Monday, 31 December 2012

Back to School and Valentine's Day - seriously!

Back to School and Valentine's Day - seriously!
30 December 2012

Curse you evil shops!  Curse you!!!  If I had not witnessed it with my very own eyes, I would never have believed it possible.

The dust has barely settled from Christmas, yet the shops are already adorned with “Back to School!” goodies.  In fact, they’re not adorned with it, rather they’re screaming it.  I haven’t even recovered from Christmas yet.  And nor has my pocket.  It’s still December for heaven’s sakes!  Have a heart!

Nothing screams “end-of-holidays-approaching-and-back-to-boring-routine-and-everyday-school-ness-approaching” than those blasted billboards and posters advertising stationary and Bata Toughees school shoes.  White bobby socks, school bags, pencil cases, long grey slacks and white buttoned school shirts.  It assails you everywhere you go and escape is near impossible.  They sure know how to suck the joy out of the remaining three weeks of holidays don’t they.

I was still trying to wrap my head around the school goodies, when I saw something that defied even more belief.  A whole stand dedicated to Valentine’s Day – cards, teddies, fake roses, the whole toot.  You know Valentine’s Day.  The commercial day of love for lovers and romantic couples all over the world.  A day celebrated IN FEBRUARY!!!  The middle of February to be exact.  How peculiar!

But then again, I thought to myself – stop your whinging!  Don’t the shops all start with their Christmas paraphernalia, advertising, bombardment of the auditory senses with Boney M songs and décor from September already?  So what!  Rejoice in it.  Embrace it.  And if back to school is not your bag, then simply just ignore it.  I surely will.

Because if you don’t like your reality – just ignore it and make a new one.  Personally I’m really starting to look forward to all the Easter goodies which should start hitting the shops soon.  Probably by about the first or second week in January in fact.  And then in the blink of an eye, it will be time to deck the halls for Christmas once more.

Which brings me to another thought.  Exactly what is the connection between the Easter Bunny and chocolate shaped eggs?  Bunnies don’t lay eggs after all and nor do they eat them.  Somehow I just can’t seem to find a link between the two.  Maybe it’s just me.  Either way, I’m looking forward to the chocolate already.

Which means that very shortly I’ll be donning my Easter Bunny hat for my kids once more.  Making flour footprints all over the house and our garden.  Leaving footstep trails to the location of eggs – much to my children’s delight.  Yip, really looking forward to Easter already.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Dads and their daughters

Dads and their daughters
29 December 2012

There is a truly special and indefinable bond between dads and their daughters.  An infinitely tender, special and very unique relationship.

I think it is born from a father’s protective instincts towards his female offspring.  A nurturing that strongly comes to the fore and is primal.  And though I’m sure fathers have similar tender feelings towards their sons, I believe that it is different.  Less shielding perhaps.  Less gentle and cossetting.  Oh they love their boys too.  It’s not about love at all.  But with their boys there is a fair bit of “making men of them” and toughening them up.  But with their girls, they can let it all hang out and unleash their softer sides.

My very own father turned to a marshmallow in my presence.  He had a very special way of looking at me.  Like I was the next wonder of the world and the most perfect creation ever.  He could be strict and go all parental and the heavy father on me, but still he utterly adored me.  And I am delighted to say that the feeling was entirely mutual, as I adored him too.  I suspect that he had the same adoration for my sister, Katrine.

He would focus his entire attention on me and truly listened when I talked.  He was tender and nurturing and thought I was the most beautiful and intelligent person ever.  This was plain for all to see.  He was a very creative man and an exceptionally talented artist, yet my Mom said that he often told her that his most amazing and beautiful creations ever were his children.  No painting, sketch, drawing or sculpture could equal his brilliance as a creator when it came to his kids.  So sweet.

I met my Grantie just two weeks after I turned seventeen and from the get-go I was hooked.  He was clearly the guy for me and I knew that I would eventually marry him.  But for my Dad, this was not an easy thing to either witness or accept.  Perhaps he felt usurped in my affections as I had now found another man whose opinions I valued and looked at adoringly.  He gave Grant the obligatory hard time that fathers feel they should give to their daughter’s boyfriends.  It was not that he disliked him, because he did like him.  It was not that he disapproved of him either.  It was just that Grant had made a cardinal error.  He had stolen my affections and I think the reason my Dad resisted so strongly, was because he knew where our mutual infatuation would inevitably lead – a permanent place in my life.  Do fathers ever think anybody is good enough for their daughters?  Perhaps it is a testosterone thing. 

