Sunday, December 27, 2009

Zoe

Zoe, my baby girl. I miss you. I envy those who have the courage to sit and pen a poem to their lost angels. I can't do it. It hurts too much to think about you for the length of time it would require of me to do you justice.

Life with your baby brother is now so busy I feel I hardly have a moment to think of you. He brings me such joy, you know? He's the complete opposite of your big sister. She's so pensive; he's so full of joy. I wonder what you are like?

I was struck afresh this evening that my hunger for you will never vanish. What I wouldn't give to have you hug me, or smile at me, or laugh with me, or to have one conversation with you.... Of course, only one of any of those would never be enough - in fact, it might make my longing even worse, but I'd still gladly pay whatever price was demanded for it.

I miss you so much, baby girl. I can't explain it to anyone who hasn't lost a child. They just don't understand. I'm not even sure I do. I'm not sure how one continues to grieve for a person you never knew, but I do and I know that I always will.

Those 9 months were all too brief, and I know I didn't pay attention to you the way I should have, the way I did when I was pregnant with your sister, or with your brother. With her, she had my attention because the whole experience was so new. With your brother, he had my attention because I was so terrified I would lose him like I lost you. But you, sweet child... I lost out on you, and you lost out on my love as a result. I was so busy looking after your sister, working, and hurling my guts in the loo it never even occurred to me that anything might be wrong. I'm so sorry. I really am. I wish I could do it over and love you the way you deserved to be loved.

And now, even though I have your brother to hold and cuddle, tonight I still feel the empiness you left behind. And there are no words for that. I miss you. I ache for you. I love you - please never forget that.

I hope and pray that we will meet again, and that we will celebrate Christmas as one big happy family one day. Until then though, however happy and joyful our Christmases are, I know that part of my heart will always be sad, because you aren't with us and I wish you were. I wish you were.

I wish I could see your smile, hear you laugh, watch all your 'firsts' - rolling over, starting solids, pushing up on your arms, crawling, learning to hold your own bottle, taking your first step, saying your first word... I wish I could watch you sleeping, with your arms spread wide and your breathing even. I wish I could get scared because your infant breathing was so shallow it would seem you weren't breathing at all. I wish I could blow zerbits on your tummy, and feet, and in your neck. I wish I could how much pleasure you derived from the life around you. I wish I could watch you develop your skills - would you have been a painter, or a writer, or a musician, or a sportswoman, or a baker? I wish I could have held your hand as you stepped out into the road. I wish I could have taught you how to ride a bike and swim. Much, much further down the road, I wish I could have watched you graduate and get married.

I miss you, darling child. And I grieve for all the things that parents are usually privileged to experience with their kids. I grieve for not seeing your beautiful face, or smelling your sweet baby smell....

... and nothing can put that right or bring you back.

and yet the longing continues. It is easier now than it was in the beginning. I can usually talk about you now without even feeling a twinge of a tear. I can think about you without crying.

But still, it's the unexepcted grief that side-swipes me; the little things. Like tonight and watching that movie. Absorbed in another's story, I often don't realise how open my heart is, and how vulnerable, and then a line is delivered like that one, and because my heart isn't guarded, the pain rises again to the surface.

Crying helps, oddly. Even though it's hopeless crying, because I know that the pain remains after I have no more tears to cry, it still helps, somehow. It feels good to acknowledge once again just how precious you are, and how much I miss you, and how much I love you.

One day, my precious, we will be together again. I know that. But the waiting seems to go on for so long.

Yet I dare not speed it up, or hurry it along. Your brother and sister still need me. My heart would break afresh if they had to grow up without my love. I pray that God spares me until they are old with children of their own, so that I may love them fully and completely, the way children are supposed to be loved. But making that choice also means that I choose to prolong my private agony. I guess that's the sacrifice of being a parent to you. Every parent makes sacrifices for their children - sometimes the sacrifices are for all the kids, and sometimes they are for an individual child. This is my sacrifice for you - that right now I have to put the living before the dead.

And as if he knows - your brother is stirring. I love you, sweetheart. Always. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

SHARK!!

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While out looking at the lights in Adderley St, we stopped to feed Nathan and discovered a lovely little square at the front (back?) of the Capetonian Hotel that links across to Jetty St. The square is filled with interesting, life-size statues of people, including a child with his little black motorbike. Closer to Jetty St side, there are several rotating sculptures of sharks.

While my rational mind KNEW that these were just sculptures and that we were far away from the ocean where their real counterparts were, the fact that they were shark-shaped and that they were moving kept me in a state of anxiety the entire time I was there photographing them. It struck me that there really is something instinctual about the fear of large predators. They're well worth a visit though! Pretty amazing sculptures.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do you trust the government?

I was pondering this as I drove home yesterday. I came to the conclusion that I don't. I don't trust any of the government departments I've had dealings with; I expect them to go about things, as my father would say, ass-about-face. I expect them to give me a hard time. I expect them to get it wrong. I expect the officials behind the counter to be unhelpful, obtuse, inefficient, and corrupt.

It's a sad indictment, I know, but it's the way I feel - based on my experiences and my fears.

The only department I feel is anywhere near efficient is SARS. They've got their act together. They respond to emails. They actually get the job done - and quickly - and not just when you owe them. Nope, they get it done within 48hrs. Other than them, every department I've dealt with I've faced incompetencies, people who aren't prepared to look beyond the end of their noses, and just general laziness.

The latest scandal is, granted, not one I've personally experienced, but one that was blogged about by a cyber-friend. He was stopped, while out driving, at a road-block by the Metro police. Because he'd left his driver's licence at home, they decided to arrest him... get this... unless he paid them R4000 in cash. He told them he didn't have it, so they offered to drive him to an ATM so he could get it. Faced with either a weekend in jail, or paying R4000, he chose the latter. Thus, the cops drove him to an ATM where he withdrew the money and they let him go.

This sort of corruption is rife in SA. It's good that the president has set up a hotline to deal with any issues citizens want to report, but I'm not sure that any practical good will come of it because the number is not widely known. I'm sure I could find it if I searched for it, but if it's going to work, then the number ought to be posted all over the place, or why doesn't SARS email it to everyone on their database??

So, I don't trust the ANC, and I don't trust the government. But, I do trust in God - the same God who rescued this nation from the brink of civil war in the first democratic elections. I do trust that He has a plan, a good one, for this nation. I do trust that His will shall be done and His purposes accomplished. How? Quite simply, I think there are a lot of devout, faithful Christians in this country who are listening to Him and praying for us. I can't quite count myself in that lot, because I'm not really listening and I'm not really praying all that much - for anyone, let alone for the whole nation, but I know there are others who are.

Thanks to those brave souls, who help to keep this nation moving in the right direction, often in spite of the obstacles. Thanks that you have faith enough for all of us to be the change we long to see in this nation.

Nathan laughs

Just recently Nathan has really started to laugh when we play games with him. He has learnt to anticipate tickles and starts laughing even before you start tickling. His favourite game is 'peekaboo'. We put the cloth on his face, then he pulls it off - and you should see his face! He's so proud of himself for pulling the cloth off his face so Mommy/ Daddy/ Nellie can exclaim 'Peekaboo!' (I really ought to get that on video too...) Anyway, here's a quick clip of him laughing. It's not as cute as that video of the quads lying on the bed with their mother laughing, but it's still infectious.
video

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Can she get any cuter?

My daughter has become more cute than I thought possible. She's turned into this sweet little child who is loving and kind and helpful, and loves cuddling with me.

Could it be that the extra time with me now that I'm not working and making a real effort to spend quality time with her every day has made a difference? Do you think?

(Of course, she can still whine and cry, of course, but we'll just ignore that for a bit, shall we?)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cute boy!

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More endings and beginnings

So Manto is dead. She of relative infamy has passed. I can't say I'm sorry. Between the stories of her cleptomania and using her power to get moved up the list for a liver transplant (twice) while still being an alcoholic, and the fact that on her watch she condemned so many Saffas to develop AIDS because of her ridiculous Beetroot treatment for HIV, I can't say I feel much sorrow at her demise.

