Wednesday, 31 October 2012

I find myself wearing a mask

I find myself wearing a mask
31 October 2012

Halloween is upon us and alongside it, all of the hoopla it entails.  Shops are adorned with witch’s hats, pitchforks, devil horns, hollowed out pumpkins and many more similar things.  And though Halloween is not celebrated in South Africa on a large scale similar to those we see overseas, I believe the trend is gaining ground.  With more Halloween dress up costumes and accessories available, awareness is created.  In certain neighbourhoods kids even go trick or treating.  I do however think it is quite uncommon to knock on virtual stranger’s doors.  And that it is usually done within the safety of a security village or gated community.  Even warning neighbours in advance, of intentions to call upon them, urging them to stock up on sweets.

And so, with all of the Halloween goodies abounding, my thoughts drifted to dress-ups and the outfits that one sees on TV and on the Internet.  Kids donning elaborate and fun costumes.  If memory serves, my little niece in England, donned a punk-rock-gothic-princess-chick theme last year.  And seeing the pics of others on Facebook, masks are big.  Which in turn made me think about masks and how I wear one every single day of my life.  Not something exotic and adventurous like a Batman mask or a Supergirl mask.  Perhaps something a bit more mundane.  Yet, essential to my “superpowers” none the less.  Because I simply cannot face my day and the world in general without…..

Eyeliner.  No, don’t laugh.  I’m being one hundred percent serious here.  My eyeliner is the mask behind which I hide.  Without it I feel naked and vulnerable.  But with a single swipe of a line of black kohl, I feel ready and able to take on the world.  It is amazing how much confidence that one little act instils in me.  It can hide a multitude of flaws, detracting attention away from other less stellar areas.  It boosts my ego, makes me walk taller, feel more intelligent and act more confidently.  It truly is a miracle cure.

Another arsenal in my weaponry is my pair of spectacles – which definitely adds intelligence.  Not only does it improve my vision, but also my hearing.  Because without wearing my glasses, my hearing takes a knock.  One is unaware how much you use sight in your verbal and listening skills.  Because without the benefit of sight, one is unable to correctly interpret many things that are spoken.  You lose out on body language, hand gestures and facial expression.

I think many of us wear a “mask”.  Using things that we deem essential.  We use them to cover up and to add a layer to our skin.  They give us confidence and act as our emotional crutch – in a healthy way of course.  A physical manifestation of an emotional need.  And I don’t think we ever join the dots and see it for what it is.  For my Grantie it’s his sunglasses and a cap in summer.  For Luke it’s his cell phone always attached to his hand.  For some it’s a cigarette.  For other’s it’s a drink.  Perhaps a “security blanket” so to speak.  As well as a “comfort toy” if you like.  Something you simply can’t do without.  That you acutely miss and look for if separated from it.

I think there’s nothing wrong with this.  If a little girl’s earrings give her the boost that she needs, that’s fantastic.  If a little boy always has a little car, rugby ball or superhero toy in his hand, that’s also okay.  Ladies have handbags and men cling on to car keys.  Each to their own is all that I say.

And while some may wear physical “masks” in some form or another, others have other coping mechanisms of a different type in place.  Perhaps an acerbic tongue and razor sharp comments.  Loads of boisterous confidence.  The telling of jokes, and an escape in humour.  Bouts of self-pity.  Even nastiness and being selfish and horrible to others can be a mask.  Maybe deflecting attention away from the true crux of the matter.  A smoke screen of sorts.

For me, I’m happy with my eyeliner.  It symbolises feeling ready and confident to face the world.  It’s harmless and cheap – a winner deal.  And though a simple eyeliner may seem so small and silly to others, to me it is huge.  I love you Charlie black eyeliner – with all of my heart.  And I will never cheat on you with Revlon, Rimmel or any other makes.  You make my world work.  And I thank you for that.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Pack your bags, we're going on a guilt trip

Pack your bags, we're going on a guilt trip
30 October 2012

My kids just love travelling.  Or perhaps they just love it when I travel?  Because quite often, I find myself saying “pack your bags we’re going on a guilt trip”.  This when they’re bemoaning some or other injustice that’s been done to them.  Usually by me.  “You don’t…….  Why didn’t I…….  I’m always…….”.  They are all pro’s at the parent-guilt-trip.  If only it worked.  And if only I cared.

Because all I can say in response to their whinging is, “quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”.  Because, I really and truly don’t.  One of the few perks of parenting, is the right to make unilateral decisions.  I don’t have to ask their permission.  I am the boss.  And if they don’t like my decisions, then my heart pumps lumpy custard for them.  Because once again I just don’t care.  I know this may sound callous and harsh.  They are obviously allowed to have an opinion and give input, should the occasion call for it.  I listen to them, give them their time and if there is merit to what they’re saying it may hold sway.  But the buck stops with me.  I am older than them.  I am wiser than them.  I have more experience than them.  And unlike my children, who often only see short term rewards and not long term gains, I get to make the final call.  I am not autocratic or a dictator, by any means.  I feel that I’m fair and just.  And if they don’t like my decision, they may voice their opinion, but I will hold steady.  If they don’t like it, they’ll have to get over it.  I’ve told all of them that I’m not running a popularity contest.  They don’t have to like me.  It would be marvellous if they did, but not necessary all of the time.  In fact, I would be a highly ineffective parent if wasn’t able to do just that – parent.  A word synonymous with unpopularity at times.

