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One and a half weeks to go. I can’t lie. I can’t say I’m not unravelling. I can’t say I’m completely unravelling either. Because the show must go on. The house has to be packed up. But we are only sending our lift next year, which takes a bit of pressure off. Nevertheless, eighteen 23 kg bags need to be packed and here is where I need to stop and have a laugh. You can join me in a hysterical, belly laugh as you imagine the coffee spluttering sight of two adults, four red bull energy boys and eighteen suitcases.

We don’t even want to own eighteen suitcases. So I’ve bought these massive checked African bags for 30 rand each. We are going to leave South Africa in true African style. Giggle, nervous giggle.

The children are enjoying the packing process. Choosing what they want to take. My three year old has already packed his fire truck school bag, grabbed his Winnie-the-Pooh wheelie bag and plonked himself in the car. I found him there half an hour later and asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ ‘To Israel,’ he replied with a huge grin. Sweet one if only it was that easy.

The packing is not too bad because I’ve majorly decluttered my house. It’s so much easier to open a half empty cupboard and pack it. Decluttering has been a God sent cleansing process. I shouldn’t have waited thirteen years to do it. These A type personalities who keep everything spick and span and have spotless shelves (even behind closed cupboards) have got it right. Where there is physical space there is room to think.

Although room to think feels like a luxury at the moment, I have to remind myself to KEEP CALM and PACK. Keep going to yoga to ground me. Keep my feet planted firmly on the floor so I don’t float away with the tremendous physical and emotional stress, which I can’t allow myself to show. Because I have four boys, because they take their cue from their Mum. So tick, tick, tick. The never ending list is being completed. Tick, tick, tick. The clock stops for no one.

‘Who is Eshkol Nevo?’ most South African’s and Australians would ask. He’s an award winning Israeli author who was in South Africa last week, participating as an international author at the Franschoek book festival. If only I could have gone. However I was lucky enough to hear him speak about his latest book Neuland at the Cyril Harris Community Centre in Johannesburg with a friend. We both left his talk feeling intellectually stimulated to the point that we would have loved to step onto a street of vibrant coffee shops where people chat over cups of coffee, glasses of wine and mugs of beer. Discussing life, hopes, dreams, politics and words.

Eshkol is softly spoken and yet strong and passionate about his work. Going to Eshkol’s talk reminded me what a clever society Israel is. A place, as my New Yorker friend described to me in amazement, that has a public library van on the surfie Tel Aviv beach front. A country where books are not only read but valued. Where their authors are national treasures. As Eshkol Nevo is.

Reading Eshkol’s books such as Neuland (which I’m still in the middle of. I’ve read his World Cup Wishes eons ago as well) is a great way to learn about Israeli society. Every day Israelis, such as his main character Dori who treks through South America in search of his missing father, are described in skilful literary, realistic detail. So that we have access to a collective memory and experience that we don’t know much about as Diaspora Jews. Yet we can also relate to and see ourselves in them, as our shared Jewish memory is explored and hinted to through Dori’s journey.

Meanwhile I would have thought that such a well known author would be politely unreachable. I tried my luck anyhow and chatted with him whilst he signed my freshly bought Neuland book (which is translated from his original Hebrew version). ‘I’m making Aliyah in June and I’m a writer,’ I said. ‘Really,’ he said. And he gave me his email address and said he would help me, to my delight and surprise.

‘You’re making Aliyah? Welcome’, is the overwhelming response we have received from Israelis. That is, after the ‘Why? Why are you making Aliyah?’

This exuberant welcome is both humbling and exciting. It’s like realising that we’re part of a special club. The entrance into it requires a pair of wings of faith. Staying and thriving requires serious, first class elbow grease. But there are the coffee shops, open late at night. Where people drink milky coffee and glasses of giddy wine, and mugs of bubbling beer, and that is my romantic ideal where I hope to go and sit and write and speak about words. After I’ve finished washing all the dinner dishes of course.

