Monday, 27 February 2012

Fast forward ten years

As mentioned in a previous post, my kids enjoy pretending to be older than they are, usually by emulating the grown-ups they admire. In 2 year old Aisha's case, the people she admires are her older siblings. So a few weeks ago she enjoyed playing dress-up, emulating her favourite people in the world.

Here she is sporting a school dress belonging to older sister Tharaa (10), twelve year old Shakeel's monitor badges and Nuha (7)'s school bag.

I just want her to remain my little baby!!!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Brother and sister time

It was so lovely to receive a surprise visit from my brother and his three kiddies yesterday morning. The house was filled with excited shrieks, little feet racing up and down the passage and hysterical boisterous laughter. Pure unadulterated joy.

Shakeel (12) had been invited to a birthday celebration of one of his best friends, Sipho. Mo took him at the local mall to meet up with a few friends. They would all be going to the movies together. Our initial response to him being allowed to go had been ''no'', since we do not allow our kids to walk around unaccompanied by an adult. But since it was then decided that Sipho's dad would be accompanying the kids, we gave in.

At home, the girls and their cousins played the Playstation 3 Motion (like a Wii). It was terrifying to watch, as the youngest two kept running close to the person playing - who was usually swinging the motion controller around like a crazy person - in their quest to slay their opponents in the gladiator championships. Both 2 year old Aisha and my 1 year old nephew narrowly escaped being smacked against the head with the motion controller numerous times. Was I relieved when they stopped playing that game!

My brother and I sat chatting about life, family, religion, etc. while sipping tea. It was lovely - I enjoyed having such a long time to talk to him. It was enlightening, uplifting and soothing. He even managed to go the entire conversation without mocking the size of my head (yes, we still behave like 10 year olds when we get together).

When sis-in-law joined us, we started to prepare for an imprompu braai / barbeque. I made accompanying macaroni and cheese while she prepared a yummy potato salad. They stayed until about 21:30, by which time the smaller ones were pretty exhausted.

After seeing them off, we hopped into the car to accompany Mo to fetch Shakeel. As expected, Shakeel was miserable when he got into the car. Mo had already received the usual call from his friend to request our permission for Shakeel to sleep over. As usual our response was that we do not allow our kids to sleep out. When he got into the car Shakeel begged and pleaded to be dropped off this morning again, but since we have plans, we refused. The poor child sat up until past eleven doing Mathematics and Natural Science studying and has been doing the same since 08:00 this morning. All in in the hopes of being allowed to spend the rest of the day with his buddies.

So, perhaps we'll drop him off later (after he accompanies us to a family day event). Let's hope his friends haven't all left for home by then.

Time to get ready for a day of socialising (and listening to my son's nagging voice saying, ''When are we leaving? Can we go now?'')

Looking forward to it.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Imitation- the highest form of flattery (so why's no one imitating me!)

I always find it funny that, while many adults would love to be younger than what they are, children cannot wait to grow older.

Shakeel proudly brags that next year he'll be 14 - when he hasn't even reached his 13th birthday this year yet! This really freaks me out, since he informed me that I will be 40 next year! I had to remind him that I'm not even 39 yet - so stop making me feel older than what I am!

I always remind them to savour their youth - and, in particular, their childhood. I want them to appreciate and make the most of every moment while they're experiencing it, so as never to have to look back with regret.

But I suppose it's normal for children to play games in which they emulate grown-ups. In my childhood games, I always wanted to be the teacher (emulating my parents and school teachers), a detective (thanks to my obsession with Nancy Drew) and a shopkeeper (I have no idea why).

One morning I saw Nuha (7) holding her tiny chalkboard (15 - 20 cm wide) on her left palm, while punching at it with the fore-finger of her right hand. Was she trying to kill ants which had crawled onto her board? What on earth was she doing? Her dad, with a smile on his face, then informed me that she was working on her Galaxy Tab. The smile, no doubt, was because she was emulating him.

I caught her at it again this morning before school

I thought it was cute, but embarrassingly, I couldn't help but wonder why she was not wanting to be more like her mommy. Why was she not copying me? I hadn't seen her pretending to cook or changing her teddy bears' nappies in quite a while. I'd never seen her yelling, "Do your homework or you'll never see a TV again!" at her dolls. What was wrong with what I do? Am I not cool enough?

But I decided to stop being such a baby and to be supportive of her new favourite activity instead. So I went up to her, saying,

"Wow! You look busy".

She nodded without looking up.

"Are you typing out a document for work? Or are you doing schoolwork?" I asked, stepping into her world of make-believe.

"No, I'm blogging," she replied without looking up.

I beamed with happiness.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

From princess to Cape Flats gangsta

Despite having grown up in a previously 'coloured' area during apartheid, I cannot claim to have lived in a really rough neighbourhood. Since I didn't get out much either (as all my friends were encouraged to play at my house), I really had a pretty sheltered life.

As a result, I based my life views and opinions (which were often so inaccurate) on the very limited exposure I had to the outside world.

For example:
One of my first memories of my family's interaction with a white person was when a burly stern white policeman ordered us off from a 'whites only' beach.
Thus, to me, as a child 'white people = scary people'

I remember seeing big boys with no top front teeth when we'd drive past the shop corner. My parents, who were both teachers at the two high schools in our area, would chat about who the notorious children at their respective schools were. Co-incidentally, all four of these kids had no top front teeth. In addition, one day the adult with whom I was walking in the Main Road, crossed the road to avoid some toothless youths who were interfering with passers-by.
So in my child's mind 'no front teeth = intimidating, non-law-abiding youths and gangsterism'

I have since learned that the 'the passion gap' is not necessarily only popular with Cape Flats gangsters, but with some ordinary 'coloured' folk too. According to this interesting article, one of the reasons for its popularity is based on a sexual myth (which I prefer not to get into, so to learn more about this, you'll have to read the aforementioned article) - and the other is fashion. 

