Archives for the month of: January, 2013

This is for Paula and Lara – Mother Support Coffee Pals of NOTE!

The first week back at school has been fabulous. Fabulously difficult, getting all the school gear and uniforms together before it started on Wednesday. And fabulously easy because there’s been no homework. No homework means that the Princes play soccer outside with their Dad before supper catching the day’s last sunny moments drenched in boy bonding sweat and tears. (There are way too many fouls.)

We’ve moved school, which has been heart wrenching, but ultimately what Prince No. 1 wanted (he literally wrote a list of all the pros and negatives of each school and handed it to us last year. So we had no choice but to look into the alternative school.) I love small, homely schools, but I’m learning that there’s an advantage to bigger schools as well. The parents and children have been so welcoming, which has made all the difference. We’ve been completely blessed. So anyone out there with new students in their children’s class, be friendly to the newbies, it goes a LONG way.

There are of course other challenges in moving schools, one of them is dealing with a child’s anxiety to fit in. Every child (and adult) deals with anxiety in different ways. Most children just want to fit in, be seen as just as ‘cool’ as their peers. The question is how far do we as parents give in. ‘Everyone has a Blackberry at school.’ ‘Everyone gets tuck shop money at least twice a week and Mr X gets it three times a week.’ ‘Everyone has a Walka.’ (I’ve just learnt what a DSTV Walka is – it’s a mini portable DSTV TV.) ‘Everyone gets chips, sweets and chocolate in their lunchbox.’

Recently I met a child who had every gizmo gadget, unlimited TV/electronic time and a hefty tuck account. This child was not rotten, bad mannered or unhappily climbing off the walls. No this child was well adjusted, polite, kind and very happy. It made me question myself. Why I spend so much time and energy being a fire breathing dragoneer  policing electronic time and sugar levels? Am I going to relax my rules? No. Although I freely admit that I’ve been humbled by this child, and I’m not sure that my parenting methods are that brilliant. (Can anyone ever be sure?)

What I do know is that I don’t want my kids having Blackberrys at school. (Although he has my old Blackberry now that I come to think of it…) I’m finding it hard to parentally navigate through our high tech electronic world. I want my Princes to have a naive childhood of playing ball, reading books and making things out of sticky tape and paper. (Even if it means sticky tape marks on the ceiling, which Prince No. 1 accomplished this week.)

I definitely don’t want them having a DSTV Walka, EVER. And I retain my right to take away their weekend TV time as a consequence for bad behavior. (As we did last Saturday night. We waltzed out on a date and came back to find the three Princes sitting on the floor building card houses that would make any OT proud. It’s amazing what they resort to when they’re bored!)

House of Cards - Boredom breeds creativity!

House of Cards – Boredom breeds creativity!

We told our Princely Prince that we don’t believe in Walkas or sweets in lunch boxes (besides the odd treat). We told our Prince that our job is to do what we think is best for him until he’s 18. I was so proud of my hubbie when he clearly said, ‘We don’t believe in it.’ And that was the end of the Walka/’everyone else has one’ conversation.

Even though Prince No. 1 hates it, I think one day he’ll look back and be so grateful and happy, that he learnt boundaries in life from an early age. That TV isn’t everything, that having what everyone else has doesn’t make you a better person, or like your self more. (By the way we consequently found out that ‘everyone has one’ = a tiny, minuscule percentage of the class.)

Now on to Lunch Box Blues:

I think every mother experiences Lunch Box Blues. Last year the question always was –

What the heck am I going to put in their lunchbox today? Inevitably I’d end up making the generic cheese sandwich, on ‘normal’ bread as the Princes call whole wheat bread (rebelling against my Low GI option), no tomato or butter. This year I am determined to do things differently.