I always struggle with my romantic dream that everything will work out in life with the least amount of effort. Coming back from Israel is hitting reality hard. There’s a LOT to do in order to move countries. Life becomes condensed into a list; call embassy, get passport photos, fill out dog forms, declutter house… It’s a bottomless list. Of course I have to remember to look at it.
These days I find myself becoming quite overwhelmed so I end up taking myself out for coffee or making myself a quiet cup at home. This is when I need to remind myself of the ‘doing’ rule. Just choose three things for the day and do it. It’s not about perfection, it’s about ticking the item off the list. The novel of paperwork isn’t so insurmountable as long as I pick up the pen and begin. Getting all our birth certificates apostilled isn’t impossible, even though it requires a Fedex courier to Sydney for certification in my case; it’s just a visit to the post office. That is as long as you have ALL the birth certificates. We lost one and had to reapply for a new unabridged birth certificate.

Lesson learnt – make sure all documents are up to date and in order.

Of course writing this all out is fun. I get to leave out the lengthy phone calls, the dramatic, frustrated tears. The beads of sweaty worry at entrusting the most important documents of my life to Fedex. No one needs to know about it do they now.

Of course there is help along the way. A lot of help. The Aliyah department has a wonderful, dynamic team who are very welcoming. They outline everything that’s needed to make Aliyah, they break it down, and help make it doable. They have a mine of contacts and information to aid every issue that seems like a mountain. What’s also lovely is that it’s a mini Israel where everyone speaks Hebrew to each other. We picked up some Hebrew slang, just listening into a heated conversation. It’s worth visiting the Aliyah department as soon as you’re thinking about making Aliyah.

My friends in Jerusalem who have made Aliyah warned me, ‘You have to be organised.’ This made me shake in my Camper boots. Organised. I know I can be organised, but it’s not quite my thing. I remember once telling a psychologist friend that I struggle to keep an organised house. She replied, ‘Writers aren’t known to be the best homemakers.’ I guess when I die I’d rather be a writer than a Vogue home maker. But this doesn’t help us make Aliyah. So I’ve had to roll up my sleeves and hyper focus on getting all birth certificates in order, fill out the bountiful forms, and when I just can’t anymore, make myself a cappuccino.

Things change. Time marches on and decisions are made as the seasons change. I’ve been silent on my blog for a LONG time now. We’ve decided to make Aliyah – Go up and live in Israel. It’s been a lot to digest, a lot to organise as things are moving at a rapid pace. And as I move right along and change with the times, this blog will also change in name and nature.
We are moving from Johannesburg with our four Princes and our black Labrador dog, Blitz. To say it’s daunting, exciting, confusing, and a lot of hard work is to say the least. Sad is also a good adjective. It’s a big responsibility for parents to uproot their happy children who love their schools, friends and most of all their family. But we’re doing it with a deeper vision for them, a higher purpose for all of us, and an echoing call from the past of Biblical magnitude.

Aliyah may sound romantic and wonderful, which in many idealistic, dreamy ways it is. Really; it’s very practical. We’ve just been to Israel to find a rental apartment, visit schools and see banks. All the essentials. There’s a lot to whine about. Rental agents who waste time not taking us to places that meet our spec. (We saw exorbitant rentals, places which don’t allow dogs and lovely, perfect apartments that were in the wrong area.) Staying on top of it all requires constant thought, planning and action. So we keep going, doing and ticking off items from our Aliyah list.

On the upside I can share wonderful, must go to places in Jerusalem. The first place to add to my list of best eats in Jerusalem is CHABA – חבה. It’s a welcoming, fresh, industrial cool, clean trattoria in the midst of the shouting chaos of the Machane Yehuda Shuk. We walked past it when we were looking for a fun place to have supper at the shuk, and my darling husband gave in to my wish to go in after seeing the like in Paris pastry selection. It was almost too clean and beautiful to produce food to surprise the palate. I was pleasantly mistaken. Chaba is not only ultra chic, but the food was beyond good, it was special. My darling husband had the good taste to order the fish kebab, which sounds very average, but was very different. So different I wasn’t sure how they made it. I said to him, ‘You’d better enjoy it because I can’t copy it.’ It’s a must try. I ordered a beetroot salad, which was delicious, although I wouldn’t advise it as a main because it was too full of beetroot (the waitress did warn me). We also ordered a medium size plate of antipasti. The mushrooms were meaty and delicious and the kohlrabi was an interesting new taste to try. My only warning is that this was all too much. Israeli portions, especially salads, are massive.