Image taken from above-mentioned article

So now, based on my early ingrained (albeit misguided) beliefs, imagine my alarm when Nuha (7), my precious princess, smiled at me after just having lost her second top incisor. I had to resist the urge to hand over my purse.

My princess has gone from this

    ...very sweet and  unthreatening                                                         



Her older siblings, whose opinions and views on life have not been spoiled by stereotypes, think she looks really cool - like a little vampire. They absolutely love it!

Nuha, herself, is very pleased with her new look. Until recently, she'd been the only one in her class who had still not lost her teeth. She was very pleased to finally be fitting in with her mates, who are all at this age, sporting the toothless look. So a day after she lost her second tooth, I saw her looking in the rear-view mirror in the car.

"What are you thinking, my baby?" I asked worriedly, ready to reassure her that I would not let any Cape Flats gang try to recruit her.

"I'm thinking that I look pretty," she said smiling, shyly.

What a relief, I thought. Now please don't hurt me.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A hose-pipe, a virtual trip, a hotdog and a lovey-dovey movie

In recent months I have been trying to combat my innate negativity by focusing  on the positive aspects of my life. I have also been trying to look at life in a more positive way by taking the time to appreciate my blessings and by placing my challenges and obstacles in perspective.

I'd been doing well until this past week, when the pressures of Mo's work and various other negative encounters really started to drag me back to a place I didn't want to be.

On Saturday night Mo and I decided that yesterday would be spent de-stressing. Removing ourselves from all negativity. I silently undertook to embark upon a new beginning once again.

So yesterday morning we leaped out of bed and sat down to enjoy our usual Sunday morning breakfast - rolls, spiced beef, salads and mustard. But instead of leaping up as soon as as we were done, we sat and chatted. And joked and laughed. It was so relaxing.

I got up to play on the front porch with 2 year old Aisha, when I noticed the garden looking parched from the heat. I grabbed the hose and started to wet both the garden and Aisha, who squealed with delight. The older kids, hearing the commotion, hurried outside and in no time at all were joining in the fun.

But, even fun has rules. So I instructed them to stay in the dry areas of the garden, so that, while I was spraying them with water, I was also watering the garden.

In no time at all, Aisha had removed all her clothes (including her nappy) and was streaking across the lawn giggling hysterically. Despite screams of "eeeuuw gross!", from Tharaa (10) and Nuha (7), 12 year old Shakeel stripped down to his boxers to enjoy the water splashing against his skin. Every now and then he rushed up to me, giving me a giant hug. What a lucky mommy I was to have such an affectionate son, I thought to myself - until I realised that he was just trying to wet me with his icy wet body.

Within minutes, my four monkeys were completely drenched. Yet they ran about shrieking with delight every time the water hit them. I tried to remember the last time I had enjoyed doing anything with such reckless abandon, as they were doing at that moment. How wonderful it must be to be able to give oneself over to the pleasure and joy of the moment - where nothing outside the happiness and delight of that moment matters. 

I then joined Mo, who was lying sprawled on Shakeel's bed under the ceiling fan. We indulged in my new favourite activity - exploring various parts of the world using Google Earth's street view on his Galaxy Tab. I have a secret desire to live abroad - even for just a little while. I have never been abroad (unless one counts my holiday trips to South West Africa in the 1980s, which - face it - could  hardly be called a different country back in those dark days). So my adventures using Google Earth serve to satisfy my curiosity about other parts of the world to some extent. Mostly though, it just intensifies my longing to live abroad for a while.

So yesterday we visited Sydney, Australia. We just selected any random area and moved up and down the streets, which were so lovely and green. My longing intensified - until we googled Sydney and learned that house prices there are among the highest in the world.

So up we leaped and off to prepare lunch. This was another wonderful part to the day, since my preparation did not involve chopping, braising, boiling, baking or roasting. It simply involved plonking a vienna on a roll, squirting on mustard and tomato sauce - and serving. Wonderful. My usual obsession with feeding my family a well-balanced meal consisting of a varied range of vegetables was put on hold - but only for the day.

After lunch Mo and I did something very unusual - we watched a romantic comedy together. Now usually I enjoy romantic comedies, despite the fact that I am often not (at this stage of my life) able to relate to the plight of the twenty-something year old heroin in search of love. Which is why I loved this movie - and Mo did too. When reading the title "Crazy, Stupid Love", I was expecting just another romantic comedy wherein our young heroin becomes disillusioned with love after being jilted. Instead, it was about couple who is middle- aged ( a direction in which I am fast heading) heading for divorce. The movie highlighted for me the need to keep making an effort within one's marriage - never to take each other for granted. I can totally relate to that.

So inspiring was the movie that it resulted in hugs, smooches and happy tears. Minutes later I was still swept up in the moment, convinced that when I re-entered the room from the kitchen, his eyes would light up with newfound love and appreciation. And I was right - his eyes had lit up -  as he was glued to the TV watching the animated martial arts series "Dragonball Z". And - gone was our moment.

After returning from our weekly prayer meeting (which, as usual, eliminated all stress and anxiety by providing perspective), we lay on the couch chuckling while watching the hilarious comedian, Trevor Noah.

It's amazing how one can turn the most ordinary, mundane activities into special experiences with just a change of mindset.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

An old mommy learns new tricks. With missing teeth and interesting poo.

Yesterday Nuha lost her upper front tooth (incisor). I'd been dreading it for a while now, since I loved how cute her milk teeth were. So tiny, even, white and perfect. Like my other kids' milk teeth had been before they grew their enormous permanent teeth which, let's face it, are anything but cute.

The permanent teeth are so huge- I'd often panic that my children's little faces would never grow large enough to match those gigantic teeth. But in the end either it had- or I had just become accustomed to that look.

But the loss of a tooth is a highly anticipated and celebrated occasion in our home. The tooth-fairy's arrival is eagerly awaited; with the tooth being placed in an easily accessible place so that she doesn't have any problem finding it.

