Highlights of 2009

Well... I'd like to say we've kept in touch, but we reallly haven't. So... in an attempt to get it together, I'm hoping to "sign" Christmas cards and send them out WITHOUT a letter... otherwise, there won't be any cards at all...And yes, for those of you who keep track, we STILL live in Belgium. (We can't believe it, either...!!!) Waiting (and waiting) to see if we will be here one more year or if we will move this summer. This summer will make four years in Belgium; summer 2011 would make five years. That will make seven (or eight) consecutive years in Europe this time. Most of us are looking forward to a real house with closets!!!

Wishing you all the best this holiday season and always!
xxoo The Bradin Family

Stuart…

Has worked himself to bits for the NSCC (Nato Special Operations Coordination Centre). He has much to be proud of as he has taken the NSCC from a concept and a one-man show (Stuart Bradin himself) to more than 140 employees and counting. They will even have a 3-star general in place before long as they move ahead with the plan to make this a full-fledged headquarters. Very impresssive work he's done! To manage that, he flies all over the world to schmooze - I mean work - and manages to always come out on top. Really, it's amazing how much he gets from his wish list!

Stuart is currently spending 100+ days in Afghanistan as they create a Special Ops centre there for the NATO types. There is a hospital there with children who have been injured in the fighting, so he is allowing us to send candy, stuffed animals, and clothing to them because they have 'nothing'.

He (not to mention the rest of the crew) is waiting to hear what is next according to the Army. Possibilities include remaining in Belgium one more year, Tampa, or DC. There are always other possibilities, too, but those are the most likely!

Bailey… 13 years old, 8th grade

Bailey is as tall as her mother now! She will probably pass 5'8" and go a little bit more... hard to believe our baby is 13, until she gives us that 'teen' attitude. But really, she's still a good girl, especially when viewed away from her sisters! :) She is phenomenal with other people's children, too.

She has played soccer in Spring and Fall seasons for the past three years and continues to show improvement. Her Coach for most of those three years wasn't too sure we'd ever find a bit of aggression in her, but she seems to enjoy the sport. She is also playing her 3rd season of basketball this year - on an all-girls team this time.

Bailey would like to stay in Belgium until she graduates!

The picture is from two years ago because the more recent ones have messy hair and Mom won't post them!

Blair… 11 years old, 6th grade

Blair is all about sharing her opinion... oh joy. :) She is by far the most interested in cooking and is a fantastic helper around the house and in the classroom. She really seems to be enjoying 6th grade and is doing quite well. She is in the middle of a many-weeks-long project which will culminate in a Living History event where she will portray her character all day in costume. (Can't wait for that to end!)

Blair has played soccer for the past few seasons, but didn't choose to participate this fall as she was a little apprehenssive about what 6th grade would entail. Turns out that she could have easily managed both, but I applaud her thoughtfulness!

If she could have her own email and facebook page, life would be dandy. Unfortunately for her, Mom won't let her until she's older. (That Mom is quite the meanie, I hear.) Nevertheless, Blair has managed to develop her on-line shopping gene and can frequently be found filling her Gap shopping cart or searching for homes in Florida. She is ready to move - provided she gets what she calls a WIC - walk-in closet! :)

Bethany… 8 years old, 3rd grade

Bethany is still pretty much a sweetheart. It is apparent that she is working to develop her attitude genes - probably due to watching her sisters find their attitudes, I fear. She is breezing through third grade, though, so it's hard to complain much. She is in the classroom next door to Mom's, so she walks about 15-20 feet each morning in her trek from room to room. Mom gets lots of 'drive-by' hugs.

If we could get and keep teeth in her mouth, that would be nice... just as we're getting one hole filled, another one crops up... She is not remotely interested in sports or activities at the moment, though she has taken ballet and played soccer in the recent past.

Bethany is pretty ready to go to America, but thinks that means visiting family, playing at Dave and Buster's, or swimming in Miss Amy's pool! (She did only live in the US for two years, but those activities are things she has done when visiting!)

