Saturday, December 25, 2010

Present time

Some photos of the kids from this morning. Nathan will get his BIG present tomorrow. In the meantime, here he is playing with some of Nellie's.

Christmas family madness (video)

Christmas time is here again...

We have 3 families to celebrate Christmas with - my mom & stepdad, my dad and stepmom, and G's family. My dad & stepmom have 6 kids between them. G is one of 4 siblings, as is his dad. So you can see that we're part of a rather large clan. And trying to get them all together in one place is nigh on impossible. Hence, we have a 3 year rotational plan. This year it was G's family's turn to have us. They're a mad bunch, but in a nice mad kind of way.

One of the uncles traditionally organises home-made Christmas crackers. Each cracker contains a teeny gift, along with a forfeit. The forfeits range from having to read a poem, sing a song, reminisce about Christmases past, taking part in bizarre competitions, acting out some charade or other, etc. Then, there's the family forfeit, where everyone has a role to play in some sort of mini-play or tableau or carol singing thing.

This year, the theme was the nativity tableau. Every one was assigned a role, and then had to sing a song that went with their role. The catch was that they had to all sing their bit at the same time. I had a really hard time trying not to laugh while holding my phone.

I'll post the video in a separate post, cos it's large (nearly 7MB). Enjoy the madness that is my family.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Take one boy, and add ...

What do you get if you mix one toddler, one pond and one toy trolley with wonky wheels?

One VERY wet, smelly, green, frightened, crying baby.

What do you get if you mix one VERY wet, smelly, green, frightened, crying baby and a shower?

An even wetter, clean, HOWLING baby.

I didn't have the heart to take a photo of him, so you don't get to see it, but I'm sure you can imagine it. It was hilarious, but I don't think he saw the funny side of it at all. Poor thing!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 10: Someone you wish you didn't know

I'm one of those people who has never really had heroes, or idolised others - apart from my parents and older siblings, that is. I don't go all weak-kneed at the thought of meeting Bono, for example, or Sting, although I absolutely LOVE their music. I just don't see the point in worshipping them - I mean, they're just people, after all.

Similarly, I don't really have people I wished I didn't know. But I guess there are a few people I wished weren't around, which isn't the same thing. It's not that they're not nice people, but I get the feeling that they don't like me, and that makes me uncomfortable around them. That, or else they strike me as being in competition with me for something, which also makes me uncomfortable.

What I find so awful about the whole situation, though, is the way it affects me. I avoid places, or places at certain times, because i don't like feeling uncomfortable, and I can't see a way to resolve the situation...

A boy in a river (kind of...)

My dad has a fabulous pond in his garden, which has a little bridge over it. Nathan loves bridges - we have one in our garden that goes nowhere, and he still ADORES playing on it.... So he loves this little bridge that actually goes somewhere. His latest trick is lying on the bridge trying to catch the fish. Sigh! Boys will be boys, I guess.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A boy and his dog... or two

(Thanks to the UK cousins for taking these.)

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

'Tis the season to be jolly... fa la la la la, la la la la....

I've been to 2 Carols services so far this year, which is 100% improvement on last year. The school had its first Carols, which was nice (but lots to improve on for future years), especially given how last minute it came about. The second was our church's service. That was really fabulous - for me, anyway. I'm not sure the kids enjoyed it as much. The carols were all VERY rocky, which was lovely. I can't ABIDE singing 'Hark the herald angels sing' and falling asleep in the midst of it. I mean, c'mon - if Christmas is such good news, and we're supposedly BURSTING with joy, then why are the carols so... dour, dismal, boring?? So I had a fabulous time.

The kids got to dress up for the church carols. Nathan was too young to have any say, so Mommy dressed him as a shepherd. Of course, given the time of the service, the little man was asleep even before we got there...
But then woke up part of the way through the service, and just wanted to run around...
Despite the fact that there are no fairies in the Christmas story, Nellie insisted on dressing up as a fairy. (Blink. Stare.) She's still gorgeous though.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Day 09: Someone you didn't want to let go

Isn't it odd how some friendships entrench themselves in your psyche and your heart, and no matter how you try to let go, you find you can't?

I had a friend - a really good friend, or so I thought. We were friends all the way through high school. Then we got to varsity, and suddenly, everything changed. While I tried to maintain our friendship, I felt that it was all one-sided. To me it felt like her new friends were more important, and that she had little time for me. I tried not to get upset about it, because, after all, people grow up and grow away and our circumstances had changed, and blah, blah, blah. But it didn't work. In my heart of hearts, I was devastated.

Then we moved overseas, and although I still tried to keep in touch through email, I heard never a word from her. Now I know that some people are not good at correspondence. And she clearly is one of those. But it felt like yet another nail in the coffin. It seemed obvious to me that she didn't want to be my friend, and that hurt like hell. I then vowed not to care about it, but to just let it go.

If I'd been able, in university, to just let go, then all would have been fine. But I couldn't. Instead, our friendship just drifted, and that hurt more, I think, than a sudden, final cataclysmic ending would have done. It felt more like a festering wound than a clean surgery.

Now we're back in Cape Town, I see her around from time to time. And every time, without fail, the old hurts resurface. Outwardly I manage to be civil, I manage to be friendly, I manage to take a polite interest in her life, but inwardly... inwardly it breaks me all over again.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Day 08: Someone who treated you badly

Hmm.... this one's tougher.

All of the examples I can think of are school related. There's the kid who tried to slam my fingers in the window (and partially succeeded), or the kid whose parent decided to defame me for trying to enforce school policy, or the "best" friend in junior school who abandoned me for another girl, or the boy on the bus in high school who used to bully me...

Other than that, I can't really think of anyone who has made my life hell. I guess I should be grateful. My life could have been far worse!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Day 07: Someone who has made your life worth living

That's easy - all the people I love.

My dad, my mom, my hubbie, my kids.

Most particularly my kids. When things really get me down, as they have been doing recently, and I think how nice it would be to just disappear completely forever (and not half jokingly either), the thing that most often helps me to pick myself up again is the thought of my kids having to go on in life without me. I love them too much to do that to them.

But on a more positive note, the people I love bring joy and happiness into my life. When I think about what my life would be like without them, it brings tears to my eyes. I can't bear to think about life without them... they make my life worth living.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Day 06: something I hope I never have to do

I hope I never have to watch one of my kids die in pain.

I hope I never have to be in a position of choosing which of the people I love will live or die.

I hope I never have to be reliant on someone else to feed me, or wash me, or dress me, or take me to the loo.

I hope I never have to see my children go hungry.

I hope I never have to see my parents with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

I hope I never have to find out that my husband has had an affair.

I hope I never have to tell my husband that I have had an affair.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Villa Vals

I'm a fan of technology, especially technology that allows us to live with as little imposition on the land as possible. Today I found this site about a company that has helped to build houses into the Swiss Alp mountains that doesn't stand out, but still allows you to take advantage of the beautiful views. You can see the floor plans here, which should give you some idea of just how incredible this architectural design is. I WANT ONE!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 05: something you hope to do in your life

Hope is so important in life. It sustains us through many trials and tribulations. It gives us something to work towards. It reminds us that the future is not set in stone, but is determined by us to a large extent.

What do I hope to do?

I hope I'll go skiing again
I hope I'll be a good (and present) mother to my kids
I hope I'll have fun this week
I hope I'll develop sufficiently as a person to be a brilliant leader
I hope I'll make a difference in people's lives
I hope to take my kids to show them all the places in the world that I love
I hope to buy the house that is perfect for us (so I never get the wander lust again)
I hope to read lots of books and enjoy the sunshine and the rain
I hope to watch my children have children of their own
I hope to be useful to God, and to become more like Christ

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 04: Something to forgive someone for

I'm not sure whether these meme themes are meant to be for things one currently has to do, or whether telling about a situation in the past is sufficient. I'm assuming that it's meant to be current, which is much harder to do, I think.

There's a man I need to forgive. I don't want to go into details because I know that some of those who read this blog know him, and I don't want to embarrass him. Suffice to say, that his actions forced me to break a promise to a child, and embarrassed me in front of my friends.

