I try to share monthly with you things that have brought Sparks of Joy into my life. It will not 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.
So now, my list of things that have sparked some Joy and given me a thrill these past months!
Dumplings! This is a brand new craving that I have developed during the COVID lockdown. I tried making some myself, but they were just not the same. So enjoying lot’s of them, now the restrictions have eased. My favorite spot in Antwerp, up until now, is a Bah Mei in the Antwerp Chinese district. I dare you to find me an even better one!
Wine! Now that we are spending more time at home, why not with a nice bottle of vino? Loving this new-found wine called Dark Horse. I actually bought it for my miss 26yo, because of the horse on it of course…turned out to be actually good.
Corky Masks! Now that the new fashion fad is face masks, I have quite a collection now. Two of my favorites is one that I bought on Etsy. And a vegan/sustainable one made out of cork, from a local store called Captain Cork.
Favorite toy bough this past month is for sure the new Super Mario Lego set! I already know what I’m getting my little mister for Sinterklaas.
Nice inviting smells are major “Sparks of Joy” for me, so my all-time favorite reed diffuser is from Atelier Rebul, the Istanbul. But will be trying a new one out next month.
That was it for this past month. Looking forward to discovering new and fun things. Drop me a line if you want me to try something out.
Ever since I was a child you could find me sniffing at the fabric softener bottles in the grocery store while the parents were shopping.
And every time that I would come across lavender outside, I would pinch my fingers over the blossoms and smell my fingers.
Or walking into the Lush store makes me want to buy up all the bath bombs…
I’m pretty sure that it releases dopamine in my head.
My favorite way to scent my home
Reed stick diffusers are my favorite, cheap or expensive – I’ve tried a lot of different types. In the end, I decided to invest in more expensive reed diffusers.
Cheap turned out to be expensive, considering that you tend not to smell much after a few days, or even hours, with the cheap reed diffusers.
I googled “best selling reed diffusers”
I was already familiar with Rituals. I love many of their products and have bought the large reed diffusers a few times before. But I felt like the smell got lost way before it should have.
So I wanted to try something different and some brands came up regularly. When I looked up some of the recommended brands (including Atelier Rebul), I found them way too pricey for me to just take the risk and buy a reed diffuser online.
But then one day I walked into the washroom of a local lunch spot and I was hit by this incredible scent.
I took a picture so that I would remember the name. I forgot to switch the sound off on my phone, I’m hoping that nobody heard me taking these pictures in the toilet stall. Ha!
This is a frequently asked question from many of my “mom” Facebook groups. We are all looking for that one unique birthday party. No indoor playgrounds (I really hate those), no “let’s just wing it” home birthday parties where the only thing planned was the decorations and cake. (the kids will entertain themselves, right?)
Well, look no further, I have collected here for you loving parents, a list of interesting and unique birthday party ideas for your little special person.
Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue – Antwerp city
For those little creative souls out there, this place certainly will catch one’s eye.
A place where fun and creativity come together.
Where an artist’s studio and fine foods merge.
Somewhere you can experience a wide range of creative workshops not only children but for adults as well.
Here you also enjoy art events every week, such as film evenings, vernissages, and performances.
For the birthday parties, there is a workshop, cake, time to open presents, and even room for free play!
They do this by providing workshops for children’s birthday’s in an extremely beautiful setting. It’s building (the former justice of the peace) is situated in the hip “Oud-Berchem” neighborhood.
I just love the workshop themes they have. Workshops like making slime monsters, a jewelry-making workshop. Just such wonderful ideas, even a “designer” workshop for the little fashionista’s. LOVE!
Sprookjespad/ Fairytale path – Brasschaat
The Fairytale Path is a magical walk through park De Mik. During the walk, an experienced guide guides the children to a fantasy world with stories, songs, and games.
The activity lasts about two hours and starts at the Mikerf petting zoo, goes through the park and around the pond to the listed tower gate, where the children can stay for half an hour in the beautiful wishing tower.