 

Kelly…

has no life at all. She works and does homework with the girls. She loves the teaching and the students, but going to school six days a week is getting old. Kelly is teaching 3rd grade again, so at least it is a bit easier the second time around. In all her free time, she has managed to complete 19 more graduate hours and has six more to go this semester. Not sure why. (Actually, the goal is to move with Master's plus 30 more graduate hours all together...)

Kelly keeps trying to keep a grip on life, but it seems to be slippery. This is the excuse she uses when asked about her family website (hopelessly outdated, but... her class website is current!). One of these days, she will have it together. Maybe.

Although Kelly, too, would like a walk-in closet, not to mention central heat/air, a garbage disposal, etc, she is quite happy living in Europe. Hard to complain about the opportunities she has had...

I adore my camera - much to the family's dismay, I fear. (not that that stops me!) I frequently get the evil eye for taking MORE pictures (please read that with LOTS of drama and attitude!). I do lots of drive-by shots - shots while moving, but they still get rather fed up with me!
The shots above are from Rome, Giverny, Paris, and a dance for Bailey. (She detests pictures!)
Oh - and Stuart riding motocross on his bad mamma jamma!

Belgium… grows on you. It certainly has issues, but you actually get used to the bizarre hours and rules. It certainly is not a place that is easy for single parents of any kind. The finance office closes at 4:00. I can leave the school at 4:00. After we get American dollars from Finance, we take them to Fortis (Belgian bank). Fortis closes at 3:45, except on Fridays, when it closes even earlier. It makes for an interesting juggling of things, but I know it could always be worse. On the positive side: My dermatologist says I should never be in the sun again... and that works pretty well for Belgium since there isn't much sun! So see, there are advantages to living here! :)

Big ideas, little follow-through ...
I actually started making Christmas cards. (Yes, MAKING. What was I thinking?!?!) They may or may not get mailed. I still have the cards I made last year, too. Hmmm. Seems to be a pattern to this... If you give up on me (very understandable), you can often find something just a bit out of date (okay, way out of date, but better than my emails!) at www. bradin.us .

Interesting Events (in reverse order):,
Girls and Kelly spend one night and two days at Disneyland Resort Paris.
Shopped at the Big PX at Ramstein airbase to get eyeglasses and spend some Christmas money.
Sent Stuart on his way to Afghanistan.
Watched Cirque du Soleil in Mannheim,Germany, this year as they performed Saltimbanco. This was our third (?) show from Cirque du Soleil. All three stories were bizarre and amazing!
Toured Rome and saw so many beautiful buildings. Girls weren't all that impressed until they saw "Angels and Demons"... Suddenly Rome was a bit more cool... sigh.
A couple other trips to Disneyland Paris. We got to meet Mickey and Minnie. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show is always fun to see.
Sightseeing in Paris. Dragged the family to Monet's gardens at Giverny, Versailles, and le Musee d'Orsay. They were suitably impressed... or maybe not.
Snowskied in Garmisch, Germany.
Visited London at the end of 2008.

Future events
??? Waiting to hear if we are moving (and therefore traveling to look for a house) or if we will be able to travel for one more year.

(since I'm using the format from two years ago, I'll keep this part!)
Fun things to do in the area (should you want to actually come see us!):

Parc Paradisio—originally a Monks’ abbey, then aviary turned zoo with an impressive open-air bird show with Falcons, Hawks, Vultures, etc
Brugge—beautiful, well-preserved town, one and a half hours away
Brussels—one of the most cohesive (in architecture) and beautiful Grand Places (Great square) in Europe, one hour
Paris—two and a half hours away
Antwerp—one and a half hours away

Stuart, Kelly, Bailey, Blair and Bethany Bradin
CMR 450 Box 159 APO AE 09705
VOIP 813.413.4398 (six hours ahead of the East Coast)
www.bradin.us
stu@bradin.us ............. kelly@bradin.us