Sunday, June 29, 2008

Born Sleeping

Things are definitely starting to take off! While it breaks my heart that it is, because that means there are people suffering as we have, it also thrills me because now we have the opportunity to give to others some of the support and love we received when we lost Zoe.

Over the past few weeks, we've been getting more and more people contacting us to ask for advice in helping their friends or family members who have suffered a stillbirth or miscarriage. Over the weekend, we also got our first call from a couple who lost their baby just over a week ago and need some help.

I don't want to go into details, because I think this couple have a right to privacy, especially in their time of grief. However, my heart really does break for them - they also lost their baby very late term, and it was their first. For those who pray, please pray for this couple. God knows their names, and their situation. Please also pray that Graeme and I are able to be wise and loving and supportive, and that we don't make too many mistakes along the way!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I just read a news story on the BBC about a mother and her new husband who let the wife's daughter live in such squalor and under such abuse that she died of malnutrition. She was about 3 years old. She lived in a room with dogs faeces, bare wires coming out of the sockets, and when she died, she'd eaten or drunk nothing for 20 hours beforehand. The room was insect-infested. The mother and new husband ran the pub downstairs, and simply carried on their life as normal, while the little girl's body decayed upstairs.

How could anyone do that? How?

Friday, June 27, 2008


I am absolutely shattered. This past week has been the most hectic so far of the term. Thank God I've got some down time now.

Having said that - we've just appointed a new technician to replace the one who walked out 2 weeks ago, so I'll be going in to help her familiarise herself with the school and her job. Plus, I need to go in to finish some marking that I don't want hanging over my head in the new term, and to do some lesson prep for next term.

In addition, the Baba Indaba show is in less than a month and I don't even have samples of the nappies yet (although I should do by the end of next week). So on that front, I'm feeling incredibly stressed. When I was telling one of my kids about all this, he replied - 'Ma'am, you just have to make some time for yourself!' Wise words coming from someone so young. I am determined to do just that... so now I'm off to bed to read a book or something.

Thank God we've got 2 weeks!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


This has been a week for feeling appreciated.

Firstly, a large percentage of my kids at school have come up to thank me specifically for something I've done - from helping them achieve well in the exams to teaching them this term, to being willing to answer their questions, to being gracious with them (!!). It's been fab! As a teacher, you get used to busting a gut with no reward (teaching is its own reward... apparently), and to being taken for granted. So this has been such an amazing week in that regard.

I've also just had my appraisal meeting (called IQMS in SA education), in which I was really affirmed by my appraisers. Again, it was really nice to hear that I'm doing a good job, better than I was expecting (but then I know I tend to under-estimate myself). Of course, as in all things, there are areas to work on, but then, I'm not perfect [yet], so I wouldn't expect anything less. But it was still nice seeing the things I'm getting right being affirmed by my colleagues.

And then tonight, I made pizza to die for (well, ok, maybe not die for, but very nice pizza!). I used a new recipe. Usually I use baking powder, but this one called for yeast, so I did the right thing and gave it enough time to rise and do its thing. The result was more than worth the preparation. And the dozen or so people who came for supper agreed!

It's nice to be appreciated. It definitely makes the effort well worth it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


A bit of a mouthful, but apparently very good for you.

We had a (VERY) short ProGro presentation yesterday by some staff who'd been on a course. I found it fascinating, because it linked in with what I already knew about VAK learning and Brain Gym.

VAK stands for Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic. Kids predominantly learn in one or tow of these three ways. As teachers, if we want to help our kids, we need to be teaching in such a way as to allow kinesthetic and visual learners to access the curriculum, because most teachers teach in a predominantly auditory way.

Brain Gym are little exercises that help both hemispheres in the brain to be working simultaneously (rather than alternately in isolation).

So - neuroeducation.... The basic idea behind it started with a desire to use modern MRI scans to try and identify whether there really is a biological difference in the way that boys' and girls' brains develop, and if so, whether there is a biological difference in the way they learn. Once established, implications for pedagogy have been explored and discussed. The answer is that yes, there are biological differences, and that (as a gross generalisation) most teaching methods are aimed at girls.