This didn’t stop us ending off our memorable meal with cappuccinos and dessert. What to have? Chaba has a wide pastry selection (which attracted me into the store in the first place.) It was very difficult to decide. We ended up having a decadent multilayered chocolate slice, which fulfilled every chocolate craving possible. We left too full, and went to the bar next door to meet a friend. Which is what you do in Jerusalem. Meet old friends and have a good huck over a beer.


Chaba – 119 Jaffa st, Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem

The words chilling out and holiday are synonymous, unless you have four princes. Going away on a sea side holiday with the Princes this week has been full of melting, double scoop, mint and vanilla ice creams, car fights (why can’t they sit and keep their hands and feet to themselves?), sitting on a hot, sandy beach watching anxiously so that a life saver doesn’t have to repeat his Iron Man run and swim to save Prince No. 3 from being swept away by a rip current (why doesn’t he listen when I tell him ‘Don’t go too deep’?).

On such holidays I used to get ratty and cross. I just wanted to read, write and in general be left alone so I wouldn’t get sand in my hair, and every crevice of my body that no amount of showering would remove. This attitude obviously worked for no one. So I changed. I (consciously) relaxed and found some solutions that helped me cope better with the fact that family holidays don’t necessarily mean relaxing.

Morning Me Time
I have an arrangement with my husband where each of us take turns to take time out early in the morning for ourselves and do what we want to do, whilst the other holds the fort. On my morning I wake up early and do yoga or go for a run, or (when I’m just plain lazy) go for a coffee. It’s enough to refresh me for the kiddie day ahead, so that I join in and have fun, without feeling that I don’t have my own time.

Be A Kid
A part of me has had to accept that holidays with the Princes, is a family holiday, a time to relax in a kid way, doing fun activities that take me back to my childhood. I know this seems obvious, but it took me a while to reach the stage of acknowledging my inner child and bringing her out to play with the Princes. This week I’ve done a lot of that. We’ve been rock climbing at the beach rock pools looking for fish with our nets. We’ve been for a million ice creams on our bikes. We went strawberry picking and horse riding for the first time (I was terrified). Challenging myself to do new things with them has expanded all our horizons. And in the evenings when I’m back to my grumpy, grownup self at least we all know that we’ve had a fabulous fun filled day.

Quiet Time
Sometimes I tell the Princes that it’s quiet time (a good friend once gave me this holiday idea). It’s a time for reading, building lego, anything quiet. It doesn’t always work, especially with the younger ones. But the concept is important on holiday. We don’t always have to be busy, busy, busy. It’s okay to be quiet and just relax. And the ultimate cheat is to put a DVD on. That’s at least one hour of guaranteed peace and quiet.

Get a Babysitter
Where ever I travel in the world I hire local babysitters. My nights are a sacred opportunity to hit the town with my husband, or even on my own. (Not that we do anything more exciting than go to a coffee shop or restaurant – sorry to disappoint.) This is so important for our marriage and it gives us our own adult time to connect. Leaving us rejuvenated to be happy loving parents.

Forgive and Move On
There will always be blow ups and bang ups on holiday. We spend an unusually long time together as a family on holiday and the cracks in relationships appear. I see my family dynamics clearer on holiday. Sometimes we get into tremendous fights over stupid things like what DVD to rent. Forgiving myself for the silly arguments and my mistakes helps me move on. These arguments highlight what I need to build in my relationships with the Princes. Our relationship deficits are often lost in ‘the next thing to do of our weekly, rigid school schedule. With our free holiday time I resolve to play more monopoly, spend time looking at their village empires on Clash of Clans, and summoning the energy for that one more bike ride to the shops for Salt and Vinegar chips.

Holidays are a family investment. They’re the golden years when our children are young and not at camp and still want to be with us. I’m trying to remember this. To hold on to the moments and enjoy the connecting time. I’ve finally learnt that that’s what family holidays are for. So I now embrace school holidays and just relax into it (most of the time).

The Best Wheat Free Almond & Orange Cake

This is the most moist, delicious, orangey cake recipe that I found in a magazine. I’ve made it to great acclaim, and the biggest secret is to serve it with fresh cream! (Without the cream it’s dairy free which is also great.)

