Kids’ Stuff

It has always amazed me that my children  – especially the younger ones – can find joy in the most arbitrary and mundane of objects.

When Megan was a baby, we were inundated with gifts from friends and family. She had more toys than we knew what to do with. Educational toys, soft toys, gender-specific toys, neutral ones. Dolls, cars, balls, bears, musical toys, moving toys… Sometimes, it drove me quite crazy!

But you know what her favourite thing was to play with at a year old? An empty 500ml Coke bottle with a couple of pebbles inside it.

Fast forward a couple of years and we happen upon a particularly smooth rock on a beach in Dubai. Said rock is dubbed “The Rubia” and remains a cherished possession for absolute ages. Until I finally had to make it disappear because The Rubia became the uninvited guest at the dinner table. The night time companion who just wouldn’t get the message when Megan desperately needed to get some sleep. The most fought-over item in the history of sibling fights. So I made the fairies “borrow” The Rubia, without whose magical guarding powers the poor fairy children could never sleep safely in their beds again.

Enter a 10cm piece of red string. Meet Ropey. Ropey, who had to accompany us on every single family outing. Who had his own special place to sit on the armrest of Megan’s car seat, his own little bed on her pillow at night. Ropey who, having made it all the way back to South Africa with us,  terrorised  tagged along with us for at least another 18 months before being tragically snatched out of Megan’s had by a gust of wind on the N1 highway one day.

It is astounding how much beingness a child can grant to a random, inanimate object. And although the various bits and pieces of rubbish that my children have become attached to through the years have sometimes had me reaching for the vodka at completely inappropriate times, I have always loved that they could do that. That their imaginations are wild and magnificent, even though they could so easily pick up any of the dozens of store-bought toys they own and make up a game just as magical.

At this time of year, when everyone is gearing up for the Christmas holidays and we see more and more people begging at the traffic lights, it’s hard not to be reminded that for so many kids, those random object toys are not a choice: It’s all they know.

So, when I was contacted by Corli on behalf of The Topsy Foundation a little while ago, I jumped at the chance to spread the word about this awesomely cool initiative.

I’d seen other bloggers’ posts about The Little Toys that Aren’t, a project by The Topsy Foundation and online retailer Spree, and thought the whole concept just brilliant! Oddly enough, my kids would probably think it fantastic to play with this toy car:

Toy Car

Or this robot:

Toy Robot 2

Or this magic wand:
Magic Fairy Wand

Almost as much as the little boys and girls who DO play with them would LOVE to have a car that actually looks like a car. Or to build a robot out of LEGO. Or to have a shiny, sparkly Fairy Princess Wand!

You can help make that happen buy spending R20 at Spree on one of The Little Toys that Aren’t. Spree will not keep a cent of your R20 – the full amount goes to The Topsy Foundation to spread some festive cheer where it is needed most this holiday season.

I know that my kids are definitely getting a couple of these in their stockings this year.

Goodbye, Gaby

Gaby was not my dog. She was the offspring of a little rescue that had found her way to my mother some 15 years or so ago, heavily pregnant. So she literally spent her life, from birth, as companion to my mom and sister. They moved first from Polokwane to Centurion, then twice again within Centurion before coming to stay with us last year.

Gaby was there when my children were babies. She patiently let them tug and push and learn how to handle small dogs, as we had none of our own.

Gaby was there when we returned from our three years overseas, always happy to see us, yelping with excitement and stumpy little tail wagging furiously.

Gaby stood sentry to her mistresses, only ever barking at unknown visitors to the yard and faithfully obeying The Mom’s every command.

Gaby kept our yard free of the rats that plague Johannesburg, making short work of sniffing them out and killing those that dared stray into our garden.

When my mom moved at the beginning of September, Gaby stayed. She would stay with us until my mom had found an animal-friendly place of her own again.

She missed The Mom, you could tell. Still she woke up every morning happy and excited to see us, eager to please and obedient as always.

But perhaps that little tail wagged just a tiny bit less effusively? Those first few days, she’d come into the house and look for The Mom in the room where she used to stay.

Still, she ate her food with gusto and yelped in greeting when  we’d been out and come back or friends came to visit. She barked at the rats that would scurry along the top of the high garden wall. She sniffed around the places she thought they might hide, ever vigilant and ready to dispatch them with speed and efficiency.

