Friday, 30 November 2012

Woohooo!!! Only 5 more days of lunchboxes to pack!

Woohooo!!! Only 5 more days of lunchboxes to pack!
30 November 2012

This morning as I dropped the kids off at school, I had a very happy thought indeed.  Only five more days of lunch boxes to pack.  Yippieee!!!

The lunch box thing is extremely tedious.  Sooo dull and boring.  Every day a nice healthy sandwich, some fruit and a bicci too.  Yet it takes time and finding variations are challenging.  At the moment it’s rolls with lettuce and cheese and even that is not simple.  Amber has no butter, just lettuce and cheese.  Luke has very little butter and mainly likes the white and very crispy bits of the lettuce with lots of cheese.  And Cole uses his roll as a vehicle for as much butter as possible – easy on the lettuce and cheese.  They’re all so different.  Amber never finishes her lunch, there’s always gruesome bits left behind or she takes pity on a friend and shares everything out, not eating much herself – conveniently I tell you.  Luke’s lunchbox comes back squeaky clean – not a morsel left to be found.  And Cole’s lunchbox always looks as scrumptious as when it left home in the morning.  The Ritalin affects his appetite, so he usually never even opens it up.  Still I can’t find it in my heart to send him to school empty handed.  Ever hopeful that today is the day he might just get hungry.  Occasionally he nibbles on the snacks, but never the sarmie.  He tends to wolf it all down once he’s home in the afternoon, when the Ritalin wears off.  So with him, it’s all big breakfast, to carry him through.

I cherish the holidays with the kids, but perhaps it’s for purely selfish reasons.  No more driving around.  No more hurrying up and waiting.  No more swimming lessons, dancing lessons, extra-maths, cricket, tennis, etc.  Just down time.  However the downside of holidays is the inevitable bickering, as they get bored.  Daily excursions are just not an option – they are costly and take precious time too.  Because though they might be on holiday, sadly I’m not.  In fact, now is my very busiest time.  In the Jumping Castle business, summer is King and I give in to a virtual plethora of little sayings.  I have to strike now while the iron is hot.  Make hay while the sun shines.  You get where I’m going with this.  The winter months are dreary, so I have to do my thing now.  So to keep them busy, we have the odd friend over and they go to friends too.  Their bedrooms are filled with toys.  We have dogs to play with, a lovely garden and a little inflatable splash-pool we put up every summer.  It’s not huge, but it serves the purpose to cool down and the kids and adults have lots of fun in it.

The flipside of the holiday coin is the long stretches of time.  Time in which I don’t get much done.  It is not really fair for me to be in work, work, work mode.  Yet I can’t relinquish my computer to them for games all of the time, when I need it for myself.  I don’t like them on the TV lots either.  It feels horribly disloyal and selfish and awful to say this, but sometimes the very best part of my day is when I drop them off at school.  When I have a bit of unadulterated time to do my stuff.  It’s not like it’s fun stuff I’m doing – it’s just stuff.  I don’t spend my childless mornings lounging about reading a book, painting me nails and going for tea.  I work.  Mainly Jumping Castle stuff (phone calls, e-mails, admin, etc.), a bit of blogging if I’m lucky and time allows, grocery shopping and such.  These are things that take way longer with the kids in tow.

We have certain words in our house that we don’t use.  So, I suppose more aptly, we don’t have certain words in our house.  Obviously swearing falls in this category, however us adults do have our flaws and occasionally indulge – we’re human after all and parental perfection is severely overrated.  Then we also don’t do “hate”, “ja” and “bored” or “boring”.  The hate thing is obvious.  And then for some or other odd reason, I don’t like my kids saying “ja”.  It just sounds terrible to me.  They absolutely always say “yes” instead of “ja” – I know it’s quirky, but there you go.  We don’t even think about it and I trained them from little  – none of us do “ja” unless we’re speaking Afrikaans.  They probably do it out of earshot all of the time, but at least refrain in my presence.  But probably the biggest no-no of all is the b-word.  We all have moments when we don’t know what to do and I know that technically that qualifies as being bored, yet my kids have no excuse.  They have each other to play with and entertain, toys, puzzles, books, music, instruments, pets, outside, etc.  The sky is the limit.  Every so often they’ll say to me “I’m the b-word” and then I simply remind them of all the options available to them and shoo them away.  Sometimes when you are the b-word, alone time is just the best.  A long gone fond memory of before I had kids – alone time.  Now, they even NEED me when I’m on the loo.  Nothing is sacred and very little time and space belongs just to me.  In fact is there any?