Here are some stats I found fascinating (as I'm doing this purely from memory, I hope I get them right!):

> girls hear 17% louder than boys
> girls have 15% more bloodflow to the brain than boys
> as a result, boys struggle to concentrate and are distracted more easily
> age = length of time during which knowledge can be embedded, i.e. 13 years old = 13 minutes (after which concentration is lost)
> boys cannot process auditory information as well as girls can, so in a long sentence, the boys will only 'get' the first part - the rest is simply a cacophony of noise (and if you speak softly as well, they lose even more)
> boys have bigger eyes than girls, so are more visual than girls
> as a result, boys will not focus on your face, but will rather focus on your hands that are waving around (or fiddling with a pen)
> boys needs a high level of dopamine in their brains to embed knowledge (girls don't) - dopamine levels are increased by physical activity

I can't remember the rest. Sorry. What I found fascinating though is that some schools in Cape Town have already cottoned on to this to the extent that their timetable is structured around exercise. One school has 45 mins of compulsory exercise for all learners timetabled in every morning before lessons start. Another has built a walking track around the entire school and lessons are structured so as to make use of the track, with learners stopping at various points around the track to take part in an activity. The first example I can see working. I just don't have the creativity to see how I could structure my lessons around a walking track.... not on a regular basis.

At the conclusion of the session, we were encouraged, as staff, to get our kids dancing every 20 minutes. A selection of songs was made available to us, and some Brain Gym type of movements were demonstrated. In those classes where this is already being done, the teachers commented that the impact on learning is immediate - the kids still more quietly, the focus is increased, and the learning is increased. I really love the idea, but I'm a bit nervous about doing it. Given that I'm a visual learner, maybe I need to see it in action first?!?!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


This morning I found out that my actions yesterday were the trigger for a mother pulling her son out of our school today. I am gutted. I feel utterly devastated.

I know it's not my fault directly, and that clearly my actions were the last in a string of events, but it makes no difference to me.

The boy in question was misbehaving, and so I disciplined him in an appropriate way. I was covering a lesson for an absent colleague. I had carefully explained the work, answered several questions regarding it, walked around and helped individual learners when they were stuck (it was an Afrikaans lesson, and most of them have really poor Afrikaans). After all that time, this boy had not even taken his books out. I proceeded to give him several warnings to get down to work. Following that, I then moved him to sit at the front of the class, under my nose. At that point, he took out a newspaper and proceeded to read.

So, I followed both my own moral rule, and the rule of the school - and sent the boy to the 'time out' room. In this staffed room, learners are removed from their class (where their actions may lead to confrontation with the teacher and/ or distract other learners from their work) but have to continue with the work set. Three visits to the 'time out' room results in an evening detention. Further visits result in a disciplinary hearing.

I have no idea what number visit this was for this boy, but it clearly wasn't his first.

Yet, if I had not followed the school rule, if I had given the boy one more opportunity, maybe he would still be in school.

I have no idea what this boy's future holds.... I only know that it will be forever different (and quite possibly worse) because I chose not to display mercy.

And so I am gutted.
Edited to add: This morning the deputy head dealing with this informed us that this boy is going to Abbotts, which is probably the right place for him. He is apparently very bright, but needs real motivation to get working. In addition, I was chatting to the other deputy head about how I felt about the situation, and he informed me that this boy had been sent to the 'time out' room 5 times already this year; my one was the sixth. That made me feel better, because it was evidence of what I knew intuitively, which means that it was evidence that I wasn't the one to blame.

Can I also just say how much I appreciate everyone's support and words of comfort? I really do. Thank you.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

YouTube sucks

You know, for something that is supposed to be so great, I have had endless troubles with YouTube. The latest example... I've uploaded a video of Nellie jumping in a puddle after the rain. No sooner has it uploaded than YouTube has disabled it.

Now I ask you, with all sincerity, WHY ON EARTH would anyone want to disable a video of a child jumping in a puddle? It's not pornographic. It's not racist. It's not profane in any way. Since it's my own creation there are no copyright issues. So why???