And yet.... She was a mother, with children. She was loved by friends and family, and death due to liver failure is not a nice way to go. As a woman, I feel sorry for her that she died in that manner. I feel sorry for her family who lost a woman they loved.

I wonder where she is now.... When she met her Maker, I wonder what their conversation was like? I wonder what truths lie behind all the news headlines that only she and He know. Was she just covering for Mbeki? Did she really believe all that junk? Did she, in fact, abuse her powers? And when their conversation was complete, where did she go? Is she now in eternal suffering, or is she in heaven?

Despite everything she did, and said, I don't hope she's paying for it now in hell. Sin is sin, and that sin separates us from God, yes. I believe that her actions require punishment. However, I have to hope God was merciful to her - because if God were to demand payment for every sin, then I would be in a lot of trouble. I guess that's the message of Jesus - that his death is the payment, in full, for every sin. But how does it work in practice? Once your sins are forgiven, what happens then? When we stand before God in the moment of our death, and pronouncement is made over our lives, and we're forgiven, what then? What distinction is made between those who lived more godly lives than others? Is there a hierarchy in heaven?

Anyway, on a different tack, another ending: my garden. We finally moved the fence back, so part of the lovely garden I planted a few months back had to be dug up. Then, in the horrible storm we had last week, my incredible lavender bush was blown over. I could sob! So this afternoon I finally made a start at replanting and arranging the garden. I'm hoping to finish phase 1 tomorrow. Phase 2 will have to wait until after Christmas when we (ha ha ha ha) have more money. Either that or I will have to beg some plants off friends. I'm really miserable about my garden having to be dug up, but I'm also hopeful about how lovely it will look again at some point in the not too distant future.

There was another beautiful beginning this week - my colleague gave birth to her beautiful daughter! A few weeks early, but safely here, thank God.

And another beginning... I'm on holiday, FINALLY! After weeks of marking (first at school, then for the matrics) I am finally free... or as free as one can be when one has little kids. If I'm going to get into the garden early tomorrow morning, then I need to get into bed now. Night, night all.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

My gorgeous kids



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4 years old!

When did it happen that my sweet baby girl grew up? How did I miss that? And now she's FOUR! We had the most amazing series of celebrations for her, the highlight of which was the party for her friends & cousins.

I'll do a separate post of photos from the day on Nellie's blog.

We took a bunch of kids to Scratch Patch, then for a picnic, and then for a boat trip around the harbour, during which we saw seals and dolphins. I have it on good authority (from one of Nellie's older cousins) that it was the "BEST PARTY EVER". I was rather pleased with that accolade, until I realised that now she will be expecting something even better next year! Help!

But fun was had by all, including the parents and us, and Nellie was spoilt rotten with presents - lots of stuff we can use during the holidays. As it turns out, that's a good thing as we're not going away these hols, so we will need LOTS to do to keep Madam occupied and out of mischief.

Cycles or spirals or rings within rings?

When I was pregnant with Janel I remember how I suddenly noticed the pregnant women around me. After Zoe died, I remember that I noticed the pregnant women even more than when I was pregnant with Janel. It's a phenomenon that I'd never noticed before: you always tend to notice those who are in the same life stage as yourself, or those who are struggling with the same issues as yourself.

Thinking about this made me realise that somehow, in this modern world, we really have become separated from the cycles of life. I know that this is an old theme, one covered to death by others. Yet, it was brought home to me again just recently.

One of my school friends lost her baby around 10 weeks gestation. This would have been her 2nd child. For her to fall pregnant again required tremendous faith, because her firstborn is ... and here I pause because I can't find the right word. Mentally and physically challenged? Yes, but then, so are we all to some degree. Retarded? I hate that word and refuse to consider it. Handicapped? Yes, but that word conveys more, and less, than his condition has resulted in. Abnormal? Hehehe... what, pray tell me, is normal?? I don't know what to call him. He just is what he is.

Anyway, he requires a lot of physical attention to help him, and will continue to do so for the rest of his life. In this context, I think it is incredibly brave of his parents to consider having another child. I can imagine their fears that something might go wrong with any subsequent pregnancy.... I've been down that road too, although in a completely different context.

SO - the fact that they fell pregnant is an incredible step of faith and trust and joy and hope.... For it to end as it did? Some people might say it's a sign that they're not supposed to have another just yet, or that God showed them mercy by not letting them have another who might share the troubles of their first. Me? I still say it's a tragedy.

There is no pain quite like the pain of a parent losing their child. It doesn't matter that the child's death might be the best thing possible. It still breaks your soul. When your child dies, a part of your very being dies forever too. You never 'get over' it, but you do learn to live around it. After a while it stops consuming you, but the pain is always there - just under the surface.

Is the fact that this death occurred so early in the pregnancy mean it was any less tragic? No. To know that you are growing a life inside you, and then to have that life taken away... it really doesn't matter at what stage; it still breaks you.

In the same week, I learnt of the death of a guy I got to know when I was in school. We didn't spend time together afte we left school, but when I think back to those days, it is with fondness that I remember him. He fought a good battle against colon cancer, but in the end he lost. He leaves behind a wife and 2 young girls. It is really because of his kids that I grieve. No child should ever lose their dad when they're young. It's not fair. No spouse should lose their partner when there are still children to raise. It's just not fair. But it feels even worse when it happens to such an amazing family. Bryan - you will be missed. Robs - our prayers are with you and the girls.

Life goes on. It feels like it shouldn't. It feels, in the face of these tragedies, that the world should stop. But it doesn't. Instead, there are others who are getting engaged, getting married, falling pregnant, and about to have a baby. How exciting and wonderful and joyful!

Except for the people I come into contact with through Born Sleeping (the support group G and I run) I've stopped reading and listening to the stories of others who have lost loved ones. It's just too painful for me. I want to try and enjoy the current cycle of life - enjoy the LIFE that emanates from Nathan - without it being dimmed or reduced by the sorrow that comes from deaths.

Yet I recognise that that is completely selfish, as well as practically impossible. It is not possible to slice life up into convenient little packages like that. Life and death don't come in discrete packages or at discrete moments in your life. They are both taking place around us all the time.

I am still working on how to integrate the them with each other. I'm still trying to figure out how to weep with those who weep, while at the same time being able to mourn with those who mourn - including my own joys and sorrows. Part of me feels guilty for enjoying Nate as much as I do, instead of still mourning Zoe. Yet I recognise that to remain in deep mourning for her would be extremely unhealthy and that failing to enjoy Nathan would be equally unhealthy.

I guess life is about learning to live in multiple emotional states at the same time, without losing your sanity. If you've figured out how to do this, I'd welcome your advice, because at times like this, I find it hard to know how to be joyful and sorrowful at the same time.

6 months!!

Can you believe that our miracle boy is turning 6 months tomorrow? When you say it - "6 months" - sounds like forever, yet it feels like just a few days ago that he was born. In many ways it still feels like we're getting used to having him around, but in other ways it feels like he's been part of our lives for ages now.

Being slighly prem (not technically, since 36 weeks is no longer termed as a 'prem' delivery), I've been trying hard not to compare him to his peers. He is actually a month younger than his peers, which means he's going to take longer to reach his milestones. e.g. he only smiled at 10 weeks, instead of 6, but then, if you add on 4 weeks for his early delivery, he's bang on time.

My amazing son is doing so well; I'm just so proud of him. His achievements to date include:
  • outgrowing his colic
  • mostly outgrowing his reflux (he still has a small problem with this, but nothing dramatic)
  • smiling so readily at everyone and everything, till his eyes scrunch up
  • rolling from side-to-side for ages now (can't remember how early he was, but he was early in this one)
  • grasping toys and pulling them to his mouth
  • finding his toes (he loves playing with his toes)
  • finding his balls (he LOVES playing with his balls... even if I've just removed a poo nappy... oh yes, LOTS of fun that one!)
  • eating 3 meals a day now (starting on stage 2 food already)
  • pushing up on his arms until they are straight
  • pulling his knees up under his bum when he's on his tummy (crawling is not far off, methinks)
  • teething (consequently chewing on everything he can get his hands on or into his mouth, and drooling..... one bib per day is no longer nearly enough!)
  • sitting basically unaided (he still falls over, but he is getting so good at sitting by himself now - which he's so thrilled by)
  • rolling over!
The rolling over is new. He's been on the verge of it for weeks now, but couldn't figure out what to do with his arm that was in the way. On Monday morning I went in to find him on his back when I'd put him down on his tummy. I checked with G before rejoicing, but G confirmed: Nate turned himself over during the night!! Woo hoo!! My boy can turn himself over. Priscilla (our amazing nanny) witnessed it on Tuesday while they were at the park, so I know he's definitely able. All that remains is for me to witness it myself.

