Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Nursery rhyme lyrics butchered

Little Jack Horner well-known lyrics
Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said 'What a good boy am I!

Version of Nuha (at the age of 4)
Little Jack Horny (!!!)
Sat in the corny
Eating his crispy pie
He put in his thumb
And pulled out a lung
And said what a good naughty boy am I!

Version of Aisha (aged 2)
Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner
Eating a plum

Friday, 27 January 2012

Aisha- an attempt to capture this moment in time

Since her birth, two year old Aisha has profoundly affected the family dynamics the way all babies tend to do. Often she dominates dinner times with her cute sayings and tricks, which she loves to perform much to the delight of her older siblings. She is able to diffuse even the most potentially explosive confrontational situation (and not just between the kids) by simply flashing a smile.

However she has also managed to blend and adjust perfectly into the very unique unit made up of her and her siblings. Very often one can hear them all screaming with laughter at jokes that only they could possibly find funny. She will join them in singing all their favourite tunes (and can carry a tune surprisingly well for her age). I could not believe how much of Adele's "Someone like You" she can sing.

Recently she has discovered Michael Jackson, her mommy's hero. Two weeks ago, when Mo and I wanted to watch an episode of our favourite series 'Revenge', we simply plonked her in front of the laptop to watch his Bucharest concert. How clever of us!!!

However, the main love of her life is a dinosaur (something she has in common with her older brother Shakeel)- but in her case the object of her affection is the purple dinosaur Barney, who causes her eyes to sparkle with love and admiration.

I am amazed at how well she is able to carry on a conversation with the rest of us (although much of what she says can only be understood by us). She seems to have an opinion on everything the kids discuss at the dinner table and is as animated as the rest of them when expressing herself . I love how she can imitate Shakeel's teachers (of whom he loves doing impressions) and is even able to capture the subtle nuances of the quirks and accents of these people whom she has never met!

She counts from 1-20 and thanks to the time she has spent at the dojo watching the older kids' karate training, she counts to ten in Japanese too.

But she is absolutely not interested in learning about colours. Though her favourite colour is blue. Not the colour itself, but the word- she uses the word 'blue' to describe anything she desires or likes. So every morning she wakes up insisting on blue porridge (Jungle Oats), after which she wants to watch the blue Barney DVD (Fun on the farm). She insists on sipping her milk or water from her blue cup (a green plastic cup). All very confusing.

Her pronunciation of certain words has outsiders completely stumped. "Mommy, could I please have some toodie", translated "Mommy could I please have foodie".

"Mommy please teed me" translated is "Mommy please feed me"

She is at a very difficult potty training stage- she hates wearing a nappy, but often still forgets to tell us that she has to pee. She has a very special place where she does all her peeing and pooing- on Shakeel's carpet at the foot of his bed. It drives me nuts that she chooses to mess on the only carpet in the house (the rest of the house either has wooden floors or tiles). But I guess it is up to us to ensure that we put her on the toilet more regularly instead of waiting for an accident to happen.

She loves snacking on tomatoes, carrots and boiled egg. However she also loves eating 'clock-it' (chocolate), although this happens seldomly (simply because I do not like sharing my chocolate). She is the only one of my kids who enjoys taking sips of my green tea (yes, yes I know- it contains caffeine, but I really only allow it in moderation)

She refers to our teeny tiny little garden as 'the farm', since she spotted many 'animals' (birds, bees, ants and other bugs) one sunny morning. So every morning she asks to be taken to the farm to water the plants.

I know that she is too old to still be breastfeeding, but she still is completely addicted to her mommy's boobies for comfort. (This is becoming a HUGE problem for me). Very often when she sees me in the shower, she won't rest until I crouch down for a minute or two to provide her with her 'fix'.

She is in such an extremely cute stage that I wish I could somehow capture every bit of it before she moves to the next one. I really wish that I could remember how delightful, amazing and cute my other kids were at this age.

I suppose that the best I can do is to appreciate how wonderful they are right now.






Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Grumpy and Grouchy- the one where I took charge

This morning Tharaa awoke with a very bad head- and tummy ache, accompanied by nausea. Mo gave her Stilpayne and permission to stay home from school today.

Bad mother that I am, I silently rejoiced- another person to keep two-year old Aisha occupied before the kids get home from school!!

But my happiness was short-lived. I entered Tharaa's room to the sound of her groaning and moaning.
"I'm hungry, and there's nothing to eat but stupid toast," she complained.
"What about some yoghurt or fruit?" I suggested sensing the lovely morning I had envisioned- sipping tea while surfing the net- slip away.
"Yuck. I don't want stupid yoghurt or stupid disgusting fruit either. Why do we have nothing in this house? Argghhh!!!
I was sitting next to her on the bed with a smile frozen on my face, while chatting away to her in a cheery tone, which was assuming a higher and higher pitch, the more I tried to control my irritation at her.

