Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Life is like that...

There's a mixture of good and bad news today.

The good news is that the department of home affairs found our application for Nellie's birth registration and passport from 2006. This is also the bad news. Anyway, the file, with BOTH applications (the 2006 and the 2007 ones) in it is sitting somewhere in a pile at the registry office in Pretoria. It will take them a week to find it, and only then they can try to expedite the registration. I must ring again next week, after Wednesday.


Breathe, breathe, breathe. Count to 10. Do not attempt to murder the very sweet Mrs Joubert on the other side of the phone. Do not think about the fact that the passport application can only be expedited AFTER the birth registration has been expedited. Breathe. Relax your shoulders. Smile and nod. Smile and nod.

The other piece of bad news is that the problem with our car is indeed the catalytic converter and oxygen sensor. The good news is that our lovely garage man Keith has managed to find a replacement for us that is £100 cheaper than we thought it would cost us. Yay!!

The other good news is that our car's import permit and LOA (another permit required) have both been approved. The import permit is currently winging it's way to London. The LOA should be on its way by the end of the week. Thank God! That means we will (hopefully - I still don't trust the SA mailing system) have all the documents in time for the move.

I had my fasting blood test today. Now we wait another 2-3 weeks for these results. I rang my doc about the other results, but haven't heard back yet. Being at the hospital today was a trial. As I was waiting in a queue at the cash machine (to get money to buy breakfast after my blood test) a woman in labour was wheeled past me to the labour ward. At first I thought nothing of it. Then it hit me that she would (probably) have a baby at the end of it.

Trying not to think about that, I went off to buy breakfast. After sitting down, a woman with a newborn sat down behind me and her baby proceeded to cry. Newborns have this very particular mew - their cry isn't that loud (although first time mothers think it is) and it always has a particular tone or timbre or pitch (or whatever it is) to it. Hearing it upset me and I had to stop myself from turning around and yelling at the mother to shut her child up. I left soon afterwards, walking along the river to Vauxhall station.

As I walked, I cried (I'm sure the other pedestrians thought I was mad) because I was leaving the hospital. I know it sounds weird. I realised that all my memories of Zoe (bar her funeral) are linked with that hospital. Now I have this love-hate relationship with the building. I don't want to leave London because that means leaving the place where my little girl was born and died, leaving the hospital where I saw her kick, where I saw her heart beat, and the place where I saw her heart no longer beating. It doesn't matter that we have her ashes and she's going home with us. I feel like I'm leaving her behind. Is that weird?

Last night Nellie pointed to my tummy again and said 'baby'. She knows what a baby is; I know that because she's started talking about her 'baby' while rocking her dolly in her arms. So I know that she was asking about Zoe when she did that. I had to tell her, again, that while there had been a baby in Mommy's tummy, Zoe was dead. And this after a day of Nellie throwing up on both Graeme and I, and her just generally being miserable (so I was already upset and miserable).

So on my walk home this morning I asked God when this grief thing would be over. It's not that I want to forget Zoe, I just don't want to react to other pregnant women or babies like this. I don't want to feel the need to cry whenever I think of Zoe, or mention her. And yet, I find myself clinging to things like living near the hospital where she was born because it links me to her in some way, even though it's in these places that I encounter the very thing that makes me react. Silly, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A close call

Yes, after more than a week, we're back online! Thank God! I was going stir-crazy.

So, there's so much to tell you I can't figure out where to start... so I'll just give you the bullet points, in no particular order:
  • I have developed a very tight and painful jaw from grinding my teeth at night. My GP says it's stress and not to worry about it. Hmm.. That may be true, but it's not helpful when at times I can barely get my mouth open to eat.
  • I have my fasting blood test tomorrow at the hospital (for diabetes).
  • I'm still waiting for the results of the other blood tests, although I think I'll ask them tomorrow while I'm there whether they've got them.
  • Nellie has learnt to say 'push'.
  • Her teeth still aren't through.
  • She's been throwing up again, but as there's no temperature or any other sign of illness, I'm hoping it's all related to the teething thing.
  • The car needs MORE repairs so is going in again tomorrow. This time it's the catalytic converter. Joy.
  • Our lovely friends felt led by God to give us a cheque that covers the cost of the car repairs!! How cool is that?!
  • The import permit for the car has been approved and is on its way to London after a detour to my mother's house!!! YAY!!!
  • When I finally worked up the energy to ring SA about Nellie's RSA passport, the people I needed to speak to were off for the day on a march. Typical. Not only is that just typical of my luck, it's typically Africa too. I guess I'd better get used to dealing with a third world bureaucracy again, and fast.
  • We still haven't managed to sell our pram/ buggy...
  • Although we've booked our flights, we haven't started packing yet... and that's starting to stress me out a bit. It's just all so much more difficult to organise with a toddler in the house. Fortunately, the removals people will be doing most of it, but there's a lot of preparatory work that needs to be done before then.

I've been in a really dark place spiritually over the last 10 days, so not having the blog or the SANDS forum hasn't helped really. The counselling I had with Graeme last week helped me to verbalise what I think I'd been feeling for a little while. It just seemed that so many things were not going according to plan and I was developing a serious paranoia that someone was out to get me.

While logically I knew that person wasn't God, because God doesn't engineer bad stuff to happen, I couldn't help feeling like he wasn't doing much to prevent it either. Then I just got mad with him. Then I got depressed. I found myself back to thinking that God is just an ogre out to punish his followers and make their lives as miserable as possible. Score one for Satan.

As I said to our counsellor, I didn't just feel like I need a break; I felt like God owed me something. After everything we've been through recently, I really thought it would be nice if he could extend us, extend me, just a little grace and mercy. I have been worrying about money in particular, making ends meet, so little things like selling our pram are pretty important events (or non-events, as the case may be) to me. I felt that, if God is supposed to be providing for us, he could either have arranged for us to sell the pram, or stopped the car from breaking down again, or arranged a hundred other little things in similar vein. These are not a biggie for him, and not beyond the realm of possibility, but he didn't. So I found myself thinking that if he couldn't be trusted to sort out the little things for us that would enable us to take care of ourselves financially, then how could I trust him to take care of us back in SA where neither of us currently have jobs.

I've also been having a lot of second (and third) thoughts about starting this business of my own when I get back. I've got my doubts about it's viability, about my ability to make it happen, about the possibility of finding the right venture capitalist with enough money to get it off the ground, about the time and effort it's going to cost, about the toll it will take on my family and Nellie in particular.... about all sorts of things. And then I've worried about what happens if I don't do this. About having to go back to teaching. About having to settle for a job that drives me insane from boredom. About never having enough money to not worry about money (which we have had while we've been here). About not having enough money to afford to have another child. And then I've started worrying about whether I can have more children, or whether trying for any more will only result in them all being stillborn or miscarried, or being so prem they die. And then I've started worrying about the medical aid costs we're going to have to incur in SA (the national health system there is so pathetically overstretched and underfunded that anyone who has more than a hand-to-mouth existence tries to go private)... no wonder I'm grinding my teeth!!

