Archives for the month of: June, 2011

It’s cold in Johannesburg. So very, very cold. Sitting in the sun does little to warm me up the wind keeps blowing. Of course I’m stating the obvious here for anyone who lives in Johannesburg. At least it gives us something to talk about as we greet  each other with, ‘It’s so cold.’ and ‘Isn’t it freezing.’ Wonderful how the weather bonds us.

It’s also time for blanket and clothes donations. I’m complaining with all my electric heaters and roof over my head. It’s not a nice feeling imagining all the unsheltered, under dressed people out there. (I guess it’s not a nice feeling for a reason, so that we do something about it.)

Anyhow after that sobering thought. On Sunday I went to a breakfast that featured Nikki Bush an author and public speaker about children and play. She was so dynamic you’d have wanted her to adopt you and your children for that matter. She said every thing we already know. That we need to be more present for our children. (In other words Blackberrys off more often. Especially when we fetch them from school, and are busy playing with them.) The quality time we need to spend with them – and that quality time is really playing. When we play with our children we’re on their level and they’re on ours. It’s the play of spirits more than just parent and child.

This is all very important and I’ve even written articles touching on this topic and yet I still find it so hard. To block out that time and be totally present. It takes such focus and discipline to put everything down and say ‘I am here for you now.’ I’m much better at shlepping them on errands, baking a cake with them and doing homework. They enter my world and I enter their world, but it’s not a together world.

So I have recommitted since going to Sunday’s talk to be more present and play with the Princes. I know that when I play soccer with Prince No. 1 his face is shining and he comes and sits on my lap later in the evening for  a story. In fact he thrives on quality time in general. Prince No. 2 also  loves it and Prince No. 3 keeps wanting to play this ‘Amazing Me’ game even though it’s way over his three-year old head. Why? Because he gets to speak and be listened to and just BE with me. (It is a fabulous EQ game – available from the educational toy shop on Louis Botha.)

Attention  lowers anxiety. Being seen and heard builds confidence. And the truth is it’s not just our kids who need this (as Nikki Bush pointed out) but us as well. That’s why Facebook and Twitter is so popular we all love putting up for the world to see what we’re doing. Our achievements, our burnt nuts (that’s me I’ve burnt my fifth batch of nuts last nights. Cashews. Don’t worry I’ve given up), the funny things of the day. We want to be seen, heard and commented on. We need it from our friends, loved ones and  world. It’s a natural human need.

So we need to get it for ourselves (date nights girls) and we need to give it to our children even if it means scheduling play in like a dentists appointment (not that it should have such painful associations). And it doesn’t have to be long. Nikki Bush says five minutes here an there does the trick. Storytelling in the car, where everyone adds a sentence to the story. (Yesterday in the car we had a story about a police station that got snowed in and the robbers who ran away froze and got knocked down. Don’t ask what it all means but it was fun.) Card games at restaurants before the food comes. Word and colour association games. You can go to her website and check out more ideas I’m sure. Just google.

I’ve been doing more ‘present’ time and it’s been lovely. (Although I’ve been rather tired and cranky in moments as well – no super mommy here.) One last thing I’ve done was really focus on dinner time, where we all sit around the dining room table and swap the good and bad of the day. I’ve tried it before and it never worked but now it’s really working. So much so that Prince No. 1 will continue to tell me the good and bad of the day into his bath time.

So people, every bit counts. Our children are worth it and we do deserve to enjoy our children after all the hard work we put it.

 

 

 

Tonight I did not go belly dancing. Tonight I went to a very important talk that moved me profoundly. It was a talk at the Great Park, Cyril Harris Centre (they always have such fabulous events there) about the boycott of Ben Gurion University by the University of Johannesburg, given by Eli Kriel. Have you heard of the boycott? I hadn’t, not really. Maybe I caught wafts of it. In general I find news so depressing, especially when it has to do with Israel. I’d much rather read the comic strips. It’s so much more productive, because at least I laugh.