Of course, I reacted badly, so I need to be forgiven too. Still, I need to forgive him or else I'll continue to lie awake at night replaying the scenario in my head, alternately "killing" him with the perfect retort, or else finding the perfect way to have handled it in that moment, and by far preferring the former to the latter.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 03: Something to forgive yourself for

From easy to impossible in one easy step. Remember back on Day 01's post I told you that I couldn't really talk about the thing I hate about myself. Well, that's a thing I need to forgive myself for too... Not the fact that I hate myself, but the actual thing I hate. It's a character flaw (and I just hate having to reveal my flaws...) and while I'm trying to work on it (and believe me, I have to!) I often still get it wrong. And I have to forgive myself for it. I'm not sure that others do, but that's not really my problem (except that it makes life VERY difficult for all concerned). I somehow need to be able to accept myself, flaws and all, and forgive myself for being human.

Some days, when I consider how I have messed up (in my head, that was a MUCH stronger word...), yet again (I go through phases when it feels like every other week or day I'm messing up), I feel physically ill. I can't sleep. I feel nauseous. I have mild (and thankfully, they are only mild) panic attacks. I am overwhelmed by a desire to run away. Not even crying about it helps - it only makes me feel more desperate. I feel trapped in my own skin with nowhere to run or hide. I feel exposed. I feel guilty and remorseful for the pain I've caused. I feel wretched, actually.

But life goes on, and if I am to go on with it, I have to forgive myself.

"How many times should I forgive my [self]? Seven times or seventy?"

"Seven times seventy."

But how? When I keep making the same errors, when my character fails to show the light of Christ in this area, how do I forgive myself? Surely my continued sin in this area makes a mockery of Jesus' death?

I keep reminding myself that Jesus knew all about my repeating sins, my character flaws and my pathetic attempts to walk in the narrow way, and that his death covers it all. I just need to continue to try.

So - try I will. And pray that at some point my character flaw will become imbued with the character of Christ.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hello lurkers

I just wanted to say hi to some special lurkers... Dan & Sarah - I know that you check in here periodically (I love the various blog stats applications that allow me to track back to find who's been visiting the site) and I just wanted to let you know that it means a lot to me that you're still doing so. I know that friendship across 6000 miles is hard to maintain, especially with small kids. That's why I really appreciate that you still take the time to at least try to keep tabs on what's going on in our lives. I can't begin to tell you how much I have missed your friendship over the past 3 years.... you will always have a special place in my heart.

Day 02: Something I love about myself

Oh this one is easy. I love how passionate I am about the things I love. I love that I get so excited I start to bounce, and wave my hands around. I positively BEAM when I talk about the things I love. I love that as I've aged I haven't lost that enthusiasm for life and become jaded. I love that I still have the capacity to be passionate.

There are lots of other things that I love about myself, but I'm only allowed to tell you one, so there it is.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shopping is SUCH hard work

I can feed myself now!

Poor child

My poor baby has been very ill. He has had a herpes virus - the one that causes cold sores. However, the first time you get this virus it is VERY, VERY sore. It causes ulcers in the mouth and throat. The poor mite has been in such pain that he's been unable to eat or drink. Today it finally seems like he's getting better as he's been able to eat or drink something without crying or screaming.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 01 of the meme

Day 1 is entitled: something you hate about yourself.

So, no easing into this slowly, then.

What do I hate about myself? .......

No. You know what? I'm not ready to tell you the truth right now. So, I think I'm going to go with a lesser evil; something that's not quite so painful to discuss right now.

Let me tell you about my knees. I know, weird, huh? Usually it's bums, tums or breasts. (I'm not saying I don't have issues with any of those, cos I do, but that's old news.)

Because of my blood condition (at least, that's what I think caused it) I have permanent bruise marks on my knees that I think look very ugly. I've thought seriously about going for laser surgery to have them dealt with, or doing some home skin bleaching.... But between being too much of a coward to try the bleaching, too busy to make the time to go and see a plastic surgeon, and not having the money to cover something this inessential for life, I've done nothing about it.

But doing nothing about it is par for the course for me. Somehow, despite being as self-absorbed as I am, the time I spend on myself is seldom spent on my appearance.

So I continue to hate my knees. Which is rather a bummer when it's summer because I feel self conscious about wearing shorts or skirts that end above the knee.

Isn't it odd to think that EVERY woman, every girl, even the confident ones, have an intense dislike about some part of themselves? I know that this hate of mine affects the way I dress, the activities I take part in (as a result of the way I feel comfortable dressing), where I choose to sit in a room, etc, etc, etc. Even though this is such a minor thing, it really does affect me.

Some days are better than others, and I'm able to accept myself as I am, or (even better in my mind) I am completely unaware of how my knees look. Others are terrible and I don't want to get out of the shower and face the world.

Wouldn't it be nice if nobody spent time and energy noticing what others look like?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


WARNING: do not read this post if you are a sensitive reader.

Special Assignment, the SABC3 programme, looked at the topic of war and violence during war tonight. Their focus seems to be on rape as a technique of torture during war and telling the stories of women, children and men who have been affected. However, there were other stories shared about other types of torture and violence.

One of the stories told was of a young boy, a teenager, who was forced to rape his mother.


Another was of a young soldier who, upon capture, was force-fed human excrement. When he refused to eat it, he was beaten severely and then starved. Rather than give in, he was starved to death.


Why do I share these two stories with you? Because it shocks me to the core. I am outraged at the treatment dished out to these people.

I share them, too, because I grieve, not just for the victims, but for the perpetrators, who have become less than human.

Having read several spy stories (yes, yes, I know they're hardly reliable sources of information) I know that spies can be trained to withstand torture, but the process requires them to learn to disconnect from themselves, to separate themselves from their bodies completely.

Similarly, having read post-apartheid books by people who were torturers, one learns that in order to torture another human being, you have to be able to disconnect from your own humanity - to compartmentalise your life.

Torture and violence dehumanise not only the victim but also the perpetrator. Both become victims. Both are damaged.

But how does one get there? How does one person allow themselves to slide into becoming a perpetrator of such inhumane violence?

More importantly, how does one get back from there? Apart from the grace of God, how does one get back from that place of ... darkness?

But still I grieve for those people - both victims and perpetrators - who are still currently living in that hell.
*'Selah' is a Hebrew word that means "Stop, and contemplate".

30 day blogging meme

A cyber-friend recently started doing a 30day blogging meme, and I thought that I'd copy her. Apparently, I'm in good company, because she's copying others who are copying yet more others. Seems that everyone who is anyone has either already done it, or is busy doing it. Can't be left out, now can I??

While I can't actually promise to stick to this over 30 exact days (I do have a life and on weekends I don't often get to my laptop), I will cover all the topics. They may also be interspersed with other stuff that catches my thoughts. So, to keep you all abreast, I will try to remember to link back here, so that from this one place you can link to all the posts that are listed here.

Here is the list:
Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for
Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living.
Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you badly.
Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Outliers - book review

Yup - I've been reading a lot just recently. That's what happens when the matrics are writing exams, my classes have all finished their syllabi (syllabuses??) and I therefore have lots of time at work to do my prep for next year (so don't have to take work home with me).

I've just finished a book recommended to me back in 2008 or 2009 (I can't remember). 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell (author of 'Blink' and 'Tipping Point'), takes a good long, hard, look at what makes some people outliers - that is, so exceptional they stand well beyond the rest of us. What he discovers is shocking. Being an outlier has very little to do with talent, aptitude or genetic giftedness. Very, very little.

If Gladwell is correct in his conclusion (which you'll have to read cos I'm not going to spoil it for the rest of you) then it has MASSIVE implications for the way we do education and school sport. (That means it also has implications for the way G and I raise Janel - not necessarily to turn her into an outlier, but just to help her reach her potential.) It also has implications for the way that government needs to intervene in societal structures.