But then God did something I didn't anticipate. Firstly, the college offered Graeme a few extra days work because we're leaving a week after his notice period. This enables him to earn a few extra bucks to tide us over in SA. Then, these lovely friends gave us a rather large cheque. Then, another lovely friend gave us some M&S gift vouchers to buy smoked mackerel pate (long story in that... maybe I'll tell that another time).

It feels like God is saying that while he isn't going to stop the bad stuff from happening, he's going to provide us with a way out. I needed to hear that he's going to take care of us. It's just so completely human of me to forget the way he's taken care of us in the 7 years we've been in the UK, how he's provided for us in ways I never thought possible. I'm just like the Israelites in the desert on the way to Canaan. I've forgotten how God got me out of "Egypt". But there it is. I'm a faithless and fickle believer. I'd be lying if I pretended to be anything else.

I definitely hit that place again where I could honestly say I didn't see the purpose in being a Christian anymore. Except for one thing. I believe Jesus to be the Son of God. Even if he is an ogre (which intellectually, at least, I know he isn't); even if he has laid upon us a life of suffering and trials (the jury's still out on this one); even if he never demonstrated his love for us on a daily basis (which he does). He'd still be the Son of God. I have to echo Peter's words (John 6: 68,69): "Lord, to whom else shall [I] go? You have the words of eternal life. [I] believe and know you are the Holy One of God."

I can't say I'm past the being mad stage (after all, no-one holds a grudge like I do!), but now I can see that God hasn't forgotten us, which gives me hope that we're going to get through this ok. I've been crying a lot again recently, missing Zoe a lot, angry a lot that don't have my little girl to hold anymore, intensely worried about money, stressed about moving home, doubting my own abilities, but I know that God hasn't forgotten us. By the grace of God we're going to get through this. To be honest, I only have to look at my gorgeous little Nellie to know that. But it's been a close call these past few days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Holding Page

Just to let you know that our broadband internet connection at home has gone "phut", which is why Nicole is not updating the blog at the moment...

More news as events warrant!!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ag sweet!

Just before I put Nellie down for a nap this afternoon we were standing in the passage. She was, once again, chewing on her fingers. So I asked her whether she had an "owwie". She nodded her head, made the sign for "owwie". So I asked her where it was "owwie". She made the sign again, and pointed to her teeth ("feef")! Now I ask you with tears in my eyes - isn't that the sweetest thing?

So then I asked her whether she wanted Mommy to make the "owwie" "all gone". She nodded, and repeated "all gone". I asked her to come into the kitchen for some medicine (meddies), which she did - opening her mouth in readiness for it before I'd even poured it on the spoon.

This kid is smart, let me tell you. She just needs a way to communicate with the rest of us idiots.

We were out in the garden earlier and there was a pile of leaves, sticks and small stones that the wind had blown into one corner of our patio. Nellie wanted to sit on the little wall behind this pile of stuff, but because she was bare foot, she didn't want to walk over it. I don't blame her. I wouldn't want to either. My little feet are pretty tender - it's all this wearing shoes thing in the UK... Anyway, when I showed her how to rake the leaves away using her rake, she was thrilled and spent the next 15 minutes raking the stuff everywhere - and I do mean everywhere. Again, wish I'd thought to video it...

Still, she had fun, and that's all the matters. Being clean and tidy, I'm learning, is just not going to happen when there's a toddler in the house, so it's pointless fighting it or getting my guts in a knot about it. (Later on I did go and sweep it all up though... I can only bear it for so long...)

Welcome, welcome

My dad has finally joined the world of broadband/ ADSL, so for the first time, he is able to read and view our blogs. (Dial-up was just too expensive in SA to permit him the luxury.)

So Dad, just wanted to say WELCOME to this wonderful online world! Love you lots and lots and lots... like jellytots, and stax and stax like Knicknacks! Hope you enjoy reading all the news.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More teeth

Yup - little madam is definitely teething. Her eye teeth are busy coming through. You can just see them under the gum now. It's no wonder she's been so moody and picky about her food recently! Poor little thing. But the pain should ease off soon, for a while at any rate, as I think the worse part is the bit when we can't see the teeth moving.

One would think that, in all the years humans have been around, God would have come up with a better plan for giving us teeth... I mean, going through this once is bad enough, but we go through it TWICE, and some of us are even unlucky enough to have to go through it a THIRD time when our wisdoms come out. I mean, really!

London Aquarium

I thought a few photos would go down well at the moment. This is how she usually travels home from daycare... Occasionally though, she uses Delilah as a pillow. Now that's really cute!

We went to visit the London Aquarium today, given that Nellie has just learnt to sign 'fish'. I thought she might enjoy seeing lots of them. So, here we are, on our way...

She wasn't overly thrilled by the fish, although she did enjoy them in fits and starts. I think it was all a bit much for her to take in. As a result, she decided to entertain herself by being 'helpful'. She pulled her nappy bag and food bag out of the bottom of the pram and 'helped' Mommy and Daddy by dragging them on the floor for us.

Afterwards, we went to get icecream while Nellie had a swing... which is nearly as good as an icecream!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

She's learning

Some days it's incredible to think you can go from wanting to shoot your kid to wanting to eat her up she's so cute.

Picture it. 2007. May. It's been raining pretty much non-stop for 10 days. The skies are thunderstorm grey, and have been for days. Neither of us was in a particularly good mood. I hadn't slept very well last night, and she's been teething, so is suffering. Add a plate of food into the mix, and we've got a fight brewing.

After half an hour of her crying I gave up. So, for lunch today she ate 6 raisins, 1 spoon of yoghurt and 2 spoons of food. Not a heck of a lot. I didn't lose my temper with her during this ordeal, but I was still massively angry with her afterwards for not eating. I can hold a grudge like no-one else I know!

This is the third day in a row when she has had about 4 hrs worth of naps and done 3 or 4 runny poos during the day. Usually she has 2 hrs worth of naps and does 1 (solid) poo. She is definitely not OK, but I know that a lot of the fighting over food is just her being stubborn, which only makes me more angry. I know her gums are sore (her fingers are permanently glued to them, even WITH her dummy in her mouth!), but this food thing is not because of that. She's just being otherwise and obstreperous.

How do I know this? Because for supper tonight she ate all the food that she refused to eat at lunch, and more. Not only did she eat a jar of Lancashire hotpot, but she finished a yogurt, a fruit pot, a veggie pot, a carrot stick (!!!!! she's NEVER eaten carrot sticks before) and 2 biscuits. And mostly without too much fuss. So it's not that she doesn't like the food, she just refuses to eat it unless I intersperse the proper food with mouthfuls of sweet food. I really don't want to do that because she needs to stay off the sweet stuff. She also refuses to eat if I ask her to feed herself. No thanks - she likes to be able to play with her food and a spoon while she gets fed, but she point blank refuses to put that spoon into her mouth if it has food on it. AARRRGGHH!!