Shakeel (12) believed the tooth-fairy story the longest. Simply because he didn't have any older siblings to ruin it for him- the way he proceeded to do for Tharaa (10) as soon as he found out. But Tharaa was a good sport- she continued to please her mommy by pretending that she believed in the tooth fairy and happily exchanged her precious tooth for R5.00. And I continue with my refusal to acknowledge to ANY of the kids (not even Shakeel) that the tooth fairy doesn't exist and that we are the ones slipping the cash into the shoes/under the pillows.

So strong was my denial that, although I needed Shakeel to help me lift Tharaa's head one night in order to access the tooth under the pillow, the next morning I refused to acknowledge to him that it was I who had exchanged the tooth for money. It was all in his imagination- maybe he'd dreamt it.

I am just not ready for my kids to lose their innocence and sense of imagination.

So yesterday when I explained to Nuha where the tooth fairy would be expecting to find the tooth, she looked at me with a cute knowing smile,
"Mommy, I know that you put the money in our shoes".
I glared at Shakeel. He looked down, pretending to be searching for something on the floor.

Despite my denial, she persisted with her theory (based, no doubt on what the older two had told her). Eventually she had an idea. "I'm not going to tell you where the tooth is. If it's still there tomorrow morning, then I'll know for sure that there is no tooth fairy- because if she exists, she will know where to find it- because she's a fairy!"


"No, that's not how it works, Nuha. The tooth fairy approaches me to find out where the tooth is. If you hide it from me, she will have no tooth with which to build her house- and you won't get any money".

Amazingly, she was convinced. Or maybe she just didn't want to take any chances- just in case I was telling the truth.

I assured her that I would be briefing the tooth fairy as to the exact location of the tooth- and ensure that the tooth fairy does not forget to compensate her.

Now the following part of this post is a bit disgusting- not for the squeamish,

Later the evening Aisha indicated that she needed me to change her poo nappy. I put her on the toilet, washed and wiped her bum, and then plonked her in the shower. I always prefer to give her a quick wash in the shower to make sure that I didn't miss anything.

So I squirted delicious smelling Elizabeth Anne's shampoo and body wash onto my hand and proceeded to wipe her bottom and her legs. Then I washed the crack of her bottom. (Don't squirm, I was just being thorough).

Suddenly I felt something, which felt like loose skin. I panicked- had my child injured herself while pooing? I gave it a slight tug. It seemed to be sliding out of her bottom, so it couldn't be skin. Oh please don't be a tapeworm, I silently prayed.

It wasn't. It was a big piece of tomato. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

I then proceeded with what I had been doing. Now you are not going to believe this- I felt another piece of skin. Believing that it was obviously part of the tomato, I tugged. And no, it was not another piece of tomato, but a huge piece of apple peel.

Very very warily I proceeded to wash her, and I kid you not- I proceeded to yank out another piece of apple skin.

After tossing it all in the toilet bowl, the inside of which was starting to look like a tossed salad, I called Mo to take her out of the bath, while I sat down to recover.

Don't worry- I resisted the temptation to take pics.

So, despite being a mommy for twelve years, I continue to have new parenting experiences each day. Yesterday, for the first time, I held a briefing with the tooth fairy to explain that all my child's future teeth would be placed in a shoe at the foot of the bed- so no excuses!

And yesterday was also the first time I pulled fresh produce from a human bottom.

Wonder what today holds in store.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The problem with harvest time

One of my favourite times of the year is when my teeny tiny little garden is bursting with an abundance of lush growth. Watching my sparse little seedlings flourish into dense and voluptuous foliage makes me beam like a proud mommy.

The result is that I don't have the heart to pick anything from the garden. I try to prolong this feeling of abundance for as long as possible. So instead of anyone deriving any benefit from the plants, everything just ends up dying and returning to the earth to fertilise the next little crop.

But I realise that this is wrong and terribly wasteful. So I have undertaken to start harvesting soon. I am bracing myself for the sight of a very sad bare garden on the one hand, but a very fragrant kitchen on the other.

Lemon thyme

Origanum- long past their ideal harvest time. These leaves are tastiest just before the plant starts to flower


A lone little rosemary tree

Whatever will I do with all this celery!!

A previously lush spinach patch looking rather sad after being harvested for spinach sauce

Parsely- so pretty

Sunday, 12 February 2012

My weekend scare

Friday evening

> enjoyed seafood braai (crayfish and prawns) with stir-fried veg, mealies and garlic bread
> Mo and I were treated to an entertaining play (comedy) performed by twelve year old Shakeel and his friend Caleb in the lounge. Very funny- those two are so talented. Mo and I were in stitches.

Saturday morning

> Watched in helpless horror as my hubby held his head in both hands with tears streaming down his face with pain
> Got the kids ready for karate. It was 'buddy day', so they were all allowed to bring with a buddy who does not belong to the club. Shakeel brought Caleb, Tharaa (10) and Nuha (7) took their two young cousins.
> Convinced Mo that he needed to see a doctor. Panicked silently, since he has recently been under tremendous stress at work and has also been diagnosed as suffering from high blood pressure. Had to stop myself from thinking the worst.
> On our way to drop the kids, Mo leaned out of the car- vomiting. Then I became really worried.
> After dropping kids at karate, we headed to the doctor. Mo lay in a bed in the back room as he was unable to sit in the waiting room.
> She checked his vitals- all seemed normal. Then he started to vomit profusely. She insisted that we go to the Emergency Room immediately.
> Dropped Mo off at the Emergency Room, then headed back home to fetch kids at karate.
> Received a call from Mo a few hours later- he'd been released. Arrived at the hospital to find him sitting outside on the pavement- in a hurry to get home.
> Kept kids quiet all afternoon as Mo slept off the effects of the pethidine.
> He woke up feeling okay- and then proceeded to prioritise his to-do list. I look on helplessly as my warnings of 'Take it easy- lie down and sleep' fell on deaf ears.
> Luckily the pethidine had not worn off completely- he then fell asleep again. Awoke feeling better. He's been told to visit a neurologist for further examination. Hopefully this was just a severe migraine (due to stress). But we'll find out more when he sees the neurologist.
> I accompany him to the office (because I know his mind is there, but I know that with us waiting in the car, he cannot stay inside and work for long)
> We come home and we get to bed at a reasonable time

He sleeps restlessly- I know he's thinking about work.