And after dating Grant for over six years and finally getting married, my Dad turned a corner.  There is a saying in Afrikaans, which is “Die koeël is deur die kerk”, which translates as something being done and a fait accompli – it can’t be changed, so best you accept it.  Once Grant and I were firmly married, he fully accepted him and they actually had a good relationship.  I wonder at how Grant would be with any boy Amber should ever bring home and I shudder at the mere thought.  Good luck is all I can say.  Already at the tender age of eleven, Amber has had a few little boys that liked her and that she has had a little girly crush on.  And Grant can’t stand it.  He gives them all horrible nicknames and teases Amber mercilessly.  The latest boy who liked her was dubbed “The Rat” – shame!  At present Grant is waging an all-out war against Justin Bieber.  It’s actually so sweet to see.  But he need not fear, our little Amber-Berry will always be his princess.  And she knows this.

Grant passionately loves music and his sound system.  Always has.  Always will.  And I clearly remember being pregnant with Luke and Grant saying “no child of mine will ever touch my sound system”.  And once little Luke started crawling and exploring, he once put his hand out to touch his father’s beloved sound system baby.  Grant had been watching him like a hawk and gave him a very hard whack on his hand to warn him, accompanied by a very loud and stern “NO!!!”.  Predictably it made a lasting impression and worked, because Luke never touched it again.  At least not until he was old enough to be taught how to by Grant.  And I mistakenly assumed that the same policy would apply to Amber as a crawling and exploring baby.  But much was my amusement when Amber stretched out her little hand when the time came.  He gently picked her hand up and lightly tapped it and said in a sing song type of voice “no Amber-Berry – don’t touch my little angel!”.  A highly ineffective attempt as she never lost her fascination for it.  And to this day, she is still obsessed with the TV, sound system and various remotes.

I have also been witness to my uncles and their daughters and I can see that it is a struggle for them at times.  It doesn’t matter how nice the guy is.  How right for his daughter.  What a winning prospect.  It is still another man.  I suspect this has always been the case with dads and their daughters.  Grant has an old school friend who had kids very late in life.  And now at the age of about forty four, he has two little girls who are about two and three years old.  And he told us most vocally that he was not going to invest in a mere shotgun when the time came and boys came calling on his daughters.  He’s getting himself a flame thrower and he “will nuke those little bastards on the spot”.  It was so unexpectedly violent and funny that I had burst out laughing.  And one look at his face indicated that he was deathly serious and would try his utmost to go down this road.  I sympathise with his daughters and empathise with his poor wife who is going to have a hell of a time pacifying all and keeping the peace.

I relish in the memories of my Dad and I.  How special it was.  I would sacrifice lots for a killer hug from him again and a shared look of love.  He accepted me for who I was.  He praised me for my achievements and for being me.  I wish the same for my little Berry and for any little girl and woman out there.  A father’s love is encompassing and completely pure.  But perhaps only if you are very lucky and have a fabulous father.  And I was fortunate enough to have one of those.

So I give my Grantie full permission to unleash his inner marshmallow.  Do it babe – go gooey.  Amber delights in it and laps it up.  And while we’re at it – good luck to the Biebs.  He definitely does not make the grade in Grant’s books for his little berry. 

Arriving home from the Hospital after my birth and my Dad is holding my proudly. My folks still very much kids themselves and utter hippies at that.
By the way - the first pic was taken at my wedding. I saved the last dance for my Dad.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The carnage of Christmas

The carnage of  Christmas
26 December 2012

The wrapping has been shredded.  The new toys have been christened.  Computer games have been installed.  Batteries have been inserted.  The fabulous meal has been eaten.  Champagne and grape juice  have been consumed.  Crackers have been cracked.  Gifts have been admired.  Wishes have been shared.  Dishes have been done.  Best cutlery and crockery packed away again.  Rooms littered with new toys and gadgets.  All the candles blown out.

And so another Christmas draws to a close.  And when we all go to bed tonight, everyone will say “This was the best Christmas ever!!!”.  This is my goal every year.  And somehow or other, this very statement is true every single year.  Like a self-proclaiming prophecy that truly comes to pass.

It’s not really about the gifts, though they are the kids’ favourites – predictably.  It’s not really about the meal either – though that is a really good bit too.  And nor is it about the house beautifully decorated – my bestest!.  Or the festive cheer.  Rather, it’s a combination of it all.  Any of these things in isolation, though nice, don’t make up the whole.  The sum being greater than the parts when added up.  Exponential joy if you like.

But now, the very, very best bit has really arrived.  The festivities just keep on going.  We are at Kleinbaai.  My favourite place in the whole wide world.  And in what fine fashion the festivities have continued.  A sit down meal for 26 of our very closest family members.  Gammons, legs of lamb, roast chickens and all of the trimmings.  Ouma Helene’s golden jelly in champagne glasses (it’s her Christmas thing), crackers, nuts and choccies on the tables.  Beautiful Xmas table cloths, mismatched crockery and cutlery because we’re at the holiday house after all and just make do with what we’ve got.  Ouma’s Christmas decorations all set up (I haven’t got my own laptop here, hence I am unable to download lots of pics and post them), and a general air of “Merry Christmas” all around.