But then, at the other end of the spectrum, she is just the cutest, sweetest little girl alive, and I could just eat her up at times.

Like this afternoon/ evening. We'd had a reasonable amount of fun at a One 'o clock club (free council run centres with toys and activities for the under 5's) this afternoon while dodging the rain. When we got home I gave her a bottle, which she sat drinking by herself in the lounge. Now that's another first! Usually she insists that we sit with her, but she didn't complain once. Then off she went to bed for another 2 hr nap (it would have been longer if we hadn't woken her).

When Graeme brought her into the bedroom, she wanted to cuddle with me! There is nothing so special as your little girl wanting to cuddle with you! Before G headed out again for a meeting the 3 of us spent some time on the bed tickling each other. She was so cute, trying to tickle my feet and G's back. We all had a really good chuckle together.

I then fed her and bathed her. Bath time was another bundle of laughs. Firstly, she deliberately tried to splash me - which again was a first for both of us. Then, she made the sign for fish and we spent time talking about the fish, complete with facial expressions and hand movements that I wish I had captured on film! She is so serious about whatever it is she's trying to say (I often don't have a clue!) that I can't help but laugh at how cute she is. Finally, she told me her bum was sore, all using signs! After all the pooing she's been doing recently, I'm not surprised, but I was THRILLED that she was able to tell me about it. This signing thing is definitely a winner.

I have no doubt that when she becomes a teenager we're going to have a rough ride. She is as stubborn and strong-willed as a mule (she takes after her mother in that department). I really hope that she and I won't clash often, but I don't see how we can avoid that. We already clash terribly over food, which she invariably wins. I dread to think what it'll be like when she's hormonal.

She's got me wrapped around her little finger though. I just love her to bits. All it takes is one little smile from her, one little expression and I can't help but laugh, and all my anger evaporates. And when she tells me something and is able to communicate with me, it brings such joy to my heart. I can't wait till she's able to talk properly! I just love getting to know my precious darling - watching her growing up is such an adventure and I thank God for her.

Cute kids

Graeme forwarded me this very cute story about kids from a message board he belongs to...

I Learned Something About Kids Recently...

...I learned over the past few days that kids retain everything.

Flashback to Saturday: We were visiting the grandparents, and Shayla (going on 18 months) was getting a bit fussy. One of her favorite things in the world is to go for a walk, so I took her for a lap around the development.

As we walked, she was her usual full-of-questions-well-actually-only-one-question self.

"Wazzat?""That's a car. We use them to get from place to place. Vroom vroom."
"Wazzat?""That's a squirrel. They're kinda cute, but there more of a pain to homeowners than anything."
"Wazzat?""That's a barbeque grill. We use them to cook up meat, like yummy hamburgers and hot dogs."
"Wazzat?"That's litter. Someone thought that the street would be a good place for his old McDonald's bag. That someone is what we call a 'scumbag'."
"Wazzat?""That's a street sign. It shows us what street we're on. Of course, some nitwit turned it so now it's inaccurate, but you get the idea. Well, actually, you don't, since you're too young to understand 99% of what I'm saying, but just hearing my voice explaining things is good for your development."

Flashforward to this morning: Ok, time to take Shayla to day care. Unfortunately, I didn't get a parking spot in front of out house last night, so we'll have to walk the block to the car. No biggie.

As we walk, hand in hand, my daughter ever-so-cute in her new dress, a guy rides by on his bicycle. Carrying a Coke bottle. Which he casually drops in the street.

And a little voice pipes up: "SCUBBAG!!"

Damn, I love this kid.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dirty linen

So it seems that once again I've put my foot in my mouth; please allow me to remove it.

I love my family, all my family, whether blood- or marriage-related. I really, really love my family. I rely on my family. They are a massive source of strength to me. I am therefore very much looking forward to seeing them and being around them again when we move home. I can no longer live with them being several thousand miles away from me, so I am moving home to be with them. I am prepared to risk the security of my husband and child in order to be within a half-hour drive of my family. This is how much they mean to me.

If I ever gave the impression that I don't love them, then I apologise.

Yes, sometimes they irritate me, sometimes they frustrate me, sometimes they drive me round the bend, sometimes I don't like them. But then I know that at times I irritate them, frustrate them, drive them round the bend and am very unlikeable myself. That doesn't mean that they love me any less, and it doesn't mean I love them any less when I express my frustration/ irritation/ dislike of something they have said or done, or failed to say or do.

I could pretend we are all lovely to each other all the time, but that would be just that - pretending. My family are all lovely - caring, loving, sensitive, intuitive, supportive, protective, wise, giving, generous... but we are all human and have our bad days. Me included.

So I apologise if sharing what I'm thinking on a bad day upsets or offends anyone. I'm just trying to be honest about the fact that I am human and my family are human. I'm not deliberately trying to wash dirty linen in public here, but I'm also not going to pretend that we have no dirty linen. I still love them and I still think they are amazing.

PS. Reading back through this post I have to confess that it's rather a bit of a storm in a teacup. Sorry. I guess I'm just being sensitive to the comments others have made because my emotions are a bit raw at the moment...I suggest that whenever you read the blog you remind yourself that my posts are often stream of consciousness things - spur of the moment feelings - and not always a true relfection of how I have been feeling over a longer period of time.

The Knack of Life - Trisha Rainsford

"Mattie had the knack of life. While he was alive he knew how to be alive and keep his heart open even when it was broken. If I had to say what he did I suppose I'd say that instead of shrinking and closing off to the world, Mattie made his heart bigger every time it was attacked so that, eventually, it became like an enormous expase of water - an ocean, maybe - which couldn't be polluted by the insignificant drops of poison the world threw at it.

.... I think I'll try that."

Monday, May 14, 2007

And the winner is...

So we went to the hospital this morning to discuss Zoe's autopsy report. The long and short of it is that there is no discernible reason for her death.


... there is something wrong with me.... at least, they think there is...

... so I had another batch of bloods and have to organise one more to confirm or deny their suspicions...

... and if there is, then there are implications for future pregnancies....

They suspect that I have the same blood condition that Graeme has. It's called antiphospholipid syndrome, or Hughes syndrome.

Since it's not inherited, the chances of both of us having it are like... I dunno ... a billion to 1. Anyway, they think I've got it. If I do, then I'll have to have an injection of a blood thinner (either heparin or a combination of heparin and aspirin) every day while I'm pregnant and have LOADS of scans etc. and I'll have to be induced - quite probably have to have a Caesar. I'm worried about the risks to the baby if I take heparin, but then, if I don't, there are risks for the baby with this thing anyway....

