Thursday, 22 December 2011

its my party and I'll cry if I want to

I can't believe we are mid-way through the Christmas holidays and I am surprisingly calm and actually feel like I am on holiday. I think it is the first time since the twins were born, on December 12, that I can honestly say I am enjoying the festive season. The first Christmas I spent with them passed in a blur of deranged sleeplessness and bleeding nipples; the second was pure damage control and no fun at all because I couldn't take them to the beach alone and each time we did venture down for a swim it was like arranging a overland African trek; and the last holidays I was in the thick of 3 year old tantrums and pure, unadulterated, resistance from two very headstrong fire-signs. But this year they are FOUR! And actually loads of fun to hang out with. I have not even yet made use of the holiday care option down the road - although I must say there are advantages to having my sister-in-law here to help in the entertainment department.

The build up to the twin's 4th birthday started at least 6 months ago. The theme and invitees changed daily, depending on their mood and disposition. They regularly disinvited each other - which proves a fundamental lack of understanding of their twinship, although I have drummed it in over the years that they were actually in mommy's tummy at the same time and therefore share a birthday along with everything else. Clearly they take their twinness completely for granted and its probably more of an incovenience at this stage than anything else. I'm hoping they will find the value of this karmic blessing later on in life when it could come in handy.
For some reason the year end is jammed packed with kid's parties and so by the time the girl's party came along I was sick to death of cake and party packs - and I have a sneaky feeling they may have been too.
I'm not one to try keep up with the Jonese's so we planned a very regular and small occasion with the highlight being the cake and a teasure hunt. Last year I did pony rides - its a hard one to beat and an exhausting one to repeat. Luckily no one noticed the pony stashed away behind the house.

Charlotte was on edge from the word go and all it took was for her sister to have the first birthday song and candles and that was it: she cried through her whole big moment and never really fully recovered after that. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the last of the guests left and we could go destress with a swim in the ocean.
On their actual birthday we took them dolphin watching, which was a huge success and could not have made them more excited as they saw and experienced schools of wild dolphins racing and jumping along side the boat.
So finally we are "completely" four years old and already in full swing of disinviting offensive people to party no. 5.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

the livin' is good, for some

Summer is officially upon us and life on the farm is heating up. Apart from a marked increase in our braaing (BBQ) and beach time, we seem to be pretty productive.
Our spring planting efforts are starting to pay off with our tunnels looking lush and fruitful. I now have marrows, butter lettuce, rocket, spinach and cabbage to sell, plus loads of herbs. And thanks also to my fellow organic growing neighbours, my little farm shop is starting to look quite full of yummy homegrown produce.
But most exciting of all: my hen house is finally complete! After months of nagging my husband, who is really good at any form of hammer and nail work, he finally, without much todo, whipped it up in one afternoon. Thank you!
Our run of youngster chickens, who because of a moody uptight aunty hen, have been ostracized from their mother since young and have had to do with our Magnolia tree as home, did not know what had hit them. After being completely free range since birth, they were suddenly chased, cornered and dive tackled by three grown men, before being deposited into a fresh clean, and enclosed, home. Clearly in shock by this instant change in fortune, they stood around uncomfortably in their new surroundings with beaks agape. And to add insult to injury two of their brothers had mysteriosly vanished...
I feel really bad about this but as Charles said, if I want to farm I'm going to need to toughen up about certain things like selling my first born roosters to our Malawian workers - for the pot. After promising our guys they could have their pick, I got a gleeful knock on the kitchen window one evening and a R20 note thrust into my hand, "For my rooster," said Pearson with a huge grin. I was totally unprepared and hadn't even yet had a moment to say to good bye to the doomed chicken before Pearson and Lusungu picked him out, ran helter, skelter around the garden and caught him. Ofcourse he was the most handsome of all the roosters - how this affects his taste I dont know? And had I offered Pearson a plucked, frozen, free range chicken for supper, I know he would not have felt nearly as rewarded. So a very chuffed Pearson  cycled home with my rooster tied in a plastic packet to his handlebars with only his confused little face peeking out, obviously unaware of the fate that awaited him. 
Next it was the little red rooster that went to Hariet, our nanny. When the girls found out, Anna, the animal lover, was not at all happy to hear of it and ran off to count the chickens only to come back confirming, very sadly, that yes there were two roosters missing, and why should this be? Charlotte's response was simply: "What a pity that Hariet had to eat the red rooster, he was so cute." I have to give it to them: they both, albeit in a vastly different ways, have a healthy approach to life.
Hariet later brought us a small taste of Red Rooster. I simply couldn't do it. I admit I'm a flake.
So there is one young rooster left which I plan to keep as I can't handle another death. I've put all of them: hens, big and small, maternal and not, plus two roosters, Big Daddy and his son, all in the one hen house. Once they have settled in they will go back to their routine of being let out at lunch time, but in the mean time we shall see what transpires. I'm half expecting a stand-off between the two males, but so far it seems quite peaceful.