Last week, Amber had her entrepreneurship day at school.  A much anticipated event.  She fondly nurtured visions of money streaming in.  Of being able to buy clothes and magazines and jewellery galore.  I told her that all we could do, was make some awesome goodies.  Make a really nice poster to advertise her wares, have a fair price, do a bit of selling on the day and hope for the best.  I was happy to fork out the initial money to cover her costs – the raw products if you would.  But I ensured that we kept track and a list of our expenses.  I also told her that if I already had any goodies that she required in the house, they would be on me – a freebie if you like.  And in the same vein, I would give her a float, enabling her to have change for her clientele.  But from the get-go I told her, that she would only start showing a profit, after covering all of her costs.  Am I perhaps too harsh?  But the whole point of the entrepreneurship day, after all is as part of an Economic Management and Sciences project.  Yes, she is my lovely little girl, but she had to experience first-hand how these things worked.

On the big day, I went to the school and supported her and various other kids as well.  And my Berry’s sales were not stellar to be truthful.  When I fetched her from school, she was not happy.  She had only made R197.  Until I pointed out that she still had to pay me.  R97, if you don’t mind.  She was so upset with me and said “what type of mother would do this to their own little girl?”.  To which, I replied “me, hand over the dosh”.  We got home and amidst much grumbling at first, she conceded defeat and parted with some of her earnings.  We sat down together and made a little deal.  I would only charge her for the cost of the goodies that were sold and with that in mind, I refunded her R47.  A very fair deal in my opinion, and she was delighted.  The rest of her stock would be used for stocking fillers and the like.  I’m hoping she learnt something from this.  And I’m very proud of the hard way that she worked towards her goal.  She was diligent in making her things and had great joy in doing so.  And even before we had reached our deal, she had seen the light so to speak, handed over her R97 and was delighted with the resulting R100 profit.  The rest was a marvellous bonus.  But I had to justify it and make it legit.  Not a hand-out, as it would have taken away her pleasure in earning it herself.  This way she feels justified and proud of her efforts.  A wonderful outcome and a true win-win.

But alas, Amber is not my only child who excels in the field of parental guilt tripping.  With Luke in tow, it’s a case of continually having my bags packed.  If things depended on him alone, I’d permanently be off on some or other guilt trip.  So, at the moment, quite unsurprising, I’m in the dog box so to speak, yet again.  And the cause of my latest foray into travel?  Well, I am sure that in his opinion I am being very mean spirited.  I won’t let him change a subject for next year.  But not just any subject either – Design.  I have a talented boy.  No, wait – let me rephrase that – a very talented boy.  A child with a knack for art.  But he would like to forfeit his chance to pursue this field.  Pray tell why?  Well, that’s an easy question to answer.  Design is very, very, very hard work.  Entailing difficult projects -  stretching your imagination, boundaries and concept of what you’re capable of.  His teacher this year, also happens to be the head of the department – a known perfectionist and hard task master.  A virtual slave driver if Luke is to be believed.  And, actually I do believe Luke.  However I also believe that this is a good experience for Luke.  That it is bringing forth remarkable work from him.  And I will not bow down to a whim of his and let him switch to an easier cop-out subject just so that he can get a free ride so to speak and high marks on an insignificant and virtually worthless subject that would teach him nothing.

I dutifully listened to Luke’s reasoning.  He would not be following a career path in design, because he reckons that at the ripe old age of fourteen he has his life and career all mapped out ahead of him.  We approached the topic of switching subjects from all different angles and the truth eventually came out.  He liked the work he was delivering.  He enjoyed the final product of his labours.  He even enjoyed the process of seeing his project grow.  However, the hours required and amount of work needed left him very unimpressed.  It severely impeded on his free time.  And he was sure that if he perhaps had a different design teacher things would be better, as it would be easier for him.  So he made a fatal flaw in his reasoning, by admitting that he really enjoyed it.  And let’s not forget my motherly conviction that he is good.

Still I promised him that I would give the subject some thought.  I even phoned the school and the Design teacher phoned me back.  We had a long conversation and I told him my dilemma.  That I was a biased mother, who believed her child had talent.  That I felt he would deeply regret his decision if he gave up the subject.  That I firmly believed he had ability, but that I realised that I was not impartial.  I told him that I didn’t want to waste his time and that I wouldn’t want him to waste mine either.  If he felt Luke was a hopeless case, we could call it quits.  No harm done.  Surely nothing would frustrate him more than having a child lacking in vision and skill as a pupil.  I wouldn’t want to push Luke in a direction if he was a hopeless case.  Yet, I knew he wasn’t.  And Mr Visser assured me the same.  That Luke had bucket loads of talent and showed lots of promise.  However, I am not a fool.  And realise that he could easily just say this in any rate, so as to not lose face with a parent and admit defeat.  Whatever the truth, Luke will be continuing with Design.  Sorry for him.

Saying he’s annoyed with me, is putting it mildly.  I have however explained my position to him a few times already.  I am his mom.  I get to make the final decision.  My job is not to give him his every heart’s desire.  But rather to guide him along this journey.  Assisting him in making informed, unbiased and correct decisions, not based on emotion alone.  So whether he likes it or not, Design it shall be.  I eagerly look forward to more masterpieces.  Yes, it’s lots of hard work.  Requiring many, many hours.  But the satisfaction and pride in a final piece, outweighs the effort and hard work in getting there every time. 

And given a few days, I am sure that this will blow over and will only be raised again with every consecutive Design project in the future.  But in the short term, there will be some or other new reason to get me to pack my bags and send me off on a guilt trip.  Yet again – if only it worked and if only I cared.  Just as well I never unpack my bag.

2nd Term project - name with a mirror image of it, just below, filled with colourful geometric patterns
3rd Term project - drawing of crushed tins

So, I have a dealer, but should I take the drugs?

