I love Instagram and I love following other moms in particular. One of the tags I follow is actually is #momlife. I love seeing artsy pictures of cute children in cute outfits, I love seeing toys and crafts that I haven’t seen before and I love getting local tips or travel tips to try out with my 6-year-old.
I’m currently inspired & captivated with these 5 Instagram mom bloggers from Antwerp that you must go follow now. Seriously, do it. Now!
My top 5 Antwerp Instagram moms
Name Jessica // Blog: Exploring Life // Instagram: @jessicanobels– Teacher, blogger and an environmentalist with the cutest girls ever. Something about kids and glasses makes my heart melt. Maybe because my son wears them too.
Name: Lynn // Blog: Averechtse // Instagram: @LynnFormesyn – She is not the typical Instagram mom. She mainly uses Instagram to advocate for people with chronic pain (people like me). She is a gifted writer with an honest pen and recently wrote a book. Truly inspiring woman.
Name: Lies // Blog: Liesellove // Instagram:@Liesellove – She is a #momentrepreneur in the digital world and has a wonderful taste in taking colorful pictures of her super cute family. Also very inspiring when it comes to family travels.
So these were my My top 5 Antwerp Instagram moms!
Who would you like to add to this post? I cannot get enough of these strong power mama’s! Leave them for me in the comments and I’ll be sure to check them out!
I’ve decided to share with you guys a mini list of things that have sparked joy for me in the past month. I know when you hear “Sparks Joy” you are probably thinking of the Netflix series with Marie Kondo, about organizing and minimizing your belongings.
I watched that show just before moving last October and I must say, I found it very helpful when sorting through my stuff. The phrase now always pops in my head when organizing or when even shopping for things. Does it spark joy? Does it give me a thrill?
So I’m going to share monthly with you what has sparked joy in the past month for me. It won’t always be things, but it can be an outing, it can be a craft I did with my son, a new recipe I tried out. It can just be anything.
To refresh my memory while writing this post, I first check my Instagram where I share e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g ….I’m an oversharer I’ve been told. ?
So here is a list of things that have sparked some Joy and given me a thrill this past month.
This amazing from Teaja that my sister gave me Christmas. I love it so much that I finished it today. *insert sobbing*
My friends spark a lot of joy, especially for helping me out with my crazy cargo bike situation.
This year we’ve started learning bible verses with the ABC’s bible verses printable found on Pinterest. So with Bible verses and Pinterest spark some joy.
This Otterbox. After having gone through several iPhone cases that have either started to flake (the silicon ones) or just would break I gave into buying the Otterbox. I mean, the cases I bought cost just as much. And it has already passed the test, I drop my phone regularly and it’s been saved up until now by the Otterbox.
RMS Signature Set MOD collection is my favorite item! It’s so compact and natural and vegan (the base is coconut oil). It gives me a bit of natural color without irritating my skin. I did have to look up this tutorial to figure out how to use it best.
So that was it for this month. I could have gone on, so many things to be grateful for, but I wanted to keep this post short and clear.
Have you tried/done any of the things on my list above? Any comments you would like to share? Would love to hear.
In this recipe, we use psyllium fiber. This is actually a dietary supplement to support bowel function. You can buy it for a few euros online or at the chemist (I bought it at Holland & Barrett ).
250 ml of water
A few drops of food dye of your choice (optional)
2 hefty tablespoons of psyllium fibers
Mixing & stirring ingredients
3 to 5 minutes in the microwave
Stir, cool down, ready!
The recipe I found online calls for 3-5 minutes, with our first try we did 5 minutes, it spilled over (as you can see in the video) but it was slimy and easy to clean up. The second time we put it in less long and it was not as slimy. I’m thinking that it really needs to get hot hot hot! So don’t worry if it runs over a bit, once cooled you can manage it.
The kids decided to add glitter last minute, was not my idea, but it did look way better than my brown slime 🙂
It does not smell great, so even though you could technically eat it (without glitter)…they won’t want to. ? You’re welcome.
Who knew that fiber could give this kind of result.
After a full day of school, playing in the mud and sand, then kneading (almost) 100% natural slime at home plus baking and eating a carrot cake, my child deserves to end the day with a nice hot bath! All parents know that moment of calm and serenity that follows the bath: a clean little cutie who smells like soap, warm in his pajamas and ready for stories. And what if bath time could also be an opportunity to take care of our children’s health by offering them a gentle detox? Zoom on into my 4 favorite recipes for my child’s detox bath.
