Monday, January 31, 2011


[You know who you are: read at own risk.] 

It was nearly a year ago I got home from waddling round the mall to find my brother playing ball with Frieda in the front yard. I jokingly looked at my (non-existent) watch and told him to stand by for my water's breaking at 5pm.
Ha ha ha.

They did.

At 5pm my water's broke as I was frying sausages for Frieda's supper. I called my husband, on his way to get a haircut. He asked if he had time to get it done anyway, this being our second child of course I said yes.
I called my Mum to come and collect Frieda. Standing there leaking, sausages burning, I looked over to see Frieda standing in a puddle.
'I had a wee Mum.'
This should've been my first clue that I was soon to learn the real meaning of 'multi-tasking'.

By the time my Mum and husband got home I was contracting, seriously enough to be unable to talk while in the middle of one, grinning inanely and trying to pretend everything was dead normal for Frieda's sake.
We kissed and hugged our first baby goodbye, brimful with the knowledge she was completely unaware of, next time we saw her there would be two.

To hospital, contractions close and getting stronger, this much I remembered from last time.

But again, once we got there, the disappointing news that I'd not dilated at all. However this time we knew we wanted to stick it out, and we did.
The next few hours were ... interesting. If I can say that the most uncomfortable experience of my life was also one of the most precious to share with my husband, that I've never been in such pain, but also laughed as much, that I've never been so scared while simultaneously so excited, then I'd be telling a true story, but a weird one.
We worked in 15 minute increments to pass the time until my next examination at 11.30 pm. 15 minutes in the bath, 15 walking, 15 on the labour ball. During contractions I needed to be held, inbetween I wanted to be left the fuck alone. My husband was amazing.
Oy those contractions. The scariest thing about them was the inevitability. With period pains or stomach cramps one sometimes feels one starting, only for it to taper off or not be as bad as you expected. With labour pains the first twinge means it's a-coming, and it's going to be as bad as you anticipate, if not worse.
A rubber mallet swung at full force into your spine while a knife blade is plunged and twisted into your stomach. There's no position you can find to alleviate them, nothing to do but breathe. Breathe and try to find a calm place within the onslaught, relax your shoulders, breathe into the pain. Truer words were never spoken.
And then it stops, and you're totally ok. Like have a chat, have a wine gum, make a joke ok. Crazy shit man.

11.30 pm check up. Nothing happening.
Nothing where it should be that is, plenty was happening outside let me tell you. By now I was losing my sense of humour, spitting wine gums across the room, cursing, whimpering, caught in this thing over which I had no control, no way but forward, no way of knowing what the time-line looked like, the only certainty being we were nowhere near the end.
12.30 am. Nothing happening.
Oh except the vomiting. And the exhaustion. 'Til now I'd been trying new positions for each contraction, trying to stay active in the moment. My husband, my dearest, my light, showing limitless creativity in his suggestions of how we tackle the next one. But now I was done. I couldn't get up, I couldn't spend one more minute on that fucking labour ball, I didn't want a chair, I didn't want a bath, I just. wanted. it. to. stop.
Or start for that matter. Let's move on, let's transition, let's have a frikkin' baby already!

That's when I heard the magic word: epidural. Hallelujah praise baby jesus yes fucking please.


A weird peace. I feel nothing but I'm cold. A distant tremor like a train passing far away, a look on the monitor reveals a massive contraction, my toes tingle.
Husband dozes in a chair, I feel ill, disembodied and, inevitably, guilty. I can see from the baby monitor that my girl is in there, now working alone. She's riding those waves while I watch from the shore.
The nurse comes in and puts another blanket over me. 'Try get some rest,' she says, 'we'll check again at 3. Try get some rest my dear.'

I think I must've dozed off for I wake with a start. And a panic. My legs, totally immobile, are flopped together, I need to move. I need to move my legs. I need to move my legs!
Panic rising in my throat, I put all my energy into keeping my voice steady, calling for my husband. Poor guy wakes, totally disorientated, and by the time he gets over to me to adjust my position the nurse has arrived too.
She examines me and grins. 9 cm dilated! Game on! My heart surges anew with adrenalin and enthusiasm. I'm transitioning, my body's caught up, we're going to have this baby!

