Thursday, 21 May 2015

The lost generation

Or maybe the lost property generation or the one that is great at loosing things. Or is it just my kids? I get the idea from the overflowing lost property box that maybe children or their parents just do not bother to look for what is lost. On the other hand the Whatsapp groups of the classes most days have a mom looking for some odd item. With the lower grades it's clothing - with the grade 4's its books, handbooks and calculators.

It's like a disease you can not get rid of - it just never stops. In our house it is mostly the two boys that do the damage but A did her fair share in grade 1. Maybe it is also a case of learning a new skill - to keep everything together on your own from grade 1. I very clearly mark every single item with a telephone number too. But it just seems that it does not help.

So far, this year we tally up to:
2 Tracksuit jackets (one found -one never found - to C's credit it was left in his class and disappeared out of it - I deem it stolen)
1 Lunch box - found
1 Lunch cooler bag - never found
1 Judo Gi pant - found by the tuckshop owner
1 Tekkie - found by me this morning
1 Pair of swimming pants  - the whole swimming bag disappeared from the stoep when it was left after school and not taken home - the goggles (amazingly!) and bag was found the next day and brought to the office, the towel a month later in lost property.
And we diligently check that everything comes home from school. I wonder how it goes in households that doesn't check?

Do you have the same issues? Do you think we as kids lost less - is this a "now generation" problem?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

So have you passed grade 4 yet?

Well, I never did. I passed standard 2 though, back in the days and somehow I remember it being quite different than what grade 4 is. Grade 4 is the first year of the intermediary phase of school.

I can not remember that we had exams and tests and prepared quite as hard as our grade 4 seem to. I can remember projects - but simple thing like research and a poster about the Renaissance for instance - not designing and building structures.

I can not remember studying weekends for exams and tests, getting a roster for two weeks pre exam from the school to help you get through all the work. Do you?

We were warned that grade 4 is a BIG jump and I am thankful that our grade 4 seem to take it into her stride - maybe more than me. And that she takes getting good marks very seriously. The au pair and I help her plan, give tests , mark and correct, check summaries but mostly she carries on by herself. Even later into the evening than usual and with dedication that we are proud of. Last night found her doing maths revision in swimming costume at the poolside waiting for her swimming lesson. If you have a full afternoon of drama, ballet and then swimming you learn to plan your time and use those fill in minutes to the maximum. I am not quite sure I would have had the same dedication in standard 2.

But yes, we survived plenty of "do in class" projects where we had to do research at home, send her with information and decorations and the project gets completed in class. I love this because it helps them to work by themselves and gives a more equal footing for marks.

We also survived two projects that were structured with parent help. Survive is the wrong word because both of them had the whole family involved at times and was truly enjoyed by us all. Making things together binds us - a bonus I am not sure the teachers had in mind in the first place. What I am happy to say is that the physical project is half the marks and a project sheet they complete about the project (testing their own knowledge and involvement) counts the other half. So there is a fairness involved. Also it is not always the most perfect or beautiful projects that score the top marks, but those that showed creativity, understanding of the project and attention to details.

To give you an idea of what is waiting for those of you still in the foundation phase of school, may I present:

The Chicken coup: (A model to house 4 chickens - made mostly by dad and A - basic structure made at home but most of it build and completed in class according to the project sheet). It featured feeding tubes into bowls and a hatch to sweep the poop and use as fertilizer. Most of the materials were recycled as requested in the brief - the wood and hardboad were recovered from old bits in the garage the "wire" is plastic veggy bags.

The bridge: Here we had to build at home. We could use the following materials only: Paper, sosatie (kebab) sticks, popsickle sticks, drinking straws, paper, twine and glue. The bridge had to span 30cm and carry 1 kg. They had to use the principle of triangulation and weight transfer as taught in class (this btw I learned as a first year student in architecture!). We designed the concept of the bridge together on these principles which I did refine at the office - I guess most engineer and architect parents would do this. It carried 5 kg and earned all the bonus points it could for carrying extra weight and she then opted out to keep it and not test it until it breaks.

