WHY WRITE?

I have been writing for most of my life. I have always had a love for words, for the English language. When I was in my early teens I had already completed my first anthology of poems. I dreamed of being an author when I grew up. I continue to write – I am a children’s book writer. I would one day like to write for adults. An so like so many, I took to blogging. And being a mommy blogger, I have been graciously invited to many events.

It was at one of these events that I was asked whether or not blogging had been good to me, whether it had paid off and if I had received goods for my pregnancies, my kids, myself etc etc…. The same mommy blogger quipped later on into the event that she would not write about any experience she had at a place or with a product, if she was not being paid for it.

Wow – it made me step back! It made me stop and put down my pen – or rather in today’s’ terms “my phone” and consider why I write.

My absence from Mumziboo has been a reflective one. And this is what I now know for sure!

1 I write because I love to write.

2 In the famous words of Steve Biko – “I write what I like”.

3 I write because inherently, it is part of who I am.

And so at the end of this fast – I know that while its GOOD to get goodie bags and freebies, and be paid to write positive pieces on prams and other bits of mommadom – its NOT why I write.

Hey – I like a “like” as much as the next person. But I also know that thousands of likes don’t equate to good writing. People “like” bloggers because they associate with the whole package – the writing, the pics, the promos, the lifestyle or whatever that blogger is about. I don’t write for “likes” – I write because I am a writer. I am a mommy blogger because my kids inspire me and I enjoy the community of mommy bloggers. It comforts me to know that I am not alone in the mayhem of parenting! Mommy blogging is the equivalent of Rachel in Anne of Green Gables, running over to Merilla to drink tea for fortification, before she carries on with the rest of her day. Only we tap a screen.

I don’t write to be followed either – though its nice to know that people follow you because they’re interested in what you have to say. But again, I will say “it” regardless of my following.

I write because that’s what writers do! Why do you write momma?

BATH TIME WONDERS

I love using ordinary mundane moments to connect with my kids- it’s a bonus when you can use it to play, teach and develop them at the same time. These are just a few bath time wonders I’ve enjoyed creating:

 

A VISIT TO THE AMAZON JUNGLE

 

I got so stuck in this one!!!! Ha! It was awesome. The thought grabbed me and I went running wildly through my garden with a shears 20 minutes before bath time. I cut the largest branches I could find and quietly decorated the bath tub with them. I ran the shower on hot for a while to get as much steam into the bathroom. And of course I ran the tub. Then I googled Amazon jungle sounds and played the music from my phone. I closed the door and told my girls they were visiting the Amazon. They loved it. They spent a lot of time in there. And wanted to know more about the Amazon:

 

Play: imagination and role play just flowed natural.

 

Connect: We just giggled and chatted.

 

Fun: loads for both them and me.

 

Learn: about the jungle, about the Amazon jungle, a specific place.

 

Develop: sensory touch – steam, nature, darkness and light. Bonus: Interest in nature- now they want to watch planet earth more and more. Plus memories made.

 

Your kit: leaves, real ones, Amazon jungle sounds, a music player (my smart phone worked wonders), a shower in the bathroom with the bath tub.

 

I also plan (perhaps I am too ambitious) to do the following:

 

SPACE

The tub will be the space ship. Lights off. Glow in the dark stickers stuck on the walls and ceiling to create the cosmos. Ah the. Blue water and an under water torch. Lights off torch on. Space music playing. Simple enough, I think.

 

ANCIENT EGYPT

Palm branches, the blue rive Nile, face paint to paint each other like Egyptians. I plan to build the pyramids out of towels in a corner and play the Prince of Egypt sound track.

Or

BEACH PARTY WITHOUT THE SAND

Drinks, sun hats, water toys, arm bands, swim wear and the sound of the ocean. I plan to go all the way with this one – mock-tails and of course boiled colorful spaghetti floating in the water for seaweed. Shells from our last visit to the ocean will line windowsill.

 

Tell me what you’ve done to make bath time interesting for your kids! would love to hear from you.

Now to find the time!!!!

‘ECHAD’ – A STRONGER ME IS A STRONGER WE

It was with mixed emotions  that Sean and I stole away from our cherubs early on Sunday morning. We woke at five and were dressed and ready just after 6. Destination: Cape Town. Only for the day – a much needed couple time day.

