Friday 29 May 2015

For the love of music

We have exposed our kids from very young to all types of music - to Hunters' favorite hard rock music, the 80's music we both love and enjoyed as teens, to new music, to classical music, to jazz. Actually we may have gone a bit light on what could traditionally be called childrens music. We also listen mostly to Classic FM in the car, interspersed by one of 4 local radio stations with popular music. As a result their taste in music varies and I actually should more regularly document what they like.

The Princess knew every single word of almost any ABBA song as a toddler - she was the biggest Dancing Queen around. She was so cute - singling out loud, dancing around. Adele and Pink are also favorites. At a stage Mr L's favorite song was Aerosmith's "Jamie's got a gun" and C used to love "Thunder" by AC/DC. But A at a stage was constantly listening to Vivaldi's "Four seasons" in her room and Mr C has a love for Michael Bubles' music. Mr L is a big Simon and Garfunkel fan and "Call me Al" and "Mrs Robinson"are still a huge favorites.

So the current favorites for your entertainment are:
Mr L: "Shangri-la" by Die Heuwels Fantasties (Afrikaans and local) He is constantly singing this, day and night
Mr C : "Sing" by Ed Sheeran
Miss A: Cinnamon by Jacques Terre'Blanche (also local although it really does not sound local - has a distinct George Michael type feel to it)

You can listen to it here on Soundcloud

Enjoy their choice! And what are you or your family listening to right now?

Thursday 28 May 2015

The Pancake Saga

I don't want to talk fund raising and if it is needed - I think we all know it is and all get irritated by it at times. I know it is a very contentious issue. I do however want to talk about different approaches. I stood amazed the last two days on the different ways two grade groups chose to approach the exact same issue. I can not tell you right now exactly how it will work on the day but we can have a little look back after the event.
Image credit

For the background, our school hosts the second biggest Bull*etjie rugby event every year - second only to the Loftus event organised by Blue Bu*lls rugby. This year over 2000 boys between grade 0/6 and 0/8 has been entered for the event. It is a huge fund raiser for the schools' sports fund as every grade hosts a stall . Pancakes has always been the domain of the grade group that left the school last year - and this year due to the popularity of the stall both grade 1 and 2 was made responsible for it. There will be two stalls next to each other selling the same product for the same price. This does make sense - ask any South African where the longest queue will be at the church bazaar or sports meet . It's always at the pancake stall.

Each of the two grades have to be responsible for 1800 pancakes!  A daunting number. The grade 2 mom in charge of the Bull*etjie admin is a master pancake baker and immediately took a day leave at work to start baking of Friday. She put out what she needs in terms of ingredients and equipment on the Whatsapp group - with a call for help to bake. Within less than 15 minutes every item was offered as donation. In fact, a lot of people were so disappointed that they could not help that she redistributed the ingredients the following day. For instance we offered 90 eggs - in the end we need to donate 30.

The grade 1 mom in charge asked around the moms on Monday night and in general the question was if we could buy pancakes and still sell at a profit. There was no mom to say that she has done it before and the task seemed huge. So she went ahead and did what the moms asked - called a tuisnywerheid (home industry) and got a cost. She then calculated that each family has to contribute R180 to buy and then sell again. The profit would be R2 per pancake. All she did was do what they asked for. Huge lash out from the moms. (I have to admit that thinking you will be paying this and still have to work and sell was not no 1 on my list, but I may have been ok with it). So a quick meeting at practice last night and lo and behold another mom stood up and said she will organise it and follow the same approach to see who can donate what. A lot of mom also offered to bake ahead of the time to have some ready on the day. Last night at 9 she put it out to the 13 (of 33 moms) that was at the meeting last night. And guess what, this morning before 9 all but 15 kg of flour was offered. Once she now has the other moms on the Whatsapp group she will put out the ingredients again and we may also be able to reduce the amounts that has already been offered. We still need a lot of bakers and equipment but I am sure that will also come.

I guess the logic is that your approach is what is critical. Parents may rather buy R100 of goods, offer some help and know a clean profit is made than donating R180 with the knowledge that we are paying someone else to make money from us to donate more to the school. If that makes sense. I have offered to bake for them , and so had Hunter. I am sure we are going to work hard that day but there is always some good in knowing that you did your part. I will follow up after the event. WE amy all learn something out of this.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

With marked irritation in his voice....