> Mo leaves for the office just before 08:00 this morning. I'm left with kids, which normally wouldn't bother me (I'm used to him working ridiculous hours). Don't know why I'm feeling so down today.
> Prepare and serve lunch (lasagne)
>Help Tharaa with some Geography studying.
> Cut Nuha and Aisha (2)'s fringes (who said zig-zag fringes can't be cute?)

Now I'm waiting for my mom, brothers, sister-in-law and their kids to come for a visit.

Feeling too depressed to write full sentences.

But I know that this feeling will pass. It's probably being caused by the fact that I've been too busy to process the huge shock I had yesterday with Mo getting sick- and the realisation that I will be at a complete loss if something should happen to him. I hate this feeling of powerlessness.

I should feel better after I get some quiet time to myself- whenever that may be.

Edited post ( hours later)
So as it turns out, it wasn't quiet time to myself I needed to help ease my depression- it was a wonderful few hours with my family. Laughing. Talking utter nonsense. Eating chocolates and sipping tea.
Shakeel and Caleb treated us to another performance of their show- once again, they were hilarious. I couldn't believe how uninhibited and confident Shakeel was. This friend seems to have a really positive effect on him in that way.

We just returned from our Sunday evening prayer meeting, which was rather beautiful. My already-lifted spirits soared.

I shall be spending a quiet evening with Mo before he has to head back to work at 03:00 tomorrow morning. Although we both can't wait for this project on which he is working to end, we are both feeling less stressed and more peaceful right now.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Turfs or Barney- the impossible choice

Two year old Aisha has developed a liking to the Smurfs. No, they have not ousted Barney- not by a long shot. But she now will occasionally ask to watch 'Turfs' as well.

Cleverly, I got her to associate the one TV with watching Barney and the other with watching Smurfs. In this way there would always be a free TV for someone else to watch, since she couldn't possibly dominate 2 TV's simultaneously.

Or so I'd thought.

Yesterday she insisted that she wanted Smurfs to play on the one TV and Barney on the other. Sometimes she ran from one room to the other- most of the time she wasn't even paying attention to either; she just wanted to know that if she felt like watching either one, she would just have to step into whichever room it was playing.

This carried on for about 45 minutes, when I decided to put my foot down.

Me: "Aisha, you cannot watch 2 TVs. Choose- do you want to watch Smurfs or Barney?"

Aisha: "Turfs AND Barney!!"

Me: "You cannot watch both- it's either Smurfs or Barney. I'm putting one off".

Aisha (raising her voice in protest): Noooo, don't put off Turfs and Barney. Want Turfs and Barney!!"

Me (becoming really impatient): "Aisha, stop being silly!"

Aisha (escalating tantrum voice): "Aisha not silly- I cute!!!"

No arguments here.

Bigfoot in a sexy mini skirt

Finally, after weeks of trying to get it right, I think we finally have.

By 18:00 yesterday I was heading for the shower- all homework had been completed, books signed and dinner was on the table, ready to be served.

The answer had lain in the re-shuffling priorities. Immediately upon arriving back home at 15:10 yesterday, we all raced to the television to watch the last few minutes of the repeat of 7de Laan. My excuse (luckily backed up by Shakeel's Afrikaans teacher) is that watching this light-hearted Afrikaans soapie helps with the Afrikaans grammar and vocabulary. No really- watching this programme has done wonders for my Afrikaans vocabulary!

Immediately after this programme ended at 15:30, I sat down with 7 yr old Nuha's Grade 2 homework. This was a strategic move- she has the least homework, so getting her to finish first means that there is someone to play with 2 yr old Aisha, who would otherwise spend the entire afternoon disturbing the older two kids, demanding that they play with her.

Nuha receives a list of 15 words each Monday to be studied for the test on Friday. The maths for the test varies. This week they will be tested on "counting in two's" . Since the teacher was absent Monday and Tuesday, they only received the list yesterday. Despite that, we managed to finish studying the spelling list- and she was able to count in two's effortlessly. Thank goodness, because- as planned, she was able to start drawing with Aisha; enabling Shakeel (12) and Tharaa (10) to continue with their work unhindered.

Every day Tharaa is given a list of 5 English words and 5 Afrikaans words; which have to be used in sentences which show that the child grasps the meaning of each word. The Afrikaans sentences have proven to be a bit tricky, as none of my kids are able to master the word order in Afrikaans sentences and tend to translate directly from English; resulting in clumsy lopsided sentences. The problem is that they don't hear Afrikaans being spoken at home, or even by friends and family. (Illustrating once again, that I'm not being a bad mommy by letting my kids watch 7de Laan when they get home from school).

Shakeel finishes his homework in class, while the other kids are chatting away in their free time. Not because he is a goody two shoes, but because he is hoping against hope that this will prompt me to let him watch an episode or 2 (or 3 or 4) of Naruto, 'the coolest series ever!!'

But instead, I rewarded his dedication by requesting demanding that he brings home all his books- I'm determined to get a jump on preparations for the March/April formal assessments/exams. So yesterday we learned all about earthquakes. Pretty interesting stuff really- for me, at least. I animatedly demonstrated to Shakeel how the tectonic plates, which lie adjacent to each other, move about- by holding my hands palms-facing-downward and moving them about like a DJ scratching his vinyl (Am I cool or what!)

To help him remember the concept of the seismic waves I moved my arms about in undulating motions (I knew my bellydance lessons would come in handy some day). Then illustrating the varying speeds of seismic waves I proceeded to speed up my arm waves (probably looking like a demented breakdancer) - much to the embarrassment and horror of my poor son. But, as mortified as he was, the information had stuck. I tested him on the remainder of 'Earthquakes' and we also touched on 'Volcanoes'. We learned so much yesterday- I am confident that, come March/April, I will be able to tackle any question in the exam with ease.