2 Oranges
6 Eggs Seperated
250g Sugar
250g Ground Almonds
5ml Baking Powder
Orange Zest to garnish
Icing Sugar, to garnish
Whipped Cream or Mascarpone to garnish

Cook the oranges in boiling water for about 1 hour and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190 C and prepare a springform pan with baking paper.
Remove the pips from the oranges, place in a food processor and liquidise the oranges, skins and all. Set aside. (I forgot to take the pips out and it still worked. Although I wouldn’t do it again.)
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the almonds, baking powder and liquidised oranges and mix well.
Beat the egg whites to form soft peaks and then fold into the batter. Pour, then spread evenly into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 20 minutes on the top shelf then remove to a lower shelf if the cake starts to brown on top (I sometimes cover with foil if I feel the cake may burn). The baking time will be about 40 minutes to 1 hour in total.
Sprinkle the baked cake with orange zest and icing sugar and serve with chilled whipped cream or Mascarpone on the side.

It’s that manic time of year, at least in the Southern hemisphere. School is over for the year (finally). There are new books to be ordered, teachers presents, staff gifts, cookies to be bought for gift hampers, scheduling parties for the Princes to go to (I’ve already dropped one Prince at the wrong party venue). All the mindless jobs that remind me why I’m not a PA or secretary (I would be fired on the first day). The unpacking of school bags, wiping down the grimy cheese and tomato sandwiches that have made friends with fluffy green mold. At this time of year my organisational skills are stretched to their finest, hysterical ends. Before I collapse into a heap of overwhelmed, dramatic tears, I have to stop, get away from my never ending to do list that grows longer every time I look at my cell phone, and have a cappuccino.

Mulling dreamily about my year over a flat white (it’s not as frothy as a cappuccino, and I’ve found my perfect one at Naked Coffee in Melrose Arch) is much more my vibe. What have I done this year? It’s flown by faster than the loom band craze. I’ve run from grocery shops to the kitchen, to bits of writing, to lots of coffee shops all year. Despite all this ‘busyness’ it’s hard for me to pin point what I’ve actually done. I haven’t had a nine to five job where I’ve achieved anything. Hence the mind talk whirrs into being like a top class Nespresso machine. The truth is out – I’ve done nothing, besides a lot of school lifts and a lot of nappy changes (bless my little Prince’s fast metabolism).

Then I think to myself, even with a nine to five job, there’s no guarantee that I’d have something tangible to show for it. Maybe a few deals, a good monthly pay check, but what more? These thoughts remind me that life is about process. Whilst our society often values product and achievement, the real joy and beauty in life is in the process. When I forget this I’m undermining my very life as a mother, a human being, a soul as a spiritual being having a physical experience. Of course producing tangible results is brilliant, but just like raising a child is in the every day loving acts and detailed care, so is our own lives. At the end of the day when we die it’s the small every day joys, those that build our relationships and inner peace that we are proud of. They are our legacy.

So now that I’ve thought that through I’m feeling much better. And I can go through my simple, favourite things this year, which have brought me much joy and have made me so grateful for my year.

Cappuccinos – As superficial as this sounds, there’s a deeper meaning to sitting for a cappuccino. A lovely hot cup means I STOP and relax for five minutes. With a friend the cappuccino experience is perfected. There is no greater joy than having a delightful cappuccino and connecting to a good friend. Tea of course works just as well. Coffee shops are also the best place to work. You don’t have to worry about never ending house jobs that surround you at home (like no electricity – thank you Eskom), and someone serves you for a change.

Yoga – There’s nothing like a powerful yoga class to shift my mind and get me into my body and feeling vibrantly alive. My favourite yoga studio is Nadine Hurwitz’s Yoga Lova in Illovo. Her classes are intense and nurturing at the same time. (Just what every woman needs.) There’s nothing as joyful as being able to lift up into a handstand. It should be on every one’s bucket list.

Writing – Everyone needs a vocation, a hobby, something that makes their heart sing and time stand still. For me it’s writing. I feel so grateful for every article I’ve written and blog post I’ve published.