"Would you like to watch an episode of  F.R.I.E.N.D.S with me?" I asked, referring to this family's favourite sitcom, which each of us has probably watched twenty times. We randomly select episodes from this hilarious sitcom whenever we are bored, unhappy or just need something to watch; and usually end up laughing at it hysterically each time we watch it. I was hoping that Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross would be able to work their magic on my grumpy daughter.

"Okay then,"she said sulkily, as if she was doing me a HUGE favour. So we went into the lounge, only to find Aisha watching the love of her life- Barney the annoying purple dinosaur. She was staring at the screen with a slight smile on her face, as if in a trance; while hugging her toy Barney closely to her chest.

Uh oh. Why had I not thought to check if the DVD player was available? (Yes we still own a few DVDs).

What to do? Did I switch off Barney and face a tantrum of terrifying proportions? Or allow Aisha to continue watching Barney and deal with a Ms Grumpy's moaning and grumbling.

After hyperventilating for a few seconds, the adult in me decided that enough was enough. It was time to take charge. The television would be switched off and I would force them to spend some time in the garden. The fresh air was bound to cheer them up.

I stepped confidently toward the TV. Aisha shrieked. I backed away hurriedly- and pointed out the window. "Did you see that hee-uuge cat outside?"

"Where?" she asked, getting up to run into the garden. I smiled to myself. Victory. Tharaa rolled her eyes. Who cared? I had gotten my way. I was in charge.

Tharaa lay on the reclining chair on the porch, while Aisha tottered about the garden with the heavy watering can, pouring a few droplets of water on some plants and half-drowning others. I sat on the step admiring the patterned shadows caused by the sun as it penetrated the dense leaves of our lemon/orange tree (we still don't know what the heck this tree bears- it is a winter fruit which looks like lemons but tastes like oranges). I lay my back against the wall enjoying the feeling of the lovely warm breeze against my cheeks. I glanced over at Tharaa, who had a slight smile on her face as she watched Aisha who was pouring the water over her toes and squishing them into the grass, completely unaware that her ill-fitting panty was leaving half of her bum exposed.

Mmm, contentment at last.

We remained in the garden until I could see that the heat was becoming too much for poor Tharaa, who was becoming lethargic, despite the fact that she had stopped moaning.
Now that we have returned from fetching the other kids from school, I have noticed that Tharaa is becoming feverish as well. We shall have to get her to a doctor as soon as Mo gets home.

Since my feelings of maternal nurturing, protectiveness and empathy were being strained to the limit today, I forced myself to imagine how awful she must be feeling by revisiting the first trimester of all my pregnancies, when nausea and tummy aches had had me moaning and whining constantly.

Poor thing. I think I'll go and ask her if she wants some toast.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The day I realised that my son needs friends

Up until recently I had always been very happy that my kids enjoy playing together- not really needing anyone else with whom to play.

This doesn't mean that I did not notice how Shakeel lights up when he's around boys his own age and turns into a raving lunatic- punching, kicking, roaring and growling. It's as if he is on some kind of demented high.

It is also really annoying to see how he tries to turn his little sisters into little boys. He'd become irritated when they wanted to do anything girly, so most often they end up playing warrior/fighting/ninja games or run-from-the-roaring growling dinosaur/lion/whatever carnivore he feels like being on that day.

Although he had a best friend in Grade 4, he's pretty much been without one since that boy left for another school. Since then he's been bouncing between cliques; never really belonging to any one. I was aware that it was bothering him- he always said that when the class was asked to partner into groups of two, nobody would choose him- not because they didn't like him, but because each had his/her own special buddy.

This bothered me, but not long enough to do something about it, since he'd come home and play with his sisters quite happily. I'd convince myself that he would be okay and that it was better if he just played with his sisters, as it meant fewer negative outside influences from hormonal inquisitive pre-teen boys.

But then I read this article and was overcome with guilt and sadness. My son was being deprived of so much by not having a best friend- it was not merely a nice-to-have (as I had assumed), but a very essential part of his healthy development.

In a nutshell- according to the article research has shown boys to be as relationship-oriented as girls are. Boys too need a special friend with whom to share secrets and discuss personal issues. Close relationships, according to this article, are associated with "better emotional and physical health as well as academic engagement and achievement". In addition, "adolescents without close friendships are at risk for depression, suicide, dropping out of school, early pregnancy, drug use, and gang membership".

