Online reads


I hope you had a nice weekend, even with the cold, the fog and the snow if you’re reading from Brussels!

Here are some things I’ve been reading on the inter-webs. Feel free to add any other links you’ve enjoyed in the comments.

Activities for Kids and Parents in Brussels, over @cheeseweb –

Ages and Stages: Overstimultaion in babies –

A birth-story at St. Elisabeth in Brussels – This one is in French, but you can always use Google translate if you can’t read French. This is actually a very interesting project. Lots of birth stories from mums demanding a more humane birthing experience –

You are your child’s strongest advocate – whatever their age @childhood 101 –

Storytelling with children


I am very lucky to be married to an excellent public speaker. I think what makes him such a good public speaker is that he’s actually a natural storyteller. Our son loves listening to his stories, but so do other children. In fact, the other day we were at a little friend’s birthday party and just towards the end, at that time when the children start going wild, he pulled everyone in for a story and all went silent. Their faces were priceless…

So today I’m handing the blog over to him so he could tell you a bit about how he does it:

The other side of the story

I tell stories to Sprout 1, my 3 ½ year-old son, and he loves it!

I think telling stories is a great way to bond with my son, a special one-on-one time when we can be together just the two of us. It is also a good way to help him settle down and do something calmer (plus, I get to rest too!).

I want to share the way I do it and encourage every dad (editor’s note: or MOM!!) to give it a try. If you have another way to do it I would also like to hear about it in the comments.

The first thing is to decide what story to tell. I never tell a story that has been written by someone else like “the three little pigs” or “Cinderella”. For those, I prefer to read the book to him. The stories I tell I always make up. They are always different and new. Even when he asks me to tell the story again I always change it, simply because I would not be able to tell it the same way even if I wanted to. Sometimes I record the story on my wife’s phone and if he wants to hear the same story again, we can just play it back for him. And he does. A lot!

Sometimes I do not have to decide what story to tell because Sprout 1 does it for me or I simply ask him what kind of story he wants to hear.

When I have to decide I simply think of a topic like “pirates” or “super-heroes” or “walk in the park” and I build it from there.

I do not build a plot in advance. I make up the stories as I go along. I have realised that the interesting thing about the stories, for my son, is not the plot or the logical sequence of actions. Of course, it is important to have some logical sequence between what happens before and what happens next but not for the story as a whole. For example, I may say “there was a car that had wings and began to fly. It flew to the moon and back and when it got back, it had no place to park”. It is not logical but there is a logical link between the different parts. This way I can just say (almost) whatever comes to my mind.

My intention is not to write a children’s book but simply to entertain my son for 5-10 minutes per story. And, (believe me!), I’ve already spent an hour and a half telling these short stories and if I don’t say “this is the last one” he keeps asking for more.

The main elements that I believe make these stories interesting for my son are:

–          I make them personal. There are always things that relate to him and his own personal experiences. E.g. the characters are either his toys or a cartoon he knows or even himself. “This is the story of how Sprout 1 helped Santa Klaus”;

–          I make them short and simple (unlike this post) and I tell them in a simple way. Short, direct sentences with clear ideas;

–          I make them realistic; almost real: I use characters that exist (even if only in books or cartoons) and put them in real situations even if with fantastic twists;

–          I enact them. I modulate my voice, whispering when there is a moment of suspense or roaring like a big dinosaur, or simply acting silly.

On the contrary, there are things I try not to do:

–          I do not convey moral messages or try to preach a lesson. My stories are pure entertainment. They may contain ethical messages but that is not the purpose of me telling them;

–          I do not make them too realistic. I always try to make fantastic things happen in my stories but in a simple way like “the cat jumped over the house”.

This is MY recipe, my son loves it and that’s good enough for me. It is far from perfect! The other day Sprout 1 did not want to give me a goodnight kiss because he didn’t like the way the bedtime story ended. I let the pirates get away with the treasure and he wanted them to be caught by the police. Smart boy. What did I do? I retold the ending. He was pleased and I got my kiss.

Do you do storytelling with your children? We would love to hear what works for you!