So, I have a dealer, but should I take the drugs?
29 October 2012

So my Grantie, fresh from his adventures in Namibia, has another upcoming do.  And this time, I am happy to report, it includes partners as well.  The cause for the shindig is a dealer conference-come-year-end-function type thingy.  Not exactly sure what the technical name of “the event” is (I keep on getting it wrong), but that there even is an event is enough info for me.  And so me, of the little air travel experience, is going to Durban for the weekend.  How zhoosh is that?  And the zhoosh doesn’t simply stop there, but rather, is multi-faceted.  “A” – I get to fly in an airoplane - for me of the little air travel experience, that's pretty huge. “B” – we’re staying in the Hilton dahling, the Hilton!  “C” – I’m assuming that seeing as Grant will be otherwise occupied on Saturday, during the course of the day, I will have some me-time.  Unless of course there are some elaborate plans to entertain the lady folk while the men are busy conferencing away.  “D” – I will not be cooking for a period of time.  “E” – I will not be cleaning, doing Jumping Castles, making kids sarmies, driving kids around, playing policeman in my kids disputes, do grocery shopping or be involved in any decision making (decision making is exhausting).  “F” – on Saturday night, we will be treated to a black tie event.  All very glamorous, I tell you.

However, to get from “A” right through to “F” involves a lot of planning, and yes, decision making.  I’ve farmed my business out to my neighbour’s children – a first for me.  They are all independent kids and quite wise for their years.  And they all have their own businesses and jobs to earn pocket money.  There is definitely a good work ethic going and my neighbours have clearly done well with their kids.  Yet, I will obviously do all the leg work and planning in advance, leaving them to merely be on hand to let Castles go out and receive them back again.  I have also farmed my kids out for the weekend.  All to different homes and their favourite friends to boot.  And I am extremely grateful to their parents, who are also my friends, for having my kids.  A none too easy task, as Luke starts with exams on Monday, writing Physical Science, no less.  It is indeed a very good friend who takes on another fourteen year old, when she also has to motivate her own fourteen year old and a sixteen year old to study at the same time.  Not mentioning a younger brother too.  The weekend also coincides with a school Fun Day, for which I have helped to arrange a stall, including duty shifts.  Something I feel badly about, as I’m asking parents to offer an hour of their time on Saturday, yet I won’t even be there to lend a hand myself.  If just feels cheeky and ever so off.

My big problem though, is the black tie event.  Because glamorous though it sounds, it obviously involves wearing a stunning outfit.  This is also not really a problem, as I have in my opinion at least, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DRESS IN THE WORLD.  Seriously, it really is gorgeous.  I have the matching shoes.  I have a handbag that goes with it and I even know which jewellery to wear.  The problem, is fitting into the dress.  I can't just buy another dress.  For one, despite my children being convinced otherwise, money does not grow on trees.  Besides which, I love this dress and grab at any opportunity to wear it.  When I told my friend Thea about my problem she said “Just buy another dress”.  To which I replied “But I can’t.  I love this dress”.  And then my wise friend said “You will love another dress.  I never thought I could love another child, until Aidan came along”.  So, she had a point.  But still, I love my dress.  I have been dieting and dieting and I have already lost a few kilo’s that had crept up on me (I just don’t know when they did this creeping mind you). 

But with our event looming, I simply had to bite the bullet, go for broke and try the dress on this morning.  I had been too scared to do so up until this point.  And in fact, I didn’t need to try it on before starting to lose weight, as I just knew it would never fit then.  Well, imagine my pleasant surprise, when I slipped it over my head.  It fit me like a glove and I stood in front of my mirror glowing, making ga-ga eyes at the dress, admiring it yet again.  Until I remembered that I hadn’t zipped the back up yet.  I tried and tried and tried on my own.  I sucked in, I hunched my shoulders, I curled into a ball as small as I could, but to no avail.  So, I called my domestic worker, Monica, to help me.  She is a true miracle worker.  Why, the way she can sort my house out is incredible, and given her skills with domestic duties, I was sure she would zip me up quick-quick.  Well, she took one little tug at the offending zipper and said “yoh, yoh, yoh – it’s too fat now”.  As if my fragile ego could take anymore.  I begged and pleaded with her to try harder as I had to make this work.  But despite coaxing the dress and the zipper alike, they would not budge.  So, alas, as a last resort, I called on Grant as well.  I must say that by now all pretence of dignity had completely vanished.  They were both tugging and pulling.  Monica still clicking her tongue saying “yoh, yoh, yoh” the whole time and Grant doing a fair bit of grunting.

But finally, after a gigantic effort they zipped me up.  Sweet victory at last!  However, I could barely breathe, and my mammary glands were squashed pancake thin – most unattractive.  I would have to pull my stomach in the whole night, refrain from eating and drinking and allow myself to breath very shallow breaths at half hourly intervals only.  Funny enough, Grant prefers me when I’m breathing.  The thought of an unconscious wife at the company do holds little appeal.  I’ve told him he’s being very short sighted.  Because a huge fringe benefit to having me unconscious, is the fact that I would finally stop talking.  I like to fill silences with speech, a bad habit.  On the rare occasion that I get angry and I at least still talk to Grant, he knows that he’s okay and all will be well.  It’s when I get angry and stop talking that he worries, and ironically that’s when he starts filling silences with speech.    

So, I went to the Mall today, in search of a new dress.  Yes, I confess, I went and looked for a new dress.  Because though I’m ever so hopeful that I will still lose that last kilo or two, the possibility does exist that it might not happen and then what?  So, best I have a replacement ready for in case.  But here’s the thing – I really don’t want to cheat on my dress.  Her feelings would be hurt and she’s been so good to me – always making me look my best.  So, just perchance, I find myself walking past Clicks and for just a moment I was overcome with an insanity of sorts.  What if I tried some of those diet products that they advertise all of the time?  Rationally and logically I know that they’re all just hogwash and rubbish, and I don’t buy into the concept at all.  Because surely if you want to lose weight, the solution is quite obvious?  Eat less and more healthy at least, and exercise too.  Hardly difficult to realise that that is the only way.  But the allure of fast weight-loss made me walk down that aisle none the less.  The range of products astounded me.  As did their promises of quick instant success and their price tags as well.  I was uhming and aahing, thinking how one would choose?  So, I asked a shop assistant to guide me.  Said shop assistant said that she would be of no use, as she works in the kitchen department, but that I may consult the rep that was on hand from one of the weight loss companies, who was there promoting her products.

