Gracias, madre!

“I’ve had an incident with Quentin,” I breathe heavily down the phone the moment Bakerman answered my call that evening.

“What?” he stammers back in surprise. “Did he have a meltdown?”

“Yes,” I say doing my best to fight back the tears. “He shouted at me because I told him to call his dad back later and do his homework first. He pushed me. He raised his fist at me. He threw his mobile phone on the floor. He told me to ‘fuck off bitch’. And that he hates me like I hate my mother. He’s only 11.”

“Wow,” Bakerman utters in astonishment.

“I have sent him to bed,” I say resolutely to show I still have matters in hand. “His phone is confiscated. And the playstation too.”

“Ok,” Bakerman encourages me to continue calming my thoughts.

“I’ll call for an appointment with the child psychologist tomorrow,” I resolve. “I’m broken hearted. A ‘sorry’ won’t be enough this time.”

“Would you like an alternative thought?” Bakerman speaks up finally.

“Yes,” I confirm that this is actually my real reason for calling upon him. “This is karma right? Or Picasso’s influence. What’s the alternative thought? I’ve screwed up.”

“Would it be possible to step into a different role?” Bakerman suggests.

“Which one?” I ask him in surprise. “Not being mommy anymore? Then who am I?”

“No,” Bakerman corrects me soothingly. “Being mommy is perhaps what is needed here.”

“I am not a mommy?” I ask him rather annoyed that he is questioning my mothering skills. “Okay so I’ll make a hot chocolate and take it up to his room? Then what?”

“Who knows but you,” Bakerman retorts. “Consider for a moment that something is really bothering him. Have you stopped to ask him? Are you able to have a warm conversation with him about him instead of about you?”

“He is closed on certain aspects,” I start searching my memory for profound conversations lately.

“Ok,” Bakerman urges me to dig deeper.

“I do try to talk to him often,” I say in my defense, failing to find anything significant being said of late. “He doesn’t open up.”

“Now is the time to pretend you care about him,” Bakerman knows how to get me going.

“I don’t pretend. I do care,” I snap back at him. “He’s worried about big school.”

“Oh ok that’s good,” Bakerman confirms we’re onto something here.

“About bullies and not being able to defend himself,” I remember how my eldest son told me these things apparently in passing, but which obviously have more weight than I originally attributed.

“I see,” Bakerman is making sense of what has been going on. “What about big school? What school is this?”

“That’s all I can think of,” I sigh as I desperately continue racking my brains in search of any other clue of what might be going on in my teenage son’s life. “In Turnpoint Mountains. Where he has always been.”

“Which one?” Bakerman points out there are numerous schools in our area.

“The Atheneum, by the lake,” I inform him. “I’m taking up warm cocoa. Feels a bit like rewarding bad behavior.”

“Try reassuring him all will be ok,” Bakerman says in his soft hypnotizing voice. “Tell him that his behaviour is not acceptable and when he is worried he needs to talk to you so you can help. Please avoid putting your shit on him.”

I put down my phone without turning it off or ending the conversation. My mind is worried and I am feeling it deep within me to be a mother now. To be nurturing and understanding of my child in need. When I return back downstairs five minutes later, I am amazed to find my best friend still present on the other side.

“He’s tired and almost asleep so no talk,” I sight. “I did tell him it was unacceptable but he’s asleep.”

“Tomorrow is good too,” Bakerman reassures me that tomorrow is a new day.

“I don’t put my shit on him,” I snap defensively. Then I correct my tone as I do realize that Bakerman is trying to help. “Problem is Picasso. We had words last night when Quentin was there.”

“Ah,” Bakerman pipes up.

“Picasso can do nothing wrong in Quentin’s eyes. He’s very defensive of his dad,” I complain. I hadn’t brought up the incident earlier as my dealings with my ex-husband are not the kind I am fond to remember. “Picasso started having a go at me so I finally ignored him and walked off. Picasso followed me of course with all comments and insults in tow.”

“No I mean don’t make him feel guilty,” Bakerman advises. “Not the right time for that. As for the idiot Quentin’s father, that’s a different story.”

“Don’t make him feel guilty about what?” I ask not sure of understanding his clear words of wisdom.

“When will you learn to teach your moron he is welcome to talk about kids,” Bakerman scolds me as he has many times before. “Anything else to write you a letter.”

“He pushed me and raised his fist. This will have consequences,” I burst out a little too loud. “He came along to the school for enrolling Quentin. We queued for three whole hours. Three hours is too much for Picasso.”

“Yes it should,” Bakerman acknowledges. “But first find out what is going on, then punish accordingly.”

“Three hours is too long to spend confined with Picasso,” I ponder on.

“I guess you asked him to come and keep you company?” Bakerman mocks me openly now.

“I will try,” I nod more to myself, wondering how I am going to get my boy to confide in me what’s bothering him so much. “No he wants to be co-parent and be involved in all this stuff. I should have let him leave. I was outraged that he wouldn’t make the effort to queue along with all the other parents.”