These 4 recipes I have come up with myself or found ideas on Pinterest and played with them.
They make falling asleep easier, provide quality sleep and gently cleanse the body of toxins accumulated during the day. What’s more, these recipes cost almost nothing. Why deprive yourself of them?
1 – Detoxifying bath salt with lemon
This detoxifying bath salt recipe is excellent for children with skin problems, irritations, eczema, dryness, etc… It helps to regain well-being when children are very tired from their day. Lemon essential oil is excellent for regaining a good mood and feeling soothed, it promotes a positive atmosphere and an optimistic attitude.
Mix a cup of Epsom salt and a cup of baking soda then add a drop of lemon essential oil. Then place under the faucet. I buy the Epsom salt at Holland & Barret.
Let your children soak for 30 minutes under supervision of course!
2 – Purifying Bentonite clay bath
The bentonite clay boosts general circulation and has been shown to act as a detoxifying agent.
Dissolve one cup of Epsom salt in hot water and add the tea tree essential oil.
Mix the clay with a small amount of water until all the pieces are removed (use a plastic spoon and a glass jar, no metal in contact with the clay!). Add the clay mixture to the saltwater and place it under the water jet.
It is also possible to make a clay paste that you can massage on your child’s body before bathing. Leave to dry for 5 minutes and let your child sit in the water and rinse.
3 – Detox bath with ginger
This bath is especially recommended for sick children! Small blocked noses, congested bronchial tubes, etc. can benefit from these two simple ingredients.
One cup of magnesium flakes and 1 tablespoon of organic ginger powder. Place the mixture under warm running bath water and let your child soak for 20 minutes.
I will be given my little Baba this bath tonight as he has been coughing profusely lately.
4 – Revitalizing bath with apple vinegar
This recipe is particularly suitable for children with skin problems. Apple vinegar helps to rebalance the pH of the skin and treat minor skin problems such as eczema, sunburn, itching, etc. It is a must to have at home but be careful, it is important that it always contains the mother of vinegar. I use the Bragg cider vinegar, but you can use any kind you like as long as it is raw and “with mother”.
Vinegar is also great as a conditioner for shiny and soft hair! If you don’t like the smell, add a drop of EO of real lavender to the mixture. The use of essential oils for children must be well thought out, and especially the oil must be of high quality!
Mix 500 ml of unpasteurized apple vinegar with the bathwater. Soak your child (or yourself!) for 30 minutes and dry thoroughly.
What’s the difference between Magnesium flakes and Epsom salts?
Magnesium flakes contain magnesium chloride and Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate. Magnesium flakes are purer and actually safer to use on children. They also absorb into your skin much faster than Epsom salts and the effects last longer.
Keep in mind:
When I mention essential oils, I am referring to quality, therapeutic-grade oils. I’m not talking about using diluted and watered down oils.
Try to keep them in the bath for 20 minutes to get all the benefits of the bath.
Lather them up, if you wish, with a natural moisturizer like coconut oil. I add in a few drops of lavender and give my son a light massage as I’m putting on his clothes.
Give your child some water or leave some beside their bed. Detox baths can make you thirsty. We always have a full reusable water bottle next to the bed.
Cuddle on the couch or in bed and read a good book before kissing them goodnight! Magnesium promotes sleep so they should sleep very well! Good for you! ?
I hope you’ll enjoy these few recipes and that you little angels will have fun playing splash and help them to sleep well.
Will 2020 finally by the year that I get my driver’s license?
I’m a pretty independent person. I have always been able to get from A to B by bike or public transport. I have visited cities, all by myself or with one of my children simply by relying on anything else but driving a car myself.
Independent person. But yet at 41 years of age, I still haven’t gotten my driver’s license. My daughter who is 25 years old will have hers before I have mine.
Well, it started out with me being a single mom at 18. I lived in the city at that time and had other expenses and worries that took priority.
When I moved to the suburbs I got myself a bike. It became a bit more difficult for me to get around, but still not enough for me to want to get a driver’s license just because I couldn’t really afford the driver’s lessons, let alone a car. Even a used one.
