Monday, 17 December 2012

birthdays for all?

The end of the year is upon us. Again. It seems to arrive quicker every year - they say that its got to do with getting older. Then I must really be getting on because this year flew by at a ridiculous speed!
And my twins are five. The day, the 12th of the 12th of the 12th, went so well I kept going over the events in my mind to see if I'd missed something.
The night before, the girls and I had a chat about the party and it was agreed that this year Charlotte would have the first birthday song as last year Anna did. Charlotte had requested a "ballet" cake and for six months Anna has been determined she would have a "buffalo" cake - which thanks to my mother-in-law's amazing cake-making abilities, they got. They also agreed to remember to say thank you for their gifts, which they did, and not to nag about opening them until the party was over, which they did. The whole day they were impeccably well behaved and gracious. It seems five just might be the "year of grace" for us after all!

After much deliberation about what to give them we decided on bicycles which have been a massive success so far. To me one's first bike is like a right of passage into the next phase of independence and exploration in one's childhood. And I can't wait for them to be off the trainer wheels and riding all over the farm like the free, dirty footed child I once was.

I feel like saying to myself, with a sigh, "So there have it. You've got them onto the road of childhood, now you can start again with the next one." Yes its an exhausting thought and I have to admit that lately I have been having mildly desperate and rebellious thoughts about motherhood and the imminent phase of babyhood which is looming, especially since so many of my friends are coming out of their baby phases and starting to get a semblance of independence back. And I have to miss the Red Hot Chillie Peppers concert next month! But I look at how well it can all turn out and know that at the end of the day there isn't much that can compare to the joy your children can bring - and they do get more fun to have around as time passes.
So I will try and practice a little grace myself as my belly continues to grow at an alarming rate, reducing my physical abilities daily. I guess it really is time now to kick back, surrender and allow the year to end gracefully.

At the time I was writing this post I was also experiencing some strange cramping sensations in my belly which proceeded to get I decided to phone my gynecologist. I was sent to the local labour ward where they confirmed I was in labour! A scary moment for us all, as I was raced to the Knysna Medi-Clinic so they could do all the necessaries to stop the contractions. Which thankfully they managed. At only 29 weeks the baby would have had to have been put in an incubator for at least 2 months. It turns out being over active coupled with a mild infection in the uterus is what set it off. I'm back home with strict instructions to rest and take it easy.
Happy holidays...

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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

cycles of life

Summer is here! Finally after what felt like the longest, wettest winter of all time we woke up on Saturday and the chill was gone. We threw on our summer dresses, donned our hats and headed to the beach. Bliss. Its simple: I am happy when the sun shines and the sea sparkles.

And its about time I felt a twinge of excitement for life, what with nausea and then my large belly, which doesn't fit into anything wintry anymore, bringing me down somewhat over the past few months. My poor husband has had to endure more than one unreasonable display of hormonal tears and emotion, but at least he can now pack me off to the beach where I can wallow like a happy whale in the ocean while the girls joyously amuse themselves for hours.
At the moment the farm still looks green and lush before the onslaught of the long hot days. And the feeling of abundance is in the air with new vegetables popping up, eight new calves, new baby chicks and me with my ballooning belly. It's a time of new beginnings, growth and change - all the things that put a skip back into my step.
And the twins keep growing. In exactly a month they will be five, a milestone I have been looking forward to since the terrible two's. According to various parenting books, five is supposed to be the "year of grace" for many parents. We await with anticipation to see if this is true. So far I am not seeing any graceful behaviour - they seem more bent on annihilating each other these days than anything else. I try to drum in the deep, connected twinship that they should share and just how lucky they are to have each other, but all I get are indignant responses. It seems this age is more about competing than bonding. Hopefully they do share a deep bond - unseen by others but still very much there.
As part of baby preparation I have tried to embark on "operation independence" with the twins. My reasoning goes that by the time No. 3 is born they will be five-years-old and capable of taking care of their own immediate needs, like dressing, bathing, eating and, we very much hope, wiping the under carriage! I thought if I run a mild form of drill, repeating the exercises daily, eventually muscle memory will kick in and they will be able to perform all necessary tasks without major adult  input required. But 6 months down the line I am wondering if my approach is ever going to work!
To be honest it's difficult to remain consistent with these drills as they take up so much energy and it's often easier to wordlessly perform the tasks for them while they continue in their fantasy world of never-ending chatter. Sometimes it feels like I am dealing with two experiments who have been given large doses of hallucinogenics and told to perform some basic human functions, like foaming up some soap and washing your neck. However, under the influence of child wonderment, these tasks are simply not possible as one tends to forget moment by moment what one is trying to do and mostly gets side tracked by the cool bubbles one can make with a bar of soap.
I have a sneaky suspicion that all my "drilling" with its monologue of orders has left them deaf and blind to my mere presence and has instead become a form of hypnotherapy that sends them into a world that only children can reach. Leaving me alone and repeating myself dumbly in the bland and boring world of maternal duty.
So I have decided when defeated, do nothing. And apart from the essential daily needs like a good teeth brush and a couple of soapy scrubs a week, the rest of the time they can figure it out for themselves. And maybe one day they will return to planet Earth long enough to actually perfect these essential bodily duties for themselves.
I think my latest efforts at controlling the outcome have yet again back fired and reminded me to allow growth to take place in the time that it takes. They will grow up and they will, hopefully, be able to wash their own orifices and do all the other necessities required of grown humans. In the mean time all I have to do is wait, and watch with wonderment, the ever unfolding miracle of life and growth which is all around me.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