Mr  L told me that he hated having to explain why he does not wear glasses anymore. Apparently most 7 year olds find the concept of contact lenses very odd and the look of their friend that was always wearing glasses also slightly weird without them.

But it has been almost 6 months of him wearing contact lenses. It has truly changed his world! He just functions so much better in any circumstance with the lens than with his glasses. I keep thinking how much easier his life, with all his challenges would have been if he did not have the eyesight problem mixed into everything else. Everything from concentration and school work to his game of rugby or judo has improved at leaps and bounds. I can not be happier for him.

We have reached a big milestone today - and I am not sure how many of you will even understand it. He wore a monthly contact lens for a whole month! In his first month and a bit he wore daily lenses - and expensive option but the best place to start. From the middle of January he has been using monthly lenses -meant to keep for a month. We have gone through 7 lenses in 4 months - one only kept for a day before he lost it. One tore after a week. It's been a tad costly. But this month he made it - kept one for a whole month!

In the meantime, from a parent perspective I can tell you that many many days it would have been way easier to just use glasses. It takes time and patience to get that lens in . Some mornings it's first time lucky - others you need a few tries with. Hunter very easily also learnt how to help L. But for us, that can see the difference it's made, there is no other option. Glasses are now reduced to sometimes Sundays to rest his eye or late in the day after homework(it does get red and irritated at times - he is only 7 and no matter how you stress it, he does rub his eyes with dirty hands).

To think, 6 months ago I knew nothing about contact lenses. Now we are all well versed veterans, including the 7 year old

If you want to know more about his sight issues and why glasses do not work - read here: bright eyes

Tuesday 26 May 2015

The story of the white tekkies*

* Tekkie in South African meaning trainers, running shoes etc.

Some of you may know that our school has a "no shoes" policy in summer for grade 1 and 2 - in fact a lot of kids just never wear shoes in summer until about grade 6 or 7.  Winter shoes are white tekkies (or predominantly white) with tracksuits - a very comfortable and warm option. We have always bought the kids either good quality tekkies or then Mr Price Sport has nice solid white ones for a good price. When A was in grade 1 most tekkies in Sportsmans warehouse were mostly white - they could have a colour stripe here or there, but they were white. Nowaday tekkies are grey or black with colours - not white. We have also bought tekkies relatively early in the year every year and has for the last found the Mr Price ones with no problem. For Mr C we bought a pair of white court shoes as he plays tennis that served for his school shoes too.

So I discovered a few weeks ago that Mr C was wearing his sister's too small tekkies. Turns out he has outgrown his ones but discovered that her old ones fit comfortably and just wore them without pointing it out to me. This is all great and dandy as I love that we are able to pass some items down, apart that one of the seams on the top of the right hand shoe is loose and actually looks a tad, well, handed down too much. So the search started for white tekkies.

We had a bit of bad luck on our side - too busy weekend days and such. One Sunday afternoon they closed the door in front of our noses - just too late. After 3 branches of Mr Price sport, 3 branches of Woolworths (that also stock white tekkies with laces - yes, the velcro is out if they play tennis) , 2 branches of tekkie town and 1 branch of Sportsmans warehouse (I refuse to pay R700 for tekkies he will outgrow in a year) I had it. I even tried to buy a pair online from Mr Price Sport to no result - they did not have no1 online. I could have bought hundreds of grey or coloured tekkies, even black - but nope, no white. I could even have bought several pairs of white ones with velcro.  Or the pair of two left feet no 1 white tekkies at Mr Price sport Atterbury. But none would have worked for the school.

After a search of weeks (I am not kidding) and mr C wearing his sisters' old tekkies I almost kissed a salesman at Sportsmans warehouse when he found me (and another mom from our school I bumped into) one size 1 and one size 2 Hi tech court shoes for a good R180 more expensive than the Mr Price ones. But shoes we have. And Mr C had to take the no 2 as her daughters' feet were smaller.

I know that a lot of schools have the same shoe policy for winter - mostly white tekkies. Now why oh why do they not stock more white tekkies if this is an issue for all. The other mom had the same story I have and according to the moms at school everyone has a problem with this. Certainly if there is a market one would think the retailers would notice? If beginning of May no white tekkies with laces can be found it surely is an indication. From now on my kids will get new school tekkies in March if there is even the slightest possibility that you  will outgrown them before the winter is over. I am NOT doing this again, ever. Mom has spoken!

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?