Cooking – This year has been a big gastronomic year of dinner parties, casual weekend get togethers with friends. The best meals being when I’ve been bored of my normal repertoire and have taken out a new recipe and made it, despite my mother in law saying, ‘Never make new dishes when you have guests.’ We all bore with the zany sometimes gross, politely interesting results and we gutzed on the couple of sensational recipes that I conjured up. (Ottolenghi’s garlic tart is one such dish. You can google the recipe. It’s well worth making.) Meanwhile for all my cuisine talk I’m toying with the theory that it’s not the food you have but the friends you have gathered around you that matter. I’m still working up the courage to try my theory with tuna on crackers as the main course. Next year’s resolution! Can you imagine how much more often we’d all get together if it all it required was olives and cheese. (Unless of course you’re my cousin who has people for gourmet meals all the time producing them as effortlessly as a glass of lemon water.)

Last but not leastFamily
Families come in all shapes and sizes. Ending the year in loving relationship is the biggest achievement of all. A year with your loved ones has its ups and downs. The investment of reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my Princes, sitting and playing Battleship or cards with them (when I really don’t feel like it), making pancakes for a Sunday morning treat, asking them the highs and lows of their day, or just fetching them from school with a loving smile, is all very special. I take it for granted, but it’s what makes up my year. I’m not going to speak about the heart wrenching squabbles, the tearful breakdowns, or the Princes running amok in a mud battle. When I look back at my year I somehow see the good things only – just like on Facebook.

I guess focusing on joy builds joy. Scheduling in the good times in our crazy busy schedules; like date nights, family pizza games nights (which I need to do more often), family picnics, all build relationship and makes up our year. Looking back I want to do more of that in the coming year. These glorious summer days are a good place to start.

The older I get the more I realise that the simple things are what matter and bring us happiness. They’re easy and don’t cost much. Life in a coffee cup is beautiful, and shared with others it’s very worth while.

Recently I’ve been reminded that bullying is a pervasive issue in our society and not only our schools. It reminded me of a talk I went to a while back by Pamela Ziman a Johannesburg psychologist who specialises in dealing with bullying in schools. She spoke about the extremely detrimental effects of bullying on its victims. So I’ve gone back to my notes and am going to comprehensively outline what I learnt from Ziman. It’s important to be aware that bullying exists. It’s important to start addressing and standing up to bullies everywhere.

There are Three Types of Bullying

1. Verbal Bullying

We all know the saying, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.’ And we also know that it’s not true. Words hurt, ALOT. Ziman told the story of one boy about whom false rumours circulated that he was Gay. One can imagine the tremendous pain and challenge of an experience like that.

2. Physical Bullying

It’s quite clear what physical bullying is. However with school initiation rites, which clearly are abusive, but are often not reported because of the nature of ‘initiation’, physical bullying can go unreported and even be ‘accepted’ by children. These include bog washing, wedgies, locking a child in a cubicle. Any kind of locking up is abuse!

3. Relational Bullying 

This is possibly the most common and certainly the most unrecognized form of bullying. And I’m sure everyone has experienced it in one form or another. Examples of relational bullying are giving the ‘silent treatment’, sabotaging the person’s other relationships, alienating a person, leaving a person out, ignoring or ganging up on another person. Unsurprisingly this type of insidious bullying is more common amongst girls.

Relational bullying is invisible to everyone else except the person experiencing it, which makes it even more devastating. In fact Ziman explained that rejection by silence and passive aggression is experienced by the person as physical pain. It makes kids and adults feel like they’re invisible, and they don’t exist. She gave the real life example of a boy who invited his class for a birthday lunch, and no one pitched. Heartbreaking and soul destroying.

Notably relational bullying includes cyber bullying, which can be extremely damaging.

This type of passive aggressive bullying is the one that pervades into adulthood. It happens in the work place, in families, communities and of course schools. It’s one of the worst types as it’s cowardly and as quick and easy as silent treatment. This makes it highly effective. The victim can’t play a pro-active role in the relationship and it’s a no win situation for them. The consequences of this are devastating on the victim’s psyche.

The Consequences of Bullying  

The impact of bullying is the internalised distress of the victim where they are filled with anger and hatred as well as self loathing. In extreme cases bullying leads to suicide. At least 100 pupils a year commit suicide because of bullying. It can lead to pathology; the high school gunmen at Columbine said their murderous onslaught was retribution for the bullying they experienced. In fact all young killers are socially outcast and isolated. They want their victims to feel the way they felt.   Depression, anxiety and loneliness are overpowering negative emotions that result from bullying.