What it boils down to with this boycott is that in England some academics tried to boycott Israel for years, and didn’t succeed. In South Africa they’ve succeeded, quickly, swiftly and without enough anti boycott protest. The first country in the world to boycott Israel. For more details you need to go to Eli’s talk. She gave it over so beautifully and informatively. (May I add rationally.) She built up the history of academic boycotts, beginning with apartheid (South African universities were under an international boycott) and she carried through in great detail to the current circumstances. She concluded that the boycott was a precedent for others and that in future we mustn’t be quiet. We need to be organised and ready, because the effect on Jews is big.

This is only the beginning, because apparently what happens is that through demonising Israel as the ‘Nazi’ state, anyone pro Israel, really any one Jewish is also dehumanised as immoral and essentially racist.

Of course I’m paraphrasing and not doing her eloquence justice. The thing that stuck out most for me was how quiet we all were. Jewish academics, except a lone vocal few, were quiet. It was no concern of theirs. Apparently the Zionist Board of Deputies was silenced by the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry. (They said they’d handle it and it would interfere with their efforts. Huh! Thanks very much.) Why was it all so quiet?

Furthermore there were 3 separate incidents of Jewish boys wearing yalmulkas being beaten up in apartheid Israel week (at least I think that’s what it was called) at Wits university.

Of course like any Jew my mind zooms back to Nazi Germany. The Nuremberg Laws were just the beginning for what was to happen to the Jews. All the warning signs were there in 20/20 hindsight. And I always wondered why they were so quiet. Actually to be honest I knew why the Jews were quiet. They didn’t want to believe it was happening. They were settled in their lives, they believed if they could just keep their heads down and continue living simple, upright, normal lives everything would go away. It would pass. But it didn’t.

We all think things will pass, without necessarily lifting a finger to help it pass.

Now Eli is a mother of three children. It’s one of the driving forces for her anti boycott research and activism. She wants her son to be able to go to the University of Johannesburg with a yalmulka. And this is how all this applies to a mothering blog. I think we mothers may be at home rearing children, but we’re much more than that. In many ways we’re in touch with what’s important. The values that are important. And it’s important that we have a voice. Find our voice. Use our voice.

We all want to live simple, happy lives. With the rights to bring up our children in a peaceful, safe society.  Sometimes we have to fight for those rights. Sometimes we need to set our boundaries loudly and clearly and say, ‘this is what we want and need’. Be it in the house – ie time out to have a bath. Be it in social circumstances – ‘You know speaking in that abrupt way to me was hurtful and embarrassing.’ And politically – ‘Boycotting an Israeli university is unethical, if not discriminatory.

Another point that was raised was how scared Jews are to speak up and say something is antisemitic. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. The truth is that we feel vulnerable. It’s because of that vulnerability that we need to speak out.

And I understand vulnerability. I grew up first generation Australian. Both my sets of grandparents had to flee (yes that means with their clothes on their backs and nothing much else, except five children for one set and one child who tragically died in the refugee tents, for the other) in 1952 from Baghdad, where they had lived for centuries to Israel. Twenty odd years later my father moved with his family to Sydney, Australia. My adopted grand father in Sydney was a Czech holocaust survivor named Ziggy, who watched his wife and five children being killed by SS soldiers in a forest. In a way I grew up with two exiles, the Middle Eastern one (which cannot be underestimated, it was a bitter hard experience, as my grandfather reminds me) and the European one. Two sets of refugee mentalities. Antisemitism was real for them, too real. And now the murmurings of antisemitism is happening again. To the extent that internationally it’s becoming hard to be a Jew. Let’s put it this way I wouldn’t allow my son to go to Wits with a yalmulka, with the risk of him being beaten up.

So how can mother’s speak out for Israel? There is so much bad press about Israel, it’s like one huge party and Israel is the shunned girl in the corner of the room whom no one wants to speak to, or have anything to do with. If you go to that corner you are shunned, called immoral and racist. Everything that you aren’t you’re suddenly labelled as. If you’re pro-Israel you must be pro apartheid. Forget the fact that Israel is not an apartheid state. There are problems yes (and I feel I need to write that because Israel has to be criticised somewhere in an article otherwise the article won’t be taken seriously, right!?!) And they’re essentially emotional arguments not based in reason or fact.