If this country is going to go from good to great, then the govt needs to hear what Gladwell is saying and implement it. There firstly needs to be an understanding of where we are as a nation - what apartheid has done to the national psyche - without any pandering to political correctness. Then it needs to change the educational structures that prevent children from reaching their potential. It doesn't mean more money needs to be ploughed into the system - it means that the MANNER in which money is spent needs to change.

If you want your worldview challenged, if you want to know how to raise your kids to give them the best chance of succeeding in life, if you want to know how to help change society for the better, then this is definitely the book for you!

The Butterfly Effect - BookSneeze review

A friend (thanks Bee) recently introduced me to BookSneeze. This is a site that allows you to download ebooks for free (or will post them to you if you're in the US), on the proviso that you have to review them. Once reviewed, and you've sent them the link, they will then allow you to download the next book.

So, since I'm hopefully going to be getting a kindle this Christmas, I thought this site would be a great source of free books. Of course, finding the time to read is always a problem. That's one of the reasons I really liked the first book I read from the site. It's called 'The Butterfly Effect', by Andy Andrews.

This short book (more like a novella than a novel in length) documents a few well-known events in American history and goes into detail about which moment in the event was the key. If that one key moment had not happened then the event would have taken a very different path. Some of those key moments were very ordinary, very simple - in fact, complete non-events. Some of those key moments took place generations before the actual event.

It is quite incredible to think the butterfly effect is a real phenomenon and that EVERY action I take has meaning, because it sets in motion a series of other actions and events that could, quite easily, lead to some incredibly massive events that affect hundreds or thousands or even millions of people across the globe.

If you're looking for an inspirational (or terrifying, depending on how you want to look at it) read, but something you can read in a jiffy, then this is the book for you.

Cute child

I recently took the dogs and Nathan for a walk in the Arboretum below Kirstenbosch (Nellie was having some time with Daddy in Kirstenbosch...). It's the first time I've actually explored the Arboretum - I know, I know. I've lived in Cape Town all my life but never really been there. Sad, but true.

Anyway, while we were there, Nathan had a WHALE of a time... wait for it... falling down.

Yup. The grass is incredibly long at the moment and because Nathan's not all that tall, the grass was about as tall as he is. He would run into the grass and deliberately fall over, laugh hysterically, then ask to be picked up. What fun, Mum!
I recently took the dogs and Nathan for a walk in the Arboretum below Kirstenbosch (Nellie was having some time with Daddy in Kirstenbosch...). It's the first time I've actually explored the Arboretum - I know, I know. I've lived in Cape Town all my life but never really been there. Sad, but true.

Anyway, while we were there, Nathan had a WHALE of a time... wait for it... falling down.

Yup. The grass is incredibly long at the moment and because Nathan's not all that tall, the grass was about as tall as he is. He would run into the grass and deliberately fall over, laugh hysterically, then ask to be picked up. What fun, Mum!

Friday, November 12, 2010

NIMBY - Not in my back yard.

People are very happy for laws to be changed and enforced, as long as it doesn't affect them. We all agree that speeding kills, but we still speed, because ... oh because of a hundred little lies we tell ourselves. "I'm going to be late", which actually means "I'm so much more important than anyone else that it doesn't matter if I speed and kill someone, because they're not important and I am."

We all agree that in order to respect people's humanity, we should treat others with the same dignity and respect we would wish to be treated ourselves. We cluck over the behaviour of residents who react violently when a convicted paedophile moves into their neighbourhood. Yet, if a convicted paedophile should move into OUR neighbourhood, then suddenly our fears would allow us to justify our own aggressive, and possibly even violent, reactions to that person's presence.


Today I read this article about a first year teacher who was physically assaulted by a pupil, and has just won her court proceedings against the principal and education department, for failing to protect her from the pupil.

I was shocked as I read it. I wondered where this horrendous incident occurred. As I read further I got my answer: in my backyard. The school in question is in the next suburb to me. Suddenly, I can no longer stand and cluck at a distance. If it had happened in a school on the Cape Flats, or in a township, it would have been far enough away from me that I could just shake my head and wonder "How could the principal be so reckless?" But now that it's in my backyard, I'm forced to take a long hard look at my own school, at my own actions, at whether I might have made the same error in judgement as that principal.

Suddenly, I am confronted with my own hypocrisy. And that, too, is shocking.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A quick pic

A while back I promised you a pic of our new fence. Sorry it took so long...
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reign of terror

The other night I was in the bathroom with the kids, who were both in the bath, when I noticed something. While I initially thought it was funny, my second thought on the matter was "oh boy! here it begins...." I'm referring, of course, to the reign of terror that brothers have over their sisters.

Nathan, at all of 17 months, was deliberately terrorizing his sister, and laughing hysterically over it. In his hand he had a facecloth. Said facecloth was being dipped in the water, then held up and offered to his sister. Of course, dripping wet, my precious little girl was not terribly interested in this present. In fact, rather than be dripped on, she was shrinking to the edge of the bath - as far away from said present as possible.

The fact that Nathan got such an incredible and predictable reaction from someone was a source of endless delight to him, and he proceeded to repeat the gesture dozens of times over, laughing manically every time Nellie shrank away, until I stepped in and forcibly removed the facecloth from his hands (to great howls of despair and frustration - any neighbour listening would surely have thought I was murdering the child...). As I said, at first it was very entertaining to watch Nathan as he realised that he had a source of power and the realisation dawned on him that this power brought about predictable results. Then, as I realised what I was watching, a certain dread crept into my heart. He's found one of Nellie's "buttons", the first of many, I'm sure.

I had hoped that my kids would never deliberately torment each other. I hoped that my kids would be different to every other set of siblings. I had hoped that my kids would have this deep abiding love for each other and joy in each other. After all, they're MY kids....

Get REAL!! Wake up and smell the coffee!!

Nope - my son is a boy, and, like millions of boys down the ages, he will take GREAT pleasure in tormenting his sister. Sigh!

To what extent do I jump in and rescue Nellie? To what extent do I let her fight her own battles? Although my brother's kids were older when I saw him implement his strategy, his strategy was simple: if there's no blood, let the kids sort themselves out. I'm not sure I could put up with the whining and screaming and shouting that goes along with such a strategy though. On the other hand, I know that I can't jump in every time (which is my natural inclination, given my inability to deal with the noise of the alternative) - Nellie has to learn to toughen up if she's not going to suffer in the real world where not everyone is nice. Rather that happens under my roof than in the real world, right?

Those of you who have walked this road before me of mitigating sibling warfare (forget rivalry!), what advice can you spare me on dealing with creatures such as this?

The same sun...

I heard a really interesting quote this evening:

The same sun that makes the ice melt hardens the clay.

It's a Puritan saying that is pretty applicable to all kinds of things.

Monday, November 08, 2010

What will others read?

"If your life today is a letter, what will others read? If your life today is a sermon, what will others hear? Will it be good news?"

These lines jumped out and hit me as I read this blog recently. Yes, my life is a letter that others read. But what will they read?

This past weekend, G and I went away for a wonderful weekend on our own (sans kids). More on that later. However, while we were away, we picked up a very challenging and stimulating book - Irresistible Revolution by Shane Clainborne. It's hard to summarise the central theme of the book, suffice to say that it really challenges one to return to the truth of the Scriptures and LIVE them, not just study them or learn them. The book documents bits and pieces of a life-long experiment that Shane and his co-conspirators have been undertaking to really live the Christian faith.

The book got me thinking about issues like money & poverty, war and non-violence, guilt and grace. The fundamental question it has left me with is, yet again, to what extent my faith is expressed in my life - in fact, the fact that I could even contemplate such a question shows that I still have a long road to walk. Faith should be so integrated into life that it shouldn't be distinguishable - in fact, it shouldn't even be possible to contemplate a faith that isn't integrated.

What was exciting to realise though is that I've seen a glimpse of a way to make Christianity exciting again. My heart keeps saying that there must be more to life than this - and there is! I'm going to try to allow God to transform my life and my heart sufficiently that my life becomes exciting again as I observe God working through me and in me. I hope that will be a book worth reading!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Dawkins may be getting faith, just maybe.