“Yes you should know better by now,” Bakerman laughs gently to diffuse the tension. “Picasso has the IQ of a fish for God’s sake.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to understand what’s going on with Quentin,” I sigh reluctantly and already feel the first tinges of wanting to give up before I’ve even started.

“Picasso is all talk no action,” Bakerman reminds me. “You know this.”

“He’s a plant. He’s a spoiled brat. Oh my God, poor Picasso had to queue for three hours. Fucking idiot,” I spit out letting my anger and frustration rip. “How will I get through to Quentin? Why does he hate me so much?”

“Quentin is easy,” Bakerman reassures me. “Be kind, attentive, loving, warm and understanding. But most important ask questions and listen listen listen.”

“And when he starts shouting?” I want to know. “What then?”

“You tell him you love him so much,” Bakerman replies matter of factly. “Keep your voice calm and firm. Ask how he is feeling and what is he thinking about.”

“Ok, but I do stay calm and firm most of the time,” I reply rather annoyed that his answers aren’t shedding more light on the matter. Well apart from the fact that I should remember to be a mother more often. “Thanks for listening.”

“Ok don’t worry too much,” Bakerman continues to tend to my emotional wounds. “Persist and he will come around. He is old enough to understand what’s going on. So tell him the truth about your relationship with Picasso.”

“Which is?” I ask him as my interest goes soaring through the roof. “He doesn’t want to know. His dad is sacred and I am mud.”

“Picasso was not right for you,” Bakerman continues to spell it out for me step by step. “But he made two beautiful children who you love. Picasso is angry that you left him. Picasso is not always right and is teaching Quentin bad manners.”

“Yes true,” I admit relieved. “Picasso still talks about me as his wife. He did that yesterday.”

“It will work out,” Bakerman lets me know it will all be alright again soon. “Quentin needs to know the basic truth.”

“And the truth I explain as you just told me?” I insist.

“Yes,” I can hear Bakerman smiling warmly now.

“Ok. That’s easy and clear and low drama,” I am feeling instantly so much better. “Thanks.”

“Ok,” Bakerman’s warm voice echoes down the phone.

Being a mother is a nurturing, selfless role. To me, being a mother is a well of unconditional love. Or at least that is my aim most of the time. Sometimes it’s easy to lose touch of our motherly role, especially when we’re feeling depleted. Yet it’s these qualities that I love most about being a mother. Reminding myself to step back into this role is a life changing realization.

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.

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Come clean #politicallyincorrect

I am distracted as I sip my macchiato at BNP’s work café. The Wizard has floated up quite discreetly and has joined me in my booth. His ears twitch as he assess my mood.

“Hmmm hmmm hmmm,” I blow my coffee absent mindedly wondering how I can word what is going on in my mind. “It has been several times in the past few weeks now that the Knave of Hearts’ name has been mentioned in meetings. I hope they’re not bringing him back.”

“Wait and see,” the Wizard smiles at me keeping his keen blue eyes locked on my body language.

“So men are penis driven,” I repeat after him. “Why would that stop him from wanting to see his son? And I am really still very desirable. Hmmm strange.”

“Questions I can’t answer,” the Wizard tells me softly.

“Stranger still,” I look at him in surprise. The Wizard knows everything surely. “Why can’t you answer it?”

“Desire is in the eye of the beholder,” the Wizard looks at me amused. “I can’t speak for others. What are you thinking?”

“I don’t understand how he could not be thinking about little Willem,” I open up to him. “Why doesn’t he feel the pull to see and hold his son. I am not sure what I would feel if I saw him again. Or what I should feel. I didn’t like him ignoring me. He’s been ignoring me for the past 2 years now. No reason that would change if he came back. And what if he comes back and in the meantime he is married with children? How will I feel then? Will Willem never see his father? Will he never know him? And what about Wim? Wim is being a fine father figure for Willem. Maybe better than the Knave of Hearts ever could have been. I always had visions of the Knave of Hearts playing and spoiling the little boy. I don’t understand why that’s not happening. I also don’t understand why I still feel so confused and attracted and angry. Well no yes, I understand why I am angry and hurt.” I let out a deep sigh at the tangle of my very politically incorrect thoughts. “Strange… Maybe they’re not bringing him back and it’s just a big coincidence that the boss and others have mentioned him several times now. Just a coincidence. Nothing will happen.”

“I see the pattern of your thoughts is still the same,” the Wizard tells me disgruntled. “I understand you always only think about yourself. I have to point out, you are not the center of the universe. You don’t have the power to control or change other people’s lives to suit your need. The Knave of Hearts rejected you completely as someone untestable and a liar by your own doing and now you think after two years he must repent and forget what you did. Children suffer for the wind of their parents.”

I laugh as the Wizard’s cloud had started making little jolty movements. The Wizard corrects himself very annoyed by the incidence as he pats the cloud repeatedly with his back paw. “Oh this cloud. Untrustable. He rejected you as someone untrustable. And kids suffer for the sins of their parents.”

