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Thursday, 6 December 2012

The last ramble of 2012


 When you hear an old well-known Christmas song, do you just hum along to the tune or do you really listen to the words? For the first two Christmases, here at World’s end I could not listen to my Christmas CDs they made me too homesick. But Christmas feels naked without Christmas songs playing on the hi-fi, so I bought a Melissa Etheridge Christmas CD, new Christmas songs new memories. For the first time I actually took the time to sit and listen to the words of the songs. I discovered that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” a song I’ve heard every Christmas but never listened to is appropriate now especially for us living so far from all our family.

Through the years
we all will be together
if the Fates allow”


Like most families spread around the world, our Christmases here are quiet, but we have begun to develop our own special routines and traditions. One of these traditions is dressing the tree with homemade decorations by the Butterfly. The other is Christmas lunch, the Mauritian cooks, the Butterfly helps and I sit back and do nothing! We’re getting there, it’s a slow process and there have been a disaster or two. You have to “forget” about the home traditions and not try to recreate them it just doesn’t work. The fates have been good to us, we have friends who seem to go out of their way to help make Christmas busy and though we miss our family back home during the silly season, we don’t get time to brood over it.

 

This year the fates have allowed us to be with our family once again to celebrate together and we are all looking forward to it. Our counting worm is getting smaller and smaller and the Butterfly is taking great pleasure in artistically crossing off each day. She is practicing a Christmas song every day so she can sing with her Gran at a Christmas concert. She has her carryon bag all sorted with things she wants and needs. We also will be bringing the Butterfly’s favourite companion, Frederick Le Frog! Against advice, Fred will be joining us on our tropical holiday. Apparently, he can’t stay at World’s end he’ll get lonely and there will be no one at home to hug him at bedtime. That odd-looking stuffed green toy frog has shared the Butterfly’s pillow every night from the day we brought her home, I don’t think she will sleep right if he’s not where she can get to him, but I’m also concerned she will leave him somewhere. But I shall leave the safety of Fred up to the fates and allow him to hide in the Butterfly’s carry on in the hopes he does not wonder off on his own. The Mauritian is trying desperately to finish his loudspeaker project so he can listen to them before we go. I’m not holding out much hope though, between the long hours he works, his obsession with gym (we all know about that) the demands for his attention from his daughters and the to do list I wrote for him he’s not left with much time to build them.  The Lollipop has been caught up in the excitement; she even has to put her artist flare on our counting worm each day.

And me, I’m hopping along happily getting myself into a panic about just about everything. I am not only looking forward to introducing my lollipop to her extended family but I also finally get to meet my youngest niece “Turn the page.”  I get to have long chats with my mum about, well, everything, and get my fill of mum’s cooking. I am looking forward to seeing my dad sitting in front of the Christmas tree dressed in his infamous “Mr. Furly” shirt and handing out the presents to his grandchildren. I am looking forward to the hot sticky Durban weather and the annoying Hadedas. I am looking forward to walking along the beachfront and strolling through shopping malls trying to avoid the smelly masses. In short, I am looking forward to swapping our quiet small town suburban Christmas for a hustle, bustle busy noisy hot tropical Christmas with family. Be assured that I shall be flying back to the end of the world with lots of blog able reflections and sentiments. Even now as I type these words, I am smiling in anticipation! What an awesome feeling. But, what I am most looking forward to during these up and coming six weeks is our ten days in the Mauritian’s island of birth. I look forward to meeting his extended family and watching him interact with them and I can’t wait to tour the island with him and listen to him drag up memories from his subconscious and share them. I know he will be feeling very sentimental for our time there and I know he is going there with some sadness. We have made no plans for our time there except to go to his father’s grave and say our final goodbyes. For the Mauritian this trip is a trip of closure and acceptance, for him saying a physical goodbye to his father will be the end of his mourning. I will be there in as support because he will need me there but I am not looking forward to that moment. But the excitement of seeing a new country and visiting the places where my husband’s first memories were formed override the feelings of sadness that will be with us there.

Lately the Butterfly has been belting out Christmas carols while in the bath. Now I listen to the words as they bounce off the walls around the house and out the backdoor to the neighbour’s kitchen window. The memories those Christmas songs and carols invoke no longer hurt, now I can marvel at how the Butterfly’s memories are being formed and I wonder what she will and won’t remember in time. I ask her what the songs mean and if she understands them and we talk about them and their origin. I love listening to her talk as she thinks things through and comes to an understanding, I love watching her learn. She often sits next to her sister on their “Uncle B” couch and sings to her and the Lollipop just looks and listens. Then a few days later the Lollipop will be playing with Mr. Bear and singing a vaguely familiar tune. My girls love music I think it is encoded into their genes!

It’s the first of December, the Mauritian is celebrating his fortieth birthday early with friends and its gotten rather noisy. The Lollipop is asleep, the Butterfly is watching movies, and I am listening to our guests and the Mauritian laughing loudly and long to some dirty comment. It’s such a comforting sound, the sounds of happiness and friendship; we have good friends here at world’s end. We have been extremely lucky; the fates are truly on our side.                                                                                  It’s the early hours of Sunday morning and there is now officially less than two weeks before we fly home. It occurred to me as I send Uncle B and Granddad Boom on their merry way that we weren’t saying goodnight to friends, we were saying goodnight to family. They have not replaced our blood family nor have they filled a gap, they have forged their own place in our lives and become our family. We will be celebrating and commiserating together as time goes by. The Mauritian and I have everything we need; we have each other, two gorgeous daughters, a big extended family spread throughout the world and good reliable friends who we miss every day. We live in a beautiful country where we are happy, comfortable and successful. We want for nothing! But we have been blessed with new friends who have become more than that, they are a part of our lives just like our blood family is a part of our lives. They invite themselves for Sunday lunch, babysit our kids, help us when asked and turn to us in their times of need or happiness. We have two families, our blood family and our Kiwi family, you cant get any more blessed then that.

This Christmas season, I think, will have a special meaning for me. This year there will be so much laughter noise and happiness as we celebrate with our families. This year there will be sadness because the reality is it will be a while before we will see our blood family again. This year there will be tears when we pay our respects to those that have died. This Christmas season there will be gratitude. Gratitude for the invention of aeroplanes, cellular telephones, the Internet and that marvellous invention called SKYPE. Gratitude for family and all the baggage that they come with, for the friends we’ve know all our lives and the ones we’ve forgotten. I am grateful for the children that keep us grounded and young if a little flustered and emotional. I am grateful for the welcome, acceptance and chance to start a new and better life in a new country. Most importantly this Christmas I am grateful that when someone asks me if we have “family” here at World’s end I can now say “Yes!”   

For me and my family there has been a big build-up to this Christmas, our entire year has revolved around these coming six weeks. There is no fear of too high an expectation because no matter what’s happens it’s just going to be awesome to be around and amongst the familiar and the family. There will be new people, places, sights and smells for my children to learn and absorb. There will be reuniting with friends and family, we will visit the places we grew up and bore the girls with our “when I was your age” stories. What fun it’s all going to be! In the end we will endure a 24-hour trip back to the end of the world, to our new lives and our new home. South Africa will always be the home of our heart because that is where the Mauritian and I began our journey together. But World’s end is the only home my children know, it is where their friends are, where they will go to school, where their memories begin. Thanks to those we now call family World’s end is now also our home!

So as the New Year, Christmas and our departure fast approaches this will be my last blog of 2012. What a year it’s been, especially the second half! Two birthdays in the space of two weeks meant a whole lot of baking, next year I shall be combining their birthdays! The Butterfly started school, the Mauritian changed jobs and we seemed to be busy every weekend entertaining or being entertained. We spent some quality time with good friends in a very beautiful part of the country and taken loads of day trips to the little towns and villages that surround the mountain that dominates our little piece of earth. There have been sleepless nights, sick children, far too much rain and hundreds of cocktails consumed. The girls are growing and learning everyday and every day they are teaching us something new. We are carving out a niche for ourselves here at the end of the world and every year it grows a little bigger and little more comfortable. Next year will bring with it new challenges, and exciting adventures. Next year we have no plans, we no longer need to settle into life here, nor do we need to plan a trip or help the Mauritian find a new job. I don’t have to ready the home and family for a new baby or prepare anyone for the start of big school. There will be no frantic search for a new home or calls and emails back and forth to immigration consultants.  Next year we will just be living at the end of the world, going about our lives like every other Kiwi. I look forward to that. Next year I am not going to make any resolutions, I am not going to put myself under pressure. Next year I am just going to be and let life unfold around me. Perhaps turn my mind back towards publishing...