I read a very interesting blog post today about a recent debate that Richard Dawkins took part in. According to the blogger, it seems that Dawkins might be on the cusp of developing faith. Incredible, I know! Who would have thunk it?

While Dawkins may be a genius in some respects, I have been completely uninterested in reading his work because he seems, to my humble mind, so unscientific when it comes to analysing his own thoughts and beliefs. Since integrity is a value I hold highly, those who fail to show it inevitably slide down my list of people to regard.

It struck me as odd though, that I read this blog today, given that just 2 nights ago a friend shared with me a book he is currently reading, which looks at how the study of the human genome provides evidence for there being a God. There are plenty of books about recording how hardened atheists went in search of proof that they were right, and many looked to science, only to have their beliefs blown out of the water and finding themselves becoming Christians.

Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but maybe the world's faith pendulum is about to start swinging the other way again. Maybe revival is in the air. Now wouldn't that be an awesome thing? Bring it on!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paul the Octopus

I feel like I ought to write a really witty, incredibly tongue-in-cheek piece about Poor Paul, but to be honest, my brain seems to be in a permanent go-slow.

Oh, you haven't heard the news?

See, that's what comes from not being on Twitter... :)

Sigh! OK, well let me put you out of your misery: Paul the Octopus, that illustrious cephalopod who correctly predicted the World Cup 2010 results, has ...

... wait for it...


You thought I was going to say that he'd predicted the Currie Cup winner or some such, right? But no, Paul is no more, has gone to octopus heaven, is dearly departed.

Can you hear the howls from gamblers round the world? Sorry folks, this cash cow has left the building. Now you'll have to go back to the old method - your best guess.

Now let's all go have cup of coffee and carry on with our lives.


Did I mention our new fence?


We have a new side/ rear fence.

Wooden palisade with vibracrete posts.

With timber that is guaranteed for 20 years. (We'll see about that!)

I don't know why I'm so excited about it - it's just a fence, right? And it doesn't look particularly lovely or anything. After all, it's just a fence.

But still - I am really excited about it.

It's much lighter in colour than our previous fence, and we've had to cut back a lot of vegetation to be able to get it in. The result is that the area where it is suddenly seems bigger and brighter. I love space and light and air... so I really like my fence (despite the fact that the top of it is so uneven).

Plus, now we'll get no further complaints from the neighbour that our dogs are in her garden. I get that strange barking dogs in your garden is enough to scare lots of people. Yet, I look at my two "guard dogs" and laugh. How anyone could be scared of them...???? I'd say that they're complete push-overs, except that if you're a criminal reading this you'd probably be rubbing your hands together in glee at a statement like that, thinking about how easy it would be to get in.

(See, that nasty paranoia raising it's ugly head again...)

So I won't.

Instead I'll tell you that my new fence is a lovely shade of natural yellow-green and smells great too and will give you splinters if you try to climb over it so don't bother.

Now, if only getting my lawn to grow could be as easy as putting up a fence...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fame! Baby, remember my name!

So it seems that my name is about to get known in education circles. I got an email today from a WCED chap who would like to profile (pending all the bureaucratic yay-saying) my previous post on one of their email newsletter-type of thingys. (I never know what to call them - they're essentially email group membership list reminders, but can be used to disseminate other info too.) He obviously had a search term for the WCED (or similar) in his Google Alerts RSS.

While I'm flattered, and while I'm happy for others to read my blog, at the same time it makes me nervous. I have always known that complete strangers read my blog. I have no problem with that. I'm never going to meet you, you will never really know the people I'm talking about, so it's felt rather like going to a psychologist. I can tell you anything because you're anonymous and what you know can't hurt anyone because you don't know me or my family.

But of late I've begun to realise that there are increasing (although still very small) numbers of people reading my blog who, while currently strangers, have the potential to be people I will know through other circumstances. I find that a bit unnerving. It's one thing NEVER meeting someone who knows about me; it's quite another meeting someone who does. It's like meeting a stalker, except not. (And no, I don't consider you all to be stalkers! Let's just clarify that before someone complains.)

On the one hand, the fact that anyone else would really want to read my musings is vastly gratifying as I write predominantly (although not exclusively) as a record for myself, or as a reflection on my life for myself. (Reflection, for me, is a version of meditation. It helps me keep perspective.)

On the other, I do worry about my kids, my hubby, my family and my real-life-in-the-flesh friends. I'm a WYSIWYG kind of girl. I don't hide behind (or at least, I try very hard not to, but sometimes my insecurities get the better of me) pretensions here. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Unfortunately, in the telling-it-as-it-really-is scenario, I also say things that open me up to things like identity theft.

And this is what worries me.

I talk about my kids here, my family, my friends, my daily life. I muse on all matters. However, I'm not sure that I want to open my life up too much to those with the criminal bent who might just decide to take my life (metaphorically speaking) from me. (Yet the thought of constantly having to censor my thoughts fills me with enough dread to stop writing entirely.)

Or is that just my paranoia rearing its head again?

Did I tell you that the family 3 doors down from us were held up at gunpoint last weekend? No? Yes, well, they were. My reactions are a bit all over the place. Firstly, HOW DARE anyone with a criminal bent come into our little street and perpetrate any kind of violence?

Secondly, I have become anxious: we are the last house in the complex, next to an open field, so very vulnerable; our doggies aren't half as vicious as the dog in the home 3 doors down (who still got held up); you can't see all the potential hiding places from our gate very easily (coming home I can change the route I drive to be able to see them all, but the time that really worries me is leaving home, because then I can't see them all, so will be driving blind, as it were....).

Thirdly, I want to shrug my shoulders and say "well ya shouldn't be coming home at 4.30am in the morning in the first place, now should ya?!", but I'm trying to restrain myself desperately, cos I know that if that HAD been me, I would have been scared witless - so a bit of compassion won't go far wrong.

So anyway, maybe my paranoia is not so misplaced after all.

In this day and age when we can be famous for being famous (Miss Bess Stovall from Max Lucado's book 'Best of All' comes to mind...) and where everyone wants to be famous (including me, if I'm honest), fame does have its drawbacks. I really do wonder how the really famous people cope with their lack of privacy.

Of course, I'm not famous, and I'm not even close, but the potential increase in readership of this blog has given me pause for thought. I shall have to think carefully about how I shall respond. I don't want to change this blog into something else. I also don't really want to start another blog for my teaching stuff (although I may have to do that).

Where does that leave me? I guess, in your hands. I'm thrilled that people want to read what I write. All I ask is that you show me some respect regarding the things I say here. That way, I don't have to change what I'm doing, and you still get to read all my drivel. Sound fair to you?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What makes you good at what you do?

Yesterday I attended a meeting for our district, to discuss the changes to the syllabus for next year's matrics. Once again, I was really impressed with our curriculum advisor. She's the first person I've met from the WCED in a very long time who actually speaks from the hips - she tells it like it is, she doesn't sugar-coat stuff, or (even worse) side-step the issues, or try to make her problems mine. I was really very impressed. I hope that the bureacracy at the WCED doesn't wear her down.

The meeting took place in a school just across the railway line from where we are. Although I've been that side of the tracks before for several different events, I was struck afresh at the disparity between my experiences of teaching and education, and those of my colleagues in those areas.

I consider myself a good teacher, but if I was asked to work in those circumstances, would I still be such a good teacher? What makes a good teacher, really? Is it the ability to effective use of the resources at hand? Is it about the ability to communicate effectively with OR WITHOUT resources? Is it about particular character traits? I'm not sure. I know I have the potential to be a GREAT teacher, not just a good one, but I really don't know whether I could still say that in circumstances vastly different from my own.

When I read this story this morning, about a teacher who has been banned for life for incompetency, it made me wonder afresh. I recalled teaching in one particular school in the UK, in which I found myself not performing. The reason I stopped caring, and stopped trying, was because the kids were so horrible. Their attitude towards learning depressed me, and because I was immersed in such a culture of poor work ethic, lack of respect for others, and general apathy, I found my strength sapped and my will to perform eroded. (Eventually, I wound up depressed and then resigned in order to take myself out of the situation.)