 

We’ve never done this. We have very young children and they need us. But the trade off was their immediate needs vs our family’s’ long term wellbeing. Every couple needs to stop, take time, take stock, touch base, connect, plan and refocus – so that they can move in unity and in the same direction. That’s what we did on Sunday. I felt guilty leaving two sleeping beauties and two crying princesses. I closed the door with a sore heart and thanked God for Sharon our nanny who comforted Zaza as we drove out the gate. We returned as a stronger team to take our family forward.

 

I like the Hebrew word “echad”. It’s got a hard sound to it but I think that that speaks to its meaning. It means “one”. That’s how Sean and I returned late Sunday night to our restless brood. And I’m grateful for it because a strong united parenting team translates into a secure family where children feel grounded, certain, safe and loved.

IF I COULD CHOOSE, I’D BE A LADY AT DOWNTON ABBEY

Watching the royal wedding this weekend made me think about how slow and luxurious life could be if everything was done for you. Ha my kids are Royal for sure!!!! For Sean and I though, parenting, life in Jo’burg in general is such a rush. I try to consciously do things slower to enjoy them,’ savor the precious moments – the look of  Zaza’s cute puffy face as she says: “one more huffy mummy, one more kissy”. The naughty “catch me if you can” look on Ellie’s face before she darts off with a forbidden sweet. The feel of a Teh’s tiny body clinging to mine as she falls asleep and Tali’s flashing smile when she figures out something complex. These are the everyday mundane things that are extraordinary in little people. These are the ordinary memories that make up the rich tapestry of our family life. And I choose to savor them because they disappear as quickly as they come.

But try as I might, I live life on the run. Perhaps it’s the lifestyle we’ve chosen. It’s high impact and fast paced. Sean works hard and arduous hours and so though we see one another we don’t have time to talk about stuff – the stuff that requires attention for us to manage our lives and the lives of 4 other people. It’s not the first time that I’ve had hubby on speaker phone while driving the kids to school to tell him about how one of the bairns broke a frame or about leaking pipes or a school event or or or…..

 

It’s not ideal. I know many people who have opted for a quieter life out in smaller slower places than the city. We haven’t set our sights so far a field yet. Perhaps because this is where family is, our bread and butter is, our friends are, or perhaps we’re city people.

 

If I could choose though, I think I’d like to be a grand lady at Downtown Abbey and have the butler Carlton manage our home affairs. Imagine that! Mrs Patmore, planning our family’s lavish dinner EVERY NIGHT!!!!

 

But as it stands, we’re not gentry. We’re working class – who live a lot better than Mrs Hughes and Carlton I might just add – and that means that I get to be Lady of my own manor, the wife, mother of many, the butler, nanny, driver, housemaid and cook all in one too.

 

In the end it’s a balancing act, and a strange kind of contradiction: – slowly savoring the moments, enjoying being the Lady, without allowing the mad rush of life’s management to swallow it all up.

HEALTHY EATING – ONE BITE AT A TIME.

So this is often the bone of contention or rather the bone of judgement at kids parties. Mama bears stand around the table and start that conversation. You know the one. The one where healthy eating and lifestyles are discussed.

It’s often the conversation that leaves me with conflicted thoughts:

 

– “Am I doing enough for my family, enough nutrition? “,

– “Damn, why didn’t I know that about processed foods ?, I dont read enough”.

– “What on earth is going on – gmo, animal rennett, soya lectin, hormones, free range, organic, banting, sugar, sugar and some more sugar?”

 

I am left in a quagmire of anxious tension, guilt and shock , and all the while telling myself to calm down.

 

Yes I believe it’s true that big business has infested our food with gmo, hormones and everything else that shouldn’t be on a plate – to increase profits.

 

And yes,  the idea that our kids are reaching puberty earlier because of food content, is entirely plausible. And sure I believe that our bodies are what we consume – and so our kids may be prone to certain diseases, allergies and health risks, even if only realized later in life.

 

All of this is true – but how do I counter it?

 

I met awesome parents over the weekend whose son had his first taste of caffeine after 18. They live in a sugar free household – all of this is out of choice. Their 15 year old refuses any fizzy drinks because she has been taught this from very young.

 

So where is my family in all of this????

 

I am going to tackle this problem in bite sized pieces.

 

Bite one: Avoid fast food junk. Definition of junk food store: a place where they sell food that doesn’t disintegrate even if left laying underneath your car seat for 1 week

 

Bite 2: Avoid processed food and consume real food.Since most of our food is processed I will start with the basics: no processed cheese and meats (boy oh boy doesn’t the mist reent Listeria outbreak prove this point). Eat fresh veggies and fruit.

