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.

 

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.

BIRTHDAY PARTIES – A FRENZIED AFFAIR

Is it just me, or does everyone find birthday parties a mad rush.   Tali’s eighth birthday celebration turned into a  roller coaster.

It was supposed to be fuss free,  we had it at a venue for that reason. And as per usual, the latest craze for kids was served up as the main course. This time round it was Emoji’s. My daughter is at the age where everything technology (from tablets, to phones to computers) is all the rage. She’s become adept at  sending and receiving whatsapps with Emojis.

Tali also loves – as do most little girls – painting her nails. And so its was with much excitement that she agreed to a nail salon as the venue for her party. Admittedly Emoji’s and a nail salon are an unlikely pair. Not so when the nail polish has little shiny emoji’s’ embedded in it.

And so my only job for the day would be to supply a few eats and a bit of decor for the space. The plan was helium balloons, a large Emoji cake, a few Emoji biscuit pops, party favours, stylized cups and paper plates and voila – Emoji party. I would relax with a cappacino served by the salons waiters and engage in chatter with family and friends. Wow could anything fall further from the plan.

Lets start with the night before. Expert fondant roller granny arrives to cover the cake. Its around 5 in the afternoon and a large yellow pancake of fondant lay beautifully on the counter ready to be flipped. I bring my freshly baked cake around for the flip. And “snap” – just like that the electricity cuts out.  AAAAAAH. We wait a few minutes. Nothing goes back on. We wait again, and again. Its late. We fold up the fondant. Granny heads home to bake a few more cake treats for the party. My heart begins to sink as I watch valuable time slip away. All the other eats will not be finished on time. Hummus, baba ganoush, zacusca, falafels, biscuit pops etc etc stand about incomplete. My sister Ros arrives for her customary cup of tea to console me. She stays until 10 when the lights go on. I roll the Emoji out again. Its winter and for fondant lovers, we know that winter is not kind to fondant. Its not kind tonight. The fondant gets flipped with my sisters help and cracks around the edges. It feel  just like that fondant – about to crack. Its very late. Ros heads home. The lights go out again.  On. Off. On again like some evil game of ping pong. Defeated, I put the unfinished cake away in the dining room and close the door to ward off any curious little people. Its past 11 and I begin melting chocolate for biscuit pops. I’ll fix and finish the cake in the morning, I think.

Morning hits. Sean is away on a Harvard programme in Rwanda. I am alone in the milieu of party day. I take Tali to school.  School ends at 1:30 and the party starts at 2:15. So Ellie (4) and Zara (2) stay home to avoid any pick up delays. On my way back  from drop off I call a caterer and organize 2 platters at astronomical prices.  I get home. The kitchen looks like a bomb exploded with a whole bunch of half made things. Sharon, my nanny, asks me to look in on the cake as somethings happened. TERRIBLE. JUST TERRIBLE. Ellie found the  cake and dug into the fondant, pulling out pieces to consume. I cry. I sigh and call my mother.

Expert roller granny arrives with a new batch of yellow fondant. The party is now costing a small fortune. We save the cake in the nick of time. My brother arrives to do the cheese platter and help load the car. We fly to the venue to set up and fly home to change. Tali’s home, family’s packed in and its 2:15. We’re still on the road and Tali screams “I’m late for my own party”. We pass guests along the way and meet others as we enter the salon. At least most of the eats are on the table.

I breathe and settle down.  The Beauty Box Northcliff salon is amazing. They’ve spelt out “happy birthday” in rose petals for Tali. She loves it. Twenty kids have mani’s and pedis and a blast. I drink cappucinos and wait for the treatments to end. Parents begin to arrive and the treatment hasn’t ended. It goes on and on and one dad begins to look very irate. We sing happy birthday, dowl out emoji ball party favours, pack up and leave.

“Thank God its over and thank God for family” is all I think as we leave. I’ve pulled off enough parties to know that they require planning. But I now  know, that pulling off even the simplest of parties requires a specific state of mind – the state of mind that plans but also holds the expectation to adjust expectations. Its a metaphor for life. I realize that curve balls  can pitch up at any time in life – the way to deal with it, is to go through it calmly and still enjoy yourself at the party.

 

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.