pregnant prayers

Although I always knew that one day I would have children and raise them in the country, the twins were somewhat unexpected and arrived to two ill-prepared parents. When I say ill-prepared I don't mean we didn't give them what they needed emotionally and physically, but we didn't realise how MUCH we would have to give them.
Looking back now I have to admit that although I adored my babies, the first year was not a blissful state of unfolding sentimental moments but more like the toughest year of my life. Overnight it was required that I adjust to two screaming premature babies, a partner who I had barely had time to get used to living with, the loss of a career and my parents-in-law, who bless their hearts were more than giving, but who I hardly knew and were suddenly in my daily life. In short I felt out of control and totally spoken for before I even had the time to catch my breath. 
But like they say Life never deals you a hand you cannot handle and I believe that through tears, gritted teeth, laughter and love I, and my family, have survived and actually done pretty well: the twins are happy, I am happy and my marriage is strong. 
And now in four months, five years after my first birth I will have another baby. So far the pregnancy has gone well, apart from the fact that even though I only have one baby in my belly I feel much heavier than with the twins and have had to slow down more than I had hoped to. But I am excited for this child and confess that I'm allowing myself to daydream and perhaps set myself up for potential disappointment: its only one so surely I will be able to breast feed easily, get more sleep and simply enjoy myself and my baby more than last time? 
Delivering the twins was a disappointment for me. After bravely announcing at their conception that I would give birth outside under the moonlight with a midwife, I ended up being convinced into having a c-section and very few of my birth-plan requests were fulfilled. The babies were not given to me immediately to bond and latch but whisked away to incubators immediately after delivery. With no real advice or support with feeding, Charles and I battled to get get their tiny mouths to latch. In a post-op blur I let the nurses take charge and only realised 24 hrs later that they were "topping" my babies up with formula because they said my milk was taking too long to come in! After reading more on this I now know that colostrum is all a baby needs in the first days after birth and your body will produce adequately for them as needed. 
Being no different to animals, conceiving and birthing a child is another reminder that we are of this earth just like all living beasts and we have everything we need to provide for our babies. If we cannot do it after good time then the medical experts can step in, but we must at least give it our best shot.
So this time I plan to keep my inner wisdom in my consciousness and allow it to take charge of birthing this baby. Thanks to an amazing book The Mama Bamba Way, written by a South African mid-wife Robyn Sheldon, I am convinced that unless something dreadfully unforeseen crops up I, like all women, have what it takes to bear my baby naturally.
Having declared all of this so confidently I also now know that one cannot be too idealistic when it comes to parenting, as every situation is unique and if you cannot live up to your own expectations you need to allow your ideals to be defeated and choose another route graciously. At the end of the day, as mothers, we do know what is best for ourselves and our babies and we must remember to never judge those that do it differently, because there is nothing like a child to bring you down to earth and face the facts.
So I will allow myself to dream and hope for a successful natural birth (in hospital, because of the prior cesarean), easy breast feeding, enough sleep and to be back on my horse and surfboard weeks after delivery! But I will bear in mind that all of this is held precariously in the hands of fate and I will need to bend whichever way the wind blows on the day that my third child is brought into the world.

Monday, 22 October 2012

mooning about in the outeniquas

There is nothing better than a weekend getaway with your family. To me it’s a precious little gift to oneself and one’s family, because let’s face it weekends can so often consist of catching up on work, kiddies birthday parties and social engagements which leave you more exhausted on Monday morning than you felt on Friday! Getting away to somewhere close but different forces one out of the “busy” habit and into relaxing and catching up on vital family time.
We recently discovered a gem: Outeniqua Moon Percheron stud and guest farm at the foot of the Outeniqua mountains near Mossel Bay. Reasonably priced and within a good driving distance from anywhere in the Garden Route, this little piece of paradise is well worth a visit.
The simple and charming self-catering cottages are tastefully and romantically decorated, giving one a sense of country luxury. As my daughter put it, “This place is better than I thought it would be. There are even gold taps!”

And if you really feel like a break from the usual domesticity order a delicious meal of your choice from hosts Christine and Peter, which is served in the dining room and followed by a decadent helping of desert.
But it is all for the love of horses that Outeniqua Moon exists and getting to know the gentle giant Percherons is a great way to while away a morning, whether its feeding and grooming - which Christine happily allows children to be involved with - or getting a ride around the farm with Bobby and his cart.
There is no shortage of kiddie entertainment from horses, bunnies and a well thought out play area to swimming and walking. And if you are feeling a little more adventurous hikes and 4x4 tracks are also easily accessible in the surrounding Outeniqua mountains.
I found Outeniqua Moon to be the perfect family getaway and left feeling rested and content…which could also have been from the magical tranquillity the gentle Percheron horses exude.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

boot camp or not?