Speeches by Oupa Willem.  Toasts to those far away.  If we were all together we’d have been 40 bodies in total.  As is, we didn’t have a big enough table and rather dotted the lounge with little tables everywhere.  I felt a bit like a cruise photographer, going from table to table, saying things like “Right, table three – everyone please smile for a photo”.  Masses of puddings once the main meal was done.

And then just for fun, we all traipsed out to the back garden and took family photos.  Everyone setting up tripods and placing their camera’s randomly to try and take a timed shot of the entire clan.  A big wide angle lens is needed.  And then for some or other reason, we noticed that some of the boys were wearing sleeveless shirts, which spontaneously prompted masses of pics of all of the boys wearing “wife-beater-shirts”.  Being the sport that he is, Oupa Willem gave up on wearing a shirt at all.  And for those “unlucky” few that didn’t have wife-beaters, they resorted to rolling up their sleeves.  Such fun and I’ll be sure to post pics soon.

For now, we’re sitting on the stoep admiring the view.  Lots and lots of going down to the rocks and everyone exploring.  Today the kids went on kayaks and caught little “klipvissies”.  Hunting for octopus, throwing of stones, walks along the water, a fireworks attempt after dark, guitar playing, pitching of tents, swimming for the extremely brave, a midnight walk to the harbour.

I’ve got two nights here with the family and I can hardly wait, yet at the same time, I want to stretch out every minute.  The mood will be jovial.  The kids will go exploring some more.  We’ll vie and make turns for a spot on the hammock with the magnificent view of the sea.  The rocks and sea will never lose its allure and drawing power.  We’ll go for more walks.  Eat way too much.  Relax and lounge.  Indulge in lots of laughing. 

In short we’ll create magic and memories in equal portions.  This is the home of my heart and where a part of my soul lives.  It’s were we strew my dad’s ashes in the sea and I sent him a message of love in a bottle that I tossed out to sea.

 It’s been a part of my life as long  as I can remember.  Bricks, mortar, cement – yet a comforting constant.  Always there.  I love the smells, the sights and the sounds.  But mostly the people who share it with me.  One and all.  Viva Lombards!  Viva!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

'Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas
24 December 2012

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, everyone was sleeping, including the mouse.  I mean, the hamster.  The sleeping beauties included the dad, the three kids, the two dogs, the hamster and the two fish.  The only one roaming and still wide awake was the Mom.

But then again, this was not usual behaviour for her.  She is a bit of a night owl after all.  So the cause for tonight’s midnight roaming?  Well, the answer is simple.  She has duties to fulfil.

And what duties might that be?  It’s Christmas and surely time to rest.  Well, she has biscuits to eat and carrots to nibble.  And milk to drink too.  She has to take care of a wee bit of correspondence on Father Christmas’ behest and ensure that there are some tell-tale reindeer droppings as well as other evidence in her garden.  Clues left behind that bear testament to an annual visit by a fat guy with a belly and a beard, sporting a bunch of rowdy reindeers in tow.  On this occasion, she left big fat kidney beans all over her garden as evidence.  According to the letter from Father Christmas, Rudoph was battling with a spot of gas, due to overindulging in beans, which he had consumed in copious quantities at a previous house, whilst doing gift deliveries.  Reindeers!

The meal has been planned.  The gifts have been wrapped.  Some of the wrapped boxes under the tree actually contain clues to treasure hunts, leading the kids to their presents.  And thus the presents have been hidden.  The Xmas stockings have been filled.  The waffle batter for Xmas morning breakfast has been mixed.  The cameras are charged.  And by the time you read this, her blog would have been posted.

The halls have been beautifully decked and she greatly admires it all.  The Christmas lights are a twinkling.  And I suspect that the very last thing she’ll do, just before going to bed, is to sit down for a moment and take if all in.  To marvel at how far she has come.

From a little and insecure girl, to a mother of three.  A mother who deeply loves her children.  A wife who deeply loves her husband.  And a woman who deeply loves her family.  A mother who has created traditions for her children.  Who knows that her children feel loved.  Who beautifies their home and their lives for them.  Who shields them from pain and hurt.  Who makes life good for them.  A mother who loves.

When did this all happen?  She can hardly remember.  Just the other day she was a gawky teenager.  All knock knees and low self-esteem.  Painfully shy and not brave enough to say boo or voice an opinion.  Perhaps she didn’t even have one.  And now she’s running a home, a business and a family.  She’s hardly qualified, but she seems to be doing an okay and relatively good job of it.  If passion and love are requirements, she’s got it in spades.