But then, an ominous beeping from the monitor - she's in distress.. The nurse calls my doctor. It's 4 am. The four of us, him on the other end of the phone line, wait and watch the monitor. Her heartbeat dips again. Doc says he's coming in and through a haze of emotional overload I realise he's asked the nurse to call in the standby theatre team.
He's there in minutes, examines me himself, checks the monitor readings, gives us the news.
I'm well dilated.
But she's not engaged.
And she's not happy.
And as I've had a c-section before, he thinks it's time to call it quits.
Though I'm sure he didn't actually use that word.

5 am by the time we got up to theatre. The hospital was still and quiet. My long-haired anesthetist joked that he thought he'd sorted us out hours before with the epidural. Then he noted, just for interest sake, that my heart seemed to miss every 4th beat. Funny guy. Not.
But they were a nice team, put us at ease and, as is always the case with c-sections, it felt like mere minutes after being wheeled in that they were passing me a funny, creamy, oh so warm little thing with one wild rolling eye-ball and a deeply suspicious expression.
Apparently I turned to my husband and said, 'Aw let's have another one.'

Nearly 11 months later I most definitely do not want to have another one, but I can still recall the feeling of each moment of that wild, wild night. The pain, the fear, the excitement and of course, the joy.

And now I've finally gotten it written down for prosperity. Sorry y'all!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

16 hour cookies

I never pay any heed to the 'preparation time' given in recipes. It's always bullshit in my experience. Especially when baking. I bake to relax, it's all about the journey.
Which is reason the one why I've not been baking lately, not enough time.

Reason the two involves the extra kilo's I'm still carrying courtesy of young Stella.

Reason the three involves the relative unpleasantness of baking in 30+ degree heat. Not so relaxing.

However despite all the above, I've been achin' to be bakin' (alternative title for this post) and this weekend I overcame these obstacles like so.

Last night after the girls were asleep, while finishing up supper, I weighed out all the ingredients. Much later, post dinner and the final episode of Sons of Anarchy, season one (part of our life quest to find a series as good as The Wire, we're not there yet), I mixed up the two batches of dough and refrigerated overnight.
This morning, I took the dough out to soften first thing, and then tackled the cookies during Stella's morning nap. Resourceful no?

They worked out grand.

They worked out so grand that Frieda went around with the recipe and a cookie exclaiming, 'They look just the same!' Clearly I don't get it right often enough.

Of course in an alternate universe, involving less 3 year old participation, I'd have made them like this ~ checkerboard. Now that'dve been impressive. Maybe one day ...

So I made the time, thoroughly enjoyed the journey, didn't die of heat exhaustion turning the oven on during the day but I fear I confirmed just why I shouldn't be baking right now... when it comes to the eating I have no restraint.
Just one more before bed ...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I hate summer

Also, Africa. I hate it. And Observatory. And being a Grown Up.

3 words: Total Bug Onslaught.

First there were flies.
Granted making fish pie on a hot summer's afternoon was possibly not the best idea, nor was creating a makeshift fly-shield from an upturned colander and a page torn from a magazine, but we wanted, nay needed, a run to the park before supper and what could be better than a late afternoon trip to the park in the knowledge that supper's ready and waiting at home?

Round about then we encountered the spider. You know what else I now hate? Kirstenbosch Gardens.
For if we'd not spent an idyllic 3 hours there the day before, picnicking with guinea fowl in shady spots, walking around collecting acorns and interesting leaves, paddling in a stream while Stella slept in the pram under low-lying branches - if we'd not done that we'd probably not have collected the ENORMOUS RAIN SPIDER I now noticed clinging Cape-Fear-style to the bottom of the pram as we left the house.
The pram which had travelled back from Kirstenbosch in the boot of my car. The pram which had spent the night parked in my hallway. The pram which was now packed to the hilt with hats and toys and had my chubby and delicious baby strapped into it.
(This is the part where I hate being The Grown Up. This is not the first time.)
Staying calm I thought I'd wheel the pram out the front door, then attempt to flick the spider off it (and hopefully far away), all the while being casual and informative about spiders in general for the benefit of my two small children.
Wheel pram out. Lock gate. Look down. Spider gone.
Freak the fuck out.
Stella out the pram, extract essentials (my phone, her yoghurt), wheel pram back inside and go to the park in the car.

