Monday, 11 November 2013

heavenly haven

Leaving home for a 3500 km road trip with three small children is no minor feat - especially when one is only seven months old. Bearing this in mind I began organising and writing The List ten days prior to departure - call me over-organised but I am prone to anxiety and like to minimise last minute panics. And, thanks to this foresight, by the time we were ready to leave I was relatively calm. I also realised that this was our 5th long road trip since the twins were born and  given that I only had to pack one camping cot and a single stroller, it was actually all very easy.

The challenge ended up being keeping baby in his baby chair! Luckily we live in Africa and one can get away with holding a baby on your lap in the back seat. It was either that or dealing with frayed nerves from his yelling - which we decided was far more dangerous for the driver than an unbuckled baby. Given the long, long roads we traveled, first to the Kruger Park bushveld in the North and then back down the coast to the Transkei, the girls, who were stashed right in the back of the VW, were very well behaved indeed. When the wheels did start to come off and tears seemed imminent I hurled packets of sweets, chips or lollipops at them. This, plus books and kiddie computers kept them going for a total of nine long days on the African road.
By the time we were on the second leg of our trip heading down to the Haven hotel in the Transkei, which was another three full days of driving, we were, to say the least, beginning to wear thin - like our tyres. As Anna put it perfectly: we were "becoming allergic to driving!"
We arrived at the Cweba/Dwesa Nature Reserve gate where the Haven is located, with only 5 minutes to closing time, and I don't want to entertain thoughts of what it would have meant if we had missed the gate - driving back another two hours on corrugated gravel roads to Mthahta!!
Pulling into the hotel parking lot really was like arriving at a haven as we were greeted by smiling faces that remembered us from previous visits, a comfortable clean room with white fluffy duvets and a delicious supper waiting for us in the dining room. At last we could chill out without packing or unpacking bags, cooler boxes and cars.

We first discovered the Haven hotel when the twins were 2 years old and have been back twice since, drawn to its laid back, comfortable ambiance in the unspoilt surroundings of a nature reserve. Its not fancy, its just a good old style hotel that provides three excellent meals a day, plenty of space and entertainment for kids, stretches of wild beach in walking distance, indigenous forests, waterfalls and some good waves to surf - if you are mad enough to brave the wild waters as my husband always is. As a parent this set up provides me with the ultimate holiday - just being able to not think about cooking and cleaning is enough of a holiday for me, thank you.
Having planned on three nights we stayed five and were still reluctant to leave as when you stay at the Haven its easy to become part of the family and forget about the stresses and obligations that lie waiting at home!

For more about The Haven check out:

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

play time

You know how children have a knack of saying something that is so steeped in truth it stops you in your tracks and forces you to take a good hard look at yourself?  If you are in the habit of hanging around small people this can happen fairly frequently.
I was brushing my girls' teeth recently when Charlotte explained that she needed to get another little mermaid dolly to play with her existing one. "But she has the big mommy mermaid dolly to play with," I said. "No," said Charlotte, "her mom is too busy to play with her."
"Oh," said I thoughtfully, feeling that familiar niggle of guilt growing in my gut. "But, even though mommy's are busy taking care of their families, they still play sometimes, just not all the time," I said.
"Oh yes," pipes up Anna, "remember that time when you once ran and jumped onto the trampoline with us! Remember?"
" Yes, I think so, " I replied, quietly.
Well, did I have some thinking and guilt management to deal with after that conversation! Do I really play with my girls so infrequently that when I do it is a highlighted moment to go down in the book of memories?
"No that's nonsense," I try placate myself, "before the baby was born, we swam together in the sea all the time!"
But the truth is, after taking a good look at myself and my mothering, I know that since my pregnancy and the birth of Adam I haven't exactly been a ball of fun for the twins. And I'm in the habit of taking whatever dregs of time I can get, for myself. Is this selfish? What about women who have six kids, which was quite common 50 years ago - and they didn't even have washing machines back then.
Truthfully I can lean a bit too much to the serious side of life and am not really a very playful person. Come to think of it, I've never been the first to jump onto the dance floor to get the party going. And I think selflessly leaping about like a hyperactive child, when your children already have siblings to play with, is going beyond the call of duty and can only end in burn-out and prescribed bed rest.
But playful or not, I think the issue here is spending time with one's children and, like many mothers, I have very little of that: one's time seems to be directly proportional to the amount of offspring one has.
I read once that children spell love T_I_M_E. Just what those guilt ridden, over-worked, sleep deprived mothers out there want to hear! But, and here's a little appeasement to run with, I also learned at a workshop on sensory integration, given by a highly qualified clinical psychologist, that a child only needs 10 to 20 minutes of undiluted, focused attention from their parents to thrive and feel secure. This is good to know, but its also incredible how even that small amount of time, multiplied by three can be a tall order on some days.
So having taken the time to question my mothering ways, I have decided to cut myself some slack, be rid of the guilt and just do my best to give them as much of me as I can muster. Oh, and to jump on the trampoline with them here and there - even if it is only once a year!