Thinking back over the past 6 months I think the thing that I have loved most about him is his nature. He is by nature such a happy, laid back child. He finds joy in everything - it seems to always be brimming just below the surface because it doesn't take much to make him grin or chuckle. He is SO different in nature to Nellie. She's a lot more like me - very serious by nature, tempremental, prone to temper tantrums, a real princess complex, but terribly affectionate. He is the exact opposite (although we have yet to see about the affectionate bit).

How I wound up with this child is a mystery to me. My body was constantly full of adrenalin because of my fears for his life (and mine) that I'm amazed his brain is wired for peace (rather than anxiety) and that he is so joyful. I'm grateful for it, don't get me wrong, because I don't think this household could manage another personality like mine! I am just mystified at how I could produce such a calm, happy baby....

Nathan, my gorgeous boy, well done on making it to 6 months! There is not a day that goes by that I don't thank God for your life and for you. You really are a 'Gift from God'. Watching how you have grown in love for Janel, and the dogs; watching how you grin at all and sundry who stop to talk to you; watching how hard you've been working to reach your milestones - though I know you don't view it like that; watching your desire to be on the move and your frusration that your body doesn't yet obey your will - all these things make me so intensely proud of you. I know that none of them are of my making, they are all you just being you. You are an incredible testimony of the grace of God at work in this world. May your joy be always overflowing and may it always bring healing to those around you, just as it does now to me and to this family. Happy 6 months, my darling!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Where does the time go?

I've had so much to say, just recently, about work, my kids, Twitter, etc, but I simply don't have the time. (Work has been frenetic!) Anyway, the result is that now I almost can't remember what I wanted to say... so, I'm off to help hubbie set up our new bed, put up the Christmas tree, have supper with Ouma and Oupa, and then maybe if there's a spare hour at the end of the day, I'll try really hard to remember what I was going to say and get it down on 'paper' for all eternity.

Friday, November 27, 2009

National Geographic Photo Competition 2009

If you're into photography at all, you really should do yourself a favour and see these shots - some absolutely AMAZING ones. I can't wait for the winners to be on exhibition at the Iziko Musuem so I can get to see them in real life...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gorgeous Blogger Award

Thanks to Bee for this nomination! I've had a really miserable day, so it was lovely to get this.

In order to qualify for this nomination, I have to tell you 6 things about myself that you don't know. As a blogger, that's a tough thing to achieve, but here goes.

1) I was born with my lower legs twisted inwards (not the whole leg, just the shin bones) so I had to sleep in callipers. I used to scream so much from them (until I fell asleep) that after 6 months my mother decided (against doctor's orders) to stop using them. Instead, she sent me to ballet from a very, very young age (around 2 years old, I think). You won't notice it now unless I'm super tired.

2) I am hyper-flexive. That means that my ligaments are too loose, so my joints are loose. My legs, for example, bend backwards when I stand up 'straight'. While doing ballet I had to learn to judge what straight meant, as it didn't feel normal to me. (My thumbs also bend backwards - nice party trick, that one! But most of you already know about my thumbs...)

3) I've never liked my body. When I was young, I was too tall, or too thin. I'm still too tall, but now I'm fat. (And yes, I am fat. I may hide it well, but when I'm in my costume you'll see it.) My body is also one that has obviuosy given birth to 3 children and nursed 2. At the moment, my dislike is verging on hatred. I really, really don't like the way I look. Thinking about how much I dislike my body consumes far too much of my time every day, but I don't have the willpower to do anything about it at the moment (either stopping thinking about it, or fixing the problem by eating less/ better and getting up earlier to get some exercise. (Quite frankly, as I'm often up at 4am, or other hours, to be with Nathan, I don't think I can sacrifice any more sleep for exercise...) If I had the money, I'd go for surgery.

4) I have 4 children - two in heaven. I never talk about the first, but that doesn't mean I don't think about him.

5) I don't really like spicy food.

6) I bath about once a year. (And before you begin to think my personal hygiene requires a lot more effort, I do shower daily!) That's why you should never give me bubble bath for my birthday.

So now, I get to pass on this lovely accolade... to Jax, Bron, Caz, Cecily, Julia.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

To the learner reading my blog...

To the kid at my school reading my blog - kindly stop. You have not been invited to do so. I have gone to lengths to keep my private life and work life separate and would like to continue to do so. This blog is my journal about my private life, intended as both a record for me of my life and also as a record for my family who are spread around the world. If strangers want to read it, that's fine because they don't know me and they don't know the people in my life. You are neither a stranger nor family. As such, you are not welcome here. I hope you understand and can be mature enough to respect my wishes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Poetry in motion

One of the things I love about invigilating English exams is the opportunity to read poetry. Of course, as the same poems tend to be used over and over, I don't always get to read a new poem, but that's okay because I like reading my old favourites.

Today, one of the poems (which, typically, I now cannot remember title or poet's name for!) was about a parent letting go of his son as the son was growing up. It describes the scene as he drops his child at school, and the child walking away.

It's been a long time since I've had an emotional reaction to a poem, but OMW did I have one today! My throat closed up, my breathing sped up, my heart started racing, and I could feel myself beginning to cry. I've read this poem several times before (I would say hundreds, but I'm not sure it's that many!), without the reaction I had today.

Reading it, I was struck afresh by the reality that the point of parenting is to make one's children independent; it is to help them grow apart from you. When I thought about letting go of Janel, my heart just about stopped.

I know that the letting go is a gradual process, and that one has time to adjust to it. I know that the letting go is vital. I know that every mother goes through this, and that millions of others have survived the process - including my own mother.

Never the less, I still wondered how my own mother survives it. If she loves me the way I love Janel, it must be a daily agony to her that she is so far away (only a few kms, I know - but she's behind the Boerewors curtain, so it feels like another world) and that we are not in daily contact.
It made me want to pick up my cell and phone her immediately.

Eventually, I had to deliberately think of other things and force my mind away from thinking about this poem, or I would have sobbed my heart out - right there in front of the entire grade 10 group!

I adore my daughter - much as she drives me to distraction. I can't bear contemplating a world in which she is not there, in which she doesn't live in my house, in which she doesn't need me - it's almost too much for my heart to bear. I wonder if every mother feels like this, or if my emotions are deeper for having already lost Zoe?

All I can say is that I do not look forward to the time when she no longer wants to be with me, or hug me, or play with me. I do not look forward to letting go. I know I must. I know it is the healthiest thing for all of us. I know that it probably won't hurt as much as I think it will, because it will happen gradually. But none of that changes how I feel at the moment.

Mwah, Munchkin! Mommy loves you THIS much *stretching out arms as wide as they can go* and THIS much *hugging imaginary child to heart*. A big, big, big, big, BIG, HUGE SUPERHERO bit.
____________________________________________
Edited: The poem is called 'Walking Away" by Cecil Day Lewis.

Walking Away (for Sean)

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day-

A sunny day with the leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled - since I watched you play
Your first game of fotball, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away

Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
with the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.

That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take - the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.

I had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show-
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In the news this week...

I'm sure everyone knows about the absolutely appalling (seriously appalling... Check it out on YouTube) rendition of Nkosi sikelela Afrika at the French rugby games last week. That's old news. More recent news is that, at the same game, the flag was hoisted upside down.

Hmm... last I recall, hoisting a flag upside down was a massive insult to the country and to the flag. I recall being taught that such an action could result in jail time or a hefty fine. So does this mean we're going to go to war with France??