Monday, 14 November 2011


It's nearly ten days ago now and I still haven't blogged about it. Partly because life just keeps sweeping me along, as it does, and partly because I don't want to seem like I'm bragging.
But in this case I'm just going to because I am really, really proud of my husband.
Last week The National Sea Rescue Institute invited us to their annual dinner and presented Charles with an award for bravery for his efforts to save Tim from the shark attack. It was really moving that his humble and spontaneous act to save a friend's life was acknowledged formally by the community and National Sea Rescue.
In his typical nature he took it in his stride. So I take it apon myself to blow his horn, just a little, as its not like everyone gets an award for bravery in their lifetime, now is it?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

confessions of a mother

After almost four years of motherhood I think I can safely say that the role has now completely infused with my being and I cannot imagine life any other way. I have come a long way since the day we arrived home from the hospital with two tiny sleeping bundles, placed them in their crib and thought: "Now what? Wonder what the waves are doing?" But it wasn't long before they both woke up screaming for a feed, needless to say Charles was surfing and I was shock.
Motherhood did not come easily to me and I'm probably better at it now that the girls can walk, talk and feed themselves. For a long time I felt very frustrated at not being able to get on with my life as I had  known it. I think its reasonable to say that after living your life according to your own rules for thirty years, bearing a child, or two, is a massive shock to the psychi. A shock which I think is rarely taken into consideration. In the olden days women were raised and prepared from an early age to become mothers. But these days most women get on with living their lives, travelling and building careers before they decide to have a child. On a whole, I think first time mothers are completely ill-prepared psychologically and should have psychological help in the first months of motherhood.
Having twins is ofcourse a double whammy and even more limiting on the freedom front. I used to watch with envy as mothers with their newly born singletons calmy did their shopping or had dinner at a restaurant! I'm not sure if it was the double package or my children's strong-willed nature, but I could NEVER go out alone with them without it being a complete disaster and ending with two red-faced screamers. I'm sure my anxiety added to theirs, but try as I might outings in the first year were never a calm and enjoyable experience. Having my husband with me only seemed to make it worse - like the time we were so frazzled that we forgot Anna was still in the pram when we were putting into the back of the car! In all fairness she was only about 2.5 kgs at that stage and easily lost in a bundle of blankets.
While I felt like a spinning top pretty much all the time, my husband decided the best way to handle me and the twins was to act like it was the most normal and undemanding experience anyone could have. His favourite response when people asked us how we were coping was: "Oh, it's a walk in the park," - I could have murdered him! He thought we should continue with our lives as before and I, ever keen to act like the laid-back easy-going, "I do this all the time", first time mother of twins, would try to comply. But when I found myself sitting on a rocky, windy outcrop overlooking the surf and trying to breastfeed two at once, it didn't seem as much fun as I had imagined...
But slowly we grew up and realised the best way to handle our situation was to act according to the hand we had been dealt. Unfortunately, especially for surfers, the babies and their routine came first and if we handled it on their terms we had a better chance of enjoying ourselves.
Over time I, like all mothers, have adapted and evolved to accommodate the needs of my children. I very seldom kick against watching another great day of waves go by unsurfed; I happily miss weeks of riding my horse, I never go out in the week anymore and I'm satisfied if I get at least one minute of intimacy with my husband. At the end of the day its what motherhood is about, sacrifice, sacrifice and sacrifice a bit more.
But somehow its worth more than anything else you could wish for, and I think we might even consider another...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

twin choices

Twins, little twins, need a lot of things at the same time a lot of the time and one is forever juggling and compromising the needs of one or the other. It is an eternal question of whose needs are the most urgent. But I thought after my kids had learnt to hold a cup and pee in the toilet that my double duty was basically over and from now on it was pretty much the same deal as having two singleton kids. It seems I was wrong.
I recently thought that Anna's battle in the school playground was a passing phase and that I could help her through it with a some verbal encouragment and controlled playdates, but after closer observation I realised that a little more intervention was required.
So what to do? I have a happy child at school and an unhappy child at school. Charlotte is confident, stimulated and thriving and Anna is miserable and becoming more and more introverted.
My gut and mother's intuition said change Anna to a smaller school, but because I like to dig a little deeper into the meaning of these things I consulted the "oracle"  and my suspicions were confirmed: Anna is not happy and would do a lot better in a smaller environment.
So I have made the agonising decision to uproot them as from next school term and send them to the newly established Waldorf school. Its agonising because I know Charlotte is fine where she is and will definitely kick against the change, as is her nature, but having them at different schools in not an option. In this instance I think it is Anna's need that is the most urgent and at the end of the day it is I, the mother, who must take the brunt of this decision's consequences not Anna.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Getting it done