Monday, 5 August 2013

sorry, the cows ate your surfboard

The fact is I'm not very good with small children and I just manage with my own. I can get very anxious and overwhelmed when too many kids are around me.
Looking back I see that I have always been prone to shying away from noisy bunches of children, even as a child I preferred to be on my own. As an adult I'm not much different and prefer one on one interactions. Secretly I find "girl's night" very scary. Events like kiddies birthday parties, play dates and mass social gatherings - that include all of our friend's off-spring - are also among my very least favorite pass times. And judging by my children's behavior at play dates, I fear my girls' may have inherited my awkward social tendencies.
Play dates seem to be the in thing these days, but I think that unless you need to farm your child out because you have a work deadline or, more importantly, are in desperate need of "me" time, there's no point - given that they have spent four hours of the morning with their friends in the well organised environment of play school.
Having said this I do still organise play dates for my girls because they ask for them and one does need to reciprocate to others. But my fear of lots of children, coupled with the twin factor, puts a whole new spin on these dates and careful thought needs to be given to the execution of them.
At first, thinking there was no way I could cope with four children at once, I used to invite one friend for the two of them to share. But this quickly proved to be a highly ineffective way to meet their social needs. The entire afternoon would be fraught with one and then the other wailing in despair that the friend "doesn't want to play with me!" The poor friend would be end up at her wits end and not sure if she wanted to be friends with either of them. To say the least it is not an afternoon off for me where I can catch up on my novel, while casting the occasional eye at three happily playing little girls. No, its more like a couple of hours of an intense child psychology practical exam!
So then I came up with one stays at home with a friend while the other goes away to a friend. This does work the best but not without its challenges. Having always had each other to fall back on they appeared slightly socially inept - but this probably goes for most five year olds.
Recently, however, I decided to brave a double date after an earlier attempt had gone well. This time I did the usual lecture and threats that should there be any fighting over friends they would not be having play dates again until they were 18! Maybe the pressure was a little too much for them, its hard to say, but by the time we arrived home from school each twin had given it her best shot at a tantrum and I was having a hard time at faking "sweet mommy" in front of their poor friends. To say the least I was pretty wound up that afternoon and did a good job of keeping my cool, I believe.
When finally it seemed we were at breaking point and I'd run out of successful distractions, I decided the time to cool off in the farm dam had come and donning hats and shoes four ways I sent them off down the hill while baby and I followed in the 4x4.
"Great," I thought, "a bit of physical fun to keep them preoccupied." The plan was to grab the old foam surfboard we'd left there and for them to paddle around the dam on it. But the trouble was that when we got there, the cows had eaten the surfboard! Cows do stupid things like that.
"Great," I thought again, "thanks cows!" as my two, sorely disappointed, began to rev up for a round of punishment aimed in my direction. My plan had been thwarted. So I took a deep breath and with Adam on my hip and my best "sweet mommy" demeanor, I pushed the twins into the middle of the dam in a leaking kayak with a pole as a paddle, and told them to make their way back to shore. Which they did. And in the process forgot about their friends and their inter-twin competition and instead displayed a sisterly teamwork unique only to those who have shared a womb.

Monday, 29 July 2013

life with lice

I was always under the impression that only people with lax cleanliness habits attracted lice, but I was wrong. I have been fighting a colony of lice in both my girl's hair since December 2012 and we do follow a good daily cleanliness routine. In fact the louse prefers clean hair to dirty hair as its eggs won't stick to grease.
To say the least, the fight has been a long and tedious journey.

