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.

letter

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

 

 

 

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Hello 2014

I’m definitely not superstitious, but I’m starting to think that there is something to this “unlucky number thirteen” thing.

In a lot of respects 2013 was indeed a pretty unlucky year. There were many health challenges in my close family / friends. My dad was hospitalized in ICU for over a week with pneumonia and had to have a potentially dangerous hernia repaired and my mother in law broke both her arms at the same time.  Two of my close friends were diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have double mastectomies. Another friend had a cancerous tumour in her brain removed. Two friends lost their fathers, and another their brother. And not to forget the mother of all health scares: Gary’s cancerous kidney that now lives in a lab somewhere. Not only were there medical issues, but relationships ended too: two close friends went through unpleasant divorces / breakups, and Craig broke up with his girlfriend of five years.

A nasty year all round.

I realise that this is starting to sound like the blog post of doom and gloom… Let’s just say that by the time December rolled around, we all NEEDED a holiday, to put it mildly!

So enough of that already!

2013 wasn’t all misery and sadness, and despite the hiccups along the way, it was also a pretty good year:

Caris turned two!

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Caris_two

We went to Mauritius for a very brilliant ten days at Club med!

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Mauritius

Alex turned five!

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Alex lost his first tooth! (and his second!)

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I turned 40… but I’m not sure that is a good thing!

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We built a house! (which is pretty damn amazing, and the whole process went surprisingly smoothly)

house

Stuart got his Civil Engineering degree! (Had to steal this photo from his FB page, as he is currently in New Orleans partying it up – been there since November and didn’t go to his actual graduation)

stugrad

Craig finished his articles, and is now officially a qualified attorney!

craig and alex

So here’s to an amazing 2014. May it be prosperous, happy, and above all HEALTHY for everyone. (And here’s hoping I will find more time to blog this year!)

So this is 40

A few weeks ago, we watched a movie called This is 40. It’s probably the funniest movie I have seen in a long time. Probably because of its appropriateness in terms of my turning 40 a few days afterwards. Whilst the movie is probably not everyone’s cup of tea (there is quite a lot of swearing and sexual reference) I literally had tears in my eyes from laughter throughout the 90 odd minutes. I liked the fact that the two lead characters, both about to turn 40, really did not give a damn about anything! We also watched it at a time when we really needed some comic relief: Having both taken some strain over illnesses and accidents in the family (Gary’s mom broke both her arms, and my father had a wound that just would not heal) And after a few disappointments surrounding the plans for my birthday (sometimes I still feel like an insecure teenager, unsure of where I fit in), it was great to laugh out loud at nonsense for an hour and a half.

But this post is not actually about that movie. (Although if you find yourself hanging about with nothing to do, do give it a watch. You probably want to wait till the kids are in bed though!)

This post is about that dreaded milestone: FORTY.

Just for the record, I wasn’t happy turning 30, never mind a full TEN years older! Aging is a weird thing. It’s a slow process that kind of just creeps up on you, and one day you look in the mirror and think “How did I get so OLD.” And then your five-year old asks you “why do you have stripes on your forehead mommy?” (referring to my, um, wrinkles!) which really tips you over the edge. I seem to have found myself in a weird head space: middle-age is not exactly a label I want to be sporting on my forehead. Then again, maybe it would hide the stripes? And while I am probably in OK shape for 40, both mentally and physically, I can’t say I feel young either.  My back injury is not helping the process, because I am always in pain.  Although I try to ignore it most days, it is very draining on my energy levels.

But enough of the wallowing in self-pity.

All of my friends that are already forty, tell me that forty is FABULOUS. That it’s the new THIRTY, that it’s the naughty forties. One of my friends said in a birthday text message: “Still young at heart and mature enough to enjoy life to the full at last”. While the jury is out on whether or not my forties will be fun, fabulous or naughty (I will let you know once I turn 50!) here are the things that I am thankful for at this milestone:

  • I have the best husband in the world.  He made me feel like the most special girl in the world on my birthday, and in fact does so every day. I am so lucky and grateful to have him in my life. (Sorry ladies, he is taken!)
  • I have two beautiful children who bring me a lot of joy and have shown me what love really means. They have taught me so much. And while I sometimes wish I had had kids a little younger, I would not change anything for the world.
  • I have a wonderful extended family … my two step-sons mean the world to me. It has been a pleasure and an honour being part of their lives for so long.
  • I have brilliant friends who are always there for me.
  • I really am happy. Well most of the time anyway.

It is said that “you are only as old as you feel”, so I am going to try my damnedest to feel 21 forever!

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Photo Friday … Baker’s Day

Alex was the baker again today, and he wanted Lightning McQueen cupcakes… (yes, his love for Mr McQueen is still alive and well!)

Much excitement surrounds Baker’s Day, so his teacher and all the kids in the class, were very relieved to see us at school this morning, after Alex was off sick yesterday. (He was bitten by something and his one eye and ear were so swollen yesterday morning that he stayed at Granny for the day.)

So after a quick drive out to Crescent Moulds to pick up a Lightning mould, this is what we came up with:

ka-chow!

Related posts:

Photo Friday … Baker’s Day

The Evolution of the birthday cake

Photo Friday … The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!

My online order for these cool shades by Babiators arrived yesterday, much to the delight of Alex and Caris. (Especially Alex, who LOVES it when parcels arrive at the house.)

I got them from Queck Baby …. who also have a lot of other cool stuff, be sure to check them out! (and their service is super efficient!)

 

 

Under the sea … Party time!

The brief, from my outspoken four-year old, for his fourth birthday this year was an Ocean Motion party with an Aquarium cake. My initial thought was “Holy cow, how the hell am I going to make an Aquarium cake, yet alone host an under the sea party!” Living in land-locked Jozi, means there aren’t any aquariums readily available, and my budget didn’t exactly extend to flying a whole lot of kids and their parents to Durban for the day!

I did not have the energy to do the party at home this year, so with the help of Google, I found a great venue in Linbro park called  kiddy-up , which provides jungle gyms, playhouses, a jumping castle, trampolines and plenty of space for the kids to run around. As an added bonus each child got to go for a ride on a horse. (Not exactly sea-creature related, but dolphin rides were proving a little tough to organise, of course! And besides, all kids seem to love riding horses) 🙂 They set up and provided the draping, chair tie backs and balloons for the kids table in my under the sea colours, and also provided on-site catering which made my life easier. All I had to do was arrive with drinks, sweets, the cake and party packs!

Which brings me to the cake. I frantically googled for some ideas, and after purchasing a few icing moulds of various sea creatures, my mom and I set about making a menagerie of tropical fish, crabs, sea horses, lobsters, octopi and dolphins, which were then painted with food colouring. I made a large chocolate cake, which was slathered in blue butter icing, and then adorned with our swimming creatures. The piece de resistance, alongside the pod of dolphins, was a breaching orca (made out of rice-krispie-treat, and covered in plastic icing). Alex was super chuffed with his cake, and his friends were all very impressed judging from the oohs and aahs when I brought in the cake! (and the fact that the cake and creatures were devoured hungrily!)

The weather on the day of the party was just perfect, flawless blue sky and not a breath of wind. (Despite the weather being rainy, cold and miserable for the two days prior). Girls arrived in their best party dresses, and the boys came dressed as, well, boys. Much cake was consumed (especially by my young daughter) and much fun was had. Everyone had a whale of a time!

{a few images from the party}

Related posts: Four, The evolution of the birthday cake