My big boy!

I will admit to having a little cry on the way to work after I dropped you at school this morning, my mind still boggling at how my baby boy is already seven! Still euphoric after a great party, you were excitedly greeted by the friends that joined us yesterday to celebrate. We invited a small group of special friends to the bird gardens, and it was such a pleasure seeing you have such an awesome time. You and your friends ran around freely, enjoying the birds and other creatures on display, pure joy emanating from your hearts and your faces! Half the time I didn’t even know where you were, testament to the fact that you are a big boy now, and don’t need us to watch you all the time.

2 alex

The change in you in the year between turning six and turning seven has been huge. You have grown taller and more solid, and your face has lost all remnants of toddlerhood! You have become so responsible, more assertive, and happier in your own skin. You are still, however, a bit of a day-dreamer, disappearing into your own little world every now and then, oblivious to the goings-on around you. You have learnt to read and do sums, and can finally tie your shoe laces by yourself.

3 alex

You are a gentle and kind child, and always care about other people’s feelings. We are so proud of you my boy. Your reading and writing is excellent, and you love to read aloud to your sister (especially “Cuddle Bear”.) I love receiving little letters from you that say things like “I love you mom, you are the best mom”. And you even write love letters to the dogs…

4 letter

You love animals, and enjoy telling us facts about various creatures such as the birds in your birdie book, and the reptiles that you love so much. Your favourite thing at school is “show and tell” day, where you get to talk about all the things that you love (mainly various animals)! You love to swim, and can literally spend hours in the pool, immersed in your own imagination as you dive under the cool water. You love our new puppy, Saxon, and I just know that the two of you will be life-long friends.

5. alex and bird

It’s so bittersweet watching you grow up my boy; becoming your mom has changed me so profoundly. I cannot imagine not having you near me. If I compare your first day of grade one to today, I cannot believe it’s the same child. The thought of you not needing me as much frightens the life out of me as I witness your growing independence.

1 us

I am so blessed to be your mom, and I love you more than all the stars in the sky.

Stay as sweet as you are, my big boy, you will always be my baby.



The three day headache

I have had a nasty headache for the past three days. Probably has something to do with the fact that I was involved in an armed robbery at my home on Tuesday. Even as I type those words, it still doesn’t seem real. It’s a headache unlike any other headache that I’ve ever had. It’s kind of a dull throb on the inside of my head, just behind my eyes. Stress induced no doubt. I won’t Google it though, that would just make me even more paranoid.

I am still trying to figure out how I let it happen. The armed robbery that is, not the headache. The irony that we have been talking about “this sort of thing” ever since we came back from Mauritius in April is not lost on me. These things happen to other people, obviously. But the reality is that we don’t “let it happen”. It just happens, and when it happens to you, it’s actually just bad luck. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that old pearler!

I fetched the kids from school, and we headed straight home. I opened the gate as I usually do, while noticing a white Landrover / Range rover (I am never sure of the models) backing out of my neighbour’s driveway. My kids have the habit of jumping out of the car as soon as I open the gate, as they like to fetch the post and say hi to Willow who is usually waiting in the driveway for us. I briefly looked in my rear view mirror to see if they were inside so I could close the gate, and the white Landrover was now inside my gate and three men with guns were running towards me.

I assumed I was being hijacked, so I literally jumped out of my car, shouted to the kids to come in and ran inside screaming, hoping to alert my staff and get them to call for help. One of the men followed me inside, cornered me at the kitchen door, pushed me down and held a gun to my head. He hit me on the head with his other hand, and told me: “Shut up, stop screaming, you are traumatizing your kids”. He then took my wedding and engagement rings, quickly checked my wrists for other jewellery (he did not bother to take my “low-value” bracelets or watch) and then disappeared. The whole ordeal lasted less that a minute. I then heard the kids screaming.

One of my staff, Promise, had the presence of mind to run out of the back door and into the street, when she saw me at the kitchen door. She had alerted our neighbour’s security guard who pressed the panic button and phoned the police. In the minutes that followed, I managed to phone the police, my husband and ADT. The kids were crying and screaming, mainly because I was crying and screaming, and Alex told me the man had taken my phone from him (He was holding it when we got out of the car.) I honestly have no idea how much they did or didn’t see. They have both however, asked me why the bad men came into our house, and why they had guns.