Here's what I've learnt so far: 
  •  Dealing with your child’s lice can become an emotional journey as you face the inevitable disappointment that your time and hard work will be in vain as no sooner have you allowed yourself to feel victory, you will spy one tiny egg glinting in the sun.
  •  In the early stages of your experience you may practice denial, but further along in your journey you will realise that this only has devastating effects and facing the music is the best option.
  • Your eyes become trained to pick up the slightest sign of life on your child’s head and you are likely to become obsessive with scratching, picking and squishing the parasites whenever given the chance.
  • You will discover characteristics in your child’s personality that you never knew existed. One of mine is unbelievably patient as I scratch around her scalp whereas the other has a 30 second threshold which leads me to almost physically pinning her down and hurling all sorts of threats if she does not cooperate such as “If you don’t let me do this I will have to shave your hair all off!”
  • You will lie in bed puzzling over how to fit your lice eradication programme into the next day’s schedule of work, grocery shopping and school runs, and in my case breast feeding.
  •  You will opt out of fun activities such as beach visits in order to make time for lice eradication because if you let one day too many go by the fat ones will lay their eggs and you are doomed for another 4 week cycle.
  • You will no longer have the opinion that only dirty people get lice and will be humbled by the power this tiny creature has on your life.
  • You will seriously think about creating a “parents of lice infected children” support group.
  • You will give yourself a year’s deadline that if you still have not reached the end of this nightmare you will shave your children’s hair off.
  • And finally you will hope to never know the name of the person who infected your child to start with.

 And this is what I have learned about lice:                               
  •  Once your child gets lice there is little chance of getting rid of it completely in under 6 months. If you think you are clear you are more than likely experiencing a dormant phase in the cycle where the eggs are getting ready to hatch.
  • The best way to find lice is to comb through with some sort of oil – but this will only get rid of the larger ones while the tiny ones and the eggs remain - creating an illusion that you are clear.  The females are the largest.
  • Live eggs are close to the skull and dark in colour. Hatched eggs are further along the hair shaft and are light in colour (they don’t pop when you squeeze them.) Time spent popping eggs is well worth it.
  • Using chemicals is probably the best solution. The best is to comb out with oil every second morning and wash with a chemical based lice shampoo that evening
  • In order to conquer this ordeal you need vigilance, patience and a will to win at all costs.
To learn and understand more about the life cycle of lice go to:

<a href="">Pingates</a>

Thursday, 13 June 2013

oh, but to long...

Its funny how out of the blue we have those existentialist moments where we see ourselves from another perspective. I had one the other day when I was driving home from dropping the girls at school via the co-op to pick up horse food. The back of my 4x4 was full of lucern and I was rushing to get back to feed the baby. "Wow," I thought, "Here I am: mother of three, owner of horses and driver of a 4x4." How did I get here? Just the other day, with no hospital plan or grocery list to think of, all I needed to worry about was landing the next movie job so I could afford to fly to whichever destination intrigued me.
Life has happened to me. And its been so busy that I haven't really noticed. But its a different busy when you're raising kids. It's the non-stop emotional output that sucks away the minutes, hours and days. Before kids I remember always longing for stuff to happen: longing for the next trip, the next day of great waves, the guy to call, life to happen. But now I no longer long for life, because it keeps coming at me and I barely have a moment to get my head around it and Anna loses a tooth!
My challenges as a parent keep shifting and I have a sneaky feeling they will continue, so I may as well just role with the blows. I thought double nappies, feeds and crying was stressful - boy, was I mistaken. Its clear the challenge of twins is not getting easier but instead a lot more complex! Give me double poos any day over double five year old psychology!
Sibling rivalry and competition is the name of the game now. And a lot of the time I am simply at a loss on how to deal with it. With two kids of the same sex and the same age it's a continuation of win on this side and lose on the other. When one is elated over a lost tooth, the other is thrashing about on the lawn in sheer unadulterated jealousy and disappointment that her teeth are still firmly fixed into her gums. When one is afraid of the dark and needs a night light, the other basks in her bravery by insisting it must be pitch dark in their shared bedroom - that is not a sliver of light may come in from under the door! When one has outgrown her boots and the other now has two pairs to choose from, I may not purchase a new pair for the bootless child as it is "unfair!"
I think the term is "a rock and a hard place," and that's where I am at the moment. Although I'm sure as time passes I'm developing skills to deal with this challenge, I am seriously considering seeking professional help to guide me through this one, so that we can all come through with our egos, self confidence and sanity relatively intact.
And these are the things that now keep me from longing for life. Who has time to long when every minute of the day is spoken for by the physical and emotional needs of small people. Although I do admit to occasionally longing for a tropical island kid-less getaway. And an uninterrupted conversation with my husband.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