On a personal note, I do feel insulted. Firstly, I can't believe that there are still people in this country who don't yet know our national anthem. (To whit - I can't believe that there is a trio of volunteers cycling around SA with the express intent of stopping in every village and teaching the people there how to sing the national anthem!!) I am even mroe insulted that the Frenchies couldn't have been bothered to check which way the flag goes. I know it's not the most obvious thing in the world - not like flags that have shields or animals or other identifiable images on them - but then, even MORE reason to double check you've got it right.

On a sadder note, in the news yesterday was the story about a group of matrics (A-level kids) at a local high school had finished writing their final Chemistry exam, got in the car, drove away, and had a major accident not 500m from the school exit. The local gossip says the kids were dicing, and tried to overtake a truck. They must have been doing over 100kmh in a 60kmh zone, because their car rolled 5 times. Two of the boys were killed instantly. A third went to hospital in a serious condition (rumours today are rife that he died this morning, but that is yet to be confirmed) and the other two escaped unharmed. One of those unharmed was the driver.

As the boys were muslims, the funeral for one was held today. Apparently, the driver was sitting on the edge of the pavement, crying his heart out. I guess he feels guilty. On the one hand, I want to say - I hope he does he feel guilty and I hope he never forgets what he did. On the other hand, my heart aches for him. That one decision has runied his life. Forever he will have to live with the knowledge that his actions killed not just one but two of his friends (possibly three). Forever, when his name is mentioned, people will say - oh yes, that's that boy from X school around the corner, the one who got his friends killed by dicing. Forever, he will owe a life debt to the families of the boys who died.

And in other, much more mundane news, I am not blogging much at the moment (you say you didn't notice?? Ahh well, that just shows that I'm actually only blogging for myself) because I am into the final throes of the school year. Exams have started and I have TONS of marking. Then, because I'm a sucker for punishment, I'm also going to go and mark matric scripts for about 5 days. (I want the experience, and I need the money, even though it's not much.) So if you don't hear from me until the middle of Dec, please don't be offronted - I'm just not able to get to the computer to blog... but I haven't forgotten you!

And just to make you smile - courtesy of Tertia: After Monday and Tuesday, even the calendar says W T F.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dreaming

When I dream, it is in glorious technicolour, surround sound and HD 3D. Last night was no exception. I dreamt about a group of people I as travelling with. One night, while in a restaurant, two women started arguing about something. As I was dreaming I "realised" that my dream was actually a story that someone was reading to me, and the images I was seeing was my dream. As the person was reading to me, they described how these two women's voices changed as they argued, until they had both revealed they were both cats (in human skins... think Men in Black style) caterwauling and clawing at each other.

At which point, my son woke up in the other room, and thus, so did I.

I was really disappointed, cos I wanted to know how the story ends... I hate not finishing a book I'm reading, or that's being read to me!!

Sigh! Oh well. The best I can hope for is that (since I do occasionally have a dream repeat on me) this one will be repeated at some point so I can finish the book, even if it is a dream book.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Miserable weather

What is it about cold, windy, wet weather that makes us all so miserable? In autumn, as the wind bands shift north again and our prevailing wind direction changes, the weather is rather inclement. After a few gorgeously hot, clear days we seem to be back in winter. First we've had gale force winds for a few days, and today the rain arrived.

There's a big difference between the winter rain in the UK and the winter rain in SA. In the UK it drizzles interminably. In SA it buckets for about a week, then stops for about a week, then buckets for another week, etc. I guess that's why I learnt to hate rain - in the UK you can still go outdoors when it's raining because you don't get a) blown away or b) soaked.

I did have grand plans of FINALLY getting into the garden again today. The lawn is about 15cm high in places. The weeds think they own the lawn, as well as the beds. The dogs think they own anything they can dig up (like my roses). Anything that's left, the snails think belongs to them. I was determined to prove them all wrong today.

After a very disturbed night for me, an emotionally and physically exhausting week back at work, and after seeing the foul weather, I decided to head back to bed this morning after I'd been up for a while. I didn't get much sleep, between Nellie's loud playing and Nate's gurgling to be picked up, but enough that I felt I could suck it up and play nicely with them.

My next plan was then to make use of the foul weather and try to recreate a few files I'd lost in my laptop reformat... (no energy to tell that story now). However, I'd forgotten that the kids have a 6th sense for that kind of thing. No sooner do you decide upon a plan to work than they suddenly discover they absolutely have to, have to, HAVE TO have your attention. So - here we are, at about a quarter to five, and this is the first time I've got to the computer since this morning.

This evening is a no-work night. It's a DATE NIGHT. Yay! Nellie is off at a nursery school sleep-over, and Nate is usually so good about sleeping at night that it's almost as if he's not here after about 7pm. G's organised a fabulous meal, and I'm going to dress up, and we're going to eat at the dining room table. What a treat!

I'm thinking that, to finish it off, I'd like to watch a movie, but we'll see how time goes - in this weather I don't really want to go out and get a movie, and there seems to be something to watch on telly that I don't NEED to go out.

What I would really love right now though, is a big glass of wine. Methinks we will have to open a bottle...and maybe light a fire later. Yup, it's definitely winter again.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

To learn or not to learn...

So Denmark hits another homerun when it comes to assessments. Yup, Denmark is running a trial in which kids are allowed to access the web while writing their exams. Think of it as an open book test in which the book happens to be electronic and self-updating.

The Danes are quite open about the fact that they have no way of preventing the kids from emailing or messaging each other (or anyone else) and that they are relying on the kids' own moral standards to prevent them from cheating in this manner. The head honcho chappie says that they'll be too busy with their tasks anyway, because there are too many of them for them to waste time goofing off like that.

Hmm...

While I think it's a great idea in theory, I'm not sure how it would work in practice. I mean, in theory, what you're assessing is the child's ability to analyse and synthesise. In the current world, in which the www plays such a vital role and information is not only growing at the most rapid of rates but is also so easily available, I think it is (in some ways) silly to assess anything else. After all, we're supposed to be training these kids to be employed in jobs that don't yet exist. In such a world, what's of vital importance is that you are able to analyse and synthesise stuff, problem solve, debate, perform reliable research, etc.

However, I still believe there is a place for the rote learning of some basic information. If you don't know the basics off by heart, then you don't have the groundwork on which to base your analysis.

I'm very interested to see how it works, what the results are like, and (more importantly) how the kids tested in this manner fare in the Big Wide World, not just the World Wide Web.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Not my greatest video effort, I'm afraid. It was taken on my cell phone, while trying to stop Nellie from talking, all while worrying about dropping my phone into the bath.
video
If I'd waited till the weekend, I'd have had no problems. He's just learnt that he can squeal, so takes great delight in doing just that at every opportunity. Good thing he was asleep for the service on Sunday!

Monday, November 02, 2009

First day back, Zoe makes an appearance

It went rather uneventfully, except that my laptop won't talk to the network at all. In fact, the experts can't get it to work, so I've got to back it up later this evening and then they're going to reformat it tomorrow.

Joy.

It was odd being back. I think the fact that we've only got 2 weeks of lessons before the kids are on final exams is part of the problem - I'm struggling to motivate myself to figure out what to do with them. I'm also struggling to get my head together again - thinking in blocks of 43, 44 or 45 minutes just isn't normal. And, to my horror, I discovered that I've forgotten a lot of the kids' names. Thank God for seating plans!!

Being without Nathan wasn't as bad as it could have been. I've been working my way up to today - leaving him with Priscilla for long stretches of time (a whole morning, or a whole afternoon). In that respect it wasn't bad at all. But I did miss him. I think it's the fact that I couldn't just go home anytime.

Coming home was horrible though - I just wanted to snuggle with him, to the exclusion of all else, but Nellie was being whiney and jealous, so I couldn't, and then he got tired and wanted to go to bed. *Sulk!*

What has really messed with my heart though, is reading about a book launch for a book called 'Notes left behind', which launched in Oct. It's a collection of notes and journal entries about a 6yr old girl who died from cancer. It was initially created for her younger sister, Grace, so that when she grows up she would know about her big sister. It's a tragic, heartbreaking story, even if there is some positive redemption at the end.