Later, tired and hungry, I can't help but feel smug that supper is ready and waiting. It seems so seldom I get it right. Good mother.
I lift the colander and gag. You know the expression 'black with flies'? I get it now. Black. With. Flies.
I give the pie to the dog, and scramble eggs for the girls which we eat in my bedroom on the other side of the house.

But that's not all ...
Seems I also hate small independently owned spice shops. 'Cos if I only ever bought spices and dry goods from corporate giants I bet I wouldn't be facing the highly undesirable task of emptying and fumigating all my kitchen cupboards tomorrow to purge ourselves of the weevils which've suddenly started appearing in our dry goods. Or at least there'd be a Client Services type I could complain to.
'Dear Mr Fargo, the very cheap (but admittedly delicious) breyani rice your brother-in-law helps you import under the radar from Pakistan seems to have given us weevils in our muesli,' is just not going to fly ...

Urgh. Flies.

A quick recap of tomorrow's To Do list then:
1. Buy proper fly net food covering thingie
2. Gingerly unpack pram, shake everything out and investigate all nooks and crannies (remember to pee beforehand)
3. Develop response for very likely scenario in which I don't find spider (example: sell house)
4. Fumigate kitchen and possibly throw away a lot of otherwise fine foodstuffs

So much to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

facebook is so weird ...

My cousins had a baby last night and while there's no way I could accuse them of 'live-birthing' (I've seen some of that shit and it's scary), they did check-in with regular updates on facebook, keeping their combined total of over 1000 'friends' up to date on when her water's broke, how far dilated she was, when they had the epidural and finally The Photo, a scant 25 minutes after the baby was born.

I mean, great for all of us who were interested and eager for the news, but still - weird. Am I the only one who thinks so?

I made a big hoo-ha about taking a break from facebook a while back, and this is not the first time I've questioned the sanity of the medium. I enjoyed my month off but inevitably I got back on, there's just too many people I really enjoy interacting with. I missed them.

The other day I was looking for that setting where you can choose which 'friends' to hear more about on your news feed and which to ignore, but it seems to have gone in the latest of the regular facebook make-overs. (Really spell-check, do you still not accept facebook as a word? Really?)
What I did find was the page where all the gazillion people you could possibly be 'friends' with resides, so I had a brief flip through that. So weird.

There's a couple of people listed there with whom I've 30+ 'friends' in common, yet we've not hooked up. I know them, as in I know of them, some I was at Varsity with etc, but we're not friends (as in the no inverted comma's definition) so I've never thought to send them a 'friend' request. And interestingly if we've that many people in common I must've come up as one of their suggested 'friends', and they've not sent me a request either. I feel like this means we understand each other. Or they've no clue who I am. Either way, I'm more than ok with that.
But there are people there I've 20+ 'friends' in common with and I've definitely never met. So weird.
The majority (both known and unknown) share 5 'friends' with me. There's over a hundred of these. Inherent proof of the 6 degrees of separation theory?

But here's the weirdest. I've had facebook suggest I befriend some of the bloggers I read. (Oh c'mon spell-check - bloggers? Not a word? Hellloooo, it's 2011.)
People I've no 'friends' (or indeed, friends) in common with, never had any interaction with on facebook. I've not searched for them, I assume they've not searched for me, but yet facebook knows to suggest them to me.
That's weird.

Know what else is weird? I'm off to have a shower with a surgical glove taped over my hand.
Sounds way kinkier then it really is.
Stupid wound.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

child abuse

Forgive me for continuing the theme (the theme being: woe is me), but check out the latest in my collection of injuries.

