Thursday, March 25, 2010


4 teeth down and number 5 on its way. Where did I put that Panado and Hydraspasmol (which the bottle says has an added sedative effect if taken with alcohol)?????

He's up, up and away... just about. This week he has started walking along furniture. It won't be long and he'll be walking completely unaided. Nellie was walking by 13 months. I reckon Nate might beat her record.

He's also just about climbing out of his cot. Hmm... I'm not ready for him to go into a big bed. He's far too young. But I don't really want him falling out of the cot either. Decisions, decisions.

And despite his teething misery (which we're all subjected to), I haven't killed him yet because he has such a cute smile that means all is forgiven in an instant. What a cute child!


Yesterday was 2 years since her death.

There is so much that I could say, but I don't have the energy.

I still miss her. I still sob buckets over her. It still sucks that she's not here.

And it's still so difficult to be around other babies and pregnant women. I know it's "stupid", because I've had Nathan, but it is what it is. I'm getting better at hiding my pain and being able to rejoice with them though, so I guess that's something.

We chose not to mark the day. I'm not sure it was the right decision, in retrospect. However, I had been thinking about her a lot more this past week, and in my heart I acknowledged her birth. I guess that's what really matters most to me.

Thanks to those who knew and emailed/ sms'd/ FB'd. Even though I couldn't reply at the time, it was good to know we were not alone in our remembrances.


You may have noticed that I haven't been around much. No? Sigh. Oh well.

Tomorrow is the last day of school. Everyone else is looking forward to it because they can then start their holiday. I'm dreading it because I won't (start my holiday, that is). No, instead, I will be giving a workshop to teachers on how to do practicals in Life Sciences. Why? Because I'm an idiot.

Well, right now that's how it feels.

But the real reason is because I love teaching and want to help others to be better teachers. Terrifyingly, there are teachers who never did a single practical while at school, never did a practical while studying to become a teacher, and now have to do practicals with their classes. Ja - like they're really going to do that!

So, I got myself recruited by an organisation called the Teaching Biology Project to run a series of workshops giving teachers the basics. TBP is funded by the Netherlands, so there is a fair whack of money around (which is nice for me) which means that while the SA government takes it time in putting in place the structures it should have done ages ago, this NGO is just getting on with the business of actually doing the stuff.

It's an incredibly exciting venture for me, and may lead to other amazing opportunities. I'm really looking forward to it....

... except that I'm really wishing now I had made this happen at the beginning of next term.

Of course, I know why I didn't, and I know I made the right choice...

... but none of that helps to alleviate the creeping, overwhelming feeling of utter brain and body exhaustion.

I mean, take today as a typical example. Usually, my reports require very few, if any, corrections. They are completed (as much as they can be) by the start of the morning before they get handed out. Today, 5pm, I suddenly realised that I'd FORGOTTEN to do a whole bunch of stuff regarding them. So I was stuck at school until 6.30pm finishing them, because there'll be very little chance to do so tomorrow. In addition, I've had SO many errors corrected that I'm still waiting for 2 reports to be signed off tomorrow morning some time.

It's just SO not like me.

But I know why it's happened. Quite simply - I am seriously sleep deprived. With Nathan being ill for 7 weeks over the new year, then teething for several very long weeks (months?), and then being sick again, and then reacting to his jabs with a different sort of illness, and with Nellie being sick in between all that as well, and me, and G, I honestly don't remember what it is like to have more than about 6hrs a night.

So - if you're the praying type, please pray for us as go on holiday that sometime in the next two weeks we will both be able to sleep and rest and properly restore ourselves.

Despite all the hecticness though, it's been a great term! Very exciting, but very long, and while I am thrilled to be a part of the TBP programme and deliver this workshop on Sat, I am really longing it was over and I could be on holiday already. Sigh!

#speakZA - blogs for freedom of the press

One of the problems of being so busy is that the whole #speakZA campaign passed me by. I feel so stupid! I've at least managed to keep up with the news headlines, so I'm aware of all the ridiculous things Julius Malema has been saying. However, not having been on Twitter much, I didn't know about the #speakZA campaign, until this evening when I was catching up on my rss feeds, and saw several posts on it.

Better late than never, I say. So, here I am, jumping on the bandwagon. I am deeply worried about the things that Mr Malema has been sprouting, not because they're just so ridiculous and old-fashioned and seem much more suitable for an Apartheid era politician, but because he genuinely represents a large sector of the country. So, to all the Malema supporters: I stand in solidarity with the reporters you tried to intimidate and say that you need to remember that freedom of the press is what saved this country before.

This is the complaint that Nyiko Shivambu wrote:

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa. We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but an insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President.

We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

Blog Roll:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Two types

According to James (he of Biblical authoring fame), there are two types of sin. (I know, I know - sin is not a popular topic of conversation. Hear me out though.) The first type is the one that most people think of. It's the stuff we're used to pointing out - murder, adultery, theft, lust, abuse, etc. These are sins of commission.