So what makes you a good teacher? Can anyone with resources can look good? or is there more to it than that? Will the same person be regarded as a good teacher in all circumstances? Is that a quality of who you are, or a choice you make despite your circumstances? And who holds you to account for it in SA? Your Subject head? Your principal? or do you hold yourself accountable?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dreaming of lost worlds...

I dream in glorious Technicolor and surround sound, which is not a good thing if you have a nightmare, and the topics of my dreams are always bizarre. G always says I could write a book based on my dreams and make a killing.... Maybe I should give it a go... anyway!

My dream last night was another weird one. There's a park near to where we used to live that has an old-age home on corner. I dreamt that someone was building a special driveway/ road past it so that tour buses could get easy access to and from the old age home, and this road was built partway across the park area. However, this was no ordinary road! More on that later.

Earlier in the dream, I had dreamt that, somehow, my kids and I had been whisked away into an alternative world, a world that twins our own, but where everyone there is slightly different to who they are here on earth. That in itself was bizarre and disconcerting - meeting people you know and love only to find they're not quite the same. However, the worst part was that when I returned to earth, I couldn't take Nellie with me. She had to remain behind. Besides the heart-wrenching fear of leaving her with people I wasn't entirely comfortable with (after all, they weren't quite themselves and I didn't know whether they would harm her or not), there was the gut-wrenching grief at saying goodbye and never being able to see my precious little girl again.

Back in the "real" world, in my dream, it was no longer Nellie who had been left behind, but Nathan. (I don't know why dreams switch things round like that....) I therefore had to take his car-seat out of my car (I wasn't going to need it anymore) and leave it with the relatives who, in the twin world, would be looking after him. Somehow, the relatives in the twin world would be able to access themselves in the "real" world and so would be able to get hold of the car seat. (I told you it was bizarre.) Again, facing the reality that I would never see my precious little boy again was awful to say the least.

But back to the old age home... I was walking across the park with an ex-colleague, someone I haven't seen since I stopped working at that school, when I noticed the road being built. I stopped to observe. One of the workers was holding some kind of electrical device in his hands, when I heard him comment that the device was picking up some sort of interference. I stepped closer. Then it struck me - somehow, impossibly, the road was acting as a gate-way to the twinned world, and the kids (now it was BOTH Nellie and Nathan) were being allowed to come home.

Naturally, I started yelling and screaming, and running to the road, but I woke up before the kids actually arrived. Typical. Go through all that heart ache but then be unable to have it fully resolved before waking up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Who gets to be a parent?

As a teacher, I get to meet a LOT of parents. Some are incredible. Some are dire. It never ceases to amaze me that, in a world where there are such stringent requirements for people wanting to adopt pets from vets and other organisations that rescue animals, or for people wanting to adopt a child, there are no rules when it comes to who may give birth to a child.

Sometimes, in the staff room, we joke about enforced sterilisation, with we teachers as the deciders of who should be sterilised. It is only a joke, and we know that, but there is an element of honesty and truth in it. We see kids who are repeating the negative cycles their parents and grandparents have repeated. We know that if these kids have kids of their own, the cycle will be repeated once again.

As a Christian, I also know that there is hope for these people, because I believe that Jesus makes a difference. But what happens to them if they don't find Jesus before they have kids???

I was thus very interested to read this morning that there is a project that PAYS people to be voluntarily sterilised. Not just any people either - drug addicts. It's interesting because those who are using when they fall pregnant usually give birth to addicts, and those poor babies have to go through withdrawal cold turkey. Many do not survive. Those who do are often permanently damaged.

Of course, this is still voluntary. However, this is only a few short steps away from being an enforced strategy. Imagine a world in which, if you are found to be a regular user, you could be forcibly sterilised.

While I see the benefits, such a world also shocks me. I'm not sure I would be happy to live in such a world. While I believe in saving the innocent, I also believe in freedom and free will, even when that free will impinges on the rights and freedoms of others. It's finding the balance between the two that is crucial.

For the moment, this project is on the correct side of that line, I believe, but it's right up there, and I'd hate to see someone step over onto the other side.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's for dinner?

While away with Eskom Expo, I sat and chatted with some of the kids in the group over supper. I don't know why it surprised me, but they had never come across the etiquette regarding knife and fork positions at the end of a meal. I discussed the correct positions with them, but it got me thinking about them again, and about when to start teaching my own kids about them. (How young is too young to learn proper manners?)

Do you know how to signal to the waiter that you're resting during a meal so s/he doesn't whip your plate out from under your nose, or have to interrupt your conversation to ask whether you're finished eating? or how to send the message that the food was disgusting? or that you have now, finally, finished your meal? It's all down to how you place your knife and fork.

Technically, there are only two methods - the American and the Continental methods, but in SA I think we use a third variation. In SA, putting your knife and fork together, with the knife blade to the middle and the fork tines pointing up, in the middle (6/12 clock position) of your plate, with handles on the rim of the plate, indicates that you're done. However, both the American and Continental methods say the knife and fork should be at an angle and not directly in the middle of the plate (in a 10/4 clock position).

Something new I learnt though is that in very formal settings, the fork tines should be pointing DOWN, not up. This dates back to when cutlery was made from real silver. Silver tarnishes easily, and so the fork should not be allowed to rest in any acidic residue left on the plate for any length of time. Doing so is very rude as it would mean that some poor servant would have to spend hours polishing the fork to remove the tarnish marks (which isn't always possible I've discovered, to my chagrin).

If you're just resting, then the Continental method is to leave your knife and fork at a 45 degree angle to form an upside down V on the bottom half of your plate. The American method is to place the fork in the 10/4 clock position. The knife, however, should lie across the top of the plate at a slight angle, like wearing a beret. I was taught though, that if you're resting, the cutlery should be in a kind of upside-down V position, but the handles should be touching the table. Apparently, that's not acceptable in either of these methods. Bahumbug, I say.

While I can't find this anywhere on the web (and I don't feel like purchasing an etiquette book to check), I thought I'd share with you what I learnt about telling the waiter you don't like the food. Assuming that the rest position is with the handles down, then the 'this food is disgusting' position is with knife and fork wide apart, both pointing to the centre of the plate, but handles still on the plate. The idea is that the further apart the handles are, the more disgusted you are with the food. (See, my method makes sense - handles up = you're done. Handles down - still busy.)

Since I can't find this method anywhere on the web, I have to assume that this is just my family's idiosyncrasy. Still, I rather like it. Sometimes the food isn't so bad you want to call the chef or manager out, but you still want to send a message. Of course, in this generation, subtleties like this are lost. This is such a WYSIWYG generation that it really doesn't surprise me at all that no-one seems to learn basic table manners anymore.

But what about you - what table etiquette have you learnt that no-one seems to use any more?

(My Ouma used to have a rhyme to help. She would say to me: Say 'able', which I would duly do. She then responded with: get your bum off the table. You can tell sitting on tables was something I loved doing. It's something my daughter loves too. Maybe I should repeating the rhyme to her as well....)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dreaming big

I need some help here. (Yes, yes, okay peanut gallery. I'm being serious here.)

I know that God gives us dreams and visions for our lives (not just dreams while we're asleep, although he can do that too). So my question is, how do you know the difference between a dream birthed in you by God, and one birthed by your own desires?

I have a dream, one that I have had since I was about 9 or 10. It requires skills and gifts that I believe I have. It's something I believe that God birthed in me, but every time I've thought he was finally moving me forward towards fulfilling it, it hasn't worked out.

During the morning sermon this past Sunday, the preacher mentioned that God gives dreams and visions as a creative force. It's not just about showing us what his plans and purposes are for us. It's also about birthing hope in us, giving us something that will stretch us and give us something to work towards.

In my case, that has certainly proved true. This dream, or vision, has stretched me tremendously - this most recent time I think to the point of breaking. In fact, it feels like this last time I was stretched beyond the point of breaking, because now I have HUGE doubts about this dream. As I reflect on my past, I honestly don't know whether this dream is just a fabrication of my own desires, or one God has given me.

