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.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Goedgedacht Farm

"..and the waters kept on rising..."

In case you didn't get the quote, it's from "Captain Noah's Floating Zoo". One of the most memorable moments of my matric year was singing in the joint choir with our brother school. We performed this work, and Mozart's Requiem Mass.

Anyway, here are some photos I took standing in the driveway of Nellie's nursery school about a week ago. Look for the pavement on the opposite side of the road.

Weekend away

Thanks to Neotel 'accidentally' damaging Telkom cables as they were installing their own, we have been internetless since the middle of the week. Of course, no sooner had Telkom fixed the problem (took them over 48hrs, and at first they kept saying there WAS no problem... like, uh, I can't use my phone, dude, because IT'S NOT WORKING and it WAS working while someone was in the middle of a phone call when it just suddenly STOPPED working, so like, we know that IT'S NOT WORKING...) than we went away for the weekend.

I've had withdrawal symptoms.

But on the up side, it forced me to figure out how to access twitter and facebook on my phone... and as a bonus, I figured out what MXit was all about, and I'm definitely going to get into that, methinks. WAY cheaper than texting people - it looks a lot like skype, except on your cell phone.

The ICT conference I went on was great - well worth giving up some holiday time. Not sure it was worth 3 whole days, but definitely worth at least 2.

We had a lovely weekend away. I actually got to read BOOKS... It's been so long since I read one that I'd nearly forgotten what they looked like. So instead of a week long holiday, I got 2 days. But it was nice while it lasted.

Nellie was as cute as always - see her blog for a cute little video of her. She's really into rhymes and songs at the moment. While walking along in a field, we spotted some bees, and she spontaneously burst out into song - one I'd never heard before... and one that (at first hearing, anyway) sounded distinctly rude! Hence, I had to capture it on video to be sure I'd heard right. But it's perfectly safe, and very cute.

Once again, I need to upload the video from the video recorder, then I'll post it here for you. We went to beautiful Retreat Centre near Riebeeck Kasteel (in the Swartland) - and had perfect weather. It was lovely to have an enforced rest.