“I understood,” I laugh playingly at his discomfort. “And I am sorry for Willem. I don’t agree though. I rejected the Knave of Hearts because he did nothing, always arrived late in the evening, and the only thing he wanted to do was go out dancing. We had an argument once and he stormed out leaving me pregnant and to beg for him to come back. He was no husband or farther material. I chose what was best for me and all three of my kids. Winston and Lilly both told me they didn’t like him. Those are all red flags that count. I know it was a terrible lie and it was designed to be one. I think I did my best at making sure that he would never come back. I cried and begged and made it all very unappealing. While inside I wasn’t that bothered at all. It’s all very strange I know. I still believe my subconscious picked up on something and wanted him out.”

“Well what ever happened happened,” the Wizard advises me to let bigons be bigons. “Let it go. Have a good cry and blow your nose. William will grow up anyway and be who he will just the same. Stop worrying about it. Job well done.”

“Okay Willem is doing fantastic,” I smile at him and blow him a kiss back as he floats discreetly through the window.

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.

The coins you’ll never forget #fystatements

I had a fantastic evening laughing and chatting with the Dormouse. The Wizard had slept almost all the way through our funny interlude. He only awoke at the end to tell me to pay off the Old-Woman-who-lived-in-a-Shoe. He told me to be sure to do this with disdain.

“Good morning,” I smile at my friend. “Buenos dias Doc Oz. Okay I’ll do that. How can I do it with disdain? Do I just think it?” I ask him puzzled. “What worries me most is what is next? I’m scared she will sue me to see Willem next. She has never shown any interest in the little fellow so you can’t tell me she’ll treat him right. My guess is she didn’t like something on my blog recently and needs to retaliate. Pester me for a reaction. Sad old woman.”

“How much do you owe her?” the Wizard wants to know.

“She says 2.769 Euros but I have noted down 2.500 Euros with all other payments I made,” I confess.

“If you can afford to pay her, do so in fifty cent pieces or ten cent pieces,” the Wizard says with a keen twinkle in his eyes. Mischief is brewing, I can sense it.

“In cash? Really?” I cry out in amazement. “Wim was going to transfer the money to me and I will transfer it this weekend. In cash is better? What about 5 Euro notes? Or 10 Euro notes?”

“Yes. One cent would be best but can be heavy to carry and off load,” the Wizard continues developing his devilish plan. “You tape her when you bring it in case she wants to reject your payment. She must count it in front of you and give you a signed receipt.”

“Seriously?” I can hardly keep my poise. Haven’t had so much fun in a long time. “Okay… So I record her. That’s what I don’t agree with.” I remember giving the White Queen quite a hard time for recording one of our last conversations.

“Well if you don’t want to be unconvinced do a telex transfer,” the Wizard rolls his eyes at me. “That way you have a paper trail. If you want to make it inconvenient for her do it in coins.”

“I openly film her?” I am in utter amazement at the genius behind this plan. “I will think about it. Love the idea.”

“What if she says take it back? I don’t want cash? What will you do?” the Wizard pushes me to think further. Consider the consequences.

“Yes what will I do?” I stop in stupor.

“Do you need a script?” the Wizard asks me annoyed.

“Yes,” I sigh as I fumble with my rings. “Unfortunately I do.”

“Really?” the Wizard’s eyes are popping and he is at a loss with my hopelessness.

“Really,” I insist. “What do I do if she doesn’t want the cash?”

“If she rejects cash you state she doesn’t want you to pay her back at all,” the Wizard smiles a full grin at me.

“Ok,” I confirm I see where he is getting at.

“If she does then she must take the cash coins,” the Wizard states with false modesty.

“Cash coins,” I repeat as my eyes light up and mischief dances through my mind.

“It’s either or,” the Wizard points out there is no in between.

“I still prefer the notes,” I play out the scenario in my mind. “Thanks. You’re brill as usual.”

“Do as you like,” the Wizard sighs.

“Absolute genius,” I confirm ignoring his changing mood.

“Notes means nothing,” the Wizard won’t let it go. He wants me to see the big picture.

“Do you think she will come after Willem?” I ask him anxiously. “Why do notes mean nothing?”

“No inconvenience to count or bank,” the Wizard tells me. “But coins out of the bank wrapping is a major pain in the butt. You just unwrap them and put them in a plastic bag. 2.500 in notes fits in your pocket. Coins is a big fuck you statement.”

“It is a big fuck you statement indeed,” I think rather pleased as that exactly matches the message I want to convey. “You are brilliant. How do you think up things like these?”

“I am sure you could too if you try,” the Wizard for some reason still believes I am no idiot.

“The old hag could think something like this,” I tell him. “Nothing quite as brilliant as this. But equally good. I am useless. I am really too nice and too good.”

“You need to decide what your aim is,” the Wizard winks at me. This means the real clue is coming. “Instead of being PC and emotional about her wanting to see and influence William.”

“PC?” I question him.