I took my Princely Prince aside and asked him what he’d like in his lunchbox. Of course he said, ‘Chocolates, sweet sours and chips.’ I said, ‘Of course that’s what you’d like. Now what would you like in your lunch box?’ And we got down to business. We wrote a list of snacks, sandwiches and treats that he liked and then we made up a schedule which I am going to stick on the kitchen wall (…as soon as I create a spreadsheet. I’m lying, as soon as I give it to my spread sheet addicted husband to make for me. I never quite got spread sheets at school.)

I loved sitting with my Prince and coming up with his favourite foods. I have buy in and if he complains all I need to do is point to the list. So I recommend making a ‘lunch’ date with your child and making your own list. PLEASE, PLEASE post your lunch box ideas, send pics anything!!!! to give me and other moms more lunch box ideas.

Here’s my list:

Snacks

Fun Yummy Snacks

Fun Yummy Snacks

Popcorn

Chocolate muffin (healthy homemade – am still working on my perfect healthy recipe. My last batch flopped! Will post when it works out 🙂 )

Biltong

Fruit – naartjies, oranges, plums, litchis (Summer fruit makes it so easy)

Woolies Fruit roll ups

Chips

Woolies Rice Crackers – Chutney flavour

Veggies cut up – peppers, carrots, cucumbers in a container with feta cheese cubes and olives

Main Lunch

Monday – Cheese and Tomato sandwiches

Tuesday – Fry’s Vegetarian Sausages (I don’t personally think these are that healthy, but the Princes love them.)

Wednesday – Pizza or Pasta (homemade)

Thursday – Tuck

Friday – Tuna Mayo sandwich

This is a very basic outline. It makes school lunch predictable and it’s easy to fall back on when I draw a mindless blank. To be honest I won’t stick to it all the time, I’m not a stick to schedule all the time person. I do add the odd chocolate and treat in. I am reaching the conclusion that if a child sees a healthy home with balanced meals, chips and cake at school won’t kill them.

QUESTION – Are we spoiling our children investing so much time an energy into their lunch boxes? I remember getting the same Vegemite sandwich (stop saying ewwww. I like Vegemite.) at school every day, and a packet of chips, a piece of yummy home made marble cake, plus an apple. I never, ever touched the apple, gave away the cake and shared the chips. The most memorable lunch I ever had was a vegemite sandwich with jam. Inedible but funny. I never got to choose my lunch, let alone complain about it. So why do I make such a fuss for my Princes?

The reason is because I learnt the hard way that the Princes were more than unimpressed by their limited gastronomic lunch box choices, they felt unloved. It may just be guys, but with my hubbie and Princes, the way to their hearts is seriously through their stomachs. (With me it’s with chocolate, anything exotic, dark and smelling of a truffle, with a cappuccino.) Food = Mommy’s Love. And that’s why I do take their lunches  seriously. (New year’s resolution…) And it works. I made Prince No. 3 Kiri cheese crackers the other day. (Kiri cheese being an imported cheese treat in my house, that I know he sincerely loves.) He saw it and wrapped his sweet five year old arms around me and said emphatically, ‘I love you.’

Love makes the world go round doesn’t it? I’m going to keep buying Kiri cheese.

Snack notes are a great way to give that extra bit of lunchbox love. New Years Resolution - more notes, even if it's just a smiley face on a sandwich packet.

Snack notes are a great way to give that extra bit of lunchbox love. New Years Resolution – more notes, even if it’s just a smiley face on a sandwich packet.

It’s funny but in my house there are four Princes and a Drama Queen, as my hubbie (it sounds to odd to call him the king) says. And he’s right. It’s the beginning of the new year. There’s nothing as positive and fresh as a new beginning. Like waking up at 6:30am to the trilling birds and the morning fresh chill which is so welcome after our heat wave yesterday. It gives me new energy. And what do I do with all this new energy? I go into over drive and make long lists of things to do, and then go into panic mode as I ‘have’ so much to do, and then I can’t sleep, because I can’t relax and the Drama Queen is out in full force with the best of the Princes whining, ‘I can’t sleep’ and ‘leave me alone’.