I really should know better than to watch or read stories about kids who die. I really ought to. Needless to say, I balled my eyes out, then proceeded to beg God (again) not to take my two remaining kids from me. It's really not fair that little kids are victims in this way. It's not fair that they die. Every time I read a story or hear about a child who dies like this, my heart breaks. I know this. So why do I go there? You would think that I would learn, but apparently that part of my brain is dysfunctional.

Speaking of Zoe, we're finally getting around to commissioning a painting to remember her by. We've selected an artist we like, and in Nov/ Dec we're going to get together with her to talk about what we want. It feels poignant, somehow, that we're only doing this now that Nathan is here. I find myself looking at him and wondering how she would have been at his age...

But, back to the story. I'm tired. I'd forgotten how exhausting it is managing a class of teenagers. Thank God it wasn't a full day. I'm still flying by the seat of my pants for the next few days, and probably, just as I get my head in gear, it'll be time to go on exams. Isn't that just typical?

Anyway, I'm going to head for bed just as soon as my laptop is backed up. Hope we all have sweet and pleasant dreams tonight.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Same situation, different reaction

I've been chatting to a Twitter friend about God. He used to believe, but now doesn't. I haven't probed as to the reason yet. (It's hard holding a deep and meaningful conversation when you're limited to 140 characters!!)

He's been reading Richard Dawkins, and has found what Dawkins said in 'The God Delusion' helpful. (VERY briefly, Dawkins argues that there is no God, that everything we THOUGHT was God is just biochemistry and genes at work.) His words were that he found it 'freeing' not to have to believe in God anymore, and commented that maybe he feels this way because of years of disappointment.

In response I told him how, when Zoe died, I wanted nothing more than to give up my faith, because it also felt like I would have been freeing myself. I really and truly wanted nothing more to do with God, the Church, faith and Christians. I wanted to believe that there was no-one up there listening to me, no-one up there at all, actually. It would have been so much simpler.

For the regular readers of this blog, you will know how much I have struggled with my faith since then. However, as I have struggled, I've found myself being drawn back into faith, rather than being repulsed from it. Ultimately, for me, I find myself echoing the words of the disciples: "To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." These words were uttered after Jesus' teaching caused hundreds to reject him. At that point, Jesus offered the disciples a way out, asking them if they wanted to leave him too. He didn't apologise for or retract the tough teaching. Equally, he didn't explain it and make it easier. He simply asked them whether or not they wanted out.

Like the disciples, I find Jesus' teaching very hard to swallow at times. His standards are so high, and often so contrary to the prevailing culture. Yet, it's either His way, or the highway. With God, there are no middle grounds, not in this. Everyone, eventually, has to make a choice about which camp they choose to stand in. If you choose the God camp, you don't get to pick and choose which beliefs to accept. It's an all-or-nothing deal.

In the end, for me, God has the words of eternal life. Life does not make sense in any other context. So, I battle on, grappling with the stuff I find difficult. Actually, more accurately, God has battled on with me - my return to faith has been all God's doing. My part has been limited to submission/ acquiescence and small steps of redeveloping trust in Him.

Graeme, on the other hand, has had a completely different reaction to mine. We both faced the same crisis of faith over Zoe. I have found my way back (or more accurately, I have been drawn back). He has not.

Grieving is a different process for each person, and takes a different length of time for each. I'm hoping that he is still in the place I was, and that, with time, as his heart heals, he will return to faith, in the same way that God has drawn me back to himself. I hope that he doesn't get stuck. I hope that ... I hope that he's not too proud or rebellious to allow God to draw him back. I hope, most of all, that he finds peace - the shalom peace of God that passes all understanding.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Times opinion

You may or may not have read the Sunday Times article on the 18th Oct about the Top 100 schools in SA. I only bought the paper because someone commented to me about the article and I wanted to see which schools had 'made' it. When I read the criteria, though, for how the schools were decided upon, I became more and more incensed.

Time to 'fess up: I only became more and more incensed because I realised that the school at which I teach will NEVER make the list. I believe it should be on the list. It's a pretty phenomenal school. But this rather personal gripe got me thinking, and the more I thought, the more I realised how biased The Times' approach was.

Being me, I got all hot under the collar about it, so I decided to write to the Times and give them an earful. Well, they published it. Granted, they edited it somewhat, but the essence of what I wanted to say is there - I think they did a good job of retaining the essence, even if they lost the meat.

Thus far, I've only had good reviews. That doesn't mean to say it's a really good piece, but it's still nice! (I love having a fan club!!) It's also nice hearing from people who's opinions I respect, saying they agree with me.

So - I can now say I'm a published author. How's that for cool?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One week left

The End Is Nigh.

No - not THAT end (although if you believe the movie "2012", we're all about to die anyway).

I mean the OTHER end. You know. The end of my "holiday" one.

And in this final week, rather than getting to spend oodles of time with my precious son (who, I might add, is growing daily in the cuteness scores), I will instead be spending time trying to:

a) get the back garden finished (weeding, planting, weeding, filling in holes the dogs have dug, weeding, oh - and more weeding!)
b) get the car fixed (it's got 2 leaks now...)
c) care for my sick husband (who now has my gastro bug - sorry Babes! I know how k** you feel and will do my best to keep the kids & dogs quiet and out of your hair)
d) write Christmas cards to post overseas (can you believe it's that time of the year again?!)
e) finish the planning for the matrics for 2010
f) get the electrical certificate for the house & finish the last few handyman jobs that are left over from our renovations
g) organise Janel's party (which is in about a month's time... eeek!)
h) do a handover with my colleague

And it's not as if I have hours and hours in which to do it. Nellie has swimming on Tues & Fri afternoons, play therapy on Wed (after which we rush back to nursery for Monkeynastix), and I have a coffee date with a new friend on Tues morning.

Right. So nothing too strenuous then.

Oh yes, and if there's time, I would like to plan my own birthday party (which is in 3.5 weeks time). I mean, it would be nice, for a change, to actually celebrate my life, as opposed to letting the moment slide by because I'm... oh, I don't know... TOO BUSY?!?!

Having a daughter who's birthday is so close to my own is rather a pain. I didn't organise that terribly well, did I? Especially as my primary love language is still presents. Yup. I reeeeally didn't plan that too well*.

Well then, I guess I'd better go and get my beauty sleep or I'll never survive this last week of "holiday", hadn't I?
_______________________________________

*Note to self for next child**: make sure the birthday is in March - far enough away from siblings and parents and Christmas for you to get decent presents.

** Note to readers: There is only a 0.02% chance of there BEING a next child. At least, those are the stats if it's biologically mine. Which it might not be. Or might not be if I'm still alive after G has read this and not killed me for even suggesting the idea of another child...

Movie recommendation

Do yourself a favour. Go and see "Cloudy with a touch of meatballs". Not only is it a GREAT movie, it has a GREAT message. It's funny, sweet, serious and beautifully illustrated.

And then do yourself another favour. Sit through the credits. Watch out for the vignette of London. And then die laughing! When you've seen it, you can come back here and laugh with me. I would hate to spoil it for others, so won't say more.

As fantastic as the movie was, I think that single moment was the absolute bestest, BEST moment of the movie for me.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! The creators are definitely people after my own heart.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Matric paintings 2009

A few images I took today of our graphic artists - just the ones I liked.
Mishkaa Armien

Kirsten Koch
Kirsten Koch
Jade Dowrie
Jade Dowrie

Jade, talented girl that she is, got 100% for her FINAL Art prac mark when it was moderated just recently.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oh yes, THAT's why teachers need holidays

Today I went back to work for Valedictory. The day started with breakfast at 7.20am, and ended with tea and biscuits & a viewing of the matric art* at around 12h00. Needless to say, after chatting to some of the kids & staff, I only left at around 13h00.

Nate was incredible. Given that there were well over 700 people there at one point, that there was a marimba band playing only 1 table away from us, and that roughly 200 people talked to him, he was remarkably calm by the end. Of course, his nap and feeding routine went out the window, and we're reaping that particular whirlwind as I type (so this will be short!).