“Politically correct,” the Wizard replies. He has told me over and over the past couple of years that I need to ditch being politically correct. It doesn’t serve me.

“I want to keep her away from Willem,” I say resolutely.

“Why?” the Wizard wants to know.

“Because she is nasty?” my voice is nearing a sarcastic tone again.

“Winston and Lilly are still alive,” the Wizard throws back at me.

“Especially with little children,” I emphasize. “Winston and Lilly have a daddy.”

“Really. So what?” the Wizard retorts.

“The old hag is scared of David, and she wants to please men,” I go on explaining how different the Old-Woman-who-lives-in-a-Shoe reacts to men opposed to women. “She will hurt him to hurt me.”

“So Wim can play that roll,” the Wizard raises an eyebrow.

“She was nasty to me as a baby and as a little girl,” I tell him part of the story he already knows. “She would shake me and slap my face, hit me silly, also with sticks.”

“You still grew up just the same,” the Wizard says kindly.

“Yes and look at me,” I am using my sarcastic voice again. It annoys me.

“I think those days have past,” the Wizard gazes off into the distance for a moment.

“Oh ok. So not worry about her taking me to court?” I ask in utter disbelief. “If she wants the baby she can have him. Why do you think those days have passed?”

“You have to learn how to overcome the difficulties you face,” the Wizard coaches me. “Not run away from them.”

“Ok,” I take a deep breath. “So just give her the baby.”

“Wow the first thing you need is to suppress the bitch that lurks just under the surface,” the Wizard signals me not to jump the gun so fast. “No stop trying so hard to convince me you are brain dead. There are many solutions. I am talking about you not William or the Old-Woman-who-lives-in-a-Shoe. Most of your battles are because you don’t have a strategy, a clear picture of what is going on, how to deal with it for the good of all parties. You behave like a narcissist sometimes.”

“Oh shit. That’s bad,” I exclaim. I can’t believe I am turning into my worst nightmare myself. “But it’s true. I don’t know how to deal with things, or what’s going on, or how to win-win.”

“The Old-Woman-who-lives-in-a-Shoe is your mother,” the Wizard points out the obvious. “You know her and how she reacts. Pay her off so she has nothing left to talk about. Then just ignore her.”

“Ok,” I sigh again.

“You need to try other methods to see which one works best,” the Wizard lectures me. “The key is to stop being right and to look for ways that work for you that will bring you success. Once you find that just repeat it over and over.”

I smile as I find his words comforting and healing.

“She can Skype with the kids, see them some tea for an afternoon,” the Wizard continues to spell it all out. “Not more than 3 to 4 hours as she will loose interest after that.”

“She’s not interested in the kids. She never asks to see them,” I say with open disgust. “I always say yes when she asks. Last weekend when it was her court ordered Saturday she refused to see the kids because I had the flu. The only thing that interests her is pestering people.” I take a deep breath and decide to solve the issue at hand: “Should I give her the coins with or without the kids?”

“Without,” the Wizard replies without batting an eyelid.

“Ok,” I have heard him loud and clear. “So you think it’s going to be messy.”

“Yes,” the Wizard nods.

“Oh,” I sigh again. “I hate scenes with the old hag. She’s nasty.”

“My true advice is just transfer the money and let things work out,” the Wizard looks at me with a broad smile and he pats my forearm gently at the same time. His touch is warm and very soothing.

“Okay I will,” I smile relieved. “The idea was brilliant though. Just transfer then ignore.”

“If you want to fight then give her coins,” the Wizard points out that the alternative is still an option.

“Phew I really like that,” I smile as I feel light and warm, as if a heavy burden is being lifted off my shoulders.

“Yes just transfer and ignore or cut it down to a minimum,” the Wizard gives my arm another rub and a pat just to be sure I received all kind energy.

“No I’ve had enough,” I say as I jump to my feet and stand tall. “That’s her life. Her way of doing things. Pestering people and fighting. I just want peace. Little house on the prairie.” I stretch out my back and my arms taking on a few power poses I have learned in yoga class. “Okay I can do that. Thank you very much.”

“Ok,” the Wizard blows me a kiss as he floats loftily towards the door.

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.

Face to face #aupair #interview

A few good days have passed without a significant panic attack. I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Help is on the way. The future looks bright again. I can dream and plan. Having fun again and looking forward to new adventures. My loyal Wizard of Oz pops in regularly to greet me.

“Good morning. Buenos dias,” I smile at him sitting in the passenger’s seat of my chocolate brown Mercedes C-class. I have dropped my little darlings off for school and am on my way commuting to Brussels. The Wizard has made himself comfortable on his pink fluffy cloud in the seat next to me. His eyes seem to light up in the dark. Very intriguing. “I spoke to 2 au-pair candidates from South Africa yesterday. Both very sweet girls. I would really like to go ahead with an au-pair. The second girl seemed slightly more experienced. Has already looked after kids and has driving license since 2 years. The first girl was more sweet but is trying to get her license this month. Neither of them can ride a bike.”