There is a sweet little tavern where they sell pancakes or ice cream, but you need to book it separately. But my preference would be having a picnic at the lake with a view over the castle and tower. The children will love this!
Zoo van Antwerpen / Zoo van Planckendael – Mechelen
Due to the measures taken concerning the coronavirus, birthday parties can not be booked.The parks however are open.
We have done this one too. My son loves the zoo and I though that it was the perfect idea.
You can choose between the toddler safari and the Creepy Creatures theme.
You have a guide who will explain all you want to know about the animals, and the walk ends with pancakes and a drink!
My son even receive a turtle stuffed toy.
I did find it pricey and we were hoping to have a close up of the animals or something special, but it was just a guided (well-guided) walk around. I might be picky, probably because we are proud owners of year passes and visit a lot so it did not feel much different from our other visits.
But still a great idea for the animal lovers! And we love the Zoo all year round.
Camping in a more “primitive” way has always been my preference. In Belgium (and most of Europe) you can find almost any type of facilities and attractions on offer.
If it’s swimming pools, children’s activities, wellness centers, entertainment, and restaurants you’re seeking, there are plenty of parks ticking these boxes.
But that was not what we were longing for.
Who is we?
Well, now with the corona restrictions and us, dwellers from the province of Antwerp, we could only really travel with people out of our bubble.
So my bubble was two other mom’s and we all had 5 kids with us, three tents, two cars, and a cute white Swiss shepherd (huge) puppy dog who enjoyed herding us.
This is when Instagram became helpful again.
A friend of mine had posted a picture of one of her sons, eating at a table with a river on the background. Knowing her a bit, I knew that the camping site was probably not going to big the great big recreational type of camping.
So I looked it up, presented it to my friends and we all agreed that this would be it.
The camping site was situated in the Belgian Ardennes and was bout 2 1/2 hours drive from Antwerp. The name: Les Ochays in Mortehan, Ardennes.
We were a bit disappointed that we did not have a spot right next to the river, but instead at the very front, next to the trampoline and the sanitary block. But after our weekend, we all agreed that the spot was actually great for us. The sound of the children playing was not annoying, we could keep a good eye on our children who were on that trampoline constantly.
Even though the idea about being next to a sanitary block might not seem appealing, it was not bothersome at all. There was still a good enough distance between our camping spot and the block, but handy having all these children needing the bathroom often.
We could also get water and do the dishes while still keeping an eye on the kids. No, I think if we would go back, that we would ask for the same spot again.
How we experience the camping Les Ochays
There is no shop there, but there is a fridge at the reception area stocked with life essentials like beer, wine and cava (we ordered the last). Some canned goods were also available and you could order fresh bread for the next day.
One of the appealing things to me about this camping spot is the “NO MUSIC” policy. No playing the radio and things like that.
So it was really peaceful in the evening, even with the children’s laughter in the background and the occasional screaming baby.
Even though our tents were not right next to the River “Le Semois”, it would only take us a minute or two to walk over to it.
The water was low this year. Usually, you could canoe the waters, but that was not possible, but it was great for swimming. Not too deep for the children. They had a hoot, trying to catch fish and frogs. One child even caught a river crab. So we did a great lot of swimming.
I’m not a great fan of it, but for my son, I would do anything, even dip in the slippery rock water. I actually enjoyed it a lot.
A little adventure?
There are a few trails you could do, and some towns to visit near the campsite Les Ochays, but as we were only there for a weekend, we only did a small hike, looking for beaver dams.
We did not actually find the dams (we did find something that looked like one and saw some trees with beaver marks on it) and we probably took the wrong route.
I’m pretty sure we were not supposed to be hiking through the slippery rock river (with 3 women, 5 children under 9 and one dog…)
Not even knowing if there was a hole or something in front of you to then finally have no other option than the send the white shepherd puppy out of the water so he could make a path through the burning thistles and all different types of prickly weeds just to get out.
Did I mention that I and my half-naked barefoot son got lost for some time? With no phone, no bag, nothing or water in the middle of nowhere?