Fortunately two of his friends, Caleb and Sipho (who, in turn, are best friends) invited him to spend the day with them soon after I'd acquired this illuminating bit of information. As uncomfortable as it was for me- since I hate my kids spending, what I consider to be family time, away from us- I forced myself to change my mindset. I had always been focused on developing Shakeel academically to the detriment of other areas of his life.

This misguided approach of mine is most likely also the reason he handles stress so badly. His relative isolation means that he does not have anyone with whom to share his concerns, or to provide him with the perspective of a fellow 12-year old. If he'd had that, he would have realised that the world does not end if you do not obtain among the top marks in your class or if you are not chosen as class monitor.

So at this moment my son is playing outside in the plastic pool with Caleb and Sipho, who'd both spent the night last night. Even this sleepover had been the source of so much stress for Shakeel. What if they did not enjoy themselves?he'd wondered. What if they did not enjoy playing in the plastic pool, since they were accustomed to swimming in Caleb's massive 'real' pool?

But he needn't have worried. The excited shrieks and laughter were more than enough evidence of the wonderful time they were having.

The idea had been to pitch a tent and camp out in the yard, but I think none of them had actually had the guts to go through with that plan. So the tent was pitched in the living room, with Sipho choosing to sleep in there;  Shakeel dragged a mattress from the room for himself, while Caleb lay sprawled on a very comfy sofa.

They spent the earlier part of the evening watching stand-up comedian Trevor Noah and then fell asleep in front of the television.

This morning they accompanied my kids to their karate classes, after which they spent the rest of the day hopping in and out of the pool. By early afternoon though they were clearly becoming worried that their time together was running out, so they asked if they could sleep over again tonight.

Despite the fact that we were attending a prayer gathering tonight (and neither of them are Muslim), they still were prepared to sit through the prayer meeting in order to be able to sleep over afterward. Since the gathering was held to mark the death of my father-in-law a year ago, it was held at my mother-in-law's place.

The two boys dutifully and respectfully sat through the prayers after which they stuffed themselves and went to play soccer in the road with my kids' cousins.

They are now done swimming and are lying in bed chatting away happily. Earlier I overheard their plans to sit with some Maths worksheets (which Shakeel is expected to do); and to choreograph a dance. It sounds as if they have a full schedule planned for tomorrow.

I am feeling so contented right now. I love how happy these friends are making my son. I am also really pleased that they seem to be having such a wonderful time and have fitted into the family so comfortably. Both boys went over to give my mother-in-law a kiss and hug before we left which I thought was rather sweet.

I hope that this year Shakeel will forge firm friendships which will provide him with the necessary support he needs- now and in the future. My hope is also that him having carefree (though not careless and irresponsible) friends will assist him to have a balanced approach to his life; and that him having friends with whom he can communicate and share his feelings and thoughts, will help him to manage his stress in a positive healthy way.

Mostly, I just want him to be happy- to create memories upon which he can look fondly in future, with the knowledge and satisfaction that his childhood had been a happy one.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Katjie arrives- and lays down the law

Our domestic worker Katjie arrived at about midday yesterday. Or should I say 'returned', as she had worked for us until two years ago (as described in a previous post)

By 13:00 it was as if she had never left- and that is not necessarily a good thing. After a quick shower in her quarters, she came to find me where I had been hiding and laid down the law.

First there were the more reasonable demands with which I was expected to (and with which I was happy to) comply. These involved her new dietary restrictions, which have been introduced by her local doctor as a result of her stomach ulcers. So I am not to serve her curry or any spicy food, anything with tomato or fizzy drinks. No problem- I could easily cater for her in my meal planning.

Then she noted that she would tackle the rooms today as she had been too tired. I agreed- I had in fact told her to spend the afternoon recovering from her long taxi journey. But it seemed to me that she preferred to spend the afternoon tormenting me. So after we'd agreed that the housework would be postponed until today, she informed me that I would need to gear up for a really busy day as I would be assisting her. Um, is this normal? I really wasn't sure if I was just out of touch with the employer-employee dynamic. I really didn't know if this was a typical type of interaction between boss and worker. So I wracked my brains trying to imagine how my previous employers would have responded had this scenario played out when I had been employed by them.

Me (employee): "We are a bit short-staffed. We do not have enough monitors to report on all the important Parliamentary Committee meetings".

Employer: "I agree- we shall have to conduct interviews before the Parliamentary schedule becomes too full; by which time we must have employed sufficient people to cover each meeting. You should advertise the vacancies as soon as possible and then start the interview process".