We’re having (another) BOY!!!

manneken pis - Brussels

Happy New Year everyone. We’re just back from visiting with family and I had a scan today. Sprout n.2 is a boy! I didn’t really mind either way. They’re all individuals with their own personalities, gender is just one factor. That said, I WILL miss not getting to shop for/make some of the pretty girl stuff. Then again, I suppose I won’t have to deal with all the princesses and a certain, very pink ubiquitous kitty!

Anyway, we’re all happy. But I live the way Sprout keeps saying “I like boys AND girls, so it’s ok if it’s a boy. It’s ok if it’s a girl too.” Ok, maybe his version of the sentence wasn’t so well constructed, but this is the gist of it 🙂 I also love the running commentary and emabarrassing interesting questions and comments. Like at the doctor’s office today, when I told him I was going to the bathroom, I love how he said in his loudest possible voice “to do pee-pee in a cup mama?”. Only paralleled by our joint trips to public bathrooms where he coaches me with a “You can do it Mama! There you go, you did it!” (positive reinforcement anyone?).

Another Sprout on the way

Yep, that’s right! Sprout nb 2 is on its way and expected to arrive early June!! I’m so excited, and a bit anxious too, knowing R will be travelling around that time…

I have finally found my 2nd trimester energy! Let me tell you, being pregnant with nb 2 while being a full-time mom to nb 1 is MUCH harder!! I don’t really get morning sickness and such, but OMG the fatigue during the first trimester… With Sprout it was not much of an issue, I’d just fall asleep on the sofa soon as I got home from work. Who cares if dinner is ready? Actually, R would make it most of the time, waking me up to eat 🙂 So sweet. But with a 2,5 year-old? I can’t collapse at 6pm. Or sleep in. So, I ended up doing what I (sort of) did when he was a newborn: sleep when he does. So, basically, I’ve been hibernating through Autumn. Add to that a trip to NYC to visit my sis and family, let’s say these last 3 months seem like a bit of a haze!

Now, I’m ready for nesting. And I guess I should probably try to fit in some exercise too? Maybe some blogging? 😉


Nearly there


I’m big!!! and tired. and not very mobile anymore… Really, it seems like everything is much further away than it was before 🙂 And I’m down to only a few outfits now. I hope it doesn’t get much hotter this month (or at least this week… I’ll move into R’s t-shirts and sweats during maternity leave).

I’m officially considered to be full term now, so little sprout can make his arrival whenever he wants and won’t be a preemie anymore. Although I have a feeling I will be going over my due date for some reason. We’ll see…

This week is (finally) my last week at work!!! Oh, the excitement! I can’t wait for my mid-afternoon naps! (did I mention I was tired?) I think I have everything prepared for sprout, but still need to wrap things up at work for my replacement. And issues that require my immediate attention have sprung up today… oh, well, just 3 more days!

At least people now seem a bit friendlier on the metro and I usually manage a seat by the first metro stop after I’ve entered. I must say, commuters here aren’t a friendly bunch when it comes to pregnant women. I just love the way they try to ignore my humongous belly that is sticking right in there face while I’m practicing my balancing act standing up. Luckily, there are a few nice people. And more than once, someone standing on the metro with me has kindly insisted that someone seated give me there place. Thank you!!! Real life savers, especially at the end of the day…

Did I mention only 3 more days at work? Yay!!!!!

My bags are packed

Last week I finally “finished” packing my hospital bags. I suppose it was about time, considering I’m past 37 weeks now and considered full term. It still doesn’t feel like it will happen that soon though. I have a gut feeling I’ll go over term, but you never know.

Here are my bags


This is what the Clinique St. Michel said we should pack:

Continue reading

And… we have a “crèche”!!!!


Yay! After visiting a gazillion different nurseries, we finally received confirmation from one saying we have a place for November! We’re so relieved… I was really beginning to get nervous because waiting lists are enormous just about everywhere… that is, if they even accept you on one! I had some place tell me over the phone they weren’t even doing visits or putting anyone on waiting lists because they were fully occupied until Oct 2010! Ridiculous. If anyone living in Brussels is reading this after just getting pregnant, take my advice: find a crèche as soon as possible, even before 3 months pregnant!

Well the crèche we were accepted at is one of the most expensive here, so maybe that’s why we managed a place. It seems nice and is very close to R’s work, so that works out just fine. It’s called Kid Farwest . Sprout will be going there for 4 days a week from November onwards, which will cost us around €630 a month. We will however get around €11/day back from the Belgian tax system after filing our taxes though, so it comes out to almost half the cost per month.

