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


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.


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.

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.


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.