I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 2022!

What a year, friends! I’m so proud of all of us for keeping it together (mostly) and getting through it. Parents really are the unsung heroes amongst us! Here are a few things that I’m utterly GRATEFUL for right now, and why I’m looking forward to 2022!

My children. I’m so in love with my two boys and so proud of them every day. Sometimes I’ll just jump into their beds and talk nonsense and hang out with them. They’re such cool kids and so beautifully different and interesting!

Ben is finding his feet (literally) with skateboarding and surfing. He just got a dirt bike from family and has really progressed with his horse riding. Last weekend, he went from trot to canter to gallop in the same lesson. It always surprises me how fearless he is. I used to roller skate on the grass because I was so scared of falling. Ben will literally just get on any moving object and 100% go for it without fear or hesitation. He falls (a lot). I remember the first time he fell off a horse, Graeme and I thought he was DONE. Lots of tears and bruises and then he quickly asked to get back on. He is so fearless. He reminds me so much of my late brother, Neil who was so similar. Ben just had a paintball birthday party and again – lots of tears but he kept going. Three of the boys got out with minor injuries and still say it was the best party they’ve ever been to. For Ben’s last birthday, he went shark cage diving! He admitted he was scared but that didn’t stop him. He’s going paragliding soon and so excited. He’s doing boxing. He’s also really, really good at cooking. He cooks and bakes from scratch. Anything from spaghetti bolognaise to flapjacks and cakes. He is super passionate about food, fitness & adventure.

What I’m finding so interesting is that he’s super into fantasy. He can talk your ear off about werewolves and which is a beta and can an alpha turn you into whatever it is. He goes into folklore and legend and researches all this crazy interesting stuff. He’s watching Twilight now and is horrified that I’m team Jacob so maybe there’s a vampire thing happening now. He’ll bite onto any fantasy story you offer. He still loves animals more than anyone I’ve ever met. He volunteered at a local vet and got to see a surgery. The thing is, it’s mutual. Any animal within his vicinity radiates toward him. He rode a new horse last week (Princess had a foal) and he took an apple for his new horse, Luke. He talks about how Luke has a better personality and that they have a better connection. He wants to gallop at 40km an hour on the beach and lift his arms because his instructor says it’s like floating with almost no resistance at that speed.

I wish I could bubble-wrap that kid, but I’ve really learned to let go and let his teachers and instructors guide him as he learns all these new skills and goes on all these new little adventures. He’s also incredibly smart and kicks ass at math, but I see him gravitating more toward languages ad biology. I really see Ben doing something with animals one day though. With his empathy and kindness… I’m sure that he’ll end up doing something to help others.

Noah. Oh man, I could talk your ear off about that kid too. He’s not into most sports, but will kick your ass at tennis. He just got a new racquet and plays at a local club with his bestie. Noah is incredibly like scary-good at technology with a mind programmed for engineering. He told me that he wanted to be an engineer when he was like 6. He can put things together and take them apart. He just like *knows* how things work and just gets it. He’s the IT and tech support at our house. He’s the only person who knows the WiFi password off by heart because that memory of his is mind-blowing. My dad called me from the UK the other day and asked something about his phone. It was running out of memory. I handed him over to Noah and they video called and shared screens and Noah spoke him through every step of sorting out the issue. My dad called me afterward and commended Noah on how patient and helpful he was. My dad says when you go to cellphone shops, the assistants can be a bit condescending and impatient. I’m proud of the fact that Noah is so switched on, but not arrogant about it.

I recently had to take him for an IQ assessment to get MENSA accredited. I only wanted it done to assist him with getting scholarships for high school. He had to take some time off school, but didn’t want the other kids to know. When I asked why, he said that he didn’t want them to know or feel bad or any less about themselves. He’s so kind and considerate. Best know, if I was MENSA accredited I would have had a sign made and hang it around my neck 24/7. Bitches better know. He’s just not like that at all. He just wants to play Fortnite and Minecraft, play tennis with his friends and annoy his brother.

Noah is a baker. Kid doesn’t know how to fry an egg, but he also bakes from scratch. I’ll WhatsApp him at work and be like “Please make some bran & banana muffins for lunch boxes” and it’s done within an hour. He even mashes fresh bananas into the mixture and sometimes adds yummy fillings like peanut butter blobs. He’s also really kind. And sensitive and affectionate. I love my midnight cuddles when he curls into bed with me. I love laying in bed with him for hours just talking.

Noah is a musician. I’m sure that I’ve shared more than a thousand videos of Noah playing piano because he is just SO GOOD. He’s on his second piano and needs to get a third. When I took him for his IQ test it was actually a 3-step assessment with a well-known Educational Psychologist in Cape Town. After his full assessment it was decided that while he’ll qualify for an academic scholarship, we should try for a music one. I already have two great schools interested and we’re choosing his school next year. My problem is that he really wants to go to co-ed, but we will need to apply at a particular all-boys school with a reputable music department, too.

I couldn’t be prouder or more in love with my boys. I mean, I know that we love our kids but I really LIKE them, too. They’ve got big, killer personalities and wicked senses of humor. If they try show me ONE MORE “really funny tiktok” I will scream, but for the most part they’re quite pleasant to have around : ) Also they keep asking me to buy weird ingredients because they “saw this crazy tiktok video” and they’re always fails. Shame.

What I’m really looking forward to this festive season is my garden. One of my favourite things to do is sit under the creeper canopy in our garden with a drink and watch all the animals. The squirrels, the bunnies, the chickens and the dogs all just hanging out and being cute. I plan to spend every day in my garden and putting lots of love into it these holidays. I’ve just planted a whole bunch of new flowers and got even more indoor plants. I wish I could live in a greenhouse. That’s one incentive to make money! I swear I’ll just go build a greenhouse in a forest somewhere and leave society J.D Salinger style. The dream!