But there is another type, a far more insidious type - a type of sin in which we try to fool ourselves into thinking we haven't committed any sin at all. It's called the sin of omission. According to James, the sin of omission is when we know there is something we ought to do, and we don't do it.

Tolstoy put into the mouth of the narrator in 'War and Peace' words that have been variously translated along the lines of: all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. These words try to express the same sentiment.

I've been thinking a lot about the sins of omission. I'm getting better at dealing with my sins of commission, but as I've been reflecting on this other type, it struck me that I'm really, REALLY awful at this area. I've been so wrapped up in my own life, that there is plenty of stuff I've failed to do - good stuff that I know I ought to have done.

Now I'm not getting down on myself, or about to beat myself up, or about to lay upon myself a burden of things I 'ought' to have done or 'should' have done. I'm merely reflecting on the fact that I know, in my heart of hearts, that with everything going on in my life, I've become far too absorbed with me, my family and my work. I've lost focus on the world around me.

Now I know that I can't save the world. I know that I can't help every person who crosses my path in need (or can I?). However, my personal aim is that when I die, my epitaph will tell that I lived my life in such a way that I made a difference in this world for the people around me. I want to be able to meet my Maker and have him smile and tell me I've done well.

For weeks now - no, probably more like months, God has been nudging me to do something. I talked myself out of it on the basis that we couldn't afford it. And we couldn't. But that's only if you look at it through the eyes of unbelief. After thinking about these two types of sin, it struck me last night that if I believe God has told me to do this thing, and I don't, then that is a sin of omission.

I chatted to G last night, and (wonderful man that he is) he agreed that even though we can't afford it, we're going to live by faith and do what we both know to be right.

So - it's up to God now. Starting the end of this month, if we're going to get by, then God is going to have to make ends meet for us. I've finally done the right thing, and while I know it's going to hurt us financially, I have such a sense of relief to have finally got on and done what God has asked me to do.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is this a problem that needs fixing?

When do night terrors become something you, as a parent, need to try to fix?

Janel has recently developed a fear of the dark. We've tried just about everything we could think of, but she point blank refuses to go to sleep with no lights on. We either have to leave the door open with the passage light on, or leave a night light on in her room. I hate both options - it seems like such a waste of electricity, plus the brain doesn't shut down and rest properly if the room is still light.

Then, about 2 weeks ago, another fear was added to her bedtime routine - monsters in the cupboard. Now we have to go through the routine of putting her chairs and toy box up against the cupboard door so that the monsters can't get out.

I know this kind of thing is normal, that all kids go through something like this. Never the less, I'm feeling very frustrated by it all. How do I tackle this, so that she grows up unafraid of the dark and with no fear of monsters in her cupboard or under her bed?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Finding my way home again

Life has been speeding past apace, so much so that I haven't even had time to mention Mark Driscoll the pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and author, not to be confused with Mark Driscoll the screenwriter. Anyway. Mark has been in town the past week or so, teaching at various locations and we went to hear him on Wednesday.

As with many Christian talks, a lot of it was stuff I already knew. He spoke on the cross of Christ, and related, in gory detail, the medical facts about crucifixion. As usual, hearing them made me feel not just uncomfortable, but almost ill. I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and sing 'lalalalalala'. He did make one point that sticks rather vividly in my mind though. In explaining the background to the sponge soaked in wine and vinegar, he described what he learnt on a recent trip to Turkey (I think it was). While on a visit to an ancient (historical) public toilet, the tour guide informed them that while a particular channel of water had been used by frequenters to wash themselves, soon local beggars exploited the opportunity to make a quick buck. They got sponges, put them on sticks, and offered to wash the frequenters genitals. However, this soon spread disease, so rather than washing with water, the sponge on the stick was soaked in wine and vinegar. Was then, Driscoll questioned, the intended purpose of the sponge on the stick stuck into Jesus' mouth yet a further insult, or an act of mercy (giving the crucified person a drink of something to dull the pain)? He believes it was the former.

Shortly after that event in Jesus' crucifixion, he called out in a loud voice "It is finished', and died. He did not die from asphyxiation (which is what usually killed crucifixion victims), but of a heart attack. We know this because Jesus was able to draw sufficient breath to shout.

With that in mind, at the end of his talk Driscoll asked us to imagine every sin we've ever committed and place it on an imaginary sponge. That done, he asked us to imagine the scene of Jesus' crucifixion, with ourselves present in front of the cross, and then sticking that sponge into Jesus' mouth. As I did so, I found myself unable to push the sponge into Jesus' mouth. I felt unable to commit such a vile act. Yet, as I struggled with this, Jesus raised his head and looked at me, and first smiled, then nodded his head at me. I was, at first, astounded. But then the Spirit spoke to me and reminded me that Jesus DID want to take all my sin and evil within himself. Only if he did that could I be forgiven, cleansed, made new. Not only that, but the Spirit reminded me that I had already placed all my vileness on Christ, and defiled him, at the moment that I first gave my life to him (which was way back in the early 1980s). This was merely a re-enactment of that moment, a reminder to my own soul of the price that Christ paid.

Of course, realising afresh what Jesus had done for me - the act of taking all my vileness, evil and sin into his own body and cost of doing so - made me burst into tears. I could so easily have got stuck there, on the wrong side of the cross, as it were. While it's entirely appropriate to repent, it's not appropriate to stay in that place. Driscoll called on us to declare that 'In Christ I am free', but I was struggling to let go, struggling to accept that I am cleansed and made whole, struggling to rejoice in the freedom won for me. I said it, but I couldn't appropriate it. All I could see was the enormity of my sin.

We began to worship again, and as so often happens for me, it was in worship that I found my freedom. I don't know why the sung word should have greater power than the spoken word, but for me, it often does. Then the Spirit spoke to me again and showed me that what had taken place that evening was like a line drawn in the sand behind me. I had stepped over it and now had to walk away from it. In part, that's why I'm recording this here now - it's too easy, after some time period, to pretend that what happened was just a figment of my imagination, that it didn't affect me as profoundly as I recalled. This post will hopefully serve to remind me that what happened was real. In Christ, I AM free. The old is gone, the new has come. I am redeemed not just from my own sins, but from the sins others have committed against me.

The challenge now is indeed to walk away from the line, to leave it behind me, not to keep looking over my shoulder, but to look forward instead to the glorious future Christ has prepared for me.

As I've been writing this, and reflecting on the evening, something else has struck me. I recall thinking to myself at the start of the evening, 'I wish that God would speak to me the way he used to.' Time was that when I read the Bible it was fresh and new, and God would speak to me. Time was that when I prayed, God would answer me and tell me things. Time was that God and I used to be much closer than we are now. (Of course, we'll never get close again until I make the effort to make the time to build the relationship, I know, but that's besides the point right now.) And now, I realise that God answered that prayer. Back in the days before Zoe's death, I used to get words and pictures from God on a regular, frequent basis. Since her death, it's hardly happened at all. When it has, I've doubted that it was God, convinced myself it was just my imagination. But on Wed, it "felt"* just like it used to - like there had never been any gap or break in our relationship - like I was back in that time when God used to talk to me a lot. It "felt" so 'normal' that I didn't even think to stop to question whether or not it was God, because I knew it was.

And so now that line in the sand seems more real than it did previously. Somehow, God has draw me along the road, drawing me closer back to him, restoring me, and while nothing's changed on the outside, I know that Wed night was significant. It was a definite boundary point for me.

And I'm exceptionally grateful and pleased that I'm on the other side. God is talking to me again, he is answering my prayers with yesses again, plus now I seem to have the faith to believe it's him. This feels like home again, and it's so good to be back.

*spiritual things have a particular 'feel' to them that isn't necessarily an emotional thing, or a physical thing, although it can include either or both, but is rather a spiritual thing. I don't really know how to describe it, and I can't adequately explain how I know when something is of God or not. There's a certain peace that underpins the whole experience, but it's not merely an absence of fighting or war... it feels more like a groundedness, an anchoring, coupled with a sense of rightness, and there's just this knowing that goes with it. Sometimes there's a physical sensation - like a sensation of warmth on my skin, or a hand touching me. Sometimes there's an emotion that goes with it, like joy. I guess it's something you have to experience to understand.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More teeth

Nathan has two more teeth! Yay! He's having great fun playing with his teeth with his tongue and discovering how to eat properly.

Maybe that explains some of his miserable behaviour and poor sleep of late. I've forgotten what it's like to have an unbroken night's sleep. There's one more that seems to be pushing through. Maybe once that's out we can go back to some sort of decent sleep. What are the chances, do you think?

Monday, March 01, 2010

What a cute boy!

Yes, yes, Nathan has a tooth! FINALLY! After God knows how many weeks - has it been nearly 2 months now??? - of poor sleep, tummy cramps, snotty nose, drooling on everything and chewing everything in sight, his first tooth cut through just before the weekend.

I'm hoping this signals the start of better sleep for everyone as a consequence!He is also pulling himself up on everything now, and loves standing. He's learning to squat from standing, and to then stand up straight again, to be able to pick up his toys without sitting down. Although I know he needs to crawl much more, I doubt it will be long before he starts walking.

Given that his crawling is now very confident, he's taken to exploring the house. This is one of his current favourite places to be - watching the washing going round and round. The only thing he likes better is the dog's water bowl (just like his Mommy at this age) and the TV (which he likes to stand and pat).
He's also clapping hands now, and starting to wave. He started with the royal wave, but has now moved onto the opening-and-closing-of the fingers wave.

He's started swimming and LOVES the water - just like his big sister. Also just like her at this age, he HATES being on his back in the water, including in the bath. However, given that Nellie's favourite stroke is now backstroke, I have confidence that this too shall pass.