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!

 

The Tragedy of the Tumble Dryer

I’ve mentioned a number of times, I think, that we are a large household. There are eight of us. That’s double the average middle class household in South Africa. As such, we do a LOT of the following:

1. We eat a lot. Four adults and four growing children equals a lot of hungry people. Food is important.

2. We wear a lot of clothing. This translates to having a washing machine and tumble dryer that work very, very hard.

This weekend, tragedy struck – our tumble dryer started making a horrible, grinding noise, indicating that its drum bearing is stuffed. We had a crap load of wet washing, though, so we still made use of it, albeit sparingly. But then, on Monday, it stopped heating at all and we have had to start hanging up 8 people’s laundry on the washing line outside. This in itself is a logistical feat of epic proportions. Throw into the mix a massive, shady tree that prevents the clothing on the line from seeing the sun and you have lots of wet washing that stays wet forever.  And don’t even get me started on the ironing. The dryer used to make it so that at least half of the washing didn’t need ironing. Now, everything has to be ironed and it’s a double hand tragedy.*

Now, all the eco-activists out there are probably going to have a go at me about using a tumble dryer in the first place, because electricity crisis and eco what-what… But the simple truth of it is that without the dryer, I’m screwed.

I’m planning a small memorial service for the trusty tumble dryer tonight, after which there will be pancakes for dinner (stuffed with savoury mince) and dessert (with strawberries, whipped cream & syrup). Because it’s Wednesday and Wednesday nights are pancake nights.

And until we either have this one fixed or are able to buy a new dryer, there will be morning mourning in this house every day. True story.

*Double hand tragedy: When the tragedy is of such magnitude as to warrant the clamping of two hands over the mouth in grief, as opposed to a single hand tragedy, whose lesser magnitude demands only one hand…

Weeks

There are 8 7 left before Knysna and I have managed three 4km runs since injuring my knee, which is no-where near adequate.

The knee is much better, though, which I am glad about. I was supposed to start running properly again this morning but stayed up late last night, reading and then couldn’t force myself out the door this morning. Tomorrow, though, there can’t be any excuses.

I’m going to bed at a decent time tonight and at 4:00 tomorrow, I’m outta here, pounding that pavement.

In other news, the accounting is slowly actually getting somewhere. And some other business admin I’ve been putting off is finally happening. Soon, I’ll be free to dive into some of the more enjoyable aspects of my business again, and to focus more on getting a proper market presence established.

Otherwise, all is quiet. Ish. Well, as quiet as a household of eight people can be.

I’ve been thinking all the things this past while, about all the other things. But the urge to blog any of it is simply not there.  I find myself giving a lot of thought to my personal online presence – and I mean outside of Facebook and Twitter which, as we all know, I’ve already eliminated from my life. I’m talking about blogs and Instagram.

I’m not exactly prolific on either platform and I definitely don’t have the time to go and explore others. I certainly don’t have the urge to.

I do find myself spending a bit more time on Pinterest and Houzz.com lately, primarily looking at houses and home stuff, because I don’t plan on us living where we’re living now for all that many more years. We have a plan, see? Largely, that plan is why I have nothing left for sharing on the interwebs.

But it seems to me at the same time that I’m experiencing a broad, life-encompassing shift of focus. Maybe because of getting older. Maybe because, however incrementally, things are finally moving forward. Maybe because, after a few months of not being sucked into all the things that used to take up all of my time, I’m rediscovering myself, my life and what I really think of both. And of the people I surround myself with. Maybe it’s  because there are only so many hours in a day and I’m learning what it really means to prioritise.

At the moment, it’s hard to say exactly what I’m focusing on. It’s like I’m walking toward my life and I can only look straight ahead. I know where I’m headed but it is still too far ahead for me to see it clearly.  As I get closer, it’ll start to take shape and I’ll be able to make out more detail. But for now, I have to just keep going, satisfied in the knowledge that I’m going in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

On Learning, Purging, Races not Run and Runner’s Knee

I’ve been chipping away incrementally at the many things I need to master in my life for the last while, all the while dreaming of when it’ll finally be done so that I can get to the more enjoyable bits of life.

And then I read a blog post yesterday by a blogger I haven’t read before – a letter from her 40 year old self to her 20 year old self – in which she states that it hit her at 38 that her life is already here!