Me: "Well, then you'd better get lots of rest because you're helping me. There's no way I'm tackling that laborious task by myself".

Now, it has been a while since I've been in the formal work environment, but something tells me that that conversation would not have ended well- for me. But in my upside-down world where my domestic workers completely take control of my household, while I hide in my room (or wherever they aren't), that type of interaction is quite typical.

Then she looked at Aisha, who was so delighted to have a person other than me with whom to play (or so the poor thing thought).

Katjie: How old is she?

Me: She turned two in November.

Katjie: I assumed that she would be in creche or daycare or something by now.
[Me- panicking- is that why she had agreed to come back?]

Me: No she's still too young- and I am at home, so there is no reason to send her to daycare. I still want to spend time with my baby.
Is that disapproval I see?

Katjie: Is she still as naughty as she used to be?
I searched her face for a hint of a smile, but there was none.

I was becoming annoyed. I am definitely not one of those parents who regards her children as infallible little angels, but Aisha had been about 4-6 months old when this woman left. What the heck was she talking about?

When the kids came home Nuha shyly went over to her. Nuha had always liked Katjie. In my attempt to break the ice, I asked, "Katjie, did you see how much Nuha's grown?"
She scrutinised Nuha from top to bottom. Clearly not impressed, she commented, "Mmmm, she's obviously not going to be very tall. She really hasn't grown much since I last saw her".

Fortunately she'd been speaking Afrikaans, of which Nuha understands a few very basic words- not enough to make sense of that much-too-honest comment.

Her brutal honesty took me right back to the day we brought Aisha home from the hospital for the first time.
"Mmm, this one is nice and yellow- just like Tharaa. Now you only have one black daughter- she clearly is as black as her brother- shame".

I remember feeling as if I wanted to clasp my hand over her mouth to shut her up before she inflicted permanent damage upon my child, who had been standing right there grinning with pride at her new baby sister.

Oh dear, I hope we haven't just made a huge mistake by taking her back. We shall probably  give her a few days to acclimatise and then reassess the situation. I hope that we will be brave enough to take the necessary action should it be required.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Bliss- on a school afternoon!

Even though school is already in full swing this week, at home we are still slowly making the adjustment from the holiday.

The fact that we have in Cape Town been enjoying 'summer holiday weather' this week does not help matters. We still have not taken down the plastic pool- it is quite large, so draining all the water is a long guilt inducing process (I can't bear to watch all that water simply flow away, considering the water-shortages in so many parts of the world). We shall therefore only take it down once we are certain that all the sweltering summer days are behind us.

When fetching the kids from school, the nerve-wracking drive through the blistering heat in the city centre has me completely wilted by the time I get home. So today I joined them in their pool much to their delight. The cool refreshing water revitalised me immediately. I spent a blissful 45 minutes playing with the kids and just lazing about in the water with them before coming inside to prepare dinner.

So with lifted spirits the kids are now tackling their homework- and they are certainly being much more productive than they would have been had they not enjoyed their rejuvenating afternoon splash.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Katjie is a no-show

Our domestic worker was supposed to arrive at approximately 04:00 am this morning. She didn't. When Mo called her (because I steer clear of all potentially confrontional issues with our domestic workers, family, friends etc etc; choosing simply to hide behind him), her daughter told him that the taxi had failed to pick her up. She will be here on Thursday.

I'm not so sure.

This woman, named Katjie is about 55 years old. She had worked for us until about two years ago, when she left, saying that she wanted to retire from domestic service. I understood that perfectly and supported her, making various suggestions as to what she could do to earn extra money in her own town. Obviously she was getting tired of working away from home for such long periods of time. I understood that completely too . The life these women are forced to live, leaving home and often their children, for months at a time, is heartbreaking. It makes one appreciate one's family unit, and the fact that we can be there for them 24/7. I often feel guilty that in order for them to be here assisting me with my kids, they had had to leave theirs.

They are often greatly underpaid and exploited. We have always tried to be fair when it comes to their salary, working conditions, working hours etc. In addition, in our home everyone understands that they are here to assist us- not slave away for us. I have heard of and witnessed some of the atrocities which some of these women are forced to endure- very often by people with whom I was well-acquainted.

Because of the personal nature this particular employer-employee relationship can sometimes assume, and the fact that sleep-in domestic workers share our space and our lives so closely, this relationship is often fraught with tension. They live as part of the family, but are to some extent always subservient by virtue of the fact that you are paying their salary.

