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I've got more than 150 contacts on my LinkedIn profile. But I've read somewhere that people can only know 150 other people. It has something to do with our past as cavemen and -women. Apparently, the average cave in the stoneage would house 150 people, no more, no less. I never knew caves came in such standard sizes. Or maybe the fire service wouldn't allow more people in one cave. You know, with only one entrance and no safety exits. Or maybe they just had very strict landlords.

To be honest, 150 friends and colleagues is just pushing it a bit for an antisocial element such as me. I was already chuffed I got over 10.

So as more and more people insist they want to remain in contact with me, there is only one sensible thing to do. Every person that wants to join the exclusive club of priviliged members that now me, has to eliminate one of the existing members. I don't care how, maybe waterboard them until they 'voluntarily' defriend me, or take more drastic action involving a concrete block around the ankles and a large (and deep) body of water. Just make sure you send me the obituary.

I'm sure you all understand.

We'll Meet Again In The Afterlife

Tyl lost a dear friend yesterday. The poor little guy was inconsolable, crying his eyes out, shouting out the pain. He went through all stages of grief in a matter of minutes: pain, anger, denial, bargaining and then back to tears again. Time and again he came to me to ask why this loss, only to rebuke me when I tried to explain and comfort him.

Better get a new DVD player soon, otherwise we're going to have this scene every freaking time he wants to see Miffy.

Did You Mention Belgians?

And A Good Renal Health To You


Oh yeah. Happy New Year and stuff.

We broke with tradition this year, we didn't spend the first week of the New Year in hospital because Tyl wasn't ill and dangerously underweight for a change. That is the good news.

But we did spend some time at the doctor's with our little guy. A couple of months ago we noticed that his left leg grew at a strange angle from the knee down. So we took him to a doctor, who advised us to see another doctor, and then they had to take some pictures and they saw that his epiphyseal plates were curved instead of straight. But when they did some blood tests, they found that there was some deeper problem here. Tyl had all the signs of vitamin deficiency. Now before you conclude that we failed as parents, let me assure you that we generally eat fresh food and that Tyl gets plenty of vegetables, fruit, dairy products and so on. We very rarely eat canned food or junk food. And of course, he is also small for his age and he doesn't gain in weight either. All this is very strange, because he eats like a tiger most of the time.

So more tests. A genetics specialist joined the gang, and then finally the doctors started to think about a possible problem with his kidneys. They tapped a couple of liters of his blood, and today we were invited to have a chat with the kidneys specialist (I am sure there is a proper scientific name for this type of specialisation). Anyway, it seems that Tyl has a problem with his renal tubule. For those of you who aren't specialised in how the kidneys work: the renal tubule are responsible for absorbing important salts and vitamins and other stuff that your body needs. Basically, Tyl doesn't absorb these elements very well and they flush out with his urine. This means his body has certain deficiencies, so he doesn't grow and gain weight and get strong bones like he is supposed to.

Unfortunately, this problem can't be cured. Fortunately, it is relatively simple to improve his condition. He just has to take a number of supplements to compensate for the fact that his body gets rid of a lot of the vitamins, calcium, phosphor and so on. This should ensure that he will continue to grow normally - the doctor even hopes that he'll catch up a bit. If all goes well, by the end of the summer his leg should be all right again. But he will need to take these supplements for the rest of his life, especially up to his eightteenth birthday.

And he will have to undergo regular medical check-ups, which means tapping some blood every time. Which means our ears will be well tested, because Tyl doesn't like needles. And when Tyl doesn't like something, he will make sure that the whole hospital and any neighbouring provinces are aware of his displeasure.

Sinterklaas Not Again

Yesterday was Sinterklaas' birthday, which is traditionally the day when children that were well behaved all through the year find one or more presents in their shoe or boot. Of course, as every parent knows, the phrase 'well behaved all through the year' is up for interpretation, and although Sinterklaas is supposed to know everything, there is a lot of leeway. Every parent knows this, because every parent once was a child too and desperately counted on the good man's sense of humour.

Anyway, because the 6th of December fell right smack bang in the middle of the week this year, Sinterklaas in all his wisdom decided to advance his schedule and pay his nightly visit to our household last Saturday. Much loot was had by both our sons, since it was Sinterdad who did most of the shopping this year because he didn't agree with the quota that Sintermom tends to infringe.

So when the children woke up at a time that is technically morning, but what can only be described by any sane person as 'the dead of night', we quickly climbed down the stairs and opened the door in anticipation... to find that the coffee table had disappeared under the presents, chocolates, marsipain and various other treats. Wolf got a giant Lego truck, a dinosaur hunter from the same brand (Jurassic Parc style), the Who-is-it game and a book on how to draw animals. Tyl got the cash register from Fisher Price, a couple of Miffy books and a Miffy DVD (guess who is currently his favourite). Dad got nothing at all, despite acting as a child for most of the year. Not fair.

So you can't say the children had any reason to complain. Still, on Wednessday evening, Wolf timidly inquired if Sinterklaas was still going to come that night, because his teacher had told him so. No harm in asking, right?

He was a bit disappointed the next moring when he found that Sinterklaas hadn't brought a second load of toys, despite the fact that the first time around, he did forget to bring a number of things that were on his wish list.

Well, Christmas is only two weeks away son!