And so she sits back and wistfully admires her quiet house for a moment.  In a few hours time, it will be a hive of activity and excitement.  Children’s voices raised in happiness and expectation.  Before long, squeals of delight and shredded wrapping paper everywhere.  And much, much later blissful content.  Once the Christmas lunch has been eaten, the dishes are done, the batteries are inserted in new toys, computer games have been installed.  The floor will be strewn with new toys.  Bellies will be full (she’s attempting a killer chocolate mousse for dessert).  Even the dogs get pressies and will be munching away.

She’ll put her feet up on the couch and have a relax.  Soaking it all up and reliving the wonderful day and think to herself – Merry Christmas.  Done, delivered and dusted.  Well done!

Monday, 24 December 2012

The placebo effect

The placebo effect
23 December 2012

The placebo effect is a medically and scientifically documented occurrence.  It is a process whereby the mere act of medicating of giving the someone the belief of a cure, indeed acts like a cure.  Somehow even if the medication they are receiving are ineffective little pink or white sugar pills, that contain no active ingredient, it still seems to cure the ailment.  So powerful is the human mind.  It believes what it is told to believe.  All hail the phenomenal powers of suggestion.

In the same manner, you can convince yourself that you are happy, fat, thin, beautiful, clever, talented, etc.  You truly are what you believe you are.  Hence the importance of speaking positively to our children and over them.  Encouraging them to believe what we want them to believe.  How?  By the simple act of belief.  Sounds crazy, hey?  Yet it works.

I practice the placebo effect daily in my life.  In many aspects of it.  I WILL be happy goddammit!  Therefore I am.  I am joyful and positive and see good all around me.

When my kids come to me with any ailment, albeit a sore foot, a headache or a tummy ache, my standard response is “Have you tried making a pooh yet?”.  And for some or other peculiar reason, this does really tend to fix most problems.  Why?  Because I have conditioned them to believe it will.  I will only investigate further and medicate them properly once we’ve gone down this road.  And quite bizarrely a number two tends to help and indeed cure most headaches, tummy aches and even the odd sore limb.

The next step on the road to curing ailments is pretty much a fool proof winner.  And this one is the big smoking gun…….a bandage.  No, don’t laugh.  I’m absolutely serious here.  When Doctor Helene’s in the house, she whips out a bandage on occasion.  Kids put so much faith and belief into little strips of white gauze, you would never believe it.  And should the need for the placebo effect to work be particularly strong, then for extra effect, I occasionally administer an even bigger smoking gun.  Let’s call it the smoking cannon.  Are you ready for it?  Okay, so should the situation be dire and you want an instant and very quick fix, this is what you do.  It’s sort of a dual system.  A bandage accompanied by a ……. sling.  Now, we’re talking.

Because a sling is at the very top of a child’s medical food chain.  It commands equal portions of respect and sympathy.  And let’s not underestimate it’s magical properties for making other children jealous.  If only they suffered a similar condition necessitating the all-powerful-all-healing BANDAGE-WITH-SLING.  How “fortunate” they are.  It tops a silly little plaster by a million fold.

My standard cure for a tummy bug, is a special little bed I make for my kids in front of the TV, which instantly elevates them to patient level.  They believe that they are now under my expert nursing skills.  The immediate purchase of lightly salted chips/crisps (the yellow packet if you please) and flat Coke (normally forbidden, especially in the week) follows.  Naturally they gobble this down, and normally feel marvellously better after their first dose.  Predictably they have a little relapse when their siblings are watching them.  Obviously requiring an extra and indeed very special dosage of crisps and Coke in front of said siblings.  They crave this special treatment and it makes them feel cared for and loved, I believe.  Which they absolutely are.

Both Nurse Helene and Doctor Helene are experts at caring for their patients.  And she firmly believes in telling her patients that whatever she is giving them for their ailment will indeed cure all.  And amazingly it usually does.  The fact that the tablet they occasionally receive is harmless dental fluoride or homeopathic little cure-all white tablets is beside the point.  They believe and therefore they get better.  And that is all that really matters.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Teenagers - they roam in packs

Teenagers - they roam in packs
22 December 2012

Teenagers tend to roam in packs.  They are not solitary creatures.  However their social and pack skills only really come to the fore when they are with their peers.  They are hardly likely to exhibit this same pack behaviour with adults or younger kids.  Younger kids tend to annoy them.  Adults even more so.