One final thought before I sign off. These past four years here at World’s end we have concentrated on settling in and learning about how things are done. It has dawned on me that while doing this we have not once looked back. To succeed in a new country you can’t look back you have to look forward and keep driving forward no matter the obstacles in the way. It’s been tough starting from scratch and learning to rely on different people. Unlike the Mauritian I don’t make friends easily so dealing with strangers while finding a Kindy for the Butterfly and then been subjected to other parents I didn’t know was torture for me at first. I still battle to say more than a fleeting hello to other school mums but I’m getting better at small talk. The Butterfly’s open and friendly personality helps because she has no qualms about introducing me to her friend’s parents and arranging play dates. Fortunately one of her “best” friends lives across the road from us so last minute play date plans are possible. The Mauritian’s ability to converse with people has served him well here; he is a natural at networking. It’s because of this ability that he was able to move up the corporate ladder so to speak. I have learnt that in order to get on and carry on I have to just make small talk and realise that sometimes a stranger really means it when they ask how I am.

So now with just a week and a bit before departure and after what I hope is my final panic attack that I haven’t done everything I shall bid you all a fond farewell for 2012. As you head towards the Christmas weekend I hope the shopping is not too hectic or too expensive and that everything runs to plan. Remember to stop and really listen to those Christmas songs that are constantly playing wherever you are. Have an awesome, loving laughter filled and blessed Christmas everyone. As 2013 dawns may you leave the hurts, mistakes and sorrows of 2012 behind and hold the fun, laughter and love in your hearts and in  this new year may you only look forward and forge onward no matter what.

 Haere rā katoa, aroha me ahu. Love and light!                                                                              
http://youtu.be/emwtV7nCEkg
"...Hang a shining star upon the hightest bough,
  and have yourselves a merry little christmas now"                                                  
 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Long-Term


About a week ago, I had a visitor, a rather sad visitor who needed someone to talk to, so I made some coffee, cut us a slice of chocolate crunch each, and started to listen. That’s all I could do, listen, there was nothing I could say that would make my visitor feel better. There was no inspired advice I could give that would help to radically change the situation. I have no magic wand I can wave and make things right. But oh, how I wanted to do more then just listen. Don’t you just hate that, when a friend is hurting and there is nothing you can do to help? It’s been a while since I’ve commiserated with a friend over a break up, the last two friends who got divorced I celebrated with! But with this visitor, things are different; I liked the couple I thought they worked well together. Obviously, I was wrong. In those two hours of conversation, I learnt more about my visitor then I had learnt in the past two years. I don’t know for sure if I was any help, or if my visitor left feeling any better but I was glad I was there to listen. I’m not sure I said anything new or earth shattering but I think at least I said what my visitor needed to hear. But my visitor left smiling, so I must’ve done something right.

In the days since my visitor left I have been thinking and reflecting on the things I was told and I have realised that I’m so glad those early years in my relationship are over. Getting to know someone and learning to accept their “faults” is not a simple process. Being young and arrogant doesn’t a compromise make. The realisation that your partner doesn’t communicate the same way you do takes a lot of misunderstandings and arguments. Of course first you have to learn to listen to each other before you can learn to communicate. Yep I’m really glad those first years of my relationship are over! I’m glad that now the Mauritian and I can communicate an entire conversation with just one look. I enjoy the fact that when I gripe at the Mauritian he defends himself with humour and makes me laugh. In the first years we always had to be doing something or going somewhere. Now we are both happy to just be in the same room together doing our own thing. The conversation is random and disjointed but we understand each other. We used to plan every moment of our weekends with friends or family, now we’re okay with sitting at home doing nothing for an entire weekend. When we first met we went all out to have quantity time now we just appreciate the quality time.

It’s been just over two weeks and my visitor has moved on to the single life again and doing fine. It seems to me my visitor has accepted the end of this long-term relationship, taking the lessons learnt and is heading out into the world armed and ready to start again.

As much as I sometimes wish I was twenty two again, I’m glad I’m not single, and I’m sure glad I wasn't when I was twenty two.

A Moment's Panic


Today my Mum asked me a question regarding our trip back home for what we have come to call our “Tropical Holiday.” I read the message, glance over at our counting worm and realised that the Butterfly had forgotten to cross off a number of days and we now only had just shy of four weeks before departure. Suddenly I had “butterflies” in my tummy just for a moment because it has dawned on me that we shall be travelling with a Lollipop in tow. It has occurred to me that when we went to buy our plane tickets I didn’t think the Lollipop would be any trouble. But then I was thinking of the Lollipop as she was then, eight months old. The reality is that the Lollipop will be just two month younger then the Butterfly was when we left South Africa. Oh, says my slow thinking brain that’s all right then because the Butterfly was an absolute gem and no trouble at all.

Unfortunately, I eventually caught up with myself and reminded myself that everything the Butterfly is the Lollipop isn’t! Oh, crap! I have a feeling that this trip is not going to be as easy as the first! When we left the Butterfly walked next to me quietly and quickly and held tight to my hand or shirt, rendering the kiddie safety strap redundant. I know that this time round she will do the same thing. The Lollipop refuses to hold my hand making the strap an absolute necessity. Unfortunately, Lollipop fights the strap and she is slowly working out how to take it off her wrist. Coming here the Butterfly sat still and quiet on my lap and did her best to sleep, this time round she will have her own chair. I am sure she will be very happy to wear earphones and watch movies; however, I’m not sure she will sleep. Lollipop is a wriggler; I can picture her climbing on and off my lap, moving between the Mauritian, the Butterfly and me when she isn’t trying to run up and down the aisles, I know without any doubt the Lollipop is not going to go to sleep very easily. In the airports between flights Butterfly sat quietly next to me looking around her, no doubt the Lollipop will be off running and yelling and screaming murder when she is stopped. I best stop talking about this; I’m starting to scare myself.

On reflection I am somewhat prepared for the worst. I shall be taking a supply of formula with me to replace meals and a drink bottle of water to keep her hydrated. At sleep times, I will attach her to me with the “kangaroo” carrier so she can’t wriggle out or fall off. I shall carry a bottle of Panado and feed it to her every four hours to help keep her calm(ish) and I will get a sedative from the doctor in case she gets out of hand. I have a plan to foil her attempts to undo her strap and I will allow her to walk about the airport while the Mauritian does all the check ins. Hopefully I have it all covered.

If not, I’m in for a memorable trip!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Catching Up With Myself


I noticed yesterday that I hadn’t posted a blog for a couple of months. I’ve been trying to work out what it is that has created this gap in my ramblings. Then I found this one...

Life certainly knows how to get away from you sometimes. After the traumatic experience of the Butterfly’s first days at school and the sheer excitement when the Mauritian began his new job I looked up and we were half way through October. So much for slowing down absorbing each day   and seeing the world through the eyes of my children.

With the official arrival of spring came the need to clean house and get out visiting or having visitors. We’ve managed to have weekends full of visitors but unfortunately the spring cleaning that this house so desperately needs got washed out. I have never seen so much rain, I was wondering if here at World’s end we were on our way to joining Atlantis. With so much rain comes “cabin fever.” There are only so many indoor games to play, only so many pictures one can draw or paint and only so many cookies mum can tolerate baking. Its hard work keeping two kids occupied during 2 weeks of holiday when it rains everyday!

However, these two weeks of rained soaked school holiday has also brought the busyness to a slow stroll and I have finally found the time to catch my breath and focus on what will need doing as we begin the last quarter of 2012.

We have celebrated fourteen years of marriage, the Lollipop is fifteen months old and the Butterfly has eight weeks left of school before the Christmas holidays. In a couple of day’s time, my lifelong friend arrives back at World’s end after a four-week visit back home. Her return marks the beginning of another period of busyness as we begin our wind down to our visit home. Up until these school holidays I have had a never ending “to do” list which I have endeavoured to cross something off it every day. I managed, mostly, but in the process, I seemed to have managed to tie myself in knots of confusion and neglected other more important tasks. By the last week of school, which was an extremely busy week for the Butterfly I was looking forward to the holidays and the chance to concentrate on what I needed to do. I also planned to ensure that both children were occupied and busy for the holidays. Yep I had it all worked out, I even made a schedule!

