This time last year…

This time last year, I was having a mild panic attack, because I was one of those moms who hadn’t put her child on a school waiting list in utero. I had a three-month old new baby, and an about to turn three-year old, who was rapidly succumbing to boredom at granny’s house, and had his nose out of joint big time with the birth of his little sister.  Having canvassed a few of the local play / pre-schools in the area, I realised my rather large faux-pas, at having not paid a school deposit the day I fell pregnant.

So ever the optimist, I filled in forms and hoped that someone would have a space for him by 2013, if I was lucky, never mind the back-end of 2011 or January 2012! The school I was most keen on (who had said that there was no way they could help me that year) gave me a call out of the blue about a week after filling in the paperwork, and said that they had a space for him to start in September 2011 if I was still keen.  Seemingly someone had left with short notice, and he could start immediately.

Deposits were paid quicker than you can say “Playschool costs HOW MUCH!?!” and my little guy was set to start school.

{A photo of Alex’s first-ever ring time sitting next to Emily. Look at how much hair he has!}

He was put in the older of the two playschool classes, where the children all celebrated their birthdays six months to a year before him, so he really was the baby in the class, with some of the kids turning four years old a few weeks after he turned three. I spent the first day of school with him, and was horrified at some of his class mates jumping off of play equipment higher than my waist, and watching the eagerness in Alex’s eyes to follow suit. I was imagining a phone call within his first week at school to say that he had broken an arm or leg while trying to imitate his new friends.

He was so shy, and so little, and it broke my heart to leave him there alone on his second day. (But luckily he took a liking to Emily, the teacher’s assistant, and she helped him settle in!) Before long, he was fitting in just perfectly, had made some friends, and was happy and eager to go to school. Once he started, I felt hugely guilty that I had kept him home for so long, and was worried that I had done him a disservice by waiting till three to send him to school. And keeping him home, was entirely my doing, not wanting to let my baby go out into the big wide world. But I soon realised that he was not at all behind his classmates, and in some cases he was ahead of even the much older children. (Having had one-on-one time with Granny and Grandpa for almost three years, he knew a lot of stuff already!) The only real problem was that he was painfully shy, and this was in part his personality, and partly because he was not exposed to that many kids of his own age. (Even though we had play-groups and some activities such as Kindermusik and swimming, it’s not quite the same as a school setting).

A few weeks after starting school, he turned three, and celebrated his birthday with his new friends.

{Blowing out candles with Elli}

A year later, deep in the throes of grade 000, he loves school. He has made a few close friends and looks forward to seeing his teachers and classmates every day. According to his teacher, Christine, he loves to participate, and is nowhere near as shy as the boy I witnessed on his first day, and at his first parents’ day some 11 months earlier. He has fitted in brilliantly and is a popular and well-liked boy. He has made beautiful art-works, “baked” some delicious creations, played to his heart’s content, and has even been on two outings (to Drake’s farm and the Joburg zoo). And he has learnt SO MUCH! He comes home every day with some new bit of knowledge, and will tell us “Do you know…” followed by the little titbit that he has learnt.

He is at a Greek school, even though we are not Greek, but I am told by his Greek teacher, Matoula, that he is one of the stars in the class. At home, we often hear him singing his Greek songs and pointing out certain things or counting out aloud (to thirty!) in Greek!  (It still amazes me what little sponges pre-schoolers are. When he first started playschool, and was exposed to this second language, I am sure that he was super confused, but now it’s as if he’s been learning it all his life.)

A year later, I am impressed by how much he has learnt, and how he has blossomed since starting school. Some days when I fetch him, and we drive past the play-school building on the way out, Alex says to me, “There’s Elli’s class, and Caris is going to be in Elli’s class when she is a big girl!” (And this time around, I can’t wait for my little girl to start school!)

Holiday adventures … and one very grumpy baby

While Gary was away on his golf-trip-extraordinaire, I decided to brave a trip down to Ballito with the kids and my mom in tow. We left Joburg on (a rather chilly) Saturday morning, just after eight, with the car packed to the brim, the DVD players in place, Cars 2 queued and ready, and a forecast for better weather ahead.