First and last try
Then when I got married, my husband encouraged me to get my driver’s license. one summer we 9he) drove to the South of France and that took us 12 hours and my husband had to pull over an hour away from our destination so he could have a nap. How much easier would it be if I too could drive? I started to feel some guilt about him having to drive all of the time.
So in 2013 when I was pregnant I went to take my theoretical exam and I passed the first time. I could already see myself driving our little one to school and being able to get the groceries myself.
But the plan was for my husband to teach me to drive… That did not work out. My husband was impatient, I was pregnant and hormonal…it was just not a good mix and before you knew it, my learners permit expired. *felt like such a failure*
Fast forward to 2020. I am now, unfortunately, a divorcee, chronically ill and a single mom who lives pretty far from school and the hospital were my doctors are, and after having biked 25 km a day to school and back, (plus having had multiple flat tires for no apparent reason), I am admitting defeat.
I’m studying again. Not so much has changed since 2013 luckily and I remember most things. I will hopefully be able to do the theoretical exam this week.
The next step will then be the driver’s lessons. I will have to take 20 hours of lessons AND THAT’S NOT CHEAP! *praying for the winning lottery ticket*
After the lessons pray some more and try to find an affordable second-hand vehicle and drive on a learner’s permit for 9 months. Then I have to take the practical exam and by the end of 2020 have my driver’s license, if God willing.
Sounds simple enough, eh? But I’m still skeptical. The will is very much there, I long for independence. But nothing seems to come easy to me. I’m sure it won’t be without any (mainly financial) hurdles.
So please tell me I’m not the only 40+ year old without her driver’s license. Can you share with me some positive stories? Prayers are also most welcome, we sure need them. ?
I just came across this post from the Bored Panda shared on Facebook, 30 minutes after writing this post! We got this!
To you, my child’s teacher, to whom I entrusted my little one a little too early for my taste. You, who every morning when I arrive at the school, have a smile on your face. You confirm to me that I made the right choice. That even though my mother’s heart is heavy to carry when I walk through the door, the most precious thing in my eyes is in good hands.
To you, my child’s teacher, who marks every birthday with sensitivity and celebrates every celebration to the delight of the little ones. Who even goes so far as to push our participation in order to make each experience unforgettable for our babies.
To you, my child’s teacher who simply takes the time. The time to listen to him and me, to prepare with attention the activities of the next day in order to amaze the children, to cook recipes with love and by knowing the preferences of each one. To take the time to comfort one while you must also entertain the other. Taking the time to go outside to play, even if it means dressing them layer after layer or creaming them every ten minutes. At pick-up, take the time to tell each parent about the day in a hurry.
To my child’s teacher, to the one who raises my son, who binds up his scratches when he hurts himself on the playground. I am grateful for all your small attentions and for all your work. To the one who treats my son as if he were her own; thank you for everything.
You are in a profession that demands the best of yourself in order to pass it on to others. A profession that, unfortunately does not get the credit that it deserves. I have spent many hours in your classroom and just keep on being amazed by your abilities and calmness.
And to you, my child’s teacher, my son finds himself in you. I trust your passion, your interest, your skills and your love; thank you for everything.
The end of last year has challenged me to look for tips and products that help reduce food waste because, well…
I’m guilty, I’m guilty. Weekly I’ve been throwing out way too much stuff. It usually starts with the resolution that we are going to eat more healthily. And was we do have healthy meals, I convince myself that during the day I will eat a celery stalk or a radish when hungry…but I usually don’t. I currently have a celery in the fridge whose leaves have already become soft and soggy, so I know that I will be making a soup this afternoon (instead of using it as the snack I bought it for.)
So determined to make a change I have searched the web and my favourite Facebook mommy groups and came up with these tips and products that help reduce food waste.
Freezer marker and (wasi) tape
I freeze in left-overs that are usually enough for just one. This comes in handy for when my daughter of 25 is alone at home. However I realized that I didn’t really keep track of what I was putting in the freezer and when. Nameless meals, which turned out to be something else than what I though when defrosted. Suddenly we ate sweet potato soup with the pasta instead of tomato sauce. I used to stick post-its on the pasta, but they didn’t stick in the freezer. Stickers labels are not my thing as it’s hard to get off .