I have to admit that my personal downfall is being far too goal orientated, which often prevents me from seeing the wood for the trees. Thank goodness I am not the president of the country, as I couldn't imagine having to worry about the to-do list of an an entire nation when its hard enough worrying about that of a small farm and family of four!
I spend a lot of time noticing what needs to be done instead of enjoying what has been done and I have to keep reminding myself that Rome was not built in a day - although it was built!
The chicks will grow and a larger hen house will have to be built and then next month there will be another very important  project to take care of. In the mean time the house gets older and looses its hair (the thatch) and we eat or sell all the vegetables we planted - what an inconvenience because now we have to plant more!
Life is not stagnant and is continuously evolving and unfolding. I know I need to remember this, but I usually only do once I have got everything ticked off my list and I can bask in the brief moment of completion.
Children are also ever evolving and unfolding. I think as adults it is easy to forget this, as we grow emotionally very little in a year, if at all. But a year in a child's life is a small lifetime of growth and development.
Last school term Anna was coming home with stories of no one wanting to play with her. It upset her so much that she started waking up at night crying about it. But it was only when she got fevers and missed the last week of school that I began to consider that she may in fact be very stressed and perhaps it was time I took heed to what she had been trying to tell me. Charlotte's behaviour seemed affected too and she had a good run of tantrums that flew off the Richter scale. They were also fighting more than usual which was causing a lot of tension between us at home. I felt like I was at breaking point. But by the end of the school holiday and after a short weekend away in the mountains, they were back to their old happy selves.
When I first realised there was a problem I panicked, firstly because I felt helpless, then out of guilt for not acting sooner and finally out of anger that anything or anyone could be causing my child's unhappiness.
I was determined to sort this issue out once and for all and decided to meet with the teachers and the other parent involved. But after discussing the issues and options it no longer feels like a mountain to conquer, but just another growth phase in my children's life which I need to work through with them. Yes there is a social problem in the playground. Anna is battling to find her niche with friends and Charlotte is more popular which is causing a tense dynamic between them, but with a little awareness and a small amount of intervention, I think I will be able to help them through this.
Once again it is something ever evolving and not just another item to tick off my to-do list.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Now that the dust has settled somewhat and I can place my focus on areas other than the twins tummies and rear ends, I have started indulging my fantasy of being a farmer - on a very small scale that is.
I come from a long line of farmers: my maternal great-grandfather owned an enormous sugar cane and cattle farm in the north of the country, which was passed onto my grandfather. But after the Apartheid Government set up the Homeland system, forcing ethic groups to leave their homes and live within designated areas, my grandfather lost his workforce - two tribes that shared his land in return for seasonal work - and he decided to sell the farm. He then moved to the coast and bought an Aberdeen Angus cattle stud farm which my father managed. My paternal grandfather also returned to the country in his later years to farm chickens and dairy cows.
As a child I would accompany my dad on his morning farm rounds, checking fences and newly-birthed calves. I loved it and couldn't wait for the school holidays so that I could immerse myself in the daily farm activities. It always bugged me that we only had cattle and horses as I wanted all types of animals around me. So it was from this early age that the feeling of striding out into the dewey morning with one's gumboots on began to appeal to me.
But what I didn't observe as a young aspiring farmer was that farming is actually quite a lot of hard work and, costly. In those days farming was subsidised and labour cheap - a far cry from the reality of living off the land now. Albeit in my typical Airies nature I threw myself at this new vocation with blind enthusiasm, only to be stopped abrubtly in my tracks by the dull reality of time - lets not forget about the kids - money and management.
Growing food, which I always thought of as a quaint and grounding experience, is actually quite a lot of, often thankless, work - especially if you try do it organically. Once you have finally found the time between school runs, playdates, grocery shopping and cooking dinner to get the seeds into the ground you would think that at least half the job is done and very soon you will be reaping the rewards of fresh, nutritious vegtables. Not so. If half the seedlings survive the snail onslaught it is good going, and if the rest survive worms, aphids, blight or powdery mildew you are really doing well. It is a never ending fight from beginning to end to get a worthwhile yield and I now understand why certain farmers use chemicals. But I won't - my ideals are stronger than my convictions. Instead I set up little traps of honey and yeast to drown the snails which is really cruel and mostly doesn't work. Or I use Margarate Roberts organic insecticide. Finally after a shakey and disappointing start I have decided to go small and leave the large crops to my husband, who knows a whole lot more than I do.
   Chickens - another quaint farmy must-have - poo everywhere, frequently under the kitchen table. They also have the potential to destroy neatly tended gardens in minutes. Not only this but they have intricate family feuds where hens banish bands of chicks to the cold, leaving their human mothers sleepless with worry. And a classic 3am worry attack: do we eat the nasty hen? But she's laying two eggs a day - aaargh, decisions!  
Complaints aside, my chickens have so far been my most successful farming enterprise. I started with six, three survived and now I have ten chickens and one handsome rooster. We also have had a great supply of eggs. So I am moving forward with this venture and investing in a bigger hen house. Perhaps this is where my fortunes lie, eggs.
As grounding and enriching as it all can be at times, I cannot deny that my most rewarding farm activity of all, still remains to ride my horse across the lands without a care in the world - for that moment at least.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It is just over 3 months until my girls turn four, officially leaving toddlerhood behind and embarking on the next phase of life as Little Girls. A phase which I am already finding a lot more fun than the "eat, sleep, poo" phase and the "I can walk and talk, but see no reason" phase.
After nearly four years of wishing for a little extra sleep in the mornings instead of dealing with a dirty nappy at 5am and having tea demanded at 5.30am; we now don't see them until 7am! Charlotte, who is so determined to grow up, is now in the habit of dressing herself - including socks and shoes - before coming to say good morning and Anna has finally seen the light and realised that sleeping later is actually quite nice.
Although this is a very warmly welcomed development, I have caught myself feeling a bit rejected and starved of their warm little bodies on a cold winter's morning.
However, along with this growing up - there was a time when I was so overwhelmed by them as babies that I forgot they were going to grow up at all - comes a whole lot of new challenges that make sychronised feeds, mid-night wake-ups and 18 nappy changes a day seem like a walk in the park.
Firstly and most notably you can't pull the wool over their eyes because they know that "weetbix doesn't have sugar in it already, ok Mom" and "the biscuit Anna got is definitely bigger than mine!" You definitely can't dress them up to look as cute as you'd like them to. If you put something off until tommorrow, there is no way of getting out of it. And ofcourse the most difficult to adapt to: you can no longer talk about them in front of them, or swear, as they now, very inconveniently, understand almost everything. I find this one the hardest and hence it came back to bite me:
It was one of those days when your chíld decides to have a problem with everything and today it was Charlotte who challenged me at every point right up to throwing a tantrum in front of the school's admin office - an ideal position for the school staff to observe my excellent parenting skills! But I stayed calm and tried to meet her needs, no luck, she continued to scream and stamp her feet as mothers and teachers gave us a wide birth. And then, as if she felt my level embarrassment was not high enough, Anna promptly whipped down her pants and tried to show me her privates!
To hell with concious parenting! Panicked and crimson with embarrassment at the chaos my children were creating, I scooped them up under my arms and marched to the car.With both of them screaming, I managed to strap them into their safety chairs. Determined to get out of there as fast as possible, I'm sure I uttered more than a few vulgar words as I battled with the f*&#$ing seatbelts.
Once I had gained a bit of composure they got a calm yet lethal tongue lashing. The trip home was silent.
The afternoon unfolded quite pleasantly, considering its start, until Charlotte pushed me a little too far again -insisting on climbing on the roof of the car - she ended up in her bedroom with the door locked.
Time out for Charlotte has never been very successful, she doesn't grasp the concept of "be quiet and it will be over in 3 minutes" She gets quite angry, really angry. So I expected the thumping and screaming, but boy did I stop in my tracks when I heard: "Mom, I can't get this f*&#$ing door open!"