They use these pack skills in all spheres of their lives.  They like to arrive at parties together and in groups.  They tend to move as one and never alone.  No one wants to be the first or the only person anywhere – EVER.  Even arriving at school in the mornings is timed to coincide with friends arriving too.  They do shopping together.  Even going school shoes shopping with Mom is more acceptable if their pack moves with them.

These same pack skills affect the sport they play.  The clothes they wear.  The extra-murals they do.  If no one else is playing it, wearing it or doing it – they won’t either.  They hate standing out and tend to go for uniformity of clothes, activities, etc.  Everyone wears a certain type of clothes.  If caps are in, then they all wear them.  If a certain type of sunglasses are in, they all wear them too.  The same goes for shorts, shirts and shoes.  In fact – it goes for everything.

And when you’re a den mother for a night for a pack of teenagers, you will find the following – they graze.  Continually.  They have voracious appetites.  For food, for junk, for annoying siblings, for sweets, for cool drinks in summer and hot chocolate in winter, for the internet, for computer games, for going to bed late, for being moody and hormonal, for goofing off, for dissing each other, for sleeping late.  Basically for being typical teenagers.  They are exactly like every stereotypical image and version you’ve ever seen of a teenager on TV and in the movies.

And once they’ve established that your den is sufficiently depleted, they move onto the next den.  The next den mother.  The next fridge and food source.

And so they roam from home to home.  Always on the lookout for something new and exciting to do.  If these escapades include danger and are forbidden, it just makes them that much more exciting and enticing.  They annex the computer and the TV too – if given a chance.  They lounge about living the lazy life.  They are experts at social commentary and firmly believe that they do indeed have all of the answers.  That adults know nothing and are particularly dense and boring.  They have a nonchalant and jaded attitude and play very hard at appearing to be permanently unruffled and unfazed.

I love it when my home is filled with kids.  Yes, kids.  Because contrary to their own perception, teenagers are still kids.  Albeit big kids.  I enjoy listening to their interaction with each other.  Seeing how they goof off and tease each other.  How they mooch about and eat all of the time.  How they are so opinionated and “wise”.  How they truly believe they have their lives worked out and mapped out.

Luke had a buddy sleeping over this week, and they told me all about how they can’t wait to “like move into a flat together one day”.  How they would all pay rent and stuff.  Yip, stuff.  I can’t wait to see this.  They can’t remember to put the lid on the tomato sauce bottle, but think they have got life licked.  And ironically it is really very sweet, because we were all the same.  Once upon a time, a long, long time again, we were also filled with optimism and a continual zest for new things in life.  Before we got bogged down by bills and responsibility.

I hope life doesn’t beat this out of them.  That they get to realise their dreams and live their adventures.  In the meantime, I’ll stock up on junk food and make sure I have enough bandwidth.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Sometimes I hide away from my kids

Sometimes I hide away from my kids
20 December 2012

Yes, I know.  I am a horrible person.  Occasionally I hide away from my kids.  So shoot me!  I’m only human.

I don’t hide in a difficult place where it’s hard to find me.  No, not at all.  I practically hide in plain sight.  Well, sort of.  Put it this way, my kids actually know my exact location when I’ve gone in hiding.  It’s hardly a secret.  However, what is a secret, is the lie I tell them when I’m hiding. 

Yes, yes, I know.  Lying is bad too.  So shoot me!  As mentioned before, I’m only human.

The trick with lying to your kids is in ensuring that you never get caught out in a lie.  Because that would be dreadfully bad.  As in really bloody awful.  It is very difficult being all pious and “lying is very bad” when you do it yourself.  And get caught in the act.  Red handed so to speak.  It completely ruins your good parent mojo.

So, this is my modus operandi.  I tell my kids that I “quickly” have to go to the loo.  Then I very sedately, yet filled with anticipation, practically waltz down the passage into my bedroom.  That would be my en suite bedroom – conveniently with a bathroom excuse “on tap” so to speak.  Wicked, I know.

So the question is this – do I then proceed with my ablutions?  Dear heavens, no!  I never even needed to go in the first place.  Firstly, I lock my bedroom room, ensuring my safety.  And then, and only then, once I’ve assured my privacy, I flop down on my bed and just lie there for a few minutes.  Not a long lie.  Definitely not a sleep.  Just a few quick minutes – perhaps five or so.  Sometimes I read, but mostly I just lie.  I take my glasses off and look out at the green hazy and very blurry view outside my bedroom window.  The little creeping “vineyard” that grows on the veranda.  Nothing is defined due to my lack of spectacles, but I know exactly what it is none the less.  The sunlight dapples through and the blurry green mass flutters and moves in the wind.  I stretch out fully and fling my arms wide above my head, taking up as much space as possible on the bed.  Sharing and economy of movement is the last thing on my mind. 