Thinking about it, I've noticed recently that a lot of videos that friends have sent me via Facebook have also been disabled - both funnies and Christian. So I'm beginning to think that YouTube has serious issues.

Of course, I've emailed them asking them why they've disabled it. The response I got? Please check out these links for FAQ's, and don't expect anything more from us. No you idiots! I've already checked them out, and NONE of them answer my specific question - that's why I emailed you. So I emailed back a rather terse reply. We'll see whether it bears any fruit, but I'm not holding my breath.

Needless to say, I'm furious. So I'm going back to the old tried and tested method of using 'Electronic Files'. While it's more of a hassle to use, at least they don't disable my videos.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Princess postings

This post carries a health warning: if you are not an evangelical Christian, not only may you not understand anything I'm saying in this post, but you may actually find yourself thinking I've lost whatever credibility or sanity you thought I had. I don't have the time or energy now to explain some of the terms and concepts I use properly, and I apologise. I'm exhausted, but I want to document something profound that happened to me tonight at church, because I know it will be important to me in the days, weeks and months to come to have something in writing to reflect upon.

For those who know what Jesus Ministry is, or Freedom Prayer.... I walked through the 5 R's tonight (for the first time in a very, very long time). Hence my exhaustion. Feel free to keep me accountable on the 'Replace' step.

Tonight was significant in that, once again, God demonstrated his love and mercy to me. I managed to take the plunge and ask for prayer after the service tonight (yet another milestone for me). (This was after walking through the 5 R's on my own during the service.) The person praying for me received a picture of me as a princess, with a crown on my head, and as a mother, standing tall in the courts of heaven.

To understand the significance of this, it is necessary to back track slightly. God has spoken to me on several occasions over the past 8 years about the fact that I am a princess. (Rightly speaking, so is every Christian woman or girl, but for me this picture has added significance.) Every time he has, it has been part of a message that not only am I dearly, dearly loved, but I am important to God, not insignificant, and powerful in Christ. It has also been part of a message that God has a plan to use me mightily to increase his kingdom.

When the lady praying for me spoke of this picture she had seen (who, I might add, does not know about this picture, or its significance to me), my soul knew instantly what God was saying to me. I burst into tears because, while it was not what I had been expecting to hear, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

The events of the past 3 years have left me reeling. 3 years ago I believed that God had big plans for my life. (I won't say how big, or in what direction because that would only come across as arrogant; plus, over the past 3 years I've developed a very healthy dose of scepticism that I ever understood what God had been saying to me and I really don't want to wind up with even more egg on my face than I already have.) I believed I understood the big picture and something of how God wanted to achieve that picture in my life. Then the 3 years took place, and everything I thought I believed and knew was called into question, including my most sacred hopes and dreams.

(Edited to add... Angela, if you're reading this [or the wonderful ladies from the morning growth group - please tell Angela to read this] - do you remember what you said to me the last time I saw you, as we were sitting on Sue's couch in her beautiful kitchen? Do you remember what you told me God had said to you was in my future? I've just realised that I'm doing it... right here, right now, with this blog. It's not how I thought it would be - for one thing, it's still so small, but from small beginnings God grows big things, so I'm hopeful that God will grow it further... but I'm doing it! Thank you for your encouragement, your obedience and your faithfulness in speaking out what you thought God had shared with you!)

Following these 3 years I found myself in a place where I didn't see how God would ever use someone like me - someone who was so completely uncertain of everything good Christians are supposed to believe. Sure, I believed that if he wanted to, he would; I just didn't see it happening. I mean, let's be honest here: you can't expect me to pray and listen to God for someone else when I wasn't even on speaking terms with God, or to talk about how amazing God is when I felt he was the worst sort of being ever to have existed... and that's just for starters.

The end result is that I thought my dreams were over. I thought that whatever potential I might have had, had been exploded apart and I would never again know the heights of joy in Christ, or the depth of passion, or the sobering responsibility (and exhilaration) of being on the front lines of the advancing kingdom again. I would never know the tremendous satisfaction of actually living my dreams. And I was coming to terms with that.