I need some answers. I don't know what to think. I'm not sure how to proceed. This vision burns like a fire in my heart. I have tried to ignore it, but I can't. The yearning in me simply won't abate or go away. I can ignore it for a while, but every time I just think I'm getting the hang of ignoring it, something comes along to remind me that it's still there. The minute I start to think about it again, it's there with the same intensity as before. I know I have the gift to achieve it, but now seems not to be the time or place.

For one thing, I'm not where I believe I need to be as a minimum in terms of my relationship with God to be able to even consider fulfilling my dream. I know that God alone has the ability to decide when someone is 'ready' to move forward in achieving the vision he gives. I know that I'm ALWAYS unworthy, but that God may choose to use me irrespective of that, because that way he gets the glory. Yet, I still don't believe that God would chose to use me until certain minimums are restored.

In addition, I don't see how, or rather, when, in my current situation, my gifts could be used, or my dream could be realised. Again, I know that God is able to work despite situations and circumstances, yet I still don't think it's going to happen in the current set-up because that would seem to violate God's other priorities in my life.

So I am thoroughly frustrated and confused. Thus, I want to know - how do you know? How do I know FOR SURE whether this dream is from God, or from my own heart?

The sense of loss and emptiness that comes from this dream being unfulfilled is overwhelming at times. I don't want to give up on it, but in order to stay sane, I feel I have to. If I knew FOR SURE that this dream was just from my heart, then letting go of it would be easier to do.

I could really use the advice of wiser, more experienced Christians right now. I could also really use the prayers of any who do so, that I could find the answers I need, not the ones I necessarily want.

Monday, October 11, 2010

End of year madness

It was the last week of September. I was standing in MerryPak. That's when it struck me: this year-end is going to be crazy. How did I know that? Quite simply, because as I was waiting in the queue, gazing around me, I realised that the MerryPak staff had ALREADY put out their Christmas stock. Yup - it wasn't even the end of Sep and the new Christmas trees were out.

Our year-end is crazy anyway. In the space of 41 days we have: my birthday, Nellie's birthday, Graeme's birthday, my mother's birthday, my mother-in-law's birthday, my step-father's birthday, and two of Graeme's uncles' birthdays. Oh yes, and a little celebration called Christmas. Christmas is complicated as well because we have 3 families to split ourselves between because my folks are divorced.

To pay for all this, I do matric marking, to try to make a little bit of extra money. So for me work only finishes about 10 days after school closes, so there is less time available to plan for Christmas.

Before most of these events take place, I still have a manic term at school to get through - exam setting, exam marking, planning for the next year (sorting out the sets for each grade, planning schemes of work, sorting out the server files, etc, etc), organising reports, etc. Plus, since I'll be doing matric marking, I'll have to leave school a day or two before it closes, so all my work will have to be done early.


Sigh sigh.

Still, at the end of the madness there are going to be some AWESOME parties, and CHRISTMAS! Yay!! And this year my little-big brother and his family will be home for a visit from the UK. Double Yay!!

It's going to be madness, but the end is already in sight. After all, MerryPak's Christmas stuff has been out for several weeks now.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's time...

For the longest time now I've been toying with losing weight. (See my last post.) This past week, I've actually decided to do something about it. Yup, I've finally got off my fat ass and got active.

I'm trying to be realistic about it all. I recognise that I'm addicted to sweet things (particularly chocolate) and that going cold turkey is not going to happen. I also recognise that I simply don't have the time to make 2 callinetics classes a week, much as I would love to.

So... new strategy:
  1. make one callinetics class a week
  2. get up early on three mornings a week to do exercise on the Wii
  3. cut down to one chocolate/ sweet thing per day, preferably none during the week
  4. have a pig out day on the weekend to boost metabolism
  5. get back to walking the dog at least once every 3 days, preferably every day
So far, so good. But of course, everything is easy in the beginning. It's whether or not you have the willpower to stick with it that counts.

Ke nako. It's time.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

How fat is fat?

I'm overweight. I hate it. I hate having a tyre around my middle. I've had one since shortly after leaving school. While I know that exercise will help, I also know that my genes are against me on this one. If I could afford plastic surgery, I would have a tummy tuck. Definitely. Especially since I'm not having any further kids.

However, the real problem is that I seem to be a sugar addict. I don't say that in jest. I find it impossible to resist anything sweet - chocolates, cakes, sweets. (I also find it impossible to resist chips, and biltong.)

A few days back I made a private agreement with myself to consider myself to be on a sweet-things fast, in an effort to break the habit. Every day since then I've failed. I've made some progress though - tonight when I was about to take a chocolate brownie from the plate (at a church event), I got as far as thinking about the fact that I did not need it, and that I would hate myself for it later.... Then I popped it into my mouth and gorged.

And I hate myself for it now. I feel even more fat and disgusting.

But, I will pick myself up and try again tomorrow. What else can I do? I have to try, because I have to lose some more weight. I've got 3 pregnancies' worth of preggie fat to lose, and until I do, I won't be happy with myself.

So if you see me eating something I shouldn't - please help me by moving the plate away from me, or me away from the plate. Don't say anything as I might hate you for it, but gentle action is called for methinks, since I clearly lack the willpower.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Lead SA

KfM 94.5 have a campaign running called LeadSA. It's designed to encourage average, ordinary citizens to do the right thing at all times. One of their current drives is to get people to drive with their lights on, whether it's daytime or nighttime. Another is not to use your cell phone while driving.

While I really support this movement, I've also been caught short by it. Like tonight. Driving home from a mom's event, I decided to drive a slightly longer route past a particular set of robots (traffic lights) as it's a simpler route with fewer turns. I was driving behind two other cars. The robot changed, and one slipped through. The other chose to stop. I nearly ran into the back of them - not because I was too close, but because I was so tired that it took me a while to realise they'd actually stopped and were not going to run the lights (as so many Saffas do ... as I'd been planning to do).

For a moment I felt myself get really angry that this person was inconveniencing me by stopping. There was no traffic from the other direction. No accidents would have occurred. How annoyed I was that they had forced me to stop and spend an extra minute or so on my journey.

And then it hit me that, really, they were doing the right thing. They were choosing to LeadSA by obeying the law, even if there was no cop, and even if there was no traffic. I felt shamed.

So a few blocks on I stopped at the stop street I normally only yield at. I don't know what I'll do tomorrow, or the day after, but for tonight at least, that person led SA by leading by example and shaming me into obeying the law.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

School holidays... we miss you!

Unlike most other teachers, I didn't have a holiday, or not really. The past 3 weeks or so have been so stressful. Initially it was just school related - end of term exam marking and report writing.

Then things escalated at home as our nanny went off sick for several days. I won't bore you with the details, suffice to say that she was told she'd had a stroke (at age 35!) and was suffering from high blood pressure. Fortunately, further tests revealed that she hadn't had a stroke, but she does have high bp.

This all transpired at the same time that Nathan went for emergency surgery to have grommets put in and his adenoids removed. (The surgeon said his adenoids were the size of plums....) I had to deal with most of this on my own, as Graeme was away with a school group doing a trail in the Umfolozi Game Reserve.

Graeme was back for 2 days (during which we both had some work to do on one day), then I headed off to Pretoria with the Cape Town Eskom Expo group. That means I had 3 days in a row of early mornings, late nights, stress and lots of time on my feet while I was judging and marking and doing other bits and pieces.

Today I had the kids for the morning, as G was at band practice, and then we had a braai with Nathan's friends' parents that we've been trying to organise for ages. While it was lovely to spend time with them, it was, never the less, an energy-consuming day. (Although, it probably only felt like that because I'm so tired.) And now, as I sit and contemplate tomorrow (and have just worked through about 2/3rds of my school inbox), I realise that I'm not prepared yet for tomorrow, or this week.

I feel like I've aged 5-10 years over the past few weeks. Sadly, the stress won't relent until the 16th Dec. So, somehow I've got to plow on till then. What I have gained through this time though, is a new-found respect for single parents who have more than one child. I think I could have coped a lot better if I only had just the one, but two has been.... trying.