After spending the afternoon filling my head with knowledge for which I would be unlikely to find absolutely any use in my life, I set the table and phoned Mo to find out when he'd be home for supper. I proudly told him all we had accomplished for the afternoon.

Now because of the scorching hot summer we've been experiencing, I've gotten into the habit of prancing about the house in the shortest skimpiest little dresses- not for the sake of being sexy (obviously), but because having clothes against my body was just unbearable.

Neither the kids, nor Mo had said anything about this all summer, so imagine my surprise when Mo ended the phone conversation with, "Um, er- could you perhaps shave your legs before I get home?",

Imagine that!  I was about to start yelling in protest, telling him that I had enough on my plate and, excuse me if I didn't still have time for vanity, when I happened to look down at my legs. Yikes, how had I missed this? I looked like Bigfoot in a very sexy shift dress.

So there I was at 18:00 yesterday- with homework completed, books signed and dinner on the table, ready to be served. On my way  to the bathroom- not for a relaxing rewarding shower, but to hack away at the jungle that had been flourishing on my limbs. Mildly concerned about depriving any wildlife of their home. Fully expecting angry bats to come flapping at me, furious at being evicted from the habitat in which they had thrived, undisturbed for the past 6 months.

I emerged a new woman, strutting down the passage all smooth and hairless in my sexy little dress- to clean up the puddle of Aisha's pee in Shakeel's room.

Monday, 6 February 2012


What a strange sensation I'm experiencing. This refreshing chilly breeze against my skin as I sit at an open window in my summer nightie sipping my first cup of green tea for the day.

All the windows have been opened to allow the delicious cool air to permeate throughout the house, exhaling all the stifling hot air of the past few days. I love this feeling of renewal.

None of the kids had their winter fleecy school tops this morning. All three of them lost their tops at school during the course of last winter. The question is- do we simply replace their lost tops or let them freeze a bit to teach them a lesson in caring for your belongings. That seemed like a good idea this morning when they were being annoying, but now that I'm sitting here missing them, I'm worrying about them- hoping they will be okay.

I should probably gather all the glue, crayons and paper for some indoor craft fun with 2 year old Aisha. She might not understand why she cannot swim in her plastic pool today or water the plants (and herself) with the garden hose. I shall have to draw on every bit of creativity I can muster to make being indoors seem appealing to her.

Okay, as refreshing and revitalising as this is, I can no longer deny it- I'm slowly turning into an ice-block. Off to grab a jacket and thick woolly socks.

Blistering, sweltering, skin-shrivelling heat notwithstanding- I ♥ summer!!!

Whew, but yesterday was hot!!

Which meant that we ended up at our usual river spot. The temperature in that part of the world had soared beyond 38 degrees Celsius.

However, the temperature of the water was- perfect.

The place was uncharacteristically busy, which made our peaceful and tranquil retreat somewhat more vibey. But it didn't matter; we just clamoured further upstream where the water was shallower (no higher than knee-depth) but excitingly flowed more rapidly and forcefully. One's powerlessness against the sheer force of the water was thoroughly exhilarating.

The arrangement of the rocks created mini-rapids and we derived much pleasure and excitement from trying to prevent ourselves from being washed downstream. Mo held 2 year old Aisha at a section where the water was moving slightly less forcefully, but strongly enough to provide a thrilling experience for her as it gushed against her body.

"Oooh I shower!!" she yelled elatedly.

But eventually the excitement became a bit too much so, giggling hysterically, she urged her dad to switch off the tap.

The intense heat meant that one had to remain submerged in the water all the time. Especially in my case since I was wearing my Billabong second-skin type top. Which was black. With long sleeves. (The memory alone makes me perspire).

As usual, I ran after the children- sunscreen bottle in hand- slathering the thick creamy liquid liberally over every exposed part of their bodies. Repeatedly.

"This is my favourite place to swim," one of the kids declared. They then each shouted out their preferences- pools, beaches, rivers.

"What is your favourite place to swim, Mommy?"

Before I could answer, 7 year old Nuha interjected shyly. "Mommy's favourite place FOR US to swim would be a pool filled with sunscreen instead of water. Then she won't have to worry about us being protected from the sun".

How did she know?

As usual, we had an amazing time. Instead of barbequing/braaing (which would most likely have caused Mo to suffer from a heat stroke), we enjoyed a yummy, greasy, artery-clogging KFC family meal.

On the walk back to the car we became drenched with perspiration once again. If only we didn't have to leave!! Ten year old Tharaa and I settled for cooling off by running through the sprinklers instead.

As unbearable as the February heat has been, I still felt sad when I popped in at Woolworths on Saturday and saw all the Autumn/Winter clothes already on display. What were they doing? I'm not ready for winter yet. Despite the uncomfortable heat (and the fact that our car's air-conditioning has been broken since last year) summer is still my happy time. I'm not ready for it to end yet!

Oh well, I suppose that all I need is a mindset change. I need to start thinking about interesting and exciting family time which can be shared in winter.

Right now though, I'm taking Aisha outside to enjoy splashing in the plastic pool. I plan to glean every last second of fun from what's left of our magnificent Cape Town summer.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Tharaa? Who's Tharaa?

About 7 years ago I was forced to endure the wretched queues at the Department of Home Affairs to register Nuha. Accompanied by my mum and newborn Nuha we sat (thankfully) in a long winding queue in a really hot weird-smelling Home Affairs office.

Upon eventually reaching the counter I submitted all the necessary forms and then turned to my mum and said, "I'd better find a safe place for the three kids' birth certificates".

"What you mean three kids?" interrupted the woman behind the counter rudely. "According to our system you only have two children- it's this one and another one, er Shakeel".