Of all the skills required to be a reasonably adequate parent I find the area of discipline the most challenging. And I'm sure I am not the only parent to feel this.
Disciplining your child lovingly and fairly while also instilling a deep understanding that under no circumstances may she repeatedly spit bath water all over the floor is quite difficult - to put it mildly. I have  tended to want to approach most misdemeanors with a severe tongue lashing in the hope that I don't have to take the reprimand any further and that I never have to go back to the same boring incident again, and again. But I've realised this really doesn't work as children soon become deaf to shouting. 
There is so much advice out there on how best to discipline your child: the most advocated, and a favourite of Super Nanny's, being "time out" and the least being smacking. But lets face it, trying to persuade a 3 or 4 year-old to sit quietly on a chair in the corner without screaming or running away is a lot more exhausting - and also open for further bad behaviour - than a firm smack on the bum. I am not saying that hitting small children should be the common form of punishment but I do feel that it can be rather effective if used sparingly and consciously. For Pete's sake most of us were smacked and locked in our bedrooms as children and I don't hold it against my parents or feel I have suffered any major trauma from it.
What I do feel has lead me to the therapist's door though is not being heard and understood. So I strongly feel that listening to your child's gripe or defense is a fair approach to deciding on the type of discipline she should get.
Having two children of the same age but with polar opposite personalities I have found that the same type of discipline does not work on both of them. Charlotte, who is constantly trying to perfect her world, cannot  bear the thought of being caught out at behaving badly and therefore sitting in the corner and having to actually think about her awful behaviour is almost too much to bear....which some would argue makes it a good form of punishment for her, but unfortunately for me too! What should take up to four minutes ends up taking an hour, with her screaming and me eventually losing all my calm unaffected "I can do this" demeanour of a parent in control. Invariably I end up in a rage that leaves me having to abort mission and walk away. Hence the entire objective to instill discipline is lost: the child gets away with screaming and I feel like a first class loser parent. So I choose alternative solutions with Charlotte, like talking about why it's not okay to do what she did, which really seems to work with her, and if it's particularly bad I will remove a privilege like T.V. 
Anna, however, is a different kettle of fish and with her, bless her mischievous little heart, I am constantly pulling out new tricks to stay on top of the discipline game. She is one of those children that if born to a timid softly spoken mother, which I am not, would run the entire household and perhaps the farm and surrounding community too. "Time out" seems to have no real effect on her as I have a strong sense that very little self-reflection is done in that corner, but instead it is used more as a time for her to cook up and perfect her defense speech. So for her I vary things quite a lot! I admit she has received a fair amount of spankings in her short life and thanks to her I have had extreme practice at controlling my patience. Ofcourse her forgivable grin and hilarious outlook on "the way life is" always helps us to bounce back quickly from any unpleasant outbursts.
No matter which way you look at it discipline is a full time occupation and there is a fine line between punishing one's child effectively and causing more parental anxiety. I can see now why there are some parents who choose to turn a blind eye to a lot of bad behaviour as sometimes it just doesn't seem like its worth the exhausting battle. I, however, take it all far too seriously to ignore the possibility of my children growing up into unpleasant adults and possibly often end up punishing myself more.
The bottom line is that kids need discipline but I think cutting them some slack here and there could stand their self esteem's in good stead. After all they are just kids and when else in their lives will they be able to so vehemently push the boundaries within the security of those who love them.
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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

terrific totseat

You would think when expecting twins one would get every apparatus under the sun to make life easier. Not me. While there is a whole world of merchandise out there designed purely for the sake of ease, I went blindly into mothering my two without some very necessary and convenient accessories. It probably had something to do with my non-materialistic attitude and if the bushman can get along without baby monitors and clip-in baby carriers, why can’t I?
But I have wisened up somewhat and if it’s available and makes our lives easier, hey why not? So this time around, even though I am only expecting one baby, I am on a serious look out for all necessary and convenient accessories. At least I now know what is a waste of money and what will truly stand baby and me in good stead.
So far I have seen some really cool stuff, but what really jumped out at me is the ultra-practical Totseat. This ingenious little contraption is designed to fit onto almost every type of chair so that you can strap baby in safely wherever you go. Perfect for home, eating out or outings - when you’ve had enough of following your enthusiastic crawler around and want to encourage some immobile quiet play at the table. Made out of various prints of funky material it folds up into a small bag that can be stuck into a handbag or baby-care bag with ease. The Totseat is an absolute must for every mother and definitely on my list of must-haves.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

the family holiday

With a new baby around the corner and the stress of added financial pressure, we decided to throw caution to the wind, leave our home, farm, animals and business for others to tend to and hit the long African roads - once more this year.
As usual we would camp - my husband does not believe a holiday with basic comforts is a holiday at all - he believes you have to be close to the ground and battle a bit in order for relaxation to take its course. But after our recent camping trip to Mozambique I felt unfased by the organised safari campsites available in the Kruger National Park, where we were headed- they even provide hot water on tap!
It takes me a full uninterrupted day to prepare for these trips, maybe I'm too organised but I can't seem to do it any other way than methodically ticking off items which I have broken down into various categories. Low and behold I forget the jam, rusks, binoculars or bird book - these are the simple and vital needs of my husband, who has little to do with packing and planning. All he needs to know is the time of our depature - which is never before 12 noon. Then he races around organising last minute business details which may include felling a 6m Eucalyptus tree, paddling a group of 20 kayakers to Robberg peninsula and back plus an urgent landscaping meeting. About an hour before departure I start to phone him in 15 minute intervals, keeping him focused on the main objective: to leave on holiday. He arrives home about 20 minutes late, changes his clothes and leaps into the driver's seat. We usually stop about three times in our driveway to run back into the house for a forgotten item before we actually pull out onto the main road. By then the already traumatised dog is utterly bewildered, are we coming or going? And the farm staff pretend not to notice. Ofcourse we also have to stop once or three times more to drop off or pick up something else - work related. Finally we leave town and I offer him a sandwhich, which he eats unconsciously while ticking off items on his mental list.
After about an hour of driving and last minute phone calls, Charles begins to unwind and allow the fact that we are going on holiday to filter into his consciousness. That's when we all breathe a sigh of relief, turn on the music and open some snacks. The twins are pro's at long drives these days and enthusiastically point out every sheep, cow and goat that we pass along the way.
South Africa is huge and driving three days to get North of the country is mandatory, unless one wants to fly, but I find driving part of the adventure and love to be reminded of what is out there and how diverse our country really is. I'm always equally shocked by both the stark beauty and the poverty and trash one sees around the outskirts of each town. A classic symbol of the third-world: garbage.

