Wednesday, February 10, 2016

4/5

Can you tell I've been busy?
This is not the only space I've been absent from.

I've been missing from the couch in the afternoons after school for a story and a long unhurried chat. I've been missing from the playground watching tricks on the monkey bars and catching up with the school mums.
I've been missing from the rock pools and the beaches and the dams of our normal summer hangouts.
I've been missing from the warm evenings on balconies and front stoeps with girl friends and wine.
I've been missing from the bench in the breeze in my mum's garden.
I've been missing from the couch with two dogs and a cat and my husband and a series on Netflix.
I've been missing from my life.

Job 4/5 ended today.
3 days spent inside a hotel with 300 delegates and a packed agenda. Working in a group which included men with ritual scarification, and women with scars of a different kind but not any less visible. Catching up with old activist comrades and meeting new ones. Intersecting with an age, race and gender mix well out of my norm.
Learning again how good I am at what I do, and how much I enjoy it.
4/5 was a good one.

It's the next one which is scary.

The last month I've been working two jobs, both demanding and challenging and time-pressured and complex.
I've been working two jobs which required minimum 8h a day each, and wouldn't settle for very much less than that.

One of those jobs is done, but I doubt it will make the next any less frantic.

I will still be missing for a while. My husband, my kids, my friends, my life will still have to do without me for a bit.
But tonight I will sleep.
And tomorrow I will start again.
And by the end of this month I'll have done 5/5, and I'll be back.

Monday, January 18, 2016

january chill

The holidays are over, the girls are back at school - and for the first time ever at the same school! They just had 3 days last week, this one is 5 - 5 days of being woken much earlier than they're used to, of concentrating and socialising and managing the radical heat we're currently experiencing.
It's an adjustment for us all.


I started work on the 6th and our wonderful beloved Nonki (She's back! We're thrilled!) came in to look after them. I felt some parental guilt, and suggested some outings, some activities - some fun holiday excitement for the last week of their summer break.
But were they interested? Nope.


There were a couple of trips to my brother's pool, but other than that there were days, endless long summer days of pyjamas and pets and books and games and drawing and dragon cataloging and audio stories and forts and Lego and lawn tumbling and snack eating and just ... being.
Just, as this article which conveniently cropped up on Facebook at the same time said, '... learning to be whoever they are when no one is watching.'


Alone time, pottering away, whiling away hours in seemingly unproductive but totally absorbing pursuits - preferably in pyjamas - is how I relax, recharge and reset myself. The girls have the same inclination. I couldn't be happier.
And grateful that something which has sometimes made me feel like a bit of a lazy slob, is actually a sound parenting ideal. How easy was that one?!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

back to the beach

New Year's eve found us going back to the beach. This time with GEAR.


We used to sleep on beaches all the time in our youth. Beaches, cars in beach parking lots, back stoeps of unoccupied seaside holiday homes. All illegal.
Back then our supplies list comprised of a kikoi, a dooswyn, and diving gear. Food was caught and cooked right there on a driftwood and kelp fire - crayfish, perlemoen, allekrik, fish.


Not so any longer. The dogs and the kids were the only ones left with any energy by the time we got settled in.


Not another soul to be seen. Us, the oyster-catchers, the seagulls and one putrefying seal in the next cove. Luckily the wind stayed in our favour.



Coolers, coolers, coolers, food, chairs, wood, toys .... tables, watermelon (a watermelon!), pots and pans. Lotsa ice. Dog blankets and food. Lotsa water.
All illegal.


All totally worth it.

31 December is all about the sunset actually (or sunrise on the 1st I guess if you're a morning person). At the end of the last day, or the beginning of the 1st, one should be somewhere, or with someone, meaningful I reckon. Whatever with this hype about midnight.

Midnight found us though - deep in our cups, roaring with laughter on those wild screaming beaches. A bonfire raging, various delicious bits 'n pieces being passed around as they came off the fire. At The Moment we walked down to the surf, fireworks exploding from 3 separate villages in the distance, laser beams of phosphorescence running up and down the breaking surf as far as the eye could see.
We screamed and whooped and smooched and cheered. The dogs ran mad gambits and the sea crashed in the background. We felt alive.