So what do I do then?  I just lie.  I let my mind drift.  I breath in and out.  I think happy thoughts.  I rejoice in nothingness.  In not being needed.  In not being busy.  In not rushing.  In just being.

Oh my kids have a little radar.  All three of them.  A radar, coupled to an alarm that goes off the very instant I’m not available to them.  And following the triggering of their alarm, they will come and knock on my door – a few times.  All three of them usually.  To which, I quite calmly reply – “I’m busy – I’ll be with you just now”.  This of course barring a life and death crises.  And perhaps even then, they’ll get the same “I’m busy – I’ll be with you just now” response.  It tends to work like a charm.  Alternatively, if they don’t get the message, I blatantly and shamelessly ignore them.  They always “know” what I’m doing when I’m in my room and my door is locked.  They think I’ve gone to the loo.  Works every time.

The thing is this.  Sometimes I just need a break.  Even just a little one can leave me feeling a bit more refreshed and ready to take on the world and three kids once more.

So do I feel guilty for both hiding from my kids and lying to them?  Hell no!  Not even one little drop.  This is the only occasion where I bend the truth a bit.  Honesty is key and of the utmost importance.  It forms the basis of mutual trust and respect.

Well, perhaps I’m not being entirely truthful here.  Because although this is the one and only instance where I continually lie to my kids, there are a few other grey areas too.  But maybe they are not lying as such.  More an altering of the truth to protect the innocent.

Like when I tell them “no, we would never eat chocolates and biltong without you” – we all know that chocolates are bad for their teeth and health and that biltong is raw meat – just saying.  So I’m actually protecting them.  Or when I say to them “I don’t think you should have prawns and crayfish – children never like them – you could get seafood poisoning”.  Hey, it is sort of true.  And the fact that it leaves more for Grant and I to enjoy is pure coincidence.  Or when I say “Mommy and Daddy are so tired.  We’re just going to go for a little nap…….”

So see!  It’s a kindness really.  The truth would freak them out.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

The process of osmosis

The process of osmosis
19 December 2012

I suspect that kids learn the most by observing.  Lucky for us, they don’t just observe from us.  Their horizons are bigger, wider and stretch further.  They find inspiration from all over.

And for the most part, this is a wonderful thing.  I mean, it stands to reason, that the more teachers you have, the more vast and diverse your knowledge base will be.  But while this is all fair and well in theory, what happens in practice?

Well, that is an entirely different matter altogether.  All of a sudden, you might find your teaching skills as a parent, usurped by those of Snoop Dogg,  You know Snoop Dogg – big skinny dude.  Calls’s everyone “ho’s” and “bitches”.  Wears his pants around his ankles.  Covered in tattoos and bling-bling jewellery.  Big time into recreational drugs, swearing and the like.  A real stand-up guy.  Just the type you want to have around for Sunday lunch when granny’s visiting.  Hey, I’m not saying his music is not great.  I just worry about him being a role model.

And of course, the irony then is that he’s actually the one you really want.  The lesser of two evils.  Well, at least he’s the lesser as opposed to Lady Gaga.  A lovely homely girl.  Tends to drape herself in raw meat.  Serious!  She wore a very fetching little ensemble the other day, made entirely from meat.  Probably chops and steak.  More than likely she a vegetarian and she simply don’s the meat dress in protest against the trampling of toads in the Amazon.  Or some equally odd reason.  Then there’s Rihanna who got beaten up by her boyfriend.  Britney Spears who beat up a journalist with her umbrella no less.  And so the list of musical “teachers” go on.

If your kids are into sport and they find a sport’s hero or star they would like to emulate, you have struck gold.  Sporting stars are normally level headed and hard-working people.  They are dedicated to their profession, put in exceptionally long hours, look after their bodies physically, are disciplined, make many sacrifices for their sporting careers and have self-discipline.  Unless their sporting hero is Lance Armstrong of course, who succumbed to doping as a quick fix to keep on winning.  Or it’s Hansie Cronje, who gave in to match fixing pressures.  Or it is Joost van der Westhuizen (no disrespect meant to his terrible and debilitating subsequent illness), who had the terrible misfortune to be caught on camera with a pair of skanky holey undies, indulging in a bit of extra-marital curricular activities.  Because if your kids have learnt some lessons from these “awesome” sporting teachers, you’re in a spot of trouble too.