We have a chalk marker for writing notes on the mirrors or to make designs on the windows, so I though there must be a washable marker to use on containers. As a matter a fact there is, I found a freezer marker on Bol.com by the make of Edding. You can buy them apparently in most craft shops and office shops( I didn’t know).
I also have loads of wasi tape and together with the marker they now make the perfect combo for labelling all kinds of stuff. Scotch tape will do the job just as well by the way, I just like pretty things 🙂 It’s very easy to remove and leaves no residue. Both are standard in our kitchen drawer and are used almost daily. Because now I also put it on jars and packs that I open and that are not empty yet. We have an opening date on everything. You can call me neurotic.
Too Good To Go app
Via the app Too Good To Go (iOS/ Android) you can buy a so-called Magic Box with products that have all reached the THT day. Don’t worry, it’s still safe to eat ! In the larger cities several shops, restaurants and even hotels participate. So I think that must be very interesting to do but in our village unfortunately only one supermarket. I did the test and bought a package for 4.95 EUR. The value of the package was 23.80 EUR, so good deal. But to be honest I found that there were quite a lot of luxury products, which I normally never buy. Also quite a lot of meat, while we as a family want to cut down. The contents were also quite kcal rich, I’ll say, and I missed vegetables, so you can make a full meal out of them. I still like the initiative, but doubt if I will do it again. When you buy products like that, which you don’t normally buy, is it really waste-free? Food for thought, shall we say…
“Eetmaatje” in Dutch as the one I have was created by the nutritional centre of the Netherlands.
It’s a measuring cup for rice, pasta and couscous. The measuring buddy makes it easier to measure portions. So you never have the tendency to cook too much and waste food. It also makes it easier to eat the recommended amount per person. Good for the environment, your health and your wallet! The Dining buddy is free. You only pay the shipping costs.
I only came to hear about them last year. Apparently I’ve been lying under a rock, because I had missed it completely. In 2013, a big crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter raised almost $84,000 in no-time. Now 7 years later, Food Huggers are still being sold. Food Huggers are an environmentally friendly alternative to cling film. They will last a lifetime. Made of safe silicone and free BPA and phthalates. The Huggers can be placed in the dishwasher, freezer and microwave.
The Food Huggers can be applied directly on food, but also indirectly as a lid. There are different sizes of sets.
In Belgium the eco-bio-fair webshop Kudzu sells them. I ordered them. Curious to see if the cling film really hugs the food!
TIP: I heard the other day that Ikea also sells them. Probably of a different quality, but if you are on a budget and want to make a difference why not. I love Ikea btw…LOVE!
In my hunt for Food Huggers I heard about OXO greensavers on a sustainable mothering group I’m in on Facebook. Vegetables and fruit produce ethylene. Ethylene accelerates the ripening process. The Oxo Greensavers absorb the excess ethylene produced, keep the air around the food constantly moving and control the humidity. Oxo uses a (naturally) non-toxic carbon filter of coconut shell, which absorbs the ethylene gas. The active carbon filter lasts 3 months. An adjustable date slider indicates when it is time to replace it.
There are freshener boxes for sale and a freshener for in the vegetable drawer. I chose the latter. With the help of 2 suction cups you stick it in the vegetable drawer. Oxo claims that your fruit and vegetables stay fresh so much longer and you will recoup the investment of 9,95 euro for the holder + 1 carbon filter (or 12,95 euro for 4 refill filters) in no time. I’m going to test it! I’ll let you know!
If you are keen to get your hands on one of these products, keep an eye on my blog as I will soon be organizing my first giveaway! Yay!
Now please give me more tips and products that you know of that help reduce food waste.
All products in the article have been purchased by myself.
Maybe you’ve heard about before and asked yourself, what is mild parenting?
While pregnant with my last baby I had been reading many websites and books on parenting. Like most parents right? But at the time of my last pregnancy it had been 20 years since I had my first. I must have this parenting thing down…
Well, I did learn a lot while parenting my two first children who are now in their twenties, but I regret some parenting choices I then made and wished that I had better tools. I’m “mild” with myself. I mean, I was a teen mom, who’s parents did not do a great job themselves. Everyone was swarming me with their advice and I did what I thought that I had to do ( someone told me I was starving my child and that I needed to thicken my breast milk with sugar and cornflour). There was a lot of me getting angry and a lot of punishing, chore boards and stickers involved. Not that I was physical, but my eldest son had spent a lot of time in his room, broke.