Later, crouching for a wee further down the beach my feet sparkled with phosphor in the sand. Later still I crept into a warm tent, nestled up to two small sleeping bodies and marveled at how loud the ocean really was.
After a few short hours screeching gulls woke me at dawn, then an inquisitive dog nose and finally the enthusiastic sunrise of 2016. The nerdy younger sibling of NYE's cool host, all 'Hey guys, what you doing? Isn't this exciting?' I doubt he ever gets the reception he expects.

A swim in the sea. A beer. A pita bread of pulled lamb, slow roasted overnight on an outdoor fire.

A private beach in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
I can't think of a better way to start a year.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

babes in the wood {catch-up post}

Just before Christmas the girls and I got out of town for a few days with two of my girlfriends and their kiddies.


This is what girl camping looks like - cheese, crackers, fruit and bubbly!

Platbos is a small slice of Afro-montane forest a couple of hours drive out of town. Real forest mind you - old man's beard swathed about, fairy nooks, tendrils of mist and gnarled faces in the trees. A cool and quiet place in which to rapidly gear down from the madness of the last few months.
Very peaceful.
Until we lost Stella and her little friend.
For 25 minutes we walked and called through the woods - Frieda's face tight with consternation that she'd let her sister out of her sight, me modelling a courage and calm that came only from the necessity of being the Grown Up.
I honestly didn't think any harm would come to them (actively ignoring the many signs about wild bee colonies), but I knew that the longer they were alone the more upset they'd be getting. Poor wee things.

This little forest - so peaceful, evocative of picnics and fairies and mythical sprites, quite quickly became a darker place - the quiet suddenly seeming a little menacing, our calls of 'Stellllaaaaa' quickly absorbed by the dense undergrowth. Thoughts of bears and witches, every mysterious story ever heard of children disappearing in the wilderness ... amazing how this material rests in our subconscious, just waiting to be awoken.

And then we heard from camp, faintly on the breeze ... 'Found them' ... and there they were, tear-stained and wide-eyed, drinking hot chocolate and trying to find their smiles. Stella rushed to me and clung on, waiting 'til I walked away from the group before letting out a sob.

The recovery was swift, and soon they were out exploring again - staying well close to Frieda this time (the big sister who can read signboards).
I think they'll remember this always though, as I remember similar moments from my childhood - being alone, out of sight, facing adversity, and realising ... there won't always be a parent about.

Baby steps, little wings, safe adventures, nurturing instinct, listening to one's heart, examining one's environment - these are the crucial lessons of childhood. And parenting!

Monday, December 28, 2015

books: 2015


I did it again! Managed to keep a list, and for the large part keep it updated. I completed it this morning, discovering that I read a total of 25 books this year (fewer than last, I blame Instagram), and a lot more 'girlie' books than last year.
It wasn't a wildly inspiring year of reading it must be said, and a high number of these I sailed through - interested enough to keep reading but not entirely absorbed.

Highlights:
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Green Lion by Henrietta Rose-Innes
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
We are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Re-reads:
The Pratchetts, Adrian Mole and The Time Traveller's Wife (still one of my favourite reads of all time).

We're heading out of town for a few days ... see you in 2016 little blog.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

christmas

Similarly to last year, I loved watching my children this Christmas.


They're good kids. 
We had the pep talk - not too heavy - about appropriate gift receiving behaviour. Reminders about thank yous and subtly-handled disappointments, about avoiding comparative analysis of received gifts and the definition of compromise (you know, that thing where no one is happy?).

They're the only children at both our annual family Christmas gatherings. Christmas without cousins is weird for me. But they are surrounded by adoring aunts and uncles - adults who are happy to spend time with them and listen and play - there is something kind of wonderful about that.


Stella is so independent now. She takes herself off when the adults get boring. Makes up her own games and rituals wherever she goes, claims her space. She has the sweetest thank-you, and she's generous with it. She spontaneously hugged a couple of relatives who'd she only smiled at shyly last year. She wore a pink floor-length princess dress of Christmas day. 
The length is note-worthy as she also wore no knickers.
She seems to currently be a Fruitarian.


Her favourite presents: a soft toy tiger, the robo-puppy above who is already driving us all mental with his barking, a volcano kit (the mould is setting as I write this) and a 361 part Lego Technic set
She aced the set in about 6 hours over 24 (starting on Christmas night and completing it at about 3pm this afternoon). It is recommended for ages 9-16. 
Charl sat with her, supervising gently, but she placed 95% of the bricks, 'reading' the instructions herself for every step.


Frieda read the whole of that book today. She's also read most of her new recipe book, Comfort, and made us a couple of simple dishes. She's been watching Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater at my Mum's house and the recipe book, plus some fun dessert glasses proved to be a well-received Christmas present.
She entertained the crowd (us, my parents, a few close family friends) on Christmas Eve with her no hands pants routine (she's pretty good!) and was just hilarious.
Yesterday, as my sister-in-law put her famous Christmas dessert on the table, Frieda grinned and mouthed to me across the table; 'There's layers to this shit player, Tiramisu, Tiramisu' - she cracked me up. We do love this video too much at the moment, but it's got some sass ....


My sister-in-law does Christmas very prettily (and her tiramisu is gorgeous).

As are my girls. And Christmas. And holidays.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

25 things about right now (including 3/5).

1. 3/5 didn't kill me, and it sure as hell didn't make me stronger. But it's done.
2. I hired an au pair.
3. I fired an au pair.
4. Life is too short for my kids to be unhappy. Especially not in the summer holidays.
5. Technically I have 2 days left of work, but I'm done.
6. So, so over it.
7. The big push tomorrow, the big 'putting to bed' of two, massive, growing projects until the new year.
8. The goal: out of office messages on the four different email addresses I'm managing - turn off push to phone for emails - no data use, just surfing on the home wi-fi. That's as off the grid as I can go.
9. And as I'm sizzling right in the middle of the effing grid right now, that's pretty far off.
10. I'm not sure I can do it in one day ...
11. I read this, and it reminded me to be wary of this in 2016.
12. I've developed a strategy, which presently puts me in exactly the same place I was this time last year - working hard, playing hard, pushing it. This year I'm working hard, playing hard, pushing it.


13. 3 nights on the jol last week: Thursday, Friday, Saturday - girls, girls, girls, wine, books, gifts, kids, food, clothes-swaps, G'nT's, laughing and food, and so much dancing.
14. And for 3 nights in a row I had some version of this conversation: 40 is fucking great. It really is.
15. But ja, burnout - let's not do that again.


16. Standing on the lawn in the dark with some mates, watching Kid TV.
17. TWO toad encounters in one evening and I didn't freak out! This is monumental.
18. Christmas started today. A family brunch as various people will be travelling over Christmas. (By people I mean my brothers, and by travelling I mean Thailand and Chile respectively. Bastards.)
19. We've gotten into the vibe at home too, in a nice low-key way. Mid-November. I thought this year I might just put those Christmas books out in a basket with the Xmas tree, but almost the next day Stella asked, with a sparkle in her eye, 'Are we going to open the Christmas books again Mum?'.
20. 'Of course my angel.'


21. We had 5 little friends staying over last night for the 'Slumber Party' the girls have been asking to have for weeks now.
22. My daughters' friends are becoming real people in my life - showing distinctive signs of the women they will become - I'm really enjoying it.
23. I was in a friend's teenage daughter's bedroom recently and I suddenly got so excited: teenage girl bedrooms - they are murky and marvelous, and I have two to look forward to! Secretly I still miss mine.
24. The last push - I'm going to whack it in 24 hours. I need to be on holiday. I. Must. Gather. Strength. for next year.


25. Must remain unfuckablewith.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

2/5

Jo'burg for 3 days.

Jo'burg is hot at the moment. Still and hot and buggy. I spent a fair amount of time photographing ants and sending them to my Dad. He sent back sketches from his growing portfolio. My Dad's a myrmecologist and it's hard not to catch the um ... bug.


Winged things flew into my hair a lot as soon as it got dark. It gets dark early in Jo'burg, and at the same time, every night.

The first night we sat out late, on the stoep of our guesthouse, planning the next day and flicking bugs out of our hair.

Two days of meeting, 40 participants from all over.
Day 1 started with a ridiculously childish request at 5am (which I ignored), and ended with Baklava Cheesecake (it got my full attention).
Day 2 was soured by transport company fuck ups (I had to throw some toys - it wasn't pretty) but sweetened by a tour of the remarkable place where we were meeting.

It was sobering, in session, to listen to our participants speak of police brutality now in a place so representative of the heinous acts of the apartheid secret police service then.
But it was moving and evocative, out there, to visit the cottage where Madiba lived while posing as a gardner and forming Umkhonto wiSizwe. To stand in the living room in which the Rivonia trialists were seized.


A quick meeting for job 3/5 (it all starts again on Monday), and a terrifying foretaste of the drama which will be job 5/5, a mad dash to the Gautrain and a nearly full moon over OR Tambo Airport.


Home to my dear hearts.

A brief respite, and then I pick up the reins for the next mad sprint. Life is full, life is full-on.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

the week that was

Big, crazy week of work work work, no childcare outside of school hours, total disintegration of house and home, complete neglect of pets and plants and laundry and really anything outside of the work and the most pressing of family functions.
(Apparently we must eat and have vaguely clean laundry and conversation every day - crazy innit?)

My poor children. Naturally with the Work comes the Guilt.

It's interesting how I'll happily tell my kids to bugger off so I can read my book, or have a shower, or cook a meal - I have no real problem with doing that (if they're happy and fed etc of course) because it's looking after me - which I think is good behaviour to model - or looking after the family - which is part of my job as nurturer. But I hate having to tell them I need space to work.
Then I'm looking after other people, and that feels like a betrayal.

It could not have been a better week to stumble across this online ...


.... how totally and terrifyingly true is this?

This week I have been reminded again how immensely lucky I am that this is not our permanent reality.
I work in these fits and starts, I work from home - and in some ways I think the broken rhythm of my work days might make it harder on the kids to settle into a routine, and sometimes I think it might be easier of I was gone - away in an office - rather than here and so very distracted.
But at least if I'm here I can keep contextualising for them what's happening - they can see I'm working, they hear me on the phone (while I glare at them to shut it), Frieda reads my emails over my shoulder and asks me to explain a movement order - and because I'm freelance there's an end, a point in the future in which I'll stop, push away from my desk and my phone won't ping every 5 minutes.

But for now .... 3 days in Joburg next week, new au pair starting 1 December ... 4/5 left to go!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

1/5

It was never going to be a particularly easy day.

Husband had to leave for Joburg at 5am, and we'd both only be home after 8 tonight - him from up there, me from my first of 5: 5 events in 4 months.

Luckily (so, so luckily), Granny was on hand to help out - collect girls from respective schools, feed them, take them to swimming, feed them again, have them sleepover and then get them up for school tomorrow.
Last night we packed multiple outfits, snacks, the bizarre assortment of paraphernalia two little girls require to function over 24h.

We both worked late, we both struggled to fall asleep. But only one of us woke at 1am to a daughter with a sore stomach, at 3am to two dogs with full bladders, at 4am to a daughter (the same one) with sick in her hair, at 4:30am to fly across the country (okay that one was him) and again at 7 to a daughter (still the same one) with more sick in her hair.

What is that word, I pondered to myself this morning, for that thing where you have a massive, important work commitment and you find yourself scrubbing sick off a carpet? Oh right, I remember: motherhood.

And what is the word, for when you have to drop your grey and droopy child off at someone else's house because you have to go to work? Oh ja, guilt.

But in her words: 'Mum, if I can't be sick with you or Dad then Granny is the next best person in the whole world.'
Rare praise.

Poor lamb.
Apparently however, according to the text I got from Mum as my book launch babbled away successfully in the background, she rallied enough to eat some chocolate mousse before bed.

1 down. 4 to go. Oh and that thing called Christmas slap-bang in the middle. And still no au pair person.


Thank goodness I love my job!