I actually can’t believe I’m speaking about a political issue here, but it’s a topic I’m passionate about. And since I can’t have chocolate, this passion will have to suffice. It’s good to have passions, all women should have passions and speak out about what they feel strongly about. There is a lot of anti Israel speakers in this country – where are the pro-Israel ones? So here I stand proud to support Israel and very proud to be a Jew.

Last week my very dear friend turned 40. Yes the big 40. Actually her birthday was in May but she celebrated last week in style with belly dancing. Yes hip swinging, hands twirling belly dancing.

Whilst she was planning her party she was very unsure about the belly dancing. Even though that’s exactly what she wanted to do. Wise old me told her, ‘What’s the point of turning forty if you can’t do what you want. Everyone will step into line and join in.  Just do it.’ And she did.

So I drove there on Wednesday evening. The night of the wondrous eclipse. (I tried to wake up the Princes for it but didn’t manage – I’m feeling very guilty about letting them go to sleep without seeing it, but I was too busy going to the party and I clean forgot.) And I felt like such a hypocrite because I didn’t want to belly dance. I, who promotes women getting out of their comfort zones and being the best they can be. Rediscovering their inner girls and twirling their toes through life. I, the woman who says, ‘Just do it.’ felt inexplicably shy. But I dragged my foot on the accelerator and went anyway.

And it was great. Better than great. First of all the teachers weren’t belly dancing babes. They were real life, belly dancing women who were comfortable in their voluptuous bodies. It was so refreshing and I think it made all of us women swing our child rearing hips all the better, not to mention more confidently. And that’s really what belly dancing is about reconnecting to our feminine bodies, our mystique and dare I say, sensuality. (Why do most of us, okay I’ll own it, why do I so easily disconnect from my sensuality. It doesn’t seem a safe realm. WHY? And yes I understand it’s private – but I’m talking basic feminine sensuality. We’ve in many ways hidden it from sight.) We also ululated (a tongue clicking motion which produces a high pitched sound) which I loved, having grown up with it in my family. My grandmother, aunts and cousins are fabulous ululaters. Our Barmitzvas were always that much more noisy and fun, and at least the women had a very clear ululating voice.

I think most of us danced at the party and had fun. (Don’t worry a couple of women couldn’t take it and left. Just in case you felt that I could never do that. You’re not alone.) It showed me again how healing it is to engage our bodies in movement as a group. It’s reenergizing and I’m sure most of the women went home to their husbands looking at themselves in a whole new way. I know that I did.

So yes I give a big thumbs up to belly dancing. Thumbs up to overcoming our fears and insecurities. Thumbs up to letting those hips go. (Although mine, admittedly are always out-of-place the next day.) Go on… try it for your birthday, even if you’re not turning the big 40.

I never thought I’d understand how drug addicts feel when they have to give up the dope. But I do now. Not that I’ve ever taken anything stronger than a Panado. Heavens you could smoke dacha under my nose and I would be none the wiser. But I have to confess I’m an addict, as addictive as smokers, druggies and all the others. And the name of my addiction is SUGAR.

I’m not trying to be cute here. I visited my nutritionist on Friday and she said I’ve got systematic candida (at least I think that’s what it’s called). It means that any candida (another word for thrush) that I harboured in my gut has merrily traveled into my blood stream and thus into the rest of my body. This can cause lethargy, acne, poor memory and thyroid problems. (And yes I have been to the endroconologist and I have an under active thyroid. Every woman should go to an endroconolgist at least once a year according to my nutritionist. ) So ‘No wheat, no dairy (which I was off anyway thanks to an Imupro 100 test – which identifies which foods cause inflammation to the body) and no SUGAR.’ A diet which will apparently starve the candida out. The only way to get rid of it. Oh yes and the diet is for 3 whole months, no cheating or I go back to candida square oneness. (The diet is with homeopathic drops and other natural muti too.)