“No too dangerous to ride a bike,” the Wizard nods at me. He is a man who has seen the world. He understands what makes a person’s heart beat, and how to motivate any living soul on this planet.

“I understood that,” I tell him thoughtfully. “Funny how we take our freedom and safety for granted. They can’t roller-skate either. But really sweet girls. Are they ready to take on my bunch though? And be independent? They seem to have grown up so protected. Would it be OK to take a decision on this? I would go for the second girl.”

“Yes you ask the agent for a guarantee,” the Wizard tells me with the same confidence as if he does this every year. “The second one has no driving experience. Is that safe? You will need to teach her and keep her distances short and in the village.”

“The first one doesn’t have her license yet but going for her test this month,” I point out again that the second candidate ranked slightly higher in terms of skills and experience. “I also prefer the second one with driving experience.”

“No driving to big cities until she has some experience on the highway,” the Wizard warns me. “Plus don’t forget to explain the rule of ‘the right has right of way’.”

“I will,” I tell him thinking how hard it will be to explain all the silly rules which apply only in this little frog kingdom of Belgium. “How exciting!”

“Ah ok,” the Wizard sounds content. “That’s better.”

“They both are very family oriented,” I go on chattering gaily to him. “It seems they want to do everything with me and the kids. Or will that pass?”

“Yes and she can go on adventures with you too,” the Wizard smiles at me as if he already knows that good things are about to happen.

“Yes she did ask about my travel plans,” I muse as it triggered a sense of disappointment in me. Disappointment in myself. For the first time in a very long period I have no plans, no travel itinerary or bucket list. I have been waiting for Godot.

“No they are supposed to go to language school and go where you go,” the Wizard sounds amused. “Not to work of course but in weekend excursions and trips to Paris and Amsterdam and stuff. Day trips or holidays or weekend trips. For the rest they take care of the kids.”

“They haven’t seen much of the world,” I am still in deep thoughts wondering where I want to take my brood next. “Wonderful.”

“They have seen nothing,” the Wizard confirms once more. “This is for them an opportunity to see something. Maybe find a husband and stay. Are they white or black?”

“She was also asking about cleaning and washing,” I tell him with certain pride. What a nice girl to ask about additional chores! “I told her it would be nice if she helped with washing and ironing, but that I have a cleaner.” Then I throw a quick grin sideways: “Both white. Such sweet girls.”

“Oh cool. That’s good,” the Wizard blinks once. “Everything to do with kids she does including cooking, ironing, washing and bath. Maybe homework and definitely play time.”

“Yes,” I cheer with the happy prospect that somebody will come and help me do this wonderful adventure with my littles.

“Company for you too,” the Wizard whispers softly.

“I know,” I continue smiling all the way to Brussels. “I thought of that. No more being lonely. What should I work on? You know I am strange…” I trail off. “What should I pay attention to?”

“Like what?” the Wizard pretends he doesn’t understand what I mean.

“Like smile more, talk gently,” I am unfortunately still questioning and doubting myself. “Ah ok yes.”

“Discipline and safety for your kids,” the Wizard attempts to set me straight. I should focus on the au-pair performing well with the most valuable thing in my life: my children. “Teach her Google Analytics,” the Wizard offers up another great idea.

“Oh exciting,” I just can’t stop smiling. My good mood this morning is palpable. And such a refreshing change with the preceding days. “I will see about the Google stuff, but would be good.”

“Use her but make it fun for her and allow free time,” the Wizard is spelling it all out for me. Which is just as good. Never a great idea to make assumptions that the other knows.

“I am really happy about this,” I confirm. “Of course.”

“Yes,” the Wizard beams my good vibes right back at me. “Best thing for you.”

“What should I encourage her to do in her free time?” I want to know. I am hoping my au-pair will be happy and thrive in our little family.

“Find a hobby,” the Wizard suggests. “Go out. Introduce her to the White Rabbit. She has lots of single men friends.”

“I will introduce her to the White Rabbit,” I nod as I think this is a splendid idea. “She is lovely too.”

“They can take her out on weekends when you are with Wim,” the Wizard can see it all happening quite nicely.

“Oh yes,” I have been smiling for the past half hour now and must resemble some kind of idiot by now.

“Don’t tell the Queen of Hearts,” the Wizard suddenly pipes up in an urgent tone.

“Ah?” the sound comes straight from my gut. “I don’t talk to the Queen of Hearts anymore.”

“Good,” the Wizard sighs.

“But why not?” I enquire. It hadn’t crossed my mind to mention anything to the Queen of Hearts until the Wizard brought it up.

“Because she is in a dark place at the moment and will use you to feel important by making you scared,” the Wizard points out. “I have to run. See you later.”

“Oh no more of that,” I agree that the Wizard might be right on that count. The Queen of Hearts does have a tendency to run with my paranoia. “Thank you. Have a wonderful day.”

“You too,” he waves after me as he drifts slowly out of the car window.

 

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.