I was coming to accept that the status quo was all I could ever expect, that between motherhood and the other demands on my time, this was as good as it was ever going to get for me. Sure, I could do lots of good stuff and be a good person, but for a Christian, being good isn't what it's about. There's an ocean of difference between being good or doing good stuff, and being in relationship with God that makes you a part of his army advancing against the kingdom of darkness, equipping the saints and raising others up.

In the split second that the woman praying for me tonight started saying "princess", I knew exactly what God was trying to tell me, and it nearly blew me away. It was this: "Nothing has changed: the plans remain in place."

Do you have any idea of the significance of those words in my life? The prophecies that God spoke over me are all still valid. Still valid!?! Can you believe that? My mind is really struggling to get to grips with this. I thought I'd blown it. I thought I'd strayed, taken a wrong turning, headed off down the wrong track, but that's not what God was saying tonight. (At least, if I heard him correctly, that's not what he was saying.)

I thought I knew what the plan was; I thought I knew where God was leading me, and I thought I understood what he wanted from me. Then, everything fell apart. Now, it seems God is saying that things are still on track. But if they are, then I have absolutely NO CLUE how we get from A to B. The last 3 years have taught me to doubt what I thought I knew, so I'm not even sure that I ever understood where point B is, let alone how to get there now from here. I'd be lying if I said I'm not more confused now than I was before!

And yet...

And yet!

The joy of this evening is that God still has a plan for my life, a big plan; a plan that means my life will not just be an existence; a plan that means that when I'm on my death-bed I won't be looking back with regret - I'll be celebrating the difference I made in the world and in God's kingdom.

I am still a princess. I am still dearly loved. I am still important. I am still significant.

So while I'm more confused than ever, and while I still don't know what God wants from me, or where he's leading me, or why he has allowed certain things to happen, tonight marks an important step for me. God's plans for me are still on track.

The door of hope has opened just a crack for me and I dare to dream that maybe, just maybe, God still plans to give me the desire of my heart - to be greater than 'just' a teacher, or 'just' a mother, or 'just' a Christian - to really make a difference in this world for the sake of his kingdom using the gifts he's given me.

A lot of things still make no sense to me... but tonight I am able to set aside my doubts and my fears and just trust. (I'm sure that in the days ahead I will see the Deceiver at work... pray with me that I will be able to walk steadfastly in this truth when that time comes!) I have no idea how long I will be able to stay on this mountain top, appreciating the vista, but for as long as I am permitted to stand here, I will simply enjoy the view and marvel at the mystery of God's ways. He is in control and all is well with my soul.

Friday, June 06, 2008

APS strikes again...

Maybe it's psychosomatic, but I doubt it. I'm starting to notice my APS symptoms more and more.

(For those who are new to my blog, I have a blood condition called Anti-Phospholipid Syndrome, which is an auto-immune disease which causes me to produce more blood clotting factors than I should. The result is that my blood is more sticky than most people's, which puts me at tremendous risk of developing Deep Vein Thromboses, and is also the cause of Janel's premature birth, and Zoe's stillbirth.)

When I was first diagnosed last year, I didn't really think I had many of the symptoms, but now I'm beginning to think that actually I have a lot more than I thought. I think I just used to write off various things as having other causes, because I couldn't explain them any other way.

Anyway, today I think another symptom occurred. I had a migraine - my second this month. I had to leave school early and come home. I can handle the dizziness, head pain (although that was really quite awful - even lying still in a dark room I wanted to cry from the pain, but it was so sore I didn't dare in case I made my eyes more sore), and I can even handle the need to move slowly and stay away from light. What I can't really handle is the nausea. There is nothing I hate more than that feeling of imminent vomiting. YUCK!

I definitely need to get my blood checked again, but I don't think we can afford it. So, we'll have to wait till October when the medical aid will (hopefully) pay for it. Sigh! Till then, I think I'm going to put myself on a daily low dose of aspirin. I hate taking drugs though. I really hate the monotony of having to remember to take a pill every day. Sigh! Maybe I can wait a few more weeks before starting.....