But, as normally happens, in my life at least, nothing goes to plan. The first few days of the holiday, it absolutely poured buckets of rain and blew icy cold gales too. So though we are well equip to endure a walk in the rain the wind just made it far too cold. So we stayed inside and very soon what indoor amusements I had so carefully planned were used up. By the Wednesday afternoon I had given up all hope of getting anything planned done, so I made myself a pot of coffee, grabbed a box of biscuits out the tin and sat down on the couch and watch “101 Dalmatians” with my girls! What an awesome time we had, just the three of us sipping out of our respective bottles or cups and polishing off the biscuits. When the sun came out later that afternoon the Butterfly asked if we could go for a walk, why not I thought it may be our only outing this holiday. So we went, happily strolling along talking about the needless things that five-year-old chatterboxes find to talk about. We popped into the grocery store for some supplies and when we left five minutes later the heavens had opened. Yet again there were sheets of rain falling, and I had left the house without any raincoats, what a silly mother! So I told the Butterfly that we would have to stay under shelter until it stopped, but the Butterfly said “But mum I love walking in the rain!” and I thought why not. So off the three of us went shrieking with delight as we were soaked through in a matter of seconds. The Butterfly had her head up facing the sky and her mouth open because she was thirsty and needed a drink of water. It was raining so hard she almost choked. The Lollipop was squealing trying desperately to catch a raindrop. Waiting to cross the road we were splashed by the passing cars; I looked like I was wearing war paint from the mud the cars churned up. By the time the rain did stop we were almost home and glad for it, by now the wind was picking up and it was getting cold.

It was while the girls were happily splashing in a hot bath warming up and I was cooking supper that I decided that whatever needed doing could wait until the new school term. For now I was going to be on holiday too! If it meant chasing bubbles in the backyard instead of making the beds then that’s what I was going to do. I was going to slow down, look at life from a lower level, and have a little fun.

So that’s what I did, though I did manage to convince the Butterfly that I would trade her help with the housework in the mornings for a game of “6 Pin Bowling” in the passage. I must be the only mother who has even played hopscotch in the rain!

Now its half way through November, the weather finally has dried up and we are back to routine. The Mauritian no longer feels like he’s learning a new job. The Lollipop is absorbing new things every moment. The Butterfly is now “playing” cricket so my Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings are sorted for the rest of the year. My lifelong friend is home and adjusting to some changes and we are counting the days until we leave World’s end for our tropical holiday. I realised in a panic that we suddenly only had six weeks until we left. I was thinking we still had so much to organise and hoping I hadn’t left too much until the last minute. So I made a time with the Mauritian when we would sit down together and plan out what needed organising and who would do it. So we sat at the dining room table all prepared and ready to make plans, only to realise we didn’t have much to do anyway. We had been so busy we didn’t even realise how much we did! Needless to say, we were now at a bit of a loss about what to do with the time we had set aside.

Now with just thirty-seven days to go before we leave I am finding myself looking for things to do to make the waiting go quicker. The spring-cleaning has started and each day my house is looking a little brighter, cleaner and less cluttered. I’ve been baking again, but that’s another blog I’ll get to one day. I am also managing to keep to my resolve and not rush about trying to do everything at once. I make sure that we are all ready well within time in the mornings so we can all spend some quality time with each other. I spend the morning playing with the Lollipop and do my chores when she is napping. Pierre comes home at lunchtime now so I sit with him and chat about our day so far instead of doing the laundry. In short I just take my time doing things; the funny thing is I seem to be getting it all done anyway.

Yep now that I have finally caught up with myself and slowed myself down things are being achieved.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Oh What a ... Morning!


There are mornings when though his eyes are open the Mauritian is still sleeping. There are mornings when the Butterfly sits staring into space playing aimlessly with her food instead of eating it. There are mornings when the Lollipop attaches herself to my leg and will not let go no matter what. Then, there are mornings when everything happens all at once. Its mornings like these that all I want to do is wake up and discovered it was all a dream, and that I don’t have monster children or a useless spouse! In fact, its mornings like these where being alone seems to be the best way to be. I look forward to the day I can roll out of bed at whatever time I want, make breakfast and coffee for one, sit in front of the TV, and take my time about everything.

Then there are those mornings when we wake up before the alarm clock or the children and the Mauritian and I can lie in and chat a bit. Plan our day together even though we will be in two different places. Drink a hot mug of coffee slowly not swallowed between chores. There are those mornings when all runs to plan and everyone is on time and chores done without any trouble.  I like those mornings and the feelings of calmness and achievement. Mornings like that create days of productivity and preparedness, which leads to readiness for the next morning and a chain of days that start well.

Then there are mornings The Mauritian has to meet a client early, so we stumbled out of bed earlier than normal. The Mauritian heads to the bathroom and I to the kitchen and the coffee supplies. By the time the Mauritian runs out the door yelling a reminder to make an apple crumble for him to take to work tomorrow breakfast is made, the accounts the housework are done. There are mornings when the Butterfly gets dressed and makes her bed before coming through for breakfast and instead of saying good morning, she says, “Mum, today is my lucky day!” There are mornings when the Lollipop calls from her bedroom at just the right time and she happily sits on her couch with her toast and tea and leaves me to carry on unhindered. There are mornings when I can sit and relax before the school run. There are mornings when the Butterfly has finished her chores and can now do as she like before the school run. There are mornings when the Lollipop is fed, clean, dressed, and playing happily in her sister’s bedroom. These are very rare but positive mornings!

Then there are my favourite mornings, like today, when we don’t just have a positive morning but a happy morning. Those times, like today, when there is laughter, singing, and fun. Those times, like today, when everything was a game. Like walking into the bathroom and the Mauritian takes great delight in throwing water at me, or tickling the Butterfly awake and been told I’ve lost my brain in my sleep. When the Lollipop does her silly dance while head banging and singing “Ha la la la la la” to the tune of “Happy birthday.” When sisters share their breakfast with each other and the furniture. When we make up silly songs about what we are doing and Papa gets it wrong because he wasn't really listening. When we all stand on the pavement in our pyjamas jumping up and down waving goodbye to the Mauritian as he leaves for work. When chores take time being done because we’re all too busy playing then we have to run to school giggling because we’re going to be late.

Ah yes indeed these mornings are my favourite, after such a good start nothing can get me down. Not even the fact that I spent the morning playing with the Lollipop until her naptime then the rest writing a blog about my morning and now I have to play catch up and get things done before the end of the school day and the start of the evening chores.

I’m too happy to care!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Hurricane Hollie


There is a line from the musical Oklahoma when Curly exclaimed in horror “Great snakes almighty!” It is a line I used repeatedly one Friday when hurricane Hollie past through my house.

My ideal day starts early before anyone else wakes up when I can do the whole “shit, shower and shave” process without interruption and I can take my time. It also allows me to get breakfast ready and start the housework before the morning rush begins. Unfortunately, it is very seldom that I managed to get myself up by half past five especially in the depth of the winter. Friday, however was one of my early mornings, I was awake at four in the morning and decided to get up and start my day. By the time everyone was rushing around getting ready for school or work I had done just about everything I was required to do. So once the Butterfly was at school and the Lollipop was sitting empting her toy box and not having a muse in residence for the day I decided to clean out cupboards and draws. I did such a good job, everything looked rather organised for a change, so organised in fact that the chances of me actually finding anything was almost nil.  

Then the Lollipop woke up from her morning nap in a foul mood! “Great snakes almighty!” what a fight it was just to change her nappy, after finally managing to attach it I let her go pants less. She ran straight into the kitchen opened two kitchen draws and the plastic ware cupboards and empty them completely all the time shouting profanities at me. How dare I even think about changing her nappy when she has things to do! Then while I was repacking the kitchen, she wiggled behind the television and started fiddling with wires so she got a talking to and a smack. “Great snakes almighty!” did she get her own back! She ran away from me crying, I watched as she went into her sister’s bedroom I figured I would finish in the kitchen then check on her I was sure she would just play happily in the Butterfly’s toy box as usual. I found her sitting on Butterfly’s art box having first negotiated her way around the bike, pulling all the books out of the bookshelf. The art box was in front of the bookshelf to stop her doing exactly that and the bike was in front of the box to stop her climbing on it. Well that did not work! So I took her off and sorted out that mess, the Lollipop in the mean time discovered that the Butterfly had not closed her cupboard door properly that morning. So the Lollipop went in there and took out the entire contents of the Butterfly’s closet. So when I finished the bookshelf I repacked the cupboard this time while the Lollipop played in the toy box.