It was amazing hearing all the speeches and seeing the kids one final time. They are an incredible bunch of kids and I will miss several of them. They certainly are more self-aware and more aware of what they're bidding farewell to than I was at their age! I certainly shed a tear (which is more than I've done for any other year group) or two during the proceedings.

However, what strikes me now is how tired I am. It's not just the early start. Rather, I'm suffering from the same thing Nate is - massive over-stimulation. One forgets so quickly how stressful it is just being in the same place as 800 kids. It's very different to being in an office complex with 800 adults - even with all the noise of computers, photocopy machines, telephones, etc. Kids make a LOUD noise! Passing in the corridors, during break times, at sports, during group work... there is a constant noise that is not mitigated by carpets and other soft furnishings. Schools have a lot of hard surfaces, and sound reflects easily off hard surfaces.

Before you factor in how exhausting teaching itself is, one already has higher stress levels because of the constant noise one must acclimatise to. Having been away for nearly 5 months, I've obviously lost my ability to physically tolerate a certain amount of noise. By that I don't mean to imply that I found the noise unpleasant today. I didn't. I just found it incredibly tiring.

Then, when one does factor in the teaching, the admin, the stress from silly government employees who are power hungry and therefore determined to make you realise that the sun shines out of their backsides, and low pay which leaves one in a constant state of moderate financial crisis, it's no wonder that teachers NEED a holiday every 3 months. It's either that or they'd lose their minds (or leave teaching, which many do choose to do).

I loved being back - I really have missed everyone - but oh boy! It's going to take some getting used to again, and while I do that, I'm going to be really, really tired. I just know it. Thank God it's only 6 weeks till holidays!
________________________________________________________________
*Another post to follow with some images of some of our top graphic artists.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kids of this age...

... drive their parents insane.

I was reading Cecily's blog about her 3.5yr old daughter, and nearly hosed myself. She could have been describing Janel!

1) The endless talking... And it's not just the 'Why?' stuff.

Mommy, look at my story (this while we're driving to nursery) - LOOK Mommy.
I can't, Sweetie. I'm driving.
Look when we stop then.

Mommy, you stopped and didn't look. LOOK Mommy.
OK. At the next stop. (duly examine book for all of one millisecond)
What's happening here, Mommy?
[make up something that seems vaguely correct]
Why?.......

Or the constant repeating of some question. About 10 times. In a row. I've learnt that in order to stop her after the first or second repeat, I have to practice reflective listening: Yes my love, the [use exact words here...] bus was very big and that man had a funny hat on.

Of course, this WILL be followed by a 'Why?', and then another, and another, and another. And although I hate myself for it, eventually I will get to the point where I will simply say: NO MORE QUESTIONS. (Why? Because I said so/ because you're giving me a headache/ just because.) I don't want to stifle her natural inquisitiveness. I want her to remain curious about the world for the rest of her life. I want her to continue asking questions. BUT... OMW! Enough already!

What are you watching, Mommy?
7de Laan (my favourite soapie, in Afrikaans, which she doesn't understand)
What's that man doing?
[brief age-appropriate explanation]
Why?
[brief age-appropriate explanation]
What did he say?
[brief age-appropriate explanation]
Why?
[brief age-appropriate explanation]

What...
[mother rudely interrupts] BE QUIET. I'm trying to watch my programme.
Why?
NELLIE!
Sorry Mommy.

[3 secs pass]
Mommy, what's that girl doing?.....

2) Tantrums. We didn't really have the terrible twos. We had some small issues during the terrible (is there a word that starts with 'th' meaning aful??) threes, but we definitely seem headed for the f***ing fours. Ever since our holiday away where it was just Mommy, Nellie and Nathan - no Daddy - she has been acting out/ up. Wanting to be a baby - lying on her back, kicking her legs and crying; or wanting to be rocked while she pretends to cry. Wanting to be carried. All. the. time. Performing when it's time to have supper/ go to bath/ go to bed.

Not just performing, but putting on the performance of her life. Sometimes she screams so much she vomits. And we've started with the hitting, kicking and spitting. The only thing that seems to work with her is threatening to leave her (not as in LEAVE her, but as in leave the room). Take away her audience and suddenly she starts to conform. In the process she tries to play us off one against the other. 'I want Mommy to bath me.' Mommy duly arrives to wash her. 'Go away. I want Daddy.' Whether Daddy arrives, or whether Mommy says no, the crying will begin. If I leave the room, she screams. She really has a fear of abandonment, so I hate having to use that tactic to get her to behave, but it's the only thing she seems to understand. Smacking doesn't work. Taking away treats doesn't work. (I hate to think what she's going to be like as a teenager if she's already this strong-willed. She definitely gets that from me.)

3) The dogs. She gives them conflicting messages, then complains and cries when they get confused.

Baggins! Baggins! Come, boy. NO Alyssa. NOT YOU. NOOOO 'Lyssa. 'Lyssa.. NOOO.
No Baggins! [when he lies down or starts to play with Alyssa]. NOOO.
Mommy, Baggins won't play with me.
[Baggins, getting no joy from Alyssa, who is only interested in the Nellie given that she is only interested in Baggins, turns to play with Nellie, and starts to gently bite her arm/foot/leg]
OW, Baggins! NOOO Baggins.
Mommy, Baggins bit me. Naughty Baggins {hit the dog}.
'Lyssa. 'Lyssa. Come here girl. [Alyssa comes and dutifully lies down]
NO, Baggins, NO. [as Baggins attempts, once more, unsuccessfully, to draw Alyssa into a game]
Mommy, 'Lyssa is playing with Baggins [not really, she isn't. She just can't escape Baggins as she was lying down for you to pat her and now he's jumped on her.]
....

4) The falling over... It would seem that the gravity Nellie experiences is about 3 times as great as that which the rest of humanity struggles against. I say that because Nellie seems incapable of standing up on two feet. She is forever leaning against me, or against something else, then losing her balance and falling over, hurting some part of her anatomy in the process, which requires it to be kissed better and a bit of a fuss being made.

It's worst when she's in a funk and sulky. Maybe her mood is like that when the earth is pulling on her most. I could see how that might make one irritable and otherwise. Or maybe the earth is pulling on her most at the times when she is moody and sulky. I certainly feel the earth's pull more strongly when I'm in a funk - I want nothing more than to lie on my bed at those times. Yes, must definitely be the latter I think.

Either way though, it annoys the hell out of me because her extra weight on my legs usually unbalances me. (You would think that, by now, I'd learnt to expect the unexpected lurching from across the room to lean on me. Sadly, not so.) Since I'm often carrying Nathan, or some other equally heavy object, it's a battle to remain upright. When I don't, then some part of my anatomy also suffers, but there's no-one who kisses my owwies better. No sirree. I'm on my own in this one. (Sometimes I hate being an adult.)

But then, there are the things that I absolutely adore about her (in no particular order).

1) How often she tells me that she loves me. (OK, sometimes it's just because she knows she's in trouble and wants to avoid it by distracting me.)

2) The fact that she so desperately wants to spend quality time just with me (no Nathan or Daddy). While I know it's a reaction to Nathan, it still makes me feel special.

3) How incredibly helpful she can be - fetching and carrying things for Nathan, putting his dummy in when he cries, taking her plate to the kitchen after her meal, getting herself some water to drink when she's thirsty... she's definitely growing up.

4) How nicely she plays with the dogs. It's taken the better part of a year for her & them to get comfortable with games, but there are times when we don't have the scene above and they actually play very nicely together. It's wonderful to see.

5) How much she loves Nathan. She is desperate for him to grow up so he can play with her, but even though he can't, she still talks to him and wants to include him in stuff. 'Mommy, tell Nathan what I'm doing. Tell him.' [I tell him.] 'What does he say, Mommy?' [make up something appropriately linked to her activity]. 'And what else, Mommy?' 'Nothing else, my love.' 'NO Mommy, AND WHAT ELSE?' [make up something else] 'Now what's he saying, Mommy?'...

The problem, of course, as I see it, is that she does the things I love while AT THE SAME TIME doing the things I find annoying. Which makes it incredibly hard to focus only on the behaviour one wants to encourage.