After my anxiety kicked in and my thoughts dwindle off to us maybe getting kidnapped and murdered by the workers we spotted a way back who were enjoying their lunch, my friend with her dog found us!
So that story ended well.
Besides that, we just stayed at our camping spot where the children made new friends, and we got to relax a bit. With some cava.
And so if you are looking for a great small camping spot, with not too many frills, next to a River and where no music is being played and extremely enchanting then this camping Les Ochays is for you.
Clean showers and toilets (clean is a must, there stops the primitivity for me)
Possibility to buy drinks at the reception area, also some canned goods and fresh bread for the next day. There is a small terras (two tables) across the reception. Cozy!
For the kids: Trampoline, table tennis plus bikes and go-carts free to use around the camping. And the River Le Semois of course for swimming, with a little boat.
Kayaks (but the river was too low this season)
And dogs are allowed!
So there you have it folks. I hope that I enticed you with this post, just writing about it makes me want to go back.
Let me know if you can recommend any similar “no-frills” camping grounds.
Little eyes love watching everything we do and so I try (but I don’t always succeed, far from it) to model positive traits.
During pre-COVID times we would visit a retirement home with a few people from church, but due to the COVID restrictions, we are sending the people some cards with words of encouragement.
Just a small act, but its something that we both love to do (drawing and crafting) and we can do together.
We CAN teach children compassion and kindness starting from a very early age and help them to develop a heart for serving others And not only themselves.
It doesn’t even have to be difficult. There are SO many easy ways parents can help raise kids who have a heart for others and who want to serve others. They say the children of today are self-centered…let us as parents prove them wrong.
Here are some examples of ways that we can serve others during the current COVID Pandemic:
Calling or Video calling people we know are alone
Dropping off a meal and a drawing/card at your neighbors, elderly, single parent, or again someone you know living alone.
Making masks together to give away freely. Follow this link for the proper way of making a face mask.
Think local. Let’s support struggling local businesses.
Shop for neighbors and/or friends.
Donate games of toys that your child doesn’t play with anymore to a family in need (clean properly first 🙂 )
Chalk up someone’s walkway with nice saying, happy pictures, and colorful drawing
Order takeout from local restaurants
Show an example to your children of saying thank you to the medical care workers.
Offer dog walks.
Making the effort to stay healthy. Don’t underestimate how much you’re helping by simply following public health guidelines. Even by just staying at home as much as you can and practicing social distancing when you do go out, washing your hands you’re making a vital difference in your community.
While doing all of this, don’t forget, little eyes are watching. Good job!
Playing with kids without having to get up. Sounds too good to be true?”Mommmmmmy, do you want to play?”, I would consider myself a “fun” mommy. I like to join in crafts, building lego, playing games outside, and even do great voice impressions while reading to my six-year-old. But..some days I cannot do much due to chronic pain. And sometimes mommy’s just tired. Can I lie down on my lounge chair for a while?
Time for an inspiration list with simple children’s games: playing with kids without getting up, so ? A bit like games for road trips and plane flights.
So Mommy’s sometimes tired
I tidied up, took care of the lunch, and just installed myself on the lafuma chair outside for a quick read in my Kindle and then… “Mommmmyyyyy!” Does this sound familiar?
Letting my son have some extra screen time does seem tempting, but I have a good screen schedule in place and I don’t want to start making exceptions. (Torrential Storm and having to take him with me to the doctor are already the exceptions)
Playing with kids without getting up
So the kids are basically about their mother’s attention. Me. Maybe I can suggest a few games so I can play with my son without me having to get up.
Let’s give it a try…
Number and word games (guessing)
The classic guessing games are always good for moments like this. You can come up with guessing games by color.
Bumble Bee Bumble Bee
I see something you don’t see
and the color of it is red
But you can also play with letters or numbers. I’m looking for something in this place and it starts with the letter K… Or something with numbers: Name 3 things in the closet that have to do with getting dressed. Or look for 7 red things around us.