Still, there has been a lot of joy and good in these weeks too. Nathan is feeling better, and so is sleeping MUCH better during the day (night time habits die hard, it seems), and is responding to instructions much better. Today he said a new word - bye bye. Nellie has decided (mostly) that she gets more attention if she's a helpful big sister than a whining pain, so has started to be truly helpful, loving and sweet towards her brother - long may that last!! Our nanny's bp is back down to normal (with a little help from medication) and she seems to be on the mend. G had a fabulous trip away with some close encounters with rhino and buffalo. The Cape Town Expo group got 9 bronze, 4 silver and 5 gold medals (out of 25 projects), as well as winning 2 best-in-category prizes, 3 special awards and having 4 people nominated for the international expos.

But I think that, for my birthday, I'd like a weekend away without the kids - just me and G. I'd like some time out to just walk, read, sleep and eat, without having any other demands on my energy or time. I think that I really need the time out if I'm going to avoid burn out. Anyone offering babysitting for a weekend in November?


Talk about a mind-f#ck! Oh. My. Word. What an awesome movie.

I know it's been on circuit for a while now, but with the #pinkmilkshake crew around, we seldom have time for ourselves. We took a day out during the school hols to go and see this movie, and it was well worth the money, IMHO.

This one is definitely best seen on the big screen, so catch it while it's still out.

The underlying theme of the movie is a question about what reality is. One of the recurring comments is that the worst parasite is an idea - for once an idea really takes root in your brain, there is no stopping its growth, multiplication or outworking.

Nearly a week later, I'm still pondering and reflecting on the questions raised by the main theme - about the nature of how the brain perceives reality, about how that might be used against one. It's a very powerful movie, for those willing to enter whole-heartedly into the story.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Swallowed and spat out

Here comes the stuck record... can you believe it's been nearly A MONTH since I last blogged. Actually, I can. I don't really want to rehash the last month, but it has been incredibly stressful and busy.

Between the regional Expo, matric exams, TONS (I swear, I must have been at least a ton) of other marking, reports, budgets to prepare, matric testimonials, and random other admin type of things, Nathan has had yet MORE antibiotics for his ongoing ear infection, my mother moved house, our nanny had another death in the family (so took a trip off to the E. Cape again), both G and I have been ill, and there were 100 other things on the go.

Quite honestly, I am whacked. I'm falling asleep during assemblies and when I'm meant to be praying with Janel. Because I'm tired, I'm turning into a horrible person who yells a lot, and I'm having to think REALLY hard before I say or type anything because there's very little internal moderation occurring between what I really think and what I'm saying - which is getting me into trouble - like when I nearly swore at my matrics today. (That's another story. Those ungrateful little .... breathe. breathe. breathe.)

Sadly, I'm not going to be able to rest much during the holidays, because I'm single parenting while G is away for the first bit, then I'm away on a school trip for the last bit. What I'm craving more than anything at the moment is a few days away in the bush, or at the beach, or up the mountain, with no phones, no children and no responsibilities, but with lots of books, silence and walks in nature - I am craving solitude.

Until Nathan's ears are fixed though, and until he's sleeping through the night, I don't feel I can offload both him AND Nellie on anyone. So somehow I'm going to have to create minute spaces of solitude for myself over the next little while or I will seriously burn out before the end of the year.

The update on Nathan is that we're seeing the ENT next week to discuss grommets. I'm sure that he has permanent scarring from the pretty much constant ear infection he's had since May, but we'll see what the specialist says.

The update on Nellie is that we've taken her for further evaluation. She doesn't have low muscle tone, which is good news. She does, however, have balance issues which we're going to investigate further. And she's definitely a low stimulus child (which we already knew). So now we have a new regime to help her - daily trampolining and a return to frequent body brushing, as well as semi-regular bouts of OT to help develop her vestibular apparatus and proprioreceptors. All this is relatively good news, because it's stuff that we can do something about with resorting to chemicals.

But, again, I must confess that I have been left feeling swallowed by life, and then spat out again. I know that part of it is just the usual end of term symptoms, and that things are going to get easier any day now, that I'm just emotionally strung out. None of that changes the fact though that I feel utterly, utterly worn out.

It was with great relief that I found myself laughing this evening. If I can still laugh at life, then things can't be all that bad, right? So what made me chuckle? This joke:

What's the oldest profession?

Traffic cop. In Genesis 3:4 it says "and there was an evil spirit lurking behind the bush".

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's his name again?

It's not often these days that I feel a sermon is particularly brilliant. While many are good, they don't always strike that perfect balance of entertainment value coupled with hard-hitting message. Usually they're either one or the other, or neither.

But this Sunday past was one of those rare occasions when I heard what I think must be the best sermon I've heard all year.

Sibs Sibanda. Google him. You'll find very little as far as his bio is concerned, but lots of links to his sermons. He's a preacher (part of a team of people) at a church in Jo'burg called Godfirst.

The man is a gifted communicator. No. He's a genius at communicating.

While he's driving home the most incredibly hard-hitting stuff, he has the ability to give a little humourous aside that allows the congregation to chuckle, without losing the building tension of the message itself. Brilliant! I want to learn to do that.

Plus he's just very funny.

Plus he really has a gift for opening up the scriptures to us.

I would say I know my Bible pretty well. I've read it through more times than I can remember. (Not lately, of course, but in the course of my Christian life.) For this reason I find I often skim read passages, because I feel like I know them so well I can't really learn anything new from them anymore - I can just be reminded of what I already know. I recognise, of course, that that is just my own arrogance, but that's the way I often feel.

Well, Sibs Sibanda shure showed me. He took a passage I was very familiar with and blew it completely wide open for me. He showed me things I'd never realised before (about the passage, I mean).

Oh. My. Word.

All the while, making me both laugh at myself and take a good, long, hard look at my sin.

PLUS - not once did he make me feel judged or inferior.


Just incredible.

I don't ever download the podcasts from the sermons. I think I just might have to download this one to listen to it again. If you want to have a listen, you can find the mp3 here. Give it a listen, seriously. It'll be worth both your time and your bandwidth.

Friday, August 27, 2010

OMW - the best day ever?

Do you ever have those days where everything just seems to go right? Where you find yourself getting more and more excited? Where you find yourself getting creative, making connections, seeing possibilities? Days when the future is rosy and golden?

I had one of those days today. It was so great that I had verbal diarrhoea for about 45 minutes when G and I met for coffee at lunch time. And then again all over my principal when I reported back to him about my day. Terrible, really, but I had such an amazing day I couldn't help myself.

I think one of the reasons that today was so awesome is that it ticked all my boxes for the things that really make me happy - meeting new people, learning new stuff, playing with technology, getting creative with problem solving, and lots of excellent, free food!

I went to a breakfast this morning, at the Mount Nelson, on someone else's account. What a great start to the day, right? I have to say, it's been a while since I have had a breakfast that awesome. Truly. There's a reason that the Nelly has such a great reputation.

But even before we got to the eating bit, the day got off to a great start. I had just walked through the door, when in walked someone who's face I recognised. (I'm good with faces, hardly ever forget a face, but names! Ooh boy, I'm rotten with names.) Since I was there on my own, I decided to take the bull by the horns, figuratively speaking. I wandered over and mentioned that I recognised her face, and would she mind telling me her name.

Wouldn't you know it? It was Maggie Verster! (She had been the keynote speaker at an ICT conference I went to 2 years ago, and have been following on Twitter since.) So the conversation goes like this:

Me: MAGGIE! Of course! Now I remember.
MV: (looking mildly confused)
Me: (seeing her confusion) Oh, not to worry. I've followed you on Twitter since the ICT conference 2 years ago.
MV: Oh! Right! (brightens, smiles broadly) What's your twitter designation?
Me: I'm Nixgrim.
MV: (huge smile) Of course! Fabulous to finally meet you! (and gives me a bear hug)
Turning to the others standing in our circle, she says: See how amazing Twitter is?! Isn't this amazing?