Stealing a swim in one of the many farm reservoirs along the hot and endless Karoo road reminded me of road trips in the past when being a responsible parent was a remote and distant possibility. It thrilled the girls and reminded me to feel free. However the reality of parental compromises was not far off  when we found ourselves eating take aways in the dark because we were overnighting in an open plan room and the girls refused to sleep with the lights on! I can't recall my own father agreeing to eat his cold supper with a warm Appletizer in the dark, while my brother and I snored away happily.
Finally we arrived at our destination and were greeted into the Kruger Park by a leopard sighting! Charles miraculously sighted the spotty cat dash through the long grass and come to a halt under a tree. We held our breaths and watched as he seemed active enough to be on the hunt, but sadly we were joined by five more vehicles and soon lost our visual. We decided after that that we would pretend to look the other way next time we spotted something so rare and elusive.
Before reaching our campsite we had already had a close encounter with a female elephant and her calf and seen zebra, impala and giraffe. The girls were delighted by each sighting throughout our stay in the park, no matter if it were a couple of banded mongoose at the campsite or a pride of lions crossing the road. Each animal was exclaimed upon in true and fascinated delight - making the sweat of getting to the bushveld so much more worth it for us as parents.

As the sun dipped Charles and I, in true Laurel and Hardy style, tried to put up our tent, which we had never used before. Eventually our neighbour took pity on our desperate attempts to get two hungry and tired four-year-olds to help us hold poles and stepped in to assist. Thank goodness for this and two-minute noodles - the girls were fed and asleep minutes after our homestead was erected. 
After that there wasn't much else to do but go on game drives, escape the midday heat at the pool and braai at night - what more can one ask for? The only thing lacking when one travels with small people is "time-out" from the continuous juvenile chatter, and a good afternoon nap - but we survived with only a few snarlings at one another.
Back home. Are we well rested? Physically, no. Mentally, yes, refreshed and ready to begin baby preparation in earnest...if I could just remember that I am pregnant every now and then inbetween mothering the existing two!

Thursday, 9 August 2012


I have been a bad blogger. But I have two valid reasons. One is I have had a recent deluge of paid writing work. And two, I fell pregnant. It was a mild shock and I just couldn't bring myself to warble on about other matters when something really big was going on but which I could not yet divulge.
I'm nearly 12 weeks now so the secret's out, the twins know and Charles and I are getting our heads around the fact that we will be parents of three! Oh and it will only be three, as we have checked and breathed a sigh of relief at the single little heart beat. Although our adventurous sides did feel a twinge of disapointment - one heart beat did seem a little uneventful after our first adrenalin rush of a scan with the twins.
But don't get me wrong, I am ever so grateful at the chance to bear one baby and possibly have the chance to actually feel like a mother and not the manageress of a baby factory.
I've had various reactions to our new family way and I can understand where they come from. To be honest I did not take to mothering the twins like a duck to water at first and was quite put out by their incessant demands in the beginning. I probably only felt I was getting a handle on things from when they were about
3 1/2. So why now when things have just started getting more fun do I want to start all over again? And I think quite a few of my friends are wondering this same thing - including my own mother.
Its difficult to explain and I've come to realise that deciding to make another human being is a deeply personal decision between the two potential parents. Sometimes you have no logical reason and its just a deep instinctive urge. I feel that's partly my reason - I just couldn't shake the urge to make another crying, demanding, sleep-thief! Because that little dependent wailer will grow into a fantastic human being that will forever be part of me.
Secondly I really am looking forward to having the chance to give birth naturally and to breast feed without worrying that one baby is drinking up all the supplies before the other has a chance!
On the other hand I am a little anxious as I'm not your textbook baby person with endless supplies of gracious patience, but I think if I've managed to raise twins, who so far seem relatively emotionally undamaged and happy, I'm sure I can do it again - given my hard earned mothering stripes.
In the mean time, although morning sickness has been far worse this time around, I refuse to let this pregnancy be a reason for apathy and am continuing in my usual and exhausting goal-orientated way.
My horse and I are just coming along nicely with our regular jumping lessons so that is going to have to continue for as long as possible. And every moment spent with the twins is deeply valuable, as I know this will be heavily jeopardised when the baby arrives. Oh and my dear husband, who I admit I have a tendency to neglect with all this child raising and bearing. Well, I'll do my best to make him feel more than just a money making factory!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

fire control

My life on Ouland Farm, which is situated on the hills of one of the world's most sought after beach destinations, is shamefully good. I have a wonderful and hard working, albeit quite eccentric, husband, who doesn't require that I go out and work; two healthy children; two sets of grandparents living in close proximity; a beautiful and willing thoroughbred mare; a pony for the girls; my own farm to ride on; food growing in the garden; men to help, periodically, in the garden, a 150 year old charming, drafty and slightly falling down, farmhouse; a paid-off car and a crowd of amazing close friends.