I have never managed to strike a good balance. Because of my nature and the fact that I see myself as dependent on them, I tend to relinquish control completely. Instead of this making for a more harmonious relationship, it often causes more conflict as they then find it easy to ignore my requests (to do tasks which form part of their job). When I try to assert my authority (I am hearing laughter in my head) as the employer and attempt to insist that a job be completed, it is often met with resistance; which is when I am forced to get Mo to step in. Although he is the one whom they regard with more authority, at the end of each relationship; he is the one whom they respect and even like more.

Often my relationship with them would have been ruined by the fact that I attempted to stand up for myself or stand my ground on a particular issue.

I truly am a wimp.

I really really hate this relationship. I am not cut out for it and I hate that I am so dependent upon it.

Aunty Katjie ended up working in a neighbouring suburb about two weeks after leaving us. I can only assume that she had left for more money; which was fine with me. We always paid the going rate, and I would have been happy to support her leaving if she had told me that she had been offered more money elsewhere (really, I would have). Leaving one job for a higher-paying one  is a completely normal thing for an employee to do, but once again the fact that the relationship becomes so personal often makes the decision to leave an uncomfortable one.

Someone I knew realised that her anger at her domestic worker leaving had resulted from the fact that their relationship had turned into one of friendship. When the employee left, she had therefore viewed it as a betrayal of their relationship.

The complexity this relationship sometimes assumes is often exacerbated when there are kids, who don't view the worker as an employee of the family at all, but as a friend or sometimes even a second mom.

So I completely understood Katjie's reluctance to tell us the truth as to why she was leaving. She too hates direct confrontation, which she had probably assumed the discussion would become had so told the truth.

She was not averse to passive-aggression though. I often wondered if she was spitting in our food when we angered her for any reason.

She was also not afraid to speak her mind. She became very sulky at one point when we had told her that we could not afford to buy a television for her quarters as yet; but she was welcome to watch the television in the house. She had threatened to leave if she didn't get a TV of her own.

So why are we even considering taking her back, you might ask. She had had a good relationship with Nuha and was just starting to bond with Aisha, who had been a few months old when she left. I know that she will not do anything to harm the kids deliberately and she had proven that she could be trusted with our property and large amounts of money belonging to us.

Better the devil you know, I suppose. I cannot bear the thought of letting a new person into our home and family- I just do not have the strength for that right now.

Before she agreed to come, she had requested R800 for her 2 youngest kids' school shoes. (I have no idea what type of fancy school shoes she was buying her kids that cost so much!). She requested Mo to send this along with R500 for the taxi.

Upon hearing this, I became really uncomfortable. It reminded me too much of her 'Buy me a TV or I'll leave' ultimatum. So Mo offered to send R500 for the kids' school shoes and would pay the taxi driver his fare when they dropped her here. She had agreed to this arrangement.

I cannot help wondering if we've just been had. I guess we'll have to wait until Thursday to find out.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Week 1 done and dusted; and a pledge to Nuha

So the first school week of 2012 has come and almost gone.

It truly has been one of my most challenging weeks in a long time. But it has also been riddled with undeniable blessings.

Firstly regarding my fearful anticipation of driving in the city centre for the first time, which I described in my previous post, let's just say- I had every reason to be fearful. No, I did not struggle with the lane changing and end up in another province, as I had feared would happen. But it had been really really stressful and unpleasant. It has made home schooling seem like a really attractive option.

Shakeel's report card was lost; and then found. That was the first blessing- not only the fact that it was found, but that its contents reminded me of how dedicated this son of mine can be when he sets his mind to something. I am feeling a bit more confident and relaxed about him being in Grade 7 and the fact that we will start applying to high schools soon.

Shakeel had been pleasantly surprised that his teacher, about whom he had had all sorts of negative scary preconceived ideas and misinformation, has turned out to be 'really really cool'. What added to his 'coolness', was the fact that he has a second dan black belt in karate;  which pretty much makes him Shakeel's new hero. I'm glad that my son has something less about which he has to stress this year.

Yesterday Shakeel informed me that Tharaa's teacher (who had been his Grade 5 teacher) is very strict. Perfect. No, I'm not being sarcastic- I really mean that it is perfect for Tharaa. Her teacher last year had been a wonderful, fun-loving, delightful, cheerful and happy person. That type of teacher is perfect for Shakeel, since he needs to loosen up and relax. But for Tharaa, for whom the most important part of school is the playground and field upon which she can practice her cartwheels, a strict teacher is exactly what was needed.

Many afternoons last year she had come home, and much to my frustration, had told me that she had completed her homework in Homework Class (which they have as part of the Aftercare system). She had always said that she left her completed homework at school and that this had been expected of them (to prevent them from forgetting their homework at home).