 

Loving the opportunities of the easy life #Senegal #Africa

It’s our fourth proper day in Senegal, and I’ll admit we slept badly. Not because of the beautiful lodge, or the comfy beds, nor was there any night noise. No, we slept badly because of my arachnophobia…

You see, I felt a need to go to the toilet at around midnight after I had been playing around on my iPhone. The late hours seemed to be the only time when the wifi worked sort of correctly. Although I had sworn not to work one minute during this vacation, I still wanted to know what was going on. And I was dying to share our beautiful adventures in pictures across my multiple social media channels.

Anyways, I go to the loo and then when I went to flush I noticed this huge thing right next to my hand on the wall. It was a gigantic spider. I mean really big. And it was green and red like. Or that’s what it seemed like at that time. I scooted out of the bathroom and turned to the only man available: my eldest son. Now Winston is 11 and he’s a big boy, bad-ass hockey player. He was going to get this spider for me.

So I woke my poor boy who came into the bathroom and toilet to look at the huge monster mommy had found. And he saw it and thought it was gigantic too. There was no way he was going to come anywhere near it. Let alone kill it. So it was up to me again.

Next tactic was to go into the toilet again, this time armed with a chemical spray which we had in our room to kill all massive insects. I approached the huge massive spider and sprayed it. At which the monster scuttled behind the toilet lid. Now we were in a fine mess.

I closed the toilet door and sprayed the entire frame with insect repellent so that the spider could not get out. Then I barred the bottom of the door with a rolled-up towel. Safe for now. I need to think quickly and act!

I looked around our room to find a telephone to call the front desk so they could send someone to kill the damn thing. It is now that I discover that there is no phone. And I suddenly recollect that this lodge is a charm hotel and that in fact, I didn’t really remember seeing a front desk or receptionist.

I remember our tour guide telling us that there were guards on the grounds to keep us safe and we had passed a man sitting on a chair in the bushes with a baseball bat when we came back to our suite the previous evening after dinner. Now if I set out to find that guard and to get him to come back to our room to remove the indesirable guest. Sounds like a great plan, right?

Off I go into the thick pitch black of the night, armed with a torch. It is the only time I used my flash light during this vacation. I had bought 3 flashlights (one for each of us) and also 3 head lights. Feeling pretty happy with myself that finally my purchase was proving to be worth while…. And then of course I started thinking. Oh woe me! It was pitch black and I could only see what my flash light was lighting up. What if a snake fell out of a tree and onto my head. What if a huge spider jumped out and bit me. What if there were other big fierce animals that come out in the night. And here I am walking about as sitting duck in hunting season. Or what if there were thugs and villains roaming around, waiting for a little blonde tourist to snatch up? There was no sign of a guard anywhere and panic had overtaken me. I made a resolute demi-tour and marched straight back to my room. Bad idea!

So no phone, no guard, and outside seemed to be yet more dangerous than inside with huge gigantic spider, which might be poisonous. So I did what any European would do in my case. I googled the lodge, found the telephone number and called that on my mobile. Somebody just had to help me! To my surprise, it was the owner himself who answered and by the sounds of it, he was asleep in bed already. Briefly explained my predicament at which the owner snapped back at me that there was nobody there to help me till morning and that there are no poisonous spiders or animals in Senegal. I was perfectly safe and would I please go back to bed?

We slept with three in a bed, me Winston and Lilly, the baby in his own crib. The next morning we all refused to go to toilet in the loo, and I will with great shame admit that the shower proved to be an excellent alternative. And that’s how it would be until somebody would come to rescue us from this animal stuck in the toilet!

Anyways, we had a lovely day despite sleep deprivation. We went down to a palm tree forest, where we enjoyed the morning splashing around in a local swimming pool by the river. There was a bar with deliciously fresh drinks. The kids went kayaking. It was peaceful and freedom and beautiful. We ate delicious food, shrimps and chicken and french fries in the shade of the trees.

That afternoon, we enjoyed some feet-up time back at Souimanga Lodge. I made a big scene to get someone to kill the animal in the toilet. They sent me an enormous big man who looked not at ease at all to get said animal. Luckily for him, there was no animal in sight when he came. So he abundantly sprayed the bathroom and left looking very relieved to have escaped this close encounter. I didn’t trust it one bit. Not one bit.

In the evening, we went out again for a ride on a motor boat down the Saloum Delta river. We talked about the local industry and fishing activities. How people make a living, which type of fish they catch, the boats they hire or buy. It was absolutely beautiful.

We ended the day with a delicious meal in Souimanga Lodge and am happy to report that when we made it back to our room, our spider guest showed up again, this time at safe distance perched up on the ceiling. We gracefully closed the door, sprayed the door and stuffed the bottom of the door with towels. Hello shower!

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What do you think? How would you deal with a massive spider when in Senegal? Let me know in the comments below.

Simply going through the motions of life #TheOneThatGotAway

Our public outburst in the Delhaize supermarket has left me feeling depleted. It has also lowered my defenses and the walls I put up around me. It’s the moment when truths come out.