So for now, in the back of my mind, I’ll stock up on some standard replies and answers for when they come to me and say they’re the b-word.  Amber loves baking and making salads and treats in the kitchen – so that’s her sorted.  I just need to make sure I have an ample supply of baking gear.  Cole’s little heart goes pitter patter when you give him a few lengths of wood, some nails a hammer and tell him to go for it.   And all Luke needs is technology – his Blackberry, a computer, his Playstation or the TV.  The trick however is steering him away from technology.  But at the moment, he’s trying to earn a bit of bucks to pay back his debt for his latest PC game – so he’ll be doing chores.  He spent a fun-fun-fun afternoon yesterday varnishing our outdoor furniture.  The b-word dilemma – all sorted out.

Roll on only 5 more days of school – I’m just so ready for the holidays!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The straw that broke the camel's back

The straw that broke the camel's back
29 November 2012

Have you ever had that feeling of being completely overwhelmed?  I’m sure you have.  We’ve all experienced it at some point or another.  It is a horrible out of control feeling of not being in charge and of not ruling your emotions.

The last few weeks have been manically busy for me.  In fact I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this.  It is very prevalent at this time of the year.  For me it’s been functions, exams, dance demo’s, crafting, markets, Jumping Castle mania (it’s like this every year – and it’s really a good thing that it’s busy), birthday parties, end of year parties, class parties, etc.  Not to mention the normal run of the mill stuff, like shopping for my home, running it, cooking, kids extra-murals, family commitments, and the like.  Sooo much to organise.  Loads to do, to get, to remember.  Basically too much to do, with too little time to do it in.  Perhaps your busy is due to other stuff, but for me it’s been the above.  I haven’t even wrapped my head around Christmas yet.  I think it might dawn on me in a few weeks’ time.  When the current crises start dying down.  When all of the school do’s are done and the exams are over.  Once we’ve had the last swimming and dance lesson of the year.  For now at least I’m lucky that most sport has stopped, and extra lessons too.

Then it’s decorating the house, making Christmas cards, the daily shopping and speaking of shopping, Christmas shopping too.  I haven’t even gone there yet.  There simply hasn’t been time.  Lately it’s all been very late nights and early mornings.  I know I’m sleeping too little.  My plate is too full and I don’t quite know how to make it smaller.  Or perhaps I do, but I just don’t want to take the unpalatable options available to me.  So I slog on.  Just as you’re slogging on too.

Our trip to Durban was a huge testament to organisational skills.  There was just so much to do.  It sounds ridiculous that it rattled me so much, but such is the nature of my work and being a mom.  Unfathomable if I stopped and thought about it long enough.  Apart from the kids, there was also a business to delegate and relinquish for the weekend.  I clearly remember organising everything with military precision and nothing was left to chance.  I was overtired and rushed off of my feet.  Despite this, everything was going according to plan.  Albeit the fact that my schedule was tight, I at least had a schedule of sorts and pretty much managed to keep to it.  Until one afternoon, when I sat down in the study, in front of my computer – ever so briefly.  I quickly had to make a little note of something I needed to write down, to remember to do.  And when I grabbed my favourite clutch pencil, and pushed at the back, no lead magically appeared at the tip.  I pushed and I pushed, but alas no lead.  Finally I opened it up and saw that I had run out of lead.  And then despite scouring my study, rummaging around and thinking that I possibly had some pencil lead somewhere, I had none.  And just like that, I blubbered like an idiot.  I gave into a completely hormonal outburst and release of tension.  I lay my head down on my crossed arms and I sobbed like a baby because I had no lead in my pencil.  How ridiculous is that?  Pathetic!  However after my little meltdown I felt a lot better.  Like the big girl I am, I reached for a conventional pencil (it had been lying right in front of me after all) and carried on once more.

I wonder if it is a purely girl thing this?  Or if guys are also prone to meltdowns like this?  Perhaps the hair trigger is a little bout of road rage.  Something completely unrelated.  Some poor sod, just happens to be in the firing line – in the wrong place at the wrong time.  All just because he forgot to put his indicator on, is driving in the fast lane or some or other little misdemeanour.

