Thursday, 31 July 2014

Books, again. This time for the kids.

The lovely people at Butterfly products sent us 4 lovely books to review. We love to review things but most of all we love books. We read them at home and then I went ahead and sent the books onto the respective teachers - grade 3 (Times table), grade 1 (Adding up and Taking away) and grade 0 (In the Beginning).
 The first 3 books all work on the same principle - the sum in printed with a ? in the window. I gave the kids a sheet of paper folded in the length on which they wrote their answers. They then pulled down the tab to reveal the answers. They really enjoyed working this way. Both teachers agreed that this was a wonderful tool to reinforce these mathematics basics and added that it would especially help those kids that may not enjoy reviewing the work in the normal way.
 The most popular book however was the wonderfully illustrated " In the beginning" Before I could send it on to school the kids actually had a fight about who gets to take it to read in bed at night. So it took 3 nights before we could part with it for a day or 2.

What I loved about it was that it gives the most popular stories in Genesis each enough space to tell it well enough - other than most children's Bibles that tell these stories very briefly. For instance the story about Noah and the Ark is told over 4 double pages in 4 episodes.

The teacher was totally swept away by the children's enthusiasm for the beautiful illustrations. She mentioned that they all loved it and asked to look at it again and again. She also loved the length of each story saying that it was ideal for that level of school - long enough but not too long.

Below is my favourite illustration from the book (Wonderful World) and Mr L our grade 0's favourite (A Brand new Start) to show just how beautiful they are.

Butterfly books are sold at Makro, Pick n Pay and Dischem and at various mall retailers.

Disclaimer - we were sent the books by Butterfly products to review and keep.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

I am having a day

One where I simply can not concentrate. I touch one thing , leave it and take another on the side. To two minutes later jump on Facebook for some reason? Then the phone rings and I forget I had a payment page open. Ugh! I am sure that I have some inkling today of what L must feel like if his meds wear off.

It is as if the heaps of things that are happening in our lives have reached boiling point inside me today. As if the stress of sick grandparents, insurance stuff and the worry about getting L into the right school (to just touch the surface) is just at a point where my brain cuts off and does all kind of funny.

Therefore before I sit, tidy my desk and make a new to do list (my usual way to gear my brain into action) I am going to self medicate towards positive thoughts by doing a bit of gratitude journalling. Last night as we sat around the dining room table Hunter urged us to share one thing that was great about the day. Boy, I really had to think long and hard to find one. I intend to change this - to focus more on the positive - it's the small stuff that makes us happy after all. (Yes I am always thankful for my wonderful hubby and kids, house etc - this is more the little things that add to that)

So right now I am thankful for:
  1. My new green mug that fits my new office paint colours. It just makes me happy
  2. The police calling and ensuring that they are actually doing something about my camera theft
  3. Leftovers from last night for lunch waiting in the fridge
  4. A book to read and a bench in the garden to sit outside -I am so going to take my lunchtime break today in the office garden. It;s one of those gorgeous sunny winter days.
  5. That Saturday's hockey tournament was cancelled - yes, I think I am allowed to say that - the girls are a bit sad about it but it does make our day way easier.
  6. Did I mention before that I am going to learn how to crochet at Saturday's chess tournament? I am so excited. I really want to learn
  7. An easy morning and early and quick drop off at school
May your day be filled with little joys too.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

I don't really want to talk about it but not mentioning it will make it the elephant in the room

My camera was stolen - on Saturday, at our school from right under our noses. At our own school's annual chess tournament. And as the very kind policeman that took my statement mentioned - it is someone that was not out of place. That was watching our every move. That chose the one moment that our attention was not right there to grab my camera with kit lens and my zoom lens and just melted into the crowd again. Let's be honest, it is quite possibly a parent. With over 200 kids competing there are lots of parents from everywhere.

I am angry - not just about losing my camera but about losing some lovely photos I took that day. I am angry that somewhere that you feel safe and happy you are violated like this. I feel angry that it was "one of us" that felt they had the right to take from me. I am just angry.

(Yes, the items are insured - am awaiting feedback)

Friday, 25 July 2014

Let's talk famly culture

As per Wikipwdia:

Family tradition, also called Family culture, is defined as aggregate of attitudes, ideas and ideals, and environment, which a person inherits from his/her parents and ancestors.