Hmmm, doesn't look as impressive as I'd hoped it is. But observe in the background, the grinning perp.

She has 4 teeth and she knows how to use them. On me. Nobody else mind, just me.
'Cos she's practically weaned but still wants a piece of me?
Or just 'cos I'm delicioussssss?

PS Very difficult to photograph one's own upper arm.
PPS Yes, that is my arm. Not my thigh. I lost weight breast-feeding, but not that much weight.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

the tipping point

Slicing potatoes for creamy potato bake. Baby asleep, Child occupied, Friday evening stretching ahead. Weekend to follow, all was right with the world.

'Til I cut off the top of my little finger.

Slice. Pain. Expletive.

Finger straight into mouth.
Mouth fills up with blood.

In the bathroom I spit, run the cold tap, yelp as water touches the wound.

Trying to avoid looking at my finger I glance up at the mirror and recoil from the ghoulish image of my blood stained mouth. In my mind I'm yelling 'Medic!', the result of (too) many viewings of Band of Brothers, but the reality is it's just me. Me with two small children in the house and as usual what this means is 'shut up and deal bitch.'

Massive wad of cotton wool to try and stop the bleeding. How can a small finger bleed so much?! Awkward one-handed plaster application.
Vigorous kicking of dog as it attempted to lick up blood spatters. I will NOT have my pet so happily consuming a part of me.
Hesitant return to pan of chopped potatoes to find and remove big chunk of skin. I find it! Retch!

Feeling faint. Must.lie.down.

And as much as in the cold light of post-trauma I feel like a wuss for this, I phoned my husband, begged him to come home, just managing to keep a big fat cry at bay.
At the end of a week of back to school, back on antibiotics for a persistent throat infection, back into the swing of real, full time, mostly solo parenting, this little finger on my right left threatened to tip me over the edge.


Sunday, January 16, 2011


When I took the second photo below I'd forgotten about the first. From a series of spontaneous shots I took almost exactly a year ago to try and record the Bump, frame the Bump, get perspective on the Bump.

27 January 2010

That top is still wearable. The frangi-pani's lie again in swathes at the foot of the tree. I'm still taking mediocre spontaneous photos in the reflection of my car's windows.
And she's been out just longer than she was in.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

candy crumbs

It's a good thing my intention with these is to crush them even finer to make real peppermint bark.

And as a dear friend in Canada heeded my call and made the effort to send these to me I'll have to make another batch real soon. It just wouldn't be right otherwise.
I'll stash some for a batch when you're home too my dear - thank you!

PS love the stamps :)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

3/10 things I lovetohate that you do

I don't wear a watch. I stopped years ago when I always used to get excema under the strap, I never have since. I have a clock in most rooms of the house, consciously located so I can glance at the time whenever I need to.
This is my clock in the kitchen.
This is the one I look to when I'm stuck under a child (especially relevant when I was still nursing), stuck stirring a sauce, stuck on the couch with my feet up for 5 seconds.

Leaving my kitchen clock like this is just.not.on.

Even Postman Pat agrees; clear the timer on the microwave old boy! And close the goddamn door!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

deliriously hot ...

... me in my little black sundress. Ha ha, forgive me a moment of wannabe MILF-dom.

Ahem, I digress.

Cape Town is sooooooo HOT!!! 38+ degrees CELSIUS for the second day today!!! Same predicted for tomorrow!!! No wind!!!

Awesomeness. (And totally unapologetic use of CAPS and multiple annoying exclamation marks).
There's a few more.