I’m not prone to tears in general, but every so often I do indulge.  Oh, I get sad and have the occasional moment, but they’re normally completely valid.  A sappy movie, missing my dad, a beautiful advert on TV (pathetic, I know!), a book I’m reading, something to do with my kids, etc.  But just once in a blue moon a hormonal meltdown is healing and releases tension.  This past week, I had another little release too.  I phoned my mom and cried – just so overwhelmed with all I had to do.  Very little sleep, crafting nearly all day and all night, kids with exams and extra-murals, running a home, Jumping Castles, Grant away for a week and normal little family drama’s.  And somehow after I cried I once more felt ready and able to take on the world.  Ironically I think I completely stressed my mom out in the process, but at least my tension had been released.  When I get overwhelmed like this, my mantra to all is this “please, just don’t be nice to me”.  Because if someone is overly nice to me, I’ll most probably cry too.

I remember feeling the same during this time last year.  Also overwhelmed and if I look back at it now, last year was a mere walk in the park and a breeze compared to the extra load I’m carrying now.  Yet, at the time it also felt hectic.  I remember chatting to my mom and mentioning to her that I’d seen a beautiful antique printer’s tray at a little knick knackety “antique” second hand shop.  That it was such a bargain and too beautiful for words.  And then, completely unprompted my mom said, I’ll put some money in your account, please go and buy it for yourself.  And just like that I wept like a baby.  It wasn’t the R120.  It wasn’t the printer’s tray.  It was just the overwhelming kindness – someone looking out for me and caring for me.  My tears were not manipulative – I don’t do that and abhor manipulation.  It was genuine.  And my beloved printer’s tray now has pride of place, displayed on my wall – filling up nicely with treasures galore.

I’m looking forward to the lull between Christmas and New Year.  Normally the very best time.  All of the Christmas shopping is done.  The weather is good.  Everyone is in holiday mode.  School is still aeons away.  We tend to spend a bit of time either at Kleinbaai or Muisnes, depending on the Lombard family plans.  But in general it is complete and utter down time.  Swimming, walks on the beach, salads and cold platters for supper.  Lots of fruit and ice lollies too.  Hiding indoors in the heat of the day, with all of the blinds and curtains down – indulging in family time.  Perhaps pulling some mattresses in front of the TV and just having a movie fest.  Snoozing and sleeping at random intervals.  Ice cold cooldrinks – Oros is my best.  Cricket in the garden for the whole family once the day starts cooling or maybe a bit of French boulee.  Braai’s, kids running in the sprinkler, a light breeze and the rustle of leaves in a tree, dozing on the hammock in between reading a good book.

But every so often as if my magic, there’s the glimmer of a silver lining smiling down at me amidst all of the chaos.  Like just now, when I glanced at my watch and saw that it was 15h40 already.  Where had the day gone!  So much to do, so little day left, until I realised that I’d put my watch on wrong and it was only 10h20.  What a marvellous bonus, to score an extra five and a half hours in my day.  So perhaps, just for today, I’ll make it all fit in.  It’s not every day that you get extra hours allotted to you.  So I’ll make them count!
But for now, when I get completely overwhelmed, I try and find a quiet moment and just picture the perfect day. Me and my hammock, a book, a drink, definitely snacks, Grant busy braaing, the kids playing ball games around me, and me occasionally lazily lifting an eyelid to peep at them all – utter blisssss!!! 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


28 November 2012

So American Thanksgiving has just come and gone.  It is a holiday not celebrated in sunny South Africa, yet, thanx to the miracle of TV, we are quite exposed to it.  Especially as so much of our TV material heralds from America.  Reference to Thanksgiving is made in sitcoms and movies.  We even read about it in books.

I am unsure about the origin of it, but I think it is a harvest celebration of sorts.  The how’s, when’s and where’s all pale for me to the significance and tradition of the holiday.  An occasion for a big family meal and a chance to say thanks for our many blessings.  What is not to love.  However, I must confess, I simply don’t get the whole turkey thing.  I think a South African edge with a Leg of Lamb has a far nicer ring to it.  But as for the rest of it, you can count me in.

I think so often we simply stumble through life, going from one thing to the next.  One crises to the next.  One deadline to the next.  A never ending run on the treadmill of life.  Never really getting off and saying thanks for the huge chunk of cheese you just got.  Or more appropriately the huge chunk of cheese that’s been sitting there all along.