I see I see and the color is. What is it?
I’m looking for something with the letter K, in this area. Rara, what is it?
Name 3 things from this room that have to do with getting dressed. What is it?
Look for 7 red things around us. What is it?
Playing with kids without getting up is also possible with fun word games. For example, invent an animal and the other has to invent a new animal with the last letter. Like with: a horse – dragon – kangaroo. Or choose one of the other games below.
Word game with animals, invent a new animal with the last letter. Like with horse – dragon – kangaroo).
Which number am I? Describe the number. I have a dash and a circle. Or I am two balls on top of each other, but they are not completely round.
Turn a string into a number. The other one has to guess which one.
Recite the alphabet and makeup words.
Fun fantasy games
A super fun game without getting up is fantasy hide-and-seek. You take turns pretending to be hiding somewhere in the house. The other is going to guess where, by asking yes-no. Are you in the kitchen? Are you in the cutlery drawer? The nice thing about this is that you can choose ALL the places you can think of. And there’s more:
Making up a song together
Making up a story
Draw faces on fingers or toes and add them into a game
Moving on the spot
Finally, some fun motion games. One of my clever inventions is the game “circus”. This is simply that the kids show me their tricks and capers. By the way, this one is always good for the last energy just before bedtime.
The kids are jumping and jumping while I secretly stay on my bed. I can’t deny that this often ends in frolicking, but still ? Other fun games with movement on the spot:
Almost every day we’re reading news about women and girls being murdered, tortured, or raped. Turkish people have started a campaign, demanding a better law system and a better support system for women. I’m sharing this picture for every girl or women we lost and for the survivors amongst us, and to support their cause. Only the international pressure to the government can help Turkish women (or any other woman in that case) to finally get their rights.
Say ” NO” to violence against women.
My abuser, my ex-husband, received 5 years. But will be free after doing 1/3 of his time. Barely giving his victims the time to heal and leaving me to deal with the ramifications for the rest of my life.
But as a woman of faith, I will leave it into God’s hands who has already been faithful (despite how many of you feel) and he gave me the fierce perseverance that I and my daughter both share.
So…” Challenge” Accepted. Cherishing, supporting, and believing in women is one of my greatest joys. Women loving me, supporting me, and understanding me is one of my greatest strengths. ? Big love to the women who nominated me, all of whom I am enormously in awe of and inspired.
I could have never got to where I am now alone & I hope no woman ever feels she needs to. I hope she knows she’s supported. That her fellow woman stands behind her, that she’s worth being celebrated in every victory and has safe hands to hold her when she’s low. We are a sisterhood and together we stand.
We love glorifying pain, trauma, and abuse as God’s will. We love making God a violent, manipulative man just so we can make sense of the hurt in our lives. But…
That isn’t God.
That’s the effects of trauma and pain working against us in favor of itself and the ones who harmed us.
Want to heal?
To be clear: to heal, you must be ready/willing to accept that the pain is not the sum total of who you are, who you can become holds the greatest possibilities for your future and that you are not alone as you make the journey to wholeness.
I was not chosen/called/favored to be raped. I didn’t need to accept that to heal from it. Do you see how dumb that sounds? It’s nonsensical and antithetical to God’s heart to suggest that these experiences were sent as positives.
There are entirely too many sisters (and brothers) whose lives have been transformed by all the pain and trauma they’ve endured. They deserve a freeing, liberating word that is rooted in their humanity and the truth that God loves them and would never cause them harm.
We live in a world where evil is present. For reasons beyond our control, people lean into that evil and cause harm of various magnitudes. It is unconscionable and it is not right. And it is not God’s doing. God is just as upset and heartbroken over what I endured as I am.
Where is God in all of this?
In the darkest moments of our lives, God sits with us and journeys with us through them. God holds our hand as we cry, cuss, question, and scream. And God pushes through with us as we fight for our wholeness and healing.
God is not sending pain in our lives to produce something glorious. We’ve not been “called” to pain and trauma.
