Mom, as after they made it home from school to grab their stuff, our poor minivan failed to start, forcing them to move all their stuff (and safety seats) to Mom Mom's car, delaying their drive to Silver Spring where they encountered street closing which put the kibosh on their dinner plans. But pancakes the next morning, a trip to Great Falls and an afternoon at Aunt Katherine's (with bath toys!) more than made up for it.
Meanwhile, Allen and I had a lovely first day in Brussels, having been allowed to check into our hotel as soon as we arrived, which was before sunrise, and many hours before we thought we'd be allowed, which meant we could shower, change, get breakfast, sight-see, take a nap, and see some more sites before an early dinner and crashing. The next day we slept in until noon at which point we decided to delay a trip to Bruges (which would take an hour by train) in favor of visiting the Atomium (which was 15 minutes by metro). This was clearly a mistake as model of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times wasn't nearly as cool as the canal based Flanders city is rumored to be, and because of heavy rains the following day (my last day in Brussels), we never managed to make it there choosing instead to sleep in even later and shop for souvenirs.
The trip home to DC proved interesting. Allen had a couple days of meetings, so we said goodbye on Tuesday morning as I headed out to the airport. Meanwhile, both DCPS and the government closed in anticipation of 4-8 inches of snow that afternoon. By the time my flight landed in Dulles, about three inches had fallen, and while I suggested I could take a shuttle, Grandpa Fawcett gallantly braved the roads (which were mostly empty) to pick me up while Mom Mom stayed with the kids (and stayed over for a second night as the roads continued to deteriorate after I arrived back home). The kids were not particularly excited to see me, but they were pretty excited for a sleepover in Owen's room that night and a second snowday Wednesday (which meant, due to a scheduled half-day on Friday for staff-development, our kids got a whopping day and a half of school for the week bringing their 2014 tally up to 10.5 days).
Thursday the kids actually made it to school and I went to the office. Allen beat us home and was rewarded with a much more enthusiastic greeting then I'd received by our offspring, but it was hard to begrudge him since as much as I'd enjoyed our time overseas together, it was nice to have our family reunited and home.
(To see all our Belgium pictures, click here).