BLUE WHALE APP MADNESS

 

Sean and I recently attended a talk by Brad Huddleston, writer of the book Digital Cocaine. He spoke of the many side effects of digital addiction prevalent in everyone with access to technology, from 3 year old kids to adults. He said that one of the  common side effects of this addiction in kids and teens was self mutilation – cutting. I took this information in with a sense of disbelief and shock!!!

 

But this mornings news report on the Blue Whale App just made all of it a reality. The Blue Whale App was designed for kids (particularly vulnerable kids) to lure them into following the instructions in the game. They are given 50 days to complete perverse acts. These include watching horror movies, cutting and posting pics to prove it. The last act is suicide – the idea that a whale has beached itself and dies.

 

Perhaps most disturbing, are the stats. To date 130 teen suicides in Europe are linked to the App. My first thought is how could these kids be so gullible. But the designer is reported to have said that he is cleansing society, as teens who do this, would not be any use to society.

 

Predators are purposefully using social media to hurt our kids. Its sick.

 

I  think educating ourselves and our kids is part of the solution. But it will take a combined effort – from government intervention, to schools driving awareness and tech companies commitment to end the scourge.

 

Still I’m not sure whats more shocking, that a game like this exists or that kids are falling into its trap. That kids follow instructions on a screen to the point of death – that ones on us. We bear the responsibility to stay connected to our kids, to stay vigilant, to stay prayerful and to acknowledge digital addiction as a reality and a threat!!!!

 

Read more here

ONE PLATE AT A TIME

I am nowhere near the super mums of our time – the ones that have galvanized their whole homes into perfectly working ecosystems in oneness with the planet. I’m trying, and it takes a lot of time – time to label read, to unlearn, learn again and to make different choices.

 

In the homes of some of these mums, they eat organic whole foods (many of them pick from their own gardens). They use glass – only glass, they drink purified water, they only drink water!!!!. They bant or graze or???? They live in sugar free homes and their kids embrace it. They consume hormone free milk and free range poultry. Their breakfasts and most other meals are gmo free. They wear pure cotton or pure wool. They only use organic soap, shampoo and bubble bath. They use bicarbonate of  soda or aluminium free deodorant on their arm pits. They use clothe nappies and they gym as a family. They use natural medicine. They switch the wifi off at night and they recycle. Phew !!!! I’m exhausted just reading it all aloud.

 

They read labels – oh yes!!! And they KNOW stuff. They know how the processed foods and all the chemicals make the brain tick, the body grow and the hormones do what they’re not supposed to. Shoo they know … and they put me to “agha shame”.

 

Ha !!!!! I mean we still do junk food. Writing this makes me feel like I’m telling a nasty secret. And while I’m confessing, I might as well tell you that my kids love sugar. We try to keep our home “sweet free” on ordinary days (which are weekdays and weekends) but it only lasts until granny comes to visit. They even call granny the “sweetie shop”.  I give my kids hot dogs for lunch. Broken down into content language, it is nothing more than processed chicken on a carb with little or no nutritional value. Some super mums I know, give their kids hummus, cucumber and biltong for lunch or smoked salmon with slices of tomatoes and cream cheese. Like wowsers!!!!!

 

We’re not there yet!!! We do set out healthy snacks in help yourself jars of biltong, nuts and whatever is trending. We use a water purifier and drink plenty of water. We recycle. We also try to use natural products on our bodies.

 

We do plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. I buy them old school from a green grocer – where there aren’t any labels. So admittedly, i don’t how they’re farmed.

 

We avoid processed foods. We do make a point of buying hormone free milk, free range eggs and try to go organic as far as possible. We steam our veg and oven bake our proteins on most nights. When oil is needed we use olive or coconut oil as our first choice. Why – because I agree – food content is not what it used to be and the human body is not made to consume processed food and chemicals. I believe all the rubbish we consume will show up adversely down the line, in our health.

 

But hey the conflict is that a wrap can’t substitute a home made roti and rye bread cant substitute a fat cake. Baked sweet potatoe strips with a grilled piece of meat can’t replace a Russian special seasoned with masala and a dash of vinegar from your local Akhalwayas. Yum!!!  Yes I know it’s bad for your health. There goes that ‘nasty secret’ feeling again.

 

So what do I do to give my family optimal nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. I take it in stages, one  purchase and one plate at a time – while I label read, unlearn, learn again and make different choices.