Relieved I headed to the kitchen to make the Lollipop’s lunch. I went to fetch her to eat and found her in her room unpacking her nappies, having worked out how to take the lid of the box first! “Great snakes all mighty!”  That was going to take ages to pick up because there was a knack to packing them into the box that they all fit. So I left the nappies and we went to have lunch, after four mouthfuls I gave up! The Lollipop decided that afternoon she did not like her vegetables and she sprayed each mouthful back at me! “Great snakes almighty!” I was covered! So I made her a vegemite sandwich   and went to her room to pack the nappies back into the box. But things got a little too quiet, on inspection I found the Lollipop cleaning the television screen with her sandwich, vegemite side down!” Great snakes almighty!” I turned around and went back to packing nappies. She also pulled all the cds out of the racks, emptied both the Mauritian’s and my bedside draws, figured out how to open the doors of the antique bar and put the packet of toilet paper into the loo! Great snakes almighty!” I was glad when it was time to fetch the Butterfly from school, wrongly thinking the Butterfly would entertain the Lollipop and the destruction would stop! Unfortunately, when we got home she wrestled with the Butterfly for her backpack, ripped the Butterfly’s lunchbox away and emptied the leftovers around the lounge! I’m not sure how, because she has not done it again, but she managed to open the Butterfly’s water bottle and empted the contents on the dining room floor and then proceeded to slip and hit her head. “Great snakes almighty!” I was by now exhausted and at my wits end, so I put them in the bath.

Pure bliss, a few minutes alone to regroup and have a well deserved cup of coffee! Then from the bathroom: “Muuuuuuuum! She’s throwing all the toys out the bath!” and sure enough the Lollipop had thrown out all the toys and about half the bath water onto the bathroom floor. “Great snakes almighty!” Is it her bedtime yet? What else could she possibly do? She went on to pull the tablecloth and my sewing kit off the dining room table and empty her food bowl onto the table. She discovered her cup leaked if she turned it upside down and so she shook her juice all over her toy box. By this stage, the Mauritian, who had been home from work for about twenty minutes, decided he was going to gym; he came home after the Lollipop’s bedtime and then wondered why I would not talk to him for the rest of the night! “Great snakes almighty!”

Half an hour before her actual bedtime, I decided she was going to bed but she did not go quietly! Three times she threw her bottle out of her cot then screamed “blue murder” until I went in to give it back to her. The fourth time round I closed the passage door and turned up the television! “Great snakes almighty!”

I made it through that storm but I sure hope it does not come round again!


Monday, 16 July 2012

Mum's First Day at "Big School!"

Today my Butterfly started “big School!” She overflowed with anticipation and expectation. She could not sit still she was so excited and she was far too nervous to eat.  I spend the morning desperately trying to swallow the lump in my throat and smile through this immense sadness that seemed to have engulfed me.

In the shower this morning, I gave myself a good talking to and told myself off for my silliness. Our Butterfly is more than ready for school and everything that comes with it. She has the strength of character that will serve her well during those tough school days. She is a friendly and caring child who people seem drawn to and she makes friends easily. She is respectful and unafraid of authority and she communicates well. She is eager, enthusiastic and more then up for the challenge. Our Butterfly is more than “school ready” she is “school eager!” Then why am I so sad and nervous?

I remember the delight I felt watching the Butterfly learn as a baby, the fascination that went with the discovery of her hands. The triumph and celebration when she finally worked out how to climb onto the couch, the glee when she got the shape into the right place; it is all still so fresh in my memory. So many smiles, laughs, tantrums and tears so many learning moments, so many lessons learnt. I believe that the ones that learnt the most in these past five years are the Butterfly’s parents; we have done so much growing up. Children are the best life coaches! Why then do I find this next step in her learning so intimidating?

 When the Butterfly started at Kindy I looked forward everyday to hearing about the new things she had learnt. It was a relief when she went so eagerly and didn’t need me there. I was grateful for the ease with which she embraced her new environment. Letting her go then was so much easier, why when I know this is just the next step is it so hard to let her go? Why, when now is when the real learning starts, when every word she learns to read or write will be a triumph unparalleled in her short life, do I feel so heartbroken and sad? Why does the inevitable hurt so much? How is it possible that while preparing my Butterfly for her school career I forgot to prepare myself? I was unprepared for the knot in my stomach as I marked her stationary and bags. I was taken by surprise by the intensity of emotion that overwhelmed me as I sat and watched her sleeping last night. I totally over packed her lunch box and woke her up far too early, so early that she opened one eye and said, “Mum, my feet don’t wanna get up!” For me everything was new for the Butterfly it was all the same: Get up, drink tea, and eat breakfast sort of, toilet, teeth, get dressed, socks and shoes, brush hair, lunch box in bag and bag on back! Time to go! Well no actually, we’ll be far too early mums a little ahead of herself!

Eventually it was time to go, the Lollipop was loaded in her pushchair, we climbed into our raincoats and we began our short walk to Central Primary School. It was the longest journey of my life! The Butterfly greeted all the kids and parents with her usual enthusiasm as I walked slightly ahead of her trying to smile.  We walked through the main entrance and the Butterfly was off, removing her bag and coat as she went, I caught up to her as she was hanging everything up. Thinking she was hanging her bag on someone else's hook, I told her to not: “But Mum look that’s my name!” Oh gosh, she was right there is was how did I miss that? While I was trying to pull myself together the Butterfly opened, her backpack took out her water bottle and book bag and headed into the classroom and put them, yes you guessed it, where her name was. Then she went up to her teacher and with much aplomb said: “Hello Sarah, I’m here!” No, they do not address the teachers by their first names here, but the children are aware of them. My Butterfly, I think, forgot her teacher’s surname but remembered they shared a first name. I was so impressed by her teacher’s warm welcome and how she gently corrected the Butterfly about how she is addressed.

So now, all that remained was for me to say goodbye and trying desperately to hold back the tears I said goodbye to my Butterfly, wished her luck and a good day and she said, “I will Mum and I promise when I get back from school I’ll know everything and I’ll read you a story at bedtime!”

I sobbed all the way home!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Month of Butterfly

We are one week into July and after spending a beautiful winter Saturday out walking in the park teaching the Butterfly to ride her bike and attending to some of the many tasks at home I am finally able to sit quietly and reflect over the past four weeks or so.

The first day of June brought with it the realisation that it was birthday month and the endlessly repeated question: “Is it my birthday tomorrow yet?”  It was also one of the busiest since the Butterfly started Kindy. There was the Kindy Disco that was the talk of the week, especially since mum was determined, that she and the Lollipop would not miss it this year. Last year I remember thinking how novel it was for the kids to have a disco and was rather looking forward to getting out of the house after those four long cold weeks after the Lollipop was born. Unfortunately the Lollipop had other ideas and changed the plans. So a very disappointed Butterfly and her Papa went without us. So with that in mind I was not going to let anything get in the way this year. On the Butterfly’s instructions I went shopping and bought us all new clothes for our first family disco, we were all looking forward to the evening. We were not disappointed; the girls pranced around sporting matching purple outfits and funky flashing necklaces. They danced, run, shouted and played for three hours while the Mauritian and I were able to socialise and have some adult conversation about things other than kids and kids.

Then there was the art auction, which had the children at the Kindy working hard on “priceless” pieces of artwork from the beginning of the year.  Our enthusiastic Butterfly managed to complete eight masterpieces! Following the artwork theme, the children also went to one of the art galleries in town. I was very impressed with this and made a big thing out of it with the Butterfly, who I thought was really looking forward to the visit. Of course, the highlight for her was the bus trip back to Kindy; the Gallery was just where she had to go to be able to go on the bus ride. So the night of the auction arrives and the four of us were again dressed up to the nines and looking forward to another child friendly family outing. We got lost looking for the golf course; in fact, until the auction we did not even know that our little piece of earth had a golf course. Even so we arrived, a little harassed and late but there at least. The Butterfly, with her usual enthusiasm dragged me from picture to picture telling all about them and that I had to buy them all. Fortunately I was not required to bid on all eight paintings just one, the rest I could buy with a donation of my choice. There I was thinking the entire night would not cost us more than $10 plus drinks. How wrong I was! At the last minute before the silent action closed I went to write my bid down for our Butterfly’s masterpiece and got the shock of my life. Three other people had bid on her painting the highest bid was $18. I did not recognise the names so I asked one of the Kindy teachers who they were and discovered they were not connected to the Kindy at all. These people were there to bid on art work and they had put a bid down on my Butterfly’s painting. Now I was both amazed and proud all at the same time, but I was also now over budget because I had to bid $20 on the painting to make sure I got it. I was glad I had waited to the last minute to bid if I had done so earlier, I would have been out bid and very mad! Just before leaving I went to get the rest of the Butterflies paintings and pay my $5 donation for them and got caught out again! Pauline, one of the Kindy teachers, was in top form and hell bent on getting as much money as she could out of each gullible parent, she was offering donations higher than the parents were and having an auction within an auction. Those seven paintings cost me a further $10, twice as much as I offered originally. The Butterfly and the Lollipop were of course completely oblivious to the goings on as they ran about doing their thing while I blew the budget. We had a superb evening though, even the Mauritian enjoyed the idea of dressing smart and hob knobbing with some big wigs discussing artworks and drinking wine. All so very cultured and upper class if you ignored the kids running about causing havoc!