The other good news is that: I HAVE LOST WEIGHT!! Not only have I lost centimeters, but this morning I stood on a scale for the first time in weeks, and I've lost 3kg. WOO HOO!! That made my day, despite having a migraine later.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

In my spare time (ha ha!) I try to keep abreast of happenings and dealings in my field. It's part of my contractual obligation as a teacher, but mostly I do it because I'm really interested in finding out what's new in the world of Biology, teaching and leadership. As a result, I subscribe to quite a few RSS feeds.

I'd like to share two recent 'finds' with you. The first is from a social network site called, organised by the folk from Huddlemind Labs. This is an education site for South Africans (and others across the world) by South Africans - Capetonians, actually! It deals with all forms of education, not just school-based (although that is the dominant market).

ANYWAY, I read a brilliant post today about the difficulty of teaching in any school in the modern age, where pupil:teacher ratios are increasing, money for resources is decreasing and kids are feeling there is less light at the end of the tunnel. It's well worth reading, because it's just SO inspiring. I think Igno has captured what is, for me, the reason I love my job.

The second thing I'd like to share with you is the AMAZING news that a Canadian teenager has discovered a strain of bacteria that not only have the ability to digest plastic, but quite like it too! Even better, he's discovered that if you put this strain of bacteria with another particular strain, the first strain digests even MORE plastic. What does this mean for ordinary people? Well, just that we now have a solution to all our non-biodegradable plastic waste!! How amazing is that!? You can read the article about it here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Play nice

My mother used to tell me to 'play nice'. She would say it both seriously and in jest: seriously when my siblings and I were being mean to each other or the pets; in jest when I was blowing off steam about someone. If she were listening now, she would tell me to 'play nice'.

I have to be careful of what I say, because I know that people I work with will be reading this, and I don't really want to gossip, but I do need to blow off some steam, so apologies if this post doesn't read as well as it should.

There is someone at work who rubs me up the wrong way. Let's call this person Jo/e (that way he/ she could be either sex. Jo/e has zero people skills. Till recently, I managed not to antagonise Jo/e - who has a nasty habit of being incredibly rude to others. Others have commented to me with amazement that I have managed to remain on Jo/e's good side. Despite the fact that Jo/e had not bitten my head off, or insulted me, I could see why people would not like him/ her.

But knowing something intellectually and knowing it exponentially are two completely different things.

In the last few days, Jo/e decided that I had done something wrong. Instead of talking to me about it, or trying to find out why I had acted as I had, or merely asking me not to take that particular action again, he/she made an incredibly sarcastic comment to me. It was designed to humiliate me. I thank God no-one else was around to hear the comment. I was embarrassed and hurt by it, but not humiliated. I tried to stand up for myself, but I was so shocked by Jo/e's comment that I didn't really do a good job. Instead, I opted to remove myself from the situation and say nothing further to Jo/e.

Then, yesterday morning, Jo/e greeted me like we were best pals, as if nothing had occurred the previous week - no apology, no nothing. Again, I was flabbergasted.

Today I discovered that Jo/e has also failed to communicate some fairly important information to me regarding a project we have both been assigned to...

I really don't know how to play this one out. On the one hand I really don't want to create more conflict with an individual whose character does not allow for this to be resolved, and with whom I have to continue to work for as long as I remain at this school. On the other hand, I want to be bitchy to him/ her and inflict the same embarrassment and pain on him/ her that he/she has inflicted on me.

I chatted about this to another colleague who deals with Jo/e on a regular basis, asking for advice. The advice was to just let it go, that Jo/e really doesn't know better; that trying to get resolution is only going to make life more difficult for all the staff. It's probably very wise advice. (You can hear there's a "but" coming...) BUT...

I want justice. I want an apology, a recognition that what was said was not only insensitive, but hurtful and inappropriate. Since I'm unlikely to get that, I feel so frustrated and fed-up I could scream. I just know that until I feel justice has been achieved, I'm going to have to battle an intense desire to be bitchy to Jo/e every time I see him/ her. 'Play nice'.... ja right, like I really want to do that.