As parents we can of course choose to continue those we grew up with, or reshape or totally change to make our own for our little family. Some of course comes with generations - one of my friends grew up in a family of famous rowers - recently 4 members completed the Berg river canoe marathon - and some were married into the family and not born into it. It's their tradition. It comes natural. Hand in hand goes values - what the culture is often also encompass the values of the family to some extend.

That's why it made me so totally happy when the 3 kids eagerly joined in for a walk on the farm on what is arguably the coldest day of the year. We had a hike in 5 degrees C and they all enjoyed it so much. All dressed warmly with beanies and scarves - but walking and running with joy. Discovering little finds in nature along the way - learning about rocks, feathers and anthills. I am not even talking about the puppies - Rufus was totally out of his skin to have so much space to run around in. Later the week we saw it again - kids splashing in the water in icy weather - hiking over Sardinia bay's dunes with wind howling. And if you ask them if they want to do it again, the enthusiasm blows me away.

I love that our kids love nature, are not scared to exercise, have guts and determination to push through and enjoy it all in the process. Because that is the culture we worked towards - love for nature, love for God, being inquisitive and learn and doing our best while enjoying life.

And while what we choose and what you may choose differ I think it's important to at least have a thought about this and about what these values or the culture may install in our children.

So have you ever thought about this and what's your family culture?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

There are times...

When I just can not face the news. Where I steer away from newspapers, news 24 on Facebook or anything else. Like now - actually the last month or so.

Truly the last few weeks totally got to me. Hundreds of innocent people shot down incidentally in a crazy war - none even related to the parties involved in the war. Mostly Australians and Dutch on vacation and at least 6 top AIDS researchers. What a loss. The photograph of a colouring book in a kiddies suitcase tugged my heart. And one wonders what this have to say about another missing plane?

Court cases that are somewhere in the process - a boy brutally killed his family, another shot his girlfriend. Families torn with no solution or winners to either side of it.

The same as an old wars continues in the middles East with more and more loss of life. Will it ever end.

And then the worst of it - the rotten bad cherry on the top - children suffering. Parents abusing their children in the worst ways possible, children hijacked or abducted. The suffering of a little boy and his parents after being dragged behind their hijacked car. I think this is the one that just grabs my heart, and that of most South Africans right now.

Times where I merely pray that God have mercy on his people. And heal the land (the world) specifically the hearts of that grieving family - and so many other grieving families all over the world.

Edited to add: Read this heart aching but wonderfully worded statement from the parents of the Maslin kids from the Air Malaysia disaster: here

Friday, 18 July 2014

Port Elizabeth for kids

 Disclaimer - I know plenty of Eastern Cape peeps know way more about PE and way better places - this is just our personal experience on cold winter week)

As my in-laws live in Port Elizabeth we have spent plenty of holidays there through the years. PE is known as both the windy and the friendly city, both for obvious reasons. It's not the greatest weather city in South Africa. We have however never spent a holiday there with kids in tow in mid winter and possibly in the coldest week of the year to boot. Cold weather, wind and some rain was the package we had - with bits of sunshine in between. So what do you do with kids in PE if the weather is not actually beach weather? I have 10 great things we did last week:

1. Visit Schoenmakerskop.
Schoenies as it is generally known is a little village on the edge of Port Elizabeth and a favorite haunt of ours. It features plenty of great little rock pools for little explorers with great nature finds one can photograph and put back to find another day. It also features a little protected from the wind beach (obviously depending on wind direction) with a bay for some shallow swimming for kids. Even when the wind howls it may be the most windless bit of beach joy you can find. On Monday, and icy and windy day we saw whales off the common green.

In addition it also features a copy of the biggest cannon found on the shipwreck of the Sacramento and kids can climb on it and play around. (The original is at Bayworld). The little Sacramento restaurant on the main street is great for milkshakes and much more. There are plenty of interesting Schoenies history inside it - go and have a look (also in the bar area).

2. Have the best Brownies ever at Grass Roof Farm stall and coffee shop. 

This is a relatively newish PE addition. To get there follow the Seaview road out of PE and you will see the very obvious grass roof at the Sardinia bay turn off. The farm stall has heaps of great take home eats - we bought ciabatta and meringues - both great. The best however is the coffee shop - I had a great lunch there in December and this time around we had the best brownies we have ever tasted. Also great milo in huge cups, good Americano and the kids loved their milkshakes. There is a large lawn area with some play equipment (sporting a grass roof too and old tractor) but we were there in icy winds and light rain. The fire place was cozy and comfy and we spent a good while there.