So, I’m thinking, that the best we can hope for is osmosis.  You know osmosis – the process whereby water moves through a partially permeable cell membrane from a low area of concentration, to a high area of concentration.  And here is the clincher – partially permeable.  Which in this instance, translates as internalising and accepting the good and pure, and discarding the waste.  Because if that is the case, then what they will learn from Snoop Dogg, is that “ho’s” and “bitches” aside, he is a family man.  Who loves his wife and kids passionately and is terribly protective over them and that he loves them with everything in him.  That Lady Gaga, though extremely odd on the outside, has a very good heart.  That she has adopted many, many causes and fights for them and does a lot of good in the world.  In fact one of her pet causes is the fight against bullying in schools and she has put millions of her own money into educating kids and providing support for kids that are being bullied.  She is the voice of the downtrodden and often misunderstood, different kids out there.  That Britney Spears fought for her privacy – not only for herself but also for her kids.  That Rihanna might have suffered from domestic violence at the hands of her boyfriend, but that she stood up to him and left him.

That Lance Armstrong is more than just a fallen sports star who made a bad choice.  He is the poster person for fighting and overcoming testicular cancer – a very delicate issue.  That he did a lot of good in his time and was a sports ambassador and gave inspiration and hope to many.  That Hansie Cronje made a bad choice.  But that he admitted it and took it like a man.  That he faced public humiliation, yet still held his head high.  That Joost has turned his life around.  That he made a mistake, but we all do.  That he apologised and said he was sorry.  That he forgave himself.  That he doesn’t give up and will keep on fighting his terrible illness – not only for himself, and the many people that he has taken under his wing, but also for his kids. 

But apart from pinning a lot of hope on the process of osmosis, I am also pinning a lot of hope on the process of reverse osmosis.  Because just as my kids are hopefully learning from me, they are simultaneously teaching me too.  Their wisdom and knowledge is passing through them to me.  How fortunate am I to have three young teachers living in my home.  Blessed for sure.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Succumbing to a mild bout of salmonella?

Succumbing to a mild bout of salmonella?
18 December 2012

I am blissfully spoilt with a marvellous domestic worker, whom I love more than Grant – seriously.  Now I am not scared of a bit of housework and am happy to jump in and help, but particularly over the weekends, the kids get roped in too.  They have turns to do dishes, tidy the lounge, table duty, turd patrol in the garden, feed the dogs, etc.  All character building you see and the fact that it lessens my workload is of course a marvellous by-product.

But does it really lessen my workload?  Does it?  Are they really all that helpful?  Tidying the lounge is always a half-hearted attempt.  Setting of the table inevitably leads to a call back.  Things are dumped and plonked down haphazardly.  And they are often called back because “the table has not been set with love” and “I don’t see the love” or “I don’t feel the love with this table”.  Yes, I know – I’m very hard work.  My boys’ wives will thank me for this one day and Amber will terrorize her children in the same manner.

When it comes to feeding the dogs, they are often led by their hearts.  And tend to overfeed out of love, compassion and concern.  No amount of explaining about an adequate food supply and tendencies towards obesity in dogs make any impression.  And inexplicably, Cole always needs a shower after doing turd patrol.  Yes, I’m sure you understand exactly why.  Somehow or other he always gets “dirty” and very often “mysteriously” trips.

But if there is one area and one area alone where they truly excel, it is the washing of dishes duty.  Well, when I say excel, I am quite obviously being sarcastic.  Because their mediocrity and dedication to poor service delivery is astounding.  They put their all into it.  Or should I say their nearly bugger-all.  Oh, they do it alright.  That’s not the problem.  It is the quality of their workmanship that is the problem.  When they are done, inevitably the last of the dishes are still in the rinsing water, the counters have not been wiped down, the washing up water looks like a dreadful and deadly unpalatable soup-gone-wrong and everything is coated with a thin greasy film.  It is as if they’re actively inviting salmonella into our home.

But perhaps this is their master plan?  Because I think that they think if they do a bad enough job, I simply won’t ask them to help out again.  Hah!!!  But I am on to them.  I was once a kid too and know their conniving, manipulative and clever ways.  So, to offset their evil machinations, I have a fail proof system in place.  When they are not looking and are otherwise occupied, I tend to be forced to rewash again.  It’s not the control freak in me doing it (much).  It is the looking-out-for-my-family-hygiene side of me.  It does also seem to lessen my gag reflex when I want to use a plate and cutlery that they have just “washed”.

But do I let them off the hook completely and simply wash everything myself from the very beginning?  Of course not.  That would defeat the whole purpose.  They have to help and do their little bit.  No one gets a free ride and we all lend a hand.  So perhaps my hands are better at getting the job done, but that is not important.  However, what is important, is making them feel like they’re needed and helpful and giving a contribution.  Like their hands are also needed.

I gently try and guide them towards ensuring everything is washed and rinsed properly, yet I praise them for their efforts, irrespective of the outcome.  But on the odd off chance that they’re trying to pull one over me, I’ll keep my eyes open and watch them like hawks.