Now I don’t want to live my whole life feeling sluggish etc. etc. etc. and so I’m committing to this diet. But for the last 58 hours I have been walking around feeling very grumpy and deprived. I am one of these people who cannot and should not be on diets for a very simple reason. I eat more and I crave exactly what I can’t have. And today is the worst day as I have serious withdrawal symptoms as I face my life without sugar.

Sugar means by the way. No honey, dark chocolate or sweet fruit. The sweetest thing I’m allowed is Granny Smith apples and dark green pears – only 2 fruits a day – just in case I sugar binge on them. If I’m sounding very sorry for myself it’s because I am feeling very sorry for myself. I’m facing my everyday pain without the reassuring teaspoon of honey in my ginger tea. Without my Lindt dark chocolate and without my figs. (I thought I had cut down on sugar you see.) So I face the harsh reality of life without my life long crutches of sweet injections.

Worst of all I have to go out into the world like that…

I’m sure most people have gone out to meals and been on some sort of diet and felt the awkwardness. When I go out to people I feel like I stick out, appear too self righteous as I shake my head and graciously say, ‘I can’t partake in that lovely looking garden salad because it has sugar in it.’ (As all South African salad dressings seem to have by the way.) And people don’t like it. Energetically I feel the disdain, the rolling of the eyes, the ‘who does she think she is’ ness. This of course isn’t everywhere and all the time. But people in general don’t like it when others are on a diet for whatever reason – unless of course they’re diabetic – and even then, ‘What do you mean you can’t have fruit – it’s healthy.’

The other day someone said to me during the two-day Shavuot eating marathon, ‘I’m so glad that you’re not sticking to your diet.’ (I was busy shoving a piece of creamy Pavlova in my mouth.) ‘I feel so much better about myself.’

Woooshhhhh!!!! And she was at least telling the truth. The rest of us look at skinny girls who don’t eat dessert in disbelief, but keep it to ourselves. Or worse we shoot daggers at the skinny girls who eat two portions of dessert. (How, h0w do they stay so skinny and healthy?) We women are such an energetic mess of wants, desires and self sabotage, and we feed our self destructiveness off each other.

Ah well it’s human nature. So I need to take my own stand. No wheat, no dairy and no sugar. And I need to do it for me. No matter what anyone else may feel about themselves. That’s their stuff! The cycle is clear, the pressure to be less than with what we eat and who we are is clear. And as we run ourselves or anyone else down in our minds we need to see why we do this?

I’m far to grumpy to dwell on anyone else’s thoughts for now. At least I can have coffee. So I’m off to make a soy coffee. Everyone needs at least one addiction.

Don’t you just love it when you’re laid into by older and wiser ‘mothers’. Retired mothers who are now grannies and sit on the pedestal of ‘been there done that, got the T-shirt’. My cousin in law was recipient to the round table of advice (more like criticism actually) yesterday. Why? Because her two-year old screams too much.

Now firstly which two-year old doesn’t scream? Secondly did the round table help her to become a better mother?

I’ve also been on the receiving end of the mother hen ‘this is how to do it’ club. These older and, I admit, wiser for having done it and made the mistakes, women look at us mothers like we’re struggling, blind fools. (Which admittedly we are a lot of the time.) My response to them is to listen and be grateful. Because I do enjoy the attention and I do want to learn from their mistakes. But sometimes it can be a bit too much.

We’ve all been there. People on the street, let alone family think it’s their duty to tell us, mothers, how to mother. Wether it’s in the supermarket where our darlings are kicking and screaming for the sweets that are heniously displayed at the check out counters, and we’re given those ‘dagger’ looks from people who have to witness this. I remember being at swimming classes with the three Princes frazzled to the frizzy ends of my hair. I was at my wit’s end with my four-year old, who wouldn’t follow instructions, ie. Get dressed and get going. So I left him and mock ‘went’, marching up the ramp out of the gym. A woman came after me and said in a tone of utter disbelief, ‘You’ve left your child behind.’ I stared at her archly. Does she think I’m so stupid as not to know that I’ve left my mutinous son in the dressing room? My Princes are not to be molly coddled and taught that their mother is their maid servant ready to wait hand and foot for them. (Although I do end up doing that unfortunately.) And sometimes the only way for them to move their royal asses is for me to move mine first. Anyway I didn’t explain myself, I just stared her judgement and criticism down, and the recalcitrant Prince came and we left and marched on to the next issue.

