Saturday, August 12, 2017

One Decision

I've been meaning to write this post for a while as it has been weighing on my mind, but life happens and there's always something more important to do. To be honest, looking at my To-Do List is too daunting at the moment, so I'm shoving it aside and spending some time blogging. I like sitting here while the kids are watching Jake and the Netherland Pirates because I know that the movie lasts an hour and a half so I am pretty much guaranteed a small respite from "mommy mommy mommy MOMMY."

The reason for the weight on my mind is this. Last month I was sitting at my desk, in the same place I am now, feeling sad, remembering my mom. The world didn't care. Life went on, oblivious to my pain, so in order to prevent the downward spiral of sadness, I decided to go for a walk. After walking for a while I sat down on a bench in the park, thinking about my mom and I heard an old voice ask if he could join me. I smiled and made some space even though there was plenty of room for both of us. He sat down with a sigh and we were both lost in thought for a while. Soon we got chatting and the man with the kind face told me his name was Rudi and he was 90 years young. I was immediately drawn to this man who was double my age (everyone knows I have a soft spot for the oldies - see my previous post 50 Shades of Grey if you haven't seen it yet.)  After a while of chatting I asked him my favourite question that I love to pose to older people, do you have any regrets? And he told me this story that has stuck with me:

He too was sad that day. It was the birthday of the love of his life who had passed 18 months before. I asked if they had been married long and he stopped me. "It wasn't like that" he said, drifting off. He explained that he had been sitting at home remembering Marie on her birthday and he didn't know what to do with the sadness that he felt, so he had phoned her daughter. I was confused but kept listening. He had decided to phone her daughter so that he could hear Marie's voice in hers. It hadn't taken much to set her daughter off and they had cried together in their shared grief. Rudi told her daughter that the way she said certain things and the way she laughed reminded him so much of Marie. It made her daughter feel better hearing that. I was intrigued. Who was Marie and why was he phoning her daughter after she had died?

So I asked him quite bluntly "what happened between yourself and Marie?"

He got a far away look in his eye and told me that he had met Marie when she was 18 and he was 23. They had known each other for 68 years. "I asked her to marry me" he smiled shyly, "but she refused." I asked him why she refused to marry him and he laughed and explained that although there was very little money in her family, Marie was a bit of a princess and her mom had always doted on her. He gave an example of how her mom would wake Marie with coffee, ask which outfit she had chosen to wear and then her mom would rush off with the chosen outfit to press it while Marie got herself ready for work. Marie would arrive in the kitchen to a fully cooked breakfast but would always be on some diet, so she would pick at a few things and leave the rest. He believed that the first time he proposed, Marie was too young and didn't want to move out of home as she wasn't ready to have her own home and family. She was too spoiled and enjoyed her mother's attention.

The first time? How many times did he propose? This was getting interesting.

He explained that they would date for a while, then fight and break up and get back together again (sounds like a Taylor Swift song.) They were in the same friendship group and all got on well and it just seemed like the next step. He had dated her for years and most of their friends, including Marie's sister who was younger, were engaged. He proposed again. This time she declined because of work. "She was always very focused on her career" he said sadly. "I told her that I wasn't going to wait for her and she told me that was fine." After the second rejection, he said he made a conscious decision to stop chasing her and cut off all contact. He was hurt. "Remember I was then a man in my 30"s and most men my age had married, settled down and started families already. The next time I saw Marie I was engaged to Talia." Marie was devastated.

What? Why? She had refused two proposals, what was her issue now?

She said that she had always assumed that Rudi would be there when she was ready to marry. "She asked me to break off my engagement but I refused saying that Talia was a kind, decent woman that I didn't want to hurt. Talia would make a good wife for me." Marie just had to accept that Rudi had moved on. Marie and Rudi remained close and Rudi told me about he two of them sitting in the living room of his parent's home, opening his and Talia's wedding presents together! He suddenly looked guilty and quickly added that he had had a good life with Talia, they'd had two children who had provided grandchildren and he said he really couldn't complain.

BUT........ then came the part that has haunted me......

"My girl, over the years I have thought back to that night where I refused Marie. I've always wondered about that decision. If I had said yes, where would my life have taken me? That one choice changed not only mine but a lot of other lives. I'm 90 years old now and I can't say I regret much, but I will always wonder about Marie. She was the one that got away. She was the one that, I allowed to get away. I sent her away because I felt it was the right thing to do but truthfully it was because I was too proud to break my engagement after she had rejected me twice. What would that have said about me as a man?"

My heart broke for him. His honour, pride and commitment to his fiance led him to make a decision that he has regretted, to some degree, for his whole life! Logically he knew that he shouldn't be sad because if he had married Marie, his family would not be here or if it was, it would be very different. His experience would be different, his children's personalities would be different. It was a weird thing to wrap your mind around. One decision.

I had to ask "what happened to Marie?"

"After I married she moved from her home town of Cape Town to pursue a career opportunity in Johannesburg, where she met and married a lovely man. They settled in Johannesburg and had four children." Over the years Marie was in contact with Rudi and Talia and Marie's children called him Uncle Rudi which seemed to please him. "They knew we were old friends and that we grew up together. We had so many people in common. Marie confided in me that her kids used to tease her about me." He laughed. Rudi and his family moved to Durban and Marie and her family visited them once or twice and Marie and Talia used to talk on the phone from time to time, they seemed to get on well.

Rudi didn't go into it, but I wondered, how did Talia feel about this? She must have felt that her husband loved someone else. She must have known that she was not the one, his one. She was not the love of his life, Marie was. It must have had some effect on their marriage, perhaps unspoken. How sad. Perhaps it was the same in Marie's marriage, a negative undercurrent of regret.

Many years later Marie's husband passed away. Rudi and Talia had since moved to Johannesburg as their children were grown and they wanted to be close to their grandchildren. "A few months after Marie's husband's death I went to see her one night." I leaned in, this story had me mesmerized. "I proposed for a third time." No way!! I was gobsmacked! Was he going to leave his wife for Marie after all that time?

"I remember asking her if she would be with me. I was prepared to leave Talia. She just shook her head and told me that our time of being together had passed. She would never be able to live with herself if she broke up my family. I was already 67 years old. We could have had 23 amazing years together, but again she rejected my proposal and broke my heart. Turns out third time isn't lucky for me! I don't know if it was too soon after her husband's death, but she was adamant. Marie told me then that she would never marry again and she stayed true to her word. Only afterward did I realise the gift she had given me. What would have happened if she had agreed? I would have lost everything that is dear to me."

I told Rudi that his story made me sad and he again mentioned that he had had a good life and he really loved his family. I said that I was happy that talking to Marie's daughter had given him some sense of comfort over this sad time. Then he said something that I found very strange. He told me that he felt bad because he had told Marie's daughter not to contact him. I was surprised. If she had given him some comfort, surely they should stay in touch as it seemed to help them both through the difficult memories. Rudi tried to explain "it would make things very difficult on my side, if you know what I mean."

The reality of the situation hit me hard. This frail, sad, 90 year old man was making a "skelm" call to the deceased love of his life's daughter, on her birthday, just to have some sense of feeling close to the lady that he had loved all his life, but who he could never have. He was running the gauntlet for a second hand conversation with an almost stranger, trying to ease the pain of his loss, by listening to her voice, imagining it to be the girl he remembered so well but knowing that it would upset his wife if she found out. He still was being held back, unable to do what he wanted to do, phone who he wanted to phone due to social constraints and I would imagine years of hurt over this issue, so he was hiding the call from  her. He was still doing the right thing. This saddened me even more.

But as sad as I felt for him, my mind kept going to his wife. Think about this from Talia's perspective, how would you feel if your husband of almost 60 years, was still so desperate to be close to the woman who rejected him all those years ago, that he was phoning her daughter to try to get a glimpse of what he had had with her all those years ago. It was ludicrous. A lose-lose situation.

Rudi looked at me with tears in his eyes, patted my hand and said "I'll always wonder about that decision. But to answer your question, I'm not sure if it is a regret per se because I have gained so much, but I will always wonder what if....."

After that conversation I couldn't stop thinking about what Rudi had told me and how it related to my own life. I've never shied away from making decisions, even difficult ones, in fact I enjoy taking a road and seeing where it goes. There are very few choices I regret. In fact I've made some massive ones that have been really positive and if I think back, if I had chosen differently, the results would most certainly have left me worse off. So it is mind-boggling to me that just one wrong decision can literally change your life and your life's trajectory as well as the lives of those around you. We are all a product of all of our choices. Every opportunity you took, every opportunity you were too scared to take, every date you went on, every date you were too tired to go on, every job you applied for, every job you thought you wouldn't get so didn't apply for, is imprinted on the embroidery of your life.

Each day we take decisions that can make or break us. This is great news because if we are unhappy where we are, we are only one decision away from changing it, even though it can be scary. Fortunately I have never made a decision like Rudi because I know that it would eat me up inside always wondering what might have been.

Life lessons from a 90 year old. Thanks Rudi x

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Got a Ticket to my Destination

I love it when a simple quote that I've heard many times before, suddenly hits me on a completely new level and ignites the spark of a new blog post. That's what just happened. I read (for the hundredth time) that life is short and you should make the most of it, take risks, stop and smell the roses and stop sweating the small stuff blah blah. We've all heard the worn out quotes "Life is a journey, not a destination" and "Life is a marathon not a sprint" but it didn't really hit home.

It just occurred to me that we as humans are programmed for the finish and not the journey.

So in keeping with the quotes about journeys and marathons, give this some thought. How many times have you started a journey without an end goal in mind? Hardly ever. You plan a holiday and you work out the travelling time, distance etc. When you get into your car to go on a road trip, even if you know the way, you plug the co-ordinates into your smart phone map app or GPS device so that you can track your progress. These devices recalibrate in real time, adjusting constantly, toying with your expected time of arrival. The traffic slows in front of you, you look at the screen to see the impact on your ETA, you get some open road where you can speed up, and you again monitor the screen, how much lost time have I made up? When serious runners enter a marathon (ok this is purely hypothetical because I never have, nor will I ever run a marathon. Runners are crazy-mad) they plot how far they should have run during a certain period of time. As each runner crosses the finish line they can be seen marking the time on their watch. Later when they have recuperated they trawl over the time it took them to finish, dissecting the race, identifying problem areas and begin planning how to better their time in the next race. It's all about getting to the destination as quickly as possible, preferably quicker than before.

Have you ever tried to lose weight? You decide what your body should weigh and determine the length of time it would take to shed those unwanted kilograms. Then you begin to monitor your progress by stepping onto a flat surface with a digital display that will determine whether your body mass has decreased or not and if so, by what extent. Millions of people are white-knuckling, resisting unhealthy foods and exercising in order to see that number change, even slightly, not because that is what they want to do with their time but because a good, healthy, attractive body is expected by society, so they obsess. The scale is given the power to influence that person's mood for the day or week. A large portion of their day is spent planning, preparing, packing and consuming foods that are on the "good" list and then binging on the "bad" list due to stress. We are programmed, we cannot give up until we have met our goal. Winners never quit and quitters never win. If we do give up we feel like a failure with a healthy dose of guilt.

This begs the question, does the runner enjoy the minutes passing during the marathon or are they focused on their next mini goal in order to get to the finish line? Is the dieter enjoying each day of healthy eating and training that is making their body better, or are they focused on their next meal and how many calories they have consumed? It came as a bit of a shock today to realize that LIFE IS ONLY THE JOURNEY part. There is no finish line that we run triumphantly across, slapping people on the back, relishing in that awesome feeling of achievement. Life is only the journey. Let this sink in for a bit (if you're like me, it's taken 40 odd years for this to really sink in.)

Life is the only journey that, when we reach our destination, we die.

Realistically, when we as humans reach our goal or our destination, we become energized by the achievement and feel fantastic, unstoppable. Not only have we achieved something phenomenal and we are proud and others are proud of us, it's the start of something new.... you've reached your goal weight - now you're going shopping for a bikini, you've bettered your running time, you're off with friends to have a cold one, looking forward to planning your next run, you've arrived at your beach holiday house and you can't wait to feel the sand between your toes and start relaxing. Reaching our goals gives us a great feeling of accomplishment and springboards us towards our next goal.

Food for Thought
Imagine how differently runners would be running if, as soon as they reached the finish line, instead of shutting off their timers, their own time was up? There would be no more camaraderie, no more feeling of achievement, close friends and family rushing to hug them, there would be no pride of finishing, just death (and any wonderful afterlife that follows of course.) So would runners, running their marathon, all be rushing to get to the end, to beat their previous time? I think not. Would dieters be dieting and exercising like they have done, if, when they reached their goal, they realized that the dieting was the fun part, not actually reaching their goal weight?

Similarly, what would you do on your next holiday/ road trip if the holiday ended as soon as you got there and the real holiday was actually the car ride? Would you have taken the highway, aimed to drive at 130km per hour and only stopped once to refuel, stretch your legs and rest? No way. You'd be looking at and enjoying every little windmill and cow you could spot along the way.

In conclusion
The harsh reality of Life, is that when you hit your goal (of living as long as you can), it all goes pear-shaped. Some journeys will end abruptly in the middle of the race while others will end slowly, with our energy gently dwindling, there is no big finish (unless you're Thelma and Louise and let's face it, there was a reason they freeze-framed that last shot, because the next one would have been a lot more real and messy.) If only Life was as glamorous as movies.......

I am not going to end off by telling you to live your life, stop and smell the roses and not to work too hard, you know that already. What I am going to say is that I hope this post gives you some food for thought and you re-evaluate how your journey is going and whether you're on the right road. Are you focusing on how to get there or when you're going to get there? Are you celebrating with your loved ones along the way? Because all the little minutes, hours, days, weeks and months add up to the whole journey and if you're not enjoying the hours that make up your days, then perhaps something needs to change before you reach your finish line. You won't have the luxury of feeling satisfied then, like you do now.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lessons Learned in 2016

In 2016 I have learned that:

the power of social media and technology should not be under-estimated; that Facebook can change lives; that one person, no matter how small, can make a huge difference in someone else's life; that helping others puts me on a high; I shouldn't stand too close to any window in my house during a thunderstorm; I should find the lid of the popcorn pot before I start heating the kernels; making a fancy cake for no reason makes for a fun day; I'm even stronger than I thought I was; single parenting is exhausting but rewarding; it really does take a village;
I create my own drama and can choose not to get sucked into the drama of others; every choice I make is bringing me closer towards something and further away from something else and that I should choose wisely; giggling until you snort is one of life's most under-rated pleasures; it's better to watch the moment than to video it; writing takes commitment, dedication and passion; everyone is able to change and become nicer; sometimes karma works immediately; people can carry emotional trauma for decades; curve balls think they are my friend; 
life is fickle; I only think I have time; I need to plan to do at least one thing on my bucket list each year before there are more items than years; caring family is priceless; international phonecalls are food for my soul; long whatsapp voice messages make me feel like I'm actually spending time with friends; I am never truly in control no matter how much I may like to think I am; standing barefoot in nature grounds and calms me; staying awake too late to enjoy quiet time only brings irritability in the morning; doctors don't always know best; true friends don't need to be asked; kindness came from those whom I least expected; unkindness can came from those whom I least expected; holidays are soulfood; adventures, even silly ones make life more interesting; memories are more important than possessions; music, laughter and chocolate make me happy; I didn't know how much I was going to miss someone until they were gone; Tuesday night dinners, roasts, pizzas and sing-a-longs re-energise even my most tired spirit; sushi and red wine is a fantastic combo no matter what the experts say; kiddy champagne is only for kiddies; I should never open birthday gifts from certain friends in front of my children; 
Christmas has less to do about the food and expensive presents and more to do with our traditions, sentiment, family, decorations and unconditional love; nothing is permanent; I am one decision away from having a completely different life and I've made that one decision; fear cements us into mediocre lives; a child who is scared in the night sometimes gives more comfort than he receives; the memorable scent of my mother will eventually fade no matter how hard I try to preserve it; I have amazing friends; we've passed middle age [horror!!]; I can use a drill; boxes can create magic; 
I can still surprise and impress my children; there truly is no such word as "can't" (the world according to mom) although a lot of bad words will probably be uttered before I say "I can"; I don't have to answer instant messages instantly even though my personality dictates it; stress is self-inflicted; the pain of losing a loved one pricks my eyes when I least expect it; even wealthy people worry about money;
fighting for my children's gifts to be recognised and for them to be respected for who they are, is a large part of parenting; teachers make or break a child and often don't realise the impact they have made (good or bad); seeing a car engine for the first time can be like watching fireworks for a five year old; although beautiful, fireworks can be scary; nothing on earth makes me feel better than hearing my children belly laugh; children grow up faster than you think; allowing photos to be taken of me, make my children happy; on some days two minute noodles are more happily gulped down than the 3 course gourmet meal I had planned; dessert can be a jelly baby. 

These are only some of the lessons I have learned. Reflecting on the words above, I have decided to go against the norm and my new year's resolution for 2017 is to have no resolution. I'm just going to "wing it" and sit back, sipping my jasmine green tea and watch with interest to see whether the world will go into a holding pattern or spin off its axis - I'm assuming not.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Attitude of Gratitude for 2016

It's been a looong time since my last blog post and a lot has happened in this time - some good, some really bad. This year has brought a lot of changes, challenges and new experiences. I have been on my own (with my BLT of course) for eight months and I think I've pretty much got it waxed, apart from the occasional repair that I need around the house, but all in all I I'm doing pretty well. To be honest the kids did mention that the house is getting darker as light bulbs are needing replacing, but nothing that an impromptu candle-lit dinner can't solve! Soon I'll have to tell them we're camping haha.

Even with all the challenges, there is so much to be grateful for. This little blog that you're reading, that I started a couple of years ago to document our lives has also become an outlet for me to write, vent and process. I started blogging to ensure that the details of our journey aren't lost and even though I haven't posted very often, it's now had over 51 000 views!! How crazy is that? So not only is it here for me to look back on and laugh, ponder or cry, it has also touched the lives of others, so that has made me very happy.

More gratitude and happiness - Tomato has been struggling at school this year and it has been heartbreaking to watch as her confidence took another dive and she truly believed she was stupid no matter how often I told her differently. After having her assessed and a few changes made, Tomato proudly handed me her final report with A's in 5 subjects!! She was beaming from ear to ear!! I am grateful to the grade head, who was also one of her teachers. She took a special interest in Tomato and made her feel special and two other teachers who really tried to help her with extra lessons and strategies to help her catch up when she fell behind. Teachers, not schools are important to childrens' education and "write on the slate of who they are." I am grateful that Lettuce and Bacon also had wonderful nurturing teachers this year.  Tomato FINALLY managed to get full attendance at school! After weeks away from school because of her skin, this was the first year she was at school every day and is so proud of her certificate - thank you Dr Aron! With her skin being managed beautifully and her marks improving, yesterday when we bought her stationery for 2017 Tomato said "I'm gonna nail grade 5!" ~ music to my ears. Tomato loves crafts and sings happily to herself and loves music and dancing.

Bacon has grown in leaps and bounds both physically (geez she's getting tall) and in confidence. At the beginning of the year I had to send an email to her teacher asking her to please look out for the children squashing Bacon into her seat because she got stuck between the child behind her desk and the one in front of her and was too shy to put up her hand for help so she missed getting a new reader and was devastated. I felt so sorry for her and the teacher was mortified. Bacon is very quiet but misses nothing, she's methodical and loves school, especially if she loves her teacher, which fortunately she has for grade 1 and 2. I'm hoping she gets a similar teacher in grade 3. Bacon is always excited to get homework, unlike her sister who rolls her eyes and laments the unfairness of homework! Bacon is known as Huggy Bear as she cannot give enough hugs.
Playing on the iPad on the counter

Lettuce has been attending a fantastic play school where he has thrived. He is more than ready for grade R. I haven't quite got myself round to getting his uniform (sob) he's growing up so fast and learning so much from his sisters. He spends lots of time practising his letters and numbers on his own and I leave him to it, trying not to encourage or dissuade him. The girls couldn't care less about learning letters at his age. Mema would be so proud of him, she loved teaching him and he can already read a few simple words! He is fascinated by anything that moves and always wants to know how it works. Looks like he's going to take after his dad and become an engineer. He's so proud to be a whole hand old and is quick with little maths sums. Of course he is a bit of a terror and is often booted unceremoniously out of Tomato's room. Lettuce saw his first real show this year and loved it - Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat. He sang along to all the songs with mom. Lettuce has a great sense of humour and he keeps us entertained.

In September the doctor informed me that I needed abdominal surgery. I wasn't convinced but after the doctors started with their fear-mongering, I gave up and booked myself in for the simple procedure - 2 nights in hospital and 7-10 days recovery. Perfect, I'd just book myself in during the school mid-term break and all would be done by the time the kids needed to be back at school and I needed to be back at work right? Wrong!

The surgery was a success (apparently) but I just wasn't healing. Time and time again I needed to go back to the surgeon as I wasn't able to sit or move without it being incredibly painful. Eventually I was re-hospitalized for infection for "just one night" of intravenous antibiotics, which became 5 nights, a CT scan, MRI and a lot of other painful procedures which I am hoping to forget. My brother and his wife took over my life. Not taking 'no' for an answer when I phoned in tears to say I had to be re-admitted, my SIL fetched me, took me to the hospital, got me settled in, came back later to light some fires under the nursing staff to get me pethidine and looked after my children like they were her own. I never had to give a thought to their well-being. That is possibly the greatest gift that anyone can give a mother in hospital.

Even though my recovery took, what seemed like forever, I have so much to be grateful for as friends and family all rushed to pitch in. I was fortunate to have so many concerned friends visit me in hospital and my brother brought the kids to visit twice so that I could have a bit of family time. I was relieved that they were so content to visit and then go without too much fuss because this year has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for them. When I was discharged I was given a stern talking to by my brother, telling me that I would, under his direct orders, stay in bed until I was completely healed. I was in no shape to do anything anyway, but I probably would have tried like I did before and cause more damage. Sending my BLT to school with Uber was getting a little bit costly anyway! So I was stuck, flat on my back for 5 weeks while everyone ran around taking over my "to-do" list. 

My brother became Mr Mom, taking the kids to school, fetching them, bringing them to me for homework and studying, collecting them later, bathing, giving them dinner, putting them to bed, waking them up, making breakfast and then doing it all again and again for 5 weeks. It was ridiculously busy for him and his whole family. When Lettuce needed a battery for his toy, bro would go to the shop and get him one and fix his toy, when Tomato needed money for school, SIL provided, when Halloween came, my brother and nephew took the kids trick-or-treating while my SIL kept me company. When it was bakerman and Lettuce needed goodies to sell, my SIL made sure he made something. I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to my brother, SIL and nephew who made it look so easy even though I knew it wasn't, especially during exam time and they were constantly juggling their schedules to include mine. 

Huge thanks to granny and grandpa who brought groceries, took up the slack when my brother and SIL couldn't fetch and carry and granny taking me to the homeopath which was what eventually pushed me over the healing edge, thank goodness! 
My friends were also phenomenal. Although I have thanked these people in person, I don't think they really realise how grateful I am. To the friend that took me to hospital at 5am and got me settled in; to the friend who was there when I woke up from surgery; to the friends that fetched and carried me to the doctor over and over again; to the friends who visited me in hospital; to the friend that came to visit me in hospital only to be told I was being discharged and she had to take me home; to the friends who stopped to buy me meds; to the friends who brought me groceries and prepared meals; to the friend that took me shopping when I was eventually able; to the friend who took my children to her house, fed them and took them to school and who offered for me to convalesce at her house; to the friend who dropped off flowers and chocolates and sent a voucher for reflexology; for my sister's friend who came to visit me to cheer me up and brought treats for the kids; to the amazing friend who made delicious home-cooked meals for all of us; to the friends that came to visit to allow me to not feel so isolated from the world; to the friend that heard that Lettuce wouldn't have a cake for his birthday and bought him one and came over with goodies to decorate it with him and the girls and make his birthday a lot of fun; to the same friend who took over my lecturing duties and helped me out of a tricky situation; to the friend who allowed us to gate crash her daughter's birthday party, so Lettuce could celebrate his first birthday with his friends; to the friends who phoned to check on me; to the friends who sent wonderful messages and the outpouring of love I received and to everyone else who helped, even in a small way and for those who offered, I am so very grateful.

Granny's cake
Party cake made by me 
Lettuce, who wasn't going to have any cake ended up having 3! One for school, one for his party and one at granny and grampa. The one I made with my BLT and it was so much fun to make a cake, ice it and dig pieces out!
Cake to take for school
Pizza from the boma
My partner and I made this - YUM!
One great thing that I have in common with all my friends is that we all love food..... and this year  awesome food was indeed consumed! To be honest a lot of this divine food involves a friend of mine who has a whole bunch of us over for dinner so often that we've even got a whatsapp group for our Tuesday dinners (don't be fooled by the name, they can happen on any night!) One of the many things I love about this friend is that she can whip up a three course meal for 10 people, including a roast with all the trimmings (including Yorkshire puddings) in 2 hours without breaking a sweat and it is D-I-V-I-N-E! This year she had a pizza oven installed in her new boma/ fire pit. The pizzas are divine and braaied marshies dipped in chocolate for desert are not too bad either - the kids love it! This same friend took us all on a cooking course for her birthday. We cooked up an Indian storm (a literal hell fire storm - it was flippin' hot!!) and we had an amazing evening with great company and awesome food! 
Homemade ice cream bowls

Sampling the soup
At my house the cooking is not as gourmet as at my friend's house, but we get by. The kids love crumpets, especially in different shapes and as you can see, Lettuce loved my broccoli soup that I made in bulk. I caught him sampling each tub while I wasn't looking! We have also tried some fun things like sprinkled ice cream bowls which the kids had fun making with balloons and lots of sprinkles. 

One thing you can be sure of, is that no matter what life throws at me, I will always find the humour in it. Like Bacon's reader with pertinent picture, I was crying I found it so hilarious - she of course did not. Every time she read "the king's hole" I collapsed and she was not impressed that I was not taking her reading seriously.
Bacon's reader in grade 2

Laughter truly is the best medicine and I take medication very seriously! With three little ones in the house it can be a laugh a minute! Even while typing this my BLT have just called me to the TV room so that we can all dance. They are so much fun, you can't be in a bad mood when you have to sing and dance all the time! Lettuce likes to talk in an American accent, Tomato loves to sing and make up her own songs and Bacon likes to dance on the coffee table (I know, I'm a bad parent but I started it when Mama Mia came on and let's face it you have to boogy on a table to Waterloo!!)

So together with the bad and the sad and the downright scary, there have been many wonderful times and although there were lots of tears this year (I also lost a school friend), many have been tears of joy and for that I am truly grateful. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Tomato's photograph
Last Monday I woke up and decided I wanted needed to go to Clarens in the Free State for the approaching 4 day weekend. The last time hubby and I went to Clarens was BC (before children) so it had been a while. Had I considered that perhaps such a sought-after leisure spot might possibly be booked out well before said Monday? No I had not. It had worked out fine booking "last minute" for Cape Town in December, so why not Clarens in August? Well, it was jam-packed full - dammit. But my good friend Google could tell that I was bummed and asked me gently if I would consider going further afield, outside of Clarens. Hmmm that sounded promising, so I found a fabulous little spot in Bethlehem. Did I know anything about Bethlehem apart from it being the birthplace of Jesus? No I did not. Have I been there before? No I had not. Have I travelled alone with 3 children further than Pretoria? No again. So I decided on the spur of the moment, that it was time I left my 60km radius comfort zone of Joburg and Pretoria and head for the Vrystaat just me and my BLT.

Oh, did I mention that this was so last minute, that I had completely forgotten that we had accepted an invitation to a birthday party for a friend of Lettuce? Oops! So I did as all good marketers do, we did PLOC - Planning, Leading, Organising and Controlling (ok I lost control a long time ago, but I can dream.) We got up early, packed, wrapped pressie, ate brekkie, attended the party and then hit the road! 

R-O-A-D T-R-I-P!!

I can highly recommend going on a road trip after a 4 year old's birthday party. The party packs doubled as fabulous padkos-lucky-dips and the cute little bags came in handy for car rubbish to be tossed at the next One-Stop. When we drove to Cape Town, there was tech equipment to keep B, L and T occupied and the car was silent the whole way down, we never heard from them, they didn't even need bathroom breaks. But, taking single parenthood in my stride, I was going the old-fashioned way - no iPads, iPods or tablets eeek! So once the radio began to crackle indicating that we were about to lose reception, it was up to us to entertain ourselves. We sang and laughed and played games the whole way there. Tomato fancies herself as a bit of a photographer, so she took loads of photos of the farms that we passed, to show her class mates because they're studying farming in Social Science.

Getting every last bit!
We arrived at Favor House late in the afternoon and the kids were super excited to find that it was situated on a farm with horses, cows, dogs and even springbok. They were out the car in a flash and soon became "farm children." Tomato now wants us to sell up and get a farm in Bethlehem (ah, if only....) Our accommodation was great, we all shared one huge room with a beautiful, modern ensuite bathroom and a little kitchenette. The proprietor was really lovely. She had a chocolate on each of our pillows waiting for us (kids were elated), I got Lindor and fancy nougat biscuits on my pillow (I was elated!) as well as a really thoughtful gesture of a bottle of milk in the fridge and homemade rusks at our little coffee/ tea station. There was DSTV so the kids were thrilled with the spoil of TV each night before bed. When it gets dark and the temperature drops below zero, there isn't much to do on the farm! 
Now this is how you make fudge!
Bacon's souvenir from Clarens

The following day we headed to Clarens and poked around in all the great little stores where B,L and T spent their holiday money - Bacon and Lettuce on wooden toys and Tomato on crystals. It was a real trip down memory lane for me. We went to see the church where I had sung at a wedding, which seemed like a lifetime ago. Then we headed to Clementines where a friend of mine, whom I haven't seen in 12 years, welcomed us and we had a great meal. We all played Hi-ho Cheerio and Monopoly between courses and then hit the shops... again. 

On the way back to our home-away-from-home, we stopped in at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which was very cool and the kids played in the massive pipe. When we got back, the kids were allowed to feed the horses *happiness is* and play with the dogs and then we scoffed a whole lot of awesome goodies that we'd bought at the various little shops. NOTHING beats boerekos.  

What to do on Monday? Yo Goooogle!!! I was thinking Golden Gate. I wanted to see the beautiful sandstone mountains, which I adore. Even though sandstone is totally impractical as a tile, I insisted on putting it in our home when we built it, because I love the fossil remains that can be seen in the stone, and I can just feel the beauty and energy of it - it makes my soul happy. My good friend Google rushed to my aid and reminded me that there are trails/ hikes up these majestic mountains. My mind was made up. We had eaten enough over the past two days to satisfy an army, so a hike is just the activity we needed. Monday morning, after playing with the farm animals again, we hit the road to Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

After expressing utter shock and disbelief from Tomato and a lot of eye-rolling and heavy sighing that THIS is what we were going to do that particular day, the four of us trekked up one of the mountains to Echo Ravine - it was breathtaking. Most of the route was on a path, but the last stretch was rock climbing. We walked under a waterfall (more like a water spray thanks to the ongoing drought) and we really were "stuck between two mountains" as Tomato put it. Lettuce was amazing to watch, fearless but not careless, scampering over the rocks, carefully checking the stability of each one before stepping onto it, especially when we got to the high parts. It was really funny to hear this little dude singing the Final Countdown as we climbed! Tomato was a nervous wreck, convinced that we were going to get lost and die on the mountain with our bodies never to be recovered again. She kept asking "what if I fall?" and I kept saying "then I'll climb down and fetch you." Bacon just enjoyed the trail, very proud to be carrying some of the picnic goodies in her backpack that the girls had each received from granny and gramps for their birthdays. The views were fantastic and we stopped to have our picnic overlooking Golden Gate. It was blissful. I love the quietness of mountains and B, L and T even kept quiet long enough at one point for me to really enjoy the sound I refer to as "mountain stillness" while we picnicked and then Tomato could relax a bit.

After getting back (yes we did make it back without a search and rescue team) we headed back towards Clarens to consume all of the calories we had just burned! Gee you can't get out of that place without gaining 3-5kgs! Bakeries and eateries at every corner and all delicious things! We bought lunch and ate it on the grass in the square and Bacon climbed a tree. B, L and T went on a horse and carriage ride, after Tomato bartered the price down!! This from a child who wouldn't talk to strangers 18 months ago! Where does she come from?? I was super proud of her wheeling and dealing.
Dex the Ridgeback
The day we departed, our host was kind enough to take Tomato, Bacon and Lettuce on a horse ride, a little different from a pony ride, but they were thrilled! We weren't ready for the holiday to end, so we drove to a Cat Sanctuary and saw lions, white lions (there was a new baby born that morning), tigers, tiger cubs and black leopards. It was fascinating to learn about these animals and to watch them interact with humans like domestic cats.

Then we were homeward bound, again without anything except ourselves to keep us occupied. We had really amazing conversations about everything and anything. At one point Lettuce fell asleep and his sisters had a whale of a time asking him questions and he would nod or shake his head while asleep. My favourite question was "Lettuce do you want to have children with your girlfriend?" he obviously nodded in his sleep because Bacon then asked "do you want to adopt or make them yourself?" Haha where do they come up with these things? PS Bacon, there is no yes or no answer to that one!

Things I've learned on this trip:
  • My BLT are really fun little people
  • My BLT are flippen noisy in close confined spaces i.e. in a car
  • Lettuce hates my singing *sob*
  • Tomato and Bacon love my singing [that means Lettuce is outnumbered - yay!]
  • Bethlehem is freeeezing!! Even the monopoly box froze
  • Bethlehem has its own casino! 
  • Bethlehem is an awesome little town
  • Staying in a room with 3 little people who go to bed at 8pm, forces you to get HUGE amounts of sleep! I averaged 10 hours a night! 
If you've read this far and you're as OCD as I am, you're screaming "Jesus wasn't born in that Bethlehem!!" Thank you, I am aware of this, I spent a long time trying to explain that exact same thing to 3 little tots that didn't understand why they couldn't visit his manger. So instead we sang "Away in a Manger" while Lettuce blocked his ears and screamed! 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

She's a Perfect 10

I told her to find a safe place for her
glasses each night
Today my little Tomato has entered the world of double digits, she is "two hands," 10 years old. She's not so little anymore......

She, of course is over the moon to be a year older, but this year I'm not sharing her joy as much as I have on her other birthdays. As I reflect back on the past decade, what the hell happened? Ten years? That's cray cray. In seven years she will be writing her learner's license and expect us to put her behind the wheel of a car, when just seven short years ago she was still in a night nappy! It didn't help that the first thing she said to me this morning was "I'm half way to twenty!" *gulp*
She misses my mom terribly
and often draws pictures of her

When Tomato was born, a friend warned me, "don't wish her life away, it goes by so fast." I listened to that friend and thought about that advice many times over the past 10 years. When as an infant, Tomato didn't want to sleep, but preferred to cry from feed to feed, I stopped myself willing her to grow out of her infancy quickly and sleep through the night so that I could stop being zombie-mom. When finally she was sleeping through the night and teething hit, I dredged out those words and mulled them over. When night terrors made her sit bolt upright in bed and scream at the top of her lungs until I ran to comfort her, I remembered those words. 
Dressing up her brother

As the milestones came and went, I would think to myself "the years are flying by, my friend was right." But it took a lot of effort not to wish days, weeks, months away when life got tough. And boy did life get tough for this little girl. I often joked that if something was wrong with one of our children, it was bound to be with Tomato. We all went to the dentist, only Tomato needed fillings. We all went to the Optholmologist, Tomato needed glasses, the other two have 20/20 vision. One of her eyes was found to be "lazy" and we waged war every day for almost 3 years as I forced her to put a patch over one eye for 2 hours a day as recommended to increase her permanent vision. Many times she would cry so much the patch would slide off. 

Obviously her skin issues, which I have documented extensively on many other blog posts, brought a whole new minefield when I dragged her from doctor to specialist to "woo-woo" expert, desperately trying to find the elusive cure. I watched my happy little girl become depressed and desperate. I've also watched as her little body became bloated from the extensive cortisone that was prescribed and how her swollen body and raw skin would create a rift between her and the other children as she was teased and later bullied because she was in constant pain so was labelled as "weird." She just withdrew futher into herself. She is very sensitive and just as she was able to begin re-building her lost confidence, other issues came to the fore. The side-effects of that medication were the oppposite of cortisone and she lost weight almost overnight and while the medication worked, the physical side-affects were detrimental so they were stopped. Then last year my mom passed away and this has hit her very hard. This little girl, although only 10 years old, has had enough turmoil for someone double her age.

Concert Order of Events
No trolls? 
Sometimes in life you get thrown a curve ball. Tomato is my curve ball. Before she was born my life was going exactly as I thought it should, everything was going as planned. Suddenly along came someone who, not only doesn't want to draw in the lines, she doesn't even see the lines! She sees the beauty in everything and has such a huge heart. She loves anything arty and loves to please, although she wants her own way and will fight to the death to get it! I have learned that time is irrelevant to her, even though it is a war at home for us getting anywhere on time, she has taught me to chill a bit and not worry so much about being late. For my A-type personality this has been a challenge. Her love for animals is immense and her greatest wish is to have her own dog. She sees pictures in clouds and soap suds when the car is getting washed and she can get lost in her imagination for hours. She choreographs plays (and ropes in her brother and sister to perform), she dresses her brother up in dresses as often as she can, and she loves to dance and sing her own songs that she's made up, like a mad-thing. She has a fantastic sense of humour and loves a good knock-knock joke.

When Tomato broke my special bowl,
I got this note offering to replace it
My goal with my children has always been to keep them as young as possible for as long as possible, to prolong their childhoods. While this has worked to an extent, I see Tomato growing up and becoming a tween and entering that era of discovery of both herself and the world around her. I love that she sometimes still takes my hand while we're shopping, the extra hugs at night and the quick cuddles (when she's in the mood.) I can feel these are happening less and less as she exerts her independence. Soon I will become uncool and embarrassing (say what?) I'm sure the time is coming and it's scary. From the quiet, shy, introverted little girl who wouldn't speak to anyone, Tomato is coming out of her shell and happily asks shop assistants for the price of items that she wants and orders her own food at restaurants. She is blossoming. 

My wish for my little Tomato is that all the negatives that she has gone through in her short life, remain in the past 10 years and the next 10 are fantastic positive years full of wonder, excitement and discovery (without giving mom and dad too many grey hairs in the process!)