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!!!!

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.

 

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.

 

FATHERS DAY ???

I sometimes wonder at the necessity of Fathers Day, or Mothers Day for that matter. Now now, please don’t shoot me you avid supporters. I just think that retailers, big business have sold a concept to us, and like suckers we give them our money.

 

Yes, fathers are important. In my family, dad is a very special person. Firstly, he’s the only boy in the house. He doesn’t love pink and purple with all his heart, he brings a special kind of security to his girls and he loves them to bits, plus he always shops for pretty princess things.

 

Granted, this should be celebrated. He should be made to feel special. But in truth, my girls do this all the time. On many days they run screaming “DADA” into his arms, when he arrives home from work. He always has precious artworks made especially for him. He always gets invitations to dance – which man doesn’t want that kind of attention from a sweet smiling girl.

 

My girls give Sean love and attention daily.  And shouldn’t they? After all, he didn’t become a father the night before Fathers Day.

 

And yet, we keep Fathers Day in our house. I think we’ve done it because its the staple Sean and I have been raised on. Maybe we’ll stop when the kids are old enough to understand and agree that their home made gifts are more special than shop bought ones. And their shows of affection are more appreciated if given throughout the year.

FAMILY HISTORY – THE STORY OF YOUR CHILDREN

Today, my 76 year old mother in law told me the poignant story of the passing of her beloved father. I listened in awe – not so much because it was a harrowing tale, but more because I was engaged in a process that people have been engaged in for millennia. I was listening the history, the oral history of our family. This was the story of where our family comes from and more specifically where my children come from. It is  – in a sense – their story and they are one of the characters. They continue to write it as it unfolds through their lives.

 

I have always loved history and consider myself the family historian. I have an old worn out green box, that belonged to my grandfather (I think), where I keep photographs, birth, marriage or school certificates, funeral leaflets and letters, precious letters, of people that belong to me. I love the feel and smell of them. It is as if I am reaching back in time and touching a long gone era. My oldest photograph is dated 1914,  some 103 years ago. I’m not sure of the identity of the people, and work on tracing them.

 

My great grandmother, Rowena Blanche Adams, came from St Helena island in her late teens to find work in South Africa. So many letters and postcards to her, from her family on the island, are now treasured in my tired box. It is their story – their joys and tragedies. Her own is one of bravery. I dont know if I would have the fortitude to leave home alone and carve out a new destiny in a new land, with the knowledge that I might never return or never have contact with my loved ones again. This was an age where whatsapp, email, instagram and facebook were not thought of. She went on to have more than 10 children without the comfort of her own family around her.We are told that some very sad things had befallen some of her children. In her later years she fell and hurt herself and chose not to walk again. This from a woman who had braved so much. I wish I could ask her questions.

 

One day I will share my box with my children so that they can learn their own story – what had happened before their part was written.

OUR FAMILY RITUALS

Our family has so many rituals. Some are – when you come to think of it – unusual. Like pickle fish at Easter time or home made ginger beer at Christmas or spicy syrup and coconut koeksusters on Sundays. I know this is tradition among different cultural groups in South Africa or common to them all. And there is always competition, albeit whispered discreetly behind cups of tea as to whose is better or whose is down right awful.

 

Our family (on my mother side) has wine sauce with Christmas pudding. It’s yum and I’m yet to find another family who does the same. Okay, okay, don’t lambaste me if you have its famous recipe treasured in your family’s December memories. My aunts used to set aside a day to bake a wide variety of biscuits every December before Christmas (pinched date cookies – never seen them anywhere else). And the same cookies would only make their appearance once a year.

 

My husband and his five siblings recall fried rice, roast potatoes and chicken as the dinner time meal for every birthday.

 

My mum in law turned seventy six in the week. The family came together for pot luck. And as usual, the family favorites arrived hot and delicious. Aunty Ursula’s Lesagna and Oumies cheese, spinach and chicken pie. And of course fried rice, roast potatoes and chicken.

 

And then there’s that photo that everyone forgets was taken and surfaces years later to show kids smiling around the birthday cake. It’s so nostalgic to look at them years later and think of something special from your past.

 

I love family rituals so much. We’ve started our own. Sean takes a walk with the kids late on Saturday afternoons to hire a movie for the evening.

 

We go out for dinner with the extended family on the kids birthdays and have a party for their friends on the following weekend. They get to choose the theme, gran gets to roll out the fondant and I get to spend hours icing the cake to their exact specifications.