Within less than ten minutes I had Gary, 2 police cars and 4 security companies in my driveway.

We live in a boomed off area, and pretty much assume that we are safe. There hasn’t been an incident of any significance (only one attempted break in, due to a breech at the boom) since they put the booms in place a few years ago. And in the last 13 years we have been living in this house we have never had an incident, barring some guys running through our garden in the middle of the night when we first moved in, but they did nothing (we saw the footprints on the lawn the next morning). The reality is that we are under a false sense of security. But even now, after this horrendous thing that happened to me, I am going to continue to assume that I am safe, if I don’t, I will not be able to continue living in this country. (Although we have discussed it, we have no real intention of leaving.)

The CCTV footage at the boom shows that the Landrover tailgated me. (The guard at the boom immediately pressed his panic button when this happened.) I was horrified when I learned this, as they were in my neighbour’s driveway when I pulled into our cul-de-sac. I have no idea when they overtook me. In a way we are all desensitized to people driving like assholes around us, everyone is always in such a hurry. That, and let’s face it, as moms we are distracted when our kids are in the car. At the time I was actually having an argument / discussion with Alex about why I can’t download games on the phone for him while I am driving! I had no idea that they had tailgated me. I have asked a few people, since this happened, if they could tell me the colour of the car that was behind them in traffic today, and no one could answer me. We can’t possibly notice every little thing around us all the time. I am usually very vigilant and aware of what is going on around me, but I had clearly let my guard down within a zone that I consider to be safe.

The footage shows a car in front of me, me, and then the Landrover all enter within 20 seconds of each other at 14:36. We assume that the Landrover was following the first car, as he came from the same direction, I got in between and then he tailgated me. The car in front drove into a complex, so the Landrover continued past into our road. Then I kindly opened my gate for them, as a car in my neighbour’s driveway is not an unusual occurrence, and the rest is history.

The footage also shows the Landrover exiting the area at 14:39. The whole ordeal lasted 3 minutes. We live about 500m from the boom, so the 3 minutes includes the time it took them to drive a fair distance in and out. The man was probably inside my house with his gun against my head for less than a minute.

I have been racking my brain to figure out what I could have done differently; the answer is: nothing. No matter how many “how to prevent a hijacking” articles you’ve read, or how many advanced driving courses you have attended can prepare you for the reality of it actually happening to you. The reality is that the car in my neighbour’s driveway was in no way unusual. They have visitors all the time. I couldn’t see into the car to see who was in it, and quite frankly even if I could have seen into it, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

I thought I was being hijacked, so my instinct was to get out of the car as quickly as possible (My kids were already out). The man following me into the house was completely and utterly unexpected, and nothing I could have done would have stopped that from happening at that moment. Thank God they just wanted my jewellery. He left as soon as he had what he wanted, and perhaps realized that the security guy at the boom had already alerted someone. They had limited time and got in and out as quickly as possible. They didn’t even take my car, which was still running in the garage. I have heard “thank goodness you weren’t hurt” a million times in the last few days, and whilst I appreciate and echo the sentiment, it is completely unacceptable that we are so used to violent crime in this country that we brush it off with “Well at least no-one got hurt.”

We also get over these incidents far too quickly than what is normal, as we are already so desensitized to violent crime. We hear of something similar on the news or from people we know just about every other day. This is also unacceptable; it’s not normal. Not that I am already over it mind you.

I am angry that I was attacked. I am beyond pissed off that my children were witness to this despicable occurrence. I am sad that my sense of safety has been compromised. I have (mostly) stopped crying when I think or talk about it. I am shocked at the brazenness of these criminals: attacking me in my home, in broad daylight with no less than four security guards within walking distance of my house. With my children right there. I feel helpless: If they had tried to do something to them, or to me or one of my staff, I would not have been able to do a damn thing. I did what I could: I screamed, I called for help, I pressed the panic button… I don’t even want to go there in my head in terms of what actually could have happened.