This is something I have struggled with all my life – this inability to live in the moment, always wanting more, always looking ahead instead of simply being in the now. Most often, it’s about not having the money to do blah right now or putting off something I want to do because I’m not getting around to doing the things I’m supposed to do, first. And if I’m honest with myself, the root cause of the problem is me.

I procrastinate and delay and put off and avoid doing things because I don’t enjoy them. Or I’m uncertain of myself and afraid of doing it wrong, so I do nothing instead. And every day that passes, I tell myself I’ll get on it tomorrow. But tomorrow, the cycle repeats itself and I go to bed again, telling myself I’ll do it tomorrow…

And every now and then, when all things are perfectly aligned, I have a good day and get things done. And it goes smoothly and everything works and I don’t have to force myself all that hard to get going. And it feels great. But it’s not enough.

So, I’ve decided to revisit some of the successful tools I’ve used in the past, to get myself motivated and busy, doing the things I need to get done.

One of these was the 31 Baby Steps on this website. I don’t necessarily like all the stuff on there or agree with her very touchy-feely vibe. But I can look back and recognise that when I started doing the 31 steps a few years back, and kept at it, it was one of the most productive phases of my life so far.

Another is doing a daily Battle Plan or To-Do List and sticking to it. This is a tricky one for me at this point because there are just so many things I need to get done and have neglected for too long. And the difficulty for me is in prioritising the list. Getting work stuff finished is urgent but so is making sure that the kids are all fine. At the same time, I need to up my skills in various areas, in order to be able to properly do what I need to do. This means finding the time and resources to study some stuff I’m not that clued up on, otherwise I’m never going to get anywhere. And having a clear, uncluttered space in which to work is the only way I can focus, so sorting out my space and the house in general is just as important.

I was thinking today that perhaps, instead of working off my big “Master Plan” for the year, I should break down the day into specific time slots, each dedicated to a specific activity. That way, I get to do some work in every area of my life, every day, and slowly get to cross off all the stuff I need to do, until I’ve caught up…

I’m giving myself a deadline by which I need to be caught up on everything, from each child’s individual space, cupboard, school stuff, etc., to each room in the house and each division of my business, not counting stuff I have yet to learn how to do. That deadline, I’ve just decided, will be 30 June 2015.

In the process of catching up and sorting out, I should be able to set up systems for maintaining these various areas and activities, so that I don’t fall behind again. Kind of like the FlyLady system. Starting small, slowly working up to more things, so that you can keep a handle on it all as you go. Which should free up time for learning the things I need to learn and so on and so forth.

There are a few different areas of study I’m interested in but I’ll start with my incomplete BA (Language & Literature) at UNISA. I won’t be able to register again until next year, though, so I should be able to do a couple of short courses in the meantime. I’m looking at a basic web design course, so that I can finally get my business site and blog to look and work the way I want them to, and a digital marketing course, for obvious reasons.

Considering the time it’ll require to complete my UNISA degree, the other things I’m keen on are purely theoretical at this point, but I have decided that I’m going to re-do matric Maths (I dropped to Standard Grade because I was lazy) and also do matric Science next year.  With those, I’ll be able to sign up for a BSc or BEng degree when I’ve completed my BA. I’m looking at BSc Chemistry or BEng Mechanical – ideally from somewhere other than UNISA.

Speaking of time and the lack thereof, my propensity for procrastination and general disorganisation aside, I’ve noticed that I still waste lots of it opening email newsletters every day. In fact, the percentage of emails I receive every day that are actually meant for me, from someone I know, is embarrassingly small, given how many emails I open every single day. This is, of course, another symptom of my online competition entering addiction – You know how it is: Like us on Facebook, sign up for our newsletter, tweet about our promotion/s, etc. for an entry…  I know I said some time back that I was going to clean that shit up and I did, some. But today I realised that I still receive far too many emails that I really couldn’t care less about, purely because I entered a signup-tied competition at some point.

And you know? I think this is something that brands may want to take a closer look at. Yes, it’s good to build your mailing lists. Yes, you want to attract customers with giveaways and promotions. But what good a mailing list made up of mostly people looking for free stuff?