Almost daily I look around and wonder at how I got to this point in my life. Sometimes I'm a little afraid to think too deeply about it incase I jinx my good fortune with the wrong thinking process. I rather stick to a quick and deeply felt "thank you" to the angels before moving swiftly onto the tasks that allow us to live such a life.  
But even though I am so blessed, I am ashamed to admit that I still go through periods of feeling frustrated and uninspired. I know these emotions are a common glitch in the human psyche - when the going gets good the ego looks for something to attach itself to, to sabotage and create drama in one's life as if our fundamental make-up is that of the undeserving, which it is not.
So I try to remain vigilant and aware of my self-defeating thoughts. I cling to the things that remind me how good it really is to be alive until Life and her flaws pull me into a clutch of despair and what looked like a bed of roses starts to look like a thicket of thorns.
At the end of the day, no matter what you have physically created in your life, every one of us is fighting a battle of some sorts, it is only the degree of intensity that varies from moment to moment.
Although my physical life is near perfect, my battles are ever present. Marriage and motherhood is a constant place of challenge. Sometimes I am serene and giving, a selfless, patient mother, a goddess in the kitchen - and bedroom. Other times I am possessed by demons, breathing fire and brimstone, aching to be set free from this domestic drudgery. To get on my horse and ride as a far from expectation, duty, chores and explanations as possible. In my mind's eye I see a desert of freedom stretching out before me and I am alone, carefree and full of energy.
But eventually I check myself, reign in the horse and count the blessings. I remind myself how I wouldn't want it any other way and slowly the fierceness of my will to escape subsides. I go back to being mild and well mannered, doing what is required of me. With a smile. On my dial.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


After my last blog post a few people requested the "throw it together in ten minutes" bread recipe,
so here it is.

For two loaves of wholewheat bread:

8 cups of wholewheat flour ( I use the stoneground, no chemicals one from Agri)
1/2 cup sesame and sunflower seed mix (or use whatever seeds you fancy)
2 tbl linseeds
1 pkt yeast
1 & 1/2 tbl salt
1 & 1/2 tbl brown sugar

Mix all dry ingredients together.
Add 1 & 1/4 litres of hot (not boiling) water. The mixture should be wet and sticky - not sloppy.

Pour into two greased bread tins.

Rise in the oven at 70 degrees for 35 - 40 mins.
Once it is nicely risen turn up to 200 degrees for 50 mins.

Remove immediately from tins and allow to cool.


Sunday, 20 May 2012

going pro

A few days ago, in a rare moment of peace, I was browsing over some recipes in a magazine when I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to bake bread for the soup I was making for supper. I leapt up - the girls were due home from playschool in 15 minutes and I didn't feel like a marathon kiddie baking project - and as swiftly as possible I switched on the oven to pre-heat, threw the ingredients together and had two loaf tins in the oven in under ten minutes. I then plonked back onto the couch to finish reading my mag.
Suddenly I realised what I had just done: since when did I throw together homemade bread in ten minutes?
In that moment I realised I have finally arrived, whole heartedly, into the role of mother and homemaker. This thought both depresses and impresses me. On one hand I feel, whoa, hold on here, who is this person rapidly on the road to practical hair cuts, beige clothing and Saturday mornings in the supermarket - when the waves are cooking! And on the other hand I thought, cool, you're getting good at the domestic thing. The easier it is, the quicker it is and and the more time there is for fun.
The truth is it's taken me nearly five years to feel that I have got a handle on this maternal occupation. In the first years of having my babies I felt like I was in a dress rehearsal for the role of mom while I watched other mothers get on with what needed to be done with seemingly little effort.
But slowly along the way I must have gained the skills necessary for the undertaking of motherhood. I no longer find planning and cooking supper a daunting excercise that requires a bottle of rescue remedy to cope with. Getting the girls ready for playschool in the morning, although tedious, is a walk in the park - I have even started to lie in bed until the last possible moment. Note: don't try this with two 4-year olds until you have stuck to the morning routine for at least 12 months, so that, like little trained monkeys, they do what is required every morning on cue - no arguments!
I think the kind of mother you are depends largely on the kind of mother you had. Mine was not the "tea party" kind of mom whatsoever. She was a hippie straight out of the sixties and brought us up on a vegetarian diet, Joni Mitchell and karmic threats. She had one baking recipe, banana loaf, that saved her at every school cake sale and as soon as we were old enough she packed us off to boarding school. I say this with no resentment but more with feelings of compassion, as I can now understand her justifications in doing this. I too have been tempted to enroll mine into a distant institution.
So after four different boarding schools and a decade in the non-conformed film industry it seems I may have missed a traditional training in domestics from my mother. This has left me having to learn through common sense, my friends and feeling a need deep within to provide what is good, whole and stable for my family. So being able to bake bread - let alone in ten minutes - and enjoy it, is a huge accomplishment for me as a mother.
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Sunday, 6 May 2012

saying it like I feel it

This is what I really want to say to the twins on a Sunday morning:

Today I just don’t feel like being a mother. I only feel like worrying about one person: me. Okay?
No I don’t feel like pretending to eat the cookie out of the picture once, twice, six times! And I would really rather sit in the sun with my eyes closed listening to music than negotiate who has bigger feet between you two. I do not want to build that puzzle, put the ribbon in the dollie’s hair or come wipe your bum!
I just want to lie in bed and read my book, periodically putting it down so that I can leisurely mull over a thought that just occurred to me while watching a little bird hop on my windowsill. And no, I don’t feel like telling you about the sweet little robin that is hopping on the windowsill. I saw it first and I don’t need to share EVERYTHING with you just because you are my child and four years old!
I don’t mind what you eat for breakfast this morning, just make sure it’s vaguely healthy and don’t make a mess because do not feel like getting up to clean it up. When you are finished take the plate put it in the dishwasher along with the rest of the dirty dishes, close it and switch it on. And don’t forget to come back in 45 minutes to unpack it and dry the cutlery properly so they don’t get little rust marks on them.
After you have had your breakfast I don’t care what you wear, but make sure you are warm and then go away please. Do whatever it is that four year olds need to do to keep occupied – except watch TV – and don’t expect me to be a part of it, okay? Although I do love you and think you are very clever and cute I really do find most of your conversation rather unstimulating and have officially run out of fresh understanding and convincing things to say to you. Just imagine I am watching you in wordless amazement as you swing back and forth on your stomach – you clever, clever child.
Come back when its time to go to bed and you have made and eaten your supper, cleaned up the kitchen – don’t forget to pick up the food from under your chair - bathed and dressed, brushed your teeth properly, gone to the loo and read yourself a story.
Then tomorrow make sure you’re ready for playschool at 8.15 – I’ll wait for you in the car, don’t forget to pack yourself a lunchbox.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

good bye Beep Beep

Beep Beep is dead.
It all came as quite a shock. One minute he was happily having a little dust bath and the next minute he was the victim of a viscious attack by his fellow chickens.
About a week earlier I decided that Beep Beep needed to go and live with his own kind as I was having visions of scrubbing chicken poo off the carpet for years to come! He was bigger and eating well on his own, and seemed strong enough to join the world of chickens where he belonged. So like a calculating and cold hearted farmer I set about making the arrangements for my relocation programme. First, the nasty hen that kept chasing and pecking Beep Beep and who was losing feathers and getting quite old, must go. I ordered her into the pot. Hariet did it. I admit I tasted it and she was as tough as nails...
Then with a special red light Charles and I snuck into the hen house after dark and slipped Beep Beep under one of the sleepy moms. She willingly and literally took him under her wing and with a final and content 'beep beep" our little chicken had flown the nest. I patted myself on the back for a job well done.
The next morning he seemed slightly shy and timid around his bigger brothers and sisters but he got in the mix and had his share of breakfast and seemed quite chuffed with himself. When he won a literal tug รณ war with another chick who had tried to take his worm, we believed he was a fighter and would survive against all odds. Over the next few days it seemed obvious though that he wasn't going to join everyone in their daily explorations for worms and instead kept to himself in the hen house. But he seemed happy and was served every morning with a plate of worms of his own. All seemed fine and well. Or so we thought.
Then one late afternoon Anna came running into the kitchen, "Mom," she said in quiet shock, then dissolving into tears she told me that Beep Beep had been "pecked and pecked and pecked!" we ran to the hen house and there he was lying on the straw where Anna had placed him, gasping for air. I picked him up and took him to the house but it was too late he died in my hands. Anna was beside herself. Charley said with stoic maturity and insight: "Dont worry Anna, its only his fluffy body that's gone, he's still with us."
Charles immediately dug a grave and prepared a little tombstone: "Here sleeps Beep" it says. We sang "Baa Baa Black sheep" and "Twinkle, twinkle little star" before covering him up and throwing flowers. Anna stood by his graveside and wept, great heaving sobs.
Later in the bath she told me the whole story. She had taken him out to scratch on the grass and the next thing he was chased by the two red hens and scratched and pecked repeatedly. Anna came to his rescue but clearly it was too late.
Poor little girl, such trauma to witness and her first big loss of a life she loved. Ofcourse I wallowed in my fair share of guilt...if only I had kept him in the house...
May you rest in peace Beep Beep - you brought happiness to our home in your short and precious life.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Beep Beep

Upon returning from our upcountry trip I was presented with an unexpected gift - a new baby! A tiny, fluffy, yellow, cheeping baby. Who, regardles of his size or species, is almost as demanding as any human baby.
He was a little slow coming into the world and by the time his egg finally hatched his mothers (all three of them) had already considered their brood a good delivery of seven babies and had moved off to begin soil scratching lessons. There had been a slight confusion over whose eggs were whose so in the end we let three hens sit on all the eggs together and when they hatched the lucky babies had more than their fair share of maternal guidence - except ofcouse for Beep Beep, who was all but forgotten and left behind.
So when it looked like no bells were going to begin ringing in any of the three mum's heads that this extra little yellow fluff ball also belonged to them, my mother-in-law, who can also fuss like a good maternal hen - took Beep Beep under her wing, until our return home.
Now my morning routine includes porridge for Beep Beep too, plus two or three fresh, live earthworms - thankfully we have a worm farm for this requirement. My crazy hour bedtime routine has now become somewhat pressurised as I race from one chore to the next so that I can get to warming Beep Beep's hotwater bottle and putting him to bed. And boy does he chase me along if I'm a little tardy at this! Making supper is a little hair raising too as I have to avoid stepping on the mini procession that follows me around the kitchen: first Beep Beep, then Mully, the border collie and Jack the cat, who sniff and follow the baby wherever he goes. But luckily, by some telepathic human-to-animal communication no one has tried to eat our new baby.
Ofcourse the bonus of Beep Beep is the constant entertainment he provides the girls. Although I do have to put a stop to the "flying"and "sitting" lessons that Anna regularly tries to dish out.
We love Beep Beep and his beeping, but I must admit that I am becoming a little concerned as his toilet time increases daily. And Lord knows where he is planning to live once he has "flown the nest" or whether he will be a he or a she!
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Friday, 30 March 2012