I love my children so much. They are my world and I wanted to change the way I parent. I wanted peace in my home, in their hearts and mine.
Mild parenting is binding parenting. And in order to be able to do that, it is important to connect with yourself.
Then one day I went to a lecture given by this kick-ass psychologist woman named Nina Mouton who comes from Ghent. (a kick-ass town to visit too)
Nina came to talk about mild parenting, a term that I hadn’t heard before. Unconditional parenthood, attachment parenting, RIE parenting…on the other hand, these concepts have often been around our ears in recent years. Briefly until now, for me, this only meant: wear your baby/child until your back breaks, breastfeed it until your nipples fall off and sleep together until the age of 16. I knew a lot. Nina made me look at this approach differently that afternoon.
Because there was Nina, with her obvious -and at the same time magical- vision to just being there for your child. Uh okay. And what after that? Nothing. After that, the rest usually comes naturally.
It seems simpler than being there for your child, isn’t just the physical presence. It’s main commitment to an emotional bond, and you do that by leaving space, naming emotions, and letting the child be who he or she is.
Any “awkward” behavior usually has an underlying desire. The real underlying wish is the reason a child will show difficult behavior (for us). This kind of behavior is always a signal (“help me, I don’t know anymore”). There are very different wishes: affection, autonomy, closeness… It is up to you to find out what your child wants and to name it ?
Once you know the underlying wish, you can start naming what you see: what feeling do you think is behind the behavior? Stick to the basic feelings: angry, scared, happy and sad. Other feelings are still too unclear for young children (e.g. jealousy).
Let the feeling be there, don’t neutralize it as soon as possible because it bothers you or someone else (“you shouldn’t cry”). “Children have a right to their injustice,” Wow, I understood that there for the first time.
Often a child already knows that certain emotions are not okay and they start looking for a way out. A very nice example of this is a child that hurts mom, gets a reaction to it and starts running away. Or the child that doesn’t want to sleep, starts crying very hard and after a while says it has a stomach ache. So that’s why it is crying and not because it doesn’t want to sleep.
This educational approach is really something of our time. In the fifties, there was not much attention to parenthood. You sent your children out onto the field and hoped that just as many would come back in the evening.
When I was a first-time mom the behavioral approach was the pinnacle: punishing and rewarding until your child is completely molded the way you want it (in my opinion still a form of conditioning that brings little added value, they really don’t learn anything in the end because my eldest son just stopped doing chores for money because he started a student job). Even now, these theories are often proclaimed as “the” means of raising children, just think of the super nanny. Until the stickers came out of my ears and I didn’t know it at all.
Nina Mouton doesn’t like punishment either. A child will learn something if there is a “natural consequence” from certain behavior. E.g.: don’t clean up, then there’s no time for a story. It is not a punishment if a child has a choice.
Mild parenting, all well and good. But how can you be a mild parent with sleep deprivation? That went right through my head. I sleep very badly, and when my son was still nursing, he was nursing sometimes every two hours. Nina devotes a chapter to that, too. Self-care is the code word. A few tips:
Be authentic, stay calm. Get out of the situation if you’re in danger of being overwhelmed. Then come back to what happened afterwards.
Find a mommy buddy. (check)
Don’t be a champ all the time, it only takes energy from you and they won’t learn anything from you (except for a child of the most aggressive age ever, of course).
Find out what gives you energy and what requires energy from you (energy guzzlers).
Do things you did before the birth of your first child. (for me that was playing with Barbies)
You can’t do everything, choose your battles. (That’s one I’ve already mastered!)
Define your own boundaries: e.g. safety and health is not an issue.
Determining a “higher goal” can help: what values and norms do you want to give when they are out of the house? Is that what you are doing right now important? Often what you want NOW, and what you want later, is very contradictory. A higher goal can be: I want a child who can stand up for his opinion. What do you do if that child doesn’t want vegetables in his spaghetti sauce… He stands up for his opinion, doesn’t he?
You see, there’s still a lot of work to be done for me but now that my youngest has turned 6 years old, I can already see the difference mainly in our home and in myself. I very much prefer the mom (and person) that I have become, calmer and milder *insert smugness here*
There is so much more peace and happiness in our house now that I just wish that I had known (and understood) then, what I know now. Many things would have probably been different.