Okay, I realise now that me believing that rubbish had been stupid. Or maybe just convenient. It was one person less whose work had to be checked. But I had faced the consequences just before exam time, when I looked at her Maths book to draft practice worksheets, just to find that none of her homework examples (upon which my worksheets would have been based), had been completed. Her teacher had left notes like "Homework not completed", but there had never been consequences. And of course the book had never come home with her, despite my numerous requests.

So on Wednesday I was very surprised when my carefree and careless daughter came home and hit the books immediately. What really amused me was the fact that she cried the entire time she was doing her homework. This continued yesterday, by which time her crying and sobbing had become less amusing and more irritating. But thanks to her new strict teacher, she won't dare to pull the crap she did last year. So eyes heavenward, I fall to my knees in sheer gratitude for Tharaa's new teacher being perfectly matched to my daughter's temperament.

And then there's my mixed blessing- the fact that Aisha absolutely refuses to keep on her nappy during the day. Yesterday she asked to pee and, when placed on the toilet, it turned out that she actually did have to pee. But, there is always the anxiety about whether she has left any puddles around, which have yet to be detected. So now walking around the house feels like walking in Sea Point park- with one constantly on the lookout for little 'accidents' into which one might inadvertently step.

As usual my little patient tolerant angel, Nuha enters the picture as if by an after-thought- but the reality is that she is ever-present in my nagging conscience (as she had been for the whole of last year). I'm not sure if all my focus (due to lack of time) is easily averted from her due to her tolerant accepting nature; or if she has been forced to become accepting by virtue of the fact that she is so often overlooked. The other three are so demanding, dramatic, and assertive that I've found myself focusing mainly on them, to the detriment of poor Nuha.

I was actually pleased when she started to speak out in the holidays- insisting a few times that I see to her needs first. This was unusual- it definitely made my life more challenging, but it was necessary. I was not doing a very good job of balancing the needs of the four of them. She had simply been trying to restore the balance (which had not been her job- I should have been more attentive to her needs anyway).

So this year I undertake to become much more organised and disciplined about my time-allocation. Shakeel will have to become more independent of me (which he has already been doing since last year). I will be watching Tharaa like a hawk- there is no way I'm letting a ten-year old get the better of me this year again. (Amazingly she did quite well in her exams though- but this was thanks to pre-examination cramming and not consistently hard work done throughout the year). We are getting a domestic worker to help with light household chores and provide me with some relief with Aisha.

But once the kids return from school, my priority will be spending time assisting Nuha with her homework- before the others descend upon me with their demands, tantrums and tirades.

So with week one survived, let's hope that next week will be smooth sailing.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A morning of tears, anticipation and four-letter words

So the kids have left for school on their first morning back, and I have been weepy ever since. What is wrong with me? Many stay-at-home moms are viewing today as their first day of well-deserved freedom; the restoration of peace in their homes- why can't I feel that sense of relief?

Possibly I'm just suffering the after-effects of a really stressful morning- only made so by twelve-year old Shakeel's anxiety about being late. We live about 15-20 minutes away from school, which starts at 07:55; but if they cannot leave the house by 07:00 (07:10 for the latest), he considers them to be late and starts becoming anxious. This anxiety he manifests by becoming bossy with his sisters; and even a bit aggressive.

He'll follow them around saying things like, "Get done! Move faster- if you don't move faster, I'll punch you" or "Did you have breakfast yet? No, now it's too late- you'll have to starve!"

It is terribly stressful having to break up arguments- in order to prevent them from turning into full-blown fights- so early in the freakin' morning.

But there are advantages to living with the Punctuality Policeman. He's the one who announced bedtime last night- at 19:45 they were all in bed- uniforms had been laid out and stationery neatly packed away and labelled.

But even he was so excited that by 20:30 there was still giggling and play-fighting coming from the bedroom. Then came a bloodcurdling scream from Shakeel which made my blood run cold. I ran to the room wondering what I would do if I encountered a snake or spider in their bed.

"What happened?" I yelled in panic. "Is anybody hurt?"

Shakeel, with a horrified expression on his face pointed at a butt-naked Aisha (2) who had, as she tends to do these days, decided that she had had enough of her nappy and panty.
"She's crawling all over my bed with her gross bum and vagina. She's disgusting- get her away!!!"

This had Nuha (7) and Tharaa (10) in stitches. I had to step in before a fight ensued, as I knew that Shakeel would feel as if they were mocking him.

For the umpteenth time, I told them to keep quiet and sleep- or else.

There was silence- then the beginning of what sounded like a play-fight. I left them, waiting for my irritation to subside before I would re-enter the room. But then there was a shriek, followed by Nuha bursting into tears.