So strangers judge us, and our methods. And so does family. At least you can argue that family does it from a place of love. Which is certainly true of my and my dear hubbie’s family. (He’s not brushing his teeth well enough, you need to give more attention to him, you need to keep your word etc. etc.) But when it becomes mother in-laws, aunt in-laws and cousins in-laws + a great granny in law, all with their individual comments on how to handle screaming girls, sitting around a table – well it’s too much for any mother to bear without tears.

So yesterday I sat there, quietly at first because I don’t have screaming girls. I have shouting, boisterous Princes. I know nothing about girls. (And I have my theory as to why boys are best for me although of course I’d love a princess.) But I did eventually pipe up because my sweet cousin was close to tears.

And this is what I said, and this is what I say to all struggling mothers (except Tiger Moms because they are obviously so perfect and in no need of support). We are in this world to learn our life lessons. That is the main point of life. (Believe it or not – it’s not about the house, being a size 10, the longed for Gucci bag, the trip around the world, yoga pilgrimage to India, published novel, red convertible… you can add your wish list to this. Although you can have all that too, but if you don’t heal your soul at the same time, it’s all so strangely empty.) That being the case we all have our individual challenges as do our children.

Our children are the angels in our life that propel us into those life lessons like mini rockets. We become mothers and end up swimming in space with no gravity to hold us down. We need to figure out our own way to the moon with our children. We need to learn the best way to be ourselves, and help our children through their milestones. It’s our individual journey as mothers and no two journeys are the same. So older mothers whose kids have grown up – you’ve had your journey – did the best you could – and now it’s our turn. Yes we will make mistakes, yes we are ignorant of a lot of basic things, especially how to discipline our kids. But the truth is whatever milestones we struggle with, with our kids, these are the exact milestones that we never hurdled when we were children. (See Harville Hendrix – Imago therapy – ‘Giving the Love that Heals’.) It’s now come full circle.

This is the reason why it’s worth putting the effort into helping our children through their milestones because it heals our wounded child selves who never learnt to separate, or attach or to stand up for ourselves, voice our needs, or just feel loved.

So take the outside advice with a pinch of salt. See the love behind it, take it or leave it and move on with your journey. Space can be a black, lonely space so take with you the loving, helpful, supportive people, voices, books and dare I say blogs that guide you and moreover love you on your unique journey called motherhood.

I’ve had an absolutely utterly horrible day. There I’ve got it off my chest. I’ve also had a really lovely day and that’s the lovely day I choose to focus on. Consciously choose with every fibre of my being!!!

The horrible is that my lift scheme is over just like that – I pushed a boundary – tried to figure a solution that suited me and POOF in my face. So that’s that and I march on. By the way it was done over sms. My fingers are so tired of smsing. This is an important aside. I would ban smsing, bbming from social conversation because you know what we are stunting our emotional selves by typing our feelings, typing our announcements such as ‘this is not working anymore’. We don’t speak to each other anymore unless we see each other face to face and by then we probably wish we could speak with our tapping fingers instead of using our very rusty tongues. I’m not saying I’m not guilty of it. By now I feel that if I phone someone at home in the evening on their house phone I’m bothering them. So cell phone it is (with very high cell phone bills to boot). What’s become of us??? I don’t have the answer…

Okay now I’ve got that off my chest. My lovely day has been smothered in presents. Lovely mosaic mezuzah from my very talented friend. It’s just the most beautiful mezuzah I’ve ever seen, and I’m not joking. And I had tea with her. Yes it was hectic with kids around but we chatted over hot sweet potato soup, and it’s always lovely. And I received the most beautiful hand-made necklace and bracelet from a very dear mentor friend of mine. Handmade – two hand-made gifts for the day and POST. Yes you read that right. Three wonderful, beautifully photographed cook books (one healthy) from my dearest, child hood friend Roni in the UK. In this day and age handmade gifts, and post over the seas all spells LOVE. And that’s the exact antidote for a horrible day. Plus all my FB friends who duly sympathise.