I follow a blog of a woman in the US who frequently goes to conferences where she meets people she follows/ is follwed by on Twitter. She often comments on how lovely it is to meet people and put faces to names. As the above scenario was playing itself out, I couldn't help but think of Cecily and think to myself that this must be what she experiences on a regular basis. It's SO COOL!

Then I got to chat to a whole bunch of other people, Maggie included, who are keen to see how they can use web 2.0 and technology in the classroom. This was awesome for two reasons - firstly, I got to meet new people. I love meeting new people. It gives me a certain kick. However, I like meeting people with whom I have something in common even more (who doesn't?!). So meeting the people at this breakfast was exciting because I found myself having conversations that were meaningful, not just the usual social chit chat that one makes when meeting new people.

The purpose of the breakfast was to officially launch FullMarks (see yesterday's post). Hearing afresh the details about the programme, what it does and how it works, got me thinking long and hard about what's happening at the school. It struck me, as I was listening and pondering, that we aren't going about things the right way. We're doing it all (as my father would put it) arse-about-face. (I think that's a rather apt description...)

Not being one to be satisfied with identifying the problem, my brain immediately set to work trying to find a solution. This in itself was fantastic. As long as I'm not tired, I love problem-solving. I love working at a practical problem and finding a practical solution.

Well, I came up with a possible solution - KACHING! - one that has the potential to make my job even more interesting, which would be a win-win. So I'm feeling good because I think I've found a workable solution, and I'm feeling excited at the possibility of what the future might hold.

Then, since the brain cells have been nicely oiled, and since I was sitting at a table of like-minded individuals, we got to chatting about other problems. During the discussion, I came up with yet another solution to a problem we are currently facing at school - KACHING! Now I'm really hitting the ceiling. I'm on top of the world!

Things can't get any better, right? Wrong. I've had a particular problem/ project I've had for several weeks now, that I've been trying to solve, to no avail. In chatting to Maggie this morning, she made a flyaway comment that could be the solution to my problem. Wow!

Oh there were a few other small things, connections I made for myself, with things that I can do to help my kids, but they're small, so I won't waste time on them now.

End of the breakfast, and off I went to a meeting that didn't happen. Instead, G and I went for coffee and biscuits. And I got to pour all my enthusiasm and excitement over him. Poor guy. He took it really well and even asked some really penetrating questions. I love that he listens to me, really listens to me. I'm a very blessed woman!

So feeling more grounded, but still buzzed, off I went to school and happened to find the principal with a few minutes to kick around. I promptly sat him down and gave him the edited highlights package. Nervously. In a completely unrelated situation I discovered that some people don't react well to initiative. While I know that the principal isn't one of those types, my confidence was shaken, so I'm nervous of over-stepping boundaries. But he responded very positively to my comments and suggestions. Very well. Yay!!

Reading back through this, I know that I haven't really given you the details that some of you would like. Sorry. You can blame that on a crisis of confidence too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 18-month itch

Yup - it's that time again. I've got the itch...

For those who are relatively new to my blog, let me fill you in. When I was a kid I used to move home, on average, every 18 months. Shocking. I know.

So, roughly every 18 months I start to get twitchy. I feel it in my bones, in my blood, in the very fibre of my being. I feel the need to MOVE.

However, my financial situation being what it is (see my post about why teachers are currently striking) I can't afford to move house. Plus it's just a huge hassle - all that packing and unpacking. Really, dahling - that's just, like, SO for the birds!

But never the less, I get the itch. I think it's built into my DNA now. Every 1-2 years, G will come home and find one of our rooms rearranged. And my blog gets a new look too. And anything else I can find to change that doesn't cost me the earth. (Except my hair. I don't ever change my hair. Not sure why.... hmm... food for thought, and maybe a separate blog post, that one.)

Et Voila - the blog has had a face-lift. I quite like this template, don't you? And yes, Nellie's room will get a reordering over the weekend. The difference this time is that she requested it. She told me she hates her bed next to the wall cos she's scared the spiders will come down and bite her. Poor mite!

Since G's away for the weekend, I'll wait till he gets home on Sunday and we can do it then. After all, it's much faster with two. (Although, given the state of his shoulder after his recent bike accident I'm not sure how much pushing and shoving he will be up for.)

(Did I tell you about his bike accident? Yes, I thought so. I'm still cross with him about that one.)

Breakfast at Tiffanies (or something like that)

So I get to have breakfast at the Mount Nelson tomorrow morning - and best of all, I don't have to pay for it! How exciting!

Of course, there is a catch - there always is. In order to be given this fantastic breakfast, I had to give away something in return. Fair trade, and all that.

The Shuttleworth Foundation are launching a programme called FullMarks, which is an online database of assessment questions for the South African syllabus, particularly aimed at under-resourced schools or at teachers who are inexperienced in the subjects they are teaching.

The idea is that teachers will continually add to the database. However, in order to avoid the 'chicken or the egg' scenario, they asked for teachers from high performing schools to contribute some of their questions to set the database up. From Pinelands, three departments decided to help out.

Finally, the official launch day is here, and so some of those who helped out have been invited to share in the launch of the project they helped to build and create. And hence, I get to have breakfast at the Nelly.

YUM!! Now then, what does one wear to an official launch held at the Nelly??

Spreading the love

What a day of mixed emotions...

The wife of a friend went to hospital this morning only to be told her worst nightmare had come true: she was having a miscarriage. I feel their pain keenly.

Then came the news item about a taxi accident in which 9 children were killed. The taxi driver decided that he couldn't wait for the train to pass the level crossing, so jumped the queue, and got hit. He survived, but 9 children ranging in age from about 9 to 16 died. Normally, I would read a story like this, shake my head, and feel mildly outraged for a while. Today, I read it and burst into tears. All I could think about was those poor parents who kissed their kids goodbye this morning, only to receive a phone call an hour or so later to tell them their baby was dead. If that were me, if that were Janel.... my world would implode again. I don't know if I could survive another grief on that scale. How these parents will survive to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives is beyond me, even having walked my own grief journey.

Then, I did some community service with the kids on cross-curricular week today. We were making sandwiches (over 800!) for the School Buddies programme. The kids were wearing aprons with the slogan "Spread the Love". One of the kids piped up with the tag line - spreading the love one slice at a time. Beaut!

But a highlight was coming home. Nate was having a bottle. I waited until he was basically finished, then walked in and sat down next to him. He squealed, jumped up and burrowed himself into me - not just once, but several times in a row. When all is wrong with the world, there's nothing like a hug from your baby to make you feel loved and special.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All my boys

When you're a teacher, you are not just a parent to your biological kids. You wind up being a parent to lots of other kids too. I don't consider myself a parent to all the kids I teach, but there are lots of them for whom I do have parental love. I cry when they are hurt. I worry when they are sick. I laugh when they are happy. I celebrate when they succeed.

This morning I just got some fantastic news about 3 boys for whom I do have parental feelings. These boys are in my chess team, plus I teach them. So I get to see a lot of them. They are all wonderful, wonderful boys - typical boys, but that's what makes them so lovable. The fact that all 3 are fairly bright helps too, because they keep me on my toes too.

Well, like any parent, I just have to brag when I get good news about them. After a year of hard, hard slog, near-daily practices, and long hours over countless weekends, all three boys have made the under 18 WP chess side!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't begin to tell you how excited and pleased and thrilled I am. My boys are just awesome!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

End of an era (video post)

I can still remember when the cooling towers at the current Old Mutual HQ site near the Old Mutual train station came down. I remember being on my father's shoulders, and wishing I could be up on the roof instead. Today, nearly 25 years later, I got my wish!
Up on my own roof this afternoon, I nearly missed the implosion. Yup, the organisers and Dan Plato (the mayor) hit the button nearly 5 mins too early! So, although I had the video camera, I missed it. However, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I can show you the video that someone else took.

First though, here are some of my photos:

This one comes from 94.5 kFm's Jacques:

And finally, the video... (There's an even cooler vid from News24 here.)