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 รณ 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...