Anyway… So today I unsubscribed from another dozen or so newlsetters I receive every day and never read. Tomorrow, I’ll have a look at what comes in and purge a few more.

In other news, the running is not happening right now. I was registered for 2 races these past 2 weekends and I missed both. It broke my heart because the kilometres and race experience are vital to my preparations for the Knysna Forest Marathon in July. But I have had to accept that it is even more vital that I treat and recover from this case of runner’s knee I’ve developed, otherwise I may find myself unable to run at all in the long term. That would be tragic.

I’m still going to try to be ready for Knysna but  if worse comes to worst, there will be other marathons later in the year.

What’s happening in your world?

 

OREO kidding me?

Rattle and Mum gave away 5 invitations to the OREO pop-up store in Rosebank last week and I was one of the lucky winners! (Yes, I still enter some competitions – I just don’t spend ALL day, EVERY day, doing it anymore…)

It was the best ever leverage over my kids while we waited for the weekend to roll around – the slightest hint of grief was met with the threat of being left at home while the rest of us went to the OREO store and I don’t think any of my kids has ever been so well behaved!

We were the first to arrive on Saturday morning, of course. And it was such a great morning and so cool to get to spoil my four short people with all those amazing OREO treats!

The setup is like a sushi bar, so the first thing you see as you walk into the store is a conveyor belt of pure decadence, with such things as an OREO & Magnum ice cream sandwich, OREO cupcakes, OREO popcorn and even OREO & white chocolate fudge, to name a few! You receive a card with colour coded dots on it, which correspond to the colours of the plates on the conveyor belt and a staff member marks off on your card whatever you eat. You then present your card to the cashier on exit and they tally up what you owe.

The OREO belt
The OREO belt
Blue Card
Blue Card

I totally fell off the wagon and stuffed my face with an OREO and ice cream sandwich, which was divine and I can highly recommend the experience. I love how inventive they’ve been with the eats on offer and the prices range from R10 to R40 per item, so it’s really not too hard on your pocket.*

OREO ice cream sandwich

The store’s decor is bright and fun and they have a huge model BMW, built out of wire, rubber and some old car components. My little guys were particularly impressed the car’s ancient DATSUN engine which they both got busy inspecting pretty much immediately.

Little men at work
Little men at work

There was also an awesome marble obstacle course which, once completed, dispenses a mini pack of OREOs!

Obstacle course
Obstacle course

They have a decoration station, where you get a mini pack of OREOs, a little baggie of sweets and a little packet of black icing sugar with which to make faces out of your OREOs.

Then you get to place your OREO faces in a super cool miniature rock stage setup, Instagram it with the hashtag #PLAYWITHOREO and then you can look it up on the printer system set up in the store and print off your OREO characters’ rock show photo!

Play hard, Rock hard

We really enjoyed the morning and I would happily take my kids back there. And to make it even more of an event, the The Art of the Brick LEGO exhibit is right next door, so you can really make a day of it!

*My kids and I enjoyed all of our eats and drinks, compliments of the OREO store because it was a prize. I was not asked to blog about the event or paid in any other way to write this post.

Philips AVENT just celebrated 30 years – and we joined in the fun

This year so far has been all about the nose grinding, persevering and other everyday slogging to get ahead. So, where possible, I’ve grabbed greedily at every opportunity to take some time out and be sociable.

Last weekend, we got to attend the Philips AVENT 30th Birthday brunch. This was one of those rare occasions on which I got to bring the whole family out with me and it was one we really enjoyed. Between the delectable eats, candyfloss, bubbly and fun things for the kids to do, I got to see some blogging friends, meet a couple of new ones and to share in the celebration of a brand I support wholeheartedly.

My mom bought me an AVENT breast pump and feeding bottle & storage set just before Jack was born and it was a lifesaver when I was forced to return to an office job when Jack was only 5 months old.  This set lasted not only the duration of my breastfeeding journey with Jack (as well as restoring my faith in my ability as a mother to breastfeed my baby – something that hadn’t worked out with my first two babies), but also with James a year and a bit later.  Both of my littlest boys were breastfed for 9 months each, before weaning themselves off the breast and breastmilk. This would not have been possible without the help of my AVENT set.