Personally, I am very guilty of this.  Usually chasing after and rushing off to the next thing.  I always have to get somewhere, do something.  Very seldom quiet, very seldom still.  And with this busy-ness, comes a lack of time to reflect and truly say thanks for all that we have.  Our very many blessings we so often take for granted.  Sometimes things you only realise are gone and were precious when they’re not there anymore.  And then their loss can be acute and mind numbing.  I am fearful of not saying thanks enough.  Of not being appreciative enough of all that I have.

Every so often, I am shocked by the suffering and hardships of others and it gives me a wake-up.  But somehow after a very short while, I once again slump into the same state of un-appreciation once more.  So just for once, I am going to sit still and think.  Think of the many things that I have and take for granted.  And say thank you ever so much for all that I have.

·         I am so very, very grateful for my family – every single one of them.

·         I am grateful for three beautiful and healthy children.

·         I am grateful for a strong and loving marriage to my very best friend.

·         I am grateful to still have grandparents – three of them.  And then I’ve also got a bonus grandfather to boot, not to mention Grant’s granny too.

·         I am grateful for fabulous friends – they lift me up, cheer me on and make me laugh.

·         I am grateful for working from home and being able to spend time with my kids – some days not such a blessing, if you know what I mean – but mostly it is.

·         I am grateful for a beautiful home – small though it is, I love it.

·         I am grateful for my health – this can change in a heartbeat – and I am blessed.

·         I am grateful for my independence.  I have a car and can drive wherever I want to go.  I am not reliant on others to get me from point A to point B.  I am also not reliant on public transport either.

·         I am grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I am able to afford my children – apart from growing up in a loving home with parents who love each other and them, they go to a good school, have a wonderful roof over their heads, eat three meals a day, have many extra-murals and have cultivated good friendships.

·         I am grateful that I can provide for my family.

·         I am grateful for my creativity.

·         I am grateful for the magnificent and beautiful country that we live in.

·         I am grateful for food on the table – three times a day, and snacks in between too.

·         I am grateful for technology – making the world smaller and my sister seem closer.

·         I am grateful for the ability to have electricity and running water – a privilege so many in our country don’t get to experience – and something I very seldom think of as a privilege, merely as a given.

·         I am grateful for the education I’ve had, enabling me to think, read and write.

·         I am grateful for the most amazing childhood given to me by the most incredible parents.

·         I am grateful for being encouraged to be independent, think for myself, think outside the box, appreciate differences in others, question the world, be different, and for being praised just for being me.

·         I am grateful for my creature comforts – comfy clothes to slip into after a long day, a wonderful cup of coffee, a delicious meal, a warm soft bed, spooning with my Grantie and kids to hug, kiss and cuddle.

·         I am grateful for many, many fantastic relationships with many different people from all walks of life – old friends, young friends, new friends and then there’s family too.

·         I am grateful for being made to feel special, talented and unique by so many kind people – friends and family.

·         I am grateful for a feeling of fulfilment and contentment.

·         I am grateful for deep roots and strong bonds – they keep me grounded and humble.

·         I am grateful for all that I have. 

·         I am grateful for all that I am.

I shall endeavour to show greater appreciation in the future.  To give thanks more often.  To pay homage more frequently.

For I am blessed.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A poem for Amber

A poem for Amber
27 November 2012

I don’t know the first thing about poetry.  Not at all.  I am not clever enough to look for the hidden and deeper meaning.  I tend to read poems at face value and to be honest, I can’t recall reading very many after being forced to do just that when I was still at school as well as a bit during my first year at Varsity.

Inevitably we’d have a teacher at the front of the class, droning on and on about the depth, the interpretation, the parallels, etc.  It all basically meant nothing to me.  And before each exam or test, I would read the poem yet again and then study the notes given to us by our teacher.  And marvel once more at the difference between the written words of the poem on the page right in front of the me and the depths it actually revealed as described by my teacher.  Depths I felt sure were hidden from most.  A mystery to many.

So, given my very basic skills and probably ignorance when it comes to things of this nature, I’ve quite accidently written two poems myself.  All very basic indeed.  The words are exactly what they mean.  No hidden meaning.  No depth.  No secret code.  No parallels.  Just pretty, beautiful, sometimes simple words.  Words that appealed to me at a particular time.  Most often they rhyme because I like the sound of it, and the sense of rhythm it evokes and the symmetry it lends. 