Right, I thought.  Like she’d be unbiased.  Naturally she would promote her brand, the most expensive one on the shelf.  When she asked me what I was looking for, I very simply stated that I had four days in which I needed to lose at least two kilo’s.  She dutifully steered me over to her shelf and showed me her products.  Running down the competition of course.  Hers were the best, most effective, most reliable and trustworthy, without a doubt.  I exclaimed dismay over the price of the mutie.  And then, every so slyly she called me over close with a “come over here”.  I followed her a bit further down the aisle, assuming she was going to try and pawn yet some more of her company’s products off onto me.

But instead, she leaned in real close.  Looked furtively around.  Lowered her head and whispered “I’ve got stuff”, to me.  Now in my opinion the word “stuff” is rather dubious.  And I should know – I use it myself, to cover a myriad of things.  And then upon seeing my blank look she told me that she had some highly illegal, yet highly effective weight-loss products that she could sell to me.  She told me it was illegal, that it contained masses of ephedrine and was classified as an anabolic steroid too.  Then if it was possible, she dropped her voice even lower and said “I’m a dealer”.  I can get you “the stuff”.  She told me exactly what it was called and how she herself had lost 7kg in just 2 days.  How her product was the real deal as there were many rip-offs on the market.  That she got “the stuff” from a factory (oh, as opposed to mixing it in your garage at home I take it), etc.  One of the miracle tabs I could pop was a quick boost weight-loss wonder drug, fondly called F.O.F, which stands for F… Off Fat.  Charming!  And so she went on and on. 

I swear my eyes nearly popped out of my head.  Part of me thought “perhaps she is wearing a wire (I know, I watch too much TV) and she wants to entrap me”.  Deftly whipping out her detectives badge after I bought some of “the stuff” and arresting me.  And a part of me thought “what if I’m the one wearing the wire (I know, I watch far too much TV) and I want to entrap her?”.  She warned me that she could lose her job, but still she went on, giving me the hard sale.  You know me?  The person she doesn’t know from a bar of soap and who could be wearing a wire (I know I…sorry).  Perhaps she was a bit high on some of her own tabs?

She warned me that I would get the shakes from taking the pills, but that the positives would outweigh (pun intended) the negatives.  Then she asked me if I exercised at all.  And am I not currently doing arm exercises to try and firm my flab up?  So I said “yes”.  Little was she to know that my arm exercises entailed me leaning against my coffee table with arms raised on the table, legs stretched out in front of me, dropping my bum, and using my arms to lift my body weight up again (backwards, you see).  And just so by the way, I’ve changed my exercise venue.  I used to do it on the base of my bed, to very little effect.  But I’ve found that since I’ve moved my spot to the coffee table and combine it with watching some TV at the same time, I’ve managed increase my stamina from 30 seconds to at least 45 seconds.  Impressive indeed.

Yet, feeling an urge to be slightly honest, I told her that I didn’t belong to a gym and that I only exercised (ja right) at home.  She told me “oh, that’s okay – I can smuggle you into the gym for a few days this week”.  My mouth literally dropped, yet she didn’t stop.  She really must have been high.  Or perhaps she has just cooked her brains from an ephedrine overdose?  She took a simply huge risk.  In a crowed and busy shop.  Wearing her USN clothes.  Approaching a complete stranger.  Putting her job on the line.  Doing irreparable damage to the legitimate company she is supposedly the front agent for.  A beautiful young girl.  She was slender and slim.  But so what?

If she could approach me so easily, how many others has she also approached?  How many new clients has she gained?  How has her little cottage industry style business expanded?  On the one hand she is quite clever.  Potential clients literally come to her, asking her for help.  And she is their miracle worker.  Telling them what they are desperate to hear.  The tablets are about R500 for a month’s supply and I wonder what her profit margin is?  She told me how to check if her product is real.  How you can go onto the anabolic steroid website.  How you type in the barcode of “the stuff” and how you then have a pop-up window appear on the screen, advising you that the goods are illegal and dangerous.

Did she perhaps influence any desperate young girls eager to fit into their Matric Farewell dresses?  Teenagers, who still need to nurture their bodies, not poison them.  I told her no thank you and that I would rather find another way.  She waved me off with a happy smile.  No concern as she surely had more business waiting just down the aisle, with another weight-loss sucker.

So, I didn’t find a new dress.  I will diet in my healthy manner some more.  And the dress will fit a bit better by the end of the week.  And if it doesn’t, it’s okay.  I will make another plan.

However, on second thought, I am willing to be a whistle blower for both Clicks and USN.  If I give them the name and identity of “my dealer”, instead of a normal monetary reward for my good deed, I will settle for taking payment in weight loss products instead.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Opposites attract

Opposites attract
27 October 2012

You know how you sometimes see couples and they’re just so perfectly matched – temperaments, tastes, and all things in between.  And other times you see couples that seem so ill-suited.  But despite apparent looks, they’ve got a magical combo.  Who know what makes a couple tick.  I’m suspecting it’s hard work, tolerance, understanding and love.

Grant and I are polar opposites.  His childhood was conventional.  Straight down the line and pretty conservative.  Whereas mine was rather bohemian by comparison.  His family is small and rather quiet, whereas mine can’t be accused of either those qualities.  My family is artistic and creative, and classically educated in contrast to his that is sporty, business minded and perhaps more practical.  His family is more nuclear and plays things close to their chests.  Mine is like a wide open book, everything open for everyone to see.  We don’t do secrets, resentments, mistrust.  And my Ouma Helene is fond of saying “we are not clandestine people”.  Things are discussed, mulled about and everyone has opinions.  We’re involved in each other’s lives and see each other often – rejoicing in closeness and an exceptional bond.