But reading Cecily's blog was helpful. It seems that I am not alone in this. It would seem that ALL little kids (you can't call them toddlers anymore, can you?) go through this. It would seem that this is a developmental phase which requires that all kids annoy the hell out of their parents.

That's all fine and well, but I'd quite like to know when this phase will end. I'd quite like to know that she's not going to be miserable from now till teenagerhood, and then turn into the monster from hell when she turns 13, or so. Or worse, turn into Kevin. God forbid!

However, the story of Zagazoo bears no such comfort for me. Nope. It would seem that somewhere in the fine print I missed the bit about annoying behaviours that start during toddlerhood and last until some unspecified time in the future when they have annoying children of their own. Damn! Maybe I should get glasses...

Everything in 3's

G made a comment to me, a while back, about the way Nellie talks, and now I've started noticing it EVERYWHERE.

Why is it that Saffas repeat everything 3x? Sorry, sorry, sorry! Morning, morning, morning! No, no, no! Ok, Ok, Ok. Ja, ja, ja.

If you don't believe me, just start listening to those around you. I'm rather bemused by it. It's a rather redundant thing to do, but it would seem that it's a common Saffa trait.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flooding again

When I went to take Nellie to nursery on Monday, this is what greeted us.

The entrance to nursery is just off the photo, on the right, where you can see the pavement disappear. I had to park on the pavement around the corner and walk between the pavement and the wall in order to get in without getting wet. According to the principal, this is not the worst flooding they've seen, but this was a lot worse than the winter floods we've had this year. Maybe winter is just reminding us that it isn't actually summer yet.
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Orange Monster 2

Nellie was the first orange monster in our family. However, it seems that another one has appeared...
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Ok, yes, I know I'm VERY behind the times. I mean, I haven't seen Up yet either... but bear with me. Eventually I'll catch up (like in a gazillion years). In the meantime, here's my penny's worth on this movie.

As you all know, it's the story about a German commandant's son who befriends a Jewish child in a concentration camp. They don't have a normal friendship because of the presence of the electric barbed-wire fence between them. However, it is still a fascinating look into Nazi-ism (should that be one 'i'?) from a very fresh perspective.

And as you've all seen the movie already, I know, you all know how it ends. I won't spoil it for the potentially one reader who hasn't, though. But, OMW, what a seriously harrowing ending. Couldn't someone have warned me? I mean - HELLOOOOO??? I should not be watching movies like that. As the ending became obvious, I could feel myself clamming up inside. I just kept thinking - this is Hollywood... they'd never let it happen. It won't happen. His dad will save him. It'll all turn out okay...

And then it happened.

And my heart turned to ice.

And all because of one decision, made from a desire to make it up to his friend for the lie he told.

One split second decision - back in that dining room - to save his own skin or to tell the truth - framed the rest of their friendship, concluding in that horrific way.

As I switched off the DVD player, I was left with several questions: 1) How did that event change his father's paradigm about the 'great' nation? 2) How did it change the relationship between his mother and his father? 3) While I know that he didn't know what the outcome would be of his decision to make it up to his friend for lying, his sacrifice meant the world to his friend. (Can you imagine going through that horror on your own? Wouldn't it have been slightly less horrific if you had a friend like that to hold your hand?)

Ignoring Q3 for the moment, I REALLY wanted to know how the story progressed from there. That wasn't, for me, the end of the story. It was really only the beginning. An event like that changes the world forever, and I want to know about the rest of the story. While I know that the rest of the story probably wouldn't make for a good movie, if it were to be made, I'd go to see it. If the rest of the story were written in a novel, I'd read it.

The mother's portrayal of the moment she learns of the event was... awesome. I have recently begun to appreciate how difficult it is to play that sort of role with any honesty or integrity. Yet, she managed it with such integrity my heart wondered how she learnt about grief, because only someone who knows grief intimately can protray pain like that.

I was surprised, I guess, that I didn't react more to the movie in general. I was surprised at how easy it was to put up a wall between the atrocities I was seeing and my emotions. Maybe, growing up & living in SA, where poverty and inhumanity are something we see all too often, have taught me how to do that. Maybe losing Zoe has taught me how to partition my heart and mind. Maybe the inhumane treatment of the Jews is just so awful to contemplate that I don't.

The problem is, though, that if you don't react to inhumanity, if you wall yourself off, you become immune to it, and ultimately you become able to partake in it. All that evil requires to flourish is that good men do nothing, the saying goes. For that reason, I applaud the mother's reaction to the whole 'work camp' thing. She refused to just accept it and go along with it, despite being married to a soldier. She kept her conscience.

Sometimes, when I look at the way I treat those around me who are less fortunate than I am, I wonder whether I have lost mine, or whether I'm in the process of losing mine, or whether I'm in the process of just discovering mine.

All in all, it's a fabulous movie and definitely worth seeing, despite its ending, or maybe because of it.

Blombos

I still haven't blogged about our holiday. Nellie, Nate & I went away with my family to our holiday house, Blombos. (Graeme went to the Umfolozi Game Reserve with a school trip,) We had a lovely few days there. There were several whales & calves in the bay, just beyond the breakers (in the photo below they were just beyond the swells, but off to the right). It was fantastic being able to watch them at meal times and tea times, from the comfort of the house. They were very active, breaching for quite a while on one day. If I'd had a decent camera that would have captured them at that distance, I would have taken some photos.

As usual, the sunsets were amazing. It feels like you can see from horizon to horizon. The blue of the sky was incredible... you could lose yourself in it when you look straight up - nothing to impede your view of it. That sky has always embodied freedom for me. It was good to breathe in that freedom again; it was like meeting up with a good friend after a long period of separation.

We spent our days playing & sleeping. We went down to the beach one day, went for a walk on the beach another evening, one day it rained so we played indoors. Nellie found a fantastic playmate in her cousin Julia. Nate found several playmates amongst the various adults and children present.

If I say so myself, I coped really well with getting bottles ready with no electricity in the middle of the night (ie no lights, & no microwave) and with having both kids on my own for 4 days. I don't think I would have coped as well though if it hadn't been for Oupa and Ouma who were just amazing in their help and support. We only had one blow-up and that was because Nellie hadn't had her nap so was shattered by the evening. The drive up and down was a lot better than I anticipated, but longer than I hoped given that I had the dogs & kids to feed while en route.

There were several hitches; it wasn't all bliss - one night the dogs decided that 2am would be a good time to start throwing up in the house; Nellie decided that while on holiday would be a good time to suddenly start displaying her sibling jealousy; we had no running water for most of our time there because the well pump was broken; once that was fixed we still had no showers as the gas geysers were broken. However, it was still wonderful to get away for a bit, and wonderful to finally make my first trip back to Blombos since returning to SA. I was trying to remember my last trip, and couldn't. That means it could easily have been before we moved to the UK - 10 years!

I enjoyed spending time with some of my nieces & my nephew. It was really lovely seeing them interact and getting to know them a bit better out of their normal setting. As with my dad, it reminded me that part of the reason we came home was to spend more time with them, and I've been remiss in following that through.

I was shocked at how run-down the place has become, or maybe I just never saw it before because I was having too much fun. The dune is badly eroded, making it awkward to get down onto the beach. There has recently been a storm too, so the high water mark is cluttered with large tree branches (trunks) and other flotsam and jetsam. It meant we had no shortage of fuel for the fires, but it did make it more difficult to actually get to the beach itself, especially when you're carrying a child, two bags, having to hold the hand of another child and have two dogs underfoot!

What was particularly wonderful was spending time with my dad. Although he only lives up the road, I wish I could see more of him. Living with him and my step-mom was awkward (it always is when you live in someone else's space) but it was also incredibly special spending all that time with him. Being with him on holiday reminded me of what I'm missing out on. Ultimately, I guess that's what family holidays are about - reconnecting with your family.
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Swinging

Nate had his first swing today. At least I got a photo of that, even if there's no video.