sling it

The most nurturing place for your baby to be is without a doubt, as close to mom as possible. But carrying a baby around can often be impractical and tiring. So investing in a good baby sling is a priority for both mom and baby. 
Having two other small children, I find the mornings and early evenings the most challenging, as this is when all three are the most demanding of my attention and when I need both hands to be free. So it’s at these times that baby gets put in his sling, nice and snug and close to me while I bath, dress and feed the others. 
I find hauling a pram out of the car each time I need to go to the shops, time consuming and unnecessary when I can just pop my baby safely into his sling. It also serves as a way to block out the over stimulating noises and sights that could upset him.  And of course the best spin off of all to pouching ones baby is the ease at which they fall asleep. In fact it’s the way I get my baby to sleep all the time! 
But there are so many different options available, which does one choose? Having tried out different pouches and slings with my twins I was still unsure what the best option was when baby no. 3 arrived, until I tried Rhubarb and Custard’s baby sling. 
This sling is great as it’s easy to use with no straps and buckles to figure out, it has a great look with attractive prints and it folds up to fit into any handbag or baby bag. The Rhubarb and Custard sling also changes into four different carrying positions to adapt to your baby’s age appropriate needs. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

3's not a crowd

Wow, I can't believe how easy this has been so far - the baby thing. Adam is a model baby! He sleeps and eats, a lot, and he smiles, a lot. And he has a very polite way of communicating his needs. If I miss his first sleep request which is: "eh, eh," with half closed eyes he may then go "eh, eh, eh" slightly louder and punch the air a few times. If he's hungry he purses his lips and is slightly more vocal about letting me know but never screams. It's more of a: "I'm hungry now," and if I miss that it becomes: "Hello, I'm hungry now," and if I'm still slow on the uptake it becomes a slightly louder: "Excuse me, I'm not fooling around here I'm seriously hungry!" He then finishes his feed in a very reasonable 15 minutes and is either ready to smile again or go to asleep.
Life is clearly no biggy for this little guy. He seems completely at ease with being on this planet and not at all in shock by his physical existence.
I can honestly say we have had a total of three "colicky" evenings where he's cried intensely for about 10 minutes and then been so tired out by the experience that he slept through on all three occasions! He's simply not a screamer and I cannot believe what a difference that makes to being his mother. There is nothing like a consistent screaming baby to create immense anxiety, fatigue and tension in the home.  I read somewhere that the average baby cries 8 -10 times a day. Double that with twins and triple that if you have excessive screamers. I had excessive screamers the first time around and clearly the gods decided to cut me some slack this time!
The twins are fantastic big sisters and are also clearly under his charming spell - although they haven't let me off the hook that easily and have dished out various forms of emotional punishment such as the inevitable: "You love the baby more than me."
Although the baby is a breeze, having three children is very busy so I have had to recruit the girl's help around the house more than before. At first they seemed very eager to be of service but I fear I may have abused their enthusiasm, as last night Anna decided to put her foot down after she was asked to let out the bath water and hang up the face cloths: "Its not fair," she said, "Everyone is having fun except me! Dad climbs trees all day and has fun, you play with the baby all day and Charley plays with her friends everyday. But me, I just work all the time and I'm tired now! I need a rest. I feel like Cinderella!" Well I just about doubled over at this! The poor little thing, if only she knew what was still coming. So I feigned pity, helped her with the bath and said she could take the rest of the day off. It seemed she needed it.

Friday, 15 March 2013

welcome to the world

It's a boy! He's 3 weeks old already but I just haven't been able to tear myself away from him and update my blog.
What a glorious experience so far. The birth was undeniably painful, but I highly, highly recommend natural birth and am so grateful that my obstetrician gave me the opportunity after already having had a c-section. Twelve hours of agony and then absolute bliss as we heard his first cry. Words cannot describe the emotions felt and shared between my husband and I and little Adam as he was placed on my chest.
He latched immediately and hasn't looked back. Ok, I have to say it and get this off my chest: one baby is a walk in the park!! No wonder everyone around me looked like they had a handle on it while I juggled and managed my twins in desperate exhaustion. I can manage this just like everyone else. I actually feel quite competent and so far have had no panic attacks. Yes, in all fairness it is my third, or second to be more accurate and having two at once to start with must have given me some experience. But what a pleasure being able to see to his needs and not have someone else screaming for their urgent needs to be seen to at the same time.
The girls have been amazing, bar a few "come wipe my bum!" while I am feeding. For some reason this is something they refuse to let go of even though I have measured that their hands can reach that far back and their motor skills are more than adequate to preform the wipe motion.
All in all I am a happy mother of three and so far am feeling hugely empowered by my added responsibilities.

