Friday, September 26, 2008

A sense of home

I grew up in a wonderfully unusual manner which involved not only moving house and school, but also moving country every couple of years. This means that, while still at home, I lived in 4 countries (Zimbabwe, Spain, Argentina and South Africa), on 3 continents (Africa, Europe, South America) and went to 2 primary schools and 3 senior schools. Since leaving home I have lived in a further 3 countries (England, America and South Africa) once again on 3 different continents (I'll let you work that one out). No, we are not evading the long arm of the law or dodging taxes, my parents are teachers, well they were then, they are now much more than that, and we moved from international school to international school. Where am I going with this?

Ah yes.

I feel a little flighty. I can list the myriad advantages to living this kind of lifestyle, to being exposed first hand to the many and varied cultures, languages, viewpoints and cuisines, to having a narrow child's mind opened up to the wonders of the world, learning far more than school could ever teach, I could go on. What I don't seem to have is deep roots. I am still trying to decide if I mind this very much. The world is continually changing and therefore seems to me a great place to venture out into. What I want to know is whether or not I will ever really feel rooted in one place. Will my children have a base they call home, where they store their treasured memories until they have a home of their own? Is it important? Will 'home' be where ever we are or where ever they are? Home for me now is where I am with Sean, Shannon and Jordan. When I go to my parents (in which ever country they are at the time) the accessories are always the same. Those familiar things plus the presence of my Mum and Dad also feel like home. Perhaps 'home' is a state of mind?

I was chatting about this with a friend recently and this was the perspective I got: She is surrounded by 3 generations of her immediate family; parents, brother and sister, husband, her own children and her nephews. All in one province in South Africa. That is roots. She feels inclined to stay put. Our families, both mine and Sean's, are a little less sure footed than that - or perhaps more sure footed and therefore more likely to travel. We are strewn across the following countries:

Turkey - My Geriatric Gappers
Spain - Sean's parents
England - My sister, brother-in-law, niece, sister-in-law and nephew, uncles, aunts and cousins
Australia - My other sister plus various cousins
New Zealand - A cousin
The High Seas - Sean's aunt and uncle who are currently trying to decide where to settle
Zimbabwe - A multitude of aunts, uncles and cousins
South Africa - My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, 2 nieces a nephew, various aunts, uncles and cousins and, of course, my hubby, myself and 2 adorable children

This makes the world a fairly small place. We are mostly all in touch to one degree or another and so the distances between us blur a little. I do not feel inclined to stay put. There is the crime factor that sends me into a frenzy of Moving On, but that does slip to the back of my mind and I love my life. But I still don't feel rooted here.

I wonder if the next place will be the last stop? I wonder if Shannon and Jordan will feel inclined to travel the world as I have. I hope so. I hope they always come home and tell me about it afterward. Where ever that may be. After some consideration I think I like the big world to be a small place that I can wonder through without fearing it. But I will put down roots. Somewhere. Sometime.

Monday, September 22, 2008

More magic moments!

Shannon has learnt the art of Storming Off in a Huff. I am not sure where she picked it up from but when she does it it always makes me giggle. I can't help it. I try not to let her hear as I am well aware that it is very important to validate her feelings. I know I am supposed to let her know that it is OK to be cross, and to teach her how to process those feelings in a socially acceptable way. But it's cute. I can picture the teenage Shannon in 10 years time reading this and being cross with me for not taking her seriously. Sorry hun, I do, but it's too precious.

The other day Shannon had Stormed Off in a Huff and then slowly worked her way back to the living room in order to be closer to her favourite spot in the centre of attention. She had her back to me, sitting on the floor with her head in her arms, resting against the couch. I continued pretending to read a magazine while watching her intently.

After a while she sat up with a look of wonder in her eyes and said: "Do you know what we saw at school, Mommy?" "What did you see at school?" I inquired calmly. "A grasshopper!" she exclaimed. "What colour was it?" I asked. "Brown," said she "but I'm still angry!" After a second of glaring at me she returned to her position of huff and that was that.

It was a magic moment!

Here's another one:

There is a couple in our community who are both very tall. The gentleman must be over seven foot tall and his wife is by no means towered over by him. They are an elderly couple and so, luckily have many years experience of dealing with people looking at them in wonder. I am sure they have seen this before:

Sean, Shannon, Jordan and I were heading into a shop which this couple were coming out of. Shannon, as normal for small children, was not looking where she was going. At the last minute she turned round, looked up and said "Wow!!!" in a loud, surprised voice as she saw them in front of her. It was such an instinctive reaction that could never be re-enacted with such awe. All the other people going in and out of the shop, including the lofty couple, heard her and laughed. As one chap said, they're tall to us, imagine how tall they must be to her. Through the eyes and out of the mouth of my child! Oh to be 4 again, just to remember!

Friday, September 19, 2008


Or is that ageless?

Obviously there is something in the water in South Africa that makes people see things through rose tinted glasses. No I am not talking about the people who think that a certain un-nameable politician will not change the constitution to suit his cause when they give him power without asking this 'democratic' country if we mind. I am talking about me. It's my birthday so I am allowed to be a little self indulged, and you can just put up with it for today.

Apparently I am ageless. I am 31 today and, in fact, fairly pleased about that. But I am pleased about something else too.

Yesterday Dorcas, my maid, asked me how old I would be on my birthday. She was shocked and horrified when I told her proudly that I would be 31. No way, said she. I look 19!!!!! NINETEEN!!! Did you get that? With a four year old child, hmm.

This is not an isolated incident.