 

Bite 3: Water is the preferred beverage of choice. Love it. Drink it. And drink it purified as often as is possible.

 

Bite 4: Avoid food with added hormones and gmo.

 

Bite 5:  Avoid sweeties and everything else in that family where possible – whether solid or liquid.

 

Bite 6: Enjoy what’s not on this list so my munchkins can learn to enjoy it.

 

Bite 7: Load lunch boxes full of the good stuff.

 

Note to self: when you get it wrong and the plan goes pear shaped – as it will at parties, holidays and grandparent visits, chill out! This is  process not a test. One day at a time, one bite at a time. Phew!!!!

 

REFLECTIONS ON PARENTAL TAX

If you are a parent of many children, as I am – you will be familiar with the usual phrase that follows  the gasp after you say that you have FOUR children. It goes like this: ” shoo, I’d have more but it’s too expensive”, or “yoh, but kids are expensive” or even worse: “its way too expensive, I don’t want to struggle, so we stopped at …” and so on and so forth.

 

I give you and unequivocal YES with a nod – it is indeed expensive. I thank God, that Sean and I are not struggling, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pinch. Yes we feel that very specific ‘eina’ (Afrikaans word for pain – for our non South African readers) when the school fees invoice arrives or at the beginning of term when new extra murals are to be paid. But we feel it acutely when  costs escalate for unforeseen unplanned circumstances.  I like to call it the parenting tax. It’s the one that is levied against you by the natural laws of life, and the more kids you have the higher tax to be imposed.   A  classic example took place over the last two weeks when blogs from this site were scant. Why, some readers asked, have you not been blogging. And my mental answer was I was busy paying a parenting tax. One of my 4 delights, found their way into my “off-limits” office and dropped strawberry milkshake on my laptop keyboard.

 

I swooped off to my repairman who called me back with the cost of repair at R848. A week later when the new keyboard finally arrived they called me again and said they had to rerun all the software and do extra repairs because the milkshake had done more damage than expected. The extra repairs would cost a further R848 and now the costs had mounted to R1696.

 

And so it is with so many things, broken chains, smudged lipstick, sandy swimming pools etc etc. Sigh!

 

My children never did own up to who dropped the milk shake, but after R1696 it doesn’t really matter. I am told by older wiser parents that “they’re alive and its all part of the journey” or  “they’ll grow and it will get easier”. So for now I’ll take a deep breath, have a “patience pep talk” with myself and move on.

 

PRODUCT REVIEW: PALMER’S COCOA BUTTER FORMULA

PALMER’S COCOA BUTTER FORMULA TUMMY BUTTER FOR STRETCH MARKS

I got Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks with Vitamin E as a gift from a friend when I was pregnant with Teh. Its for preggy bellies but I still use it. It really is like hardened butter that you have to rub between your hands to soften and apply. It absorbs well and leaves me feeling moisturized but not sticky. I think it helped with stretch marks. I’d certainly recommend this to any pregnant friend.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I bought the Body Moisturizing Oil with Vitamin E in the same range.

 

PALMER’S COCOA BUTTER FORMULA MOISTURIZING BODY OIL

It was the first time I used oil as I would body lotion. I didn’t know what to expect. It absorbed into the skin quickly and didn’t leave an oily residue. That said, I wont buy it again. My skin was glowing after the first treatment but the next day the dry skin was back. The effects are simply not long lasting as some other body moisturizers out there. Plus the bottle leaks oil once opened. So I always find myself wiping it down so that the cupboard it gets stored in isn’t left with oil stains or it doesn’t stain anything else, like clothes. I cant travel with it for this reason.

CARVING OUT THE TIME

I remember asking a friend once if she went on dates with her husband. She replied mockingly: “dates, what’s that?”.

That’s how so many parents feel. I sometimes think that I when Sean and I had kids we somehow disappeared into them. They came from us and became us. The chaos of parenting is often all consuming. Sean, when not wrapped up with demanding work is being a dad. And when I’m not working or writing, I’m mothering. And when all is said and done and you have that sought after moment (usually after 8 when cherubs are asleep and dishes cleared) – the quite sets in.

That’s when Sean and I have time to ourselves and it’s often at that time that we fall into craved sleep. Or we do a magic trick and turn into vegetables, I a pumpkin and Sean a potato in front of the TV. Admittedly brain numbing TV takes all the strain of the day away but it’s like white bread – good to taste without nutrition. And as for sleep – when you do manage to sleep through or sleep deeply, you wake up energized having taken a break from your kids but gained nothing for yourself.