Monday, 29 August 2011

New Beginnings

Last week went by in a blur of shock and remorse over Tim's death, but after yesterday's memorial service I think many of us feel we can start to move forward again, which I'm sure he would have wanted. Local surfers also gathered together and paddled out to sea to form a circle formation and say their final goodbyes. It was a moving and healing occasion.
The Universe has thrown some serious life lessons our way this winter with Anna's accident and Tim's shark attack, that I am more than ready to learn it, get it and move on as a stronger and wiser person - hopefully.
The days are finally getting longer, pink blossoms are appearing on the fruit trees and we have started planting - spring is upon us! I have been toiling away in the soil with real purpose for the first time since the girls were born. And they let me. Its incredible how much they change in one short year. I am no longer interrupted, whined at or needed every 5 minutes as I'm trying to complete a task. Now they help me weed or plant until they get bored and run off to find something else to occupy them. They have even - quite regularly actually - disappeared for ages leaving me a little concerned, but when I go looking for them I find one drawing quietly and the other playing with her lego! I praise the Angels of Children when this happens and tiptoe quietly out of the house...
Its not that I want to avoid interaction with my children, but to see them gaining confidence and independence fills me with happiness as I think this phase takes longer for twins to get to than singletons, because they are born competing for their mother's attention and so it seems to become part of their normal behaviour. It is because of this demand, I believe, that it is such an exhausting experience raising twins in the early years.

As far as our planting plan goes. I have decided not to continue with carrots. I simply can't get them them to look like carrots! They come out all short, fat and nobbly. I think it has to do with the density of the soil, but I'm not bothered as my neighbour produces perfect organically grown baby ones that are flying out of my farm shop. Spinach is the most rewarding so far, after I let the worms have their fill, it recovers amazingly and keeps on producing beautiful shiny green leaves for ages- also flies out of the shop. So I will plant more and more, together with lettuce and rocket. Charles in in charge of tomatoes - he's an expert - and brinjals which we are dedicating a whole tunnel to. And I am going to keep producing little pots of herbs like origanum, parsley, basil and chamomile. Chamomile, for your info, is known as the "plant doctor" and is excellent to plant in and around your vegetables aswell as Marigolds ofcourse.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Shark Attack

An inevitable and shocking reality has come to pass. One of our fellow surfers was killed this morning by a Great White shark. Inevitable, because we see Great Whites all the time but we continue to surf our perfect break, so it is just a matter of time until one decides to take a bite. Shocking because we never really, really think it will happen to someone so close.
At about 9.30 this morning I heard the NSRI (National Sea Rescue) siren go off and my first thought was, "Where is Charles?" But he told me that he had a meeting after dropping the girls at school and I knew that he didn't have a kayak trip to run so I didn't give it much more thought, other than a vague hope that it wasn't anything too serious.
Then I got a facebook message from a friend in Holland (of all places!) asking about the shark attack. What shark attack? And I brushed it aside. Then I got an sms from a friend saying "Thinking about you and Charles." Well I just about lost it in that moment. I couldn't dial Charles fast enough.
He answered. It wasn't him. It was Tim, our good friend and fellow surfer.
Charles watched from the viewpoint above the break as the shark knocked him off the board and pulled him under. He screamed for help.
"I couldn't do anything except wait until I could do something," said Charles.
The rest of the surfers in the water began to flee as Tim was washed towards the beach on the other side of a strong rip. Charles tore off his clothes, grabbed his board and ran, in his underpants, to the water. He managed to get to him quite quickly, but said he was losing it fast and his eyes weren't focusing. His leg was badly bitten. Another surfer helped Charles get him to the rocks, by which time the NSRI arrived. They resuscitated him twice but sadly he had lost too much blood and passed away in the hospital shortly afterwards. We are ever grateful and proud of our NSRI team who worked so quickly, professionally and hard to save Tim's life.
This has rocked our world of surfers, mothers, wives and friends. We live in a small town where everyone pretty much knows everyone. And as I drove down Main Street this morning to meet Charles, I could feel the shock and sadness that had come to settle over our community.
We will always remember Tim as the warm, kind and gentle person he was. May his soul be at peace and the waves of forever break with eternal perfection.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Food for the Soul

One cannot underestimate the value of a few days in the bushveld. Without kids.
Of course towards the end, I started to miss my girls and couldn't wait to see them again but for the rest I completely indulged in having my own time, thoughts, adult conversation and my husband all to myself. Most refreshing of all was being reminded that we are still in love and get along rather nicely in fact.
My brother, who has been involved in wildlife conservation and the safari industry for many years, organised us a private tented bush camp which we shared with him, my parents and other family. There truly is nothing that causes me to relax more instantaneously than being miles from civilisation and listening to the distant calling of lions while drinking good red wine around the campfire.
Ofcourse I am aware of the fact that this is an extremely privileged experience, one which many will never get to have, but one which I, because I can, will continue insisting on for the rest of my life.
The freezing mornings begin at dawn with coffee and rusks before heading out on an open landrover to spot whatever game is still out and about before the African heat drives them into shady hiding places. I missed the first morning's drive after having being up all night with a bad stomach but on the next morning I was lucky to see the same lactating female leopard everyone had seen the morning before. She came "leopard crawling" behind the landrover, in a stealthy attempt to catch a young kudu calf. The kudu mom saw her though and alerted the baby, which went springing into the thick shrub for safety, leaving the leopard to slink back to her den of cubs emptyhanded. Win some, loose some. Life is simple.
Ofcourse our time came to an end far to soon and I fantasised that the perfect holiday would be for the parents to go ahead and have a few nights to unwind, catch up and kiss a bit and then send for the kids to share the rest of the time as a family...
We are home now, back on our beautiful farm where the children and animals adore us. It's nice to be reminded of this sometimes. Our faithful helping hands kept the wheel turning and my mother-in-law handed over the twins with an exhausted, "thank God you're back" smile.
The girls have behaved beautifully so far, or is it just my renewed sense of patience that is lightly to be worn thin again by the time we get into the car for school tommorrow?
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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Times Gone By