 

“Discuss your lack of hugs,” Dorothy coaxes me.

“I buy them shoes and clothes and they’re not running around in tatters like I used to,” I quietly continue to make the comparison with my own childhood. “And I don’t think David is sane either. But this is Belgium. What did you expect?”

“The hugs, darling, tell me about that,” Dorothy repeats.

“I never had any physical contact,” I summarize. “Never. There’s no more to say about that. My mother didn’t hug me. My stepdad didn’t either.”

“Very good,” Dorothy says soothingly. “Then just keep on doing what you are doing. Be receptive to your kids.”

“I am receptive,” I sigh, feeling extremely tired and worn out.

“Great that you do things differently.” Dorothy encourages me.

“There are 3 of them. Kids that is. Plus my job and the household. And yes, I like to go to yoga twice a week.” I feel a rant coming on. “It’s not hard to do things different from my mother.”

“Your life is nice.” Dorothy states.

“Yes I love my life,” I acknowledge. “Like I said, just need new clients so I can keep it nice.”

I pause for a moment to take a deep breath. Then I let it all out: “I’m fiiiine.”

“I used to have a big house, 3 kids, a job I hated… And little help at all in a language I couldn’t understand.” Dorothy tells me with big eyes fixed upon me. “You have nothing to complain about.”

“Absolutely fine,” I repeat a little bewildered.

“Yes I think you are.” Dorothy looks at me thoughtfully.

“You said 3 kids? Thought you had 2 kids when you divorced?” I question her. “You sound like my mom, talking like that. Pain is relative, you know.”

“I do have two kids.” Dorothy says slowly.

“I’m not complaining other than that money will run out soon,” I get to the bottom of my stress. “You said 3 kids in a big house.”

“How can I sound like your mom? I only point out that it’s relative. I don’t complain about it.” Dorothy’s voice lectures me again. “Yes two kids and a husband who behaved like a child.”

“And now what?” I want to push her further. “What do you have now? And are you happier?”

“Yes. I am.” Dorothy flashes me a big smile, revealing a set of perfect teeth.

“Because?” I am eager to know her secret. “What made you happier?”

Because I want to be happier.” And Dorothy smiles again, making her all the more beautiful each time she does so.

“Lilly doesn’t want to get married,” I tell her as I throw a worried look at my daughter who is checking out the dessert section.

“That’s normal,” Dorothy replies.

“She said, mama you’re single and you’re happy.” I confide.

“Good.” Dorothy nods in Lilly’s direction. “She has lots of time to make her mistakes like we all do.”

Dorothy throws a meaningful look at her mobile phone : “I’ve got to get back to my painting now. Be good.”

“Mmmm. Have fun and paint the roses red,” I call after her. “I got the essentials. Champagne and chocolates for our girls night!”

 

It’s easy to go through life in a daze, going from one thing to another. The monotone routine of going to sleep, waking up the next morning to begin the roller coaster once more can leave you feeling exhausted with nothing to show for it. Letting life just happen to you doesn’t allow you to live the life you would want to. You have settled, and you are getting only what you tolerate.

You get caught up in your crowded agenda and your many obligations. Weeks can go by without doing anything spontaneous or taking the time to look at the bigger picture of life. You haven’t noticed you’re spending your limited time on this earth on a runaway train. Have you asked yourself if you are happy with the course you are? Make a change. Get back into the boss’ seat where you belong. Take responsibility for charting your own life and your happiness. You might find this to be uncomfortable in the short term, but in the long term it is much better than staying in a nothing relationship and ending up feeling alone and unhappy.

The way to initiate change is to get off your runaway train for long enough to catch your breath and remember who you are and what you truly want. Question is, what is right for you?

 

What do you think? How do you give yourself the love you need? Let me know in the comments below. 

How to prepare for a trip to Senegal with kids

I have just returned from the most amazing vacation in Senegal with my three wonderful children. The package I booked was with the Prince of Hola Pola, a travel organisation specialised in tours designed to please both parents and children alike. After all, if the kids are having fun, the parents are having fun too.

If you’re going to read the entire story of our adventures in Senegal, you might find that I will repetitively say how amazing the vacation was, and how riveted I am about the travel organisation. But bare with me, when you experience something this extraordinary, you really do want to share the word.

Organising the adventure tour with kids

I had to do absolutely nothing. I just booked the holiday, and Bob’s your uncle. Everything was taken care of by our local travel guide. We just had to turn up on time. Originally I had contacted Hola Pola for a trip to Peru. As you all know, my soul has a secret calling to visit the land of the Inca’s. However, the team at Hola Pola told me immediately that the baby being only 16 months was too young to be taken to such heights. Instead they offered me to try the trip to Senegal. Never regretted saying “yes” to this opportunity.

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Pre-trip checklist 

  • International passport for me and kiddos. I requested these 8 weeks in advance, as sometimes passports can take some time to deliver. Ours were ready in 2 weeks.
  • No visa required for Senegal.
  • Vaccinations by the doctors at the Tropical Institute against yellow fever, hepatitis, polio, tetanus and all other nasties you don’t want to contract.
  • Preventive medication against malaria, to be taken from one day before departure and up till seven days after arriving back home.