Snapshots from an idyllic summer:

~ cruising down a highway this morning, thermometer showing 38 degrees, ice-cold aircon blasting, gorgeous soaring opera on the stereo
~ jumping in the pool between appointments, arriving for lunch date a little damp around the edges
~ blissful child-free late lunch with thermometer showing 38 degrees, ice-cold white wine, gorgeous soaring opera in the background, unfolding vista of sunbaked Cape Town stretching around us
~ arriving home a little wine-fuelled, planning to throw together a few things and take kiddies to beach for late afternoon romp, only to have plans dashed by a 3 yr old who didn't 'feel like the beach'. Wtf? I thought that kind of crap only started around 12?
~ throwing self, 3 yr old and baby into the pool instead (Stella's first swim!) and staying there 'til we got all wrinkly
~ supper with husband on back patio, thermometer showing 31 degrees (8pm!), ice-cold bull terrier nose on leg (she was chasing ice cubes round the floor), gorgeous sounds of pool pump throbbing in background (hmph)
~ swimming at 10 pm for the second consecutive night
~ staying up too late packing for dawn run to the beach tomorrow

Can I take a moment for how different I'm feeling about the heat compared to last year?

Monday, January 03, 2011

tasting the love

Dinner tonight was risotto, with wild mushrooms collected by my youngest brother in the forests of Saarsveld.

Mushrooms, garlic, wine, parmesan, risotto, topped with fresh rocket picked from my mother's garden not two hours before.

For dessert, chocolate brownies baked this afternoon by my sister-in-law.

What's noteworthy about this meal is not how incredibly delicious it was (and it was!), nor that it seemed to taste better for it's parts coming to us from those we love. What's worth noting is that that is what was exceptional about it, we knew where the ingredients came from, we know the kitchen in which those brownies were baked.

How is it we can say that about so few of our meals?

Sunday, January 02, 2011


It's really quiet out there today. Been raining all day, gentle summer rain.
The occasional fog horn from the sea, the afternoon call to prayer, but mostly, quiet.

A relief after the relentless wind of the last week, the fanfare of Christmas and NYE. A welcome start to the year. The gift of a quiet summer Sunday.
A pause before it all begins anew.

I've nearly finished breastfeeding. Down to just 2 feeds at night. It's been much easier than I anticipated, I'm equal parts relieved and saddened.
It's such a weird thing nourishing a child from your own body. The umbilical cord gets severed at birth but the bond it began stays so much longer, forever one might argue. But most especially while you're still feeding your baby from yourself, your body working tirelessly to produce that which your child needs to physically thrive.
Chemically there are lactation hormones at work, hormones which make a breastfeeding mother stress less (although some may disagree!) etc, but emotionally there's this strange thing going on. This knowledge that you are the person keeping this other person alive.
Sure anyone could pick up formula from the corner store, your baby wouldn't expire if you did, and you know this, but still you've an emotional involvement, a dedication, which runs deep.
Added to this your scheduling is all around those feeds, every other time-based decision, plan, commitment, has to factor in when and where you'll be doing the next feed.
Add it all together and that's some noisy head-space you got there.

And then you stop, and suddenly there's some quiet. There's a full tin of formula in the kitchen, enough frozen mush in the freezer for a week. There's rice cakes and dried mango and grated cheese aplenty. There are other hands around to administer all the above.
And there's your baby, starting her life-long relationship with FOOD. Experiencing the tastes and textures and mind-blowing array of what's on offer. Learning to work her tongue and jaw, working those gums and (in our case 2) little teeth. Watching her sister and parents eat, learning to recognise smells, colours, shapes. It's huge.

So while she's distracted I step quietly back, and find that my head is quieter too. That there's some space in there quite keen to be filled with other things, some thoughts and feelings whose silhouettes I recognise as they emerge from the fog.
There's some slightly different life to be lived out there, and while I've no illusions it'll be any calmer or less hectic then any other part of my life, for now I'll savour this quiet place from which to view it, and slowly start making some plans to live it.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

bring it

Do you know what's quite fucking rad? Yes, rad.

I have no idea what 2011 has in store. Not a clue.

2007 began filled with anticipation at becoming parents. 2008 found us still in the throes of that life-changing event. 2009 arrived with the certainty that we'd like another one. From the beginning of 2010 we were expecting her any moment.

2011? A blank slate. A new page. A beach with nary a footstep on it.

This is rad.