happy travels

Three days after my last blog post we did leave for our cross country road trip to Mozambique. And contrary to lurking fears that I may have been coercing my husband into doing something that had the potential to be a disastrous waste of time, we had an amazing time and the girls blew me away with their cool adaptation to African travel!
I was determined not to overdo the packing, so we left the farm with the bare essentials: a few surf boards, a tent, sleeping bags, a braai grid and a cooler box. For the girls entertainment I took some books, crayons and a small box of farm animals. And not once did they want for anything else.
They took to the road like seasoned travelers, never whining about the time, ever enthusiastic about the passing scenery and perfectly happy to skip regular meals. One day we pushed it for 11 hours without one disgruntled squeak – they were champs.
It took us a total of 24 hours to reach Ponta de Ouro on the Kosi Bay border of SA and Mozambique. We crossed the border after three days and thank goodness for the 4x4 option on our car as the roads are nothing but pure, thick sand.  
The road from the border 
Finally at our destination and my heart sank when I saw the exposed, unkempt campsite we had planned to stay in. Most African countries, and Mozambique is no exception, lack in the public service department. Of course I should have known better than to expect more. The campsite was not a little piece of paradise overlooking the point break. Instead it was an overgrown, littered piece of ground with moderately usable ablutions. Charles wanted to be close to the waves and I wanted my paradise expectations met. So I turned on the taps - a little emotional manipulation can get you quite far in a foreign country. He agreed to take a look at Ponta Malangane a little further down the coast which a friend had told us about. Here we found the “paradise” campsite under trees, with monkeys, butterflies, squirrels, and mosquitoes ofcourse. We were all relieved.
Holidays can be hard work and I definitely had a few monents of pulling out the emotional reserves to keep it going on the right track. You have to work hard at enjoying yourself and squashing disappointments when the going gets tough and you haven’t eaten a decent meal or showered in days. Remarkably I found my attitude improved vastly once we had lit the braai and were having our first cold Mozambican beer
The compromise to not being surrounded by litter was the non-stop flow of fishing boats and trailers. But in all fairness the fishermen were very friendly and I think our simple campsite with two small children was quite an enigma to them, who camp with every available apparatus to ease the hardship of outdoor living. One guy even had a machine to electrocute mosquitoes and anything else that came its way!
In a very short time we were fully into the slow mode of Mozambican life. My hair was constantly salty and my feet never clean – it was perfect and I felt almost like I was in my pre-motherhood days of freedom again. The girls were happy, wild and free. They ran around almost bare, swam for hours on end in the warm, warm water and to our delight, learnt to surf. And Charles got to see his girls all day everyday and it was invaluable. 

Anna: up and riding

 Charlotte: up and riding. Dad: proud.

The waves were a little scarce for us. Although we did have one day of really good swell with beautiful, blue, warm perfect, nice sized waves, but it was fleeting. I didn’t mind much as it gave me more reading time while the girls swam. Charles got slightly restless.
The good looking Mozambicans are friendly but wary - which is no wonder after enduring nearly 20 years of war which only came to an official end in 1994. Their lives are hard and it is, like in all of Africa, a daily battle to make money and survive. The cost of living is high in Ponta, probably due to a combination of capitalising on the tourists and the difficulty to get supplies to the area. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of local eateries – homemade African food is my absolute favorite – and the exorbitant amount of bars and alcohol that is available. You could go hungry in Ponta but if it’s a shooter you’re after, never fear as there is a bar in every second shack!
One day Charlotte asked me what the word “bar” and “ice” said, because she kept seeing these words everywhere. I told her and after thinking about this for awhile she said to me: “So Mom, you get a lot of sheep and ice here, hey?” 

 Our first ever fizzy drink - with ice!

The week flew by and soon we were on the road again. We decided to head for the Transkei on the way home. This time we really did find PARADISE - vast, green plains and multiple waterfalls that tumble into the ocean. It is so beautiful and untouched that I won’t mention it by name on the World Wide Web. Sadly we could only spend one night there as the few bungaloes available were booked up. So we headed for The Kraal near Port St John’s, a simple backpackers built in African style with cow dung floors, set atop the green Transkei hills. As soon as we arrived Charles dropped his last remaining work stresses and I saw the relaxed man I had once known emerge.   

We surfed, snorkeled and ate seafood until we were tired of it.

 Then a storm hit and at two ‘o clock one morning we had to evacuate our flooded tent by bundling the girls up and running through torrents of rain to shelter. The next morning it was still pouring with rain and everything was soaked. It was my 35th birthday. We took this as our cue to leave and finally get home.
Returning home was refreshing. Everything was green, the animals are fat and happy and we have a new addition, to the girl’s delight, of eight baby chicks.
Now that we are back into our busy, scheduled lives, I can still feel the strengths of the bonds that the four of us made while we were away. It was a learning and growing curve for all of us. But most importantly, I’ve realised that the twins are really “cool chicks” and the best travel buddies I’ve had.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