There has been a photo printing special running in town which prompted me to finally organise and edit our family pics - which I realised haven't been printed since before the girls 2nd birthday and they are nearly four! 
Its been quite an interesting project and a little trip down memory lane. As cliche as it sounds, time really does fly - especially when you have kids. I can't get over how much they grow in two short years. Where have my babies gone? To be honest I started to feel quite tearful looking at the photo's, hoping I was present enough in all those special moments. Most likely, while snapping a shot of happy carefree kids at the beach, I was thinking about hurrying them along for bathtime or some other mundane routine exercise. Luckily photo's give us a chance to relive those moments that may have slipped us by and provide a lovely montage of a life well lived - whether that is the actual truth or not is up to one's state of mind at the time...
So here's a "lovely montage of a life well lived" made up of some of my favourite shots:


Friday, 22 July 2011

One Child Wonder

We survived the holidays - just.
School is back and it's incredible how much that actually affects my life. I can have whole thoughts that are not interrupted. I can finish converstations. I can plan my days and tick off things achieved on my "to do" list - and I love ticking things off my to do list! Oh and I can eat my entire lunch without having to get up once. I can also think about doing some excercise again. All this can be achieved between 9am and 1.30pm, it is heavenly.
But only 3 shorts days back and Charley came home with Pink Eye yesterday. Reluctantly I kept her home. I nearly kept them both, but Anna, ever keen to be brave, went off  alone to school happily.
Dreading giving up another day to be productive I began by taking Charley with me on my morning farm round. We picked some veggies in the tunnel, checked on our newly hatched chicks and walked the horses out of the paddock to graze on the hills. On our way home we picked some wild flowers which, "will be lovely for Anna," said Charley. As it turned out, the morning was heavenly and spending one on one time with Charley was way better then being "productive."
Ofcourse it got me to thinking about how different it is to have the girls one on one.
If I'd done the same with both of them in tow it would have taken me 45 minutes to get them booted up and out of the house. It would have been chaos in the tunnel as I tried to control which veg they may and may not pick. And there would definitely have been a tantrum over who lead the pony out of the paddock, in which case I would try let them both lead him on either side, an obvious yet impossible compromise as Charley is clumsy and Anna a lot quicker.
So instead of feeling pity, which I'm prone to doing at times, about our double trouble situation and how tricky it can make the most simple of excercises, I used the experience to remind myself that I am actually quite a nice, calm mom - given the opportunity - and I should definitely make more time for one on one interaction with the girls.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Almost back to normal

Quick update on Anna.
We seem to have finally come to the end of all the check ups and follow ups. On Monday she had her required check by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. All was good. He says it appears the nose was broken, but it is well aligned and has healed, is healing, well. And then after much angst about her limping I made an appointment with a chiropractor which she saw today. He said all good too, no misalignment and it seems all that is needed is a little more time for the ligaments to heal from the strain. She is walking a lot better now and running (slower than usual) but there is definite improvement and I feel good about it, as I'm sure she does too! It was suggested that she get a hearing test as the impact of the fall could of caused a problem somewhere, but I think I'll just keep an eye on her and leave it for now. She's pretty over doctor's waiting rooms and so am I.
Emotionally, she is still quite weepy in the mornings which I think is caused by being a little stiff. She perks up nicely and then seems to get quite tired around three, which is unlike her but understandable considering her shock and trauma and the need to heal. She also seems a lot more considerate than before and very loving towards me, which I'm lapping up for who knows how long it will last?
Charley continues, with the odd lapse here and there, to behave like an acsended master...? I am definitely lapping this up because I'm sure once they return to school next week, with all the outside influences, things could change.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Chocolate and wine moments

They say that it takes awhile to get over "shock" especially if you actually for a real life moment believe a loved one is dead. And I dont want to milk this subject for too long but boy did Anna's accident knock me sideways.
I had been a nightmare to my husband. He honestly could not say or do a thing right because it immediately pushed all the defense buttons releasing a small, but vicious tiger with very sharp claws that leapt up and swatted him.
I felt like things were really reaching breaking point over the weekend and I just wanted a quiet place to cry, think and wallow a bit in my own emotional exhaustion. I started having fantasies of kind, gentle people dressed in white taking me away to a place where no one needs to be fed, bathed, smiled at or talked to, and all that is required of me is to lie really still while being massaged and fed chocolate and red wine. I honestly for a moment thought really hard about pulling this one off. But nothing came to mind and, reality check, I am a mother. I am needed. Four short years ago I could have disapeared into the Amazon with a backpack and camera for a year and no one would have been affected in the slightest. Now to pull off a 24 hour sabbatical from one's life is like organising the production of Ben Hur. Ofcourse it's possible, but the logistics and organisation that would go into spontaneously leaving the girls and animals with Charles would far outway the few short hours of peace. Or maybe I'm a complete control freak and everyone would be absolutely fine and not even notice my absence. Probably.
On Sunday, however, the sun shone and the gods smiled upon us. We took the girls for a hike along one of my favourite wild beaches, had a picnic, laughed, sang and danced. All was well as my feelings of desperation floated out to sea.
The moral of the story: life would be pretty bleak once the chocolate and wine are all finished and I have no one's demands to cater to...or to go to the beach with.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Angel Intervention