I had my first nightmare last night. In the first part of the dream I was in a meeting with a customer, and the guy who attacked me was there. He was wearing my diamond ring on his pinkie finger, and smiling at me with a “there’s fuck-all you can do” look on his face. Then later in the dream, Gary and I are driving, there are some street kids swinging a rock on a piece of string at the traffic lights. Next second, the rock hits the window and it smashes, which wakes me up with my heart pounding. It’s probably not the last bad dream I’m going to have.

I have been reliving what happened in my head, over and over, non-stop since it happened. I am still trying to process the enormity of what happened here. How lucky I am that no-one got hurt. It’s going to take time to get past this, and I know that it will live with me forever. I know I will be more observant (the last car driving behind me was a maroon Hyundai station-wagon) and my kids will never jump out of the car again when I open the gate. My neighbours’ visitors will be regarded with suspicion, and in fact I will wait in the road that leads into the cul-de-sac from now on if I see a car I don’t recognise. I also know that this headache will eventually go away.

They have taken one of my most valuable and sentimental possessions, but I will not let them take my happiness.


My little girl who loves to laugh, how on earth did you actually just turn four? I blinked my eyes and the bump in my tummy has turned into a big girl, seemingly overnight!

denita 38w4d

{the morning you were born}

You complete our family with your belly laughs and your deep-voice singing, with your conversations (with yourself) in Greek and your crazy giggles.


You have gotten so tall, but you are still so little. You love to hug your bunny and teddy at bed time, and you shush your baby dollies to sleep in your arms. You love playing with teeny-tiny things, colouring in and painting. You adore shiny things, sparkles and anything pink! “Making a mess” is your middle name, and a meal well-enjoyed is usually all over yourself by the time you are finished eating.


You have a thing for shoes and hand-bags, a girl after my own heart. Your lips are always shimmering in lip-gloss, and your tiny nails are often coated with lacquer (preferably pink). You are our little lunatic who loves to dress up and sing to yourself (usually made-up songs.) You love to swim (and impressed us hugely by going from not-even-putting-your-face-in-the-water to swimming-across-the-pool from one day to the next!)


You are full of life, and full of mischief, and you sometimes challenge the limits of my patience and my parenting skills. I love you with all of my heart and I am so glad that you are my little girl.

Happy birthday my baby girl, don’t ever stop being you!


Growing up…

There is a scene near the end of Mary Poppins that always causes a lump in my throat. I have seen the movie many, many times, both as a child, and recently with my own children. In the scene, Mary is having a conversation with the children while she readies them to go and fly kites in the park with their parents. The children plead with her not to leave, and question whether she loves them. She replies “And what would happen to me, may I ask, if I loved all the children I had to say goodbye to?” Gets me every time.

I always wonder if school teachers feel a bit like this, as they say goodbye to their class each year. I think about how sad all the children are to say goodbye. Change is so hard when you are only little, but they manage to move on so quickly. I know it must be sad for the teachers to say goodbye too, despite their hard Mary Poppins-like exteriors.

Alex was very teary towards the end of grade R. The thought of going to “big school” frightened the life out of him. He kept telling me that he wasn’t ready. Grade R had gotten off to a rough start but ended up being a really wonderful year. His teacher, Georgia, was phenomenal; she had the right balance of toughness and nurturing to help Alex grow and thrive. She was absolutely amazing when he broke his arm and handled him so gently and kindly. Alex loved Georgia. So naturally, saying goodbye was very hard for Alex. He could not contain his tears when he hugged Georgia goodbye on the last day of school. A few days before Grade one started he pleaded with me to take him back to Grade R so he could be in Georgia’s class again. But saying goodbye and moving on is all part of growing up. (He still pops in to visit Georgia after school whenever he can!)

alex first day

We had many teary upsets during the December holiday, and anxiety about school starting. The first day of school arrived, and dressed in his brand new uniform, we joined the scores of parents seated in the hall with their little ones. Excitement at seeing all their friends after the long break helped soften the anxiety that everyone was feeling in their hearts. Lumps were in every parent’s throat as we waited for the classes to be announced.


Once the excitement of the selection was over, the kids all settled down in their class-rooms, and it was time for the parents to leave. Alex looked up at me with his big blue eyes glistening. We were both fighting back tears. His eyes pleaded for me not to go. My heart broke for my baby boy, he suddenly looked so small in his over-sized uniform. But I left, and he was fine. The second day was worse, and he was fighting back tears on the way to school. But that too passed, and each day got easier.