He seemed to enjoy it for a little while, but as he's not accustomed to wind, he wasn't too sure about the breeze from swinging.
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4 months

Today Nathan turns 4 months. I honestly don't know how many weeks that is, and couldn't be bothered to work it out either). He continues to grow, fast and furious. Over the past few weeks he has:
  • started to find his mouth with other objects (i.e. he's started trying to put things in his mouth - his burp cloth, his dummy, toys)
  • started solids (he seems to like yoghurt & butternut ... and HATES baby cereal. Sigh. Well, I'll put that in his milk then.)
  • started sleeping less during the day
  • become a happy, smiley baby
The only time he cries now is when there is really something wrong (tired, wet nappy, clothes too tight, sore tummy), so his colic finally seems to be all gone. He still has a little trouble with reflux we discovered when we took him off his meds. Thus, he's back on meds, but at a reduced amount so that we can wean him off it. He's reverted to his little squack cry to alert us to the fact that he's hungry, which isn't a cry at all - more a particular type of gurgle. He loves people, being the centre of attention and is very social.

Of course, now that he's approaching his developmental milestones, I'm feeling sad about going back to work and missing them. No doubt, he will turn over/ crawl/ walk/ talk/ etc first for Priscilla and not for us. I don't begrudge her that, I just wish I could be there to share in the moment.

The other thing that I've realised afresh is that with Nellie, we had the video camera out a lot when she was this age, and thus far, I've taken no footage of Nathan. I guess that's the burden of not being the first child.... In my defense though, Grandma had our video camera for the LONGEST time... certainly from long before Nathan was born. The other night he was in the bath and having SUCH a wonderful time (doing the most gorgeous sighs of pleasure) and I wished that I could have recorded it. Anyway, now the camera is back, so hopefully we will get some footage of him before he grows up too much!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My first bubble bath


Not so much fun.
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Flower power


Asleep in the pram on our walk at Constantia Nek.
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Shucks, Schuster!

No no no no no nooooooooooooooooooo..... see what happens when you open a can of worms? They all crawl out. Yup. All over you. In a bloody mess.

Just got an email from our ward councillor to say that:

NO walls or fences are allowed ANYWHERE in our street.

Ooops.

The neighbours are really going to hate me now.

Down the rabbit hole: Lessons in life

The saga of our fence continues. I've finally decided that it's time to tell you about it.

After we bought the house, and before we moved in, our house was burgled 3 times in 3 years. This is mainly because the house is at the end of the row, so is more accessible. Despite our 6ft wall around the back of the development, people hop over the fence and use our road as a shortcut to get to Langa station, because the only entrances and exits to Pinelands are on Forest Drive, which is miles away. One of their favourite spots for hopping the wall is right next to our back fence. (You have to give them credit for ingenuity though - they use an earthing wire to pull themselves up and over - a bit like spiderman...)

Understandably then, I was very nervous about moving into the house. In order to increase our security we put up a palisade fence around the front of the house. What we didn't do though, was follow the plans. (Lesson #1: Read the plans/ instruction manual FIRST. Seriously. It may save you heartache and money. Don't be so bloody male about everything and dive in head first.)

We put the fence up right on the kerb. (Let's be clear about this - G had NOTHING to do with this decision. I accept full responsibility for the fence's position.) Our street boundary is about 4.5m or 5m from the kerb, at the edge of our garage. Given how easy it is to break through our garage door (which would give easy access to the house), I didn't want to make it easy for that to happen. I wanted to be able to work in the garage, with the garage door open, but still be safe and secure. I also wanted to be able to park both cars behind a security fence. Neither of those things are possible if you put the fence on the boundary. (And with a baby in the house, security is really important to me... and of course, there's the fact that I'm a woman, and my maid is a woman, and rape really isn't a pleasant experience for women.)

In addition, I don't want people walking across my driveway to go around the corner and hop over the development wall. We already have a problem with vagrants sleeping against our garage wall and leaving their faeces and rubbish behind (my dogs love it, but me? not so much). I didn't want them to be able to use my driveway as well (here lies MY boundary).

Someone complained about our fence. I'm fairly sure I know who it is (I know who you are and I know where you live!), because in the first few months of us being here (starting during our renovation works before we actually moved in) we had several complaints. If I'm right, this person just likes to complain about everything and is a general neighbourhood nuisance. (Shame on you!) (Lesson #2: Neighbours in a small neighbourhood know EVERYTHING. "We, Toys, see EVERYTHING.")

However, the complaint did make a valid point that I didn't consider when we erected the fence: being on the kerb means drivers have to slow down as they go around the blind corner. (Of course, drivers should be slowing down anyway, but some don't.) If two cars were to pass each other in front of our house (which is RIGHT on the corner), and one was to veer past the mid-line (as happens when you don't slow down around a blind corner), then the other car would bash its side view mirror on our fence if it tried to veer out of the way. (Lesson #3: Don't be so bloodyminded all the time, Woman - ask others for advice before making major decisions, because maybe they know or can see a side to something you can't or haven't.)

In retrospect, I should have put the fence 50cm from the kerb to avoid that problem. (Lesson #4: I can actually admit when I've made a mistake. Even if it takes me several months to get there. Eventually, I'll admit it.) If I had, then whoever complained probably never would have. Maybe. Anyway!

As a result of the complaint, we received a visit from the council, who immediately sent us a demand letter giving us 10 days to move our fence. The threat was that if we didn't, they would, and they'd bill us for it. I duly wrote to them to explain why the fence was where it is. I explained that I would be happy to move the fence back by 50cm or so, but I was not happy to move it back to the boundary, for the reasons I've outlined above. I also said that I didn't have the money to move the fence at the moment, and that if they did it and billed us, we would not be able to pay them either.

The council replied to say, in effect, "tough". (Lesson #5: The council doesn't care. Ever.)

We then looked at leasing a portion of the verge, but it will cost us R5000 to apply, several months to process, and there is no guarantee our application will be successful. (The monthly fee is quite small, so it would be feasible from that perspective.) R5000 is a lot of money to just throw away like that if the application is unsuccessful. Plus, in the meantime, we would still have to move the fence back to our boundary and then move it forwards again if our application was successful. (Talk about a las... I really should just have put the fence 50cm from the kerb.) (Lesson #6: see Lesson #1)

Off I went then, to double check with the council that the street boundary was where it appears on the plan, because 5m is a LOT further from the kerb than is normal (2.5m - 3m is usual). That investigation was delayed while the council tried to find their copies of our plans (our copies went missing during the kitchen renovation). After several days, the plans arrived. I scrutinised them and discovered that (shock! horror!) either everyone else also has their fences in illegal positions, or the plans are wrong. (Lesson #7: Even bad stuff can have a positive spin off...)

So today I went back to the council, with my dearest dad in tow (as he's a surveyor by trade) to help me. (Let me play the dumb blonde!) (Lesson #8: Parents never stop being needed. Children are a responsibility for LIFE. Like a life sentence, but longer, more complicated and more expensive.) What we discovered is that Field Close is, almost certainly, a private road (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF?!?!) (Lesson #9: Expect the unexpected), but that the legalities of setting up the Home Owners' Association were never followed through on. While the legal bungle is fine by me (HOAs are always a pain), what that means is that - if we're right and the road is a private one - we don't have to move the fence!!! (Lesson #10: Council screw up a lot. If you catch them at it, you can save your ass.)

Hooray!!

Of course, if our street IS private, then that means we own the council money anyway, for back taxes for rates on the verges which we (and they!) didn't know we owned. And that could work out to be quite a hefty sum. Boo! (Lesson # 11: Council always get their pound of flesh, one way or the other.)

If our street is private, then I think we'll go ahead and move the fence back 50cm anyway, to appease our neighbours. I can live with 50cm - it means we can still park a 2nd car behind the gate and it means I can work in the garage with the door open and not feel at risk, but it still keeps the vagrants and their mess off my driveway. And if it keeps Old Complainer off our backs, then that's not a bad thing either.

So now the ball is in the council's court again. It'll be interesting to see how they respond. Of course, it may be that our street isn't private after all (in which case, the council plans of our suburb are wrong!). But until the matter is resolved, the fence stays where it is. (Lesson #12: Perseverance wins the day.)