Anna had her hip checked out today, but I'm not convinced by the doctor's prognosis. He says he can't find any problem and her limping is due to an imbalance caused by her concussion?? This is not sitting well with me as I feel she obviously has a physical problem if she's still limping and can't run.
At bath time she fell down and said it was her "woggely leg" that made her fall. She says it is sore but she told the doctor it wasn't because she was scared of lying on the table again. Problem is how do you know when a 3 year old is saying it like it is or telling you what she thinks you want to hear. It's really killing me watching her hobbling around and trying to run but then rememebering she can't.
I don't want to be a doomsday-over-fretting mother but nor do I want to ignore a potential problem. Charles seems to agree - although he normally adopts the "lets wait and see" attitude.
I've decided to give it until Monday before getting a second opinion.
It appears an angel has taken residence of Charley's being.  Ever since our session with the child psychologist she has gone from being a traumatised and whiney, trantum throwing devil to a reasonable, understanding, loving child of about 2 years her senior. When I told her I was leaving her with granny for the morning while we went to the doctor, she happily packed up her drawing and cutting things and skipped down to her grandparents house where she quietly and duitifully crafted elaborate pieces of art for her ailing sister. Upon our arrival home she didn't immediately throw her usual tantrum and demand her treat for waiting, but simply handed over her work of art to Anna and thanked me graciously for a packet of chips I'd bought for her. She continued with this mature behaviour of an ascended master throughout the afternoon, topping it off by eating her entire supper by herself (this never happens) asking if she may be excused from the table (she's quite good at this one) and taking her plate through to the kitchen. And then said: "May I watch some TV now please Mom"!!!
If this continues - from a child who usually has the tolerance threshhold of an injured tiger and has kept me running two steps ahead of her since she was born - my life will be "irrevocably changed" forever. Please hold thumbs and touch a lot of wood!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

On the mend

It's a week today since the Great Fall and I guess I can say we are mending, albeit a slowly.
The girls went for their session with a child psychologist yesterday which went well. They did a lot of drawing to express their feelings about the incident. I'm especially seeing a positive difference in Charley who has been a lot less whiney and angry since. Although Anna seems fine on a whole, she's not her normal excitable, adventurous self by a long shot. She doesn't like to be away from me for too long and has periods of crying about all and nothing. Her bruises are nearly gone but her limping has not improved. So I'm taking her for another check up tommorrow morning and perhaps x-rays on her hip.
I feel shattered. I think the emotional demand of being completely available to the girls this past week, plus the shock and lack of good sleep (there has been much waking up and bed swopping during the nights) is catching up on me.
Charles gave up a lot of work time to be with us but has now thrown himself back into work with his usual all or nothing attitude, so we miss him. It also doesn't help that the winter cold fronts keep bringing more and more monster swells that he absolutely has to see to. In the past I thought little of him disappearing all day to surf 15 foot waves off the wild coast, but these days I am finding it hard not to worry about him. He needs to do it though, its his form of post-trauma therapy.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A parent's worst nightmare

It feels like Charles and I have passed onto another level in our parenting since Wednesday night when Anna fell out of the top floor window and landed face first 4 meteres below on the patio. She is okay.
It was truly the most horrific moment I have yet experienced when we realised what had happened and were poised between knowing if our life was going to be irrevocably changed forever or if, by some miracle, it was going to be alright.
The ambulance came, she was rushed to hospital - the whole time saying "I'm alright Mommy." The x-rays were fine, nothing broken. Is it possible? From there we were sent to George, a town an hour and half away, to have scans and be checked by specialists. She was fine, she was fine, she was fine.
We spent the night in hospital and she really was incredibly brave, just handled it all like a champion.
"I didn't fall, Mommy, my guardian angel held my hand and flew with me."
Our little family has been rocked and quite traumatised by this but it's also, obviously, brought us together. The girls "twin bond" has really shown. They are being so sweet to each other with barely any fights. Charley is very proud to help her limping, bruised sister by holding her hand and making sure I dont overlook any of her needs. "Anna's awake, Mommy. Go get her she can't walk very well." Ofcourse, understandably, there has also been the extra demands from Charley's side.
On the down side, Anna is weepy and clingy and we have decided to take them both to a child psychologist to get over the shock of it all.
All I want to do is be with them every minute of the day, my precious, precious babies.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Winter Moments

It takes ages for winter to really kick in in this part of the world, and when it does its still a far cry from a true European winter. But to us South Africans, 15 degrees celcius at midday is really freezing! And that's what it was today.
I find the older I get the more aware of our seasons I have become. At every stage of my life the change of season has had a different meaning to me, but now that I am a mom and farmer's wife, I notice the daily changes that the various seasons evoke differently.
The cold has really begun to play havoc with Anna's dress sense - she just can't get her head around the fact that she cannot run around in shorts and t-shirts anymore. This really bugs her and she sneaks off a couple of times a day to try redress as if she is off to the Bahamas. It has got so out of hand that I have had to (very cruelly) hide all her summer clothes. I feel terrible as she doesn't ask where they are, I just find her rummaging through her drawer in silent confusion and then every now and then she asks just when does this "summer" I keep talking about return.
The other part of our life which is noticably affected is the growth of our food. Since I only started really taking interest in growing our own food last summer, I took it for granted that we had an endless supply and variety of fresh veggies. And it has taken me until mid-winter to finally realise that we are not a useless bunch of layabouts who cannot get our garden in order - it's simply winter. At the moment I have carrots growing very, very slowly, about five cabbages and the last remains of a pepper crop. Which is actually pretty good, according to Charles, my horticulturist husband, who boldy planned a tomato crop which is now bearing blighted fruits. At least they still taste good. And we have tomotoes in winter...
But my most favourite winter thing of all is the mood and light. From an early morning horse ride when everything sparkles with cold and dew to the dusty low shafts of light that fall across a room. It evokes a feeling of life being lived. It reminds me of my childhood when everything was fresh and unquestioned.
Today I found the girls curled up together on the couch in the afternoon light, and I cherished the moment.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Breathe and enjoy