And then, on Friday evening, after a hot and uncomfortable day, she didn’t want her dinner. On Saturday, she hung lethargically around in her kennel, getting up only to drink water or to come inside in search of respite from the heat. She seemed to perk up that evening, when we got back from watching the rugby but not by much. And her water bowl was empty. On Sunday morning, she could barely stagger between her bed and her water bowl and I took her to the vet the moment their doors opened.  By then, she’d begun to foam about the mouth slightly, and had had a very loose stool.

The vet diagnosed heamorrhagic gastro, most likely caused by the spread of a cancerous growth she found in in Gaby’s belly.  She plied her with shots to ease her pain and combat the bug, sending us home with two antibiotics, more pain meds, a rehydration solution and a paste for binding her stool.

Gaby bit me twice as David and  I administered her medicine – something I don’t think she’d done to anyone before in her life – her jaw clenched tight in pain.  And as the afternoon wore on, her discomfort became increasingly plain. She lay still on her bed, just inside the door that leads out into the garden, getting up only for water when she could muster the strength to stand.

After a few more hours, she could no longer drink any water, either.

I stayed with her into the night and hoped that my being there was a comfort to her.  She made two sharpish yelps in pain right near the end and I stroked her and whispered to her that we all love her and it’s okay to let go. And she did. At 01:05 this morning, I watched the light leave her eyes and she was gone.

Rest in peace, sweet little friend.

Gaby 2000 - 5 October 2015
Gaby: b. 2000 – d. 5 October 2015

Catch up

Last night, a friend and I met up with a former colleague from Dubai, who’s currently visiting South Africa on business. I got home at 2:00 this morning. It was so good to reconnect with old friends and feel a little bit like a person again, rather than a mom. People have more fun than moms, you know. And bikers have more fun than people. But we won’t go there just right now…

Anyway, we met up and enjoyed some cocktails and beer and a very late night burger, which was delicious. And we talked about all kinds of grown-up things, like education and learning and the study of literature in a hypertextual world. Things I used to be deeply engaged in before my whole life became all about five other people.

It was wonderful!

My brain misfired every so often, trying to plough through the fog of misuse that settles when you spend 80% of your time in the company of a pre-schooler, and still it was marvellous.

Apart from that little detour, not much out of the ordinary has happened around these parts this last while, so I’m going to follow Angel’s lead and post some random photos from my phone.

Mud party
What little boys do when Mom’s not home
Chris Riddell, 2015 - 2017 Children's Laureate, explaining the negotiation with "Edna Mode" in the publisher's "Making Books Beautiful Department" to his fans at Exclusive Books in Melrose Arch.
Chris Riddell, 2015 – 2017 Children’s Laureate, explaining the negotiation with “Edna Mode” in the publisher’s “Making Books Beautiful Department” to his fans at Exclusive Books in Melrose Arch.
James playing on the building site at Sci Bono.
James playing on the building site at Sci Bono.
Samuel Johnson snapped at the beginning of a big yawn. Looks like she's mouthing off something cheeky, doesn't she?
Samuel Johnson snapped at the beginning of a big yawn. Looks like she’s mouthing off something cheeky, doesn’t she?

Oh, also – I’m job hunting at the moment. There are one or two possibilities I’m very excited about but I’ll tell you all more when I know where things are headed. Wish me luck!

 

 

(I’m) A Little Bit of Everything

I’m a bitch

Jack recently needed to have a couple of teeth extracted because they had decayed to the point of causing infection in his mouth. (Yes, I know that’s bad and you can keep your judgements to yourself, thanks.)

I was of the opinion that the situation provided an opportunity to teach Jack the importance of good oral hygiene by showing that the Tooth Fairy does not collect and pay for rotten teeth. D felt otherwise (and had his way in the end). While we argued about it, though, he made a comment that really stung. He might as well have punched me in the gut: “How would you like it if you were your mother?” This implies, of course, that I’m an unreasonable bitch and my children shouldn’t have to suffer me.

Well. Okay, then. I’ll just file that away under “Things to throw in the husband’s face during a future disagreement.”

I’m a lover

One who doesn’t discuss in public what belongs in the bedroom… 😉

I’m a child

If you’ve been reading MamaMeeA for a while, you’ll know that my mom and sister moved in with us in April last year.  It was going to be a three or four month thing, while they sorted out some stuff, found new jobs, etc.