What set this event apart was the fact that it really offered something for everyone. There was plenty to keep the kids occupied, including a photo booth, where we all got to have some fun, some brilliant face painting, candyfloss (did I mention the candyfloss?) – they had me at candyfloss… ;-P and we were spoilt with some very personalised gifts at the end. Each person got to make a handprint with their child (in my case, I got to make handprints with each of my four kids!) and received a frame to keep it in. Again, in my case, I received one for each set of handprints, so I get to preserve these memories of each of my precious monsters. What a thoughtful gesture!

So, although my babies are all well beyond needing feeding and burping and worrying about air bubbles in their bottles (which we never had to, when we used our AVENT bottles), we felt very much a part of this AVENT family event.

Thank you to Philips AVENT for a memorable and most enjoyable morning.

 

Better?

On Monday last week, I ran 21.5km in 2h20m44s. It wasn’t my fastest run ever but it was my fastest 21km ever. And it was just me, my music player, my water bottle and the road. I felt like a total rock star after that run.

Then, I took my Jack for an eye test.

They had those compulsory eye and hearing tests at school a while back and we received a letter stating that Jack had some problems with his eyes – a convergence weakness and a weak tracking system.

I looked those up and it seemed we’d be okay with some eye exercises. But I wanted a second opinion before getting into anything, just to be sure.

And it turns out he needs glasses and will probably have to live with them all his life.

The optometrist gave me a pair of lenses to look through, so that I could see what Jack sees without glasses on. I can’t believe my poor little guy has spent all his life seeing everything as a single, distorted blur!

And I guess I’m really glad we’ve caught the problem fairly early, and that we can do something about it. He looks too cute in his new glasses!

Jack with his new glasses on
Jack with his new glasses on

And he’s being surprisingly diligent about wearing and looking after them. The optometrist said that we would probably have a hard time getting him to wear his glasses but I think she underestimated what a difference they make in his world, because I really don’t have to remind him all that often to put them on…

We had a low-key Easter holiday at home. Lots of DVDs, playing in the garden and doing as little as possible. Apart from finally having started that accounting…

A lot of things this year have been and are going to be low-key. It’s just what it is for me right now. A lot of the time, I feel like I’m getting nowhere but that’s not entirely true. Stuff is moving forward, progress is being made and whatever.

I’m going to have to get my head straight and get busy(er) doing things like blogging, keeping my shit together and doing business.

This week is heading for hectic-ville, what with school applications, running around, executing logistics, fitting in enough long runs to ensure I’ll be able to complete the various races I’ve signed up for (a half marathon on 26 April, a 32km on 3 May and my very first full marathon on 11 July…)

I even splurged on a pair of new running shoes at last! I took them out for the first time this morning and I love them!

New Shoes

The colder weather is making it harder to get out of bed at sparrow’s fart to run, so these are a great motivator. These, and the fact that I need to be marathon ready in just under 13 weeks.

Anyway… This post feels totally half-arsed – mainly because it is. I started it a while ago and got tired, so I went to bed. And now I don’t feel like going back into all the details of it all in my head, so I’ll be back soon with a proper post.

 

The End of March

And just like that, a month has gone – don’t ask me where!

March is always a busy one for us. We have 5 close family members’ birthdays in March: My brother’s on the 7th, our James’ on the 9th, FIL’s on the 10th, David’s on the 17th and my mom’s on the 26th.  And, were he still alive, it would have been my father’s on the 8th.

We’ve kept it pretty low key this year, and I think it’s good we did. To be honest, I just don’t feel up to going big for anything right now. It could be to do with my feeling a bit – what? Depressed? Numb? Nothing?…

It’ll pass. It always does. As much as they exhaust me sometimes, my family holds me accountable for myself. They don’t know it, but they do. Because how could I do anything other than keep on going, when opting out would mean leaving behind these five people who would then forever wonder if I simply hadn’t loved them enough to stick around?

Ah, fuggit.

Clearly, tonight is not comeback night on this blog. I’m off to immerse myself in yet another day in the life of Detective Sergeant Logan McRae, of the brilliant crime series by Stuart MacBride.

Tomorrow, school’s out for the Easter holidays and I’ll be busy figuring out how to keep the young ‘uns occupied and entertained and out of my hair long enough to let me get on with doing some work every now and then.

Sleep tight, Mr. Serious. Maybe you’ll feel better tomorrow.