I did ask the consultant whether there was a chance that (assuming their preliminary diagnoses are correct) this thing could have caused Zoe's death. She was lovely, really, the consultant. Anyway, she replied that while this didn't cause Zoe's death, unexplained pregnancy loss is a characteristic of those with this syndrome. There is also a link between this and premature birth. (So it may well be that this, again, assuming that I do actually have it, is what caused Janel to be born so prem.)

I did ask her whether, had we known then what we know now, there was a chance that Zoe would still be alive. She refused to give me a straight answer. I suppose there's no point in going down the 'if' road. The fact is that Zoe is dead. There's a good chance that this syndrome is somehow involved, even if not directly. In my heart I feel that, had I known about this earlier, Zoe would still be alive. I would have insisted on an induction on the Monday when I felt something was wrong.

But then, she might still have died from SIDS. Just because she might have been born alive is no guarantee that she would stay alive. If anything, I think this whole experience with her has taught me that. There are no guarantees with pregnancies or births. There is no stage at which you can breathe a sigh of relief and relax, or think that you're safe, because you're not. You're not ever safe. At any stage your baby might die, despite what the books say. And it's pointless putting your trust in statistics, because you might be that unfortunate 1% (or whatever). As we were. And as we might be again...

... which is why they'd want to induce me if I fall pregnant again...

Oddly, this syndrome causes a variety of different symptoms, because there are at least 4 different variations of it. It appears that Graeme has 2 versions of it, so it causes both the extreme clotting of blood AND a form of haemophilia, at the same time! It is also common for those with Lupus to have this syndrome, which is why we were told a while back that Graeme has Lupus. He doesn't. If we were to remain in the UK though, my care would be managed by the Lupus unit at St. Thomas's, in conjunction with a special midwifery team, because my symptoms would be very similar to those of someone with Lupus. Freaky!

Then, if that weren't enough to think about, she wants me to have a proper fasting test for diabetes. I certainly had high sugar levels in my urine with both pregnancies, so if even if this tests negative, I need to keep an eye on it during pregnancy because lots of women only get diabetes during pregnancy.

Oh yes, and of course this means that I'm at high risk for DVT... so once we have the results of the tests, if it's positive, I need to get a medical letter to inform the airline and take with me when I fly, and I'll need to take lots of aspirin before and after the flight, and wear flight socks. Sigh! At least I'll know before I go though, which reduces the possible risk to me.

Interestingly, there is a contra-indication for those who have APS in using the Pill. For years I felt that being on the Pill was bad for me in just SO many ways, which is why we eventually came off it. I had decided that, once we'd had a second, I wasn't going to go back on it. Now it seems that, even if I wanted to, that wouldn't be an option for me.

Of course, all this doom and gloom talk is dependent on today's set of tests confirming the previous set. So maybe I'm fine after all. We find out in 3 weeks time. In the mean time, I'm feeling a bit shell-shocked actually. The thought of everything I'll have to go through if we fall pregnant again, of the high risk of miscarriage... I don't know if I'm up for that. But then, I really want another baby... to think that, at the root of it all, it was quite probably something in me that contributed to Zoe's death... I don't know if I want to risk that with another child.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I forgot to mention that tomorrow is the day we get the autopsy report... either way I'm not going to like the outcome. If it says that there was no reason for Zoe's death, I'm going to drive myself crazy next time we fall pregnant. If it says there is a reason, I'm going to find someone to blame, and drive myself crazy.

I hate this.

At least it ... I was going to say 'at least this will all be over tomorrow', but it won't be. It will just be starting a new chapter tomorrow.

Losing a child sucks. Big time.

(And for those who watch 'Grey's Anatomy', it sucks big time that Izzy and Danny didn't get their 'happily ever after'. It really, really sucks, especially the way the writers did it. I like Hollywood endings because it gives me hope, albeit false, that there might be a Hollywood ending for me, for Zoe. Grief sucks.)

Mother's Day

In the UK, Mother's Day is a complete non-event, because we have Mothering Sunday, which is some time in late March or early April (can't remember which now). So I completely forgot it was Mother's Day until a friend emailed to say she was thinking of me today. (Fortunately, after Zoe's death I sent all 3 of our mothers cards because I knew I would forget, so at least they weren't forgotten.)

At first, I thought she somehow knew what we did today, which was why she was thinking of us, but then later in her email she said something that reminded me it was Mother's Day and that she had no clue what today was for us.

The hospital organise memorial/ remembrance services twice a year for all the parents who have lost children, in the hospital chapel. The May service was this afternoon. (The other service is in December.) I wore the same outfit I wore to Zoe's funeral, and just putting it on brought tears to my eyes. My mom bought it for me. It's a lovely trouser suit in grey with white pin stripes. I love it, but I haven't had either the occasion to get dressed up, nor the inclination to wear this very special outfit.

It's been raining on and off for the past week. As I walked to church this morning, with Nellie asleep in the pram, I couldn't help but feel how appropriate it was that it was raining - a gentle soaking rain. One friend called it 'sweet rain from heaven', which reminds me of a line from a worship song about God's mercy.

So I took the back route, the quiet route, to appreciate the rain and to cry. I must have looked a sight - all dressed up, and sobbing my heart out silently so as not to wake Nellie, staggering a bit like a drunk because I couldn't see for tears.

The memorial service was lovely, as these things are. We were given a green 'leaf' to hang on a tree, on which we were invited to write a short message to Zoe. As I was writing it, I suddenly realised that as we'd come in, I'd put Janel's name on the list of names to be read out, instead of Zoe's. I don't know why I did that... I guess I'm just so used to giving Janel's name for things. The realisation was such a shock though that I promptly burst into tears. And proceeded to cry all the way through the service, which was both cathartic and very difficult because I wanted to howl, but didn't feel that would be helpful to the other parents there.

I was struck that we were the only ones (it seemed to me) who were crying. The other parents were very much in control of their emotions. I don't know whether they were just being British, or whether they are just that much further down the line than we are... but I was glad we were sitting upstairs away from most of them because being the only ones crying made me feel very exposed and vulnerable.

We had decided not to take Nellie for 2 reasons - firstly because we needed the time and space to be able to grieve without needing to care for her, and secondly because we thought it might be difficult for other parents to have her there. I was therefore struck by the number of children who did attend with their parents. While I applaud their parents' decision to include them in the grieving process, I found having them there an upsetting and difficult reminder that I should have several children now, and don't. One lady came with her newborn baby, which proceeded to cry for several long minutes....

Another difficult moment for me today was finding out that a woman at church, who is becoming a friend, is pregnant with her 3rd child. She hasn't told me she's pregnant, I found out from someone else. While I'm thrilled for her, I couldn't help but feel stung by the news. I caught myself feeling that she was being selfish - having 3 - when I only have 1. Jealousy raised it's ugly head again. It's completely ridiculous, I know, but grief does play with your mind in the most ridiculous ways.