I moved my daughter out of her large bedroom with ensuite bathroom and put my mom in there. I moved my office out of my office and into my bedroom, and my daughter into what had been my office, which she would share with my sister.

I rented a storage unit in which to store those of my mom’s things that could not be squeezed into our house and moved out of our house and into storage those of our things we could live without, to make room for the rest of my mom’s stuff.

We adjusted and adapted and made do.  My mom found a job near our house and contributed from her small salary toward the household. That big project we had going from last year ran well into this year and the regular income from that masked the fact for quite a long time that we were going to run into trouble. And then my mom left her job for another one that didn’t work out. And then that project of ours was over and we ran into trouble.

So, in the middle of last month, I called a family meeting during which I asked my mom and sister to move out at the end of the month.

I’m a mother

Yeah – no surprises there! Between the weirdness of watching my two eldest enter puberty and all that goes along with that, wrangling my strong-willed Grade One child to some semblance of  pretending to cooperate with his teacher in class and having the youngest at home during the day (a new and hopefully temporary development), that fact is hard to miss.

I’m having so much fun with the younger kids at the moment! My littlest J happened upon a PEZ dispensing Perry the Platypus among his toys a few days ago and when I saw a packet of PEZ sweeties in the checkout queue at Dis-Chem later, I bought it.

Then I filled up Perry while James watched a movie and waited a few minutes before I called James and asked him whether he’d heard something that sounded like magic. James being James, he played along and agreed that he’d heard “magic noises”. I suggested that perhaps the noise had come from Perry the Platypus, prompting James to set off in search of the toy.

Watching him discover his “magically” refilled PEZ dispenser at random intervals over the past few days has been so much fun!

The older kids are doing pretty well, too and I find myself enjoying many proud mom moments lately.

Michael started playing chess this year and it turns out he’s really good at it! He’s currently one of the top players in the school and I’m so pleased he’s found something he enjoys, is good at and is likely to stick to.

Megan has started writing prolifically once again after seeming to have lost interest for a while. She’s also suddenly started surprising me with some impressive academic results and I’m so glad she’s finding her groove.

I’m a sinner

And these past few weeks, I’ve been paying for my sins.

Right now, I’m implementing a strategy to put my little company back on track after a few setbacks. I won’t lie – it’s slow, tough going and I’m not having loads of fun. But it does help to have a plan in place. Plans, actually. Plural.

Phase One entails handling the immediate internal issues, including the setting up of standard systems and protocols and drafting policy for future operations. This follows naturally on recent events and is the product of lessons learned from the experiences of the past couple of years.

Phase Two is where things get interesting and while I can’t say much until all of the various NDAs and other agreements are finalised and signed (single most valuable lesson learned so far – no verbal agreements!!), I am  excited for what all of this means in terms of long term potential.

I’m a saint

Okay, so that one’s never going to fly. I’m not exactly the choirgirl type. But I could be.

Could have been.

If I’d wanted to…

 

Right Now

I don’t give a fuck about gluten free, healthy eating. I just want to dive mouth first into a mountain of doughnuts. Chocolate ones, sugared ones. custard ones, doughnuts with sprinkles, cruller doughnuts, horn doughnuts, fried doughnuts, baked doughuts, Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kremes – I don’t care! Give me any of them! Give me ALL of them!

Clearly, this is a sign that I’m missing something in my general nutrition. And I’m sure I’ll get to finding out what it is eventually. But just for today, I want to fall off the wagon so hard, that wagon’ll think it’s taking off!

I won’t, though. Buy all the doughnuts, that is. Instead, I’ll polish off this bag of fruit pastilles I bought this morning, having already inhaled a packet of strawberry Mentos in under 5 seconds. Then I’ll plough through that slab of Aero Duet sitting in my cupboard. Then I’ll feel awful about myself and need to eat something that’s actually food, so I’ll have something with protein in it for lunch.

Apparently, I stress eat. Yeah.

So excuse me for a little bit longer while I neglect my blog and anything vaguely like a social life in order to gorge myself on every kind of junk food I can lay my hands on. Oh, and deal with the demons. Almost(ish) done wrangling them bad boys, then we can have a nice, long chat.

 

On Moving Things and Shifting Perspectives

I’m trying to be a bit less whiney, which means I stop myself from saying stuff a lot. In fact, it means I’m being pretty quiet lately – and I don’t mean just on my blog.