And when it comes to raising a family of your own, it is quite a challenge to find a happy medium between “my way” and “your way”.  The best one can hope for is a melding of sorts.  Perhaps the best of both bits can come to the fore.  Compromise is key.

Grant and I often laugh about how different we are.  At school he was the cool jock.  It was all athletics this and sporty that.  Victor Ludorums, regional and provincial colours, records, medals and certificates.  And lots and lots and lots of girls.  I think he was a bit of a player.  Now, as for me.  I was the nerd.  All Library prefect, choir, drama club, piano and the lot.  I even had the required spectacles to complete the dork look.  I was pathetic at sports and played in the 7th team for Netball.  This great achievement only because there wasn’t an 8th team.

His family is very religious and devout Christians.  In general, with the exception of a few, my family falls short of that mark.  I remember being in Grade 6 at Beaumont, in the Afrikaans class.  And succumbing to peer pressure, feeling the need to go to church.  The one every other Afrikaans kid went to – the Dutch Reformed Church just around the corner from our house.  I asked my folks if I could go and remember them saying “it’s not really our bag, but you’re welcome to go, we hope you enjoy it”.  I went on my own for quite a while, until the Sondagskool became to feel a bit too much like hard work.  It was all remembering verses and lots of homework too.  There were lots of rules and regulations, fire and brimstone too.  I had to dress up quite smart and didn’t have the right clothes.  I always felt a bit uncomfortable and out of place.  Like I was acting in a play, without the correct script.  And in the end I fell by the way side.

But enough of religion and back to opposites again we go.  I feel like for the most part we’ve adopted my way of doing things.  Perhaps this is a mother’s prerogative when it comes to her children, especially as mothers more often spend more time with their kids.  The way I’m accustomed to, and was raised in, is my frame of reference.  Grant takes a lot of guidance from me with regards to the children’s emotional needs.  Perhaps an area that is more my forte.  And though I’m quite strict, in a fun way, I suppose (if that’s possible), Grant is more of a disciplinarian.  I’m playful and a confidant and the one the kids come to to discuss stuff.  I’m very hands on and involved.  Yet, I know without a shadow of doubt that I can’t do it on my own.  I can’t be a single parent and would hate it.  Grant is my sounding board and we discuss everything.  Neither is autonomous – we reach joint decisions with regards to our kids.  With Grant away the last few days, I’ve had to be good cop and bad cop with the kids.  Not fun for me.  Or them, I suppose.

We’ve created some unique ways of our own – my Grantie and I.  Parenting skills we’ve picked up along the way, not copied from his family or mine.  But rather gained en route.  And I suspect we’ll continue adding to our repertoire as our kids get older and we are parents for longer.  We complement each other and form a winning team.  Cole always says “Daddy is rough” and “Mommy is smooth”.  Quite observant for a little boy.  I’m hoping that the joint outcome of team Grant-Helene is perfect, just for us and our kids.  And we’ll expel wonderful young children into the world.

Brace yourself big world.  We’ll unleash them to you soon…..

Happy 100th!!!

Happy 100th!!!
26 October 2012

100th blog tonight!  Woohooo!  And what a journey it’s been. 

It all began rather innocuously with an “And so it came to pass”.  But the real blogging and stretching of me only actually began from my second post.  Especially since the first was more of a “let’s test this and see if it works” experiment.  In the past 100 posts I’ve done the following:

I’ve done a bit of soul searching.  Delved into my darker side.  Rejoiced in the silly that lives in side of me.  Been brutally honest.  Expressed appreciation to those that mean so very much to me.  Showed gratitude.  Given love.  I’ve kept it real, except for the silly bits of course, because the humour is what keeps me going.  Thought deep thoughts.  Had fun.  Laughed a lot, mostly at myself.  Relived some special memories.  Gone down some nearly forgotten roads.  Triggered some nearly forgotten memories too.  Celebrated my large and lovely family, whom I love madly.  Shared aspirations, disappointments, regrets, wishes and dreams.  Shown a window into my world and the people around me.

I’ve strived to be respectful of those I blog about.  And only blog with their permission if my posts include them.  I’ve decided to reflect back happiness and not ponder on negativity.  An attitude which I apply to my daily life too.  And though some posts are more serious, they’re not dark and depressing.  I’ve been truthful and sincere.  I’ve given of myself.

I love the bubbling of ideas in my head, when I’m writing a story.  The way the words flow, like a beautiful melody.  Or perhaps it’s rather like a fast sprouting tree.  Literally shooting out of the ground, growing leaves, branches and fruit all in one day.  How I might start writing in the morning, but mentally keep on adding to the story throughout my day, until it reaches completion before posting at night.  My thoughts drift to something I might like to add.  A delicious idea I’d like to explore.  A feeling, an experience I’d like to show more.  All this whilst carting my kids and doing everyday things.  My brain never switches off.

I am not sure how good any of the stuff is.  And though it is extremely rewarding if others like the stories, I suppose their true purpose is to keep me entertained.  It is a history of my life, thoughts and feelings.  A journal of sorts.  Something my kids might enjoy later in life, when they look back on it.  It’s kind of a diary of their mom, their family and their childhood.  And even if I stop tomorrow (which I have nooooo intention of doing), the bit I’ve done so far has been great and so rewarding.  I’m proud of what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished and achieved.  More than I ever dreamt possible.  I never knew I’d have that much to write about and I’m delighted with the avenues and twisty little roads I’ve gone down on my journey.  When I look back at past posts, I still love the same stuff.  Laugh at my own silliness again.  Feel affirmation of what I’ve written.  The love I get from others fills me with joy.  Most of my whole big family reads daily.  And I often get e-mails, messages, bbm’s, sms’ and even phone calls about posts and comments.  Friends and family alike.  And then of course some new faces I’ve met through the blog too. 