holiday hopes

Before I had children I did a lot of travelling. Working in the film business was great in that way because we would often do "away" shoots, sometimes to really cool places like Moremi in Botswana or the Seychelles. And inbetween filming seasons I would head off to whichever destination tickled my fancy. I had cash and no responsibilities.
But since the girls were born I've had to satiate my wanderlust with the Travel Channel - which actually just depresses me to no end. I console myself with the fact that this is a temporary state of affairs and before we know it the girls will have upped and left for the world, leaving us with no choice but to don our backpacks and head off into the foreign yonder. Or more accurately I will don my backpack, alone, and head off, leaving Charles to his utopia of perfect waves. "We don't need to go anywhere," he says regularly, "We live in paradise. There is no other place in the world with waves like Look Out point." And this from a man who has searched the globe for the perfect wave - perhaps he knows what he is talking about. He can have Look Out point until he is old and completely bald, but I'm not done - there is way too much for me still to see, and it doesn't have to be on the coast!
Last winter I got a serious bout of ants in my pants and decided that the time had come for us to hand over the children to the grannies and take ourselves off for a "well deserved, big trip." Madagascar was our port of call. I spent hours planning and pricing. I even had two travel agents working around the clock to work out the best deal for us. This was it, we were going! Afterall we had barely had any time for fun and travel between reviving our relationship and producing our offspring and hadn't even had a proper honeymoon. The time was perfect, I believed.
But alas, after all my dreaming, planning and organising, boring old Mr Reality stepped in and pointed out that we simply could not afford to blow our entire savings on a two week surf trip to the jungle. Even if we do "deserve" it. Instead, as a consolation prize, we could go for three nights up the freezing cold West Coast, and sleep in the back of our van - no such luxury as a proper bed. After day one we were hit by the biggest storm on the Cape coast in ten years. We returned home early - me, pitifully hungover after drowning my disapointment with a bottle of red wine the night before and Charles, elated at having surfed an epic 20ft swell with his best friend. I guess I was happy for him.
But I've bounced back and am in the middle of holiday planning yet again. This time I won't lead on any unsuspecting travel agents, but will do it myself. And this time, we take the girls. To Mozambique. Which, one should note, has just been hit by a cyclone. But I'm sure all will be over by the time we get there with sunny, happy, perfect peeling waves .
I've just about got this one in the can. I have a housesitter, accommodation lined up for the three day drive, a list of must-haves to keep the girls occupied on the road, our tent packed and my husband's full consent and enthusiasm albeit a slight battle in the date commitment area.
We plan to leave in three days.
I'm playing my cards very carefully.Watch this space.

and the winner is...

The winner for the M.O.M Diary giveaway is Bronwen Troskie from Johannesburg!
Well done Bronwen!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

M.O.M diary Give-Away

I've just been given this fantastic diary for moms. Its been specifically designed and thought out to help moms with their busy lives. It truly is awesome and still early enough in the year to enjoy!
To WIN a M.O.M diary answer the easy question below:
Name one of the special features in the M.O.M diary.
To get the answer see their website by clicking on the M.O.M diary logo to the right.
Then click onto their facebook page here  and write your answer on their wall. Tip: You must "like" them first to get into the wall.
Dont forget to put "Twins and Chickens - farmlife diaries" before your answer so it can be tracked.
Good Luck!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

peace at last

Guilt is an emotion mandatory to the occupation of motherhood.
I have generally leaned towards feelings of guilt quite a lot in my life - probably because I can be selfish at times - but its had nothing on this new unrelenting guilt that comes with being a mother. This guilt seems to have little to do with being selfish and more to do with getting it right.
I think being a mom to twins has doubled the guilt factor. Since they were born I have tried to share and divide my attention and affection between them equally, but in reality it's an impossibility - someone always has to wait their turn and being the same age there is little in the line of reasoning with one or the other.
"There is only one mommy and two little girls." I frequently repeat this as a mantra to my girls - it helps to appease my guilt when I'm impatient towards them. Charlotte seems to undersand this because she once told me she's only having one child and when I questioned her, she said: "Because I only have two hands." Anna who generally seems not to understand what all the fuss in life is about, claims she will have six children - good luck to her!
So from day one of my maternal occupation I have been battling with guilt: have I given enough attention to both of them, why didn't I try listen better to Charlotte's story even though Anna also had to tell me hers at the same time; I could have been nicer about trying to push Anna on the swing and saving Charlotte from crashing off the monkey bars at the same time; why am I not more understanding in the car when they are both talking to me at the same time all the way home from playschool.
I have also felt guilty and doubtful about decisions I have made for them in the past like why didn't I breastfeed longer; I should have kept them home longer before sending them to a creche, I should not have let them ride their pony under a low branch and end up in a dusty heap on the ground.
So when I made the decision to change them to a Waldorf kindergarten after Anna was clearly battling in the busy playground where she was, I was sure that somewhere along the line I would have feelings of guilt and doubt.  In fact I have been waiting for it for almost a month and still nothing...
My children are incredibly happy, adjusted and appear to be thriving. I am elated that I actually, for once, got it simultaneously right! I was sure Charlotte, who loathes change, was going to punish me to no end, but she happily goes off to school excited about the days activities. And Anna, who is the reason we changed, kisses me and runs off to play instead of hysterically clinging to me like a chimp, so that I would have to force her into the hands of the teacher and run to the car with her yells ringing in my ears. Now she can't wait to get there and although she still battles in social situations, which we are hoping a little occupational therapy will sort out, she is happy. And my heart sings because I got it right!
On top of their happiness at school they seem to have done a complete turn around at home. I am not sure if it's been turning four or their new Rudolph Steiner environment, but they play together like best friends and never seem to run out of ideas for new imaginary games.
So for this moment I breathe a guiltless and content sigh while experiencing, what feels like the first time, a normal, peaceful existence with my twins.