3. Visit SAMREC - The SA Marine bird rehabilitation and education centre.
This was possibly the one item that we all enjoyed the most - young and old. Every group that arrives get taken through the small centre by their own guide that adapts according to the group. The kids loved the "Please touch" room where they could touch and feel and learn about the sea and sea life. You also get a chance to see how and where the penguins and other seabirds are washed and cleaned and a look into the hospital. Make sure of the feeding times to make the most of your experience.

4. Do a family photoshoot on the beach
In general photographers are very busy in December and also planning their own summer holidays. The sun is harsh and beaches are busy. Off season is a great time to do a golden hour photo shoot on the beach. The afternoon ours were was cool and breezy and I have not seen any pictures yet but am hoping that they will be great and if they are I will give you her details. We had an almost deserted beach and lots of space to work in and it was easy to find a well know photographer as it's "off season" for them. See below the backdrop for our shoot.

5. If it is pouring outside, go play at Funky Frogs
The Wednesday of our visit it was pouring with rain and cold. By the afternoon we had 3 slightly grumpy kids and made our way to Moffett on Main for an hour of play. It's great for the little ones but A was at 9 too old to play. Thankfully she can keep herself busy with a book and we did some shopping and had something hot at a little cafe just outside Funky Frog. You can also leave the kids there and do your shopping.

6. Have coffee, breakfast or lunch at the Pink Fig
This place is a total paradise for children. I guess mine would have gladly spent a whole day there. Filled with old fashioned children's favorites like rope swings, tires, pedal cars and much much more the food is great too (and well priced). There is no admission fee and the kids can play and play. And you can sit in the sun and have a great chat or read a book. It feels as if you are far out on a farm while you are actually in the city. Buy some biscuits to take home (the variety pack for R30 was plenty and very tasty) and come back again and again. Be warned though that this is mostly an outdoor venue and not open when the weather does not allow it.

7. Have lunch at a PE institution and maybe build a sandcastle.
Something Good roadhouse has been in PE for years and has a while ago been relaunched with a slightly more trendy flavour. It features great great burgers and plenty other very good food as well as a jungle gym and jumping castle for the kids outside (weather permitting). While there if not raining, why not build a sandcastle or do some sand doodles like we did on Pollock beach - one of PE's gems.We were there on a cold and windy day, dressed warmly and still had much fun on the beach. We warmed up at Something Good with their courtesy blankets, gas heaters and babychinos. They also make great coffee and great french fries . And real old fashioned batter onion rings.

8. Our favorite beach in the world, Sardinia bay never disappoints.
Even on cold and windy day we had a great walk with the puppies, some of us even had a swim. If you are lucky you will see some of the horses passing for an outride. And after you scale that huge dune back to the parking lot you have some of the world's best hot chocolate at Gunter's wurstwagen. We are never sure if it is actually so good and if the setting and the swim and walk before hand had a say in it. He has been at Saards for 23 years and now in off season only on weekends.He also has crisp and golden french fries and an assortment of continental hot dog style treats.
9. Nostalgia in loads at Second time around

Second time around is a big shed with antiques and all sorts of other bric and brac from years gone by. The kids loved to see the old toys and if they are old enough to know when to touch or not this is worth a visit. They also loved the shop cats lounging everywhere.

10. Visit Bayworld Museum and snake park.
We spent a delightful afternoon in very cold and windy weather seeing every nook and cranny of the Museum. We also saw the seal show at 3 pm. A lot of locals will warn you that it's not worth a visit because the dolphins are not there anymore and the tropical house is closed. It did not matter one bit to my kids. They were not expecting dolphins and loved the seals and penguins. The musuem has a great variety from lifelike dinosaurs (Mr C's favorite) to cannons and model ships (Mr L's favorite) to birds, sea shells and even clothing and old cameras (The Princess' favorite apart from the Kelpy the seal - her most favorite of the day). It may be smaller than your local museum, but its different and it's regional and was hugely enjoyed by us all.

Have you been to any of these or which do you want to go to?

Monday, 14 July 2014

We have just returned

from a wonderful week and a bit long holiday. We drove down to Port Elizabeth (Via Bethulie in die Free state for a sleepover) to visit H's parents.