I don’t know how many mom’s out there experience the same thing. I find it hard to balance all the practical duties, like dentist, school shoes, school supplies, school book coverings, the garden, de-cluttering a very messy play room, bedrooms etc. etc. And then I feel bad, because I know these are good problems to have. Living in Africa, I know it’s an absolute privilege to worry about ‘stuff’ and to be able to afford to buy all the never-ending school things. (Prince No. 1 and No. 2 actually laughed at me at the till as we bagged loads and loads of school supplies, they said, ‘Can you imagine what you’re going to do when Prince No. 3 is also at school.’)

I’m anxious about my time. I don’t like this feeling of my chest being pressed down by iron tongs. No one does. And I bet a lot of people’s resolutions this new year is to take it easier, stress less and enjoy more. How do I do that?

I’ve come up with a bit of a games plan, which I’ve been actioning for the last two weeks. My progress so far has been the proverbial, two steps forward one step back.

MY OWN SPACE

With lack of my own time comes lack of space. My own sacred space. As I type this I have Prince No. 4 (adorably) crawling himself into a corner, and Prince No. 1 is busy getting his school stuff together on the floor. (Does anyone remember how much fun it was to get all that sparkling, brand new school supplies ready for school and actually look forward to school.)  I could rent a space, which is a fabulous idea and works well for many working women I know. They get to be out and about and have quiet time and space to do their work. But it wouldn’t work for me at this stage. Not with baby cakes 4, to take care of.

But have no fear, I won’t keep complaining, this is the year where I action my dreams so I’ve designed my own corner of the house which is MINE.

My Beautiful Space

My Beautiful Space

It’s only a table and chair. (Although I splurged, so it’s the perfect most beautiful table and chair). It’s a completely neat and clean table with nothing on it. I’ve moved my dear hubbie’s unsightly treadmill from the bay window and now I face out onto our little kitchen courtyard where there’s a quaint row of potato bushes. (It sounds Jane Austenish doesn’t it.) It’s a lovely feeling to sit in my space. So lovely that I caught my dear hubbie sitting in it last night. But I forgave him, because it’s probably the only clutter free surface in our whole house.

I’m loving my own space. I’m loving the self respect and identity that comes with it. It’s so important to have  something that’s yours. It’s important for everyone in the family. I once read (or heard) Dr – Rabbi Twerski, who said that every child should have their own space, even if it’s a cupboard that they can lock, which no one else is allowed to touch. It makes sense, so that every one has a sense of their own identity.

So I’m typing from a clean space.

DIVIDE LIST

I’ve divided my fire ladder long list and do a bit each day, just like the experts recommend.

BE KIND TO SELF – HAVE FUN

And most of all I’m trying to be kind to myself. It’s okay if I don’t manage everything. And I’m making sure that on my list are to do the things I love and find relaxing. Like making the perfect, healthy, yummy muesli recipe. (So far this morning I burnt my second batch. The first batch I made last week, where I learnt you can’t roast goji berries, they burn incredibly fast. When I’ve perfected it I will be sure to post it.)

Third Batch Just Right!

Third Batch Just Right!

Life shouldn’t be one long arduous list. It should be a bit exciting, fun and adventurous. Even if it’s just in the kitchen for now.

 

 

I’ve gone on holiday from my blog…. EEk is that allowed? Somehow in going on holiday with the Princes and hubbie, I’ve gone on holiday from myself. No yoga, no writing and no blogging. Boogie boarding, sand in toes and hair and searching for cozzies were the order of the day for the last three weeks. (The other two weeks were spent trying to get ready for holiday and wrap up school.) In going on holiday I went a bit mad. No schedule, no space for myself to keep me sane. I never knew I relied on my mad Joburg schedule to keep me sane.

On holiday I find myself shopping for food, cooking said food and searching for cozzies, as previously mentioned. But that’s not what drove me into ‘unhappy’ mode for the first week of our lovely beach, fun in the sun, holiday. What drove me mad was myself. My own need to have my own space so I can write, blog and be peacefully alone. By the second week I had improved somewhat, by accepting that we were on a ‘family holiday’, not a writing retreat. By the third week, I said, ‘to hell, I’ll wait to go back to Johannesburg’, and I threw myself into the crashing waves with the best of the Princes boogie boards.