As such, I present one poem, written when my little Berry was only a few weeks old.  By the way, the other was posted a few months ago, and was written for Luke and Amber when they were still rather small.  It is called “Two little children”.

This one is just,

A poem for Amber

Her baby’s breath
So soft and sweet
Her tiny hands
Her perfect feet

Her deep and trusting
Knowing eyes
See through my soul
Look past disguise

From her my secrets
I could not hide
 My life an open book
Heart locked on hers forever more
A perfect little song we’ll sing
Soft and gentle like a flapping wing
A dream made real
My heart’s true love
Blissful love souls intertwined


So, as you can see, the poem thing is not really a happening thing for me.  But limericks – that’s an entirely different matter altogether.  I can whip up one of those in seconds.  Yet again no skills involved and they’re not particularly good, but they’re just such fun.  There is a pattern to creating them after all, like a little recipe.  So given that, I give to you

There once was a girl called Helene
Whose dream was to blog like a Queen
She wrote every day
To her husband’s dismay
Perhaps one day she’ll be in a magazine

She had heap loads of fun
Felt like the magic had just begun
Ideas for clever stories
She kept in inventories
And let her imagination just run
Creating word weaving was a joy
Almost like playing with a new toy
She’d move them all around
Until word magic would abound
Would anyone like her in their employ?
It took quite a bit of time
But the good feelings were sublime
The emotions were great
The satisfaction would elate
Like her heart gave a little happy chime


Monday, 26 November 2012

Fantasy World

Fantasy World
26 November 2012

At present I am having the most awesome time indulging in a new fad of mine – deep sea diving.  Bet you didn’t know that about me now did you?  Who would’ve thought that me of the limited swimming skills would enjoy a sport where those very same swimming skills are a vital ingredient.  Indeed of life saving importance.  I love the feeling of sitting on the side of the boat, with my back to the water, looking down at the flippers on my feet, anticipating the feeling of freedom and aquatic speed they’ll allow me once I hit the water.  I shift my shoulders to feel the familiar weight of my oxygen tanks on my bank.  I adjust my mask, glance down at my oxygen gauge and check my mouthpiece once more and then, with a final thumbs up to my diving buddy, I push myself backwards off the boat, into the deep blue unknown.  My first few moments of weightlessness despite all of my heavy gear, as well as the enveloping cold despite my wetsuit gives me an incredible rush of adrenaline.  It fills me with gratitude and awe that I am once again having this experience.  One of the best feelings in the whole world.

What might surprise some or even most, is the fact that I have never gone deep sea diving.  Nor shallow sea diving.  Heck, I don’t even dive in a pool and the thought of relying on a snorkel for oxygen fills me with equal portions of fear and dread.  Not over my dead body will I ever entrust a little piece of rubber and my sure-to-be-flawed-skills.  I’m very much a namby pamby when it comes to water.  I absolutely always get water up my nose and in my ears and within about three seconds of being under water I inevitably feel as if my lungs are about to burst and I will surely run out of lifesaving oxygen.  But here is the trick.  At present I am reading a fabulous book in which I’m a diving pro.  Nah, never mind a pro – I’m actually a diving instructor – so I dive for fun and for a living.  And no, I didn’t steal the above descriptive words or sentences from the book I’m reading, I am just able to fully visualise the experience.  Between the book I’m reading and the odd diving snippet I’ve seen on TV, it truly feels as though I have indeed lived through this experience.

And such is the magic of books.  They have the ability to let you be anyone, experience anything, be anywhere.  There are no limits.  My imagination and boundaries have been stretched.  They have taught me empathy and a wealth of other emotions too.  They have left me feeling bereft and joyful.  Happy and sad.  Excited and nervous.  Eagerly turning pages to find out what happens next.  I love everything about them.  Their weight in my hand and their smell as I turn the pages and open them up.  They simply always smell of knowledge and adventure – no matter how old or young they are.

I simply love getting lost in a book.  It truly has to be one of the very best feelings in the world.  The way a book pulls you virtually into the pages.  Where you feel unable to put it down for even one minute.  How even when you’ve had to tear yourself away from the book, it is still with you all of the time.  How your mind doesn’t simply switch off and you’re still lost in the world the words have conjured up.  I’ve been known to cook with a book in my hands, making a killer white sauce at the same time.  The same goes for pasta sauces too.