"No," I argued. Now, normally I am not the argumentative type- I usually just accept that I'm wrong, but not this time.. Nobody was going to deny the 14 hours of labour and countless sleepless nights I had endured with Tharaa by denying her existence. "I also have another 3 year old daughter," I explained, providing Tharaa's details. I was sure that it was just a misunderstanding which would be resolved in a minute.

Not so.

"Uh uh," she argued. "You only have Shakeel and then there's this baby. There is no other child- I would have seen it on this computer".

I whipped out Tharaa's birth certificate feeling victorious and clever. Read it and weep, I silently taunted her.

"Er...oh" (silence). Then, "It doesn't matter. She is not on the system. You must re-register her".

Wwhaaat!!! "But, but ..this" I said waving Tharaa's birth certificate at her, feeling less confident now. She was not supposed to have argued back. She was supposed to have taken one look at the certificate- my trump card- and apologised profusely, perhaps saying how stupid she was feeling. 

"That means nothing, "she said definitively. "You must re-register her."

Nothing would change her mind. I asked her how she thought I had managed to get hold of the birth certificate if my child did not exist. Eventually she was forced to concede that sometimes people got lost in the system.

She had acknowledged that they were at fault. But it didn't matter. I still had to re-register Tharaa and apply for a new birth certificate.

That was seven years ago. 

This morning  I once again found myself at the counter of a Home Affairs office. This time though I marvelled at the improvements which had been implemented. Queues were shorter. There was a very very efficient person at the Information Desk, providing people with the correct forms and directing  them to the correct counters. There was a woman walking around the office addressing people's queries, probably to prevent them from having to stand in unnecessary queues. I was suitably impressed.

At the counter I explained that my bag containing Shakeel and Tharaa's birth certificates had been stolen. I wanted to apply for new certificates. No problem- the young lady behind the counter checked the system for the details of their existing certificates. And then..

"There is a Shakeel on our system. But no Tharaa- this child has never been registered under your, the mom's ID number".

I thought I was about to explode. Into fits of laughter.

It didn't matter that I didn't have a certificate to prove her existence. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. She would have to be re-registered. I asked how to re-register her.

"Oh, you can't," she replied, very very abruptly.

We stared at her, waiting for her to continue. She didn't.

"What do you mean?"asked Mo, clearly confused. "What is the next step to obtaining a new certificate?"

"You can't," repeated the young lady, becoming increasingly impatient. "You have to find the original certificate".

Oh, now why hadn't we thought of that? Come to think of it, it was starting to appear that we stood a better chance of tracking down the thief who took my bag two years ago and retrieving the original certificate, than obtaining a new certificate through official channels.

"If you can't give me the certificate number on the original certificate, I can't help you. You must find the original. Or don't you keep copies? You should always keep copies", she kindly shared her wisdom with us, the clueless couple in front of her.

You are right, I felt like saying. I should have foreseen that you'd lose my child in your system for the second time. So I should most definitely have made copies. I should also apologise on behalf of my troublesome daughter- for her mischievous tendency to lose herself in your system.

But obviously I said nothing.

Mo looked incredulous. He did not understand how something so basic could not be accomplished. Mr Problem-solver Business Analyst looked about ready to leap over the counter to conduct the search through their primitive IT system himself.

"Can't you search under the mother's ID number?" he suggested again.

"I told you- no". Shaking his head in utter disbelief, Mo requested to see the supervisor who told him that it was possible to have a new certificate re-issued, but this would entail a three month wait. 

We shrugged. What choice did we have, really?

On the bright side, we are actually quite lucky that the need arose to have a new certificate reissued or we would never have known that Tharaa was still not on their system. What would then have happened had we needed to apply for a passport for our officially non-existent child? 

After our entertaining morning at Home Affairs, we headed off to Biesmiellah Take Aways in Bo-Kaap, where we sat in the car snacking on yummy freshly-fried samoosas and bollas.

"Ow!!" I shrieked after burning my fingers on a scorching hot samoosa. Two year old Aisha giggled and giggled.
"Mommy said 'ow!!'. Mommy's Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson says 'ow!!'

All traces of post-Home Affairs annoyance melted away.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The kids make a comeback- and mom dances a jig

This morning I awoke to birds chirping more happily, the sun shining more brightly and the blue sky looking more radiant. Even Shakeel (12)'s grumpy morning face looked adorable.

It seems that the tides have turned. The winds of positive change are finally breezing through our household, hopefully cleansing it of all last week's negativity, stress and drama (as described here)

Yesterday afternoon I summoned each one to bring me their homework diaries and messages/letters sent from school. I braced myself- I just didn't know what to expect these days.

Furtive glances among the three older kids made my heart sink. What the heck now? But wait- they were smiling; happily excited. I was suspicious.

"What's going on?" I asked apprehensively, already working out what punishment I would be meting out to each respective child.

More furtive glances.


"Ta daaah!!" they all shouted in unison, each pulling out an item which they had been hiding behind their backs.

Shakeel had been presented with both his Library monitor and Playground Monitor badges. He can now boss everyone around the way he loves to do- but only now it is official.

I congratulated, gushed and hugged. Nobody deserved to be awarded this honour more than he did- nobody is as bossy as he is. This role suits him perfectly. I was proud and happy.

Shakeel shyly, but proudly posing with his two monitor badges

"And, that's not all," sang Tharaa (10), sounding like the guy on the Verimark infomercial about to announce a product's additional features. She pulled out her Homework Book.

I broke out in a cold sweat. The dreaded Homework Book. The cause of all last week's trouble. I readied myself to attack.

She flipped to the last page of her completed homework. At the bottom were the words "Lovely work. Keep it up" accompanied by a sticker of a smiling heart surrounded by bright yellow stars.

Now I'm aware that at schools these days, kids are routinely awarded smiley faces, hearts and kisses and the words "Well done, sweetheart" or "Good work little genius", so it really doesn't carry as much weight as say, when I was at school. But coming from this teacher this was really quite a vote of approval, as this woman is known to have high standards and to be intolerant of mediocre slapdash work (which is the reason she and Tharaa had gotten off to a rocky start in the first place).