The importance of peer relations can’t be overemphasised. When a child is 8-10 years old their peer group begins to compete with their family. There is a strong need to belong and have strong interpersonal relationships. Every child needs connection and acceptance. Conformity peaks in 11-13 year olds and then declines. This also happens to be the the peak time of bullying. The crucial task in childhood and adolescence is developing social relationships. The saying, ‘Childhood is training for life’ is a myth, it’s life itself. Children and their experiences and feelings need to be taken seriously.

The Bully  

The shocking fact is that, according to Ziman, bullies don’t necessarily suffer from a low self esteem or lack a positive self image, as is often thought. ‘Children can be victimised for very trivial and random reasons that has nothing to do with their own personalities. It follows that any normal and well adjusted child can be bullied.’ In fact it’s often the high flyers who are bullied. Girls who are perceived to be a threat are more likely to be bullied.

The characteristics of bullies are that they’re aggressive, impulsive, low in cooperation, low in empathy. They think highly of themselves and have a need for dominance and power. Girl bullies are often socially skilled and charismatic, even seductive when they want to be. They often have to be the Queen Bee.

The Bystander Effect

Often kids stand by and witness bullying, rather than help support the victim. This reenforces the behaviour. The reason they don’t get involved is because they’re scared that they’ll fall prey to being bullied too.

How Do You Prevent Bullying?

  • By inculcating a good self esteem in your child. Low self esteem reveals itself in the ways we behave, our body language etc. It effects the way other people relate to us. Low self esteem attracts negative attention. High self esteem attracts positive attention.
  • Actively listen to your child. Don’t ignore their complaints as mere whining. Speak to the child’s siblings and see if they can help out with the issue.
  • Turn your home into a sanctuary, where your child can feel safe.
  • Move classes, or move schools if necessary.
  • Get your child involved in activities out of school. This allows them to meet kids outside of school.
  • Speak about other options; for example other friends they can make that can protect them from being bullied.
  • Make sure your child has at least a couple of good friends. Often I think it’s quality of friendships rather than quantity of friends. Friends a child can rely on to back them up against a bully. Who they can feel safe with and be themselves with.
  • Stand up to bullies. Take action if your child is being bullied.
  • Speak to the school, social worker and make sure your child knows you’ve got their back.
  • Don’t call a bully’s parents. They can often be aggressive and defensive. Leave that to the school and social worker.

Ziman ended on a hopeful note by saying that any case of bullying will end as friendships and dynamics change. Meanwhile you as a parent need to be strong when your child is faced with being bullied.  It’s important to be aware of your own feelings and reactions. Get support as necessary. You can’t fall apart when this is a time your child needs you to be at your strongest.

Notably being the parent of a bully is just as bad. No child is an angel, every child has bullied or been bullied, usually both, at some stage of their life. Minor or major. It’s still bullying and it has to be dealt with. If your child is bullying, communicate with them. Find out how they feel when they are bullying. What their need is and how they can fill it in a different way. Whatever the case is there needs to be strict consequences for bullying.

Bullying is difficult and challenging. If you’ve been bullied you know about the sick dread in your stomach – the real physical pain of being rejected and put down by another person. No one should have to feel that and that’s why it’s imperative to recognise bullying and address it. Relational bullying is especially pervasive and hard to deal with and is often heartbreaking. Many adults suffer from depression, anxiety and general low self esteem because of being bullied in their families, work place and communities. How much more so our children in our schools.

We all have a duty not to be social, passive aggressive bullies in our own lives and to ensure that our children aren’t either. To teach them that to embarrass another human being is likened, in the Talmud, to murdering them. To pain them is to be avoided at all costs. We’ve all been there, we’ve all behaved in ways we’re not proud of. We’re all human beings, but we’re also all created in the image of God and should strive to emulate the oneness of God, where we treat the other as we’d want to be treated ourselves. This can’t be repeated enough to ourselves and our children. We need zero-tolerance to bullying. It’s just not acceptable.