And much as I simply do the blog for fun and all the stated reasons above, there is a wonderful sense of anticipation when I wake up in the mornings and check what’s happened since the last time I looked – the activity and stats when I get a chance to take a peep.  I get a warm feeling in the very pit of my stomach when a story does well.  When there’s a surge of interest, when it gets shared and when there’s lots of comments too – both on the actual blog and Facebook.

It’s a huge commitment though, mainly because I’m anal and like to post every day.  And I can’t post a blog I simply don’t love.  It might sound very dramatic, but it’s a bit like giving birth to a story daily – without having to go through the water retention, labour and extra weight.  And once I post it each night, the baby gets feet of its own and has to be independent, because I find myself pregnant with yet another story again.  Though the writing is easy and relatively quick, I do add a bit to blogs before the final post.  I look for pics and if need be, make sure that my facts are correct.  I’m sure I make loads of typo’s and I’m sorry for that.  I always check and double check before posting, but often I’m tired and one slips through the cracks.  I consult my Concise Oxford Dictionary every so often – with a stretch of the arm, it’s wisdom and knowledge becomes mine.  I take more care when taking photos these days, with an eye on a possible post at some stage.  And each and every time, just before I publish my post, I read through it yet again and think “aah, I really love this one”.

I’d like to say a big thanks to all that stay tuned.  For reading my ramblings and checking in on the blog.  For sharing and commenting and spreading the word.  Your support and appreciation mean the world to me.  You all keep me going and make it worthwhile.  For without you, there would be no point.  There’s a joy in sharing.  Because stories are the best when they’re told to someone else.  The retelling brings it to life and a shared understanding.   And perhaps through my writing some might “get” me more.  I think that even I might have a better handle on me right about now.  It’s made me more focused and I’ve gained lots in the process.  I’m still Helene – slightly overweight (but attempting to get a bit thinner at present), approaching forty, mother of three kids I adore, wife of Grant, Jumping Castle tycoon (in my dreams – no wait, in my dreams I don’t have to work), daughter of Maggie, granddaughter of many, sister of Albert and Katrine, ambitious and fledgling blogger, Harty Farty crafter, helper, giver, kind person, hopefully good friend to many, humble, grounded and perhaps a little bit funny and quirky too.

So happy 100th and watch this space.  I hope to keep you entertained with my ramblings some more.

Big love,


Together we did it!
From the bottom of my heart
No, seriously, THANK YOU!
 And to my fans from overseas, (choose applicable language) to you too

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Suffering for his career

Suffering for his career
25 October 2012

Shame, the way my poor husband slaves away at work is near criminal.  The pressure they put him under is truly horrendous.  And it is a testament to his tenacity, perseverance and determination that he puts up with it. 

Why, this week alone, he’s gone off on an all-expenses paid 4x4 bundu bashing trip to Namibia.  Apparently the price tag attached to the trip is between R30 000 – R40 000 per person.  And the cause for the “treat” is an opportunity to put one of his company’s cars through its paces in the hot Namib desert.  A marvellous treat forked out by his company, and arranged by Leisure Wheels, if you don’t mind.  In fact, they’re taking a whole lot or representatives from various car manufacturers on this trip.  Ostensibly so that they can all try out the toughest contenders in their vehicular stables so to speak.  So I’m suspecting there’ll be a little bit of friendly competition thrown into the mix as well, amidst the participants.  All gentlemanly of course.  You know, a type of “mine-is-bigger-than-yours” kind of thing.  Probably pretty reminiscent of most conversations had by my 8 year old and his friends.  It’s all about whose is bigger, stronger, faster, more cool, etc.  Boys and their toys.  Do they ever grow up?  Bigger certainly, but emotional growth?

And despite the hefty cost of the trip, the injustice of it all, is that my “poor” husband has to stay in a tent!  Perish the thought.  Admittedly, it’s not your conventional rickety tent, assembled under duress during fading light because you’ve arrived at your campsite late and it happens to be raining.  No, not those type of tents.  Why, these “tents” are permanently erected structures, of the 5 star variety.  As mentioned before – poor thing.  How he suffers for his career.

He’s being wined and dined, living in luxurious splendour.  Doing dune cruises, nights around the camp fire (boma style), exotic professionally catered meals, wild game seeing and so the list goes on.  Sies tog!  And he has to endure this for five adventure filled days and four long nights.  The torture of it!  The injustice!