I whooped, danced a jig, hugged and whooped some more. I sighed a happy sigh of relief. This motivation from an authority figure whom Tharaa admires and respects, is exactly the encouragement this child needs to continue on this path. (Yes, I do realise the implication- that I am not an authority figure she admires and respects, but hey, right now I'm just happy to have the teacher's help- I'll save my tears for therapy).

"And, that's not all," sang Tharaa in her Verimark infomercial voice. She yanked a green card from Nuha (7)'s hand.

"No, I want to show Mommy. It's my card!" wailed Nuha.

"Okay then" said Tharaa tossing the card onto the floor. I felt my earlier pride slowly start to dissipate. 

Nuha picked it up and showed it to me proudly. "Look Mommy. I got a green card today!" Oh, more relief! Green cards signify good behaviour in class; an indication that the child has worked and behaved well for the day.

Now the fact that there had been a few orange cards (signifying that the child needs to work harder at being attentive in class) interspersed among the green cards over the past two weeks, would not have bothered me too much in the past. Nuha was quite a chatterbox, I know. She has a very loud husky voice, which inevitably stands out and is always heard by the teacher when the class becomes chatty.

But I had been in a fragile state due to the antics of the older two, so the orange cards, to me, started to signify my failure as a parent. Was I raising delinquent children? How had I gone so terribly wrong?

Once again I hugged, danced and became teary-eyed- maybe I wasn't a complete loser as a mother after all.

So this morning I could overlook Shakeel's moods and the fact that 2 year old Aisha had kept me up for much of the night. There was hope once again. My kids were emerging from their brush with near-delinquency; and were once again showing me how amazing they can be if they try.

Trying to make sense of intense loss- a prayer for my cousin and his wife

This post is being written through blinding tears, so may not be too coherent.

Earlier this week at about midnight my cousin and his wife found that their darling 3 month old baby girl had passed away in her cot- suddenly and inexpicably.

When I saw them later that day I found myself unable to approach them. What did one say in the face of such overwhelming gut-wrenching grief?

I only saw my cousin's wife (the baby's mother) briefly. I was in awe of her composure at that moment (although I realise I was only seeing her for a brief moment). I was pushed by my aunt to greet my cousin. His face revealed his shock and anguish. I hugged him and babbled, "I don't know what to say" repeatedly, inadequately- but truthfully. I didn't know what to say in the face of such intense agony.

Actually, I knew all the right things to say. I know everything which THEORETICALLY should grant one comfort. But nothing I could say could take away their pain. I wished so much that there was a way to relieve their pain.

Yesterday his Facebook status read: "a part of me died yesterday...the pain is indescribable. the Imam said she will intercede for us to enter Jannah and she's waiting for us there. Oh Allah pls grant me the strength of Iman to meet her there and relieve this pain Insha-Allah..."

It brought me to tears- and so many others, I'm sure. I still can't read it without weeping.

I was in awe of the strength of his faith and the fact that he was deriving some comfort from his hope of meeting his baby again in Jannah (heaven).

In our religion, we believe that God tests those whom He loves  (which is why the prophets had endured such trials). He then rewards them abundantly and increases His mercy toward them when they maintain faith and turn toward Him in these times of affliction. I pray that my cousin and his wife are able to derive comfort from their belief in God's increased love and mercy, which have been promised to them as a result of their affliction.

I pray that Allah/God eases their pain (and that of the baby's sister, grandparents and others who had been close to her) and grants them the strength to get through this period of sorrow and bereavement, Insha-Allah (God-willing)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Would I ever turn in my own child for doing something wrong- hell yeah!!

I have always wondered about the situation where a mother turns in her child to the authorities in order to protect the child from his/herself. These moms, who take the 'tough love' approach are very often at the end of their tether; I am sure no parent would take such steps lightly.

I have always wondered how I would react in a situation where turning my child in is the only way I could help him/her. I imagined I would most probably be unable to follow through- I would most probably end up covering up my children's faults and they, in turn, would suffer as a result of being raised by an enabler.

Or so I'd thought.

Last week had been such a difficult school week. The kids were having an incredibly difficult time adjusting to being back at school even though it had already been the end of  the second week. I don't think that the hot 'holiday' weather and me allowing them to swim before tackling their homework had really helped them to settle into a 'back to school' routine.

Tharaa had been incredibly grumpy while doing her work. I could see that she was doing it very half-heartedly. Like last year, she was leaving her homework diary at school so I was unable to see what she was expected to do at home. When I tried to help her with homework she moaned and cried; and just ended up doing it really unenthusiastically . I'd check her work, see it was incomplete and mete out punishment, which in turn made her cry more. When she is in this state, she becomes absolutely unproductive and impossible to reason with.

Nuha, most likely imitating her older sister, too was resisting every instruction I gave her. "Take out your books. Let me check what you need to do this afternoon" was met with her twisting her body and writhing like someone experiencing a fit. She too would often burst into tears when I issued any instruction.

Shakeel, who had been stressing about his academic performance this year being so vital to his acceptance at a good high school, was surprisingly blasé about his homework and was more focused on not missing Dragonball Z (which is the only program I allow them to watch during the week). So I was so terribly disappointed one day last week when he came home and announced that he had a project due the following day! That was so unlike him.

I was becoming increasingly depressed and overwhelmed with the feeling that I was losing control. What's more, I had no idea how to deal with any of them. I sat with them, speaking calmly and appealing to their desire to do the right thing (but apparently they had no such desire). I tried positive motivation, clapping and jumping up and down with excitement when any of them even remembered to place a full stop at the end of a sentence. I watched Tharaa's face closely for the scowl to disappear for even a second, so that I could praise her for doing her work with such a positive attitude- but to no avail. I became angry and raised my voice, which caused them to sulk and become even more unproductive.

I was at the end of my tether.