But Mom was always right, so maybe just this once, I'll actually listen and heed her advice. Violence (physical or otherwise) never solves anything. As my boss is fond of saying, it only makes this worse. In this case, it wouldn't just be me that things would be worse for, it would have an impact on the kids and our other colleagues too, and that really isn't fair.

So - I guess I'm going to have to suck it up and just 'play nice' when I see Jo/e tomorrow. Sigh! This being godly thing is SO much tougher than it looks from the outside.


I reached another milestone tonight. For the first time that I can remember since returning to SA (and possibly since Zoe died) I was able to pray out loud, in front of other people. For me, that marks a significant step forward.

Till now, while I've been able to pray on my own, or occasionally with Graeme, I've felt unable to pray with others. It's hard to explain, because I never used to have that problem. On the one hand, I think I felt so far from God, the things I felt I needed to pray about were not things that I wanted to say out loud in front of other people. On the other hand, I've really struggled with why God would listen to me, and answer me, when it appears he failed to do that on so many issues - so why bother? And on the other hand I think I was intimidated by some of the people I was with, and so didn't feel willing to open myself up to their potential criticism. And on the other hand (no - I don't actually have 4 hands, but I do have 2 hands and 2 feet, which is close enough) I've been so absorbed by my grief and my own little life that I've had no compulsion or desire to pray for others, or to really consider their pain. How self-absorbed is that?! But it's the truth.

Grief makes you completely blind to everything other than your own pain. It's like a wolf caught in a trap - if left to its own devices, it would chew its own leg off to escape, even to the extent of completely ignoring any other threat. Sometimes grief feels a bit like that - you feel like you need to chew off that part of you that is in extreme pain, to the exclusion of everything else. But I digress....

Anyway, tonight - I can't explain why it was different (well, no, actually, I probably can, but I choose not to), but it was. I felt completely free to pray out loud tonight, and it was great. It gave me such hope that things between me and God will get sorted out, and that they will be better than ever. I'm sure I'll have a valley moment in a few days again, but for now I'm enjoying the mountain top view.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Heaven's demographics

One of the blessings (and I use that word knowing full well what it's import is) of losing a child, as I have done, is that it opens your world up to all the others who are suffering in a similar way to you. There's a lovely verse about ministering out of the comfort we have each received. It describes so well the way things seem for me at the moment.

God seems to be bringing these people into my life so that I can encourage them - share my story and frustrations, listen to theirs, and then encourage them in whatever way I can. This is a blessing. To help others, to make a difference in their lives - there is nothing better. (Except maybe sitting cuddling Janel on my lap and smelling her hair. If I could bottle that smell and sell it I'd be a multi-millionaire overnight!)

I know so many women (and couples) now who have fertility problems of one sort or another - from the seemingly easy-to-cure problem of not having a partner to the almost impossible-to-cure-so-only-possibility-is-to-have-IVF-and-even-that-may-not-work problem. All of them have experienced the longing for a child that only those for whom the blessing of children has been denied can truly understand. Many of them have also experienced the heart-wrenching pain of losing a child. Some of them have lost their baby in the first few weeks of the pregnancy; others, like me, at the end.

Over the weekend I met up with one such friend, who recently had a miscarriage, and we shared our frustrations. Our situations are completely different, because I fall pregnant at the drop of a hat, but have immense difficulty in bringing that pregnancy to full term. She, on the other hand, has immense difficulty falling pregnant, but no problems bringing her pregnancy to full term. Yet, our frustrations are so similar, and our obsession with having another child is identical.

After she left, I was thinking about all of us in this fertility/ child-bearing issues boat, and how crazy we must sometimes seem to those on the outside looking in. We definitely are obsessed, and yet, it's a completely sane obsession, if that makes sense.

Then I got to thinking about all of our missing children - the ones we've lost along the way. There are a lot of them. As I started counting all of them it struck me that heaven's demographics must be very different to ours here on earth. There must be a lot of babies and children, and a lot of elderly, with very few people in between. And isn't that just the way it should be? Who loves little kids more than grandparents? So all these precious little missing angels of ours are up in heaven, being spoilt rotten by all these grandparent types! And that made me smile. There's a certain economy about that which makes an odd sort of sense.