Actually, writing that has made me realise what another childless friend must go through every time someone around her falls pregnant. For ages I've been thinking that there must come a point when she must simply accept that, until her circumstances change, she is not going to have children. She's been grieving this fact to the extent that I feel she is suffering from depression. I don't see how she can move beyond the depression until she faces the unpleasant facts. I've never said these things to her, because I know how hurtful they would be, and how unhelpful, but if I'm brutally honest, I've thought them... until just this very minute. At least I have the comfort of knowing (hopefully) that I can have another one, or that we are in a position to adopt if we can't (or shouldn't) have more. She isn't in that position. She doesn't have that hope.

I've been able to spend time with other people's babies because I have known the joy of children, and because at some gut level I know I will have more. This friend isolates herself from any friends who have children or are pregnant. Although I've understood at an intellectual level why she's chosen to do that, at a heart level I've found it hard to. On the one hand, I've been cross that she's chosen to put our friendship on hold without giving me a say in it. On the other, I've thought she was being ridiculously self-absorbed. But as she doesn't have the hope that I do, I guess I suddenly understand at a heart level how much she needs to protect herself.

Having said that, I know that, for me, the only way through the grief is to face the things that cause me the most pain head on. Hiding only makes them bigger. I hope that she's chosen the right path for dealing with her grief and that isolating herself isn't going to cause her more harm in the long run. And I hope that I can be a good friend to her and wait patiently until she feels she is able to resume our friendship.

To all of you women out there - to those with kids (or expecting them) and those without, to those who are far from their kids and to those who have lost their kids - Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2007

The nature of relationships

As I've been increasingly thinking about and planning for moving home, I've been thinking about what it means to leave here and what it means to start over back home. This, in turn, has led me to wonder about the nature of community and relationships.

How is it that friendships and relationships form? Why is it that you 'click' with certain people and not others? Why do some people find it so easy to make really good friends? Without trying to manipulate others, how does one go about developing friendships that are deep and meaningful?

Although I have a number of people I consider good friends, in reality, I really don't know all that much about them. I can't tell you where they were born, or what schools they went to, or what their favourite food is or what genre of movie they like to see, or what genre of book they like to read. For some of them, I can't even tell you the names of their siblings or parents. Yet, I consider them good friends. How can that be? And what about the somewhat larger group of people I consider to be more than acquaintances, but not good friends - they're people I like to spend time with, but I know even less about them.

Are my expectations of friendship too high? Do other people ponder these same questions regarding their friendships? Or is it just that I don't make good friends because I don't really take the time to listen and remember? Am I such a rotten friend?

So what makes a good friend? Is it just someone you enjoy having a laugh with on a regular basis? Is it someone who will take the time to listen to your woes and sympathise, or occasionally offer advice? Is it someone who makes you feel loved and needed? Is it someone you share a lot in common with, like playing tennis? Is it just someone that you've been around for so long you can't imagine life without them there? Or is it something more?

I have to confess that the friends I've made here in London are far better friends than the ones I had back in SA. And that scares me a bit. I know that because London is such a transitory place people crave community more, and therefore they are willing to make more of an effort to develop friendships. Again, because so many people who come to London are stepping outside of their comfort zone to do so, the normal barriers to friendship are lowered. There is definitely something to be said for the intentional forging of friendships - they seem to go much deeper more quickly; a bit like people who go through some dramatic or traumatic event together, or men who fight together in a war. (I'm not comparing London to a war zone, before you start to think I am.... although there are definitely areas of it that are just that!)

Back home, my friends were people I had gone to school with. We had shared large chunks of time together because we were in the same class, or society, or extra curricular activity, or because we lived down the road from each other and therefore travelled to and from school together. And at the time I thought our friendships would last forever. But they didn't. Most of them died when we went off to university. Those that managed to limp past the end of that era died when Graeme and I moved to London, bar a handful. And even those are now not much more than acquaintances, bar 2 - Janel's godparents, Simon and Heather.

Returning to your home land is never easy. When you're not with people, they never continue to grow in your mind - they get stuck at the point where you last spent decent time with them. For example, I've just recently learnt that a girl I matriculated with has kids. In my head, she's still 18 or 19, not 32! I've seen so much and learnt so much and grown so much and experienced so much in the 7 ½ years we've been in London. I know that the people we are returning to probably won't understand that, especially people in Cape Town!

While I love Cape Town, the people there have a very narrow mindset, very insular. Those who live in other cities in the country constantly comment on it. Capetonians are seen as stuck-up and cold. Capetonians often see themselves as better than the rest. No, correction, white English-speaking Capetonians. And this is the community we are returning to.

In my gut I feel that, had we gone home while I was still in my first trimester with Zoe, and she had died back in SA, we would never had had the level of love and support we've experienced here. Why? Because our friendships were never as good as the ones we have here. People in London recognise their need for others and as a result they make a point of being inclusive and generous (except for when they are travelling on the tube or train!!). People in Cape Town constantly keep themselves isolated. This need for isolation is a hangover from Apartheid days and now is a response to the crime and security issues. The problem with this, is that I think it makes it harder to make good friends.

Here, it's fairly common to invite people over for lunch after church in the morning, as a spur of the moment thing. It's fairly common for people in small groups to meet together for a meal beforehand, as a regular thing. Building community is a feature of our community. Maybe other communities in London aren't like this, but I certainly never felt this level of intentionality about building relationships back home.

Which brings me back to my original questions. How is it that people build good relationships? What is it that makes for a good relationship? When does an acquaintance become a friend, and a friend become a good friend, and what helps those transitions? I'm not sure I know, and that worries me, because I'm going to have to start all over again with making friends back home.

Ahh cute!

This morning, little Nellie ran up to Daddy, waving her hands & arms around, to exclaim: "Blo blu ble NO BALLS!"

Taking Daddy by the hand, she led him to her walker thingy (see photo from May 2006 below) which duly had no balls in it.

Isn't she just so clever?!?!

Saturday fun photos!!

Isn't our little angel just so gorgeous?

And here's the birthday girl herself... Sarah and Dan
and their little angel, Sam...
And for a bit of fun...

And Dave's going to be a vicar.... Hmm.... if nothing else, at least he can make his flock laugh!

(PS: thanks Dan, for the photos! Do you like the B&W of Sam?)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

on and off

Isn't it funny how one minute you can be fine, and the next, you're not? I've had about 10 days of feeling really good, being able to get on with my life without needing to weep all the time. Then yesterday afternoon, it all crashed in on me again, and with no warning. And now I'm back to feeling weepy and fragile.

And of course, today would be the day that I had planned to meet up with my NCT mums and their babies.... and the day I'd agreed to babysit Ella...

When I was with the NCT mums, I took a turn at holding all the little ones so that their mums could have tea/ deal with their firstborns/ go to the loo/ etc, and so that I could also get my fill of holding a baby again. In retrospect, that may not have been a wise idea. It made me so aware of how all these women have TWO children, and I only have the one. I know that I am lucky to have one, when there are so many women who either can't conceive, or who have lost their firstborn, but right now, one is not enough.