When your new baby is delivered, you anticipate it being the best day of your life. For me, that event on a cold, December day and was one of the worst days of my life.
My youngest son was born after I went into early labor. I had already been in hospital since week 24 with a placenta previa and inexplicable early contractions. To say I was scared is an understatement. He was going to be born way too soon.
Recently an acquaintance and now friend of mine had her baby delivered six weeks early and was terrified of what she was going through. I told her my story and she found such comfort in hearing the emotional similarities. Though everyone’s singular situation is different, I believe we all take solace in knowing the commonality of the emotional pain, trauma, and uncertainty that we’ve endured.
Way to soon
I was filled with emotions finding that my son was about to be delivered almost three months early. When I first arrived at the hospital at 24 weeks with heaving bleeding I was being prepared for the birth right there, right then. I’d never heard of such a thing. I couldn’t imagine a newborn baby could survive outside the womb four months before he was scheduled to be born, but I soon learned today’s neonatal medicine is amazing. An army of specially skilled doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons, saved my son’s life. But not on that day yet.
I did not give birth at the 24th week when first arriving. No, I was kept in hospital, on bed rest for 7 weeks, given a dose of magnesium and a steroid shot to help the baby’s brain and lungs develop. Eventually, the contractions stopped as did the bleeding and I was sent home for further bed rest… However, 6 days later I was sitting in the front seat of my in-law’s car with the window down in mid-December because my mother-in-law was chain-smoking. I couldn’t blame her. I left the hospital almost a week before with the warning to come back in ASAP if I began bleeding, or we both could die. And yes, I started to bleed again. My worried (ex)husband was still at work across the border in the Netherlands, wondering if he should come to the hospital. The hospital was eerily quiet as I waited nervously for the diagnosis. I was told I would get another a dose of magnesium and a steroid shot to help the baby’s brain and lungs develop and that they needed to do an emergency c-section. Overwhelmed, I was terrified of what was about to happen.
My husband arrived, worried something was wrong with so much commotion. I was brought to the operation room and my husband needed to wait in the waiting room while they would prep me as they promised to get him once I was ready.
I remember sitting at the edge of the operating table, waiting for the doctor to give me an epidural. The whole time I was praying and feeling incredibly guilty that my body was not able to care for my baby anymore.
That it could not keep the baby safe and that my baby now had to be brought into this world…way too early. I could not protect him anymore. I had failed.
The first epidural did not work for some reason, at least not as quickly as was needed. They gave me a second one, trying to convince me that the pain I was feeling was not real. When the first incision went into my belly, the pain was indescribable. I screamed and my heart and blood pressure went off the chart and so they had to put me fully under. The anesthesiologist grabbed my throat, told me that they needed to do this and that everything will be ok, she put the oxygen mask on and out I went.
The next thing I remember was waking up from a dark fog, just realizing what had happened and I started asking, no yelling, begging for my baby. Again, I feel this dark fog coming back upon me.
I hear the nurse or was it a doctor, calling for help because there was blood everywhere, I pass out again. I come by once more, again calling for my child and I hear them asking for my husband.
That he might be able to calm me down.
He came. I don’t remember what he said first, but when I asked if our son was alright, he answered that he didn’t know. That he was still waiting for the nurse to come and get him when they wheeled out a baby in an incubator and that he knew that it was our son.
They rushed our son off to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), he wasn’t breathing.
I faintly recall a conversation with one of many doctors during the weeks leading up to my son’s birth, about the survival rates and complications likely with a baby being born this early.
To prepare us they even showed us books on how babies looked like at each week. They even gave us a tour of the NICU. We were well prepared, but you never truly can be.
As I lay in a hospital bed in the recovery unit, praying for my son. I negotiated with God. Don’t we all do that in dire circumstances?
“God, if you do this for me, I PROMISE I won’t let you down, I will dedicate my life and his to You Lord”
I just wanted this baby to be OK.
They told us that he weighed 2140kg and that he was 47 cm long, he was big for a 31-week-old baby.
I had no idea what this meant. Would he survive then? Could he even breathe? Could I see him? Hold him?