A few months have passed now since that first day, and Alex has really become a big boy. He is physically taller, his hair is shorter, and his face has lost the toddler chubbiness. I’m not going to say that grade one has been a breeze so far, because it hasn’t been, but he has slowly found his way to feeling comfortable in his skin again. The school day is longer and the break periods are shorter, but he comes home happy most days, despite having homework to do when we get home. He is learning to read and do maths, and received full marks for his recent maths and spelling tests, so he is definitely coping with the workload and the new school routine. He loves bringing interesting things to Show and Tell  on Wednesdays and enjoys the days they have sport after school immensely. He still has some trouble making new friends, and just fitting in, in general, but I can see the confident boy inside him lurking much closer to the surface than it has ever been before.

His new teacher is nice, and Alex seems to like her, but gone are the days of the nurturing, loving pre-school teachers, who chat to you every day and end up being your friend by the end of the year. It’s different now, they are on the Big-School hamster wheel, that is spinning way too fast for my liking. Communication with the teacher is limited to a quick hello in the mornings, as Alex usually rushes out of the class by himself in the afternoons as soon as he sees me outside. It’s sad really, that the days of our children being little are so very short. It seems like just the other day that we were walking into the pre-school for the first time, and its already over three years ago!

Before I know it, Grade One will be over, and we will be dealing with the changes of the next phase of Alex’s school career. Play-dates and toys will make way for school sport matches and homework and assignments, and soon the short pants of primary school will become the long grey ones with blazers, preparing our baby boy for wearing suits to his jobs one day. I want to scream “Stop, this is all going too fast!”, knowing that nothing can stop time from marching along relentlessly.

I am enjoying watching Alex grow up and change as each new phase passes. I would be lying though if I said it wasn’t breaking my heart in the process.



On her first year of school… and moving on…

The first Year

I haven’t said much here about Caris’ first year of playschool, for no other reason than not particularly having much time (or inspiration) to blog at all. But now that the year is done and dusted, I feel the need to reflect on what was an incredible year.

On the one hand, I was more relaxed about sending her to school for the first time than I was when Alex was little, as I had been-there-done-that before. But on the other, I was nervous as hell, because Caris doesn’t really take to new people that easily, in fact she used to even be reluctant to stay with her own grandparents!

So at two and a half, we packed her little butterfly bag and sent her to school.

butterfly bag

So let’s start at the beginning.

Her first day was an absolute disaster. I didn’t like her teacher. (It is customary at her playschool to spend the first day with them.) I do not say this lightly, as clearly one day is not enough to get to know someone. But I am pretty good at reading people, and I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling. She was aloof and disinterested in my child, and considering that Caris started two weeks after the rest of the class as she was new, the teacher should have theoretically been able to give her a bit more one-on-one attention, which she did not do. I did not like the way the teacher handled disciplining a boy in the class that was having a meltdown and in general she just made me feel uncomfortable. Nobody even bothered to show my kid where the loo was, I had to take her. (She was newly potty trained and I was mortified at the thought of her having an accident.) And then about ten minutes after play-time, one of the kids in her class was brought in by the gardener bawling her eyes out, as she had been left outside; the teacher hadn’t even checked that everyone was back. I was not exactly filled with confidence that she would be the nurturing, caring teacher I had hoped for.

Needless to say, Caris spent the entire morning sitting on my lap, despite all my efforts to get her to mingle. I was devastated as Alex had been at the same playschool and his first day (and year) was amazing. (Albeit with a different teacher.) Another little girl had started on the same day, and I could see that her mom was feeling uncomfortable too, and I even assured her that it was a lovely school and that the class was clearly just experiencing teething problems that day.

I left the school with a heavy heart, and by the next morning I had decided she was not going back to school. I then requested a meeting with the principal and explained why my daughter had not returned, and what my issues with the teacher were. After pretty much refusing to take my child back to her allocated teacher, despite their “give it another chance, she really is an excellent teacher” pep-talk (and threatening to take both my kids out of the school), they agreed to move her to another class. And no, I am not normally a high-maintenance mom. (Incidentally, I met the other new mom in the parking lot the next morning and she was sitting in her car crying because she had left her daughter there that morning. As we got chatting, she had all the same issues as me, and wanted to take her daughter out of the school. Later I learned that she had taken her child to another school. I felt like I had dodged a bullet!)