Our neighbour came over the other day to ask if we minded her chopping down some trees that were blocking her sun and, in fact, obscuring our view of the ocean(Yes, we live 30km from it but we can still see it, framing Durban with its deep blue!). No, I didn't mind one bit. She started talking about the children. She is a little highly strung and nervous about joining the elite club of motherhood. She said I was brave to have my kids so young. I said yes, I wanted them both before I was 30 and I just made it. Her jaw dropped and she confessed to thinking that I was about 22.

So either they need their eyes tested, they weren't close enough or I still haven't mastered Being a Grown Up. Either way, I hope this trend continues so that, to others (I can see the wrinkles when I look in the mirror!), I always look 10years younger than I am.

Now, where's that mud pack?

The Black Box

Try it... and if it brought you here, I would love you to leave a comment!

It sent me here

Well.... it sent me there first. Since then I have been all over everywhere. Except to my desk where revision awaits me. Oh curse the Black Box addiction... until no one's watching, then I'll be back!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't miss the magic!!

I have been (fairly) obsessed with the development of my little boy, very much as I was with Shannon when she was going through the stages of learning to roll over, sit, crawl and pull herself up. I monitored her growth and weight gain, when she got her first tooth, how long her hair was (or wasn't). I am in the same mode now with Jordan. And he is coming along nicely. He crawls, rolls over, sits, eats solid food, plays by himself and alongside his sister, pulls himself up on the furniture and has two bright, white teeth. I check his developmental milestones weekly, make sure he is keeping up and doing all the things he is meant to. Shannon has milestones too. I haven't checked for a long time what should be happening with her. What did I expect? She has mastered all the major baby ones so that's it? She has not finished developing yet so...

...I looked up 4 year olds. Their world is magical.

Everything they see and do, think and hear has an impact on their lives and the way they develop. I was merely going through the motions of parenting. Scientifically. Making sure I taught her how to behave, how to eat properly at the table, when to be polite and nice. I focussed on her clumsiness, her inability to sit still, her lack of decible control and her argumentativeness. I took my eye off the ball for a while and I missed out on some of her magic. Now I'm back on her side I see her enthusiasm, her vitality and energy, her need to be heard and her desire for autonomy. . I was not experiencing life through her eyes. Not learning from her about the exciting world of childhood. She still has a lot to learn, but so do I!

I am far more excited to fetch her from school now, I start to think about it from about 10am rather than 2pm. I am desperate to hear what she thinks of her day. Who she played with, which superhero she transformed into, what she understands from their lesson. They are learning about dinosaurs this week.

Shannon's development is no less exciting than young Jordan's. They both have many years of major milestones ahead of them. I want to experience them all. Twice. Through the eyes of two unique and special individuals. I don't want to miss the magic.

One magic moment happened recently. On Monday I took Shannon to the hairdresser to get a propper little girl haircut, rather than the straggly look she was sporting and, to my amusement, my expectations of how the session would go could not have been more off track. I have found with Shannon that with enough preparation beforehand she is capable of going tentatively into an unknown situation and experiencing it without too much trouble. Not this time.

I had explained to her about having her hair cut by someone else. I explained about having it washed first. I told her how much fun it is. She was excited. I forgot that she had NO concept from my descriptions of what she was about to go and do. She refused the wash in a panic, refusing to even go close to the contraption, she was terrified(she told me later that she musn't get her clothes wet so they can't wash her hair!). She eventually agreed to sit on the chair for cutting purposes and, doing all the things she had to do, like keeping her head straight and sitting up nicely, she maintained the most adorable cross face you can imagine. I've never seen it on her before. Not like that. I wish I could have taken a picture! When we left she asked "are we going to the hairdresser now?" I couldn't have got that one more wrong, could I?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Green Fingers

I am not professing that I have such things, only that I am currently hankering after them. Since it is my birthday a week tomorrow I think I shall ask for them then!

I have been gardening. Well, at least, I have been planting things. This is big news - especially if you ask my long suffering neighbour who has assumed the role of Gardener to the Useless, that's me - as I have always wanted to be interested in gardening and know all about it, but never knew where to start. So I thought I would just try. I planted some of my garden plants in pots to see what happens. All those gardening fundis (experts for any non-African readers) who surround me are being very kind saying "you never know, it might work!" They know. They are just letting my experiment run I suppose, in the interests of converting me to their ways... And I have made a compost bin in the garden for all that veggie waste so that it can be recycled into the flower beds!

Anyway, so far so good, I have planted a good number of things now (I don't know what any of them are called, there is a small gap in the knowledge required) and everything is surviving. And here's a turn up for the books, I am pleased to see the rainy weather today! Soaking my garden with life sustaining water, nourishing my plants and softening the ground! Imagine that!

In other news...

Jordan has a cold. A nasty one. He can't breathe properly when he is feeding and is not sleeping... I mean sleeping even less... at night, and hasn't touched proper food for 4 days. Poor little sausage is feeling very sorry for himself. The doctor said there is not much he can do as antibiotics are not required (thank heavens) and we just have to watch and wait! Not fun!

Shannon has been badly behaved at ballet for the last 2 lessons, so this week, as soon as we got home from ballet, I made her draw a picture of her being sorry (I wanted to make her write story about why she was naughty but I think that is asking a bit much of a four year old who has yet to master the art of writing!) to give to her teacher next lesson, in the hope that she will remember to behave nicely... we shall see.

Sean has no news to speak of...yet, but I thought it unfair not to mention him...

I am considering doubling my knowledge intake next year by taking on a diploma in counselling along with my third year of my degree... watch this space.

Last, but not least, Dorcas and Jordan have become firm friends. Even now when he is feeling a little worse for wear, he seems to be happy enough to go off and play with her while I get my work done!

Oh, and in what appears to be becoming a tradition in this house (see this post), I received my birthday present from Sean a little early this year... and it is a mini trampoline. Now Shannon and I have one each, the size of each, perhaps, an indication of how much energy is available to be expended!