That evening they brought us to the NICU to meet our little man. My Lord was he ever so gorgeous. He didn’t look like the pictures we had seen of preemies. Yes, his tiny, fragile body was poked and prodded with tubes, he could not breathe and was wearing a c-pap so we could not fully see his face.
But gosh, he was beautiful. His body had a rosy red color to it, plump and he still had fuzz all over. We couldn’t see his hair color yet, as he was wearing a bonnet to keep all the cords in place.
Life in the hospital
I stayed in the hospital for 8 days, and even though I was not supposed to walk around yet, I was walking up to the NICU a few times per day, staying for hours.
Starring at this wonderful child. But he was struggling. He still could not breathe on his own, could not eat of course and he had a condition that we didn’t know about until after he left the hospital. Baby apnea, making him suddenly for no reason stop breathing. Something common amongst preemies.
Even though he looked stable, the first 48 hours were crucial and it’s horrible, that feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen. His alarms went off, a lot. They had to nudge him and poke him, a lot.
I spent hours, days crying. I thought I’d run out of tears, but I didn’t. After my youngest son’s birth, we spent 65 days living in the hospital fighting for life.
I say WE because I (we) was with my son every step of the way as were our family and friends, caring for our other children at home, bringing diners, praying for us and for loving us even though I did not feel lovable at that point.
And today — as he’s on the verge of turning 6 years old when I am writing this.
Even today when I talk about how life started for my 6-year-old son, many times I cry. It’s real trauma that I didn’t recognize as post-traumatic stress. I discovered this recently after having started therapy this past year… The trauma didn’t end when our son left the hospital.
We still had spent many days in and out of the hospital due to his being a preemie. Hospitals almost felt like a second home for the first few years. I was terrified each time that I would lose him. Even if we were there for a simple check-up.
It must have been a week after he arrived home that my eldest son noticed that his baby brother wasn’t breathing in his cot.
We rushed him to the ER and he stayed again with an infection, but we also had to do a sleep test and we found out that he had baby apnea (meaning that he would just stop breathing) and we got to take home a monitor that our son needed to wear all of the time.
It gave a false sense of security and every time that it went off my heart raced and I would rub his little tummy asking him to breathe.
But today he is 6 years old and the last time we spent a night in the hospital has been 3 years ago.
When you see him now, you would never even think that he had such a hard time starting life. He was born big, and he still is a very tall boy, towering over other children his age.
He does very well in school even though he needed to redo this past year of kindergarten due to some delays in his developmental milestones.
But now he is eager to read and write, and his favorite things are the arts (crafting and performing) and building towers and houses for his action figures and stuffed animals. His lego building skills continue to impress me.
He loves playing with our two Dachshunds and cat and just loves all animals. It’s a love that he and his big sister share and he even recently got to sit on her horse for the first time.
When picking him up from school he runs into my arms and covers me with kisses, wherever we are he will cuddle up to me and give me kisses and I hope that he agrees with me that when he is older that you can still be cool and love your parents. ?
Sometimes he sleeps in his bed, but he still mostly snuggles up to me in mine. Then I think of the first days of his life when we couldn’t snuggle. So, I will take all the snuggling that I can get.
He is kind, creative, loving and mischievous as all children are.
I look forward to this coming year, the year of six, and I can’t wait to see the things that he will learn to do.
And I am looking forward to watching him grow up and one day seeing the man that he will become. My heart is so full.
My son, my miracle. Our blessing. Happy 6th Birthday dear Baba.
BTW, I highly recommend this book, “Hold your prem” written by Jill Bergman that was given to me by a friend.
It helped me to prepare for the early birth and gave me tools on how to bond with my child despite the traumatic first moments of an early birth.
I always recommend it and gift it to parents who could benefit from it.
Who is Sinterklaas? Saint Nicholas explained, hereby me! A Canadian mom of three living in the Antwerp province of Belgium.”
‘Sinterklaas” and of course “Zwarte Piet”. Maybe you just moved to this side of the globe and wonder who the heck is this guy that you are seeing all over the place in the form of chocolate and speculaas cookies? He kind of looks like Santa, maybe Santa looks like the Pope here in Belgium/Netherlands?
Even though Saint Nicholas brings presents like Santa, there are quite some big differences. And try explaining that to a 6 six-year-old. More about that in another post.