So on the Thursday, we had a redo of the first day of school. Day one with her new teacher was amazing. I had intended to spend the day with her again, but within ten minutes, Teacher Tina had taken her outside to see the bunnies and I could go. I felt comfortable the minute I had walked into her class, and immediately knew that this was the teacher for my Caris! Little did I know that she would end up being the most amazing teacher I have ever met. (And also confirmed my belief that a child’s schooling experience is 100% related to the teachers they encounter along the way.) My little girlie blossomed and grew so much in Tina’s class over the course of the year.(Daphne, the assistant teacher, and Irini, the Greek teacher were absolutely fantastic too.)

Tina not only looked after and taught our little people, but she loved them and nurtured them as if they were her own. And as parents, she became our friend. Each Friday, she shared photos of our little ones in the class whatsapp group, allowing us glimpses into the daily activities of our little ones.We all became very attached to Teacher Tina.

One of my favourite images from the Teddy-bear picnic day:

CarisTeddyI could not have asked for a better start to my baby’s school career. At the end of year group ring, Tina’s palpable emotions let us all know how special our little ones had been to her too. And I know that all the other moms in the class felt the way I did too, we were all very emotionally charged as we said our goodbyes on the last day of school.

As a parting thank-you, I wrote Tina the following note that conveyed how much she had meant to us during the year. I can only hope the remainder of Caris’ school career is filled with other such amazing teachers.


Moving on…

The end of playschool has left a heavy burden in my heart. Change is never easy, and the transition has been very hard on Caris. And me. The pre-school is so much bigger, and more hectic, and being separated from her original class and Tina has been very stressful. (Luckily she is in the same class as her friend Ciana, who is walking with her in the photo above!) She has pretty much broken my heart every day at drop-off, by clinging to me and crying inconsolably, and refusing to go to her new teacher. (Something she has never done before.) I know in my head that it will get better (and already she is less reluctant) but that doesn’t stop my heart from aching. I miss the days of dropping her with Tina, easily. I have some solace in the fact that the other little ones are also struggling to adjust, and it is completely normal for her to be experiencing some anxiety.

So hence we start the next chapter of Caris’s school career.

I can only hope that it will be even half as happy and wonderful as her first…

caris first day of grade 000




Breaking bones

Around 11 o’clock last Tuesday, I was in a meeting with limited cell phone reception. A message suddenly came through announcing that I had 9 new voicemail messages. Excusing myself, I listened to the messages, 5 were from Alex’s preschool. All the messages went something along the lines of “Hi, it’s Gina again, Alex has fallen and hurt his arm quite badly, we need you to come and get him!”, the urgency rising in her voice with each subsequent message.

I got to the school as quickly as I could, but driving from Bryanston to Senderwood late morning holds a ton of traffic along the way. I got to the school 45 minutes later. The poor boy was sitting in Pre-school reception with his teacher, clutching his damaged arm. The accident report said that Alex had fallen off the monkey bars on the green jungle gym at 10.45 AM. The teacher had wrapped his arm in a splint and an ice pack. His eyes were swollen from crying, and as soon as he saw me he started to wail. And I started to cry too. The teacher that had seen him fall appeared out of nowhere with a glass of water and some rescue remedy. “Drink this, you’re going to need it!”


(As luck would have it, Gary was away in Knysna playing golf. He also discovered a few voicemails on his phone from the school when he came off the course at around one.)

I got him to casualty as quickly as I could, trying to navigate pot-holes and speed-bumps along the way as gently as I could. There was no parking at the hospital and I ended up parking at the ass-end of nowhere. Luckily a golf cart was on hand to take us to the building, and the driver kindly organised me a wheelchair to take him down to casualty. They rushed us through as soon as we got in, as it was evident that Alex was in a huge amount of pain. By this point he was screaming like someone had chopped his arm off. They gave him some pain killers (2 x 25mg Panamor and 2 x 250g empaped) but they didn’t even take the edge off. He must have cried for 3 hours solid before he literally passed out from the pain. (Side note: I saw his paed the day after, and after looking at his x-rays on the hospital system, he was completely surprised and annoyed that they hadn’t given him morphine in casualty! On a positive note, there was no damage to his growth plates.)

The x-ray revealed that he had broken both the radius and ulna clean through about a centimeter from the wrist. The bones were close to having pierced his skin. He needed to have surgery to fix it. His arm was buckled into an unnatural position.


We then got taken to the ward and waited for the surgeon. The surgery was scheduled for 4PM. He was very scared at the prospect of surgery, and kept begging me to take him home. It was absolutely heart breaking, I felt so sorry for him, and sorry that I couldn’t take his pain away. The doctor manipulated the bones back into place under anesthetic and had to secure the bones with wires, which they put in through the skin. (Which are incidentally removed in 4 weeks time under anesthetic, by literally pulling them back out through the skin. Ouch.)

We were eventually discharged just after 7PM, with his arm in a half cast and sling. What a day!


On the bright side he wasn’t in a lot of pain anymore, and managed to have a fairly good night’s sleep. He even insisted on going to school the next morning, and was quite the hero amongst his peers. (Caris, however, was completely horrified that her brother was broken and couldn’t stop crying when she saw him. Sweet girl.)

Yesterday we went to have the half cast removed and a hard one applied. (The poor boy has been like a caged animal for the past week, and all he has been wanting to do is run and be physical!) He was so excited to go to school today so that his friends could write and draw on it. I am amazed at how quickly he seems to be recovering from what was a very nasty break. Even the orthopedic surgeon remarked that children have an incredible ability to heal and just get on with things.


Case in point: playing soccer in the garden with his sister, cast and all!


When a child dies

On Sunday the 31st of August this year, the weather was really crap. We had arrived in Ballito the Friday before for a one week break, and as luck would have it, or not it seems, the weather was revolting: overcast, windy and freezing. We decided to take the kids to the beach for a walk, despite the cold gusts lashing at our faces.beach

There were hundreds of dead cuttlefish laying on the beach, along with a weird brown scum on the waves. A very strange occurrence indeed. Alex spent ages picking up discarded cuttlebones to add to his shell collection.

On the way back to the car, Alex and Gary were far ahead of us, Caris and I were dawdling, chatting about the beach and looking at the succulents growing on the sand dunes. A woman walking with her teenaged daughter smiled at us, and for a moment I stared at her face, trying to place where I knew her from. She just kept on smiling, almost as if she too was trying to place me. I didn’t know her, but she looked so much like a friend that I had known in high school, someone I haven’t seen in person in over 20 years. Someone whose gorgeous children regularly appear on my Facebook feed. It was a very weird serendipitous moment.

The next morning, while browsing Facebook, my timeline showed that this old friend was being tagged in a lot of posts, most preceded with “sorry for your loss” and “RIP”. After visiting her profile and reading the many, many posts, I learned that her young son, Joshua, had been killed in a motor cross accident. He was only 10 years old.

For a moment, my heart stood still and I shed tears for a child I did not know in person, for a fellow mom whose heart had been irreparably broken. For a dad who has lost his son.

My timeline is still littered with images of this beautiful boy and posts offering condolences to his grieving parents. My heart jumps into my mouth every time I see one. My heart breaks all over again. I wonder how they are coping. If they will ever be FINE. Through the facade of social media they seem so strong: Thanking everyone for their support, and posthumously praising their beautiful boy’s worldly achievements. I do not think that I would have even one single ounce of the courage and strength that they seem to have. I can not even imagine how painful this process must be for them. How painful it will always be. I have tremendous admiration for these two incredible parents.

Losing a child is the most unbearable thought, something my brain refuses to compute. I feel paralyzed at the thought of losing one of my children. It is something that is just not normal. I don’t think that the age of the child matters, losing a child is something that no parent should ever have to experience. It is the single biggest fear that I have.

I wonder if the posts that people write help console their broken hearts, and if the kind words of others are helping to heal a wound that will surely never heal. And if by knowing how many people loved and admired their son makes them proud of the boy they raised. I hope so, as I have written some of these posts too.

Rest in peace beautiful Joshua.