In theory, Caris should have had her morning nap along the way, so we were all set to make it past Harrismith with my sanity in-tact, and we could stop somewhere for lunch around 12. The thing about theories, is that they seldom apply in actual reality, and Caris decided NOT to sleep, and was pretty grumpy by 10 o’clock. She whinged and whined and cried for the better part of an hour, refusing to take her beloved dummy or a toy or watch teletubbies on the in-car-entertainment-system. (Might I just add that this was completely out of character behaviour for her…) I could feel my blood pressure rising, and a dull headache had seated itself nicely behind my right eye.  At one point, I pulled over on the side of the road, decelerating from 130 to zero in what felt like a millisecond, to put her dummy back in her mouth (which she had thrown onto the floor in frustration, out of reach, a few moments earlier) and shout at her give her a stern talking to. I think she got such a fright, that she was stunned into being quiet for the next half an hour until we stopped for lunch. The second part of the journey was a little better, as she had a short nap, but she woke up about an hour before we got there (damn those noisy rumble strips on the roads at the toll gates) and the crying resumed for the last 45 minutes of the journey. I have never felt so stressed and freaked out in my life. I could see the newspaper headline in my mind’s eye: “SCREAMING BABY CAUSES WOMAN TO CRASH INTO BARRIER ON N3. 4 DEAD.”

Little did I know that this was just the start of a few NIGHTMARE days, as she was transformed from her usual chilled, happy-go-lucky, smiley self,  into a whiney, clingy, cries-every-time-I-put-her down, non-napping disaster. To say that Caris has been an easy baby from the word go, would be an under statement. She has been an incredibly easy baby. She eats well, sleeps well, and is generally of a happy disposition. I am that  mother who, somewhat smugly, says things like “my baby is the easiest baby on the planet”. So this little episode caught me completely off guard. I still do not know what was actually wrong with her, but I can say that the delightful (NOT) screeches and screams every time she did not want to be put down, went through my head like a jack-hammer. (Actually, a jack-hammer is probably a lot more pleasant.) I think my biceps have expanded by a few centimetres from constantly lifting her little 10KG body up. At one point, I even took her to the local GP, to see if she maybe had an ear infection or something nasty brewing that was making her so unhappy. There was nothing medically wrong, so I left the doctor’s rooms a few hundred Rand poorer, with my (still VERY) grumpy baby glued to my hip. Perhaps it was a combination of missing her daddy, her nanny, being out of her usual routine, and the very nasty molar that surfaced when we got back home; or perhaps it is the inevitable transition from a contented baby to a more demanding toddler. But thankfully she is mostly back to her usual self. (Although she does seem to be getting A LOT more vocal and frustrated if she doesn’t get her own way, and stomps her little feet and kicks her legs if you take something away from her. *SIGH* It seems that I may in fact have a TODDLER on my hands again… and just when Alex seems to be growing out of that crap nonsense. )

In between the clinginess and unsolicited crying, we did at least manage to go to the beach when the weather was nice, played on the jungle gyms in the afternoons, visited the Flag animal farm, and took a trip to the aquarium. Obviously. (Our usual holiday routine.) In typical Holiday Weather fashion, our last day was spent in a shopping centre due to heavy, unrelenting rain. We saw Madagascar 3, which was brilliant. Alex loved it, and Caris slept though it (!) so all was good with the world on our last day!

(… And despite the rather frustrating few days, Little Miss is just a bundle of cuteness at the moment. She is becoming more interactive and vocal by the day, and will point and gesticulate furiously at something she wants, particularly FOOD! She loves her new “Y-bike”, and was thrilled to have Alex push her around the house (VERY fast I may add!) She loves playing with cars and says “Brrrrrrrrr” as she crawls along pushing it as fast as her fingers will allow. The cutest, is when said car disappears under the table, bed or couch, and she gets down on her hands and knees, with her bum in the air, to have a look under the furniture to see where it went! I just love her to bits!)

Photo Friday …Let it snow!

On Tuesday morning as I drove to work, the temperature had only managed to climb to 0.5 degrees celsius on the car thermometer (just after eight AM). By ten o’clock, there were reports of snow all over Joburg pouring in on the radio, and on friends’ facebook and BBM statuses. There was no snow at my office in Bryanston, so I thought I had pretty much missed out on the commotion. By the time I left the office at just after 1, the snow en-route had already melted away. But by 3PM at home, the snow started falling again, and although there was only a thin layer, there was enough for Alex and Stuart to build a little snowman !

Bon Voyage…

A golf trip that has been on the drawing board for almost two years, is finally a reality!

On Thursday night, Gary, his two brothers and a few friends leave for Scotland to indulge in a 10 day golfing adventure. No wives, no kids, no work or household duties.  Just eight guys, their golf clubs, a dedicated driver and a stash of Essentiale (for the non-golfing activities). They will be playing at the following courses: Carnoustie Championship, St Andrews Jubilee Course, St Andrews Old Course, Kingsbarns Course, Royal Troon Old Course and Turnberry Ailsa Course. In between the hectic golf schedule, they will be sleeping late, sight-seeing, eating at nice restaurants and no-doubt drinking lots of beer and scotch whisky!

Gary has been overseas more than twenty times in the eleven years that I have known him, so I am used to him travelling. But it is never without a lump in my throat as I wave goodbye through the departure gates.  I always spend the hours that he is out of contact with a knot in my stomach, waiting with bated breath for the sms from him to say that he has landed safely on the other side. I am sure that tomorrow will be no different. (To offer myself suitable distraction from the fact that he will be away for ten days, I am taking the kids to Ballito for a week. Provided the N3 has been re-opened by Saturday, given the heavy snowfall of late!)

Travel safely my love, and come home quickly, ‘cos I am missing you already! xx

Ocean Motion

For the past few weeks, the theme at school has been Ocean Life, and Alex has been in his absolute element! Ever since his first visit to Ushaka Marine World when he was just over two years old, he has been obsessed with sea creatures.  When he was tiny, one of his favourite DVD’s was “Baby Genius: Under water adventures“, which he used to call Ocean Motion, and to this day, he loves all things marine.

After his first trip to the aquarium, we bought him this book on Ocean Life. And at all of two and a half, he had memorised every single sea creature within its pages. (Friends were amazed when we asked Alex to read them his Ocean Motion book, and he would happily name each creature (over forty of them!) as we paged through it.  It used to be one of our favourite party tricks. We used to laugh out loud at the fact that this tiny boy was reciting marine animal names as if they were part of his day-to-day vocab!)

We were dumb-struck at how brilliant his memory was, and how he even got the pronunciations right. Even the obscure ones like Coelocanth, Mantis Shrimp and Sea Anemone!

The Ocean Life book is now well-worn, as it was paged through (and recited) each night before bed. Over time, the obsession faded a little, and some of the creatures were forgotten, but thanks to the aquatic theme at school, it has been revived, and he is back to naming each creature in his fishy book, without a single error.

During his parent / teacher review at school last week, his teacher, Christine, told us how amazed she had been, when putting up a picture of a shark or a whale, he pointed out that it was in fact a great-white shark, and a humpback whale etc. (So we had to confess that this was one of his party tricks!) And on the subject of his progress at school, we have been assured that he is a kind, bright, happy, polite child, who never forgets his P’s and Q’s. (I did also ask if she was sure she was talking about MY child, given the daily tantrums and non compliance I have to deal with!)

On the way to school the other day, Alex says to me: “Mom, when school is on holiday in August, I am taking the train to Ballito to go to the aquarium!”  I just love my budding little marine biologist to bits! (And luckily for him, we will be going down to Ballito for a week soon, and he can visit his beloved sea creatures.)