Here in Belgium, it’s a big big thing. It’s quite as magical as growing up with Santa. Books about Saint Nicholas are read in schools. You can see Saint Nicolas arriving from Spain at the Antwerp harbor from your parent’s shoulders or watch it on tv. You can visit him at the mall and sit on his lap, just like Santa. Saint Nicolas even came to read at our local library. And then on the eve of the 6th of December, the children put out one of their shoes, put a carrot in it or some sugar cubes for the beautiful horse of Sinterklaas. Some children like to even put out a bottle of beer for Saint Nick. Quite different from putting out cookies and milk for Santa.
Sinterklaas is a celebration that is celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium, but where does it actually come from? Have Sinterklaas and Piet always looked like this? And are the Netherlands and Belgium the only countries where it is celebrated? In short, do you know Saint Nicholas? A piece of history.
Saint Nicholas, the saint
Sinterklaas currently lives nice and warm in Spain. Once a year he comes to the Netherlands and Belgium on his steamboat to bring us all presents. However, he has not always lived in Spain, has not always had a steamboat and has not always been called Sinterklaas, but Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas was as the story goes, a monk who was born in the year 280 AD in Asia Minor, now Turkey in the village of Patara. Nicholas was praised in his time for his dedication to his faith and goodness of action. He was a rich man who found joy in giving. Nikolaas was loved by children because he was generous and very friendly to them. He loved doing good deeds, the best-known being that he would have saved 3 sisters from going into slavery and prostitution by giving them a dowry so they could get married. In the course of time, Nicholas grew his popularity and later the church renamed him Saint Nicholas, the saint, patron of both children and sailors.
From Turkey to the Netherlands
The stories of Saint Nicholas became more and more popular and spread over the world via land and sea over time. Sailors took the stories to Italy, where they subsequently spread through Switzerland, Austria, and eventually from Germany to the Netherlands. The journeys made by the stories of St. Nicholas made the story and the face of Sinterklaas change a little to what was celebrated by the people at that time. Sinterklaas, for example, has many similarities with the Germanic god Wodan (also known as Odin). This god flew through the air with a horse and had a large white beard, staff, and red cloak. On his shoulders, he had 2 black ravens who told him about the actions of the people and sometimes he crawled through the chimney of people to scatter seeds in honor of fertility.
A trace of the journey that made the story of Sint Nicholas can be found in different parts of the world. These celebrations show that the sweet story of Sinterklaas that we know today used to have a much darker tone where Piet was sometimes depicted as a demon and where the roe (symbol of fertility) was used to beat women when she left walked down the street.
Such celebrations symbolize the good and the evil and are still celebrated today in countries such as Austria, Switzerland, southern France, Macedonia and even on our own Wadden Islands. These unique celebrations have been preserved because they originated in more isolated places in, for example, mountain villages or on the Wadden Islands where it is more difficult for outsiders to get into local opinion.
Sinterklaas, as he is known to us today, with his loyal servant Zwarte Piet and having a steamboat plus living in Spain, was conceived by the Dutch teacher Jan Schenkman. Jan Schenkman, born in 1806, was the first to write the Sinterklaas story in its current form in a picture book, a story that consists of several books. In his first booklet called “St. Nicholas and his servant,” he gave Zwarte Piet a page suit, clothing worn by squires and introduced new elements such as the steamboat and living in Spain. He also wrote several poems and was the creator of songs such as “Zie ginds komt de stoomboot uit Spanje weer aan“.
From Santa Claus to Santa Claus
For example, the Sinterklaas party as we know it today has come a long way and in its journey, it has been adapted in every place to what best suited the people of that time. Just as the Dutch and Belgians received the Sinterklaas story from their neighbors, so did Dutch immigrants bring the Sinterklaas story by sea to America, from which the Christmas story ultimately emerged. You can find more about the origin of the Christmas story on the website of History.com, follow the link here.
If you did not grow up with Sinterklaas, what were your first thoughts when experiencing this magical time of the year?
How do you explain Sinterklaas or even Santa to your children?
I do not want to lie to my child, but I also do not want to rob him of these magical memory makers and so I’m just waiting until he figures it out himself. If he will ask me at some point whether Sinterklaas exists, I will just simply ask him what he thinks and see from thereon.