Flip A Coin

Last Friday, I went to the supermarket to buy fresh fish and shrimp for what was going to become a lovely dish of fillet of dorade with creamy fish broth sauce with mushrooms, shrimps, tomato cubes and hard-boiled egg, served with mashed potatoes. It was one of those supermarkets where you have to use a coin to unlock the supermarket trolley. Unfortunately I went through life coinless at that point, which was very inconvenient because I had Tyl on my arm and he simply refused to walk under his own steam. So I asked a cashier for one of those plastic tokens to liberate a trolley. After the shopping was done, I put back the trolley and popped the token in my wallet.

Yesterday, we took the kids to 'Magic Land' (Toverland) in Holland. We paid at the entrance and got a token to get out of the parking lot, which I put in my wallet.

You see where this is going, don't you?

We had a lot of fun on the indoor fun fair, although Tyl was very tired and clingy. I had to carry him most of the time. Oh, and Wolf was scarred for life when his mum took him into a giant merry-go-round with swings that took him six meters in the air. He screamed his lungs out from the moment the swings went up, making everybody turn their head in search for a kid engulfed in flames or something.

Anyway, evening fell and it was time to go home. So we got into the car and I drove up to the automatic barrier. I took out the plastic coin and shoved it into the machine. But the barrier wouldn't lift. There was a white button, which I pushed. And then pushed again, and again. Then I noticed another button with a phone sign on it, so I pushed that one. The person on the other end of the line didn't even listen, they just opened the barrier for us and I drove on, muttering some words about that stupid piece of technology that doesn't even work.

Today after lunch, I take out my wallet to get a coke from the dispenser downstairs. To my amazement, I see a very large shiny coin in my wallet. I take it out to have a good look, and I notice the Magic Land logo on both sides. Turns out I've used the supermarket token for the barrier. No wonder it didn't work.


Sour Grapes

This year's grape harvest was better than the previous year's, but only marginally so. They certainly looked better than the 2011 vintage.

My very own grapes

Last year, the weather was so wet that the grapes were simply rotting on the vines. This season wasn't much better than the previous one. It started out well with warm and sunny weather in spring, but then it turned for the worst, with weeks and weeks of rain. Mid summer was nice again, but towards September it was mostly rainy again.

I think the vines did get a boost from the fact that the plot of land next to our neighbours was cleared. Before, the big pine trees took away the sun in the afternoon. But sadly that wasn't enough: they stayed sour for quite a while, and when they finally ripened most of them rotted away because of the wet weather, or got eaten by wasps and birds. The kids and I ate some right from the vines, but when I cut some to put in the fruit bowl, they were hardly touched and I had to throw most of them on the compost heap a week later.

So lets keep our fingers crossed for 2013 then. Mrs.B cut down the vines today, so they're all ready for winter.


Message To The Internet

If I land on your site and a pop-up explodes in my face with some lame commercial, I will immediately click away to a random site using my Stumble button, or pressing Backspace. No matter how interesting your site may be.

Got that, internet?


Don't make me repeat that.

Floating Away

Balloon man and child floating between the trees

Hard Labour

Mrs.B has got a job! A full-time, fully paid job at an insurance firm that shall remain un-named. You won't believe how relieved we both are, as she has been unemployed for a full year.

When she received her letter of resignation, I wasn't worried at first. After all, there are plenty of jobs for legal experts, right, even in these difficult economic times? And frankly, I was relieved that her previous contract came to an end, because her old boss was trying to push the blame for his department not reaching its targets on her shoulders. And then he tried to set the rest of the team up against her. Unsuccesfully so, I might add, because my wife still has good contacts with most of her old colleagues. But still, it was time to pack and go.

'Take it easy for a while', I told Mrs.B. 'Don't worry about finding a job, with your qualifications you're sure to find something soon. But first take a rest and get those nasty times out of your system'.

But four months later, by the end of the year, she'd received a lot of invitations and done a lot of tests, but no job still. A couple of times she came really close, but then... She wasn't the only candidate. In fact, there were loads of other candidates. She would meet the same people over and over again waiting for the same job interviews, even when she applied for rather specialised positions.

Meanwhile, our savings were drying up. I stopped working in the house. We stopped going out. We bought only the bare necessities. And then we had the car crash and a new loan to pay off. We stopped inviting people.

When we went on summer holidays, we decided we didn't want to sit in our caravan all day, afraid of spending a single euro, but when we came back it was clear that day X would be somewhere in November. To make matters worse, job openings were getting even scarcer. We had 'minimum birthday parties' for Tyl and Mrs.B in September.

And then suddenly, an insurance company AND a sollicitor's office were both interested to see her. More tests followed, and it was difficult for Mrs.B to motivate herself once more for these lengthy procedures, reviews and tests. I was secretely hopeful, but then again we'd been disappointed so many times before. In the end you don't dare to hope. So at the same time I started to contemplate the alternatives: sell the car, the horse, the house, the children - maybe even as a final desperate measure my vintage porn collection.

But then she had not one but two offers. The sollicitor offered her a part-time position, but the insurrance company was interested in more.

So this Monday, after a year's sitting, waiting and brooding at home, she packed her lunch, jumped on her bike and rode to  the office. It's only a short bike ride from home, so it's even very practical to bring the children to and from school/day care in the morning and evening.

So until she receives her first pay check, we'll still have to eat spagetti twice every day. But you can't believe what a relieve this is. Yay!

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