That’s why Sean and I entrenched date night. I thank God for live in nannies. Sharon watches over the bubs while we escape, albeit exhausted to a night out with friends, a movie or dinner alone. Ah the bliss of date night!!!!!! I can dress up. I can eat warm food, sometimes gourmet food, that I haven’t cooked. I can drink delicious warm coffee. I can hold my mans hands and his gaze and not be pulled away by little fingers. And we can talk and listen and catch-up, connect, flirt and under stand one another again.

We try not to look at our phones or talk about our little people appendages. It forces us to find one another in the fast pace of life.

It’s not always possible to carve out the time away for just the two of us. But we do it because we need it. My husband is my best friend. I need him to know my head and heart space. And he needs the same thing. We need to stay strong as a couple to parent effectively. It’s fundamental.

 

A WISH FOR MY CHILDREN: FRIENDSHIP

Seans’ varsity friends have been meeting up, more or less, for the past 7 years – once a year in July or August. The friendship between seven, has grown to include spouses and children. We now number 10  adults and 16 kids. Massive.

Our gatherings are always special occasions. This year we met up in the Kruger Park, in the city for a black tie event and birthday bashes. Its always a time to catch up, bond, reminisce, make more memories and have laugh out loud fun.

I’m always astounded at how this friendship has evolved and  endured over a period of 20 years. Our children have now all become friends too.

It got me thinking about my wish list or prayer list for my kids. Among the many things I desire for them, somewhere on the long list is that they develop meaningful friendships. Its  rare  and beautiful, to be friends with someone who knows and understands where you come from. Someone who has shared important parts of your life and continues to play a part in it, is a treasure, I think. It makes life interesting, meaningful…..deeply rewarding.

DELIBERATE ABOUT NATURE

We’ve just come back from a weekend away in Hazyview, Mpumalanga again! This time Seans’ old varsity friends came from near and far to meet, catch up, check in and bond. Picture it  15 adults and 17 children (ages 5 months to 15 years old) descending on Mpumalanga – like a zoo, a plague – no – thats much too negative. More like one happy boisterous family!!!! Our neighbours at the Cabanas certainly thought so when  complaints rained in about noise levels at 7h30 pm. My first thought was: ” Really ! – So jealous”.

We stopped at the magnificent Sudwala Caves before checking in. Just awesome making our way through the oldest cave in the world – 250 million years. It once was the home of 3000 Swazi fleeing from their brethren in a bitter family feud for the throne. In about 2 hours we learnt so much, from geography, archeology and geology to  anthropology and history. You get my meaning. Saying it was a rich experience is an understatement.  Its the kind of place you take your child to over and over again so they can grasp its fullness with the different stages of their development. The darkness of the cave is haunting yet exquisitely beautiful. My daughters were keen to bend low into the dirt to get to the fairy chamber where the shallow lake showed still reflections of the rock above – just like a mirror.

Then to the Cabanas we went. No frogs this time. In the heart of winter the place was warm enough for the kids to swim. They had an amazing time with so many friends.

Our trip to the Kruger National Park was on a Safari vehicle with a ranger this time. Its an experience all on its own. We were so blessed – one of one thousand leopards crossed the road in front of our vehicle that morning. What are the chances, in a Park the size of the State of Israel?

That cat was awesome !!!!,  but boy oh boy if you saw the girls, you’d be gob smacked.  A while later five lionesses walked out of the bush into the road to parade their strength, their fierce beauty. I don’t think there was one person in an open truck who didn’t feel a cold rod of panic pierce their core at some point. Those beasts were simply breathtaking. Having them come so close to the vehicle was met with a strange sense of disbelief. The children’s emotions moved from heightened excitement to fearful and freaking out. And when Mufasa made his appearance after the pride, we were all quite simply in awe. Majestic. Hands down its the place for families and kids of all ages.

It sure beats TV and mobile phones and what ever other techno junk besets our children. It got me thinking about nature and how little of it our kids get to experience. There are very few little peeps who ask for the channel to be changed to national geographic or animal planet. but after the park my kids can sit through an entire show. And even so- there’s nothing like being in the midst of it. I loved giving the experience to my kids – deliberately giving them the alternative, giving them nature. I left feeling its a kind of responsibility, a duty to show them real beauty, real history and the fun they can have when outdoors,  against a back drop of mountains, tall trees and African sunsets.