For those of you who are cynical and read my last post and said to yourselves – yeah right she’s going to rest forty five minutes in the middle of the day – you can pat yourselves on your cynical backs. I have not rested in the middle of the day. One afternoon I tried, but a Princely cricket match popped up. So it’s been full steam ahead, which I don’t find easy (read it’s exhausting, even without having to do the washing, which my mother in law kindly reminds me when I complain).

Procrastination is my middle name. Especially when my To Do list is inexhaustible. I find myself staring at my Notes app on my phone with the letters beginning to blur into each other. At this point I put away the phone, the list and have a cappuccino. Of course this only increases my stress an hour later. Things to do NEVER go away. So I’ve been trying to balance it out with a simple trick that gets me going. I call it The Five Minute Rule.

The Five Minute Rule is telling myself that I’m going to do a job for five minutes and that’s all. We all have five minutes. And in that five minutes I do the job. Simple. Of course some things, like writing a blog post, takes more than five minutes. Which is fine, because once I’ve begun my five minutes I’m on a roll and can finish the job.

I use this for everything. If my optimistic mind is gullible enough to believe that sorting through the pantry will take five minutes, so be it. An hour later at least the cupboard is sorted.

I often think I can’t do things because they’ll take too long. Once I’ve begun something it’s always easier, quicker and more satisfying than living with the TO DO hovering above my head.

Setting time limits also helps to complete jobs. For example I’ll set aside an hour for menial jobs. This contains the things I really don’t like to do and therefor avoid like SA taxis on the road. I use this trick with the children to. I’ll set a time limit for them to clean up their Lego. It works even better if I put the timer on. Without a time limit they faff around and I become the nagging mother that I don’t want to be (but probably still am). I think setting time limits begins to teach them time management skills which are so integral to living a balanced, productive life. It’s hard to teach what you don’t have though, hence my self work in this area.

The daunting problem with To Do lists is that there’s always something to do. It’s like the dishes in the sink, there’s always a dish to wash. So a very important thing I’m trying to do is put a cap on my jobs for the day. I’ll do a certain amount and then I’ll put away my phone and refuse to think about the rest. Tomorrow is another day. I’m not going to be A-type, anal and miserable. I’d rather be B-type, fun loving and spontaneous and friendly.

The ‘being’ with which we clean, tidy, organise and do all the millions of things us working mothers and stay at home mothers do matters the most. I was once told that you should make friends with your admin. I’m yet to do that, but I’m trying to breathe, have a better attitude and stress less, whilst still getting what needs to be done, done. And if I don’t get to the shoe store to replace the sneakers that my lovely, sweet Prince lost today, so be it. As long as there’s toilet paper in the house. We’re okay.

Sometimes we as mothers push ourselves. Heck, we as human beings push ourselves. We often forget what it means to rest. Even with a day of rest once a week we don’t know how to rest. At least I don’t. I don’t even realise that I need to rest my body until I crash, either with flu, or by breaking my foot. Yes, I broke my foot. Only now that I’m off crutches (at least for a bit of the day until my foot has had enough) and hobbling around on my Aircast (like a moon boot but shorter) I feel I can face it and write about it.

So I broke my foot one Saturday afternoon when I decided I’d join the weekly family soccer game. I played my absolute best, and didn’t get near the ball. Tackling my six year old, my foot gave way (not having even touched the said ball) and buckled. Not wanting to ruin their game, I got up and told the boys to keep playing as I hobbled off into the next six weeks of a fractured fifth metatarsal.

My soccer career was over. I was humbled in more ways that I can explain. I wasn’t super woman, not super mom, not super anything. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t walk without crutches, which meant I couldn’t pick up my two year old, and couldn’t make a cup of coffee unless I drank it by the kettle. I had to stop.

Ironically the week before I had felt overwhelmed by the million different things I had to do. There wasn’t enough time, and I was exhausted, and I couldn’t admit it to myself. I ignored the triggers and warning signs of overwrought tears and frantic jumping from job to job in the middle of jobs. So I believe God (or if you like a higher power) intervened and stopped me literally in my tracks. I believe it was a kind, loving act, where I had to see that it was okay for me to be taken care of for a change. The Princes could bring me glasses of water, breakfast in bed is allowed, and the world goes on without me behind the wheel (we hired a driver).

The children came home from school to a mother who was home and relaxed. I spent more quality time with them than I had previously. I wasn’t ratty from being in the car all day. I was rested and quiet. The home was rested and quiet. (Well as much as it could be with four rambunctious Princes.)