A few minutes ago I was sitting giving Ella a bottle, looking into her little eyes, and I couldn't help myself wishing she was Zoe, or thinking about how Zoe would be this size, but with blue eyes. You know how when you're breastfeeding any baby crying, or any strong emotion you feel towards a baby, will set your boobs off leaking? Well, looking at this little one, I could almost feel mine starting, although of course, there's no milk.... It's heartbreaking.

I want my little baby. It's just not fair that Nellie's been denied her little sister, or that Graeme & I have been denied our little girl. Our family is not complete without her. It's just not fair.

But it's pointless getting all worked up about it, because it's not going to change anything - and I think that's the hardest of all to bear... that no matter how much I may stamp my feet, wail, beg, plead, or yell, nothing will bring Zoe back. Nothing will change the fact that she is gone. And I miss her so much.

PS. To the NCT ladies who follow the blog: Please don't feel guilty about any of this - I really DID enjoy myself this morning. It was lovely seeing you, and your little ones are just gorgeous, and I loved holding them. And I meant what I said about babysitting for you. It's just that I've been so fine for a while that I wasn't expecting to react the way I did...

Grief at home and abroad

The past little while has been incredibly hectic. It feels a bit like being in a whirlwind. I don't really feel I've had much 'down' time recently, although by the amount of stuff that hasn't been done, I've obviously had quite a bit of 'down' time. I think all this activity has helped to keep my grief at bay.

Yesterday afternoon I decided that I simply had to clean the house and tidy up. I just couldn't let another day go past without it being done. But I didn't really want to do any of it. I was tired and irritable (again). So to help motivate myself I put on a New Wine CD I bought in 2005 because it had this cool song on it which really helped me transition through the grief of non-selection. I turned the volume up (and didn't feel at all guilty about the neighbours, for a change) and went into the kitchen to do the dishes... and promptly burst into tears.

Washing dishes when you can't actually see what you're washing was a new experience for me. I was very glad that there was no-one home in the flat that directly overlooks our kitchen, because I don't think I was a very pretty sight. I haven't had a soul wrenching sob like that for weeks now, so no doubt I was overdue one. (I did feel much better afterwards, if a bit hollow and fragile.)

At group last night the question was asked about a time in our lives when we have been able to praise God despite our circumstances. I promptly started crying again - nearly had to run out of the room (there was a new guy there and I didn't feel safe enough with him) but I managed to get it under control without anyone noticing (I think - or maybe they were all just too polite to comment). Just thinking about how awful I felt in the first week of Zoe's death, and how present God was... how loving He was... yes, I could praise Him despite circumstances, even if only to say that I knew He was doing the right thing and that He knew best.

It makes me ache for Madeleine's parents right now, remembering how I felt when we were told Zoe's heart had stopped. That moment... it's like the whole world stops turning for a second and everything goes black, and then, even worse, everything starts moving again, but you can't breathe. Without a doubt it was the worst moment of my life to date.

I don't know how many non-Brits/ Europeans are aware of this news story. A British family on holiday in the Algarve, Portugal. The parents went out to dinner a few hundred yards from their holiday villa and left the 3 kids sleeping in the villa. When they returned, the door was open and their eldest daughter, Maddy, who is only about 4, was gone. While I question the wisdom of leaving their kids alone at home, no-one deserves that kind of horror. I just keep thinking about how I would feel if anything happened to Nellie... Whether at home or while on holiday, whether through my own fault or through none - if anything happened to her I just don't know what I would do. It would eat me alive. I can only imagine what her parents are going through. My heart just aches for them. I pray she's found, alive and unharmed. Please God.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The 7 deadly sins

Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride... these are, according to the Catholics, the worst sins you can commit. I'm not sure that God would agree, but I find the list a helpful reminder that, at its root, sin is all about self-gratification: I want, I need, me, me, me...

Do you ever find yourself snapping at someone, then wondering why on earth you just did that? Over the past few days I've caught myself doing just that, and I don't know why. When I examine my feelings, I realise that I'm either pretty irritated or fairly angry, but not with the person I snapped at. I'm just irritated, or angry. And I don't know why.

On Sat, at Sarah's birthday lunch (I've done another post about that, but I'm waiting for some photos from a friend before I actually post it - in the meantime you can check out her blog for some collages of the day - the link is on the right), I found myself getting irritable and wanting to snap at people or just withdraw completely. It took me a while to figure out the reason in this case: Jealousy (or envy).

It always takes me a long time to make really good friends. In the last year Sarah and I have become really good friends and now we're moving to SA and I have to say goodbye. I hate it! Anyway, another of her really good friends was at the picnic and after a few hours I realised that I was jealous that this friend was going to be around and be in a position to continue to develop her friendship with Sarah, but I wasn't. And that sucks. Big time. So I sulked and snapped and gave everyone the silent treatment.

Once I'd realised what was going on, I did manage to put it (mostly) to one side and enjoy the time I had left before we went home, but I can't help wondering whether my mood put a damper on the event for others. I hope not! I hope they were able to ignore me.

So what made me think about that today? The fact that it happened again. We went out to visit with Graeme's family near Guildford for the day. From late last night when my mother-in-law rang, I found myself getting wound up about it. Why? I'm still not sure. I've been feeling irritable all day today, and the weather certainly didn't help. (I'm glad it rained, because we need the water, but grey skies always irritate me.) Is it jealousy? Not entirely. Is it greed? Possibly. Mostly, I think it's insecurity, on all fronts.

The 'log in your eye/ speck in your brother's eye' story is a good one. It highlights the fact that we so often pick on other people's weaknesses in order to avoid dealing with our own. Few things in life irritate me more than other people's incompetence and insecurity. I don't like to be around people who are insecure because it highlights within me my own feelings of insecurity. I don't like being around people who are completely incompetent because it highlights within me my own hatred of being dependent on others for help as a result of my own incompetence.

The mother-/ daughter-in law relationship can be fraught with tension. I understand both sides of the relationship. I understand the fear that the mother-in-law feels at the massive influence the wife now exerts over her husband, who was once solely (or mostly) under his mother's influence. I also understand the fear that the wife feels that the mother-in-law will continue to exert her maternal influence over the husband and children. Both parties can feel very threatened by the other. I understand that. I know that my mother-in-law understands that too. And I know we've both made sacrifices to try to meet on neutral ground.

Some mothers- & daughters-in law are fortunate enough to really love each other, to become as close as daughters are with their own mothers. Ours is not such a relationship. Granted, it's much easier now than it was 10 years ago - but I would hope so! There are times when I really enjoy her company, when I look forward to seeing her and chatting with her, when I think that we are starting to become more than just mother- and daughter-in-law. There are times when watching her interact with Janel gives me immense pleasure. But there are still times when the opposite is true.

I won't say today was one of those other times, because there were moments today when I really did enjoy being with her. You can hear there's a 'but' coming, can't you? But. Maybe between feeling so jealous on Saturday and so at sea on Sunday, between the hay fever and tiredness, between the busyness of last week and Nellie's fractiousness, I just wasn't ready to be generous or gracious or loving to anyone. I even found myself getting jealous of Graeme's playing with Nellie today & the fun they had while we were at the petting/ children's farm today...

I am being so possessive and jealous and irritable. It's childish, isn't it? Yet, there it is. "Stille water, diepe grond, maar onder draai die duiwel rond."

(I think the closest approximation in English for this is - still waters run deep - but the literal translation is - still waters, deep earth, but the devil turns beneath. The Afrikaans version has a much more sinister feeling about it.)

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Congrats to Dave on being selected for vicar training! May the Lord bless you and Liz as you move to Oxford. We're going to miss you.

Before they call, I will answer

I've been thinking recently about the state of my relationship with God. While everything else is slowing getting back on track and life is returning to normal (or as normal as it ever gets with us), I can't say the same for my relationship with God.

Immediately after Zoe's death, and in the weeks that followed, I had such a sense of God's nearness, presence and love. Even in the midst of all the pain, I felt I could still say that God was loving and knew best, and I could, in some measure at least, praise Him.

That has now gone. In it's place is this vacuum. Now, I have no inclination to praise Him, no inclination to do anything vaguely spiritual. In church this morning, I was really hoping that I could connect with Him on some level, but that was not to be. Nellie was unable to be on her own in creche, and as I figured Graeme needed the break more than I did (we are both SO exhausted at the moment... probably just from hay fever more than anything else), I went in to play with her.

When we got home, I decided I needed to take time to read through the collection of emails we've had since Thursday that I hadn't had time to read. In amongst them, was one of those emails that asks you to forward it on to all your friends. Unlike many though, it wasn't promising you anything if you did/ didn't. I have no idea how true the story it contained is, but I've heard so many similar stories whose content I can verify that I trust this to be true.

It made me cry, because it seemed to me that God was letting me know that He knows where I'm at, and that even before I feel able to call out for help, He has answered; that even before I know I'm in trouble, He has already set in motion a plan to rescue me; that even though I currently feel nothing, He has not abandoned me. Which is exactly what I needed to hear this morning. Which is why I cried.

A quick aside about emotions: I know that emotion is a peculiarly charismatic thing, both a strength and a weakness. The strength is that I think it reconnects our heart with our minds. All too often I think religion seeks to disconnect them, which Jesus never did. The weakness is that, all too often, charismatics allow the pendulum to swing too far and disregard the mind completely, which Jesus never did either.

I am learning to keep the two in balance, but as I am an emotional person anyway, feeling things is very important to me. For me, to go through the motions of anything (not just religious stuff) without the feeling to back it up feels fraudulent to me somehow, like I'm lying.

I know there are times when I have to, or need to, but I much prefer it if the emotion is there underpinning what I'm doing, especially when it comes to my faith. Not to feel like praising God, or talking to Him, or reading the Bible, or just spending time with Him... that's a pretty big deal for me, and I'd rather not pretend otherwise. I'd rather not sing songs whose words I can't echo in my heart. I'd rather not read the Bible or pray out of a sense of duty. And if that's the only thing I feel - a sense of duty - then I'm not going to do those things. I'd rather not lie by omission, or perjure myself before the Judge of the world.

If I'm in trouble for not being spiritual enough, or for not giving God the honour & glory He is due irrespective of how I feel, or for taking grace for granted, then that's enough of a crime. I don't want to add to it by going through the motions and being hypocritical.

So here's the story. It's written by a doctor in Africa.

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).

We also had no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). "And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

"All right," I said, "put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten-year old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God" she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon." While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?"

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen". I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything, the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator! Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door.

By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting.

Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the.....could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out - yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, "If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly too!"

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked: "Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."

"Before they call, I will answer" (Isaiah 65:24)

Saturday fun

Ok. So Thursday's post was only actually published on Sunday, and Saturday's post was only published today... I'm getting behind, I know.

The saga of getting the car's documentation sorted out so that we can export it to SA continues. I don't want to discuss it. I'm getting SOOOOOOO frustrated with bureacracy - both UK and SA. At this rate, the car will be leaving well after the contents of the house, and long after we've already arrived in SA. But I'm not going to discuss it further, or get my guts in a knot about something I have little control over...

We had such a lovely trip out on Saturday though - to a friend's birthday picnic at Cannizaro House in Wimbledon. Although the day started out dismal and grey, by the time we'd eaten lunch, the sun came out and we spent a very long lazy afternoon playing.

There are some lovely pics to go with this post, but as there were such a lot, and they were taken by Sarah's dh, they're being posted to us on a DVD. When they arrive, I'll post the best ones.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Happy Star Wars Day

May the fourth be with you!

Today was a good day. Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday we started off going to Toddlers, which was nice - for a change, I felt like I am starting to belong. I know a lot of the mums' and carers' names now (still learning the kids', although I do know which kids belong to whom!) and even though we arrived late, I didn't feel intimidated about breaking into a group standing chatting. Likewise, Nellie seemed to settle down quickly and was soon off playing happily (not yet completely on her own, she still wants me around, but not as much as previously).

It's funny, but that "playground mommy" clique is a major thing. My friends who have kids that are already going to school comment about it all the time. I guess it's all about competition. I've experienced it with my NCT mums (the first group, not the 2nd time mums group), and now again at Toddlers to some extent. What is it about mothers that makes them so fiercely competitive? Why can't we just be nice to each other all the time? The seemingly friendly banter may come across as merely swapping notes on your children, but often there's this sinister side to it, a subtext with the message that your child doesn't measure up while their child is so advanced for their age, or that your child is in some way morally deficient while theirs is a perfect little angel.

I think the Toddlers context is much better because there are other carers there, not just mums, so it's diluted because the carers aren't that competitive. But there are women attending the group for YEARS (either with their own kids or because they are nannies/ childminders), who all know each other and who socialise with each other outside of the group. That's a completely different sort of pressure! Equally horrid though. So it was nice that today I felt like I belonged (finally!)

But back to how the day went... After Toddlers, we had lunch, which she ate without a fuss (thank God!). Then off to see Daddy at work on the way to my physio appointment. We were able to spend a good 15 mins or so in the park across from his work, and Nellie was particularly taken by the fact that there were so many flowers just at her height, that there were so many pigeons around, and by the fact that the fountain in the middle had a fish sculpture.

Then it was off to my physio. Nellie was supposed to nap while I was there, but instead she got quite worried about me and refused to nap. She insisted of sitting up and watching what the physio was doing, all the time with this cute little worried face. I had to constantly reassure her that the physio wasn't actually attacking me! Then off to have a coffee with my sister-in-law's sister-in-law, during which Nellie slept. I really appreciated that, as it meant that I got to have a really good chat, rather than being constantly interrupted.