Just recently on some of my book journey’s I’ve been a lawyer, a fire fighter, a nature conservationist, and a Hollywood actress.  I even had a wild time being part of a wacky and off-beat Irish family.  I loved my eccentric Da as well as my kooky sisters.  My courtroom battles as a lawyer were legendary – the stuff books are written about (well, speaking of which).  My theatrical skills were sublime, and naturally I was hauntingly beautiful to boot.  I had my hands full tracking and outwitting a notorious serial arsonist, but as can be expected, I got my guy in the end.  I did an awesome stint infiltrating a poaching ring and saving a whole bunch of rhino’s and some other animals too.  I did have the odd hairy moment though and nearly met with an untimely end, which would really have ruined things for me.  And so the list goes on and on and on.  I’m not a book snob.  In fact far from it.  I don’t read “good” books.  I read fun books.  Books that entertain me.  Books that enthral me.  Many of my very favourite books are children’s books.  Dr Seuss one of my favourite authors.  For who does not like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green eggs and ham”?  I for one most certainly do.

I’ve travelled the world.  I’ve even travelled in time.  I’ve been a passenger on the Titanic.  I experienced all of the horrors of World War II.  I met the Tsar and Tsarina and helped them to escape.  Out of the kindness of their hearts and as a measure of gratitude, they gave me the most beautiful Faberge egg as a gift.  I've scaled Everest, and joined Phileas on his travels around the world in 80 days.  I have clambered about the pyramids and have explored Stonehenge.  I helped Asterix and Obelix defeat the Romans and gave Tintin a hand on his adventures too.  Books are my friends and they invite me into their world.  They urge me to join them on an unforgettable journey.  My memories linger of the experiences I’ve had.  The people I’ve met.  The families I’ve had.

Where would the world be without books?  How dull a place.  No memories shared.  No secrets revealed.

Within the open folds of a book, the possibilities are endless.  Whispering their stories, inviting you in.  I rejoice in books and pay tribute to their authors for all they have given me.  Many happy hours, lost to the world.  What a perfectly marvellous joyful distraction.  The very best kind.

Books truly are the world.  The oyster of the mind.  For with them all things are possible.


Sunday, 25 November 2012

If I knew then what I know now

If I knew then what I know now
24 November 2012

With age comes a bit of wisdom, hopefully.  And staring down the barrel of turning forty in a very short while, it made me think.  Have I become any wiser yet?  I know for a fact that I am certainly not wise per se, but perhaps I have grown a bit with my advanced years.  If I compare the Helene of today, to the Helene of ten years ago, I’m certainly not the same person.  And going even further than that, if I compare the Helene of today with the Helene that married Grant all those years ago, it’s barely the same person too.  So what exactly have I learnt, if anything?

If I knew then what I know now:


·         I would have hugged and kissed Luke more while he still wanted me to and was happy for me to do it.  We went out to a 30th Birthday party last night, and we left all three kids at home.  At nearly fifteen, Luke is more than capable of holding the fort in our absence.  The kids are really getting bigger now and the only one I was really concerned about was Cole.  Not because he would miss us or cry for us, but because he is ever so slightly wild and can be a handful.  Anyway, we left them after I’d dished up supper for them and they were busy eating.  I’d taken out DVD’s, got nice cool drink, popcorn, chocolates, etc.  I wanted the night to be a treat for them too.  So as we left, I kissed Amber and Cole goodbye and then Luke walked with us to the door, so that he could lock it behind us.  And just before I stepped out of the door, I leaned forward to kiss him too (the way I do every night when I say good night to him) and instead of leaning forward, he leaned back and said “I don’t think so”.  My shattered heart.  So this is my advice to mothers everywhere, especially mothers of boys – kiss and hug with all of your might now.  This will happen to you too – sooner than you might think.

·         I would have been far less responsible, committed and studious.  I would have jolled way more as a student and lived it up more.  The time for responsibility comes soon enough and tends to last for the rest of your life.  Don’t waste your youngers years being a goodie-two-shoes.  You can do that when you’re older.  You know, when you need to be an example to your own kids.

·         I would’ve spent less time sweating the small stuff.  I really live by this philosophy more and more as I get older.  I put loads of things in a bubble and simply blow it away.  Chances are that the stuff I’m “sweating” about are in any rate out of my control and will sort themselves out in the end.  What will be will be.