After all succumbing to either a mild or more virulent strain of salmonella doesn’t really fill me with joy.  Because who will be left to clean up?  Moi!

My 2nd name

My 2nd name
17 December 2012

Well, I suppose technically at least it’s not my real 2nd name as I already have one of those.  And truth be told not many people (read that as no one) ever uses my official 2nd name.  And even more don’t even know what it is.  Unless you’re a Facebook friend of course, because then you will know, as I use it on my profile.  Got you confused yet?  Good!  So, for those of you not in the know, my official 2nd name is “Magda”.  It also happens to be a part of my Mom’s name, who was christened Magdalene, but everyone calls her Maggie.  Sure you’re not confused?  Such a pity.  Let me give it another bash.  I was never even supposed to have a little “Magda” tagged onto the back of my name, but my Dad said that when he went to register my name, the solitary “Helene” just looked so sad and lonely.  So on a whim, he just went with it and added a bonus name.  Right!  Now I’ve got you.  However, all of this is of course completely irrelevant.  Especially as this particular blog is actually about my 3rd name.

Because, my 2nd name pales in comparison to my 3rd name.  Perhaps a slightly less official name as it doesn’t even appear on my birth certificate.  Yet a name nonetheless.  And so without any further ado, I give to you my 3rd name…..(dramatic silence)…..(followed by drumroll)…..(followed by more dramatic silence)……….  My 3rd name is …..”Mommy-I’m-hungry”.  I know – not a very glamorous moniker at all.  But there it is.  Truth be told, I had kind of expected the “Mommy” bit – especially as I was a mother after all.  However, the continual “I’m-hungry” addition to my name, came as a bit of a surprise.

My children seem to be bottomless pits.  Continually demanding filling and feeding.  Throwing fresh fruit at them seems to help, yet this is only a short term solution to an ever-present daily and long term problem.  Who would have thought, that food would be such a focus for them.  It feels as if I’ve no sooner fed them, than they need feeding again.  Is this entirely normal?  And yes, we’ve done the gruesome and unpalatable deworming process many times throughout the years.  This is clearly not the problem.

I have deduced through my cunning investigative and detective skills, as well as my keen powers of observation, that their “hunger” is quite often directly related to their boredom levels.  And what is rather peculiar, is that a hunger of this nature, cannot be fed with the usual food.  Jungle Oats, a sandwich or 2 minute noodles won’t do.  This type of hunger needs flapjacks, pancakes and waffles.  And many other favourite foods too.  Apparently a fall-back position when not knowing what to do with yourself, is to eat.  And so to combat this, I give my kids chores and little jobs.  I also have a few failsafe replies to the “Mommy-I’m-hungry” statement.  Such as “how about building a puzzle?” or “why don’t you go for a swim?” (note that this only works in summer) or “reading is such fun” or “I have got a very important job for you to do” (followed by some menial task like counting the individual spaghetti sticks in a pack) or “go right around the whole garden, but you have to pretend that you are a detective, so you have to be really, really quiet and only walk in the shadows” or “please fill the salt and pepper cellars”, etc.  In fact my list of distracting techniques is rather long and my repertoire is rather large.  When all else fails and only if I’m really, really desperate I resort to an old favourite - “let’s play the quiet game”.  This is an extremely effective measure, but it’s powerful properties gets diminished by frequent and abusive usage.  It is reserved for emergencies only – use with caution.  Please be aware though, that the powers of this last measure, severely diminishes as kids get older – so while you must use it with caution and care, use it while you can.  You have a window of opportunity.  By age ten, you’ve in all likelihood lost your window.

But enough about my 3rd name and time to move on to my 4th.  Also a variation on the Mommy theme.  In fact names five, six and seven are too.  My 4th name is “Mommy-it’s-not-fair” – to which I normally reply, “nor is life, get over it”.  My 5th name is “Mommy-it’s-not-my-fault” – to which I inevitably reply – “sure dear, it’s never your fault”.  This said with dripping sarcasm.  I know, I’m a horrible parent.  My 6th name is “Mommy-do-we-really-have-to-go-to-bed-now”?  The answer to this little gem is always “YES”.  Because if I’ve reached this point, then negotiation is over.  And my 7th name is “Mommy-just-five-more-minutes-please”.  Please refer to my answer with regards to my 6th name.  Because to quote “if I’ve reached this point, then negotiation is over”.

I have many, many more names.  Most of them preceded by Mommy.  And I love each and every one of them.  Truly I do.  Because even though these names might annoy me and test my patience at times, they remind me that I am indeed lucky enough to be called “Mommy”.  And “Mommy” is the best name in the whole world.

And thus, my kids had flapjacks for breakfast this morning and they weren’t even “hungry” yet.