We spent a fantastic time with the grandparents and the kids adored all the time they had with them. The weather of course was nothing to talk about - it was countrywide one of the most miserable weeks this year. But we made the most of it and had a lot of fun.

We also took our new doggy brother R for his first trip with us and we think what must be his first visit to the sea. Boy did he have fun. And it went very well for a doggy on his first long distance rip.

I will write more later this week, but for now I am never going to catch up reading all your blog posts and I do hope all is well in your world.

Leaving you with some shots of beauty we encountered during this time.
Sweeping shapes

Lovely colours and textures

Found a heart

And another
The view from Something good on Friday afternoon lunch time.
 So which photo is your favorite and how are you doing?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

When ballet and rugby mom gets to be chess mom

No, we will not talk about trying to pay etoll accounts to get the reduction yesterday. About a service centre being off line for 4 hours and heaps of angry aggressive people. We can however talk about the kind lady (Monica) at the etoll kiosk that helped me on my iPad to register and when I could not get in to the VPC centre gave me the number to call directly. Half an hour on the phone but done and dusted with a friendly and kind voice on the other side. My own fault I know but we all lived in the hope that we would never have to pay it - giving me a saving of more than R600 did get me to pay ours though.

No, lets talk about extra murals again. When we asked Mr C in the beginning of the year what he wanted to do his very first request was chess, followed by tennis. Our school has a wonderful addition to the usual school curriculum - one hour of chess per week in class as part of your school fees from grade R to grade 3. Therefore all the kids learn how to play chess and solve the problems. Some just love it and then want to take it as an extra mural too.

Due to the rugby the first part of the year, Mr C and the other boys have not been able to play in one of the chess tournaments up to now . A chess tournament takes up a whole day - well at least the best part of it. And you play all your rounds - there's no slipping away somewhere else to do something else.

So on Saturday morning I left with our very own very excited little Gary Kasparov to attend his first tournament. Boy was I unprepared! We get to the school and the quad at the hall and there the parents are literally camped out - chairs, tables, cooler boxes, blankets and flasks of hot stuff. And chess sets everywhere. Because even if you do not play right now, you play outside for entertainment. It was cold and icy and a few drops even fell here and there.Thank goodness that we have a whole group playing for the school and the parents formed a very companionable group to which we were called the moment a mom spotted us. Another mom had an extra chair for me and the tuck shop supplied endless hot chocolate. Somewhere I slipped away to the closest Woollies food for reinforcements . Next time I will be more prepared for all this.

But what a nice group of parents! And because the school has a lot of kids playing the chess coach was there as well - supporting the little ones. There were 6 grade 1's competing on Saturday (and two other on holiday).  The camaraderie between the kids and the parents were fantastic. In fact, one of the moms has offered crochet classes at the next tournament! I will be there with my no 3,5 needle and double ply wool to make a bucket list item reality.
The very serious world of chess at grade 1 level

What was also an eye opener was how very serious all this gets taken. There was another grade 1 player where the organizers had to ask the parents to leave the hall! They were standing behind him, making low noises at every move and basically intimidating the opponent. There were also kids doing the "chess mate in 5 moves" trick - as our coach says - they will get away with it in grade 1 but after that they will be caught out and never got the experience of a good game played. Some kids tried to enforce the time rule (not applicable on this level) but C bravely stood his ground and said no when confronted with this. She then promptly told him she was going to win as she is the reigning no 1. I love that he gave her a great game and was not intimidated at all, even getting through with a pawn and claiming his queen back.  Wow, that they do all this for the benefit of getting the best ranking and winning the tournament. Chess seem to be a very serious and competitive business. Of course winning is important and I hear that the top players are battling it out for ranking for Northern Gauteng presentation but seriously at 6 the experience and joy of it is so much more important!

What will stay with me forever is the total joy on Mr C's face! He loved every moment - even his losses. What I also love is that this seem to be the trend in our school's players - they will run out of the hall, big smile, and then lost or drew (or won). The smile is plus minus the same - the joy of the game well played. And they were all so very very happy that one of their group won one of the money prizes.

Mr C did well for a first time competitor and ended middle of the field. Some of the kids have played 5 tournaments this year and he stood his ground. I am very proud of him - not only for doing well but for enjoying it too.