The next big event in the Butterfly’s Kindy career was a “Pyjama Party Breakfast!” That Wednesday morning I woke the Butterfly up and said it was time for her to take off her pj's and get dressed in her pj’s! She looked at me from under her duvet and said: “Mum you’re just a little bit crazy!” So, off she went in her pink flannel cow print pyjamas, wrapped in her pink nightgown with the hood up. Wearing her purple unicorn slippers clutching her butterfly blanket in one hand and her penguin pillow pet in the other! When the party was first planned I had told the Butterfly as a warning that she would have to walk up the hill to school in her pj’s, she wasn't very keen on the idea so she asked her father if he would take her. He thought this was an awesome idea so he took the day off work and I volunteered his services helping to cook the breakfast.

Of course with the prospect of turning five is the fact that the Butterfly also starts primary school. Here at the end of the world the aim is to make the child’s transition from Kindy to primary school with as little trauma as possible so the “new entrant” has a number of school visits. To make it easier on the parents they hold a meeting to explain what to expect, just as well because I was clueless. So we arrange for two school visits and the one that was nervous was mum! Unfortunately the Butterfly was struck down with influenza and was unable to go for her first school visit, she was so sick she didn’t mind at all. So the following week we were up early and popping with excitement and anticipation and she was not disappointed. As nervous as I was for the visit I realised the advantage of them immediately, the Butterfly is now aware of the procedures and knows who her teacher and classmates are and where her classroom is. I have not only met the teacher but have also had the opportunity to watch her teaching and I like her, thank goodness! The school day here is a long one they start at nine in the morning and they finish at three in the afternoon. But, the visit is only for three hours, and the Butterfly, true to form, was devastated that she had to go home. Can I ask for more reassurance that she is ready for school?

So now we come to the last week of June, her last week as a four year old and her last week at Kindy. Oh my goodness what a week! Monday was the school visit; Tuesday was present shopping, and baking for the party. Wednesday was the Butterfly’s last “bushwalk” at Kindy and they made a right royal fuss of her. Wednesday also meant fighting to get the Butterfly in bed and asleep at a decent time so that the present wrapping could be done, of course that didn’t happen and a little more party preparation. Thursday dawned wet, windy and cold and after opening all her presents the Butterfly said to her sister: “Don’t worry my darling soon it’ll be your turn for a birthday and you will also get lots of presents, just not as much as me 'cos I’m a big five not a little one!” At Kindy, with mum’s help while the children helped to look after the Lollipop the Butterfly made her birthday crown and “play dough” cake. She then chooses five special friends and they take her very last Kindy picture and mum is sent home with instructions to come back at mid day.  At mat time, the Butterfly is draped in the “memory” cape, adorned with her birthday crown and carrying her “play dough” cake she perches on the birthday chair and the ceremony begins. Candles are lit and birthday songs are sung, then the Butterfly talks to everyone about her time at “Kindy.” “I wasn't shy when I came to Kindergarten,” she says “because I liked it here!” then she adds with enthusiasm “I can’t wait to start at big school but I’ll miss my Kindy friends.” Then they ended off the whole ceremony with the Butterfly’s favourite song about an elephant that sits on everyone and they all went off to wash their hands and have lunch. Her day was topped off with supper at MacDonald’s and a SKYPE call from South Africa. Friday found me in the kitchen baking for the entire day, the only good thing about that was nothing flopped!

Saturday, the last day of June, dawned bringing with it the sun and the Butterfly’s first birthday party.  I have never been more grateful for the sun then I was that day, the prospect of having twelve five year olds in my living room scared the crap out of me! The four of us were up early and preparations for the day started right after breakfast. The fates remained on my side that morning because the Lollipop decided that it was a good idea to have a three-hour morning nap instead of just one. Luck remained on my side as I put the girls in the bath and left them there while I carried on getting things ready. Of course as the time drew near and the Mauritian finally arrived home from work my lifelong friend and our favourite Kiwis arrived to lend a helping hand. With my lifelong friend taking the pictures, Uncle B handling the music and Aunty Shell in the kitchen taking charge I was able to concentrate on the kids and the goings on. It seemed to me that the children had a wonderful time, and the Butterfly got some really awesome gifts. When the last people had left and everything was tidy once again I let out a sigh of relief that everything had gone off successfully.

As I put my now five year old to bed that night I offered up a prayer of thanks for a day without rain even though it was a little windy. For a birthday party that was a success despite the cold, for awesome reliable friends who I do not know what I would do without. For new acquaintances who are slowly becoming friends, my mum’s unfloppable chocolate cake recipe and butterfly shaped cookie cutters. But most of all I was thankful that in just a few more hours the busy month of June would finally be over and a calmer if colder new month would begin.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Reflection by Firelight

Winter 2012, our fourth here at World’s end and I have begun to realise a number of things. This year the winter is the warmest one we have experienced here. Yes we have acclimatised at last, something I did not believe possible the first year here. Our wardrobe now contains winter gear suitable for the season and we sigh with pure delight as we sink rather ungracefully onto our toasty warm electric blankets. We also invested in a tumble dryer, nothing better than drying off after a shower with a toasty warm and dry towel. We had three cubic metres of wood delivered to fuel our fireplace and we have developed a system that keeps the house warm throughout the day and yes that does mean that I have mastered the art of making fire! (If this were SKYPE or my Facebook page I would insert a large smiley face here!) We have all had the inevitable sniffs, coughs and sneezes and for the first time since we meet the Mauritian and I are both suffering from a serious case of flu at the same time. Which means that I am far too busy feeling sorry for myself to spare any sympathy for him and we are constantly fighting over the tissue box.

With my resolve to look at life more with the eyes of my children autumn was a colourful time, oranges and browns don’t seem so dull anymore. I discovered that jumping in soggy dead leaves did constitute having fun and getting soaked up to your knees from jumping in ice cold rain puddles made drying off in front of the fire exciting. Winter is a time for cuddling under blankets and watching old Disney movies and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. It’s also when bath time is around lunch time and mum puts a heater in the toilet to warm up the bathroom, which amused the Butterfly immensely and now she won’t bath without it. Winter is also a time for rainbows; lots of them, sometimes even double rainbows! One afternoon on our way home from “Kindy” we even found the end of a rainbow. The Butterfly nearly popped with excitement as there at the top of our road was the end of the rainbow we had been admiring as we left the Kindy grounds. It was with sheer delight that she begged me to take her into the road so she could touch it. This was followed by fascination as the rainbow moved as she moved; we spent some time moving back and forth across the road as well as up and down watching how the rainbow changed position. Unfortunately I also discovered that in actual fact there isn’t a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I’m assuming those pesky Leprechauns got there first.

Winter is also a time for funky knee high boots and ponchos, wearing mum’s is a lot more fun than wearing ones made to fit a Butterfly. Beanies are an essential in your cupboard because they really keep your head warm and they also make awesome “peek-a-boo” toys when playing with the Lollipop. Winter is a time of retreat, when people stick close to the warmth and light of their homes, when visits and gatherings are rare.  It is a time when you learn to appreciate your friends more because they’ve braved the cold and ventured out to join you for lunch in your home. Winter is a time when you learn to appreciate the sun.  There is nothing more satisfying then basking in the winter sun on a clear winter day. For me there is little else that is as inspiring as the sight of snow covered Mt. Taranaki sparkling in the sunlight against a background of true blue sky. Winter is a time of closeness, wrapped up in your winter woollies packed closely together on the couch watching the flames dance in the fireplace listening to the wind howling through the trees while the rain beats incessantly against the windows.  Winter is family time!

I think I like winter the best!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Foiled Again

Today after arriving home from the school drop I took the Lollipop out of her pushchair gave her a bottle of juice, switch on the kettle and grabbed my yoghurt out of the refrigerator. Then I sat at my desk opened my email and began to fulfil a request from my mother to send some pictures of our family to my God Mother.

I felt rather awful at having not emailed her in so long. The last time was so long ago I can’t remember when it was. So I endeavoured to ensure that I sent her some of the best pictures and made sure my email rambled enough to bring her right up to date with our goings on here at the end of the world.

As always, sitting down to write a ramble is, for me, liberating and inspiring. It felt good to tell some of the old stories again and share some old photos. I got so caught up in what I was doing that I never did make my coffee or eat my breakfast. Unfortunately I also forgot about the Lollipop who was happily wondering about the place out of sight and way out of mind.

When I did come up for air, and coffee it was with the sudden realisation that the Lollipop was no longer perched on the “donut” drinking juice and playing with her “piano.” In fact it was so quiet I panicked. Of course I found her not very long afterwards playing happily and safely in her sister’s bedroom. Though what she was doing was a little puzzling at first. She was lying on her tummy reaching under the bed and grunting with the effort so I decided to take a look myself and see what it was that was keeping her attention. What I found had me laughing at myself and my complete gullibility and the Butterfly’s innocent yet sly ingenuity.

That’s got your attention! Unfortunately I must here digress a little from the story and give you a little background.

As you all know we use a star chart reward system with the Butterfly to teach the value of money and also encourage her to do chores. She started with just having to make her bed every morning but I have since added more chores to try make it a little more difficult and hopefully more rewarding in the end. One of the requirements is that she tidies her room every night after her bath. Believe me when I tell you it is not an easy task, the Butterfly is a very busy child and can sometimes empty her entire toy box while playing. I think it is also one of her worst chores and over time she has learnt to make less mess while playing. To be fair I don’t expect her to clean up after the Lollipop who also takes great pleasure in emptying her sister’s bookshelves or bed side draws. For now cleaning up after the Lollipop is my job. Even so getting the Butterfly to do what’s expected and to do it properly takes a lot of encouragement and patience. One of which I can do without thinking the other of which I don’t have much of at all. So the Mauritian and I take turns to sit with her in her room and guide her along what to do, it’s an exhausting job because the Butterfly will try anything to get out of the job or get you to help her. The Mauritian and I have learnt that when one’s patience is running low its best to swop places with the other parent and not shout.

Then two weeks ago the Butterfly had a play date with one off her favourite friends and true to form they made a horrendous mess of not just her bedroom but the Lollipop’s room, the passage and the lounge. I don’t mind really, I enjoy the fact that they are having such a good time together, besides which they entertain the Lollipop at the same time and I’m able to do other things. But I did of course insist that they clean up together before I took little Tanya home. Little Tanya tackles everything with enthusiasm and makes everything she does into a game so I was not surprised that it only took them about half an hour to do a pretty good clean up job without supervision. So the next night I told the Butterfly that I wasn't going to watch her clean up because she had proved the day before that she didn’t need me there. She was to prove me right and yet again do a marvellous job.

It is here that we now return to my story.

So for the last two weeks both the Mauritian and I have been singing her praises and telling her what an awesome kid she was for keeping up the tidying and not complaining. She smiled we smiled and everyone was happy.

That is until I discovered that the tidying up the Butterfly has been doing consisted of pushing everything under her bed. As far back and in the corner as she could get it so I wouldn’t see it at all, even if I pulled her bed out slightly to straighten her covers. If I hadn’t seen the Lollipop on the floor trying desperately to reach the Butterfly’s “LalaLoppy” doll I would still be none the wiser.

Yet again while thinking I was finally one step ahead of her I was really ten steps behind!

Today on the way home from Kindy I told the Butterfly that I had taken away last week’s stars and that she will have to earn them all over again. She of course was mad at me and protested and sulked for most of the day but she grudging agreed to clean up everything the right way eventually. I decided to leave her to it and not stand over her to let her know that I trusted her to get it right. Just before dinner I sent the Mauritian to check on the Butterfly and call her to the table. A few minutes later he called me to her room to show me what a fabulous cleaning job she had done. Sure enough the room was really tidy so I made a big show of looking under the bed and we all had a good laugh. It was now time for dinner so I went to the Butterfly’s cupboard to get her gown and what do you think I discovered?

The mess that was under her bed was now in her cupboard!  



  

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Another Year Older

Yesterday marked the end of my thirty-ninth year and the beginning of my fortieth. It was an interesting and reflective day.
 I woke up thinking: Bleh! Another birthday! This was not helped by the fact that the Mauritian had managed to forget my birthday for the second year in a row so no breakfast in bed and no birthday presents either.  Thank goodness for my lifelong friend who can be relied on to always remember and this year was the first to wish me. My Angel from Auckland made my day when she called to confirm our weekend away next month! Then my folks called on that marvellous invention called “Skype” and though it was good to talk to them I was late and consequently way behind schedule. My being behind schedule is nothing unusual but the day had been going quite well for a change. Oh well such is life!
 The Mauritian did eventually remember before leaving for work so he was forgiven. It’s very hard not to forgive him when he looks at me with those puppy dog eyes and seems close to tears and he knows it too! He did of course redeem himself when he told me to do some retail therapy on the credit card. I have a feeling he regretted his words as soon as he said them, but I didn’t hang around on the phone long enough for him to put a limit on it.

So after charging about the house getting the three of us ready we rushed up the hill fifteen minutes late for kindy. My intention was to go straight into town from the Kindy but I had to go home first because I’d managed to leave my purse at home.  That’s nothing unusual either; I’m sure one of these days I will leave both the girls behind and head off to Kindy by myself! So after going back home, having a coffee and gathering my wits back together I headed out to town with a plan of action in mind. First stop the kids clothing shop, my girl’s need winter wear.
I was standing in “T ’n T” trying to decide which jacket or pants to get and whether to get the girls matching outfits or not when I realised what I was doing. I had been given a limitless shopping spree as my birthday present and I was spending it on my daughters? I put the clothes back on the shelf and left the shop with a different plan of action, there was stuff I really needed and a few things I wanted. Today I was putting myself first for a change. The first thing I bought was a pie plate; I wanted an apple pie for dessert.
As I wondered from shop to shop I began to reflect on this “getting older” malarkey. I listen to the Butterfly say everyday: “I can’t wait to go to big school!” or “Mum when I’m older can I...?” and “I wish I was old enough to walk to kindy by myself.” My talented mum used to tell me to stop wishing my life away. I didn’t listen I doubt the Butterfly will either! We spend our youth wishing we were grownups and spend our adulthood wishing we were kids again. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times a grown up warns against such futile wishes, as kids we just refuse to take advantage of hindsight. As teenagers the Mauritian and I used to spend hours discussing what we would do once we reach that elusive adulthood. Not too long ago the Mauritian came home and said he had found something that will make me smile. I was “face booking” at the time and answered with a distracted: “That’s nice!” and thought nothing more of it. That is until from his custom built speakers burst forth the Beach Boys song, “Wouldn’t it be nice!” The words to the chorus are: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older then we wouldn’t have to wait so long...” We were at a house party of one of the Mauritians schools friends the first time we heard it and we both thought it was rather appropriate at the time. It has over the years become “our song!” More than twenty years later we are singing: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were younger...”

Recently I have been saying that I want to learn Merlin’s secret and start aging backwards, I only want to go back as far as twenty one and then I’ll go forward again. I don’t want to be a teenager again I like being an adult and responsible for myself and my actions. I also want to be able to take all the wisdom that you gain with age and experience back with me too, I want the advantage of hind sight on my way back. While typing a thought crossed my mind: I wonder how Merlin coped with the ability to see into his future which was technically his past? That would make an interesting dinner table discussion!

But I digress, back to my reflection...

Over the years I have seen many interviews with famous people where they talk about celebrating their fortieth birthday and the epiphanies that occur. Oprah Winfrey called it her “Aha” moment. I wonder if it’s just these celebrities or do the regular mum’s and wives have these moments too. More importantly did my mum go through it and will it happen to me? I don’t feel like I should be thirty nine, in fact I don’t feel a day over twenty five. I guess having such young kids does help because most of the mum’s I come into contact with are closer to twenty five then thirty nine. Before we had children the Mauritian and I had busy social lives and most of our friends were anything from five to fifteen years older than us. Now we have children our social life is a lot more subdued and our circle of friends suddenly seem to be from five to fifteen years younger than us. When did that happen and how did that happen?  In our twenties was it so important to us to appear older and more experienced that we surrounded ourselves with people that much older than us and now in our late thirties do we have a desire to feel younger and thus surround ourselves with youngsters? I hope not, I don’t like the idea of not being comfortable with who I am.  

So while I strolled in and out of shops spending with abandon I marvelled at the speed at which I had reach my thirty ninth birthday and I did begin to wonder if I had done anything important with my life or if that was still going to happen. I did eventually run out of ideas of what to buy so laden down with packages I began to make my way home and my mind turn to my folks and their philosophy on getting older. I don’t know what it is but it seems to me they didn’t seem to mind getting older, they may look older but they are not old. Then I remembered something my father said when he turned fifty: “Life is too short!” and twenty years later I realise just how right he was. Life is far too short to worry about getting older or the speed at which time passes. In reality the time that we exist is merely a moment in eternity and time actually goes by at the same pace day after day, it is our minds and attitudes that create the illusions of time moving faster. At that moment I opened my front door and realised I felt a lot better about having a birthday. I put it down to retail therapy but then I went to fetch the Butterfly and in a moment of generosity took her to the bakery to get a “snack pack.” On our way back we were admiring the flowers in the gardens we past and admiring the trees in their autumn coats. I was pointing out a bumble bee and the pollen on its legs when I notices a Praying Mantis. I am fascinated by this insect and very enthusiastically pointed it out to the Butterfly who seemed equally impressed. We were then allowed the privilege of watching the Mantis catch and eat a fly, the most amazing thing for me was watching the fascination on the Butterfly’s face and her complete absorption in the moment. When it was over she looked at me and whispered: “Mum, did you see that?” It was at that moment that I realised that it doesn’t matter how old I get I will always be able to see the world through the eyes of my daughters so it will always be fresh and new and fascinating. The best part is that while looking through their eyes at the world I will have the benefit of hindsight.

Then last night while I juggled feed times bath times and cooking I had my “Aha” moment. I realised that these moments are not unique to celebrities’ and that my moment was extra special. You see I realised that thanks to a hungry Praying Mantis I had discovered Merlin’s secret and from now on I shall be aging backwards with the help of my kids.
So now I shall wake up every morning with a spring in my step because I know that getting older doesn’t mean I’m getting old it’s a reason to celebrate my life, my loves and my memories. I shall embrace every moment and absorb every minute because life’s to short to not take the time to marvel at a hungry Praying Mantis or watch an autumn leaf drift slowly from a tree.

From now on I shall live every day like it is my first.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Making a Difference

I took my time to be kind to a stranger some months back and today that kindness was rewarded.

It was a few weeks after Christmas that the Lollipop and I took a stroll down to the supermarket for supplies. The Lollipop as always sat quietly in her pram happily looking at the world go by and smiling at anyone who paid her attention. So it was not out of the ordinary when an elderly lady bends down to talk to her while I was scouring the shelves for whatever it was. However when I turned back this poor lady was still talking to Lollipop with tears rolling unabated down her cheeks. I’m not good with strangers and if I cannot avoid it I try very hard to make my get away as quickly and as politely as possible and here was an elderly lady crying I didn’t know how I was going to get out of this one. I realised this was not the time for a polite “have a nice day” and smile as I walked away so I thank the powers that be that I had tissues in my bag and handed one to her without saying a word.

She took the tissue from me and smiling through her tears apologised to which I reply with the generic “no worries,” which made me feel a little heartless so I tack on an “are you okay?” I wanted to shoot myself once I had said that because now I’m thinking I’m in for a life story, how wrong I was. What this stranger told me was that every time she sees a baby she cries because she is reminded of her only daughter who had been struggling for eight years to fall pregnant. She went on to tell me briefly about her daughters struggle and the toll it was having on her and the family emotionally. She said it was made worse because her sons all had children of their own and her daughter now could not bear to be around her nieces and nephews. My heart went out to this mother whose heart was aching for her daughter because she couldn’t do anything to help her. I knew I would have to say something eventually and I was trying desperately to find the right words to say in the right order at the right time. It’s not something I do well without a pen and paper to help but I knew whatever I said I had to get it right.

I tried to remember how Pierre and I felt when we were trying to fall pregnant the first time. We made the conscious decision to keep it to ourselves because we wanted the freedom to change our minds without outside pressure. That sounds harsh I know but after trying for almost six years with numerous visits to doctors we did decide that we would accept our fate and stop trying. Not having to explain our decision to other people made it a lot easier. I am sure we would have eventually told our story but as it turned out we didn’t have to because not long after we stopped trying the Butterfly began her existence. I knew that advising this mother that her daughter should try relax would be something they have heard a million times before, empty advise really but what else do you say in a situation like this. How do you tell a woman to relax when every day she is taking her temperature tracking her menstrual cycle and trying g to predict ovulation? You can’t because they won’t! So now this poor stranger has finally dried her eyes, pulled herself together and finished explaining her tears and it’s my turn to say something profound and encouraging. So I could a deep breath and silently prayed: “Lord, cover my mouth if the wrong words appear!” and said: “Perhaps it’s time she stopped trying so hard.” Yes I know you’re all thinking I changed feet at that moment, but I went on to say that I had some idea of what she was going through and that it was when we decided to leave it up to fate that things finally fell in to place. Sometimes you have to just let yourself off the hook and realise that things will happen when they are meant to. Something as life changing and as fulfilling as parenthood will only happen when God, destiny or the fates allow it to be so, it is at that moment that you are truly ready.

Then the Lollipop let out a squeal of protest and presented me with the opportunity to make my get away. The stranger smiled at the Lollipop and then at me she thanked me for listening and being so nice to her. I smiled at her and replied that I hoped her day improved and the Lollipop and I moved on with our shopping and our lives. Though I thought about her now and then during the course of the day I soon forgot all about our encounter in the supermarket.

Today, the Lollipop and I were once again shopping for supplies and we again saw the crying stranger. She smiled brightly at me and bent happily to talk to Lollipop this time without a tear after which she called out to someone further down the shopping isle. Smiling she introduced me to her daughter who had found out today she was finally pregnant. So I said all the right things and wished her luck and as we were parting ways this stranger’s daughter said to me: “You were right you know, I let myself off the hook and fate did the rest!”


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Butterfly Art

The Butterfly never draws pictures or makes cards for me; whatever she does she does for her favourite parent! The Mauritian’s bed side draw is filled to bursting with drawings and cards she had made for him over the years, he will not throw a single one away. I think it’s really cute, I remember how special it felt giving something I drew or made to my clever dad, he always made me feel like it was the best gift he had ever received. I know the Butterfly feels exactly the same way because the Mauritian is always so enthusiastic about her little gifts. I remember too looking through my clever dad’s bedside cupboard for something and finding numerous birthday and father’s day cards I made him through the years. After the initial feelings of embarrassment and wondering why he still had those silly things I realised hey he’s kept them all regardless of how awful they were. Now that’s an awesome realisation and one I treasure still. There really is something very special about the relationship between a father and a daughter and I am thrilled my children and their father will know that too. I enjoy the fact that the Butterfly is obsessed with drawing things for her father and I like watching how they interact with one another. Of course the Butterfly knows she has her Papa wrapped very tightly around her little finger and so does the Mauritian, they both seem very comfortable with the arrangement!

So imagine my surprise and delight when one wet windy World’s end Sunday the Butterfly came running into the lounge with a drawing just for me. She drew a lot of birds around my “likeness” and gave me a smile, long multicoloured hair, long arms and legs and a big tummy inside which there is some yellow squiggles. This is how she explained it to me: There are lots of birds because I like birds and always give them our bread. I have long hair because I like long hair and my arms are long because I can reach really, really high up. Inside my tummy are the Butterfly and the Lollipop before they “just popped out!” I was amazed, and touched all at the same time at the amount of thought that went into this piece of art work. Now I know that one could get into the psychology behind the drawing and break it down and try and get inside her head. I don’t want to do that, it is obvious that the pregnancy and Lollipop’s birth had a major impact on her. It is obvious she delights in the cacophony of bird song that surrounds our house in the mornings as the birds gather to fight over the scraps of bread I throw out for them every morning. I chose to believe she has seen me smile more then scowl. I chose to believe that she likes the idea of having spent nine months in utero. I am super stoked with my picture and it has pride of place on our fridge at the moment and soon it will be framed and hanging on a wall. It may be the only picture she’ll ever draw especially for me.

So there we were on that wet windy World’s end Sunday exclaiming in delight over this wonderfully thoughtful gift to me from my Butterfly, the Mauritian and I exchanging smiles and silent wows. The Butterfly enthusiastically explaining it to us and obviously thrilled at my reaction when suddenly she exclaimed: “Oh no Mum I forgot to draw your boobs!” grabbing the picture from my hand she charged off to her bedroom.

I chose not to consider the psychology behind that.

Friday, 17 February 2012

SAHM


One morning the Lollipop was driving her mother a little more dilly than she already is, because this morning despite her mother’s best efforts the Lollipop decided she was not going down for a morning nap! Finally after an hour of trying, what patience I do have completely disappeared and I gave up. I took Lollipop out of the cot put her on her bedroom floor and left her there to go and do the chores that needed doing. After following me up and down the passage a few times she finally decided I meant it when I said I wasn't talking to her and she must go away. She made her way into her sister’s bedroom and had a marvellous time pulling everything she could reach out the book case into the middle of the floor all the while squealing with sheer delight! I know she was thinking: “Right! Mother its payback time!” So just when I was looking forward to a few moments of quiet before heading out to collect the Butterfly I was instead cleaning up the Lollipop’s mess. Oh the joys of being a “stay at home mum.”

I mean that literally, being at home with my girls is a real joy! The Butterfly was four months old when I went back to work, apart from feeling like a real shit leaving my child with a “stranger” I also missed so many of her “milestones.” I would be sitting at work on a Saturday morning and my mobile phone would ring a message, the Butterfly had turned over for the first time or started to crawl and my talented mum was sending me a picture. As much as I appreciated her attempt to involve me by sending the pictures it served also to remind me how much I was missing. I even missed her first tooth, my mother called me that time! This time round I haven’t missed a moment, though there are some I would rather go without, I love it. I was chuffed when the Lollipop’s very first smile was aimed at me and not her Papa; I’ve not let him forget it. The Mauritian was thrilled the Lollipop decided to turn over on a Sunday afternoon and he was home. It was the Butterfly that alerted us and there we were cheering her on, battling fiercely against the urge to help her, mentally willing her to get the arm out from underneath her and not flop back. It couldn’t have taken more than a minute or so for her to achieve her goal but man it felt like an hour, I was exhausted from the effort. Pretty much from that moment on the Lollipop was mobile, as soon as she realised that when she turned over she ended up in a different spot she was off. From just on four months old Lollipop rolled about the lounge in order to get somewhere and I was there to see it. I wish I could say that the first time she crawled I was more composed and sat quietly by while she worked it all out on her own without any pressure. Unfortunately on the evening of the 30th of December the Mauritian, the Butterfly and I were all crawling about the floor trying to show Lollipop how it’s done all the time cheering her on and trying not to interfere. Now there is no stopping her, if she wants to be somewhere she’s there before you’ve realised she’s gone and the Butterfly’s room is her favourite destination.

There are, of course, those times of sheer frustration when she won’t go to sleep, tries to climb out her high chair or changes all the settings on her Papa’s amplifier. When all I want to do is give her to someone else to look after for a day. But when she smiles that smile she keeps especially for her sister, squeals with delight while she pulls all the books out of the bookcase or sinks her newly emerging teeth into her Papa’s big toe those patient wearing moments and soul destroying sleepless nights are immaterial. The fact is I love rocking her back to sleep in the small hours of the morning, I enjoy fighting with her to sit still in her highchair and repacking the bookcase is worth witnessing her absolute delight at the mundane. The fact is I am privileged to be a part of the developing relationship between the Lollipop and the Butterfly. The fact is I am proud to be a part of that breed of mothers facing extinction, the “Stay at Home Mum.” It’s not only where I want to be, it’s where I am meant to be!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The "Baker" in Me?

So it suddenly dawns on me that I’m not going to get away with not baking cakes and other tasty morsels for long. I have rather a lot of children’s birthdays ahead of me and the Mauritian made a comment that he wouldn’t get away with not taking eats for his birthday again. So I finally face the reality that as a “Stay at Home Mum” or “SAHM” for short I really had no excuse not to at least attempt to bake. So I whipped out my recipe books- yes I actually do own a few and I have used them on occasion stop laughing- and looked for some easy basic recipes, bought the ingredients and so began my foray into baking.

Oh me oh my we had some very yummy successes and some rather hysterical failures. The worst was the baking powder fiasco! With all due respect to my “Kiwi” readers, kiwi baking powder does not work in SA recipes. I tell you no lies, I tried three different cupcake recipes and two different cake recipes and though they cooked properly and tasted gorgeous they did not rise in the middle. I managed to make concaved cupcakes which the Butterfly insisted on icing but never ate them. By the second disastrous batch I’d had enough of them so the Mauritian got one in his lunch box every day for twelve days. At first there was an empty cupcake case in his lunch box every afternoon, then the cupcakes started coming home so I just transferred it into the following days lunch box, eventually both the cupcake and its case stopped coming home. I feel sorry for the poor sod who eagerly accepted the Mauritian offer of a cupcake; the Butterfly did a good job of making the cupcakes look even by filling up the hole with icing. One bite in the middle of the cupcake and all you got was a mouth full of icing and a thin layer of cake, makes my teeth ache just thinking about it. The good thing about these disasters was that I got a brand new mix master because the Mauritian decided that was the problem. He obviously had more faith in my ability to bake successfully then I did because I didn’t think it would make much difference, it didn’t at first. Despite my brand new “Sunbeam” and a new cupcake recipe I still had concaved cupcakes. Then I recalled my lifelong friend saying that it was the baking powder, I hadn’t paid her much attention because my cheese muffins seemed to rise okay. So I decide to adjust the recipes and make one last attempt at making cupcakes and voila it worked like a charm, finally my cupcakes have risen! Alleluia! I was so excited I didn’t care that everyone was so sick of cupcakes no one at home wanted to eat them; I surprised the Butterfly’s kindy teachers with them instead. It was during my cupcake making phase that my gorgeous niece had a birthday so I decided I’d make a batch and pipe a message onto the cupcakes and send her a picture. It was to be one of those “if something can go wrong it will” events! So the first thing I did was crack open an egg and completely missed the bowl and got egg all on the counter top instead. I managed, miraculously, to catch the egg in the bowl as it began to slide off the counter and didn’t have to mop the floor. Before you think it, no I did not use that egg I threw it out and cracked open another one, this time into the bowl. Next while adding the flour to the liquid I forgot to turn the mixer to a low speed and got covered in a dusting of flour the beaters kicked up as I added it. So there I was cursing between sneezes while the Butterfly laughed delightfully at my expense. I was very relieved once I finally got the cupcakes into the oven without further incident and just in the nick of time too as it was time to feed the Lollipop. I was playing happily with the Lollipop when the Butterfly suddenly asked me: “Mama are the cupcakes ready yet!” Oh crap, I suddenly realise I forgot to set the timer and charge through to the kitchen to rescue my cupcakes just before they started to burn. Now not only were my cupcakes concaved they were also slightly crispy. Never mind if I don’t say anything no one will notice, in the picture at least! Cupcakes cooling on the rack I start making the icing, only to discover that I didn’t have enough butter so I could only make half the icing I needed, oh well, I thought, less calories! So now the icing is ready and the Butterfly is eagerly awaiting her favourite job of icing the cupcakes, unfortunately I hadn’t waiting long enough for the cupcakes to cool completely! So now I have concaved crispy cupcakes covered in a scraping of slighted melted chocolate icing! Crap! I console myself with the fact that it won’t be noticeable in the picture I email home and begin piping the message onto the cupcake one letter per cupcake. Half way through I realise that I forgot to check if I had enough cupcakes to complete each letter of the message, so I quickly count them and realise I have the exact number I need and no room for error. This is one time when not being able to spell was really a bad thing! So there I was with three rows of cupcakes each row equal to each word in the message. I start at the top and work my way down mentally reminding myself that I had to reverse the order of the words so that the message read from top to bottom and not bottom to top as I was writing it. Finished, I stepped back and was relieved I’d managed to not make a mess of this part at least. I decided to take a picture just to make sure it came out okay and was thrilled that my concaved crispy cupcakes with melted icing looked rather nice in the picture. Thrilled I uploaded it to my email and began typing out a message to my gorgeous niece letting her know we were making a big thing about her birthday on the other side of the world. While I was engrossed in typing the email the Butterfly asked me if she could have a cupcake to which I distractedly answered in the affirmative while helping myself to one as well. Of course as I was taking a bite I suddenly realised I had taken the picture with the message reading the wrong way and I had no spares to fill the gaps. Too late too late she cried, just accept that this idea was doomed from the first egg and move on so I sent the picture anyway. But that’s not the end of the story, a few hours later I realised I had email a picture of a batch of truffles I’d made the day before and not the cupcakes!

You will be pleased to know, or maybe not, that I have since mastered the art of making and icing cupcakes and have not made any since the Lollipop’s baptism. I will make the next batch when the Butterfly finishes Kindy.

I have had some successes, I’m proud to say my pancakes are always good; I am yet to make a thick “Dunlop tyre” like one. My crumpets are almost as good as the ones I remember my Gran making and my cheese muffins are so good Pierre takes a batch to work once a month. The first time I made apple muffins I was so impressed with myself I took some down to the Mauritian at work to taste. I was somewhere around 41weeks pregnant and the temperature outside was about -2 at midday, I was extremely impressed with myself and beginning to believe I may actually be able to master this baking malarkey. The first time I made peanut butter cookies they were finished by the following day, my “melting moments” are popular and the chocolate truffles and meringues’ are a hit with our favourite Kiwis. But, the one I am most proud of is my chocolate cake success! It is a recipe that I inherited from my talented mum, true to form, it’s a straight forward easy recipe that tastes awesome and as I am cooking it must be fail safe too. Of course the first few times I attempted to make it, it was also concaved, but since I adjusted the baking powder it’s never failed to rise or impress.

It’s been about a month now since I last baked anything and I’m beginning to think perhaps I should start again and try some new recipes, maybe get a little daring. It would make a good blogging theme...perhaps!