 

My kids take it in turns to lay the table every night in the style that they want. Sometimes the plates and glasses are piled high in the Centre of the table. Other times it’s orderly and the layer of the table gets to tell everyone where to sit because it’s their turn and their idea.

 

We never started all of this intentionally. It just flowed naturally from the mixed masala of personalities that make us us. Rituals are unusual things – they have the power to create a strong sense of unity, togetherness and identity. And all of these will turn into memories that we cherish and give us a sense of where we come from and who we belong to.

PREPARING OUR KIDS FOR THE FUTURE WORLD OF WORK

Today I’m thinking about what we can do to adequately prepare our children for the future.

 

My husband and I certainly feel that we’re not doing enough. The world is changing at an unprecedented pace that has never been seen before.

 

Technology is the driver and our kids are in the back seat of the car, instructing the driver to go left, right or straight ahead. And where are we parents in this high speed journey? We’re running behind screaming: “hold on, wait for me… “We should be on the back seat helping to navigate.

We attended a talk on Raising Young Talent for the New World of Work. It was hosted by parenting expert – Nikki Bush, Generation Y speaker – Raymond de Villiers and Sameer Rawjee of Googles’ O School, at Henley University, earlier this month. We left overwhelmed but with a better sense of what to consider for the future of our kids.

 

I took away these learnings:

 

  • The world will continue to change at a rapid pace. This change is brought on by technological development – our kids should be adaptable, resilient and resourceful to meet its demands. They should embrace the constant change of the digital world.

 

  • Schooling as we know it, is not adequately preparing our kids for this future. Grades at university and schooling will not be  chief indicators of our children’s capabilities. Their talents together with an ability to innovate will be.

 

  • Parents can and should gear their kids up to navigate this fast approaching world, by encouraging creative thinking –  out of the box thinking. Creativity in young children is stimulated through free play and approaching the world with curiosity.

 

  • Parents should teach children not to fear failure, but accept it as a necessary part of their success.

 

  •  Professions in law, medicine, finance and many others will change fundamentally. Parents too must change thoughts of traditional work to ones that fit with the coming world of work.

 

  • When your children speak to you about what they want to do in the future or in current extra murals and subject choices at school – LISTEN! Their desires are chief indicators of what they enjoy (what they may be talented in) and what they may thrive in later on.

 

It’s a tall order, but Sean and I will work at it purposefully in our parenting. How we parent will negatively or positively affect our children in the future. After all we’re raising adults.

 

NOTE: Diagram in featured image is from the book: The Future of Work by Jacob Morgan

MY SPUR REACTION

Watching the videos showing a man threatening a woman in front of her children at the Texamo Spur at The Glen Shopping Centre, left my head spinning. My reaction moved from utter disbelief to a raw rage.

He pulled her child. Let me say that again “HE PULLED HER CHILD!!!!”. And then he raised his hand to the women telling her he will give her a “p ….klap”

And the children?, look at what they witnessed. A stranger swearing at their mother, threatening to slap her, shaking the table. It’s awful, it’s madness.

And yes, the mum swore back, and yes we haven’t seen the debacle from the beginning – but he pulled her child!!’. I’m not sure I would have behaved differently given the setting. She couldn’t gather her children and walk away. She was cornered, literally in a Spur booths to face the aggression.

I don’t even want to think about what would’ve happened if she had been closer or if her had grabbed that child away from his mum. It shocks, saddens and enrages me at the same time. I want to scream: “is this us, is this our society, is this the violence that men in society perpetrate against women, against defenseless children????”. God help us!!!!!

Well done to Spur who banished the man from ever entering any Spur again. My family has visited Spur many times. It’s a kiddies friendly restaurant and the last thing I want is for my children to be exposed to this wildness.

It’s impossible to sever race from this. We come from a racially divided society. Of course people will ask “had the mother been white, would his behavior been the same?”. We will never know – but those are important questions to ask in the race discourse, as the country deals with its past.

The mother, whom we have come to know as Lebogang Mabuya said she will not press charges. I think that’s generous of her. I’d like to see a man like that stand before a court of law and have judgement passed against his behavior. I would like our courts to pronounce that this behavior is against the law and will not be tolerated. I would like to see individuals and our entire society stand against this scourge.

Watch the event here and here. One was taken by a patron videoing it on his phone. You can hear the dialogue. The other is from the Spur footage of the event taken from the other side of the table. After watching this, I implore you – react!!!! And whatever your reaction is, don’t let it be a passive desensitized one. Indifference will only breed more violence and show our children that violence is the norm and violence is okay.

Please share your thoughts.