Friday, 1 February 2013

the roller coaster

I have 4 weeks to go - at the most - until we meet this new little person that will forever be part of our family. It is crazy to think that we have consciously made another human being and yet it is the most natural process of life and how every single one of us came to be!
After a roller coaster of thoughts, processes and emotions I feel like I have finally settled into being pregnant (about time!) and accepted the inevitable: my life is about to be altered irrevocably by the presence of another child in our home.
It all started with an urge, a will and then the act of conceiving life. I was anxious that I couldn't do it again until proven wrong. When it happened there was a mix of excitement and "oh dear" did we really want to do this all over again because there is no turning back now.
At first the nausea and the demands of two other children kept me from developing much of a connection with the growing life within me. But all of a sudden, in the second trimester, I felt a surge of love for this being, knowing that it will grow into a child which I will love inexplicably and unconditionally.
And then came the next phase: dread. Why have I chosen this path again? There is so much I want to do now that the twins are over toddlerhood. I could finally write my book, surf and ride more regularly and hopefully travel some more. I'm getting wrinkles and more hair than I'd like to admit is actually grey under those blonde streaks....Aaargh help!
Time is marching on so quickly and I still need to raise three kids, before getting back to the business of living a spontaneous adventure-filled life. I mean don't get me wrong this domestic experience and creating a home and life on the farm is an adventure in itself and all part of the dream - but this can't be it! Freak out! Extreme hormonal outbursts that my husband ducked, dived and sidestepped like a true pro, and finally I reach the sea of calm.
I have found a small glimmer of enlightenment: I have chosen this because it is what I ultimately want. I accept it and bask in the creation of new life. I will bear this baby and graciously allow the inevitability of sleepless nights, senseless crying, a lack of me time and little to no sex - knowing full well that it will and does pass and soon life will take on a new form as the adventure of babyhood fades into the distant past.
I am now counting down the days with a huge bubble of excitement - because what could be more exciting than meeting the human being you have created with someone you love?

Monday, 21 January 2013

pure personality

Mid-way through the Christmas holidays I realised that I got my timing very wrong: to be in the last trimester of pregnancy during the hot, crowded, festive season and facing the daily challenge of entertaining two 5-year-olds was mildly exhausting - to say the least.
I know, I know, I must not complain as we do live in one of the most beautiful places on earth...I could have been trapped in a city apartment block with it snowing outside! I'm just not that good with crowds and traffic and sharing our "most beautiful place on earth" with the rest of South Africa - call me selfish. Anyhow its all over and life returns to normal. I can now, smugly, find parking at the beach for my morning walk after dropping the girls at school! And I vow to graciously remember this year- long privilege next festive season, when I am less hormonal - promise.
The great thing about the holidays and my enforced home time (I did not venture off the farm into the madness much) was spending more quality time with the twins. And as a result observing, with a bit more insight than usual, the developments in their personalities.
My father coined a phrase that I love to remember when it comes to inexplicable behavior: "pure personality". And that's just it, we are born with our personality whether we like it or not and no conditioning, discipline or conforming will change the essence of our personalities  We are forever doomed to deal with it's flaws and exalt in it's perfections. Seeing the way my children, born on the same day, under the same stars and raised in the same home, confront various challenges in such extraordinarily different ways confirms this to me each time.
One of the challenges they faced this holiday was learning to ride their bikes. One of them asked for her trainer wheels to be removed on day two and from then on, with the odd 20 minutes put in by Dad, went on to practice daily until she perfected the art of riding her bicycle, which brought her so much pleasure that she forgot all about using her excess energy on punishing me for attention: a valuable realisation on my part!
The other was very keen to try but as soon as she saw she couldn't immediately master it, she grew anxious and angry and gave up. This caused even more frustration as her sister was doing something she couldn't do - but she was be damned if she was going to fall around like a fool in front of anyone - rather ignore the whole project.
Many frustrated tears and tantrums were thrown, to which I responded with logic: "if you don't try, you won't learn," anger: "for goodness sake, either try or don',t but stop punishing all of us too!" and remedial teaching: "Once upon a time there was a little girl who had a twin sister..." None of the above worked until finally her stubbornness gave in and she agreed to let me help her. So, with preggi belly and all, I put in my time daily up and down the driveway and slowly her self-confidence gathered momentum until suddenly she realised "Oh, I can do this!" And she did.
I am so excited about this latest step in development as it gives them a huge leap in freedom and independence. It also confirmed, yet again that no two children are the same and as parents we have to continue to strive to meet their individual personality needs. I guess that throws the "parenting formula" out of the window and another reason why they don't dish out handbooks at birth!