Shakeel came running out of the room, tears running down his cheeks- with laughter! I was livid, no longer interested in explanations, I would punish him for whatever he had done to Nuha. But then she came out of the room, half-crying, half-laughing to offer an explanation.

Aisha had made her way back into the room (Barney was not doing a very good job of baby-sitting her last night, while I prepared lunches). When she had tried to get onto Nuha's bed, Nuha had shoved her off in irritation. Aisha had then landed a punch on Nuha's cheek with one fist, and then another with her other fist. I was horrified. I blamed them for teaching her such violence. And why the heck did they find that funny?

Nuha then explained that after her two-year old little sister had landed these punches, she'd bowed at Nuha- as she had watched them do at karate.

Again, with more threats of punishment, I sent them back to bed. By 22:00 I heard the last of the whispering.

Thanks to Shakeel, this morning everything was completed timeously. Until I realised that none of them had bothered to eat. They were too excited, they claimed. Before I could launch into a lecture on how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Tharaa dashed off to make everyone a slice of toast on which to nibble in the car.

Then, as they were leaving, Mo asked if their report cards had been signed and packed in. Crap- I had completely forgotten about that. Tharaa's and Nuha's were found, signed and packed. Shakeel's has been misplaced, which added to the poor thing's anxiety. I shall spend the day looking for it.

When greeting them, I whispered in Shakeel's ear that everything would be okay. I felt completely inadequate at providing such assurances, since I am exactly the way he is- and I still don't know how to calm myself or put myself at ease. So how was I supposed to do it for this poor child, who has undoubtedly acquired this unfortunate trait from me?
"You just don't understand," he responded. "It's the first day of school- you just don't know what it's like."
If he but knew that if there was anyone who could understand his feelings- it would be me.

Today is the first time I shall be fetching the kids at school by myself. It is also the first time I shall be driving in the city centre by myself. There will be no Mo to tell me when to change lanes; which could become problematic on the N1. I'm told that if one does not turn off at all, but continues straight along the N1, one will end up in Johannesburg; so I'd best remember to pack extra cash and some light snacks.

Nuha finishes at 13:30, and plays in the foundation phase playground until the rest of the school is dismissed at 14:30. I asked her if she would like me to come onto the playground and spend some time with her while we wait for the older kids (the way I've seen other mommies do). At first she looked horrified, then just plain uncomfortable.

"Mommy, why don't you charge your laptop at home and then just stay in the car with your laptop. But you can bring Aisha to me on the playground".

Tharaa was amused. "Does Mommy embarrass you?" Clearly uncomfortable, Nuha just gave an awkward smile. Tharaa was enjoying this, so she continued, "If Mommy were to make herself pretty, can she then come onto your playground- just to sit there and watch you play?"

Poor Nuha looked as if she wanted the ground to swallow her. "If Mommy makes herself pretty she can come and sit on the playground- and I'll go and sit in the car," she responded, clearly utterly miserable at having been placed in that position.

Shakeel, shaking his head, again muttered, "You just don't understand Mommy. You don't understand".

So that was my morning. I learned that I am too ugly to be seen with my kids in public and too stupid to understand anything. And yet I still miss them so much. I'm counting the hours before everyone's safe return home (albeit via Johannesburg).

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Told you we'd be back

Tuesday was sombre. Mo was returning to work the next day and was not happy. No matter what the circumstances in the past, he had never been the type to stress or worry, but somehow his current job has managed to rob him of this admirable quality and turn him into me.

By 14:00 the afternoon he had had enough of feeling sorry for himself and decided that he wanted to make the most of his last few hours of leave. So off we headed to the Du Kloof Resort and Trout farm once again.

Now you might remember our visit to Du Kloof Resort and Trout farm just over a week ago. (That would be the post in which I mistakenly referred to the place as Du Toit's Kloof Resort and Trout Farm).

This place has over the years provided us with the necessary stress relief and serenity whenever life has become too stressful.

Although we left at 15:00 we were sure that the remaining two hours before closing time would be more than adequate to work their magic on my gloomy husband.

The drive takes about 45 minutes from our home. I am usually in awe of the panoramic views from the bridge just before one hits the Huguenot Tunnel.

It is however the tunnel itself that has me feeling really claustrophobic. This has only started happening recently- since Mo closes all the car windows when we drive through the tunnel to keep the awful carbon monoxide fumes from entering the car. This part of the journey seems like an eternity.

When emerging from the tunnel, we were once again greeted by the most spectacular views of the surrounding mountains; which immediately had the desired effect upon Mo- as if by magic, he became calmer and, as usual, started fantasising about living in that region- isolated, among the beautiful mountains. And as usual, the kids yelled and screamed in protest that they would definitely move in with their granny should that move ever become a reality.

When we arrived at our destination we wasted no time in plunging into the refreshing waters. Oh, how delightful it was. There was not a soul around, which allowed me the freedom to forego my usual inhibitions and really enjoy myself freely.

After a while we all sprawled about on the rocks to absorb as much of their lovely warmth as we could. Since we reminded Mo of beached whales (in a river??) he felt compelled to snap a few pics. It was only when he tried to take some pictures of us from behind that I objected.
"Oh please don't take pictures from that angle," I appealed to him. "I don't want my bum being exposed on camera."
"Don't worry," he assured me. "That's not possible- this camera doesn't have a wide angle lens".

They DID warn us that there might be baboons

As usual we were sad to leave. But Aisha was tired and proceeded to have a mini-tantrum while we were packing up.

Shakeel was excited to spot the resident peacock and decided to play wildlife photographer by trying to sneak up on the confused bird to capture a good picture. He looked so comical that Mo, in turn decided to capture that sight on camera by trying to sneak up on Shakeel. Unfortunately neither photographer was able to obtain the quality of picture they desired.

The kids were exhausted on the trip home. Aisha was grumpy, so the kids managed the situation by letting her do whatever she pleased; which turned out to be scribbling all over her face- and Tharaa's.

We arrived home exhausted. The time at the river, though short, had been wonderful. So wonderful in fact, that we are in fact heading right back to the river at this very moment.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Fish and chips and sandcastles

On Monday we spent the first half of the day performing the uninspiring task of shopping for the older three kids' school supplies.

We had had no particular plans for the day, but since Mo's leave was coming to an end, he felt particularly restless- as if he wanted to cram as many activities as possible into his remaining time.

So off we headed to Hout Bay for a late lunch/early supper.

We took the Constantia Nek route, as we had preferred the serenity of the drive along that route to the busy (though equally scenic) Camps Bay-Llundudno route.

I love driving through Constantia toward Hout Bay. But just envisioning the plush mansions nestled discreetly behind the dense foliage which lines the road upon which we were driving- I'm ashamed to say- had me uncharacteristically green (probably allowing me to blend perfectly into my surroundings). I sat gawking at the beauty of the lush vegetation, particularly in awe of the magnificence of the vineyards covering the slopes of the Constantia valley.

I  tried to capture some of the beauty which I was beholding on camera, but for some strange reason all my pictures made it appear as if the day was misty, which it wasn't. Later Mo pointed out the reason- my lens was covered in fingerprints (probably mine).

Then in sharp contrast to the plush suburb of Constantia, we were provided with a stark reality check when we drove past the squatter camp at the entrance to Hout Bay- indicative of the unequal distribution of wealth still prevalent in South Africa almost 20 years after the end of apartheid.


Then onward to Hout Bay- toward the harbour where we were to buy our meals at one of the two places which are almost institutions in Cape Town; namely Snoekies and Fish on the Rocks. Our decision as to where to buy would depend on queues. Both places were packed to capacity.

We bought our food and then left the harbour area to have our meals in the car facing the ocean.

As soon as they were done, the kids leaped out of the car and proceeded to build sandcastles. I found it very amusing to watch Mo (who is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to creating/ building/ restoring things), watch them build their lopsided castle  while trying not to intervene and show them the proper way to build a perfect castle.

Eventually he could no longer resist- and before you knew it, he had pretty much taken over. But the kids were not about to have their creativity stifled, so he was forced to step back as the castle was revamped to include a bridge leading to a castle restaurant.

Then came the best part for my destructive bunch- they thoroughly enjoy building their masterpiece completely and then at the count of 1-2-3, all of them will jump up and down on it until it has been completely flattened. This tradition originated from an incident which had taken place at Hermanus a few years ago. They had spent the entire afternoon building a very elaborate castle- when it was time to for them to leave a bunch of other kids simply moved in and were fortunate enough to enjoy the fruits of my not-so-generous kids' hard day's labour. That was when they decided that they would rather destroy their castles than suffer the invasion by a swarm of parasitic kids just waiting to move in. (They don't get that from me, I swear).

We took the Llundudno-Camps Bay route home. The moment that Llundudno comes into view is absolutely breathtaking. Although it was nearing sunset, one could not help but be impressed with the absolute magnificence of the views along that coastline. It truly is one of the most splendid sights to behold in this beautiful city of ours.

I once again realised that a trip to Hout Bay is about so much more than the destination. The entire journey is a an experience of exquisite scenery and natural wonders, which I am determined never to take for granted.