I got to meet Sheena’s beautiful baby boy this week and, driving home from there, I realised that even in the middle of getting to meet this gorgeous little man, taking a couple of hours out of the grind to just relax and be sociable for a bit, I’d been an insufferable moaner. Sheena, if you ever read this: Sorry!

My mind is on moving a lot at the moment. Mainly because where we live is beginning to feel kind of crowded but I’m also thinking about being moved in other ways – in the feely sense.
I posted a photo to Instagram a few weeks ago of a little note tied to a piece of string with the remnants of a yellow balloon, which David had found on top of a factory roof he’d been inspecting in Alrode that day.

And since seeing it, I’ve been somewhat more inclined to consider where people are coming from, what their stories could possibly be…

When the Going Gets Rough

This past week or two, for the first time since we took the plunge and branched out on our own, I felt disheartened and uncertain about the future of my little company.

We spent eight long months working on this one big project that was supposed to kickstart our journey forward.  We poured every resource we had into setting up for this project, whose scope was large enough that it would generate sufficient income to recover costs plus quite a bit extra.

Long story short, we allowed ourselves to trust that our goodwill and consideration for a longstanding relationship was enough to keep everyone honest and it wasn’t. A lesson you’d think we’d have learned by now.

That said, all is not lost and we still walk away at the end of the project in a position to meet our commitments. But I can’t help feeling burned and I’ll admit that I gave some serious thought to packing it all in these last few days.

But then I had to ask myself what I’d rather be doing and realised that that’s a very tough question to answer.  Not because I don’t dream of doing any number of different things but because I’ve already invested so much of myself in this business. I’ve been in it, giving it my all, from the research and development down to the logistics of sourcing and securing the raw materials, setting up the factory and pulling on my gloves and respirator, lugging those 25+ kilogram bags of ingredients around and mixing the product, before finally slapping on the pail labels and delivering it to site for the client.

And the longer I thought about it, the more I realised that, yes, we got screwed again. Yes, it’s been a blow. Yes, I’m pissed that it didn’t all go to plan and that you can’t take people at their word but more than that, I’m pissed at myself for letting it happen. For being the nice guy when, for everyone else in the game, it’s just business. For putting too many eggs in this one basket and not making provision for a scenario like this and having a Plan B. For trusting that it’ll all be okay instead of grabbing the situation by the balls and beating that shit into total submission. My bad. I’ll refer back to the many mental notes made in the process of this project and draft them into firm policy for the way we do business in future.

At the end of the day, I have this project to thank for a steady stream of income for the past several months, in spite of obstacles and setbacks. It has forced me to learn things I never dreamed I’d do and I’ve learned at the same time that I am pretty perceptive and capable and should trust my instincts more.

It was suggested recently that I sell my company to someone else and I was surprised at how fiercely the feeling struck me in my gut that that is NOT what I want to do.

Yes, I want to pursue the different creative ideas I’ve carried in my head for years and years. I want to complete my degree and explore a few other study options in completely different directions. I still want to be, do and have all the things I’ve dreamed of.

But I want to do them while I continue to develop and expand my existing company.

Did I ever imagine that I’d make my living manufacturing an industrial roof coating product? No.  Does the idea of making paint make my pulse race and send me roaring into each new day? No.

But this business has reminded me that I once dreamed as much of being a scientist or engineer or architect as I did of being an actor, a lawyer or a writer. And it has, despite me, crept into my heart.

Milestone

At precisely this time in 2002 (14:30), my Megan was 1 hour and 33 minutes old.

Mom and Megan bonding

Brand new Megan

Yum, Bubbles!

I’ve kind of been letting this particular birthday sink in for a few days now, because it means that, today, I am officially the mother of a teenager.

Whew.

The journey with my girl child these past 13 years has been everything but boring and I have at times been terrified of how wrong I’m getting it all, only to be astounded at the very next turn at how smart and mature she can be.

Most of the time, it’s a difficult ride for us both, mainly because when I look at her, I see myself and that frightens me beyond all understanding. Because I know where I’ve been, what I’ve lived and how easily I could have been either, so much better or so much worse off than I am now and I worry that she’ll be just like me when she’s so clearly meant to be so much more.

But then, I never have to wait too long to be reminded that I worry more than I need to. So much more.