God calls us to community, to hope and to healing.
God reminds us that God’s intention was always for us to flourish and be well.
Healing brings us back to that.
The “Why?” question is real.
If God is God, then why did these things happen?
Why didn’t God stop them?
These are valid questions and those who ask them of God are right to do so. The danger is when folks try to answer for God.
You can ask why all day, but can I be honest with you? No answer will ever be sufficient.
There’s nothing that will justify the presence of pain + trauma in our lives.
Think about what you’ve gone through. What can you hear that’ll make you say “Okay. I get it now”?
I used to ask why.
Sometimes, when I get mad at my current conditions, I still ask why.
That’s a real place. But “why did this happen to me” is not my posture. “What do I need in order to heal and move on” is where I land these days. Because that empowers and shifts the focus.
Healing is a beautifully messy journey towards the people we are meant to be. We are called to be healed, whole and well. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and you don’t have to accept anything other than that truth to be free.
My deepest prayer for all of us is that we truly come to know God’s heart for us. It is big, wide, deep and filled with a love that is beyond our comprehension. We need that love to heal and free us. We need that love to truly live.
I (and others) have been sexually en mentally abused (gaslighting) by my narcissistic ex-husband for over a decade. Here I share my thoughts and my healing process and hope to inspire and encourage others. I follow many writers, bloggers, survivors, and share occasionally things that I have read that have touched my heart or rang true.
One thing that really shocked me as an abuse survivor was learning that there are some people who don’t want you to get better. And I’m not talking about your original abuser(s). There are others, such as subtle narcissistic abusers, who will try to keep you in pain. Here’s why:
There’s the ex-enabler narcissistic abuser. They covered up your abuser’s crimes, but now derive attention and their sense of value by pretending to be a co-victim. If you recover, they feel it discredits their continued charade, or shames them somehow, so they lash out at you.
There’s the narcissistic fake advocate. This could be a pastor, counselor, mentor, or activist. They love playing savior. “Helping” you feeds their ego. They claim to want to comfort and protect you. Really, they want you to remain stagnant in your pain and continue to need them.
There’s the narcissistic fake friend. Basically, for them, being your friend is a kind of virtue signaling. They like the attention and respect building up a victim affords them. But if you progress beyond victim status, you’re of no use to them. They want you to stay injured.
Then there’s the enabler false accuser. They want to exacerbate your pain until you spiral into self-destructive or erratic behavior so they can say, “See? She’s irrational. We can’t trust the sanity of people who claim to be abused. We must protect the careers of powerful men.”
Moving twice. Just moved actually last week, during COVID, and whilst they decided to break open my street for waterworks. Was I stressed? What do you think?
The ex-husband going to jail.
Did I mention COVID? Then lockdown?
And then trying to homeschool, move and provide my family with a bit of stability after all of this.
And everything has started to hit me right now. Probably because we are now settling down. Maybe because the restrictions of the lockdown are slowly loosening and I’m not ready to leave my safe bubble yet.
So, it’s due time to do some self-care and hopefully it will look a bit like this.
Ways to Self-Care:
1. Read more. I have bought 10 books this past year and have only read two.
2. Take more walks/bike rides with the dogs and son.
3. Ignoring news that is designed scare to scare me (us).
4. Finally focus on that hobby that brings me joy. (it’s a secret what,shhht)
5. Spending more silent time with God. Just quietness.
5. Taking a Facebook sabbatical as it’s been giving me some stress lately. I’m not deleting it, I will be back as I find it really helpful. But lately it’s been making me feel bad and insufficient. So I need a break. Yet , you can still find me on Twitter 😀
Anything that you would add to this Self-care plan? Lemme know!
Sidenote in reference to Facebook:
Unbelievers may use my story to point out hypocrisy and sin in the church, and they are right in doing so (my husband being a proclaimed Christian), but the very existence of my faith is proof that God is real, for, without Him, I’d have lost my faith a long time ago. And so, by calling out abuse, I proclaim Jesus Christ.