I’m now back in Johannesburg. I’ve been back for three days and I’m still going mad. My To Do list is as expansive as the sea that I’ve left behind. To write this I’ve locked myself in the study so that I’ll finally write a blog post. It’s worked. I’m feeling better already. Just sitting and doing, taking the time out and ignoring all else, especially little Princes.

I thought I’d learnt by now, that children are the best excuses not to do, and its not an excuse. As a mother I have a duty to carve my time out as selfishly and heartlessly as…as my husband. He ran on holiday, caught up on his work and read his book very peacefully. He was also a much more fabulous, happy parent then I was. (Hard to admit but it’s true. Although he did have full nights sleep which I don’t have the luxury of these days.)

Julia Cameron writes in her book, ‘Walking in This World’ – ‘When I was a young single mother, I felt guilty because I craved time away from my daughter. I wanted silence. I needed to hear my own thoughts. I also needed to take my own soul by the hand occasionally and not have to worry about keeping my daughter’s tiny hand clutched. Whatever dreams I harbored had better take the back burner….’ An older woman friend advised her, “Take a night off. Take care of your artist. That will make you a much better mother. You need to get in reality here. Society tells you motherhood comes first, but-with you -it doesn’t. If you’re honest about that and put your artist first, you might be quite a good mother. Lie to yourself about it -and did you know most child abuse come from too much togetherness.”

So my new years resolution is to empower myself and my time, and not go around feeling so guilty every time I take time out. Yes kids are the best distraction from fulfilling ourselves. It’s also never-ending. The kid duties will always be there. There’s never enough time for them. So I’m going to make sure to take some time out for me, especially on holiday.

But to end this post on many happy high notes I’m going to list some of my best moments of my holiday, what pulled me through it, because at the end of the day, it was a fabulous holiday, good quality fun, and luckily it’s not over yet. We have another one and a half homework free weeks.

Best Holiday Read – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I loved this trilogy. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the books are riveting, despite being a bit gory. I love, love, love the twist at the end and the overall comment on governments. Be careful, it’s addictive reading.

Best Inspirational Read – The Happiness Project – By Gretchen Rubin 

This is an amazing book by a mom who looks to make her ‘happy’ life consciously ‘happier’. I thought at first that she’s too organised and methodical in her approach, but having got more than half way through it (it’s quite an exhausting read, as I realise how much I’m not doing that perhaps I should be doing), it’s brilliant what she accomplishes. I love her insights. This is a book to read slowly, savour and learn from.

Best Series – Downton Abbey – I love, love, love Downton Abbey. We watched the third series and the Christmas edition, which ended terribly, be warned. Love the costumes, and the characters and the period piece that it is. Tried to watch the Homeland series, but is it just me or is it way too hectic?

Amazing Sights – One thing I’ve always enjoyed on holiday is the view. I love the glorious sunsets by the beach, the ever-changing hues of colour in the sea. Walking on the beach and taking it all in!

Featherbed Nature Reserve Hike Knysna

Featherbed Nature Reserve Hike Knysna

Growing old together on the beach. Most romantic image.

Growing old together on the beach. Most romantic image.

Cricket on the Beach - Proving Aussies can really bat well, even if they are female!
Cricket on the Beach – Proving Aussies can really bat well, even if they are female!

New Year's Eve Cape Coloured singers and musicians serenading at a cafe. They were brilliant!

New Year’s Eve Cape Coloured singers and musicians serenading at a cafe. They were brilliant!

And a magnificent sunset....

And a magnificent sunset….

 

Looking back, there are always good and bad moments on holiday. Enjoying, relishing and reminiscing the good is the happier choice. It makes me wish I was back holidaying by the sea. So those of you who still are by the beach – enjoy!!!