The place with the interesting things!

Spending the December holidays in Joey’s this year, meant we had to find things to do to keep our offspring busy (and stop us from losing our sanity and patience dealing with long faces and whining!)

So one sunny morning, we headed to New Town to check out Sci-Bono. I have overheard many moms raving about how cool it is, and have been told umpteen stories about fun birthday parties that have been attended there.

We arrived early, and pretty much had the place to ourselves for a while. To start off, Alex and Caris both had a go at kicking soccer balls into nets, and shooting balls at metal cut-out soccer players. We then moved through the exhibition, stopping at things that caught our interest. Alex absolutely loved the construction site simulation, and spent quite a while placing play bricks on a conveyor belt while donning his hard hat.

Alex’s favourite thing was a table that illustrated (if I remember correctly) a black hole, and he watched the spinning ball being sucked down into its vortex over and over again.

We spent a good few hours perusing the exhibits, only cutting our visit short because Caris was starting to get super grumpy as the time stretched further and further past nap time. In fairness, the centre is aimed at kids a little older than my two, but both of them seemed to be having a ball.

Alex keeps asking me “When are we going back to that place with the interesting things?”

Well worth a visit! (and next time I will take a proper camera and not just a Blackberry!)

Scibono 1 Scibono 2 Scibono 3 Scibono 4 Scibono 5 Scibono 6 Scibono 7

Meet you on the other side…

At school, there are a couple of pathways that lead from the parking lot to the classroom. When we arrive, I always ask Alex which way he would like to go; past the fish-pond, under the mulberry trees etc. His reply is inevitably “I’ll meet you on the other side!” (Which means: he goes down a different pathway to me and then meets me on the other side.)

It is a little game that we have been playing since the beginning of pre-school, a little reflection of his growing independence, and sometimes, I run ahead, and say “BOO!” when he strolls out of his chosen route. He screams with delight and then runs ahead to the pre-school block reception. During mulberry season, he dawdles along the pathway, squashing purples berries while he walks. On rainy days, he thunders through the puddles, splashing water all over the place. And in winter he runs as fast as he can, trying to stay warm, blowing little puffs of steam from his mouth into the icy morning air. (Our afternoon ritual is similar, but then we go past the fish-pond, so that he can see “daddy fish” – which happens to be the biggest koi fish in the pond.)

When we arrive in the school building, he runs to find his locker, and usually looks to see if his friend Vicky’s bag is in her locker yet. This morning, his Greek teacher was waiting, and he sidled up to her for a hug, saying “Kalimera Kyria Sula” shyly. (…with apologies to any Greek readers, I have no idea how to spell that!) My heart just swelled with pride. He is growing up far too quickly, and I find myself missing the days when he was a baby. Before long, I imagine I will be stopping outside the school gate, with a sulky teenager in the back seat, who would probably rather die than have me walk him to his class room. To add to my melancholy, I went into the playschool on the way out, to hand in Caris’ application for next year. Memories of Alex’s first day at playschool hit me like a hammer; holding his tiny hand, and sitting on the floor with him on my lap for his first group ring. And how proud I was when he got off my lap all by himself to go and sit with the others.

Alex, my sweet baby boy, I hope you will want to “meet me on the other side” always…

Home Front

Kristin Hannah is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I bought “Firefly lane” for my book club a while ago, and absolutely loved it. Most of the girls in my book-club have read it too, and it has touched each one of us in a different, yet special way. I have just finished reading “Home Front”. I had a lump in my throat by the end of the first chapter, and had tears in my eyes for most of the novel.

The story follows the life of Jolene Zarkades’, who is a mother of two young girls (aged 12 and 4) and a helicopter pilot working for the US military. After growing up in an abusive home, her parents (who were alcoholics and drug addicts) are killed in a car accident when she is 17 years old. She meets the man she is going to marry, some years later in the future, in a lawyer’s office, while pleading to not be sent into foster care as she was soon to be 18. At which point, she joined the military as she had nowhere else to go.

She is painted as a tough, strong, always positive woman, who is a hands-on mother to her girls, despite having had a shocking upbringing, and despite having a demanding career in the military. And then two things happen that alter the path of her life, changing who she is forever. Her husband, who had been her best friend, lover and confidant through thick and thin, tells her that he is not in love with her anymore, only moments before she receives a call from her best friend and colleague to say that they are being deployed to Iraq for one year. In less than two months, she would be in the middle of a war-zone; without the love and support of the only man she has ever loved.

Jolene has to come terms with leaving her family, her young children who need their mom and a marriage that is rapidly falling apart, to fulfil her commitment to her country. The portrayal of the emotions felt by each character in the book is classic Kristin Hannah. She has this way of making the characters feel like they are your best friends and your heart breaks for each of them. What got me the most was how Jolene’s two daughters dealt with the news of her deployment. The sulkiness and anger from pre-teen Betsy and the irrational emotional outbreaks from four-year-old Lulu broke my heart. I could imagine Alex, who is the same age as Lulu, behaving in a similar way, crying and pleading for me not to leave, promising to be good, tidy up his toys and eat all his food if I stay. Jolene expresses her fears that her children will forget her if something happens to her. She writes letters to her husband and girls in the event that she does not return from the war, which made my blood run cold. I must admit, this is something I think about often, which is partly why this blog exists, so that my children have a view into who I am if I am not around…

The story, which grabbed my attention from the first chapter and remained gripping, is filled with tragedy and sadness. It made me cry more than a few times, but is ultimately about forgiveness, hope, and the tenacity of real love.

I have just started “Night Road” which is proving to be just as un-put-down-able as her other novels.

The magic of Christmas

To say that there was some excitement in our house for Christmas this year would be an understatement. Our Christmas tree was already up by mid-November, if that says anything (at which point I was being nagged on a daily basis to put it up, by my dear boy child). Alex only really got  the whole Christmas thing the year before, so this Christmas just past he knew what to expect, and was literally bouncing off the walls with anticipation. Caris, being only 19 months at Christmas time didn’t really get it, but she was very, very impressed by the Christmas tree, and kept pointing, saying “lights” and squealing with delight!

xmas day 3

A few days before Christmas, we took the kids to see the Garden of Lights (at Emperors Palace). Despite standing in the queue for almost an hour, it was well worth the wait, and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. Caris, bearing in mind her aforementioned love of Christmas lights, was in her element!

garden of lights 1

garden of lights 3

Garden of lights 2

On Christmas eve, we put out milk and cookies for Santa, and put two very excited little monkeys to bed! We explained to Alex that he would know that Father Christmas had been, if their stockings were filled and waiting at the foot of their beds in the morning. (Needless to say, Alex came running into our bedroom just after six AM screaming “Farmer Christmas came! My stocking is full of toys, and Caris’s too! Come look!”)

xmas day 2

And when we came downstairs, his eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw all the presents under the tree!

xmas day 1Christmas day was spent opening presents, swimming, laughing, opening more presents, and celebrating over lunch with our extended family. (Ok, so I spent most of it cooking, cleaning up, serving lunch, making desert, cleaning up, cooking, did I mention cleaning up? But all for a good cause I guess!)

It certainly is the very best time of the year…

xmas day 7

“WOW! a new bicycle!!! ”

xmas day 6 xmas day 5 xmas day 4

little swimmers

xmas day 8

We’re all going on a summer holiday… or not!

In late November, we received a call out of the blue from one of the estate agents that had been marketing our holiday apartment in Ballito. In December the year before (2011), we bought a piece of land, and a year later, after to-ing and fro-ing with architects, builders and council approvals, we are finally in a position to start building. So the urgency around selling the flat was starting to reach near-panic levels. After being on the market for almost 10 months, we had had little to no interest. And then, suddenly, a  guy, who based on only having seen photos of the place, made us a very reasonable offer. The catch? He wanted occupation the first week of December. And he wanted it lock, stock and barrel. So the plans for our usual holiday down at the coast for Christmas came to a screeching halt. It was too late to organise to go anywhere else, and quite frankly cost-restrictive with the exorbitant fees that are charged “in season”. So we had to get our heads around staying in Jo’burg while the rest of its inhabitants migrated seawards! (But that is a story for another blog post … )

In a lightning flash, I took a quick overnight to trip to Durbs to go and pack up our personal bits and pieces; arranged a removal company and a storage facility to look after our stuff for the next (hopefully only) eleven months while our new house is being built. It was quite strange to be away from Alex and Caris, and to be in the flat by myself. I had visions of spending an hour or two packing, and then relaxing with my feet up, kindle in hand! In reality it took me till close to midnight to pack up, throw away junk, and clean! I fell into bed in an exhausted heap. Between my mom, Promise and Gary, Alex and Caris had a ball without me.

1. packed up

The weather was grim the morning of the move. Perhaps it was Ballito’s way of saying “I’ll miss you guys”. I had a lump in my throat when I locked the door for the final time, remembering the good times we have had here. Alex was a year old when we bought this place, so his early years will always be linked to what he calls his Ballito-House.

1a weather

After getting back from the storage facility, I drove past our building site, to have a look at where our dream home will become a reality in the next eleven months. The site had been wrapped in shade cloth, ready for the builders to start the second week of January.

2a. Site

On Monday morning this week, the builders started clearing the site, and our architect emailed us some images of the progress. The weather looks amazing, a great day to start building. Our excitement is mounting! (and Alex was very excited, mainly because there is a DIGGER in the photo!)

2. site

I know it is terrible to start wishing the year away, when it has only just begun, but roll on December! Happy 2013 everyone…