Also, I’ve spent about 6 months working on a brand new project and business that is going to make me very happy and maybe even able to build that greenhouse. I’ll be launching it early next year.

Other 2022 projects include buying a dilapidated house in Italy which we had to put on the back-burner for 2 years. Thanks, Covid. We were also busy expanding Wine Flies to Portugal right before Covid hit. Honestly, it all happened at the absolute worst time.

I’m still most excited to see how my boys learn, grow and develop next year. Noah turns THIRTEEN in a few weeks. Thirteen.

Have a happy, merry festive season, y’all!

 

 

 

 

0
0

The terrible two (years)

The last two years have been an actual nightmare for most of us. I’ve heard so many stories of people who lost everything and other who weren’t affected at all. Francois and I worked predominantly in tourism, so we were buggered. I’m talking ‘living off smart shopper points and e-bucks” buggered. Couldn’t pay our rent. Sold almost all our assets. Depleted all our savings. It was a nightmare.

I remember one afternoon, we were driving home from Stanford and Francois suddenly pulled over the car. He thought he was having a heart attack. I cannot and refuse to drive that road between Hermanus & Cape Town; it’s too terrifying for me and I’ve never done it. I was forced to drive it for the first time, amongst massive trucks and a windy pass while checking in on Francois that he was breathing and alive. He was nauseated and passing out and had chest pains and wasn’t making sense. We rushed to a doctor and put him on an ECG monitor as we thought he’d had a heart attack. My friends, it was a PANIC attack and it was so severe that I literally thought he was dying. The stress on him trying to keep his staff & their families employed was so overwhelming for him. The thought of losing a business that he had spent 10 years building on his own.

Push to that, Francois had a recurring knee injury which eventually led to a knee replacement with a very hectic and painful recovery process and time. I’m talking bedding wet with blood and him being completely debilitated. The limped walk eventually caused a serious back injury and spasms which he had to have two more procedures for. My husband was holding on to his company and holding on to his health and sanity. Add to that that the kids were at home, being homeschooled and I was trying to work full time, take care of the kids and nursing my husband who was disappearing by the day. If he wasn’t anxious, he was sad. When he wasn’t sad, he was angry or frustrated and all the while he was physically in a lot of pain. I’ve never seen anyone in that much pain before. And I was scared.

Watching someone you love go through that is heart wrenching. He had fairly recently lost his mom and when your world comes down, that’s the first person you need and miss the most, isn’t it? And she is gone. Honestly when I think about Francois I just think about how strong he is. And how kind he is. How he coped with so much for so long. And then they banned alcohol like honestly, give us a break!

I can only talk about it all now as I feel like we’re slowly pulling out of it. How we managed to keep food on the table without an income for over a year is ASTONISHING. I feel like I completely shut down and just went into survival mode. We had flights booked from pre-covid for holidays that we couldn’t take. It seems naive & selfish: wanting to go on a holiday amidst a pandemic and your life falling apart, but I so badly wanted to get out of the house. Away from the home schooling and watching my husband suffer and everyone being a bit sad and getting sick and being stressed. I wanted to run away.

There was other extended family things going on that was putting even more pressure and panic on my kids who were already going through so many changes. I felt like a goalie that was just trying to block the opposition for 2 years; trying to protect our family and the slither of stability we had left.

I had been working with my husband’s company and teaching for years, and for the first time since I was 15 years old; I was officially unemployed. I have NEVER not had a job or income. Asking my husband for his bank card was SOUL destroying for me. I couldn’t buy my own face cream, a take away coffee, groceries – nothing.

I remember when the kids first went back to school. In our first teacher-parent Google Meet, the teacher pointed out that a few children didn’t have packed lunches at school. This brought me to actual tears. I asked if we could donate and soon there was a box set up in their class. I would send fruit and healthy snacks that kids could take from in private. Benjamin told me that sometimes he’d go check and the box was empty and we’d send more. Eventually the school asked parents to donate sandwiches that the tuck shop could distribute and we signed up straight away. We sent 2 extra sandwiches and fruit to school every day. I could’t stand the thought of a little child being without food from 7:30am – 2:30pm? None of us could. I couldn’t stand the thought of Ben’s classmates watching my child eat his lunch with hungry tummies.

The break in work gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life. I feel like I just kind-of went with the flow of where my career and projects was taking me, but I hadn’t sat down and really mapped out what I wanted. Not since I was in school and thinking about what to study (which was Journalism). I went into healthcare and nursing and floated on to photography and landed in PR and Social Media, but I realised that…

I actually want to be a writer, because

I actually am a writer.

So I started looking at positions in publishing and landed exactly where I want to be right now.

I’m trying to think of all the good things that came out of Covid.

I got my career back on the right track. Francois spent a year perfecting the art of making biltong and he is so good at it. We cut down on expenses. We spent more time together as a family. We learned who our most loyal friends, clients & employees are. We got closer. I made friends with squirrels. Francois’ knee is finally fixed, so it can heal now. We re-structured a few business things that needed to be done. We found out that when pushed to our absolute limits: we don’t break. My family unit is so much stronger than I realised.

I’d love to hear what you overcame in the past two years. You’re welcome to email, DM – whatever.

We’re friends now.

0
0

Motherhood & Mental Health

I was talking about mental health the other day, but in particular; parents’ mental health. More specifically: mothers. I really feel like there isn’t enough transparency around this. I feel like we’ve been ‘excused’ for feeling overwhelmed postpartum and after that, we’re kind of expected to just get on with it.
Having a newborn is so wonderful, but so tough. The feeling of loneliness & exhaustion is extremely overwhelming. