Saturday, December 20, 2008

What a day!

This morning, at breakfast, Nellie had a bowl with lots of animals around the edge. As we ate, in between mouthfuls, we had to sing a nursery rhyme for each animal. Needless to say, we got stuck on the tortoise and the squirrel, and needless to say, Nellie got upset that we didn't know any for them.

But things improved when I bashed my head into the car boot door after shopping... nice sore blue-ish lump to show for it.

And then got even better when, at my mom's, I stood on a dead bee and got a sting in the foot.

At least the things that happened in between were great - laughing with my daughter, sleeping, eating cake, swimming.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Some time before Christmas a friend posted this list of things (obtained via someone else's blog) of things you could do. The idea is that you enbolden things you have done, and add comments, if you want to, in another colour. So I thought it would be an interesting activity to do - to see what I've done with my life. Feel free to copy and amend your own copy.

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band

Worship team at Church (piano, percussion, vocals)

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower (but I have seen several shooting stars... just not all on the same evening)

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/World

8. Climbed a mountain
Table Mountain in Cape Town, and down one in Leysin (Switzerland) while I was skiing

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo (I held a principal part in a junior school operatta)

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris where I had my portrait sketched (now hanging above our fireplace) and ate chocoate pancakes... YUM!!

13. Watched a lightning storm

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child (but I do support one financially)

16. Had food poisoning on our way home from visiting a friend in Bosnia... ate seafood in a sea port, so I thought it would be fresh. One way to learn a hard lesson!!

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (supply teaching in the UK is not an easy job, neither is working in a tough, inner city London school... so I took a 'Mental Health Day')

24. Built a snow fort in Switzerland when I was all of 4... with a lot of help from my brothers. Got cystitis and a boil on my bum for my troubles!

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping and lost my bikini in the process... no comment!

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise (only a day trip, but I think that counts!)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (this seems like an oxymoron)

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing (well - abseiling. I think that counts?!)

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke (at a friend's party, and then only under duress and with other victims)

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa (Although I live here, I have visited 5 of our neighbouring countries.)

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling Snorkeling at Lake Malawi

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved my favorite childhood toy. (My all-time favourite was thrown away by my mother, but I got to keep several of my second favourites.)

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten caviar (and I don't see the attraction or fuss... it's not really all that much nicer than fish paste.)

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous (if only in the Christian world)

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one (for some reason this one doesn't want to be enboldened, but it still applies)

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

So go out and multiply this on your blogs!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And so it begins...

I had a naked little Christmas elf help me this year. "Mommy, can I do the decorations?" Except, it came out more like, Mommy, can I do de de-cray-tions? We were all very pleased with the final product. (There is actually a star on the top of the tree, and not a bow, but as it's silver it doesn't stand out against the background.)

Of course, this time of the year makes me realise that this time last year I hadn't done our scrapbook for MONTHS... and I still haven't. So this year, I'm going to take it with us on holiday, as a holiday project. It HAS to get done. 2 years is a long time not to do something, and if I leave it for any longer, it will become too huge a task and will never get done. Just yesterday Nellie was asking to look at her birth scrapbook, so there's definitely value in it. Actually, in our new home I'm going to make sure there are enough shelves to display all our scrapbooks (at the moment, half of them are packed out of sight and mind), so that looking at them doesn't become a chore to first have to go and FIND them.

And of course, with putting up the stockings, came the inevitable question about Father Christmas... do we or don't we tell her? Mommy took a unilateral decision to tell her. She already knows that Father Christmas brought her a present at nursery, so we may as well go the whole hog. I told her that the stocking is from Father Christmas, who only brings presents to good children. Later, when she was starting to misbehave, I told her to stop being rude, and her immediate response was - "I'm being good now Mommy. Father Christmas will bring me presents." Yippee! Mommy is vindicated! There is value in this myth - it makes children behave!!!

However, Graeme had a BRILLIANT idea: teach her that Christmas is not just about receiving, but also about giving. We're each going to take her out and let her choose a present to give to Mommy/ Daddy, which she will help to wrap, and then give to us. If we were in Cape Town for Christmas, then I think we'd extend it even further and take her with us to deliver food parcels & toys to folks working on Christmas (police, garage attendants, hospital staff, etc) and/ or to children in hospital (if they'll let her in).

On a side track, I realised the other day that I'm already bored. Only been on holiday a week and I'm bored. Yup. Read about 6 books and seen 2 movies already, and I'm bored. Part of the problem is that my afternoons and evenings are a wipe out because of nausea, which means that whatever I do, I'm not able to enjoy it fully. That means that I have no energy to play, no energy to garden, no energy to go to the park, or to do anything else even vaguely interesting. However, part of the problem is simply that I've forgotten how to slow down and do nothing. Hmm... I will have to work on that this holiday - sitting around doing nothing. I'm sure I can manage that?!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Miracles and wonders

For those who know Cape Town, you will never believe what is currently happening here!

For those who don't... a little background. There is, across the bottom part of the CBD, an unfinished flyover highway. The highway was built back in the year dot, and intended to be like the M25 (or similar) in that it circled the majority of the city. However, there was a little stretch that never got completed.

Initially, the reason was that the land underneath was owned by a guy with a little store (corner cafe type of thing) who simply refused to sell or relocate. At least, that's the urban legend. As a result, that highway has been incomplete since I can remember... it wouldn't surprise me if it's been like since before I was born.

Well, miracles and wonders never cease. The council has FINALLY decided to complete the flyover. No more having to drive down into the city and then out again. Soon, if you want to go to Seapoint, you will be able to simply stay on the highway and drive there direct. Isn't that incredible? I never would have believed that in my life time it would get finished, but I guess the 2010 World Cup is having a more massive impact on the city than I first thought it would.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

V for Vendetta

You can tell holidays have started - not only have I read a book, but I've watched a movie too!

V for Vendetta is a very interesting movie, posing very interesting questions. The story is set in the UK in the future, when a Hitler style regime (Conservative party, wouldn't you know it?!!) is in power. One man, known only as V, and always masked, seeks to overthrow the government of the day, and takes as his model Guy Fawkes and the events around the 5th November.

V makes several very intriguing comments - about the nature of ideas and freedom, and about whose responsibility it is to protect freedom. Maybe because I'd just finished reading 'The Shack', which also deals with the nature of freedom, I was viewing it in a very different light, I'm not sure.

During the course of the story, V, who is initially portrayed as a hero, perpetrates several atrocities, some as a form of justice for atrocities perpetrated against the innocent, some in the name of creating freedom for others.

For me, given the current political climate in SA (where the president has sacked the national director of public prosecutions for very dubious reasons... and the speculation is that the actual reasons include being able to appoint someone who will not continue to prosecute Jacob Zuma, thereby smoothing his way into the presidential office), there were a lot of similarities between V's actions and those of the ANC in the Apartheid era. Yet, this in turn raises the question of whether violence is ever justified. Yes, the ANC did push the SA government of the day to the point where democracy became the only option. But at what cost?

The Hitler-esque party leaders are assassinated, which enables the general populace to experience a peaceful end to their nightmare. The similarities to the situation in Zim were inescapable. Would it be right for someone to assassinate Mugabe and his cronies, in the name of protecting the freedom and peace of the nation? Again, is there ever a situation in which violent means to a peaceful solution are justified?

Despite my portrayal of it, this is not a 'heavy' movie. It has its moments, but it's actually a very human movie, with your usual love stories and humour thrown in for good measure. But the dialogue is fast-paced and deep, so not a movie to watch when you're tired, or you'll miss a great deal! Definitely to be recommended.

The Shack

A few months back, our minister highly recommended a book to us, called 'The Shack', by William P Young. He said he was sure that it would be as important to our generation as 'Pilgrim's Progress' was to its generation. Well, I finally bought a copy, and amidst many tears, read it in one sitting. What a book!

It's a really tough book to read in many respects. The author is a ghost writer. He writes about one of his best friends and his pain of losing his daughter. It's a true story - or at least, it purports to be so.

This friend takes 3 of his 5 kids camping. Just before returning home after a fantastic trip, 2 go for a canoe. They get into trouble, and one nearly drowns. While he wades in to save them (he's trained as a life saver), the 3rd (his youngest daughter) is left on the shore. After several minutes, when the father returns to shore, with his half-drowned son, he discovers that his daughter is missing. After a search of several hours, involving all the local law enforcement and camping site staff, he discovers, to his horror, that she has been kidnapped by a serial child murderer. This serial killer has already killed 4 children. Thus far, the police have never found the bodies of the little girls taken, but the killer uses the same MO every time. All they find of this little girl is her dress, covered in blood.

You can imagine the father's pain, and the pain the whole family goes through. For me, as a parent, and particularly as a parent who has lost a child, it was incredibly difficult to read. It brought back so many memories for me... not least that first moment when you realise that no matter what you do, your child will never, ever be coming back. But for him there was the added pain of knowing that his child suffered, and was probably terrified throughout her last moments. But this tragedy is only the first third of the book. What follows is his journey through grief to healing. Essentially, this story addresses the question of pain - where is God when bad things happen to good people? Why does he allow it? Can God be all-loving and all-powerful at the same time?

The man describes how 'The Great Sadness' settled over his life. His faith took a severe downward turn as his anger towards God surfaced. His other daughter became increasingly withdrawn. His family started to fall apart. Then he receives an unusual letter in the post, with a very unusual request. This letter represents a major turning point in his life. I won't spoil it for you. You need to read it. It's an incredible story.

All I will say is that, for someone like me, who's faith has taken a very difficult turn as a result of several major losses in a row, this book has given me hope in a way that nothing else has. I don't know how true it is, although it claims to be a true story. It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility when you're dealing with God... I want it to be true, because if it is, then that means all kinds of possibilities exist for me, for Graeme, for our family, for our lives together. Whether it is or not, though, I think it's still well worth a read. If nothing else, the question it addresses and the answers it gives are things that every person in the world needs to hear.

I still have a lot of processing to do, and then a lifetime of trying to put the stuff I've learnt into practice. But I think this book has made a huge difference to me. I highly recommend it to you, and I hope it has as profound an effect on your life.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nearly there... or so I thought

This week has been MANIC. In between trying to finalise the reporting process (which is a lot more complicated than you would think), I've also been sorting out the sets/ classes for LS for next year, finalising the spreadsheets for next year, and doing other admin stuff for Gd 11 (which is the grade I'm a tutor in). Most days, I've left school closer to 4pm than lunch time.

Of course, none of this has been helped by the fact that now that my flu/ cold is gone, my nausea has returned with a vengeance. Unfortunately, I don't get morning sickness, I get afternoon and evening sickness. It starts around lunch time and gets progressively worse as the day progresses, until I rush to bed to escape it.

Well, that was, until last night. Last night saw a change in my pattern. Because last night, I actually hurled. My first proper one of the pregnancy. I don't know whether that's a good or bad sign. It could be good, in that it's later in the pregnancy than it was with Zoe. However, it could be a bad sign, indicating that the nausea is getting worse, rather than better. So I really don't know what to make of it. The up side (yes, there is one), is that I felt WORLDS better afterwards, so was able to go out and enjoy a lovely meal with G and some of his colleagues. (DELICIOUS food at an up-market Italian joint in Greenpoint. Calamari and chocolate crepes to DIE for!!)

I'm looking forward to not having to be at school anymore (one more day and then our end of year breakfast). I'm looking forward to having some time to sort out the last few chores around the house that need doing, and a few business things. So, by the end of next week (I hope) I will really be able to relax and be on holiday - for the WHOLE holiday. Won't that be nice?

Of course, as long as this blasted nausea continues, I really don't know how much I will get to enjoy it. And I've realised that I can no longer wear my costume in public, because the bruises from my daily injections are just too horrible to look at. So I'm going to have to go shopping at Jakes Surf Shop and get some boarders and a bikini top, me thinks. I'm still really struggling with the injections... I still have to psyche myself up for them - and although I know it's probably entirely psychological, I always feel closest to throwing up just before I do one.

But, the sunshine seems to be here to stay. My daughter is wonderful. My husband is a star. (And my business course is FINISHED! Graduation week after next) What more could I ask for??

I was reading a friend's blog this evening. She's in the hospital up the road from us where we'll deliver. She has cancer and will probably never have children - she's only been married a year. Her tumours are making her nauseous and making her vomit. While I have sympathy, because I know how horrible I feel, at the same time I am aware that what I have to endure will end. Hers may not. She's on morphine now to alleviate the pain.

Another friend's blog I read this evening stated that 'whatever else we may be going through, God is good'. Once again I wonder at this. I don't doubt that God is good, or that he is good all the time, but I do wonder at a God who, being good, allows suffering to continue. Why doesn't God DO something? I know the stock answer is that he walks through the dark times with us, never leaving us; that he carries us through; that the suffering helps to develop character, trust and dependence on God. But sometimes, those stock answers aren't enough for me.

I look at the self-inflicted bruises on my thighs, and although I know why I'm doing it, and although I wouldn't choose to stop the treatment, I do question whether the pain (and the other things I suffer in pregnancy) are worth it. Is it really worth it, when I don't have any sort of guarantee that this child will be born alive? What if we go through this whole thing, only to lose this one too? I keep finding myself becoming careless - I've had more peanuts, raw egg, alcohol, caffeine and other banned items in this pregnancy than the other two combined!

And yet, what price do you put on a life? I know my friend with cancer would give her right arm to be in my shoes right now. To even have the OPTION of having a child... I know she would say that any price is worth it. Is what she's going through worth it? She has no guarantee of life, and with every check-up her prognosis gets worse. Is it worth fighting when it seems the chance of success is so slim? I guess she thinks it is, or she wouldn't keep fighting. But I wonder where God is in all this. Every time she's told that a particular treatment hasn't worked, every time she has a round of chemo that leaves her so weak she can't eat, every time she goes to hospital (knowing that this time she may never leave) - where is God in that? The Bible teaches that he's there, and I believe he is, but where? Where is the shalom of God for her?

Where is the shalom of God for me? I knew that at some point in this pregnancy the paranoia would strike, and it seems that these past few weeks it's been slowly creeping in on me. Last night I caught myself thinking quite seriously that I'm not sure I want to continue with these injections. After all, if God wants this child born alive it will be - despite anything I do or don't do. And if he doesn't, these injections won't help one bit, and will only serve to make me feel awful. So why bother?

When I read the packaging insert, it's terrifying. This stuff can do SERIOUS harm to adults, let alone fetuses. It specifically says that this stuff is 'not tested as safe to administer during pregnancy'. My gynae assures me that the pros outweigh the cons. But do they? And if this child is born disabled because of these drugs, how will I ever live with my guilt? Would I rather bring a disabled child into the world than run the risk of having another stillbirth? Would I rather cause my child's death in infancy through organ failure, or run the risk of another stillbirth?

I know it's a bit late to be asking these questions - I should have done that BEFORE we started on them... because the damage will already be done. So maybe I just keep on with it, in the hopes that, however my child develops, it at least has a chance at life? I really don't know.

When I was younger, I thought I had the answers to everything. Now all I have is questions - questions that no-one can really answer for me.

Then again, maybe I'm just being overly melodramatic and all I really need is a blimming good holiday??? Thank God that is an easy problem to solve. Just one more week and we can find out.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Blasted Haloscan

Blasted Haloscan - although I thought I'd fixed the commenting thing, looks like I haven't. Which is incredibly annoying, because although people have commented, and we've published them, they STILL aren't showing up....

So I'm going to resort to publishing comments as posts. How annoying.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Q&A' - Who wants to be a billionaire??

One of my presents was the novel 'Q&A', which is an Indian story about the fictional quiz show 'Who wants to be a billionaire?' and an 18yr old slum dweller who wins, quite by chance. The story was inspired by the UK Colonel who cheated on 'Who wants to be a millionaire?'

The story starts with the hero being arrested for cheating. After a while, his lawyer arrives, and he starts to explain to her why he knew all the answers. It starts out as quite a dark story, as the stories he tells her are about abuse, incest, rape, and all kinds of horrible events that are commonplace in the slums. Yet, if you stick with it, the story brightens and has a lovely, typical Bollywood ending.

The ending of the story got me thinking though, about how I would spend a million Rands, or a billion rupees, if I were to win it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my answer has changed over the past few months. The last time I really played around with this fantasy, I was focused on fixing life for myself. This time around, I only had 2 personal ambitions (to pay off the bond and to buy a new people carrier, which would be just over a quarter of the money). I found myself wanting to spend the rest of the money on people and organisations around me that really need it.

I've been touched by the plight of local schools and churches (just on the other side of the railway line, which will only really mean something to those who know how Cape Town is laid out), and other voluntary organisations that really play a vital role in society. Examples are the NSRI and the Mountain Rescue team. These two teams are entirely privately funded, and need at least R10 million a year to continue to offer the basic service they do. Fortunately, I've never had need of either.

Until my uncle died a few months back, the Mountain Rescue team had never, in its entire history, lost a patient on the mountain. Table Mountain, being so easily accessible to the untrained public, and having such inclement weather patterns, regularly sees unsuspecting hikers getting trapped and injured. No matter what the weather, you ALWAYS take a cell phone, water, food, and a jersey with you on the mountain, because YOU NEVER KNOW what may happen. Even if you're only going for a quick walk. You stay on marked paths, and you don't venture off into areas you are unfamiliar with unless you have either a guide or a map, or both.

The NSRI is kept busy throughout the year by people who don't take proper precautions in the water. The Cape is not called the 'Cape of Storms' for no reason. Every year, there are boats that get into trouble because they run out of fuel, or are struck by lightning, or get swamped by freak waves, or simply don't check the radio and other equipment properly. Alternatively, they run aground. Scarily, many of these people do not wear life jackets, and many of them do not hold a pilot's licence. Those who go out on catamarans get into trouble because the wind gets so strong they get blown off track and can't tack back.

Interestingly, most deaths that take place on or near beaches on the west coast are heart attacks caused by people who stand half in and half out of the water. The water is extremely cold, so people don't get in and swim. However, standing half in half out puts the heart under tremendous strain, and often results in heart attacks. The person falls down, into the water, and drowns. Here, the Lifesavers Association comes into their own. And when they're not dealing with that, they need to keep an eye out for sharks, and deal with lost children or blue bottle stings.

There are lots of these organisations who save lives every year, and rely totally on voluntary organisations. They work hardest over the Christmas period (and other festive periods) when idiot drunkards put themselves and others at risk.

There are also a few churches I've come across recently for whom even R10,000 would mean they could achieve some of the projects they really need to - like a new roof, or updating their electrical cabling. Why would I need to hang onto a million when there are groups like these that could REALLY use the money to bless hundreds and thousands of others?

There's a great advert on TV at the moment (for MTN, I think) in which someone receives this HUGE present. Upon opening it, there are two smaller, wrapped presents inside. He keeps one, and gives the other away. The new recipient opens his present, to discover two smaller, wrapped presents inside, and repeats the process. This continues several times, until the tag line of 'get your share of R8 million' comes onto the screen. Although I disagree with the ad's intended purpose, I like the image of passing on or sharing the gift you have received. '

Freely you have received, freely give.' 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' I think I'm finally starting to learn this lesson.

So what would you do with a million?

B says: I would invest it. That way the money would keep bringing in interest that could be used for worthy causes indefinately and the interest on a million is a lot of money!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Birthday disaster

For someone who is usually incredibly good at being romantic and creative, my husband managed to forget my birthday. No breakfast in bed. No card from my husband. No card from my daughter. Not even a 'happy birthday, darling!' in the morning. Nope.

(In his defense, he did have a wonderfully romantic evening planned, but as I have flu, earlier in the week we agreed to postpone it. However, that does not mean postpone the WHOLE birthday...)

Oupa popped over to wish me, which was lovely. Except that Nellie thought he was coming to spend the morning with her at home (she has NOT wanted to go to nursery AT ALL this week, and every morning has included a traumatic farewell to Mommy that has gutted me) and play until Mommy came home. Upon discovering that this was not the case, her world fell apart.

She refused to get into the car, so Mommy had to carry a kicking and screaming child to the car and strap her in. Then she cried all the way to nursery, and refused to get out. So Mommy had to carry her in to the nursery. Then she refused to let go, so the teachers there had to help me physically pull her from me. And all the way back to the car I could hear her screaming at the TOP of her lungs for me. It was so awful, I sat and cried in the car. I came close to going back in to fetch her, take her home and ring the school to say I was too sick to come in. I did ring the nursery school when I got to work, which I've never done before, to check whether she was ok. She was settling down, I was told, which made me feel even more ill. (She's never taken that long to settle down after I've left her.)

Then, (a very small thing, but in the light of how my day had gone, it became a big thing), my birthday was not announced in the staffroom. And those who did know it was my birthday, did not stand up and say anything as the meeting ended either.

I did start to receive lots of lovely text messages, but because my phone was broken, I couldn't reply. So I sat there thinking that all those who sms'd me would now be thinking how rude I was.

Finally, the work I had thought would only take an hour, took me about 4. So instead of being able to fetch Nellie early and spend lots of time with her in the afternoon to make up for the horrible morning we'd both had, I could only fetch her at about 4pm... which made me feel even worse - a failure as a mother.

But once we did get home, things improved dramatically. My guilt-ridden husband had bought me a bunch of beautiful red roses and Lindt chocolates. My baby girl and I played together on the trampoline and had a lot of fun. When we then dropped Nellie off at my in-laws, they had a lovely present waiting for me (a worm farm!! Yay!) When we got home, a friend I hadn't seen in WEEKS popped over for a lovely visit. And then we got to go to the movies AND I GOT TO PICK THE FILM! (99% of the time Graeme chooses the movie, and his choices are always good, which is why I let him, but it's nice being able to choose from time to time.)

It was a great film - Body of Lies. Very violent in parts, and the ending wasn't quite as dramatic as I would have liked, but all round a very good film that raises a lot of questions about how we see the world.

And this morning, when we went to Nellie's concert, she and Grandma had made me a wonderful card! Even better than a shop bought one!

So all in all, it was a good birthday, even though it started disastrously.

Oh! How I laughed

This morning was Nellie's school concert. She was a 'twinkle star' and had a solo. Unfortunately, as predicted, she got horrible stage fright. But shortly thereafter, once the big moment had passed, she really got into the concert and started singing.

It was a long event, but sweet. And well worth it to see my little angel up there being SO SERIOUS about her singing and the actions. She made me laugh so much I cried. She was just adorable in her seriousness, but I did have to wonder whether she was enjoying any of it.

We really do need to teach her Rule #6. I guess the best way to do that is to teach it to myself first. (In case you're not a Ben Zander follower... Rule #6 says 'Don't take yourself too seriously.') I had thought we were doing well, but maybe we're not doing as well as I think... Sigh! This parenting thing is hard. No rule books, no guide books, just a whole lot of flying by the seat of your pants.

It's the best adventure ever!

(Oh yes, I'll put a video clip up on her site shortly.)

Stories from afar (part 2)

Following my post about the Afro-Caribbean boys, my brother-in-law sent me an email with several articles about the institutional racism in British schools (with particular reference to racism towards Afro-Caribbean boys). I've been mulling over how to respond.

Was I aware of institutional racism in the British school system towards Afro-Caribbean boys? Yes. That is rather old hat for teachers in the UK, I'm afraid. At our school, regular meetings were held to discuss the issue, and how best to negate the effects for the boys in the school. And we did our best to put into practice the strategies that were suggested as the best remedial way forward.

Did I need to mention that the boys in that story were Afro-Caribbean? The story itself would probably have lost little if I hadn't.

So why did I? Because, unfortunately, my perception is that most violent crime in London is committed by Afro-Caribbean boys. My point in telling the story was not just to relate the story. It was that I had anticipated some criminal act in these boys, specifically because of their race, and had therefore tried to do something about it, to try and help them plot a different path and future for themselves. I was trying to help them avoid the very statistic they became. And I failed. Horribly, miserably, tragically. That was the point. I doubt I could have made that point without mentioning the boys' race.

Does that make me racist? We're all racist. It's only the extent and direction that varies. If you favour one race over another, for whatever reason, whether for good intentions (like affirmative action is in SA) or bad (like Apartheid was in SA), you are still racist. You might be racist towards Germans, or Chinese. You might love all things American (or hate them) and hate all things Cuban. The fact that you differentiate at all makes you racist.

A better question to ask would be, how do I act on my prejudices (both good and bad)? My answer to that is that I endeavour to help every person I meet in whatever way I can, to enable them to reach their potential. Of course, I don't succeed. I fail dismally in fact, because in South Africa the need is overwhelming, and if I were to truly try and help every person I met, I would be burnt out and broke. But I try when and how I can. And that has to count for something.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Over my shoulder

Why is it that our culture says the past is behind us? Surely, since 'hindsight' is 20/20, and you can't see behind yourself, our past should actually be in front of us, with us walking blindly backwards into the future??

Whatever the reason, with tomorrow being my birthday, I thought it appropriate to reflect on the past.

We've been home now for nearly 1.5 years. In that time, we have both settled into our respective jobs, and Nellie has settled into nursery. We still aren't living in THE house, but we're getting there. We have accumulated all the various bits of junk from various storage places, and assimilated it into a household. We have acquired pets. We are expecting another child. We are close to settling into a church. I have just about finished my part-time business management course, and LL is taking off.

It all feels... well, I'm not sure how it feels. It just is. But it 'is' in a good way. (It is rather hard to think positively about anything, I admit, when you feel this constant need/ desire to vomit.)

Looking back over the past year in management, I think I've grown a lot. For one thing, I've learnt to relax a bit more, and not to let things stress me out so much. (A good lesson in anyone's books.) I've also learnt a bit more about delegation. Change is always hard, and I take my hat off to my department. My goals are quite different to my predecessor, and they didn't have a voice in appointing me, so they've had rather a lot of change thrown at them. Not to mention having to put up with my inexperience and mistakes along the way. But we've come through it, and I think we're going to be much better off next year.

This year, there were 7 teachers in the department, and we've had 3 different technicians. It has made communication harder, and it has made the work load more difficult, because most people have been working in 3 departments, with 3 different sets of goals. One of the things I've specifically requested for next year is to try and get people to only work in 2 departments at most. We have been able to do this, which means that we are losing several people as they move over completely to another department. I think this will be a good thing, but of course, that remains to be seen.

Doing the business course has been hard work. It has meant one night of lectures per week, plus a study group meeting every Sat afternoon, plus time to complete homework. It's been good, but I will be very pleased when it is over and I can get that time back to myself (or back to my family, actually). I think there are a few things I will take from the course - that leaders must be godly in all they do (in every interaction); a vague understanding of how business finances work; and a strengthened determination not to let my business fail. I'm also hoping that I will have an investor to boot, but I'm not holding my breath - not counting my chickens, and all that.

It struck me that I have been pregnant for 3 out of my last 4 birthdays: 2005, 2006 and 2008. Therefore, it is not surprising that I seem to have got into a habit of not really celebrating in a massive way. It just feels like more effort than I have energy for (which if you know me, and how much I love presents and fuss, you will understand is a pretty big deal). I am determined that this will be the last pregnancy, and therefore the last birthday that goes un-properly celebrated. (Is there such a word??)

Speaking of which, I was thrilled to receive the news last night that Discovery will cover the full costs of my medication for the duration of the pregnancy. Thank God. Really. Once again, I am convinced that God's plans for this child include a live birth and a long life, and that fills me with great hope and joy. It also fills me with great paranoia - because I believed exactly the same thing with Zoe... and fat lot of use it did me then! But somehow, contrary to any logic, I believe that this time will be different. I hope it. I pray it.

Over the past year, Nellie has grown into a lovely little girl, who loves cuddles and tickles, reading stories and watching TV. The terrible twos seem set to continue though, as recent additions to family life include slamming doors and growling at you when she's really, really mad with you. But underneath it all, I see a loving, generous little girl developing. I just hope and pray that we can encourage that side of her nature, rather than the sometimes selfish toddler behaviour we see. She continues to be curious about everyone and everything around her, and can get quite indignant if you aren't able to answer her questions. I see now why parents resort to the 'because I said so' refrain! But she's at the stage of learning that asking 'Why?' can actually be a game, and she's starting to tease us - and it is so incredible to see this new side of her develop. Having children really is a privilege and a joy!

And finally, looking back over the past year with my darling husband, I see many things I wish I could do differently. In the midst of all the change, he has continued to be my rock. His self-less giving has enabled me to focus on the business, my studies and my first year as HoS. How does one put into words the gratitude that goes with such sacrifice? If I have one goal for the coming year, it is to try and give back to him all the time we missed out on together. This year, I want to make him my priority. I couldn't have done and achieved all that I did without his love and support. He truly has been a model of Christ to me this past year.

There have been low points during the past year, but I don't want to dwell on those. There is more than enough negativity in the world. Equally, this year has not been easy - far from it! Apart from grieving Zoe, this has been the toughest year of my life to date. Rather than groan about it though, I want to celebrate, because this past year has also been an incredible one - full of new things to learn, new people to meet, new experiences to have. Coming home has definitely been good for me, and I look forward to another good year, God willing.

So thank you, Lord, for all your blessings this past year. Thank you for everything you have taught me and shown me. Thank you for all the ways you have encouraged me, and challenged me. Thank you for all the ways in which you have brought me incredible joy.

Proudly Bok

The good 'ol Bok stays! Yes, SARU and the government have reached agreement that the Springbok can stay - as long as it moves over to make way for the Protea. So from some undetermined time in the future, SA rugby shirts will have two equally sized emblems on them - on the breast pocket the official protea emblem, and on the other side the Bok.

I have to say that I am really pleased at how the two sides managed to reach agreement. I do understand that for tha majority of South Africans the Bok is an apartheid emblem, and thus is a symbol of hatred, oppression and racism. However, the Bok has been the rugby emblem since the year dot, and to lose it now would seem to me to be a tragedy. I know my brother-in-law will vehemently disagree with me, but I must be true to what I love. And I love the Bok. Proudly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lessons in life

Some of you may be aware that we've been having a real issue with the tenant in the flat on our property. (The house we're renting has a little flat attached to it which is rented out separately.) It all started about a month ago, when the tenant asked us not to play in the back in the early mornings on weekends because it woke her up. We duly complied.

However, about a fortnight later, she then sent my mother (who is our landlord) a text to say that she is moving out ASAP because we are the rudest, least respectful, most insensitive, noisy neighbours she has ever had to live with; that Nellie's screaming and slamming doors at all hours of the morning is more than she can take. Needless to say, that came as rather a shock to us, because apart from asking us not to use the back garden, she has never before spoken to us about noise.

What I find particularly frustrating, is that before she applied for the lease, we did specifically ask her if she'd ever lived near small children, and was aware that they can make a lot of noise. She said she had, and it was fine.

In a series of emails, I tried to point out to her how we had either considered her needs, or had changed our lifestyle to try and stop making noise. e.g. She complained that we ran our washing machine at 5am and this woke her up. I pointed out that for the past 2 months we have employed a maid to do our washing so that it does not have to be done in the early morning. I also pointed out that as we both work full time, before we got the maid, the only time we got to do laundry was first thing in the morning, when we could hang it to dry during the day. It wasn't that we were deliberately trying to be nasty to her.

Since then, the tenant has made every effort to make my mother's life, and ours, a misery. She has continued to call us disrespectful and rude. She has sworn at my mother and has made a point of being as noisy as possible whenever she is in the flat. At one point, she refused to communicate with us directly, saying that she would only communicate with my mother. When my mother told her to grow up and act like an adult (way to go, Mom!), she replied by saying that my mother's comment on her acting abilities would be disregarded. (I kid you not!)

It has become obvious to me that this woman is one who likes to hold a grudge. She has got it into her head that we are the devil incarnate, and will not be persuaded from her point of view. We have tried to put things right and seek her forgiveness. There is nothing more we can do, so we have stopped letting it upset us or worry us. The only person being harmed by the situation now is her - she refuses to forgive us, insists on holding a grudge, and as a result her life is miserable.

In the meantime, we have had a problem with our neighbour, whose pond pump was making a racket. As the pump is right next to our window, when I've got up to go to the loo in the middle night, the noise has meant it has taken me AGES to fall asleep again. Rather than wait several months to complain (as our tenant did), after a few nights of this, I wrote a polite note to the neighbour which I popped in his box this morning. The pump was fixed during the day, and the neighbour left us his cell number, saying that we are to ring him at any time of the night if the pump is noisy again.

What lessons can be learnt here? Firstly, when there is a problem, do not let it stew. Do not bury your head in the sand because the problem will not go away. You will become increasingly angry about the problem, and it will eventually result in the break-down of relationships. DO talk to the person concerned: if they are aware of the problem, they can try to fix it. Secondly, do not hold grudges. The only person who will be harmed by it is you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stories from afar

This past weekend saw not one, but two, visitors from the UK popping in. Independently, they were both in the Mother City, and it was wonderful seeing them!

The first was from our old church back in London. Of course, being the gossip monger that I am, I loved catching up on all the news about who is doing what/ going where/ etc, etc. While I miss the people there, I have to confess that it's not enough to make me want to be back in London! (I suppose that's a good thing, all in all.)

The other was from my old job. Meeting with Annie was fantastic, because she is such a positive person and puts such a positive spin on everything. It was fantastic to hear about the various promotions that people had had, and also to hear about how the naughty kids are still naughty (just proves that it wasn't me!!)

However, she did relate a very tragic story. The school is a Church of England school. That doesn't mean that all the kids at it are Christian - in fact, far from it. What it does mean though is that a large percentage are supposed to come from families who are involved in local churches. Thus, it was with great shock that I learnt about an attempted gang rape of the sweetest, most wonderful, Christian girl by a group of Afro-Caribbean boys the school has had nothing but trouble with from the moment they started at the school.

What was even more sad, in my estimation, is that the victim did not return to the school because these boys' (Afro-Caribbean) female friends blamed her for it, saying that she obviously 'wanted' it, and just did it to get their friends expelled. In the light of her trauma, to have to come back and face that kind of intimidation was more than she felt she could cope with.

The boys were expelled (or permanently excluded), and they were charged. They are currently serving sentences in juvenile detention centres. This must surely be the lowest point in the life of the school. Thinking back to my time there, what really saddens me is that I predicted many of these boys would have a criminal record before they left school. In fact, at one time I had a conversation with one of the boys in which I warned him that his current path was leading in that direction, and urged him to consider his future seriously, and change his life if he wanted to avoid that. It just seems so sad that many of the staff felt and saw the same potential as I did, and yet we were collectively unable to help these children avoid the dangers we saw. You can lead a horse to water, and all that. But I still find it so tragic that these boys refused our help, and now they will have a sexual offenders criminal record that will follow them around for the rest of their lives.

As for the victim, my heart bleeds for her. She is the most sensible, lovely, sweet-natured, intelligent, friendly girl around, and a Christian to boot. I can only pray that this horrible event draws her to Christ, rather than from him. I long to contact her and tell her how sorry am I, but I won't because I don't want to bring up painful memories for her. I just entrust her to God's care, and hope that she is able to move on from this event.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Graeme will kill me for posting this, but...

Today, during lunch, Nellie let off a WHOPPER of a fart. I glanced at her sideways, with my 'What are you doing, Madam?' face. She grinned and said to me, "I'm being like my Daddy!"


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blood matters

I went to my first scan today. I know: it's early, but I need to start the Clexane as early as I can. I'm officially 5 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I didn't realise that I would be scanned today, because I've always thought 6 weeks was too early to see anything. I thought that today's appointment was just to confirm that I was pregnant, get a blood test, write the Clexane scrip, that kind of thing. I was therefore pleasantly surprised that there was a scan.

Having said that, it was a vaginal scan. I've had one before, so I knew what to expect, but it still came as a bit of a shock. You can't see anything on the scan (or nothing recognisable as human), so I won't put the scan up here. (If you really want to see it, let me know and I'll email it to you.) However, just about the only thing you CAN see is the heart beating! How amazing is that?!?! It's a much slower heartbeat than the 180 beats per minute of most fetuses, but that's normal at this stage, because the heart isn't properly formed yet. (It doesn't even have the two pumps/ 4 chambers yet.) I got tears in my eyes listening to it... knowing just what a miracle it is that there is a baby in the making. If I'd known there was going to be a scan, I would have had Graeme come along to share that moment. To see that little heart beating, even at 5 weeks, suddenly makes you realise that this little blob of cells is a little person. How amazing is that?!?!

Anyway, then we had a discussion about how we're going to get our medical aid to pay and what help the gynae can give us to achieve that aim. This was followed by a discussion about starting the Clexane TONIGHT. Somehow, I wasn't prepared for that. I have to inject myself every day until 6 weeks after the birth. I'm not sure how one gets over the mental hurdle, but I guess I'm about to figure that out.

Then it was off to the clinic downstairs to have my blood taken. The nurse on duty knew nothing of my condition, so it was with some amusement that I watched her reaction to my blood. Within seconds of the vials being taken, she was squinting at them and shaking them. I could see she was alarmed, but didn't want to unnecessarily alarm me. After a short while, I put her out of her misery and commented that I hoped the samples didn't clot before they'd got to the lab for testing (which is just across the corridor). I then told her I have APS, and I could see the relief on her face as she realised that I was aware there was something very wrong with my blood. After chatting about it a bit, she did comment that for only 5 weeks gestation, my blood was already pretty thick.

I guess it was good for me to hear that, because I was already thinking that unless taking the Clexane is ABSOLUTELY necessary, I would really rather forego. I really don't like the idea of injecting myself, plus it's hellishly expensive stuff and we still don't know whether the medical aid will pay for it, blah, blah. But seeing my blood today, and hearing her comment, made me realise that this little one is already at a disadvantage, because my blood just isn't doing what it's supposed to - it's already getting less oxygen and nutrients than it should. As a parent I have a responsibility to do whatever it takes to give this little one the best possible chance of survival... so if we have to scrap the building works and use the bond money to pay for this treatment instead, then I guess that's what we'll have to do. After all, what price do you put on a life?

On another level it was good to see my blood and hear the nurse's comment, because it's been so long since I was diagnosed (and I've been pretty much symptom free since then) that I've begun to doubt the diagnosis. I was contemplating going to a specialist haematologist and getting a repeat blood test done, just to check. I mean, who knows - maybe I've been miraculously healed???? Seeing those vials today though, it was so obvious, even to my untrained eye, that my blood was gloopy rather than runny, and gloopy ain't normal (unless you're talking about Bar-One sauce on ice cream...mmmm). A repeat blood test therefore is no longer necessary. If my blood is that thick even WITH the Ecotrin I've been taking, then imagine what it would be like without it. That freaks me out slightly. It's one thing having a diagnosis, or cause of stillbirth, written on a piece of paper. It's quite something else seeing the physical evidence in front of you when it's literally just come out of your arm. It's not like my blood had been sitting around for a while - 5 seconds at most!

It kind of puts things into perspective for me. It makes me more willing to haggle and fight with the medical aid. It makes me a little more desperate, a little more paranoid, a little more determined to win this 'fight'. Now that I KNOW what I'm up against, and what my baby is up against, I really am going to do everything in my power short of killing someone to make sure I can get these drugs.

It turns out that my gynae's patients have this unwritten code between them - anyone who no longer needs their Clexane donates it to her. While with her today, she gave me about a week's supply of injections - free of charge (that's about a quarter of my salary's worth). The only condition is that if I have any left over at the end of the 9 months, I donate it back in return. Seems fair to me. It means that while we haggle with the medical aid, I can get started on the drugs, rather than having to wait a week (or more) for approval (of course they're going to approve the drugs! I have faith.) Later tonight then, I'm heading back to the hospital to meet with the matron on duty who will show me how to do it. Tomorrow and the next day I will have to inject myself, but still at the hospital in front of her, so she can check I'm doing it right. Then I'm on my own.

Guess what song's playing my head now?? 'The things we do for love... the things we do for love.'

I have to admit that I'm a bit scared of this injecting business. I'm not scared of needles per se, but I have been injected by out-of-practice GPs before, and by very experienced nurses. With the nurses, it never hurts. With the GPs it ALWAYS hurts. I'm a lot less experienced than a GP. You figure it out.

Another incredible thing is that I already have ALL of my antenatal appointments booked, right up until the week we're planning to induce (which will be around the 10th June). That is so different to the UK, where you can only book the subsequent appointment at the time of the current one. Of course, as my gynae said, if the baby doesn't grow right (also a consequence of my APS), then we'll induce as early as we have to to give it the best shot at life, so we're taking this one week at a time.

My nausea has been in evidence for the past week or so. Horrible, yucky, all-day kind of nausea. I've come close to throwing up about twice so far, but fortunately nothing more. I've just discovered ginger sweets, which work a treat at keeping the nausea at bay, but of course, being so spicy, I can only have a limited amount every day.

But this too shall pass. In the mean time, I'm thrilled that everything is going well with the baby. In that I rejoice.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A mother's work is never done

I hate feeling like I have nothing new or interesting to say, but I'm afraid that's the state of my life at present. I feel sick all the time - whether or not I eat. Practically the only time I don't feel ill is when I'm sleeping. I also feel tired all the time.

And yet life carries on regardless.

Take today, for example. In the space of about 15 minutes I found out that the Bio paper the kids write tomorrow was missing (we found it in the end), and that Nellie was not only running a temperature, but hadn't eaten all day, and was complaining of ear ache. So - Mommy to the rescue! In between trying to drop off patterns with my CMT, dealing with telephonic queries about the nappies (I'm starting to get lots of calls - which is great), keep the dogs from freaking out (they still panic when we leave without them - I eventually resorted to putting them in the car and taking them with me), and collecting Nellie from nursery, my nausea and tiredness don't really have time to feature. I'm not sure whether to be grateful for that or not.

Then, sitting in the doctor's waiting room, Nellie promptly threw up all over me (got very little on herself and just about all of it on me). So rather than sit in an icky shirt, I went into the bathroom and washed it. I figured that sitting in a cold, wet shirt was better than sitting in a warm, wet, smelly and sticky one. Plus, I'm not sure that the smell wouldn't have triggered my own bout of vomiting, and dealing with one person throwing up is bad enough - two in one family is more than I can deal with right now.

Then, home again (jiggedy-jig) to discover that Graeme's brother is ill, and so would rather go for supper at his mother's house than come to us (we were all getting together for supper to say farewell to the other brother who's jetting off East for a few weeks of holiday). Rather than stay and help me, my husband went off to join them... leaving me to clean up the dog's diarrhoea and my daughter's poo in her pants (not that he was aware of this when he left, give him his dues).

So let's just see... to sum up, today I have been vomited on, cleaned up poo pants, and had to clean up diarrhoea, all while trying hard to keep my own bile down and being so tired I feel I could sleep a week, and all on my own. Oh yes, it's definitely been a 'mommy' day.

Which leaves me with only one question (and it's not the one you're thinking... I know why I want another one!) ... how the hell do single parents do this day in and day out????

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sucker for punishment?

Our dogs arrived last night. Baggins is 4 months, and Alyssa is 1.5 yrs. We had a rough time initially - they were extremely restless and nervous. Baggins kept having whining and shaking fits. Heartbreaking, really.

But then, at around 9pm they started to play with each other, and that made ALL the difference. Suddenly they realised that neither of them was alone, and that maybe this new life would be a good one. Incredibly, they went to sleep in the kitchen with barely a fuss. Alyssa whined for all of about 3 minutes, and then neither said a word until we got up this morning (and discovered their little presents on the kitchen mat).

Baggins appears to be house trained to a large extent already (thank God!). He was filthy when I fetched him - covered in fleas and (probably pig) poo. We had to leave the car windows open overnight to get the smell out. Needless to say, he went straight into the bath when we got home. He's a sweet little thing - quite calm when he's not playing with Alyssa. He's already trying to assert dominance over Alyssa, but I think she'll soon stop taking his nonsense. I took him to the vet this morning to get his innoculations (meant to get him micro-chipped, but forgot). The vet seems to think he may also have mange. Great. But we'll soon get him sorted. He's also rather undernourished - his little ribs really do stick out. Other than that though, he's perfectly healthy and very cute. (Not so cute when he refuses his chew toys and chews Nellie's dolls instead!) Good thing he won't be in the house unsupervised.

Alyssa is very nervous. Given her history of abandonment, I'm not surprised. She's also EXTREMELY jealous of Baggins. It has been very tiring trying to manage her while we've been trying to de-flea Baggins. But she is very sweet. The way that she and Baggins play together is also very cute - they are bound to keep each other occupied during the day while we're out.

Anyway, all this running around getting them and handling them in the first few hours, and handling Nellie who doesn't understand why they don't want to play with her (and is VERY upset about that - after all, these are HER dogs!) is exhausting.


But we start half days at school on Monday, so things are getting easier already.

Friday, October 31, 2008

36 weeks to go....

I have no problems falling pregnant. My problem is trying to keep the pregnancies.

So, I am very excited to announce that I am pregnant once again (and at long last). I have such a good feeling about this pregnancy, such a positive feeling. I have nothing to base it upon, but I think this one is going to be fine, God willing.

But your prayers wouldn't go amiss (if you're the praying type) - please pray the drugs I start taking tomorrow (and will continue to take throughout the pregnancy) do the trick without side effects. At the end of the day though, it's in God's hands. So please pray that his will is for this child to be born alive, and to outlive both his/ her parents.

So far, the only symptoms I've had are tiredness and an acute sense of smell. However, I did gag today, so I'm really hoping that doesn't mean my nausea (when it arrives) will be bad again. I really don't know how I will cope with life if I've got my head down the loo the whole day. Due date is 10th July 2009, but in all likelihood will be born at the end of May or early June after induction. I'd prefer early June, but it's not really up to me, so as long as this one is born alive and healthy I won't complain about the timing!

And now, in keeping with the tiredness theme, I'm going to sign off and make my way to bed.

Bless you all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Have you heard?

Last year, across the UK, it became illegal to smoke in pubs. Now, as the smoking laws toughen up further. Apparently, from 2010, if you are a smoker, you will not be allowed to be a foster parent, because of the effects of secondhand smoke on children.

There are some things I just love about the UK. One of them is that, because they are a nanny state, they can impose a law like this that protects the most vulnerable. While the UK probably will never ban smoking entirely, it sure looks like they're heading that way. Can you imagine a day when cigarettes are a Class C, or even a Class A, drug??? What a different world THAT would be.

But in the meantime, I celebrate this measure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tick tock

The passage of time is always so subjective. When I'm setting papers, there is never enough time. When I'm sitting in moderation, there is always too much.

Well, we've got another 4 days to go till we can do The Test, and, predictably, the time seems to be crawling. I keep finding myself vacillating between thinking I am definitely pregnant, and thinking I'm definitely not. Thinking back over the past 4 days, I'm amazed at everything I've accomplished. It's probably a really good thing that school is so busy at the moment - stops me from thinking about it too much.

But the busy-ness is taking its toll. I'm back to feeling like I'm only just managing to hold it all together. Fortunately, I've made all my deadlines so far - now if I could just shift the truck load of marking I have to do! I would love nothing more than to have some proper free time once we're into the exam period, to be able to go to the beach for a few hours and read a book. Of course, no sooner will I have done this load of marking than the exams will start coming in. Sigh! Whoever said that teaching is easy has NO idea what the pressure is like.

Still, I'm looking forward to getting our dogs and being forced to go walking - maybe taking them for a walk to fetch Nellie from nursery in the afternoon. I'm looking forward to being a bit more domestic over the festive season (I know! I never thought I would say that.) And although I know it will probably mean having my head down the toilet for several months, I'm really looking forward to being pregnant again (despite what I said when I was pregnant with Zoe).

So tick tock... c'mon Week. Get finished already!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

So much to say...

... and simply no time in which to say it.

I don't know whether you've noticed, but my blog title changed a while back. It's called a double-ended candle for a reason... I seem to burning mine at both ends all the time.

This weekend was no exception. In between trying to sort out the stuff for the Open Day at school, it was also Nellie's sports day (video will go up on her blog in due course), our maid arrived late and without her keys (so I had to nip home to let her in), we were shopping frantically to get prices on kennels for our new dogs (due to arrive next week some time), my study group was meeting to work on our project, and I had an exam paper to set and analyse...

I'm sorry to have to admit that I fell asleep on several occasions in church this morning. It was a great sermon, all about the importance of character, calling, striving for excellence and something else, as they relate to the work place. Thank God the church puts the sermons up, so I can go and download it in a few days and re-read it.

So much seems to have happened in the past few days I want to tell you about - a break through with another troublesome boy in one of my classes, my matrics leaving and their final pranks, Nellie's trip to the paediatrician, Graeme getting his scooter licence, etc, etc, etc.... but right now, I need to get some SLEEP if I ever hope of making it through this week.

One exciting piece of news is that I have my first proper nappucino tomorrow evening with a regte, egte set of clients!! I'm very excited, but quite nervous too.

Anyway, time for bed. Hope you all had a more restful weekend than I did!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heart breaker

I had an incredible conversation with a parent this afternoon.

One of the boys in one of my classes has had a really bad year. Not knowing the boy beforehand, I thought that's just how he was. He simply wasn't interested in working: seldom brought his books to class, never did his homework, seldom paid attention in class. After several months of trying to get him to work, and failing, I had all but given up on him.

This afternoon I learnt that this little boy has been having a horrendous time at home. For 13 years he and his very much older brother had had his mother all to themselves. His father left them when he was born, and he's never seen him since. They had been living in a flat on their grandparents' property. (For a long time, as a child, he apparently thought that his grandfather was his father.)

Then at the start of this year, he came to high school. Coming from a township junior school, that was a major adjustment for him. At the same time, his mother remarried. Her new husband comes with attachments - two kids of his own and his mother. Not only did this boy have to adjust to the new family, but he and his mother moved into his step-father's house, while his older brother remained behind in the flat. He has lost his brother, his extended family, his childhood home, and his special relationship with his mother all in one fell swoop, and all at the same time as having to cope with a new school and no friends. In addition, I discovered that from the time his mother started dating her new husband, she began to change. She used to be a very traditional Muslim. Now, she wears make-up and dresses in a very nontraditional fashion. No doubt, the boy misses the mother he's used to, and sees his step-father very much as the person responsible for not only the change in his mother, but for all the changes in his life.

It's no wonder the boy wasn't interested in school! The more detail his mother gave me, the more my heart broke for this little boy. I remember well how it felt to me when my mother remarried. I was a lot older, but I still found it difficult to adjust. I got to stay in my home and my step-father came to live with us, but I still found it difficult to adjust. I didn't lose contact with any of my other family, but I still found it difficult to adjust. I can only imagine what this boy is going through.

For most of the year, he refused to talk to anyone about his behaviour, or the cause of it. It wasn't until a few weeks ago when he broke his arm as a result of punching a wall that his mother thought she should take him to a psychologist. Only through the psychologist's intervention has he been able to talk about what is going on in his life, see it for what it is, and begin to put his life back together. I'm amazed he didn't turn to drugs, alcohol or suicide.

The more I have reflected on his story this afternoon, the more broken my heart has become for him. I keep remembering how I felt as a child, and I keep thinking about how worried I would be about Janel if Graeme were to disappear (through death, rather than divorce, I hope!) and I were to remarry. Then I keep remembering things I've said to this boy throughout the year.... and I cringe with shame. I know that as teachers we can't be all things to all students. I know that we don't have time to parent all the difficult kids in our classes. I know that we're not trained counsellors. I know that I can't blame myself for this boy's behaviour. If his mother couldn't figure it out, then I don't suppose I should expect myself to. But I do blame myself. I do shoulder the responsibility for not having pulled this boy aside at more appropriate moments, and making the time to really listen to him.

It amazes me that it took this mother a year to seek help. I guess that, having been through my parents' divorce and remarriages, I'm more aware than many about the impact of adult relationships on children. Speaking personally, if I were his parent, I would have got a counsellor for my child BEFORE the event. I would have got counselling for the ENTIRE family during the event. And I sure as hell would not have waited a year after the fact to get my child help.

But then I guess it's been a major adjustment for her too - from having no husband to having one, from having one young child to having three, from having no in-laws to having one living in her house, from living in her own space to living in someone else's, from having a close relationship with her son to having an angry one, from having both her sons living with her to having only one, from having her parents next door to having them far away.... I guess I can understand how in the midst of all that change it would be difficult to make the time to really think clearly about what's happening inside your child's head and heart.

My heart breaks for this little boy, and for his mother, and for their whole blended family. Even now, I can still see signs that this mother isn't seeing clearly. I hope and pray that the counselling she and her son are getting will enable them both to heal, and will save this family from further damage.

Photo album

I know I can be slow sometimes. Did you know that Blogger (and therefore Google) offers you a photo album option? I didn't. I don't know how long the icon has been showing up on my computer, but I only just noticed it and so I thought I'd head on over and check it out.

Well!! Turns out that Blogger (via Google) and Picasa have teamed up. Every photo you now save onto Blogger also gets saved in an online Picasa photo album. It's default is set to private, so no-one else can see them, but you can make it public, if you want to. You can caption each photo, making it easy to sort them.

It's not Flickr (and doesn't have Flickr's functionality), but it's still pretty cool. I am impressed! While I love Flickr, I love the fact that I only have to post the photos once, and they appear in two places - and that one of those places allows me to sort and organise my photos into groups... well, to create proper albums.

To find them, when you're Google home page, look at the tool bar at the top on the left. Click on more, then find 'Photos'. That's Picasa. Obviously, we're all listed under Nixgrim. Look us up.

Another member of the family... or two

Nope - that's not the announcement that we are pregnant - much as we are hoping to make that announcement soon!! We've been practicing hard... we're just waiting to see whether the hard work has paid off, the investment has brought returns, etc, etc.

Instead, congratulations must go to Graeme's brother who has ... [I was going to say something like 'hook' or 'bag', but in thinking about it, that's a pretty vulgar way to describe this fantastic event. No, let me rather say it the old-fashioned, and much more tasteful way.] ... just got engaged to a lovely lady. The family are THRILLED!! What is also pretty amazing is that all 3 boys in the family will be married to girls who were born (and therefore matriculated) in the SAME YEAR! Graeme married a (much) younger lady. (I keep him young.) Robert is marrying a girl roughly his own age, while Philip has married an older woman (who keeps him in line). But wait! There's MORE. Their only sister was ALSO born in the same year!! How freaky is that? So, all the Broster girls (yes, on this occasion I'm happy to be referred to by that name) are the same age. There's got to be something in that, don't you think?

The other congratulations goes to my cousin whose second child was born this afternoon - Myles. Thus far, Myles has joined an elite club on my side of the family... he is one of only 5 boys, amongst 13 girls. Interestingly, 3 of the other 4 boys are the 2nd child. Although that's not a huge sample size to go by, it does seem that if you're going to have a boy in this family, he's going to be your 2nd child. Hmm.... we already have a girl's name picked out for the next one (sad, I know). Maybe we ought to be thinking of a boy's name?!?!

Anyway, huge congrats to Jeanine, Mike and Emily on the latest arrival; and Rob and Gina on their engagement. We love growing families!

Friday, October 17, 2008

One small step...

You know, teachers really do have a massive impact on the lives of the kids they teach. I always knew this was true for primary school, but it's also true for high school.

When I apologised in class the other day, I chatted to the class about why I was apologising, and why I was choosing to do it in front of the whole class (rather than privately). I talked about the fact that we all have a moral responsibility for (and to) each other, and for (and to) ourselves, to do the right thing and admit when we make mistakes or fail.

I learnt this morning that one of the most difficult children in the class took it upon himself to go and apologise to another teacher for something he'd done. He and I had previously had a long conversation in lesson about personal responsibility and the fact that he wasn't leading himself. In that conversation, I talked to him about the potential I saw in him. Because, quite coincidentally, other staff had said similar things to him around the same time, I think that conversation had a massive impact on him.

I choose to believe that his choice to apologise was a direct result of my actions - that what I said in our private conversation and in my public apology had a direct impact on this boy. I am so chuffed to have influenced this boy for good. I am so thrilled that something really powerful and good came out of my failure. I am so pleased that this boy is starting to turn himself around and become the man he has the potential to be.

(It has also brought home to me just how much power & influence I can have, and I wonder how often I use that for good, and how often I inadvertently use it for evil.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The search for perfection

Since Zoe's death last year, we've been struggling with our faith. It's been really hard to reconcile the idea of an all-loving God, with one who would allow our child to die. For this reason, we've struggled to be part of a community of worship, because we haven't felt able to worship, and it's rather difficult to want to rage in a place where everyone else seems to be so peaceful and joyful. Needless to say, our church attendance has been rather sporadic.

While we sorted out jobs and home stuff, we decided to just return to our 'old' church, for the sake of at least having something stable in our lives. It was lovely seeing familiar faces, but the whole experience felt incredibly disjointed. We are different people (as one would expect after 8 years), and the church is different too in many respects. We used to be evening service people, now we have to be morning people. That in itself is a huge change.

But after a year of trying to make it work, we've decided that it just isn't. We've made some good friends through our cell group, and we will miss them if we leave. The problem is that our 'old' church, while being wonderful and having a lot of stuff we want to be involved in, just doesn't 'fit' with us anymore, or we with it.

It's too far away, for one. Living down the road from our church for so many years now, we've learned the benefit of being part of a local community. We want that again. The service times were also falling across Nellie's nap time, which made it very difficult for us to take part in the service (and their cry room facility leaves a lot to be desired). Being different people, it was very hard to be treated by many of the familiar faces as the people we were when we left. Of course, that's a natural reaction, and I'm sure we treated them as if they were the same people as when we left. It was also very difficult having to explain Zoe all the time when our grief was so raw, and most of them knew about her through someone else. Nellie also didn't like the creche, which meant that one of us never got to the service anyway.

Since we're planning another baby, we decided that we really need to find a church we can settle in for a few years - a place that will provide us with stability and support in the coming months. We will need that if we have another stillbirth. So a few months back we took the decision to start church shopping.

When you go church shopping, what do you look for in a church? Most people will agree - good teaching, good worship, good fellowship, good opportunities for service & mission-orientated. So far so good.

But then come the more difficult issues. Which doctrines are central for you? Which doctrines would you be willing to accept a different interpretation of Scripture on in order to attend? Some things are non-negotiable for us: Christ-centered, Bible-based, Holy Spirit inspired. But that still leaves a lot of room for manoeuvre.

Tonight we attended an introduction to the church we are considering joining. Everything sounded really good, but there were two issues raised for us:

1) Infant baptism vs believers' baptism by full immersion
2) Women in leadership

I want to discuss these in some detail, because I think each warrants a proper discussion, not only in terms of doctrine, but in terms of the importance of that doctrine to the big picture of becoming members (or not) of this church.

However, right now, my husband is waiting for me. Tonight I'm going to fall pregnant - I can feel it in my bones! And to be honest, that is more important, so this lovely discussion will have to wait for another time.

Sleep well, everyone!

Beta Blogger for Dummies

A HUGE thank you to Beta Blogger for Dummies, whose instructions on adding comments (even though I know next to nothing about HTML coding, enabled me to FIX the comment problems!

Hooray for helpful people on the web who give freely of their expertise and time to help others!!

You can find them at

AARGGH!! Haloscan - I hate you.

A comment a friend made via email alerted me to the fact that Haloscan has WIPED my comment facility. How annoying! The Blogger coding still says it's there, but it clearly isn't. SO... I will see what I can do about it.

So sorry to all of you who either comment or enjoy reading the comments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dog Number 2??

This cute puppy could be ours.... isn't he sweet?

Open mouth, engage foot

I finally did it. I apologised, in front of the whole class.

What on earth am I talking about? On Friday, I lost my temper with a child who is not only a misogynist, but is one of the laziest kids I've had to teach. After a series of failures to follow instructions, this kid got into an argument with one of the other kids in the class and called her 'stupid'. It was at that point that I lost my temper, and replied that the only stupid person in the class was him.

Not one of my better moments, I admit. No excuses for my behaviour. I'm the adult, I'm supposed to be able to keep my temper at all times and manage these situations better.

Since then, I've been working my way up to apologising. I figured that since I made the comment in public, I needed to apologise in public. It was hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be.

Fortunately, as I was talking to a colleague about plucking up the courage, she told me about her blooper. On Sunday, while driving home after a day of lectures, and in a rush because of imminent visitors, she nearly got trapped in the wrong lane by someone she thought was just being a road bully. When she finally managed to negotiate herself into the correct lane, she flashed the other driver, and then pulled a zap sign.

Well... yesterday, as she arrived at school, she was greeted by some of the prefects who suggested she might need a road rage intervention. Turns out the driver and passengers of the other car were these prefects - model pupils! - who had slowed down to wave and say hello to her. Hearing her story made me feel better about my situation.

The moral of the story? Teachers are human too!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dog hunt

We have decided to get Nellie a dog for her birthday. We started out looking for just one dog, but we will be coming home with two. We figure that since we're going to be out all day, the dog should have a playmate to prevent it digging up the garden.

We've now been to 4 different shelters around the Peninsula, looking for the perfect dog pair. We want short-haired, medium-to-large dogs under 2 years of age. Our preference is for a teenager or yearling.

Thus far, we've only found one real possibility - introducing Alyssa. She stands about 50cm high and is about 1.5yrs old. Isn't she cute?

Of course, my heart was stolen by this little puppy, but looking at his mother, he's going to be far too big for our little garden, so we won't be taking him home with us.

So the search continues for a playmate for Alyssa....

Renovation, not incineration

Many years ago, a member of my immediate family, who is also a Christian, commented to me that s/he would not be voting in the (then) upcoming elections, because there was no point in Christians getting involved in politics. That comment has remained with me ever since. I have struggled with it, because it runs completely contrary to my beliefs.

Every time I read a story about Jesus, it is a demonstration of his love for those who were to all intents and purposes excluded from making or influencing political decisions - the poor, the homeless, the orphaned, the widowed. Surely we, as Christians, have a vitally important role to play in helping to create the political atmosphere that seeks to protect and nuture the poor, the needy, the helpless? Surely the gospel isn't just about salvation for eternity, but salvation here and now? Surely, we have been instructed not to walk past the Samaritan, but to do everything in our power to help? or have I got it wrong?

Today, the sermon was entitled 'Kingdom Entrepreneurship' and focussed on how we can help ourselves to recognise opportunities where we can bring the love of God - from creating employment to sharing the gospel. The content was great (the delivery less so), but what really struck me was this. When Jesus returns, the earth is not going to be incinerated or wiped out. When the Bible says there will be a new heaven and a new earth, the implication is that the existing earth will be restored and renovated. Surely this is an even greater incentive for us to be politically active? If the earth isn't going to be wiped out, then surely we have a responsibility to conserve (note: not preserve!) as much of it and its people as we can?

I really hope and pray that the future of SA does not lie in the hands of such as my dear family member, whose failure to vote opens the doors for increased crime, corruption and chaos. Rather, my prayer is that the future of South Africa will be determined by men and women with a Godly character who are willing to take a stand for truth and righteousness - whether in politics or in business. We've made the mistake in the past of separating the secular and sacred, and Apartheid was the result. Surely we need to learn that lesson and refrain from making it again?

I'm not advocating making South Africa a Christian nation again, or of making our parliament a Christian one, or even of voting for a Christian party like the ACDP. But I do think we need to remember that we will be held accountable for the manner in which we exercised the authority and responsibility we were given. If we've been given the right to vote, and we fail to exercise it, isn't that like burying our talents in the ground? And we all know what the Master said to that particular servant, right?!

Renovation, not incineration. I think that's a pretty good election season slogan, don't you?

Web 2.0 in the classroom

Believe it or not, I voluntarily gave up 3 days of my holiday to go to a conference for work. Yup. People think teachers have 13 weeks of holiday a year. I can tell you that we really only get about 6 weeks - which is still a lot more than most people, I know. The rest is spent doing school stuff... everything from filing to preparing lessons to cleaning your classroom... or to attending conferences and taking sports tours.

Anyway, back to the conference...

I went to most of the ones dealing with using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, Web 2.0 tools are all the things we use to keep in contact with each other - like this blog. They can include anything from Skype to MXit, blogs and Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flikr, etc, etc, etc. Since I'm hugely into this stuff anyway, I've really been wondering about how to use this stuff more in the classroom.

Hmm... okay. It's now about 2 days since I wrote the above paragraphs. Scary how time flies!

So, rather than telling you what I was thinking about, let me tell you what I've done. I've signed up for MXit (did you know it's a South African product? Go SA!) and I've given my details to my matric class. Yup, we are now chatting about school related stuff via MXit. They are competely blown away by the fact that a) I'm on MXit, and b) that I'm prepared to help them by meeting them where they are.

If you don't know about MXit, then let me introduce you. This is a cell phone GPRS application (ie, your phone has to be able to access the web) that works in a similar fashion to Skype. You can have a virtual conversation with your friends for a fraction of the cost of sms/ texting (I don't remember the exact details, but it's something like 10c for 2 hours). Of course, you still pay your subscriber rate for your GPRS connection. Like Skype, it has a feature that allows you to sms your friends when you log in, to let them know you are on MXit and they should come and join you. The nice thing about MXit, is that you can only be contacted by people you have already added to your contact list. ie, you have to know the cell phone number of the person you are adding. (That rule doesn't apply to the chat room facility.)

Today, one of my RSS feeds was asking the question about the purpose of blogs, suggesting using an educational blog to post homework for the kids, or videos for them to look at, or your PPTs, or lesson plans, or whatever. At first I was quite sceptical, but the more I've thought about it, the more I've seen the sense. Of course, it would require a lot more work from me, but it would be a useful way to keep in contact with the kids. So I'm going to give that one a bit more thought.