John Demartini and many others say that when things are negative and bad there’s always an upside if you look for it. It’s always easier to wallow in the negative – it’s what I usually do. It’s what my child is crying out to do. Flaying all fists and turning bright, bright red. But I’m not. My adult boundaries are in place. I’m going to go and read some delicious recipes and make them and hopefully sooner than later (if they don’t flop) share them with all of you special people out there.

So here’s to all the love and good that we all choose to see and celebrate. And just another big thank you to all of you out there who are just so loving and supportive. It hits the mark!!! Bulls eye!

We did it, we made it to the Drakensberg. The occasion – my birthday. The real reason – we , really needed to get away. And sitting now in the dappled sunlight by a lake overlooking the imposing Drakensberg mountains (which unexpectedly are not forested but rather grasslands), I’m so happy we did.

When I tell mom’s that they should go away for the weekend, everyone says, ‘I’d love to but I feel so guilty.’ I always pooh-poohed the idea of being guilty, but leaving on Sunday taught me something different. I left a mess. In fact we began are getaway with a ginormous tearful (my tears of course) fight. And I’m glad we began that way because the inevitable getaway fight was over at least. And what did we fight about? We fought because I was on the edge of an abyss of hysteria. So tightly strung that a fly in my face would have brought me to tears.

Why? The truth is I’m finding it harder and harder to leave the kids. For three days of awayness it takes me an hour to put a schedule together. Call and sms my kindest, sweetest, most supportive lift scheme moms to cover for me. And of course convince my amazing mother in law to take the three Princes, which she always does, no convincing needed. (Wicked mother in-laws are the stuff of fairy tales in my life. I have wicked other things.) The kids’ schedule is so demanding, I felt like a CEO taking leave. From the detailed instructions of what not to forget for school, like show and tell, sports bag etc. to how to put them to sleep, all at their different times. (Because if you put three Princes to bed at the same time, they have a noisy, Princely party through the night.)

And yes there is guilt. Guilt that the Princes are going to miss me. Although what’s so bad about them missing me? Really if I think rationally it can only be good. We as parents need more appreciation. Guilt for my poor mother in law who sounds exhausted on the phone when I call after ‘Happy Hour’. The Princes are fine all in bed, but she is certainly not. The guilt, guilt, guiltedy guilt builds up.

But it’s worth it… Picture this. Waking up when you want. Eating without having to dish out to three hungry mouths, or get up for the water, tomato sauce or to get a dish cloth to clean up the latest spill. Having evenings to read, write and have yet another cup of tea. Drinking wine with your meal and not having to worry about a hangover. (I can’t get past two glasses of wine without falling asleep. Instead of becoming a better, happier version of me I become sleeping beauty. Why?) Taking long, long walks with a picnic lunch and being able to climb down a steep hill to sit at the bottom of a rushing waterfall in the hug of a cool rock cave. And no one but ourselves complaining, ‘When are we going to get there?’ Heavens just the five-hour drive to the Drakensberg without all the toilet stops and voracious fighting and yelling in the back, was a treat.

So it’s worth going away. It’s worth the guilt. Even parents deserve time out. Especially because it does bring the two of you closer – even with the glass ceiling fight. And the Princes they’re well taken care of and happy. And as I said maybe when we come pack we’ll be more appreciated. I at least appreciate what I do more, that schedule was mad!

So my advice to all moms and dads, go onto the internet now. Begin organising your babysitters. Even do a kid swap if you don’t have amazing mother in-laws available. I think anyone would be willing to take care of your kids for a weekend if you took care of theirs in return so that they too can get away.

Just for the info. We’re staying at Cleopatra Mountain Farmyard. It is absolutely beautiful here. We have a blue and white room, with a fire-place and two bath rooms (to prevent anymore fights). It has the most inspiring herb garden and vegetable patch. The service is next to none and there’s 500 acres to walk around on the farm alone, guided by Uju a super friendly golden retriever. Another option which we considered was Montusi, recommended by a very good friend of mine. It has very good rates for self catering and is also a boutique hotel.