School closes tommorrow. For three weeks. What am I gonna do?
I get this anxiety attack before every school break and usually its unfounded. Except last term they gave the kids a 10 day holiday and then - due to some oversight by the Minister of Education (oversights are a regular occurance in the SA government) we had another 10 day break just a week after term began! This disruption caused major upheaval in our home. I had run out of ideas and the girls were quite desperate to get back to their normal routine and friends. In short I felt like the worst mother on earth by the time they returned to pre-school for the 2nd time.
I refuse to let this happen again. I will check my attitude every morning, breathe and temper any panic I feel setting in when, due to unforseen child demands, at 10 ó clock and we are still all in our pyjamma's, the horses are sweating in their blankets and I haven't yet baked or picked any fresh veg for the farm shop which opens at 9am. I will roll with it.
So far my survival kit consists of : a weekly library outing, many pony rides and walks on the farm, a picnic at the lagoon with friends - if the weather holds, my dear, dear friend Robyn's holiday care programme and a weekend away.
Doesn't sound too bad actually. I think we'll survive. As long as I put my own (whose that?) needs on the backburner.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Double Dressing

I think my worst twin moment of the day must definitely be dressing time. I have tried every strategy under the sun to streamline this agonizing, psychologically challenging and uttery exhausting excercise.
Sometimes, in an attempt to save time - ha ha, I try dress them simultaneously. Here I will have to get Anna into a tight leg lock, otherwise, given the tiniest chance of freedom and she will dash off, naked, out the bedroom through the kitchen, out the door and into the dewey yonder to greet her pony or check on the morning farm activities. While I have the one in a tight body lock and am pulling on her vest with one hand,  I'll use the other hand to get a pair of nickers onto Charley and will be making all sorts of encouraging noises to keep her calm -she is prone to collapsing on the floor in a fit if she feels her socks don't match her pants. But at some point I will loose concentration on Anna and she will get loose and be gone...Now all my focus is on Charley, who will use the time to maximise my attention and find every conceivable problem with her outfit. We will then change it about two more times.
Great, Charley's done. I'll quickly put her in front of the basin with a toothbrush while I dash off to locate Anna. But alas apon returning to the bedroom with a writhing, wild and muddy child under my arm, I will invariably discover that the beautifully dressed Charley is now NAKED and digging in her closet for an alternative outfit!!
Am I really such a bad mother to start loosing it, just a little, at this point? By the time we are all in the car and ready to leave for school my heart is racing, my marriage on the rocks, the nanny in tears and the dog hiding under the kitchen table.
After this process became obviously detrimental to all concerned I started dealing with each child from start to finish - that is underwear through to toilet done and shoes on - individually. This kind of worked, there was slightly less tension, but it was at least a 45 minute excercise which caused me to become quite nasty just as we were nearing the finish line. But that system didn't last long anyway because the girls suddenly went through a rebellion phase where they would point blank refuse to even enter the dressing room.
This is where bribery and corruption come in. The "Bean Jar". If you get dressed you shall receive 4 beans which will subsequently lead to a full jar of beans which means a Treat. This worked really well actually and seemed to break their bad habit of resistance.
At the moment things are running pretty smoothly ,as long as I give them a healthy choice of attire to choose from - all laid out neatly on the bed. You'd swear we were slaves to royalty!
Any tips on how to move forward from here will be greatly welcomed.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Waste not, want not

Before I started living with my husband, Charles, I always felt that I was quite a concious person when it came to not wasting. But after living with him for a couple of months, I realised that I really could be pulling my weight a little more in the non-waste department  - especially when it comes to food.
So it was Charles who first introduced me to "chicken carcass" soup. And it has now become a weekly meal in our home, traditionally preceeded by roast chicken the night before.
It is smply the easiest, most delicious and wholesome meal one can throw together in 15 minutes.
One free range chicken carcass from last nights roast. Before placing the carcass in a large pot of water, cut off excess white meat and also throw into the pot. Add all the left over fat from the roast plus any left over potatoes and other veg. One large onion, a couple of garlic cloves, 2 or 3 tomatoes, carrots, a baby gabbage and any other veg you fancy, all chopped into fairly large chunky pieces. A cup of Ina Paarman chicken stock, 2 dollops of fruit chutney, 2 teaspoons salt, a sprig of fresh rosemary and a couple shakes of worcester sauce. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for 30 mins. Fish out the carcass and bones and add to the dog's dinner. Throw in a cup of pasta shells and simmer until they are soft.
Serve with fresh homemade farm bread. The kids love it and you have used every last piece of the happy little free range chicken!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Chalk and Cheese

Being twins it's obvious that Charley and Anna are constantly being compared. The quiet one, the noisy, the naughty one and the good one. And I've always tried really hard to not do it myself - although I have been known, in a moment of unconciouss parenting to say things like, "Can't you be more independent like your sister..." But on a whole I've tried to approach their behaviour, likes and dislikes with  impartiality.
Last Saturday I decided to let go a bit of control and let them dress themselves without any of my interference. And this is how they emerged out of their bedroom: Anna was dressed in a pair of cords, her favourite surf T-shirt and a pair of gumboots. Charley was dressed in her favourite Tahitian skirt, her Little Mermade T-shirt, Hello Kitty socks (pulled up) and white dolly shoes.
Need I say more. My children quite plainly revealed their individuality and in so doing reminded Charles and I that they are not a pair of twins but two little girls with their own personalities, likes and dislikes.
Makes one wonder about things like astrology and numerology and the influence they may have on who we are.
I think at the end of the day we are born as pure personality and we are who we are whether we or anybody else likes it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Three red hens there were...