We are preparing for our first set of exams so I am not at all a knowledgeable person in this. But so far - my advice for grade 4:

Studying - help them with planning - it is the most important of it all. And get old tests to practice with.
For projects - keep a well stocked drawer with basic craft materials (it has saved us plenty of times with those do in class projects where they get a day or 2 notice) and buy a glue gun and cable ties.

Most of all - keep your sense of humour and let them work with some independence.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A change is as good as a holiday, they say.

The last week has been extremely stressful. My mom had her second knee replacement operation - with a specially crafted prosthesis made from a 3D scan in Switzerland. Complicated surgery but she came through remarkably well. Friday was especially stressful - between Thursday and Friday I spent more than 2 hours trying to get authorisation for her to move a day early from the hospital to a step down facility. One would think the medical aid would love to save a few rands?

In any event I have also been working myself up about the load shedding situation. I almost lost it at posts about "Lovely things to do with your family during load shedding" because I simply reached the point of no return in anger over the situation. You see, it turned out that our municipality was the only big city not to implement rotational load shedding. I will not go into the fact that some areas (notably Waterkloof with all the embassies) do not even appear on the load shedding schedule . This resulted in us, some weeks having no power between 6-8 every single week night. With us getting home close to 7 o clock for 3 of those nights I just got too much. It was a daily struggle and huge stress for me to feed my family properly. I got such respect for those who do not have the luxury of electricity every day. Never mind trying to check homework and with A heading into her first exams to get some studying done at night.

On Friday though, I reached a turning point. Well things did mostly. At last we got authorisation and I moved my mom to the step down facility. Just after that we got the press release that Tshwane will at last implement rotational load shedding. That is after I was part of a Twitter pest campaign with our Mayor before his State of the City address on Thursday. (BTW we are still awaiting the new schedule for today......lets hope they keep their promise). I really felt as if a huge weight was lifted from me. (edited - new one was published and delight! No 6-8:30 pm in sight!)

When I parked at my hairdresser for my 4:30 appointment I had my mind made up. Off with the long hair. I wanted something short, she suggested a bob at the jawline. I left it in her capable hands. Honestly I left there a new person. I love the way I look - and more important I love the way I feel. I placed a photo on Facebook mostly to thank my hairdresser (I tagged her in it) and to get her more business in the school community - she has only been in Pretoria for a bit more than a year and am busy building her salon clientele. Wow, huge reaction. Up to this morning 52 unique comments - all positive and 136 likes. I do not think I have ever had so much reaction to any post in Facebook. And although this does not make me like it more than I did, there is some happy in that. And Hunter loves it. Without a doubt I look younger and more professional.

The point I guess is that today I feel a lot different than I did Friday morning. For a lot of reasons - including a simple haircut.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A different weekend

I spent this weekend getting to know my daughters friends in a totally different way. I also got to meet en observe some of the boys in her group. And I had the chance to see her amongst her friends - sometimes unknown by her. It's been a blessing and very insightful.

I went on a Voortrekker camp with A this weekend. Failing going into a long discussion about what the Voortrekkers are let's just suffice to say that they strive to build positive citizens with a Christian background with an adventure and outdoor angle. In very simplified terms something like the Scouts but not the same - the goals are possibly similar.

When their leader asked for a parent to join in the weekend she said " live a little, feel young again, give your child a special weekend with you". So we decided I will go. It's been exactly what she promised it will be.

It's really been worth it. They did a "Wildlife recognition " badge - they learned about mammals, birds, reptiles and insects in South Africa and we had many fun activities in the mix. We had a nature walk or 2, they made and set a safe bird trap, we had learning sessions where they studied an animal and presented it to the others in groups. We also cast animal tracks in plaster of Paris and made a bird feeder for the garden. It's been a whole lot of fun.

But without a doubt the best part was having a chance to see her amongst her peers. To observe the interactions and see the kids where they are without the immediate support of their parents. The true colours do come through. I am happy with her choices of friends -more than ever and thankful that we seem to have equipped her with the background to make good decisions. Let's hope this trend continues as they grow older.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Loving at present

Gosh, I see I have not done one of these for ages. You can find some of my old ones through the years at the Loving at present tag. None of the items mentioned, if products has been sponsored in any way. These are just things I am personally enjoying right now.

Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy

I was always part of the school of thought that "any nail polish is a good/crap as the next" and I used to buy whatever cheapies I could get. However - I tried this once, with the top coat (it was on special at Clicks - two colours, get top coat free) and boy, was I wrong. This DOES keep for a minimum of 5 days in perfect condition. I am going to try the topcoat on an ordinary polish too and see how that goes.

The real thing Omega Supreme
After checking prices, quantities of Omega 3 for your rands and quality (claimed) of the product this has to be the best value for money Omega you can buy. Two capsules gives you 1600mg of Omega 3 - at R100 for 60 (I have paid as low as R90 on Kalahari) its about R1,70 per capsule.

Levubu dried guava rolls

I have such fond memories of guava rolls bought at the tuck shop, little bits ripped of and shared. I used these a lot for lunch boxes - they are small mini rolls and cut into 3 with the scissors they pack small and tidy into lunch boxes. We also loved them on our recent trip in the Pilansberg. A great snack. It contains no colourants or preservatives

Bakers Good Morning Breakfast Biscuits

Just a warning - these are delicious and addictive (and not as healthy as they may seem), but they make a wonderful school lunch tin ingredient and emergency breakfast on your way somewhere. Packed in neat little bags - 4 to a portion, they are great.

The stage/age my kids are right now
I am loving the independence, mixed with the love for attention. The hugs mixed with the "I'll walk on my own" - the  help, the songs, the laughs The all.

The weather
The fact that although we are deep into autumn the days are still warm and lovely. It does of course pose the "how to dress" dilemma with the evenings and nights already quite cold.

And this song
Yes, it's Afrikaans - by two great artists. The words are wonderful - but so is the music.
So what are you loving right now? And which of these have you tried?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

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There are times when the news totally freaks me out. Where I get to the point that I can not stand another report - another murder, natural disaster, sick child. A time where even the news of a little Princess' birth will not find me on the news pages.
Times where one get stressed out by things that need to be done - at home, school things for the kids, my mom's pending second knee replacement and others that we love's health. Times where a shutting yourself down for a bit of quiet feel like a good idea but you struggle to find the time for that.

We all have our own ways to deal with this - I have a few.  I go through photos - happy times, beautiful places - knowing these will happen again. I work on Project Life - I find it very relaxing. But more than that - the joy in the simple moments in life. Seeing a beautiful sunset that one of the kids pointed out, feeling little arms hug you from behind in the car, lying on your hubby's shoulder watching whatever is on tv - having tea and a slice of cake you helped L make on Sunday. Rubbing one of the puppies' ears, stroking the top of a little boy head and watching how excited a girl is about her first modern dance or Spanish dance lesson. Hearing a funny little story from school, seeing your son score a try in rugby practice.

Those little things - that mean the world. That makes you realize your happy place is right there in your home with your family, where the horrors of the world are nicely covered with a blanket of love.Where you belong.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Books I read during March/April

Following on a post from Marcia on Saturday I realized that I actually want to do the book reviews maybe a bit too well (its that let go of perfection thing) and that maybe it will be way better to do shorter, easier reviews every month or so rather than just not getting to them.

Up to date I have read less books this year than in the last few years, possibly due to a love for really nice thick books, and sometimes the rather more difficult reads.I am presently reading "Bring up the bodies" (Hilary Mantel) as example. I usually average about 3 books a month but only read two per month for both April and May. But it was 4 really good ones.

"Wake" by Anna Hope
Taking place over 5 days in London in 1920 this books features 3 women and the impact WWI had on them and their loved ones. It also plays on the 3 meanings of the word "wake" - ie a ritual for the dead, to rise/wake in the morning or the aftermath of an event. As the book progress each of these meanings are featured as underlying theme. Great characters and lots of heart I totally love this book and gave it 9/10

Nan&Jeannie by Chanette Paul
A light read - womans fiction in Afrikaans but it had me spellbound all through it (and its not a short read). A great bit of light escapism. I gave it a 7/10