I see my daughter grapple with existential issues, questioning who she is, what she stands for, what things mean. I watch her heart break and feel my own shatter alongside it when her peers cannot see, when it’s as obvious as the sun, that the things that set her apart from them are what make her fucking awesome:

Her one-of-a-kind sense of humour and the way she stands up for those who feel targeted and bullied. The way she combines what limited wardrobe she hasn’t already outgrown at any given time to come up with a look all her own and wears it with attitude. Her love of books and writing and finding out how the world works and the way she questions everything, including the authority of people who aren’t used to having their authority questioned.  The fact that she doesn’t simply accept the status quo but pushes boundaries, develops her own thoughts on a subject. Her tendency to recognise and seek out the extraordinary and cherish it, when all her friends are talking lipstick and boys and hanging out at the mall…. All these things that indicate to me that she looks at and perceives things beyond the surface veneer. That when she reaches adulthood, she’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s important and what it takes to be a decent human being, rather than a popular one.

And really, in the end, that’s all I can ask for.

IMG_2636

Happy Birthday, my gorgeous girl.

 

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Our school has what they call a “Travelling Book Shop” every now and then, and a while ago my daughter asked me for some money so that she could buy me a book from the Travelling Book Shop.

I thought is kind of amusing that I was paying for my own gift but didn’t say so. I gave her the money, half expecting that she’d spend it on something else anyway. But she brought home the book, as promised, and left it on my desk.

It sat there for a while, while I did other things, read other books, paid it no attention. Megan borrowed it for a while and I smiled to myself, knowing she’d really wanted it for herself. I left it with her. Until I saw it in a drawer in her bedroom a couple of days ago and took it back to my desk. Then, yesterday, I picked it up and started reading.

The blurb on the back of the book reads:

“In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three “dumpsite boys” make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city.

One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It’s up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat – boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money – to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong.”

I fell in love with this book. It evoked in me the kind of emotional responses I used to get when I first started reading Dalene Matthee’s books. I could identify deeply with the boys whose story it tells and the city, although nameless, comes alive on every page.

Although aimed at young teen readers, this book held my attention throughout and I could not put it down.

I like that it’s a short book – perfect for kids who have a lot going on or aren’t big readers.

Also, that Megan chose it – either for me or for herself – shows that she knows me better than I thought. And that she possesses a level of compassion, of understanding for the human condition that I hope  she will retain throughout her life.

 

Admitting Defeat

It dawned on me yesterday that I was fooling myself if I thought I was going to make it to marathon ready in less than 2 months. Less than a month and a half, even.

So, as much as it breaks my heart, I won’t be participating in the Knysna Forest Marathon this year.  Instead, I’ve made an appointment to see a physiotherapist this month and she’ll be helping me treat this niggling knee injury properly, so that I can get back to running and training the way I want to.

It’s been a shitty time these last couple of weeks. Health issues in the family have been a problem – my mom took a nasty turn last week with the diabetes and, after not paying too much attention to Jack’s moaning about a sore tummy for quite a while, I finally took him to a doctor and it turns out he’s gluten intolerant. His liver and intestines are taking strain because he’s been eating all the wrong things and I couldn’t feel more like a fucking horrible mother for not listening to him sooner.

On the upside, the tumble dryer has been repaired and our lives are that much easier once again. Also, my mom having to have emergency treatment for seriously high blood glucose levels (24.5!!!) and Jack’s visit to the doctor have driven home a little bit better what I’ve been trying to get the family to understand for months: We should be eating Paleo. Or at least as close to it as we possibly can.

The hardest part of that for me, of course, is giving up the sugar and the decadent desserts. And the dairy. Apparently, Hashimoto’s sufferers are supposed to cut out gluten AND dairy. And just like that, my whole life is once again about food and giving up the stuff I love eating most…

Except that my whole life can’t be about food because there’s simply too much to do. And my Meg is off to high school in a few short months’ time. She’ll be boarding in another province, coming home one or two weekends a month and holidays. So much planning, talking, preparing to do!

She can’t wait to go, which I’m glad about. At least she’s going into it with anticipation, rather than feeling like we’re deserting her or don’t want her around. I guess we wouldn’t have considered boarding as an option if she’d felt that way but still…

A part of me is almost jealous that she gets to go to an awesome school with some amazing teachers. And another part is terrified of sending my child off into the world. Yet another part looks forward to her absence so that I get to enjoy her that much more on her weekends and holidays at home for having missed her so much while she’s away. This Mom gig ain’t for pansies!