And little old me???  What do I get?  Well, I get to spend undiluted time with my three “little cherubs”.  How lucky am I?  You know how it goes.  Driving them around all afternoon.  Supervising homework.  Helping two of the three with orals, including looking for pictures for their orals.  Luke has athletics trials at the moment, so the time that I need to fetch him from school, is pretty much a case of “who knows when”.  No timing schedule or rough idea.  So I’m basically on constant standby, just waiting to fetch and cart.  Cole had a cricket match.  Amber had an extra piano lesson.  My domestic worker and I needed to lift on of my very heaviest castles, onto a bakkie, so that I could take it in for repairs this morning.  It was so heavy, that after loading it, we walked back into the house and both of us gulped back an anti-inflammatory, in anticipation of the back ache we’re bound to have.  Then it was drive through to Bothasig to drop the sick Castle off and fetch four babies, that had just been fixed by the Jumping Castle doctor.  Quickly spent an hour and half at school helping out this morning.  Grocery shopping.  Endless phonecalls.  Backed-up e-mails that I need to reply to.  Had to take Luke to a shop urgently for a must have item.  Prepare supper.  Try and coax printer to print urgent pics needed by Amber for school tomorrow.  Entrepreneurship day at school for my fledgling little business woman, Amber, with all of the mania and intensity that only she can provide so well.  Assessments for Cole at school, so that instead of doing a regulation Phonics test as we do every Friday, on a mere 15 words, for this week, it’s a whopper test of 225 words to learn, as well as fifteen sentences.  Cole’s first introduction to multiplication and division, ensuring lots of extra time needed for maths homework.  Cole’s on-going French Knitting project, which has to be handed in on Monday.  The task has now been set, to make something with his French Knitting – a little creation, if you like.  I haven’t even gone there yet, as he is still diligently knitting away.  He has high hopes to make a carpet for our lounge – right!  And I must be honest, though he’s trying his best, he’s not a natural.  His knitting bears a remarkable resemblance to a rat’s tail.  All tufts and fluff sticking out, changes of direction, dropped stitches and huge gaping holes.  Amber is trying to grasp a new piano piece, so instead of playing both hands separately, she is now grappling with combined hands, leading to lots of practice and “Mommy, come and look and listen”.  Luke has to start revision for the exams on the horizon as well as do continual work on a tough Design project.  I’ve had a fair bit of Harty Farty admin and work this week.  A few requests to do more markets, leading to forms to be completed and payments to be made.  Ordering of new Jumping Castles, so lots of admin there as well.  E-mails back and forth and payments once again.  We’ve run out of dog’s food and the printer won’t print.  I can’t remember how the new scanner works, despite Grant showing me before he left.  Helping with organising of funds that need to be raised for the Fun Day at school, as well as planning of two stalls for the Fun Day too.  Remember nicest uniforms for Wednesday for sports photos and hair done really well.  Cole had a meltdown in the school pool today during practice as well as a bit of a drama with another child, leading to parental intervention.  Never nice.  Extra money sent to various schools this week for Fun Day donation, Fun Day tickets, Photo’s, Santa Shoe Boxes, Entrepreneurship Day, etc.  Little dancing pow-wow to sort out costumes for an upcoming demo.  And plans set in motion, for a special end of year class treat for one of my kids’ teachers. 

This weekend should be interesting as well.  A mini-cricket tournament in Grabouw for the whole morning on Saturday, and I’ve got Castles at the same time as well.  We’ll have to step up the piano practice.  Revision will go into full gear.  Design project must be worked on.  And let’s not forget the French Knitting too.

So, in an act of rebellion, I am taking the night off.  No e-mails will be replied.  No sms’ will be answered.  But only after I finished writing this, my latest blog, and posted it, probably at about 23h30.  I might even put on the chick-flick I ambitiously took out for myself.  I’m sure to last at least until the credits pass, before fading completely.  Maybe I don't even last that long.

And what do I get from my Grantie?  Every so often, a “delightful” sms, saying how cool his room is.  How awesome the food is.  How amazing the cars are.  How fabulous the dunes are.  How incredible the hot weather is.  How there are animals, walking right outside his window.  How he touched an Eland and a Rhino.  How lovely the people are.  How much he’s enjoying himself.  How fun the extreme driving conditions are.  How cold and refreshing the beers are - this one I got mid-morning already.  As mentioned, the suffering…

So what do I do?  I send him sms’ back saying “so glad you’re having fun, enjoy yourself, have a blast”.  And I really hope he does.  What a privilege for him to have this time.  I miss the extra pair of hands though and the firmer discipline – Grant is better at it than me.  I miss the numerous phone calls we make during a normal day.  The coffee we drink together, the hugs and kisses we share.  And whereas I normally have my husband lying next to me in bed, tonight I am spooning with Cole.  He has asked if he can sleep with me.  Always a treat for the kids when Grant is away.  However it will not merely be Cole and I in the bed.  Amber will come crawling in as well during the course of the night.  And while I’m happy to share the bed with them, I prefer to sleep when I’m in it.  Cole loves midnight conversations – lots of asking of questions and random bits of useless information shared with me too.  So, we’ll be three in the bed, right?  No, we’ll be four.  And no, the fourth person is not Luke – he would rather DIE.  The fourth person in bed will be my grandchild – Cole’s butternut-baby.  So, what is a butternut-baby you might ask?  Well it’s a whole raw butternut, that Cole has lovingly drawn a face on- actually Amber helped him a bit.  He’s a really odd kid.  But then again, so is Amber, because she’s also had butternut-babies in the past.  It was an initiative by Beaumont a few years ago where they instructed all of the Grade 7 kids to make a butternut-baby complete with face and name.  I suppose a teaching tool, about responsibilities and consequences with regards to having children and indulging in sex at a too early age. 

And once again, Cole has expressed a need for a butternut baby.  He’s carried it around a bit on a sling behind his back, sleeps with it in his bed and croons at it every so often.  Tonight, he even shared his warm beanbag with his butternut baby in case it got cold.  And just to prove how quirky he really is, he’s named it Yoko.  Yet it’s a boy – not sure how he can tell.  So, until Grant gets home on Sunday night, it will just be me and the mountain of responsibilities and tasks ahead of me on my solo flight into parenting.  Me, my hormonal teenager, my entrepreneurial Amber, my maternal son, Cole and my grandchild, Yoko, who we might end up eating soon.  A sort of sacrificial type of thing.  Nothing wrong with eating your own young.

Amber's "Goompies" sold like hot cakes, yet they're merely flour filled balloons. Like little friendly stressballs. She's even made some to order after being sold out on the day.
Sadly her bracelets didn't do so well, so she's generously giving them away to all and sundry
Entrepreneurship Day
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce my grandson, Yoko. I think he takes after Grant, because he's also bald. Poor boy!
Cole's French Knitting
Lots of very odd pieces sticking out - full of lumps and bumps
Cole would like to make a carpet for our lounge. Despite 3 weeks of knitting, his "carpet" only has a diameter of about 10cm. So, it's still a ways to go.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

High on a hill there's a.....

High on a hill there's a.....
24 October 2012

Yes, yes, a lonely goatherd.  We all know that one.  So what?

Well, the point is this.  As a child (and even as a teenager, and while we’re having a bout of honesty here, even as an adult) I gorged myself on the Sound of Music and I can truly say that it is one of my all-time favourite movies.  Such an uplifting, happy, inspirational, nice-girl-makes-good-and-gets-the-guy type of movies.  And then of course, there’s the singing.  And we all know just how much I love to sing.  I know every word of every song.  I know the order of the songs and can even re-enact some parts.  I know, I’m pretty sad and seriously need to get out more.

So, here’s the thing.  I blame Julie Andrews.  No, really I do.  It’s all her fault.  She created a completely unrealistic expectation of what being a mother is like.  She was all “raindrops on roses”, rowing in little boats, teaching them catchy songs and making ever so dashing outfits from the drapes in her bedroom.  I mean, jeez!  Who can compete with that??? 

She made loving children, even though they were not her own, look so easy.  She was understanding and compassionate.  She was creative and fun.  She was quirky and had a great sense of humour.  She had a beautiful voice, a lovely figure, good hair and was able to dance.  And for her final little coup d’tat, she even managed to entrap the ever so fit Captain Von Trapp.  As a little girl I thought he was ever so suave and handsome.  A real gentleman, although he was a wee bit austere in the beginning. 

No mere mortal mom can compete with her brilliance.  But then perhaps, “movie-world” is merely to be seen as wonderful escapism and not to be taken too seriously.  Yet, I probably was unable to differentiate.

So this is where I’m at on “The-Julie-Andrews-Mother-of-the-year-award” stakes:

·         I don’t sew – so I seriously lucked out there.  Apart from my limited and self-taught crafting sewing skills, my sole sewing repertoire with my kids consists of sewing blue tinsel onto Amber’s angel dress, which I borrowed from a friend, whilst sitting outside in the car, on the morning of the Chatterbox Xmas Concert.  And sewing big brown spots onto an outfit for Luke one year when he was a cow, also in a Chatterbox Xmas Concert.  That’s it.  And let’s be honest, neither attempt would have survived closer scrutiny and inspection.  The thought of what I’d do to a pair of drapes is dreadful.  Or wait, maybe if I lay my kids down on the drapes and simply cut around their body outlines, and merely stapled the bits together, I’d make some rather fetching ensembles.  Now, the question is this – exactly what are drapes?  Personally, I only have curtains and blinds.  Oh, well!  That’s hardly my fault, so I guess I’m off the hook there.

·         The lovely voice, is an ambition, not entirely realised.  Not that it puts me off at all.  Perseverance and all that.  And just today when I took Amber to her dancing lesson and the two of us were singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody loudly, I re-iterated my need for a microphone in the car.  I’m quite convinced that it will improve my vocal prowess.  Note to self – speak to Albert.  He’s sure to have one lying around.  Alternatively a kiddies one will simply have to do.

·         I REALLY don’t have the whole good-hair-thing going for me.  I have little tufts that stick up on the sides, which Grant unkindly calls my horns.  Personally I think his comments are purely motivated by jealousy – what with him being bald and all.

·         The lovely figure is an on-going strive.  The best I can hope for is a modicum of medium-ish weight and the clever disguise of flattering clothes.  At present I am dieting like mad, because Grant and I have got a black tie event coming up in just under two weeks’ time.  I have the most amazing, stunning, gorgeous dress that I would love to wear.  A dress I confess to being completely in love with.  And one that I blatantly abuse any opportunity to wear.  However, at present, I fear that the only part of my stunning evening outfit I might fit into, are my shoes.  But, hey, that’s a start.  Slowly but surely though, the weight is coming off and I hope that by the end of the week, I might be able to fit into my earrings as well.  And then from there it’s just a short leap…..

·         Dancing – I have two left feet.  Enough said.  It ain’t pretty people.

·         Now, when it comes to the raindrops on roses thing, I don’t do it in a singsong style with my kids.  It’s more of a “you are so lucky because…….”, and “you can be so grateful for…..”.  Which probably does detract from the true gist of the original song a bit.

·         As for Captain Von Trapp, I sure managed to trap my very own version.  When Grant and I were still in the beginning phases of getting to know each other, before even going out, I saw him in his Navy Ice Cream uniform.  Well, I nearly melted in a puddle, I tell you.  So, he wasn’t a commander.  So he didn’t have a whistle.  So he didn’t have a small platoon of kids.  I didn’t care.  For me it was close enough.

·         I love kids.  Passionately.  But even I pale at the thought of seven!  How did that poor woman do it???  And for me at least, after the magical cathedral wedding, I always imagined Maria adding to their brood.  She was clearly made from sterner stuff than me.

·         Now, as for loving my kids, I’m afraid I do beat her on that score.  Because I adore my three, and would happily add at least another one or two to my family.  And I know without a shadow of a doubt that I could love any child.  Not merely one that I had a hand in creating.

So, to quote the Mother Superior, how do you solve a problem like Maria?  Well, I think you take it all with a little pinch of salt.  You do the best you can.  You love them like mad and the rest will sort itself out.

And as for the movie?  Simply enjoy it.  It truly is magical. 

May I present to you.....the lonely goatherd
Our goatherd's "flock", so to speak
Maria a.k.a. Julie Andrews, looking as lovely as ever.
A man who knows his way around an instrument
The very fit looking Captain Von Trapp - he cleans up real good
Maria's children from another mother
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu