Thursday, 25 December 2014

Another Journey Around the Sun

In a run of generosity my eyes only opened at half past five this morning instead of half past three, an extra two hours sleep really fills the energy bar up. Usually I'll use the quiet of the early morning hours to write or read but this morning as the sun was up I thought I'd get up and use the time to do my chores and a few secret things before the girls began to stir. I got off to a good start, hung out the washing emptied the dishwasher, sorted the rubbish bags and recycling for collection, made the Mauritian's breakfast and switch on the kettle for coffee. Then it all turned to custard!
With the rising of the offspring came the carnage! It was a silent attack at first, both trying to fit onto one beanbag to sit and look at the newly acquired fishes in a tank. With the growing rivalry came the whining which prompted mediation, separation and breakfast. Apparently it is not wise for the mediator to have a shower at these fragile times, on emerging clean and refreshed from the bathroom she encounter a fully-fledged sibling cat fight complete with hair pulling, kicking, pinching and biting not to mention screaming. Risking her very existence the mediator dives into the fray to separate the warring factions and demands an explanation for this horrid behaviour. The cause of the disagreement was an electronic device that they both wanted to use and neither wanted to share. The solution was to remove all electronic devices that could possibly cause conflict and they were advised to go outside and play in the warmth and brightness of the rarely seen World's end sunshine. The Peace agreement was signed and an uneasy truce began. The mediator, however remained on high alert, with guns handy in case threats had to be made to achieve peace. After a reasonable peaceful time the mediator relaxes her vigil slightly and steps into the kitchen for some refreshment, which was interrupted by an atomic explosion as the two factions again exploded into vehement disagreement.
Now completely at the end of my very short supply of tolerance I fairly exploded myself! "Enough!" I yelled as loud as only I can, freezing them both in the process of pinching each other. "If the two of you do not go outside and find something to do either together or alone I will cancel Christmas! You know I can because I have Santa's phone number! Do! Not! Push! Your! Luck!" Suitably chastised the Butterfly took the Lollipop's hand and lead her quietly outside to the trampoline, where she remains with her sketch book and pencils. The Lollipop has since made her way back inside and is sitting on her bedroom floor playing with her toy kitchen. I finally got to make myself that elusive mug of coffee, put my Melissa Etheridge Christmas album into the CD player and sat down to finish the last blog of 2014!
On reflection 2014 has been a mixed year with so many different emotions to look back to. We made a bad financial decision which wobbled us for a while but we managed to recover enough to breathe a sigh of relief. Only to be surprised with a request to vacate our home that took a chunk out of what savings we had managed to rescue. I had to stand by and watch helplessly as a good friend's ten year marriage dissolved into hatred and mudslinging, shared her sadness when she buried her mum and toasted happiness as she celebrated her sister's marriage.
I spent two amazing weeks surrounded by so many of my family as we gathered together to celebrate my baby brother and my Favourite Eeyore getting married. Reconnecting with Aunts, Uncles and Cousins can only be described as pure happiness as we managed in so short a time to create yet more forever memories. Being blessed with the chance to finally see my brother the Fireman after almost fifteen years, to reconnect with some of my nieces and nephew and see my Grandnephew again filled me to bursting point with so many emotions. You just want to bundle them all together and take them home with you just to preserve those feelings of pure joy. Yet while I floated on a cloud of happiness I also felt a deep sadness that my own children and husband where not with me to enjoy the ride. Saying goodbye is always hard, but having to say goodbye to so many people who have helped shape my entire life this time really did feel like my heart was breaking. Then I stepped through my front door and back to the familiar and I knew I was where I belonged and life was back to our kind of normal.
When we moved homes we lost some awesome neighbours but we gained some really good friends. Affectionately known as "Aunty E" and "Uncle Arry" (No his name is not Harry!) they have become an important part of our daily lives. I made a new friend, the Florist, who has sent my girls flowers just because, babysat on her day off and drank far too many glasses of wine with me. Except for the time we went to movies and had wine out of water bottles! We have spent the year simultaneously worrying about the health of and drinking to the health of a friend who has not had the nicest 2014. A distance has grown between us and friends who have been around almost from our first year here, though it saddens me a little I know our paths no longer run in the same direction and they will meet up again when time decides. We can now officially say that we have a friend who is a qualified acupuncturist and will begin recommending him as soon as his practise opens in the New Year. Both the Mauritian and I have been pouring over pictures of his niece born in June, what a beauty she is! The Mauritian is such a proud Uncle but that pride is always tinged with the sadness that it will be a long time before he meets her. The wondering couple of Africa2Anywhere have recently welcome the arrival of their little boy. This little guy brought their wonderings to a screeching halt but he has brought only happiness and smiles to everyone who knows him. I can't help wondering if his grandfather, our Master of Ceremonies, had a say in the timing of the littlest M.C's arrival. In January we will be welcoming yet another niece, as her big sister, Turn the Paige, waits with impatience for her real live doll. If she is anything like her cousin she is driving her mother nuts with a thousand questions about babies and where they come from and talking about all the stuff they are going to do when she arrives.
My children have grown in leaps and bounds and learnt new things with much enthusiasm as children do giving me many proud mommy moments. Our Butterfly join a Dance School and jiggled, swaggered and sang her way into her first real stage production on a real stage in a real theatre to an audience of at least one hundred. When she finally realised what was happening, about four hours before the actual show, she looked at me with wide eyes and said: "This is my dream come true mum, I always wanted to be on stage!" The best part was she was so happy she smiled so broadly throughout the performance and battled to sing. Again this year she sign up for cricket, she never missed a practice or a game despite being the slowest runner and the only girl on the team. Her bowling has improved so much that she even managed a wicket and she is beginning to understand the rules of the game enough to run between wickets with her bat grounded and way out in front of her. When I told her coach I was surprised she'd stuck it out as the only girl he said he didn't think she even realised that and in fact was the most encouraging member of the team and was quite good at keeping the team motivated and listening. How can I not feel good after hearing that? Finally after nearly eighteen months of hard work and saving pocket money she had collected enough to buy her fish so the Mauritian went researching. She now has a tropical fish tank with all the extras and now nine fish because the first lot died and the pet shop didn't have enough to replace all eleven. No matter we've made some new friends in the process and the Butterfly can again see the result of disciple and working towards a goal. Compared to her extraverted sister Lollipop is a little shyer and quieter in company, until she gets to know you then there is no stopping her. After a horribly disrupted start she eventually settled into Kindy and happily hops down the road to have a few hours of play with kids her own age. Her teachers often comment on how friendly she is and how well she interacts with the other kids, I'm always relieved to hear this because even though she is always eager to go to Kindy she always seems overwhelmed and unsure. Maybe she's just really good at making me feel bad. They are both so different: One likes to draw, dance and sing and craves the company of other people almost continually, the other likes to play pretend in her "kitchen" or with her dolls or create things with Playdoh and building blocks and is happiest with her own company. Yet they are both so alike with the same sense of humour, same levels of confidence and independence and the very same stubborn streak! They don't go a day without some sort of disagreement, yet neither do they go to bed without having had a good giggle together. The Butterfly adores her little sister and the Lollipop worships her big sister! When I see these two together and how well they fit together I realise that despite any outside negative forces all is right in my world.
After navigating through some really bad head space the first half of this year the Mauritian is more relaxed, confident and finally happy in his own skin. Watching somebody as extraverted as the Mauritian crawl inward and begin to self-destruct was painful. Trying to help someone who refused to help himself sapped me of the energy I needed to focus on my children and the balance our day to day lives so I stopped trying. Now I don't know if my stepping back and saying that I couldn't help any more was the catalyst or if he had already reach rock bottom and the only way he could go was up but soon after shades of his old self started to appear. It's good to have him back to his old self, there are still a few kinks that need straightening but those are issues that will only fix with time and patience.
Me I'm much the same, maybe a centimetre or so narrower thanks to the minimum four kilometres I had to walk getting kids to and from school through the cold, wind, rain, hail and sunshine since we moved in August. On reflection this year has been a good year, yes there were the regular ups and downs but nothing that a positive attitude, perseverance, a laugh or a bottle of wine couldn't fix. I think this year can be filed away as successful, we have moved up and forward, we have made new discoveries about the world and ourselves and taken it all in our stride. I believe when we sit down as a family, open our "Happy Box" and read over all the positive things we did each day over the past year we will realise what a good year 2014 has been. That is despite the fact that I also discovered menopause, perhaps one day I'll see the funny side!
In 2015 our Butterfly will no longer be a junior at school any more, year three will bring her more opportunities, new things to learn and more responsibilities. In 2015 Lollipop will be at Kindy for more days and for longer hours I hope she realises this and embraces it. The Mauritian has set some goals for 2015 that he seems determined to reach before its end. In 2015 we will have had our residency permits for World's End for five years and we will begin the process of applying for citizenship the final step away from the country of my birth. We always said that we would leave citizenship for a later date, it's not essential so there really is no rush. But five years later we both feel we need to take that final step because the truth is World's End is now our home, it is the place we will grow old together and watch our family grow. Africa is in my veins she will always be a part of who I am but she is not home any more. 2015 will present us with the challenges and curved balls that life likes to throw, but that's okay because I believe life gave us a trial run this past year and I think we did alright.
So as the earth comes full circle once again in her perpetual journey around the sun I wish you all a happy, blessed and merry Christmas. May your homes be filled with the sounds of happiness and your hearts be filled with joy! I hope you take the embers of 2014 and use them to set fire to 2015 and move forward into a bright new light with new begins, new opportunities and the strength to carry on despite the hardship.
Love, Light and Happiness

Friday, 7 November 2014

In my “EXPAT” Opinion

Recently on that all-consuming social website we all call FB a lot of people have been posting articles and blogs by "expat" South Africans and having their say. I find myself muttering at the screen that the author is either being a tad harsh or has no idea what they are talking about or my favourite line is that they moved for the wrong reasons. So as my youngest is curled up in her bed nursing a horrid bout of flu and the rest are at school and work, I figured in the quiet, I'd take the time to put my opinion as an expat out there in cyber space.

If I knew then what I know now I would've left when I finished school. I miss my family and the few friends that are left there but so many of my family and most of our closest friends left South Africa before us anyway so further distance between us makes little difference. I don't miss the food except maybe a decent rump steak now and then. I don't miss the weather expect perhaps during those few bone chilling wet mid-winter days. I don't miss the beaches, we spend more time on the beach here than we ever did back "home." I don't miss walks in the bush or picnics at the botanical gardens or the sight of the Drakensburg Mountains covered in snow. I walk the girls to school through a park dense with trees and bush and natural wildlife every day, who needs the botanical gardens when you can have a supper picnic in the sunshine. Every morning I wake up and I am greeted with the majestic sight of a snow covered sleeping giant. I don't miss the beauty that is Africa I appreciate it because I know first-hand in her harshness there is unsurpassed and unequivocal beauty. World's end has her own beauty, it is a much more subtle and gentle beauty but it surrounds you in comfort and makes you feel at home. I will admit to really missing a good heart stopping thunder storm, you know the one I mean, when even the ants stop moving in anticipation. That complete stillness as the light begins to change colour and the air becomes electric, when eyes turn to the sky and feet scurry for shelter just as that first flash of light tears through the blackest clouds. Then that clap of thunder that makes everyone's heart stop for just that moment and the instant relief when the first giant drops of water hit the ground. Then as quickly as it began so it is over, the sun is back and everything is shining with water and the dust has been washed from the air and Africa starts moving again. That I miss, there is nothing I have experienced that will ever come close to comparing with an African thunderstorm.

I don't miss living in South Africa and I don't miss our life in South Africa and I'm not talking about the crime rate or the government I'm talking about our day to day actual living life. There are as many reasons to stay as there are to leave you don't decide to pack up your family and home in your mid-thirties move to the other side of the world and start again without first considering all the pros and cons. Decisions like this have to be made with logic and intelligence and not with emotion, there is no point jumping on a plane and making a run for it at the first sign of danger. There is no point moving somewhere "safer" because the conspiracy theorist are predicting the country will implode. There is no benefit in leaving because all your expat friends and family say you should, what do they know they aren't living your life. A decision to leave your homeland is a very personal one and, I believe, no one else's business, what and why you decide to do what you do should not have to be explain or rationalised. But you do need to have something with which to answer those never ending questions, my answer is: "I needed a change!" I am always amazed at how people react to that statement, some change the subject out of sheer surprise while it becomes a very interesting discussion with others. Of course the cost of living, crime rate and horrendous rise in the cost and drop in standard of education where factors in our decision to leave but they were not the deciding factors. Those reasons run much deeper and personal and shall remain there. During the deciding the Mauritian approached his father for advice because he too had given up his life to move countries, his advice as always was crude by effective "Fuck everyone and what they think do what works for you!" then he picked up his glass of whiskey, finished it with one swallow and staggered off to pour himself another.

In my years working in foreign exchange I processed many transactions for people packing up their lives in South Africa and moving to "greener pastures." In those same years I must have reprocessed at least a third of that number as they packed up their lives overseas and went back to South Africa. Over time I began to realise that these people where the ones that where more than happy to tell you why they were leaving and then changed their minds when they realised how much they had to give up to leave for good. Leaving your home for another life is a decision for the head not the heart. The truth is when you decide to leave your home country you have to leave it behind completely. You cannot take the weather, the food, the space or your family and friends with you. You have to think, talk, shop and drive differently. You have to accept that you are different because you are no longer a local and therefore friendship will take longer to form because you have to find a common ground to start on. You have to accept that things are done differently from how they are done at home, they may never make sense to you but that's the way it's done so there is no point complaining. Moving life and love to another country is the biggest change you will ever make in your life! Not only are you making a physical change, but also a sensory change, everything you see, hear, smell, touch and taste will be different and to be successful you have to change mentally too, you have to decide to do everything differently and keep trying new things. Without that change of mentality your emotions will take over and rule you, too much emotion makes decision making harder and giving up easier.

Feelings of homesickness, sadness, depression and emptiness are real, something every expat feels to some degree from the moment the change becomes a reality. Feeling lost, useless, forgotten and unwelcome are a "rite of passage" for any expat, we have to navigate through the emotion with a mental compass and if our reason for leaving was the right one our emotions become manageable. We all want to go home to be with our loved ones or sink our teeth into a Wimpy burger or watch a mid-summer thunder storm unfold around us and know we can't. We all need mum's chicken soup or dad's advice, we all want to cuddle our nieces or wrestle our nephews, we all feel obligated to be home to watch a brother getting married or bury a grandmother. But the truth is that these are the sacrifices we chose to make when we chose to leave. The reality is that few expats can afford the air fares to go home to be with family every time there is a gathering, life for an expat is not cheaper or easier it is merely different, it is when we chose to accept and embrace the difference that we know we choose to leave for the right reasons.

People spend so much time judging others for staying, for leaving and for going back. There is so much out there in cyber space criticising others for the choices they have made and their reasons. Accusations fly and rubber fingers point and wag! What for? What purpose does it have except to rile people up and cause arguments? I do not agree with a lot of expats reasons for leaving South Africa or their sudden decision to go back because I think they have allowed their heart to rule their head. But I don't live their life so I have no right to voice my opinion, my way of thinking is not their way, they must walk their path. In much the same way I will not accept someone else's judgement of our decisions, I will fight you tooth and nail it's my life butt out.

There is no shame in wanting to leave your home and make a new life somewhere different. There is no shame in choosing to return home. There is no shame in staying. We may never agree with each other choices so let's drop the debate and just get on with our own lives leaving others to get on with theirs.



The sun grows dim in the African sky

The moon softly lights the African dark

Ah yes, those slow African days

Bleeding gently into warm African nights

The smell of the African grassland

The steady beat of the African drum

With a burdened core I bid you farewell

I have grown old in my African skin

Though the pulse of Africa

will forever beat in my soul

Though the African sun

will forever shine in my eyes

I long to dance in the cleansing

Artic rain.

I long to breath the new air

of a fresh start

Samantha Braum Sep 2008

Friday, 10 October 2014

Keeping it Real


Yes I'm back, at last! I'm still trying to work out why I seem to have not had much time to "blog" recently. What's been happening? Well, the Lollipop started "Kindy" but you all knew that already. I can even say with some confidence that I made it through chicken pox with a minimum of fuss. Oh, we moved house too, under duress I might add, but now we are so happy we had to. The Butterfly missed two weeks of school having navigated through chicken pox, flu and a chest infection one after the other. I was amazed I made it till the end of those two weeks with what sanity I have still intact. Basically it's been life as usual with a few changes and yet no "blogging" time. Perhaps, if I am honest, it boils down to the fact that I haven't had the need to vent or share lately. Until today that is!

The end of September marked twenty five years the Mauritian and I have been together and on Friday we celebrated sixteen years of marriage. When so many of your friends and family are divorced or in and out of relationships it's difficult not to be proud of our "achievement." On reflection and with relief I have realised that we are not in an exclusive club, among so much destruction and heartache there are those among my friends and family who can boast the same achievements. So why do I bring this up, because I have an overwhelming urge to vent. Now, it is important that I qualify that this is a general vent! I'm am not focussing on any one person or couple I am merely voicing an opinion. I know that some relationships should never have happened and that others turn to poison and the only way to fix it was to get out but there are those out there who want the bed of roses without the thorns.

On Facebook recently there have been so many of those "words of wisdom" about how to love or have a successful relationship. You're subjected to those sickening sentimental stories of "loving with passion" or how you treat your partner if you love them. Now I admit sometimes I read something and agree with the sentiment but most times I find myself almost gagging from the over sweetness and gushiness of it all. I'm sorry but a relationship is not all sweetness and sentiment, relationships are real and only work if your expectations stay within the bounds of reality.

After twenty five years of being in a monogamous relationship, here is what I know to be real:

  • "Love is not a feeling, it is an act of your will!" (Don Francisco) When all is said and done, the Mauritian and I would not be together now if we had not made a conscious decision to love each other unconditionally. Our "courtship" was never about romance and roses or moonlight walks on the beach. It was about learning about each other, learning how we expressed ourselves and from there how to communicate, learning our likes and dislikes and so learning how to compromise. We got to know each other and then chose to love each other. You never stop learning, you never stop growing and you never stop choosing to love.
  • "…For a relationship to last always remember to give, give, give!" I have based my entire relationship on these words. The Mauritian and I had only recently started dating when one of my Aunts spent some time in Durban and consequently shared my room with me for that time. (I wonder if she remembers.) When she left for home I was at school but I came home to a thank-you gift and a note with the best relationship advice. When we chose to "give" all of ourselves to our relationship, to give truthfully and completely, when we focus on our partner's happiness we grow closer and our love strengthens.
  • "…stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow." (Khalil Gibran's The Prophet) I know no other way to be in a relationship because this is the relationship my parents have. Never be anything but who you are, do what interests you, have your own hobbies, your own circle of friends, be independent to your partner. My parents have very different personalities, the Mauritian and I couldn't be more unlike if we tried. Yet our relationships work because you have to accept that your partner is not you, they don't think like you act like you or even at worst agree with you. Accept your difference, embrace your differences and allow each other to live completely different lives. Then when the day is done, in that silence before sleep you will have something to share that puts a twist into the "rat race" we call life. But, more importantly, it makes those moments when you do, think or speak as one more memorable and so much more important. When you are true to yourselves in a relationship the unity you share is what others remember.
  • "…When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God…." (Khalil Gibran's The Prophet) I learnt this lesson from my mother-in-law, she loved her husband because she truly put all her faith in God's love for her. For those less religious among you let me put it in more cynical terms: I often said that my mother-in-law should be canonised because she willingly and knowingly married and stayed with my father-in-law regardless of how much of a prick (sorry mum) he could be. The truth is, she chose to love him unconditionally and she trusted in her faith to give her strength in hardship and she meant every word of her wedding vows and lived them every day. Through the years I have also learnt that despite his roughness and really bad attitude, my father-in-law's love for his wife came from a place of pure passion, she really was the "be all and end all" of his life. When you make a promise it only works if you really mean it and you make an effort every moment to fulfil your vow no matter the circumstances. But we cannot do it alone, faith is necessary. For the Mauritian and me it is our faith and belief that we were joined by God that keeps us choosing to love each other. For you it may be your faith in yourself or the promise of your partner or even in fate or karma, whatever you name it there is a higher power guiding you. Trust in it!

You see I do not believe that a relationship survives on sentiment and romance. The infatuations and "butterfly" moments of our youth, though memorable and heart-warming, never last because they are not real. For those feelings to last in the reality and monotony of life you have to choose to fall in love every morning with the person lying next to you and to love them more because yesterday you learnt something new about them.

Tonight I learnt that my Mauritian would willingly sacrifice the comfort of his bed to sleep on the floor in his daughters' room because they asked him to and now they have a memory they will always share. Today I learnt how proud he was of how long we've been together because his colleague's at work complained about how many times he's told them about it. No matter how many years pass he never ceases to surprise me.

So join us as we raise a glass to sixteen years of marriage, whether you agree with me or not, you have to admit we're doing pretty well!

To those of you still searching, believe!




Monday, 23 June 2014

A New Phase of Motherhood

Thursday morning was continuing along its regular routine when out of the blue the telephone rang heralding in an exciting yet saddening change to our weekly routines. Our Lollipop is officially starting her school career with her first three hour afternoon at preschool. I am bracing myself for a myriad of conflicting and confusing emotions because even though our Lollipop is ready for "school" the prospect of leaving my "baby" girl in the company of untamed smelly masses of small people controlled by just a few strangers is daunting.

We have spent the last four days talking happily and excitedly to the Lollipop about "Kindy" and all she has to look forward to. The Butterfly has been fabulous, having been at the same "Kindy" she has first-hand knowledge of what goes on there, coupled with some good memories her excitement for her sister is genuine. The Mauritian and I have been making all the right noises about how much fun she'll have and all the friends she'll make, we even took her up the hill to show her where she will be going. We "Skyped" her Grandparents so she could tell them the news and also made her tell everyone we crossed paths with over the weekend. So the Lollipop is nothing if not prepared for her walk up the hill and her three hours away from her home, Mum and routine. The Lollipop's sister is very excited for her, so much so that this morning without prompting she tiptoed about the house and whispered that we need to be quiet so her sister can get to sleep in because she has a big day today. The Mauritian has been mercifully distracted from the impending excitement and emotional uncertainty by the need to be at work on time. Which leaves me and my confusion!

Lollipop is ready for "Kindy" she needs the stimulation, I am no longer able to keep up with her growing brains need for continuous stimulation leaving her bored and often up to a level of mischief that has me reeling in disbelief. She needs to learn to socialise and to interact with other "grown-ups" without the use of her mother's legs to hide behind or shoulder in which to bury her face. There is much she needs to learn that she won't learn at home. I am looking so forward to the few hours when the silence means alone time and not that something illegal is afoot. She needs room to grow and I need to get away with only having to make the beds once a day. But sending her off to "Kindy" means she's no longer my baby girl that she will no longer need her Mum as much, her toddlerhood is over and her childhood begins. No matter how necessary it is, no matter how inevitable it becomes letting go is immeasurably difficult and so foolishly heart breaking. I know intellectually that everything is moving along correctly and at the right pace, Lollipop is growing and learning as she should and "Kindy" is the next correct step in the right direction. But emotionally she is growing up to fast, learning too quickly and leaving me and my silliness behind, I don't blame her I am a mess of sentiment and emotion.

For the past four days I have been like a pendulum, swinging from excitement through practicality to emotional distress! A real soap operatic drama queen in the flesh! Man it is frustrating, really wish I could pick a state of mind and stick with it. There I was jumping about with Oscar winning excitement and anticipation, trying desperately to infect a Lollipop with an excitement I wasn't sure I actually felt. Then there was the sudden realisation that the backpack needed a dusting and packed with a change of outfit or two. Back we swing to excitement as the Lollipop assists with the cleaning and packing, then the contemplation about how to co-ordinate being at home for when the Butterfly arrives home from school and leaving on time to collect a Lollipop from "Kindy." Then I'm sitting on the passage floor all sad and down thinking how quickly she has grown up as she models her backpack up and down! Then all is excitement again when the Butterfly arrives home to hear the news and reacts with the perfect balance of excitement and coolness, perhaps I should take lessons. Then off into the practical as the Butterfly and I discuss how we are going to co-ordinate the after school arrangements only to plummet to the depths of despair when the Mauritian comes home and asks how I'm going to cope if she starts screaming and doesn't want to stay. That was just Thursday, the next three days it was much the same thing!

Monday dawned and I was grateful for the distraction of the routine of weekday mornings and the intense cold that greeted us with the alarm. It's amazing how quickly those distractions get used up in times of need and drama! The Mauritian left home with no thought of the impending emotional drama about to unfold, the Butterfly tiptoed around the house so as not to wake her "Kindy" going sister and blowing her a kiss for luck before she too left to begin her day. Leaving me with no laundry to sort or dishes to wash and hours to go before our very first walk up the hill and the uncertainty of how either of us will react to this new chapter in a Lollipop's life.

With all chores completed and the Lollipop wanting nothing to do with this insanely clingy maternal parent, I realised that I had to find some kind of intellectual distraction or the hours before the start of "Kindy" were going to pass by like nails across a chalk board. What better way to distract myself then to write, but my muse was hidden under a mountain of blankets refusing to emerge into the winter cold. So I resorted to making a list of things I can do for the two hours I am childless, which was just as well because I suddenly realised how much there was to organise for the Butterfly's birthday in five days. But that's a whole other dramatically emotional blog all by itself.

So it was that the frigid cold Monday morning warmed in to a sunny blue skied winter afternoon when I was able to say to the Lollipop "Let's go!" and we headed up the hill to begin her new adventure. Of course by the time we had gotten to the school I had worked myself up all over again, concerned that despite all the "preparation" we had done, she would scream and not want to stay. I know I could not handle that! I want her to be as easy as the Butterfly was but I know she won't be. I'm convinced she'll be shy and clingy and difficult, I'll want to leave but want to stay and the whole thing will be a disaster. I really am such a drama queen! Reality is never quite as dramatic as ones imagination, and even though she was gripping my hand very tightly the Lollipop walked into the school with confidence and greeted the head teacher with a smile and a very quiet "Hello!" Most of the teachers from the Butterfly's time have left there now except for one who greeted Lollipop like a long lost friend which sent Lollipop behind my legs and my anxiety levels soring. But then she spotted the "play dough" table and all resistance crumbled. Leaving her there the introductions were finished and any questions were asked and answered, with that done it was time for me to leave. I found her exploring the painting area looking, to me, a little dazed and confused. Time to suck it up and get out of there so I told her I was going to which she said a cheerful goodbye with the obligatory kiss and hug cut short by the fact that she's found the way outside to the swings. As I passed by the fence on my way to town I crossed the street and looked the other way, seeing her then whether she seemed happy or not would not have been a good idea.

So, apart from spending time while shopping alone, looking for a child that wasn't there and almost forgetting to collect said child from Kindy, this mother has successfully moved into a new phase of motherhood with a minimum of emotion and drama.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Will He Cope? Of Course He Will. I Hope

It is amazing how many seemingly unimportant and almost instinctual things go into running a smooth household. Not that the running of my household goes smoothly, it would if I put all the seemingly unimportant things into constant practise.
With my departure for the tropics, just on a week away I have been obsessing over making sure the Mauritian knows how things are done and most importantly how the girls like it done. Not that they get their way of course but there are some concessions made occasionally.
Silly things like where I store the dishwasher powder, or which draw the Butterfly’s socks are kept in the Mauritian has absolutely no idea about these things. I know, the girls know but the Mauritian is clueless. It’s funny only because they are such minor things that everyone thinks everyone should know. But it makes perfect sense; he has no clue because he never loads the dishwasher or folds the Butterfly’s socks. I did have a good giggle though when he asked me to show him how to work the washing machine again so he could write it down. Not that I am knocking him wanting to write it down, that way at least, he’ll not forget again or if he does he has something to reference. I of course have been writing everything down from the Butterfly’s after school activities to a Lollipop’s favourite television programs. I have made a daily timetable for him so he knows when to do what and will never be late or rushed. I have written instructions on how the Butterfly’s star chart works on the back of the chart. This amused the Butterfly immensely she laughed and said “Muuum! I can tell Papa how I earn stars!” Oh yeah, I’m sure you will my child! I have colour coded the calendar in the kitchen so he knows at a glance which days the rubbish or garden refuse is collected or when the insurances are debited to our accounts. Then there are the “just in case” instructions, who to call, where the important documents can be found and of course the doctor’s names and phone numbers. Then there are the “what to do” instruction for the stuff that may happen while I’m away, like Lollipop starting “Kindy”, the extra dancing lessons or dance recitals and dentist appointments. Don’t forget the everyday reminders to check the post box, hang up washing to dry, pack lunches for the girls or check emails. It’s a lot to remember, I’m having a hard time remembering what it is I need to write down for him so he doesn’t forget anything. Then there is the weekly shopping lists so he knows what to get and what brands are the cheaper or tastier, which vegetable shops or butchers I go to and when. I’ve gone as far as to pack the girl’s closets and drawers in a way that all items of clothing that go together are together. I have made biscuit dough and frozen it already cut into shapes and left instructions on how to bake them, bought the girl’s favourite cereal so there won’t be any arguing about what to have for breakfast in the mornings and let’s not forget the fudge and coconut ice made so there are treats for the girl’s on the weekends.
This week we have started doing “practise” runs. The Mauritian has been sitting with the Butterfly and doing her homework, getting them in and out the bath and doing the entire bedtime routine. The girl’s have responded well to the change and have been running rings around the Mauritian and having a grand old time. I have tried not to interfere but it is extremely hard not to, after all this is my domain. I have also tried not to smile knowingly when the Mauritian collapses on the sofa exhausted from the effort of getting the girls sorted for the night, that’s even harder to do. I did eventually  take over the first night, the second night he told me to stop laughing and last night he told me he needed a break. Tonight he goes grocery shopping with both girls, I’m trying to decide if I should go with and lent a hand in need or stay at home and leave him to work it out alone. This weekend however he’s on his own, I have things I want to do to prepare for my trip I shall be putting a “do not disturb” sign around my neck.  I’m even going to make him iron his own work pants!
I know I know I’m being obsessive and most of what I’m doing is pure over kill, but be nice. I have never been away from of my children or left them with their father for more than two nights, and then I was not that far away. This time around, I am away from home for a grand total of eighteen days and will be un- contactable when you consider the time difference. I don’t run a tight ship but it has yet to sink and I find myself hoping the Mauritian doesn’t drown. Now don’t get me wrong: I do not doubt the Mauritian’s ability to cope. He is very self-sufficient and an excellent father he will get what needs to be done, done. He just won’t do it my way! I know this and still I “worry.” My main concern is that he will be rushing in the morning and forget to do certain things, I would hate for the Butterfly to miss out on something at school because something went wrong at home. I also wonder if the girl’s will get to bed on time, the Mauritian is terrible at bed times and no matter how many times I yell at him not to rev the girl’s up just before or at bedtime he never listens. Unfortunately, both girls know exactly what to say or do to get the Mauritian started and they never ever fail.
Not so long ago the Mauritian jokingly- I hope- said he would feed the girls a glass of whiskey so they’ll sleep well at night. My response was that I won’t be here so I won’t know therefore it doesn’t matter because it’ll be his problem. “Exactly!” replied the Mauritian. I know all of this and yet I continue to obsess. Perhaps I should just resign myself to the fact that the Butterfly is going to be late for school, miss a few cricket matches, practises or dance lessons. Perhaps I need to accept that they will go to bed far too late and wear mismatched or dirty clothes now and then. Maybe I need to understand that it doesn’t matter if the girl’s lunches are made the night before or the next morning or if they bath after supper instead of before. I know they won’t go hungry because he will feed them far too much. I know they won’t get cold because he’ll dress them too warm or put far too many blankets on their beds. I know they’ll never come to any harm because the Mauritian is far too over protective. I know they won’t for a moment feel neglected or forgotten because the Mauritian is more than capable and lots of fun. I know he won’t do anything the way I do it because he is not me and nobody can do it like mum does it so he won’t even try! I know all of this yet I continue to make lists, write instruction and colour code calendars! Then every time I show the Mauritian what I’ve done, where I’ve put it and why he smiles, nods his heads says thanks and claims that’ll make things easy for him then changes the subject.
I know that while I wrestle with all these concerns, try  to ensure that everything runs smoothly or predict any issues and how to solve them  the Mauritian struggles with the intense problem of how to fit  his gym workout into the day and what to do with the kids.
In the end, whatever happens will happen it will be up to the three of them to deal with it. I really do need to stop obsessing and just look forward to spending some quality time with my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and the myriad of other relations gathered at the upcoming celebrations.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Grumpy Old Men on Mobility Scooters

Grumpy old men on mobility scooters, should be locked up! Man, oh man I have had my fill of them this summer.
Perhaps I should be more specific and say one grumpy old man on a mobility scooter being the exception rather than the rule. However, he does spoil it for all the elderly charging about our small seaside town on those magical scooters.
Last year some time, I had a run in with an elderly gentleman on his mobility scooter while crossing at a pedestrian crossing. We almost collided because I wanted to go left and he wanted to go right. No one’s fault really but I stepped back, allowed him to continue, smiled and apologised as my parents raised me to do. My smile was not returned, my apology was not acknowledged and he avoided eye contact as he drove off mumbling profanities about the youth of today. What a grumpy old man I thought then brushed it off as someone having a bad day and hey, it was nice to be classed as youthful!
Then a number of weeks ago the Lollipop and I were going for our morning walk, which when you are a Lollipop, is a very leisurely stroll consisting of numerous starts, stops and looks at. The morning joggers, dog walkers, kids off to school and grownups off to work all go around us utilising the space provided by the wide pavements. The highlight of the morning is how most of the kids when they charge past yell, “Hello Sarah-Marie’s mum!” I often think that the entire school knows who I am! But I digress, so there we were, Lollipop and I, strolling slowly and happily along the pavement. The Lollipop was admiring the flowers and collecting pebbles and stones and putting them into her backpack. Suddenly we were both frightened out of our skin by what sounded like a fog horn. Spinning around to search for the source of the noise, I found a grumpy old man in a mobility scooter, gestating wildly at me to move out of the way. Considering the amount of space available for him to move around us, and the complete unnecessary use of an air horn to get our attention, I was highly annoyed. Scowling at him I realised he was the same grumpy old man from the year before; I wanted to tell him to go to hell and maybe learn some manners. I did not I was raised correctly! Clutching a very frightened little Lollipop close to me I stepped back into the flower bed out of his way apologised for not realising we had drifted into the middle of the path and tried not to glare! Again, he made no eye contact as he zipped past mumbling profanities at stupid people. Having now gotten over that, I realised I had now damaged someone’s garden and would be apologising for that too.
I don’t get it, I’m am not the world’s most tolerant or patient person but I do have manners and I always try and treat everyone with some respect, why is it there are so many people out there with none to speak of. I was raised to have respect for people, I was taught to always be polite and mindful of others especially pensioners. You know what I mean, those simple things like giving up your seat on the bus or stepping to one side and allowing them to enter a building before you. Simple things that take no effort but make someone feel noticed. It amazes me how many surprised looks I get from the elderly when I hold a door open for them or step aside to let them go ahead of me. It is almost as if they become invisible as people completely ignore them or push past them as they slowly make their way around town. Whoever came up with the idea of the mobility scooter needs to be knighted; so many elderly people now are able to continue living independently because these scooters give them the freedom to go places in their own time. They zip up and down the shopping aisles, along the pavements or the Foreshore having a grand old time. As a pedestrian, we do have to be a little more aware of them and it is our responsibility to get out of their way rather than expect them to move out of our way. After all these are elderly people whose eyesight may not be the best or their reflexes have slowed and they won’t react quick enough to avoid collision. On the whole most riders of these mobility scooters use basic road etiquette and share the pavement space with other users without incident.
Except, it seems for this horrid grumpy old man who, I believe, should not be allowed out in public! Today my Lollipop and I set off for our walk to town to complete some chores. There we were standing at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the light to change when suddenly my Lollipop squeals and falls forward into the street. Grabbing her by her shirt I was able to pull her back to safety and while I was picking her up to comfort her I looked around for the reason for her flight into traffic when my eyes settled on the same grumpy old man and his mobility scooter. He was nowhere to be seen when we got to the crossing so he had obviously come up behind us and not stopped, purposely riding into Lollipop. Forgetting all my upbringing, my manners and totally disregarding any misplaced respect I asked him what the hell did he think he was doing. I got told the light was @#$%^ green and to get a @#$%^&* move on he had things to do and no time for stupid youngest with too much time on their hands and living off his hard earned taxes. My response was that he was making assumptions which was a dangerous thing to do and that he could either move around me and my child or he could wait till I was good and ready to move forward. He went on to list all the things wrong with my generation and the generation I was raising and personally he felt that we should all be lined up and shot, in his day children were brought up correctly.
As the light changed to green again I had quite enough of his tirade and rudeness so I turned back to him looked him right in the eyes and said: “Clearly! Sir! You were not brought up correctly but rather dragged up by elevator!” With that I turned heel and stomped off dragging poor Lollipop behind me through the crossing.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A Ramble at Sunrise

This morning I was awake before the sun! Why? Only my subconscious knows! It’s a Saturday for goodness sake! Likely the only Saturday until April we won’t have to be running about getting ready to go watch a bunch of six and seven year olds play their version of a cricket match. I am awake and I don’t want to be, I hate it!
But, having said all of that I do love the complete silence in that hour just before the dawn starts to break. My children are sprawled spread-eagle and naked on their beds as the fan slowly oscillates moving the warm late summer air around the small seemingly airless room. My husband grunted a greeting as I got out of bed then pulled up the duvet to his chest and rolled onto my side of the bed. He claims my side of the bed is more comfortable, he forgets that a month ago we turned the mattress around so technically it’s his side of the bed! So I got out of bed made myself a cup of tea, yes tea, I am trying to not drink coffee I drink far too much of it, and I sat in the dark lounge watching the sky begin to lighten. Now, in an effort to combat the uncharacteristic heat and humidity of this late Kiwi summer, I am sitting outside writing at the garden table in the early dawn light. The cicada chorus is deafening and drowning out those first tentative early bird calls that grow slowly in volume as more birds rise with the sunlight. The neighbour’s cat is staring at me with one beady eye; he is "sleeping" on a garden chair wondering if I’m going to chase him off. I can hear my insomniac neighbour hanging out her laundry and having a low conversation with her very spoilt dog. I consider popping my head over the fence and saying hello but then I decide I prefer the alone time. 
I thought perhaps I could use this time to be poetic and artistic but my muse had other ideas. She opened one eye looked at me looked around pulled the covers over her head and told me to go away. So I sat here, poised for poetry, completely uninspired by all the inspiration surrounding me and wondered what to do next. I got up, made myself a cup of coffee, turned on my computer and started to read some blogs! I am an avid “blog” follower; there is some genuinely good stuff out there and some right royal crap too. But I read anyways because the good stuff gives me ideas and maybe some ways to improve my own blog and the bad stuff makes me feel pretty good and way more intelligent! But there are some I read because these bloggers lead very interesting lives and it doesn’t matter if they write well or not their stories are the interesting bits. But the blogs I like best are the ones that read like a conversation. I like it when I can hear the author speaking as I read, it’s reminiscent of sitting round the dinner table listening to people recounting their lives and experiences. I like to hear what I am reading, or perhaps I just have a thing for voices in my head.
Then the Butterfly woke up, look out the kitchen door at me with a rather bemused expression on her face. Then she shook her head, disappeared back inside and I can hear noises coming from the kitchen as she prepares herself a bowl of Weetbix and a glass of juice. Then the silence returns, so I take a peek inside to see what she is up to. There she is sitting on her beanbag watching the National Geographic channel chomping down on her cereal and I am left wondering when did she grow up? She is a cheeky, stubborn, noisy, happy, helpful, friendly child who loves to dance, sing, and draw and absolutely bursting at the seams with love. She has learnt to accept that she has a Lollipop shadow and that none of her toys are hers any more, they now belong to the demon two year old the grownups tell her is her sister. The trade off is she gets to scooter to and from school on her own, make her  own breakfast some mornings and have her own email address. She plays cricket goes to dancing lessons has numerous play dates and long conversations with our neighbours. She’s also now finished her breakfast, bored with television and jumping on the trampoline.
Next to rise is the Lollipop, stumbling down the passage rubbing her eyes calling out for her sister totally shunning the attentions of her adoring maternal parent. Hearing her sister calling the Butterfly yells at her to join her on the trampoline which the Lollipop declines and demands a cup of juice instead. Pandemonium reigns when mum attempted to pour the juice and to the rescue comes “Super Sister” with an emphatic call of “I’ll do it mum I know exactly how she likes it!” Peace returns to the emerging day as big sister pours the correct juice into the correct cup and places it in the correct place for little sister to drink. Now I’m  wondering when it was that I no longer knew exactly what it was the Lollipop wanted and the Butterfly does. I am almost certain that they have a secret language, I am always asking the Butterfly to translate from Lollinese to English. I try washing Lollipop’s hair she screams blue murder no matter how hard I try not to get water on her face. When Butterfly volunteers she empties a jug of water over Lollipop’s head and she laughs with abandon. I try soaping Lollipop down or rubbing on eczema creams, she squirms, squeals, and complains it stings, she sit still and co-operates when the Butterfly does it. Apparently I just don’t do it right!
Last to rise is the Mauritian, eyes half closed, what hair remains on his head is all akimbo, he stumbles down the passageway in much the same way as his youngest child before him. Straight to the kitchen to make coffee and then he flops onto the couch to drink it while his girls climb all over him and try engage him in loud silly conversations.
And with it the quiet of the early morning, my reflection and ramble are brought to an end.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Hurricane Terror

When we pass through the entrance of the Supermarket my children morph into Super Villains, it is all rather terrifying. Despite all the warnings and threats when those automatic doors closed behind us my children lose their ability to hear instruction. They grow horns, tails and numerous pairs of extra arms with oversized “have to touch everything” hands. The volume control slips up to “extra loud outside voice” position and the speed button sticks on “run and slide.” There is a list of favourite games including “toss our shoes at the eggs,” “bounce on the toilet rolls” and “climb in the freezers.” There are those inevitable sprint races up and down the aisles and temporary good behaviour when one child runs into a teacher or classmate’s parent.
I have warned, cajoled, bribed, threatened and begged them to behave to no avail; going shopping with the Mauritian is no help they just get worse! I have to double check the trolley frequently because one or both of them is always putting something unwanted into it. Last week’s Supermarket expedition the Hurricane whipped off not just her shoes but also her shirt inspiring the Terror to do the same! Fortunately I was able to stop the Terror before she got that far, unfortunately the Hurricane ran off shirtless before I got to her.  Then the Terror requested to try a new cereal, the request was denied so she staged a sit in to protest the denial. To top it all off the Hurricane decided that jumping up and hanging on the handle of the trolley and dangling her legs in the air was fun, until she missed.
All the parenting books, magazines and websites will tell you that grocery shopping for young children is boring and that is why they misbehave. Said advisors also advise to involve said bored children in the shopping by giving them small jobs to perform. Said advisors are right, getting them involved works, brilliantly! Unless, the two-year-old Hurricane wants to do all the jobs that her eldest sister is given to do regardless of what it is: If big sister is doing it little sister wants to do it! Therefore, in retaliation the six-year-old Terror will try anything to get her sister into trouble.
So what do you do when a Hurricane and a Terror met in the Supermarket? You turn your back on them, walk away and pretend you do not know them. When said Hurricane Terror makes a beeline for you yelling “Wait for us mum!” you duck down the nearest aisle and run like hell! When one trips over her own feet and lands face first on the floor and her sister has a head on collision with a trolley when she turns to help her you shake your head, sigh and say, “Parents really need to learn to control their children.” Don’t forget the obligatory “Tut!” Move on to the next aisle make sure you haven’t seen any of the people in that aisle before then hand them each a tissue and let them sort themselves out while trailing after you sniffing in misery.
Eventually you will have finished the shopping so you can safely head to the cashier and get the hell out of there. Of course by now the two monsters would have recovered enough to ask for a sweet treat. Now this is where you get your own back: Throw your head back and laugh as if your sides are going to split. Then take a deep breath slowly in and out, go down to their level look them in the eye and say “Uhm... Yeah...Nah!” and then watch in sheer delight as their eyes fill with crocodile tears.

Maybe tomorrow I should just lock them in the backyard and go shopping alone.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Confessions of Confusion

In exactly four weeks, I shall be packing a suitcase and heading off on that arduous journey that will take me back to South Africa, my family, friends and my baby brother’s wedding. For varying reasons my family is staying behind and I shall have the pleasure of my lifelong friend for company on the flight home. Last night, while the Mauritian berated the girls for their horrendous attempt to go to sleep I sat and continued watching television. When the Mauritian asked me what was happening on the program I couldn’t answer him, I was looking at the screen but I was in a completely different mental space. I realised that the impending trip is creating conflicting emotions, which has me really looking forward to going home and dreading leaving my family at the same time.
The truth is I would’ve moved heaven and earth to be at the wedding and I have no doubt that the Mauritian will cope admirably with being a single working father for two weeks. I should be embracing the first break away from children in five years. I should be jumping for joy at the prospect of good old fashion “girl talk” with my lifelong friend for an entire trip. I should be looking forward to no cooking, no washing, no early morning alarms, no lunch boxes, no after school activities and no sibling squabbling.  I’m not! I do not like the idea of the Mauritian missing a chance to see his family, I do not like that my girls won’t get to see their Godfather and our favourite Eeyore getting married. I’m not so keen on the possibility that I may miss the Lollipop’s first day at “playschool,” or the Butterfly’s first dance recital. I don’t relish the idea been away from my soul mate even though the break will be good for us.
One minute I can’t wait to be on a bus heading for Auckland, the next minute the thought of being back home is horrifying. It’s all rather confusing and frustrating! What I want to feel is excitement and enthusiasm. What I want is to be ready to leave a week before hand. What I want is to not be able to sit still with anticipation. No such luck! I’m all over the place; I can’t keep my emotions in check let alone make any sense of them. I’m start getting into my "to-do" list then lose interest and leave things half done. I feel like a dog with two masters calling to it from opposite ends and not knowing whom to obey!
There have been a number of times over the past months that having my lifelong friend living in Auckland has been a blessing. Her unbridled excitement at the prospect of going home, while justified, has left me with the urge to slap her sometimes. I really wish I could feel like that!
This morning our Lollipop was in a charitable mood and decided she would spend the morning empting the toy boxes and playing with all the toys in a different part of the house. This left me with time on my hands so I decided to tackle that “to-do” list and start crossing off things.  I ended up baking apple and banana muffins, stewing apples and adding them to an apple jelly, making Lollipop an omelette for lunch and cooking supper, all before midday. My second attempt at the list today turned into a trip to the veggie market and grocery store. After supper and a long involved and emotional conversation with the Mauritian, I resolved to at least finish one thing on my "to-do" list tonight. I wrote this blog instead.
So having gotten nowhere or sorted out my head yet again tomorrow is another day and I shall begin again.
Here’s hoping tomorrow is a little more successful!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Reflection at a Garage Sale

Last weekend my neighbour decided to have a garage sale and she graciously offered to sell anything we wanted to get rid of. The offer could not have come at a more opportune moment as the Mauritian and I had decided we needed to make a few changes and de clutter a tad. With the Lollipop now officially potty trained and dry overnight she is out of the cot and in a bed. She of course thinks she is the bee’s knees now but that is another blog. In the process of buying the bed, the Butterfly brought up the subject of the two of them sharing a room. In the past when we had suggested it, the Butterfly had not seemed very enthralled by the idea of giving up her privacy so we were surprised when she broached the subject. During the course of the discussion, the Butterfly asked if we could move the Lollipop into her room and they can decide together if they like sharing or not. So, that is what we did, and within a few days it was quite clear that both girls were very comfortable and happy with the idea. So these past two weeks Butterfly and I have tidied out her bookshelves, toy boxes, cupboards and bedside tables and made room for her sister’s things. Then we attacked Lollipop’s room and we piled into the disused cot all the clothes and toys she no longer fitted or played with and moved most of her things into her new room.  With two children and two beds in one room the already limited space has shrunk so we converted Lollipop’s room into a storeroom/playroom.

My goodness did they take to the idea of a “playroom,” except for first thing in the morning and just before bed the sister’s have been dividing the day up between the “playroom,” bedroom and trampoline. Unfortunately with all the unused stuff being stored in the room it has not taken long for total disorganisation to take place. It had become necessary to rid ourselves of any stuff that was unused and gathering dust so Aunty E’s offer was readily accepted. So again the Butterfly and I repacked all the toys into their boxes, and set about cleaning and sorting out everything for sale. Friday evening we carried everything next door, the Butterfly was completely uninterested except for the fact that there was now loads more space in the “playroom.” The Lollipop was not so sure about the idea. She showed some concern when we moved out the changing table but only because she thought we were taking the toys that had been stored on it with us. She asked why we were moving her cot and seemed satisfied with the reply that we were giving it away because she did not need it any more. Her little sleeper couch was a different story she let out a heart broken wail of protest, until her sister said “We don’t need the couch any more silly Billy we have funky bean bags now!”

While we were helping the neighbours set things up we left the girls with electronic babysitters and told the Butterfly to come get us if they needed us. It was not long before one or both of them decided we were gone too long and they came looking for us. On seeing all her baby paraphernalia the Lollipop’s eyes lit up and she squeal with delight at having found her cot. When we left I told the girls’ to say goodbye and our little Lollipop went around the garden touching each item and saying goodbye. There were four weepy-eyed adults in that yard all sighing and saying, with hands over our hearts, how cute she was. This soon turned to sidesplitting laughter as she bid goodbye to the neighbours garden furniture, barbeque and garden gnomes.  Once we were home the Mauritian and I started discussing about how else we could put the room to use, providing of course that we were able to sell everything and didn’t need to move it all back  in. I walked into the room to get a sense of the space and I was suddenly aware of emptiness. Suddenly we no longer have a baby in the house and nothing to look at that represented my children’s babyhood. Oh my goodness, my babies are growing and slowly but surely the chapters of their childhood are opening and closing before our eyes.

It is at moments such as these that I am grateful to be able to be at home with my children. I have not missed any of their “firsts” or any of their worst. On reflection I have come to realise just how great a sacrifice the Mauritian makes every day so that his children want for nothing. He is missing so much of their growing up, so often he has to hear second hand about the funny little things that children do and say. Like most people he often wishes he could just stay at home and not have to work and he does complain often and sometimes bitterly about having to go to work, but he never does less than his best every day. So many times these holidays he has left me to sleep in while he gets ready for work and when I ask him why he didn’t wake me up he just says I looked like I needed to sleep in. On most mornings he is the first to arrive at work and is always the last to leave, yet if I need him at home in an emergency he will not hesitate to drop everything and come home. Recently I got up after lunch and sighing said something along the lines of putting away yet another load of laundry and picking up after the kids yet again. The Mauritian followed me down the passage and said “We all have our jobs to do babe, like it or not!” Well that pulled the soapbox right out from under me.

As it turned out the garage sale was not as much of a success as we had hoped and we had to move most of the paraphernalia back into the “playroom.” So yet again chaos rules as the girls fill what is left of the space with toys and books making it impossible to move. No room either for reflections or feeling sentimental, for now!