The downside was down of course. No yoga classes. (Although I organised some amazing private yoga classes with Nadine Hurwitz, where I could work without standing, highly recommended for anyone with an injury.) I couldn’t clean up easily, so the house became slightly messier than usual. The Princes for all their help, also ran a bit amuck with no mother able to run after them. Crutches are officially exhausting, and I’m thrilled to be getting out of them. You look different, and are different from everyone else around you. In a room full of people it’s not so simple to move around. I imagine for people who are permanently disabled it’s isolating and only with a continuous good attitude do you get through it.

So I’ve learnt to have more compassion for those who are physically disabled or injured. I’ve learnt to be so grateful for the health I do have. I’ve learnt that anything can happen in a split second so it’s a blessing to be able to live in the present. I’ve most of all learnt that I need to rest and am committing to doing so in the middle of the day for 45 minutes, either sleeping, reading, or meditating. Where I renew my energy for the day. For myself, and myself alone. That is the right of a mother, a woman, a person anywhere.

I was very perturbed recently when I found out that my little sweet two year old toddler was hitting, smacking and pulling hair in class. No mother wants their child to be the bully on the block, especially not their adorable angel child. So I did two things I read ‘Toddler Taming’ by Dr Christopher Green and I went for parental guidance to a therapist called Mano Naidoo.

The first thing I learnt is that hitting, smacking, pulling hair and even biting (thank God mine doesn’t bite) with toddlers is normal. I repeat – NORMAL. As my friend just told me, her baby has hit the stage of pulling hair just as she turned one. It’s normal because toddlers don’t know social boundaries. As the therapist explained. They want contact with other children but they don’t know how to establish contact appropriately.

Toddlers need to be taught social skills. One of the best ways to do this is through role play. With dolls and with other children. So I’ve been teaching my little Prince to say ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Hello’, to shake hands (he still won’t do that one) give high five, and most of all to be ‘GENTLE’ with other children. I’ve also asked his play school teacher to incorporate social skills in class. Emphasising the skills of sharing and learning what a friend is and how we treat our friends.

I also learnt from Mano what to do when a toddler does hit or smack or pull hair. You don’t hit or smack the toddler back. You don’t give into pressure from surrounding mothers and shout at your child. Toddlers won’t understand. Their frontal lobes aren’t developed sufficiently, they literally can’t reason.

So this is what you do:
You first tell the child CALMLY (which I find a challenge), ‘Children aren’t for smacking’ and you show the child to be gentle. I say to mine, ‘Be Gentle!’ all the time, and teach him to stroke. You can also try to teach them to say sorry, but don’t force it because they don’t understand.
If your child repeats the undesired behaviour (an understated euphemism I know) then you simply repeat, ‘Children aren’t for smacking (pulling hair, etc.) and physically remove them from the situation.

I learnt that toddlers need firm boundaries. They need to know that there are rules, like no food throwing, standing on tables, and there is a limit to IPad time (Don’t ask, my two year old is already addicted, that’s what happens with a fourth child.) I’ve learnt not to be scared of his tears. I (try) stand firm in what I say so that he learns that there are rules and he has to follow them. All children need boundaries and the sooner you establish this and they understand it the less problems you have later on. I still struggle with my other Princes around boundaries and that’s because I didn’t manage to do it when they were toddlers. You have been warned.

Toddlers also need lots of social time, where they play with other children and can learn social rules. So I’ve been making lots of play dates, or even just taking him to the park where he meets other children to play with.

My Prince has the special challenge of being the fourth boy in a rambunctious home, where rough play is the norm. I’ve had to teach the other Princes to be more gentle with Prince No. 4 so that he learns to play more appropriately. Because other toddlers don’t understand a ‘punch’ hello, or that ‘play wrestling’ is a lot of fun.

I think the good news is that the terrible two behaviour passes into a cute, distant memory. A toddler reaches the more rational age of three, where he or she finally understands instructions, and appropriate behaviour. The thing not to forget is as Dr Christopher Green says, no matter what toddler challenges you face, don’t forget to enjoy your toddler and say ‘I LOVE YOU’ more often than ‘NO’.


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