What I packed in my suitcase

I am usually quite laid back about packing for a holiday. Yet this time packing for Africa I started getting my suitcases ready one week beforehand. I managed to fill four cases, by the way.

  • Medication: pills against diarrhea (used twice), against dehydration (never used), against stomach ache (used three times), sterilising tablets for the baby’s bottles (used daily), and of course the malaria pills (taken daily religiously at approximatively the same time).
  • Sun cream factor 50, after sun cream, sun hats, sun glasses.
  • Mosquito repellant spray, roll-on and bracelets.
  • Detol to disinfect hands before eating, and disinfecting wet-wipes.
  • Bottles of water. Why oh why did I pack that? The travel organisation had a stack of water available on our tour bus. We just had to ask whenever we were thirsty.
  • Soya milk for the baby.
  • Nappies: I provided for 7 nappies per day and had way too many, thank goodness.
  • Baby carrier: this proved to be totally useless. It was too hot and too uncomfortable to use. Baby is now almost 11 kilos. I left the baby carrier in Senegal.
  • Mountainbuggy: this little pushchair is a life saver. Light and easy to fold, easy for jumping on and off a bus.
  • Jumpers: totally and utterly useless. They never came out of the suitcase.
  • Long sleeved blouses and long trousers: also useless, though my son liked to dress up at night with a nice shirt.
  • Socks: yes, especially if you’re going to be doing some adventurous stuff.
  • Skirts, shorts, t-shirts, nice dresses for the evening. Senegal might be a muslim country, I found that the people there live in complete harmony with their christian neighbours. No need to cover up. There was no sexual harrassment or religious shaming in Senegal. Thumbs up, Europe has a thing or two to learn.
  • Flashlights and headlights: totally useless, only used once for an unexpected nightly escapade (more about that later).
  • Bathing costumes and swimming trunks. Floating swimsuit and life jacket for the baby. You still can’t leave the baby unattended, but it helps when the little one falls over in the water.
  • Money can be extracted from ATM machines, but most shops accept Euros. You won’t need much either. I spent a total of 250,- EUR in one week, and we bought a lot of stuff and didn’t look at our consumption at all.

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The journey from Brussels to Dakar

We had a very smooth journey. I had booked our car into a car hotel the day before. A shuttle bus took us from the car park to the airport on a ten minute drive. We arrived 3 hours in advance at Brussels airport. Was a little worried about hanging around the airport for hours with 3 littles, but my worry proved ungrounded. By the time we had queued for check-in, gone through security and customs, and then made our way all the way to the other side of the airport, we were just half an hour early. Just enough time for the kids to play around a bit before boarding the plane.

I had reserved 3 seats in the same row, more to the front of the plane. The baby traveled on my lap. It was a 6 hour flight from Brussels to Dakar. The time went quite well between meals, snacks and a few films on our monitor. The baby played around a bit on my lap with the little table, the couple of toys I had packed for him. For the rest of the time, he slept on me very comfortably.

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Once we arrived in Dakar, the heat was tremendous. It was gone 16h local time and the moment we got of the plane, I realized that jeans and long sleeves were too much. Getting through customs in Dakar was no laughing matter. Long queues in a sweltering hot airport. I was dead worried about the kids touching stuff. Malaria seemed to be lurking around every corner. I loosened up about that pretty quickly.

At customs in Dakar airport, passports were thoroughly checked, an eye-scan photo was taken and my finger prints. We were also asked for an address where we would be staying. Luckily I had my travel itinerary at hand in my purse, so I informed the guard at which hotel we would be staying. The unlucky mother of two at the booth besides me didn’t have a clue where she was heading, just that she was going to be picked up by her tour operator. This was not a valid answer and the unfortunate mother and her children were required to stand aside and search for an answer. So be prepared: know where you’re going.

Leaving the airport, our luggage had to scanned by security. Some local men from the airport offered to help with my luggage. At first I said “no” as I was feeling overwhelmed with the heat, the dirt and the malaria threat, but after have gotten some local CFA currency from the machine, I decided to give in and accept help. The man got all of our stuff through security. I just had to stand by with my kids and let him do the work. He then trolleyed our luggage out of the airport, where we were welcomed by Justin, one of our travel guides. He was very welcoming and had a reassuring voice. He put our luggage in the tour bus, and offered us champagne which was a joke for water. Smiles all around.

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We were swiftly shuttled to our hotel, the Djoloff where we met with the other families joining in on our adventures. A shower was my first priority. We then made our way up to the terrace where we enjoyed drinks and great food. Hunger is the best sauce. I drank schweppes and gin ‘n tonic for the entire holiday, and lots of water of course. The kinine in tonic is supposed to do wonders against malaria. As I was sure this bug was lurking all around, I drank loads of it and kept urging my kids to do the same.

They call me stress mom. Not fair!