Ikarus by Deon Meyer
Deon Meyer is both my favorite Afrikaans but also my favorite thriller /murder mystery writer so I may be a tad prejudiced. One of his best books to date it is a real page turner with great characters we know and love. Here follows the Afrikaans book review: Ai, wat n genot. Ek tel altyd die maande en dae af tot die volgende Meyer verskyn. Hy is 'n meester storieverteller, wonderlike pa vir uitsonderlike karakters. Wat ek veral in hierdie boek geniet het was die baie verwysings na wat presies tans aangaan - iPhones en vingeridentifikasie, beurtkrag maak sy verskyning en Oscar Pistorius se saak word genoem. Mens voel net vreeslik tuis in die tyd waarin dit afspeel. En dan my gunsteling Meyer karakter - Mbali Kaleni (wat jy dalk gaan onthou as die KFC etende slimpkop enigste swart vrou tussen die Valke) wat Deon Meyer so lekker bevordering gegee het. En sy doen banting en eet nie meer KFC nie - en vertel hoe Prof Tim speckled eggs as gif sien. Heerlike leesgenot. 'n Absolute treffer met 'n wonderlike spanningslyn wat jou tot op die heel laaste bladsy laat raai. 10/10

The Son by Jo Nesbo
Pure Nesbo brilliance! The book had me riveted right to the end. What I loved was that he plays with the readers sympathies all through the book and use revenge as the main theme. This is not a Harry Hole mystery but that did not even matter to me - a great great read. 9/10

So here you have a few reading suggestions. Any from your side?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

We hit the jackpot!

The Pilansberg one.
Yes, we saw a leopard - up close enough so that the kids will never forget it. One hardly ever see leopard  they are shy and very well camouflaged and it is purely a question of luck to find one of these illusive beauties in the park. But this is just the cherry on the top of our greatest camping weekend ever. Yes, Manyane camp is in a slightly dilapidated state at the moment - with one big ablution block undergoing renovations we hope this will get better. What is really lacking is proper animal proof garbage bins because the monkeys and baboons are causing havoc in camp - lifting lids and littering everywhere. The restaurant though still makes great food, the pool is in tip op condition and the playground great fun. We had the greatest weekend. Our kids are now at the age where they actually help pitching and breaking camp and that their contribution really helps. It makes the whole experience so much better.

There were heaps of bike rides - one of the great pluses of a camping weekend. Swimming, playing cricket and rugby and playing around with other kids -just plain fun. And then there was the game viewing. Boy, we had wonderful sights and even better than that - we had children that not only enjoyed seeing the animals but actively participated in spotting animals and enjoying the whole experience. It was just a golden weekend - and one we were in great need of. Pure relaxation, family time and lots of love.

But - let me show you some of the sights we saw.

I am keeping some of the beautiful nature shots to use in future posts - but here's one I want to share now. Late afternoon sun, just after a rain shower.
So how was your long weekend?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Yesterday morning was one of those great mornings

10 minutes before the time we usually leave for school we had bags packed, teeth brushed, hair done, omegas taken, dogs fed, contact lenses in. Maybe the time saving margin was just too great.

Wednesdays are busy days in our household - so we have 3 school bags, two judo bags, one music bag, my handbag, work bag and little cooler bag that need to get into the car. We also had 3 bags of too small shoes to take for charity for barefoot day. So I send out the kids with bags to pack into the car while I discuss the lunch food with Lucy.

We leave the house 5 minutes early. We chat about all sorts of things. L discuss his newest obsession - where our allegiance lie withing rugby teams. What if Ireland played England - who do we support. And so forth. C reminds me that although we found out what Poytr Tchaikovsky's name was we forgot to listen to his music (one of our little general knowledge items that popped up last week. A discuss the music playing on the radio and plans to build a model bridge for a project. Lots of talking.

We get to the school just about the usual time - it only takes us about 8 minutes to get to school. Stop, apply body lotion to legs (we roll like that - they all hate it but I sort of force them in the car), leisurely open the back door of the car. Start loading bags......just to notice we are one school bag short! Jip, Mr L's school bag, in all this abundance of time, was left behind. Meanwhile my phone rings - Lucy to inform me about said bag. Sigh! So I send the kids in, assure Mr L I will bring his bag and drive back home. As I step through the gate at the school, bag in hand, the last notes of the National anthem plays .... gosh, in time! Just in time. And I thought we were early this morning?