Our new Ferrari and other updates

I’ve been having a busy month at the office, trying to finish things up and preparing the ground for my replacement, so I really haven’t felt like turning on the computer (or doing anything else, for that matter) once I get home. And so it’s March 18th and this is my first post this month!

Everything has been great on the pregnancy side of things: still doing my yoga, we have our last prenatal BCT class tomorrow and I’ve also been going to prenatal kines-therapy (similar to physiotherapy) sessions on Saturday mornings.


We’ve started to prepare things for sprouts arrival. All newborn clothes has been washed, ironed and put away in my drawers. Unfortunately he still doesn’t have his own room because we are in the process of buying an apartment and the closing will only be in June, so we’ll have to cram up a bit in our room until then. Not that I expect to have him sleeping in his room yet, but it would be nice to have his dresser, etc to put his things in instead of having them in random places throughout the house like we do at the moment!

We also finally brought home the Ferrari my sis kindly gave us for the little sprout (R has been calling it a Ferrari because its red 😉 )!


We love our red Loola Up! It was very easy to put everything together (minor assembly required), and it’s lightweight, practical to open and close, doesn’t take up much space (when closed), easy to manoeuvre… just great. In the pic you can see the full stroller with raincover on, the carrycot (which will be doubling as a moses basket until we move) and the car seat and car seat base. Everything is set up so that it can air out. It really smells plasticy in that little room now! On the sofa bed behind, you can see some bits and pieces that still need sorting and washing.

I’ve also been collecting some cloth diapers to try out once sprout is here:


Our stash now includes (clockwise from left) 2 XS Motherease Airflow wraps, 3 S Tots Bots Bamboozles; 2 Onesize Bumgenious V3; 1 S Fuzzibunz Pocket; 1 S Tots Bots Flexitots Organic; and 1 Organic velour Swaddlebees in Newborn. I think they’re adorable. My favourite is the Swaddlebees. It’s a 2 part diaper, which means it need a waterproof wrap (will be using Motherease). It’s so soft and compact and has a little fold down part in the front to give room for a newborn’s cord. I also have some disposable paper liners, sanitizer, a mesh bag for dry pailing and washing and various boosters. I can’t wait to try them, even though I’m a bit worried about them getting stained early on with the meconium… I really hope I’ll be able to use these!

And, just as an update, here is my belly at around 32 weeks:


Needless to say, I’m much bigger at 35 weeks now!

BCT Antenatal classes

Illustration courtesy of Tine Graf. BCT

Illustration courtesy of Tine Graf for BCT

I’m on a roll here… Trying to make up for the lack of posts this month. It’s just all been so hectic with work and all!

We started going to the Brussels Childbirth antenatal classes a couple of weeks ago and have had 3 classes since. I must admit (and I guess it’s not too hard to guess) that it was my idea and Rodrigo is kindly humouring me without much complaint. He didn’t think they’d be useful and sometimes doesn’t like the activities, but admits that he has learned a few things and that the classes are useful. I agree with him regarding some activities, but overall I’ve found these classes to be brilliant. It’s a great way to meet other English-speaking parents expecting around the same time and to receive helpful information and hints in a very friendly, relaxed environment.

The classes are given by a Nurse/midwife from the UK and so far we’ve covered topics such as what happens during labour, when to go to hospital, pain relief methods (drugs and more natural approaches), breathing, packing for the maternity, how to change diapers (mostly for the dads!), etc. Today we also had a special class on breastfeeding given by a BF counsellor, which we both thought was fabulous! Techniques and very useful info was given, and it’s good to know that after the birth we can call our breastfeeding counsellor and ask for help/hints for breastfeeding. I think this will be great support. Later on we’ll also have a special class on Infant Resuscitation, along with the regular classes.

I highly recommend these classes to anyone able to attend. You can find more info here.

Belly pic


After being asked for more recent pictures of my growing belly, I decided to upload one taken at 29 weeks (almost 3 weeks ago!!!). Mind you, it is muuuuuch bigger now. Note to self: Take more belly pics! I really hate taking pictures and always end up with a stupid face when I have to pose for them… proof above!