On Thursday, they had no homework since we had a "Meet the Teachers" meeting at the school at 18:00. I had really had no energy for this meeting, since I'd been to them so often- they outlined school rules, teachers expectations regarding school uniforms, cell phones etc etc etc. Because we have 3 kids at the school, Mo and I usually have to juggle our attendance at each one's class- Mo attended the first part of Nuha's, then headed off to Shakeel's class. I spent most of my time listening to Tharaa's teacher and then headed off to the last part of Nuha's class meeting.

This was merely supposed to be an introduction to the teachers- with no discussion on individual children, as most teachers were still getting to know the kids' names. But at the end of Tharaa's meeting, a mother approached the teacher asking very specific questions about her daughter. Most of the parents started to leave, as the meeting was clearly at an end. But somehow I could not bring myself to move away from the class. I'd had no idea what I was about to say to the teacher, but my state of despair seemed to be keeping me glued to the person whom I was most likely perceiving as the 'light at the end of my dark dark tunnel', my saviour or just a helping hand.

When the other mother left the teacher looked toward me with a kind smile, which in my fragile state almost brought me to tears. I felt like a pent-up emotional wreck on the couch of an understanding calming and wise therapist. But fortunately I'd managed not to come across as the wreck I was- I hid my feelings under jocular (albeit slightly nervous) babbling, the details of which I absolutely do not remember. I think the jist of it was that Tharaa was not working as she should at home, that she fails to perform if there are no consequences to her non-performance.

I think I may have used the word 'manipulative'. (cringe)

I was nervous about what I'd done, but at the same time felt some sense of relief. Perhaps my motives had been entirely selfish- perhaps I'd just needed someone on whom to offload. But whatever my intentions were- I had just turned in my daughter.

I could not have foreseen the ripple effect this interaction with Tharaa's teacher would have.

The following day Mo fetched them from school. The moment he walked in I could see something was wrong. He was visibly upset. Tharaa went to her room in tears.

Shakeel informed me that he (Shakeel) had been summoned by Tharaa's teacher, who had shown him the state of Tharaa's homework book. (1) It was filled with 2 year old Aisha's scribblings, (2) The work was an incomplete mess (3) Most importantly, and the reason for Shakeel being summoned, my husband's signature appeared in the book, but had clearly been written by a child's hand.

I could not understand how I'd missed this. How had Aisha gotten hold of the book? How had I not seen that the latest homework she had done was incomplete? Shakeel, kindly put an end to my self-torture by reminding me that they all had been home with a stomach bug on Wednesday, which is how Tharaa's book had ended up within Aisha's reach. Tharaa had started to feel sick on Tuesday while doing her howework, and when she'd gotten up to go to the bathroom Aisha had gotten hold of her book. This was also why she had not completed the homework. As for my husband's signature, Tharaa insists that she had just been doodling (and to be fair- her homework book is filled with drawings and doodling where there should be math problems). Her teacher had seen it as an attempt to forge my husband's signature. Tharaa responded that if this were the case she would definitely have been able to do a better job at imitating his handwriting; while the signature in the book just looked like a child's cursive writing. 

In the car my husband had lost his mind- he had ranted and raved and Tharaa had cried. They would each be given one more chance to get their act together. Failure to do so would result in them being banned from TV for the entire term.

But I don't think it was the threat of punishment that had caused the change I've now been witnessing. I think that the entire incident had been incredibly traumatic. Shakeel, who is not accustomed to getting into trouble, being summoned by a teacher (despite the fact that it had not been for any offence he had committed);  had him a bit shaken up. Tharaa had endured the humiliation of having her brother summoned and then being reprimanded in front of the entire class. (I was not too happy about the way in which it was dealt- I would have preferred if the teacher had dealt with the matter privately).

Hubby and I were still discussing how to proceed with the issue of Tharaa's public humiliation, when she came home on Monday beaming. She had approached the teacher without being summoned (and without being instructed by me to do so) to show her how she had managed to catch up with all her outstanding work. She had even tidied up her book and re-written untidy work in her best handwriting (which is really beautiful, by the way). She had even raised the issue of the signature, reiterating to the teacher that she had merely been doodling.

When I asked her what the teacher's response had been, she replied, "My teacher said that she was proud of me for umm...I don't remember".
It appears as if she had just heard that the teacher was proud of her and had then zoned out- probably to admire the bird nesting outside the classroom.

On Friday afternoon Shakeel had come home and done 6 pages of additional maths from his workbook. He has been much more focused on his work since then.

Tharaa has undergone the most amazing transformation. She goes into the room and closes the door (which I would ordinarily not allow), but it seems to help with shutting out external stimuli. She finishes her work within the space of an hour (last week she had sat in front of her books until just before bedtime- and her work had still not been done properly). Her work is neat and organised. She brings it to me to sign after completion. I had had no idea that I was supposed to be signing her homework book each day- I had been under the impression that we just signed the homework diary (which she had previously always forgotten at school anyway).

The positive approach to homework seems to have filtered down to Nuha, who came to sit by the kitchen table while I was preparing supper without being told to do so. She too has been displaying a really positive attitude and we have already made significant progress in preparation for her weekly test on Friday.

Mo and I have decided not to raise the issue of Tharaa's 'public humiliation' with the teacher unless it happens again. The reason is that she and her teacher are establishing a really positive bond, upon which I am relying  heavily in order to keep her motivated to perform her best this year.

I am praying that the effects of this incident last and that they are not just the kids' initial response to a stressful incident. I would really have preferred not to have had to take those measures and if I had not been in the situation myself, I might have judged someone in my position for being unable to handle the matter at home. Now I realise that there is nothing wrong with involving the other key people in their lives (without relinquishing or diminishing our own responsibility obviously- although the thought of running away had crossed my mind). Keeping relevant information from the teacher in order to 'protect' Tharaa, would in my humble opinion, just have amounted to enabling her to continue to neglect her responsibilities.

Whether I had ratted on her for her own sake or simply to obtain some assistance for me, I am quite content with the outcome of my disloyalty. And it seems, so is she.