Supper was another battle, but not mine! I got to bath her though (fun!). So all in all, a good day for me. Which was really important. Because when I collected her on Wed from daycare, I found out that Nellie has been calling our childminder 'mummy' and her husband 'daddy' (although she has been constantly corrected to call them by their first names!). I understand how natural that is for Nellie, and that it doesn't mean she doesn't love me, or that she isn't doing it on purpose. Because we'd had such a horrible day on Tues, though, I was quite hurt by it. So it was really important to me that we had a good day on Thurs. Which we did.

For Graeme it was a good day because the person his company offered his job to has accepted! Yay! So now that means we can actually book our flights and set an actual date for moving. It's a major stress off his mind as well, I think, knowing that there is a replacement and that he will have a decent amount of time to do a handover.

Today has been good for other reasons. Today I had the energy to 'DO STUFF'. Of course, all the stuff I had to do was stressful - like writing a complaint letter to the Dept of Home Affairs about Nellie's passport, and following up another 4 pieces of paperwork to do with our move home. I hate conflict. I hate it with a passion. I would rather avoid it than confront it, so I find it stressful. But, it has to be done and has to be faced - especially when there's a deadline attached.

So, May the fourth was definitely with me today.

Plus, I got a wonderful lunch with a good friend, 2 lovely 20 min walks, and a lovely afternoon drink with another friend out of it! Not to mention 2 loads of laundry, feeding my lovely laaitjie (non-Saffa's - that's pronounced 'lighty' and means 'little one') with NO fuss again and managing not to pig out on biscuits and other junk all day! All round - so far a very good day.

I've decided I need to lose weight. I mean, seriously lose weight. I'm looking to lose 10kg at least before we fall pregnant again. I'm not obese, but I'm definitely overweight - another 5kg and I would be classified as being clinically obese! How scary is that? So - I've decided to buy a step counter and get walking (cheaper than swimming or gymming, and I get to enjoy the outdoors rather than being stuck inside).

I reckon I came close to doing 5000 steps for today (not a lot, I know, but bear in mind that because of my SPD I haven't done any exercise since January!). If I can do a week walking 5000 steps every day, then I'll try to increase that to 7000 the following week, and 10 000 the week after. If I can maintain that until we head home, I figure I'll be well on my way to losing the weight I need to.

The next problem to tackle is my snacking... I'm hopeless at avoiding chocolate, sweets, biscuits and chips (crisps) if they're in the house, and I get fairly major snack attacks, so this may be a difficult one for me to get a handle on. But I'm going to try. It's only 8 weeks till we head home, right? only 8 weeks....

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Boys toys

Yes, the little munchkin seems to have deveoped a real liking for boys' toys... cars, trucks, motorbikes, buses... not that I'm into gender-stereotyping or anything... well, maybe just a little. I get so fed up with people referring to her as 'him' when I dress her in blue (she has SO many clothes that are blue - given to us, I might add, not my first choice)... she does NOT look like a boy - not if you actually LOOK at her face. But I guess people don't really look. Anyway, so now she's playing with boys' toys, I just know that even more people are going to comment on my 'son'. AAARRRGHH!

But her fascination is such that I even persuaded Graeme to let me buy her a dump truck. And several little cars. And a bus. And a train. And a motorbike.

And then to compensate, I bought her a basket full of toy food - veg, fruit, tins... and I really wanted to buy her a toy vacuum cleaner... and a whole toy kitchen set... but I was stopped by the man with the wallet who reminded me that money does not grow on trees.

And now she's into dinosaurs. She nearly bullied another boy into letting her take all the dinosaurs at playgroup today... sigh! (She can be quite feisty when she sets her mind on something. Hmm... I wonder who she gets that from?!) She has a lovely dinosaur book at home that she loves reading. Maybe I should buy her a few...?

The highs and lows of parenting

"The only difference between a good parent and a bad parent is the thin membrane between thought and action." Wyliekat

I read this today on one of my favourite blogs' comments section. The original post was about how tough parenting is and the fact that everyone reaches a point where they have to choose to walk away or they will wind up hitting their kids. Hard. With bells on.

I've been there. On Tuesday. Nellie just would NOT go to sleep, despite the fact that she was tired and it was her normal nap time. She always goes down for me (eventually). She seldom presents this much defiance. But there it was. What made it worse was that I was utterly exhausted. I just wanted half an hour to sit down on my own, have a cuppa, read my book, breathe, relax. But no, twas not to be. And every time I had to go into her room to try and settle her again, I could feel myself getting more and more angry.

By the time warning bells were going off in my head, I realised that I either had to walk away and leave her to cry, or I had to bite the bullet and graciously admit defeat. Given that she fell out of her cot for the first time last week, I wasn't too keen to just leave her. I was too scared she'd eventually try to climb out and would wind up killing herself. So, that only left the option of graciously admitting defeat. I HATE admitting defeat. With a passion. But to admit defeat without tryingt o get revenge or run a guilt trip on her... hmm... that was tough.

So in I went to get her out. I stood next to the cot, eyeballing her, wanting to just smack her, just make her realise how unfair she was being to me, how angry I was with her. She looked up at me, grinned her cheeky smile, held up her arms and giggled. Now, there are 2 ways to respond to this - either get even madder at her because she clearly knows what she's doing; or, laugh. I laughed. I had to. If I'd chosen to let myself get even madder, I know I would have hit her. But I laughed, and so she laughed, and so I laughed.

And we went out to play some more. And I enjoyed her, from the comfort of my armchair!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Is she or isn't she?

Yesterday and today I've noticed that Nellie seems to be saying a lot. I mean, really saying a lot. Not just her usual babbling, but proper talking. I think.

I think she's saying 'What's that?' (it comes out as 'wazit') and she's definitely saying 'car' (but that applies to any vehicle - car, van or truck) and 'oopsies' (when she falls over or when she drops something). Today I think she also said 'Delilah' (the name of one of her stuffed toys) - except it came out as 'le-la'. I found that pretty astonishing, as Delilah isn't her favourite toy, and she hasn't yet said 'Leo', who is her favourite.

She hasn't said 'kitty' in a very long time, but just recently has started to meow when she sees one. She also says 'woof' when she sees a dog. She's finally started to say 'Mommy', but it can apply to a lot of things other than me... although it often does apply to me, which is really nice.

It's hard to know whether she's actually talking, or whether she's just copying sounds, but it certainly feels like she's trying to talk... How exciting!

And here's another one...

If this is the love that a human father can have, how much more does our heavenly father have? And as Zoe is with Him, then she is loved...

And this made me think a few times about how I treat Nellie, how much I take her health and ability to communicate for granted... Do I demonstrate my love for her as much as I could? Do I take her for granted?