One of our three remaining hens passed away last night.
We are not sure what the cause of her death was. She appeared to be very thin and so we think she may have had parasites or the other two hens and bossy rooster were not allowing her to get her share of food. But luckily we have veterinarian on site so she is awaiting her autopsy. I will report back as soon as I receive the results...
I do feel quite bad though as she was the hen that always came into our kitchen to eat the dog's food and we would chase her out with mean noises (I don't like stepping into chicken poo while I'm cooking supper). Clearly she was hungry.
The girls took it very well. In fact they were very excited about carrying the dead body to the surgery. I'm glad they have a healthy approach to death.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

For better or for worse

I'm still coming to terms with being a mother and a wife - in that order. Sometimes I think I'm really, really bad at both and sometimes I feel like I have it down to a tee. But the the truth is, I do tend to doubt my abilities and live in perpetual guilt. I think if we were all honest, most of us mums would admit to this - bar a few perfecto's out there who were literally born to serve their husbands and offspring and begrudge nothing.
I think upbringing has a lot to do with how we adapt to our roles as mother and wife. Our mothers set the precedent and either we blindly follow their conditioning or one day we wake up and decide to try it our way. My mother wasn't the "tea and cookie" type of mom - if you know what I mean.
And I would actually like to be more of a "tea and cookie" type of mom because I know it brings a certain amount of security to small children, and I have a tendency to be quite boring at times. But I can't seem to keep it up because I also have a burning desire to experience my own life to the fullest, which makes me quite selfish and often very frustrated. Basically I want everything all of the time...!
So you can imagine the push-pull experience I have had raising twins. Twins don't allow you to parent on the side while you get on with your life as before. I see some moms doing this - they seem to carry on with their lives as it was before except now they just fit in a couple extra cooked meals and a vague bedtime routine! Not I.
From the day we brought the girls home I felt like my life made a complete 180 degree turn as they simultaneously created order and chaos and I felt (for the first 2 1/2 years) like I was literally running at full speed to keep up with their incessant demands and streamline 'the routine'. What I think made it such a radical experience for me - the unsuspecting freedom lover - was that I wasn't nicely primed with the civilised arrival of one planned first baby, just to get a taste of mothering before more descended upon me! I truly had not an ounce of an idea of what I was getting into. And I only now, 3 1/2 years later feel like I'm starting to get a handle on it.
Marriage is another subject entirely. Lets just say I am deeply satisfied with my marriage but it is no walk in the park. I regularly need to remind myself that I'm doing alright juggling twins and waves - because whether I choose to accept it or not Charles' will never begin his day, or plan any event great or small, without knowing first when and how he is going to fit in his surf. But if you see this man's performance in the water, all inconveniences caused are forgiven, as he truly is an artist. I just need to get over the fact that being a mother of two automatically cuts into one's own surf time and soon, very soon, we will all be paddling out together!
Having said all the above, for better or for worse I would not trade my children, my husband or my idyllic farmlife for anything else in the world.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

First timer

The road that has lead me to start this blog has taken almost exactly 3 1/2 years. It started with the birth of my twin girls Charlotte and Annabelle in Decemeber 2007. Having been a much welcomed, yet unplanned event, we (Charles and I) only now feel like we are coming up for some air!
A brief summary of who we are - the Reitz Family:
Mom (the blogger ): Melissa, nicknamed Missy. Grew up in a place that could be called Heaven, the Garden Route, South Africa. I spent 10 years in the city of Cape Town freelancing as a camera assistant in the film business. One day I had enough of the long hours and stresses of city life. My gut said go home and start your real life. So I went back to Plettenberg Bay. I reconnected with the love of my life, Charles (still married at the time). Eight months and a lot of patience, tears, heartache, one divorce, sadness and happiness later, I was pregnant. Not planned. With twins. My life, as I now know it, had begun....
Dad: Charles. Super big wave surfer, horticulturist, arborist and master braaier (BBQer) Also grew up in the Garden Route. After completing his studies in Cape Town, he set out in search of the world's greatest waves. Settled in France for a short time, married a local, then continued the search. After awhile, for reasons that are none of my or your business, his marriage ended and he returned to SA to rethink it all. But thanks to me he needn't of bothered...
The Girls: Charlotte and Annabelle, fraternal twins born on 12 December 2007. Charlotte is blonde, green eyed and tall. She loves fairies, pink and dressing up. She doesnt like loud noises and too many people.Annabelle is blonde, blue eyed and petit. She loves pasta, lions and climbing trees. She doesnt like being told what to do or wearing shoes.

We all live on Ouland Farm in Plettenberg Bay with our border collie, Mulligan, two kittens, Jack and Sophia, two horses, Marine and Raz, our 3 hens and rooster, and a herd of dairy cows. Also living on the farm are Charles' parents Andre and Bell a.k.a Boupa and Mouma. Andre has earned legend status as the regions most loved veterinarian for over 35 years.
Time to fetch the girls from school. More to come...