·         I would’ve done more tiny little girlie stuff with Amber when she was small.  We still have lots of fun bigger girly time together, but she is already starting to pull away from me more and more.  I get the occasional rolling eyeball and disdain filled voice.  It fills me with horror and though I reprimand and punish her for her behaviour, it is a sign of the times and what lies ahead for me.  Very soon she’ll be a teenager too.

·         I would’ve stopped whinging about imaginary imperfections on my perfect body.  If I’d only known then that it was as good as it was ever going to get.  I would’ve worn mini’s every day.  Crop tops with exposed midriffs too, not to mention the cleavage and strappy tops I would’ve indulged in.

·         I would’ve realised that I actually was able to eat anything my heart desired without putting on weight – at least at that stage of my life.  I would’ve gluttoned myself on caramel and condensed milk straight from the tin.  Whole slabs of chocolates, ice-creams and milkshakes too.  Potatoes in any shape or form – and lots of them.

·         I would’ve drank more champagne.

·         I would’ve worried less about what others thought of me.

·         I would’ve been way more naughty and rebellious – back to the old responsibility thing again.  I think my responsibility gland is over-developed.

·         I would’ve spent more time with my Dad.  Soaking up all that he was.  Learning more about him and filled myself with enough memories to last a lifetime if not two.

·         I would’ve entertained more and worried less about my house not looking perfect.  People don’t care.  In any rate, the people that I invite over are my family and friends – people who would not judge me for my small home, not expertly decorated.

·         I would’ve tried harder to remember every detail of my children as babies and the miracle of being pregnant.  The most special time and experience ever.

·         I would’ve spent less time worrying – such a pointless exercise.

·         I would’ve enjoyed being footloose and fancy free for longer.

·         I would’ve cherished my alone time more.  Though my children have enriched my life more than anything in the whole world, the one thing I miss the most since their appearance in my life is time just being me.  Time when I don’t worry about if they’ve got enough, doing enough, safe enough, cared for enough, just everything enough.

·         I would’ve travelled more when I was unencumbered.

·         I would’ve worried less about the opinions of others and let those very opinions affected me less.

·         I would’ve snuggled more with all of my kids as babies, toddlers, little children and even as bigger children.  In fact, best I cuddle them now.

·         I would’ve showed more kindness in my heart towards others I perhaps thought unkindly of.

·         I would’ve tried being less of a wallflower in life and taking part more.

·         I would’ve been more confidant and outgoing and less unsure of myself.

·         I would’ve started appreciating earlier in my life that the highlights of life are not the big things, but the ordinary, everyday little things.  And I would’ve cherished those more from a younger age.

·         I would’ve learnt to speak my mind more freely from a younger age too.

·         I would’ve learnt to like myself more.  I happen to like myself lots now, most of the time.  But I think that so many of us, so often put ourselves down and criticise ourselves. 

·         I would’ve spent more time listening to the little stories my kids wanted to tell me and less time on the mundane “important” things I felt I had to get on with instead.

·         I would’ve realised that time is fleeting and very, very special.  And that your whole life can change in an instant, when you least expect it.  That you should cherish and appreciate what you’ve got now, before it is gone forever.

·         I would’ve realised that nothing ever stays the same.  Life fluctuates all of the time.  Routines though great, never last.  As children get older and bigger their needs change.

·         I would’ve trusted my gut instinct more – it’s usually right.

·         I would’ve offered less resistance to the bumps in life’s road – they’re normally unavoidable in any rate.  Submission is often best, especially if you can’t change something and it is beyond your control.

·         I would’ve fretted less.

·         I would’ve learnt to adapt easier and with less resistance.

·         I would’ve accepted more.

·         I would’ve been easier on myself and those around me.

 And though I can add to this list probably forever more, it has however made me realise, that yes, I have indeed grown a bit as a person.  I have hopefully matured and gained some wisdom, whilst not losing my enthusiasm and joy for life.  A bit of immaturity, frivolity and fun go a long way.

Growing up is hard work.  Staying young, even harder.  I would like to look back on my life again in another ten years and hopefully think, that the core of me has remained.  That I have learnt much, but maintained my very Helene-ness through it all.  Because though this reflection has made me realise that I’ve grown wiser, it’s also made me realise that I’m still very much the same.  And thank goodness for that.  Because, biased though I am – I kinda like me a lot.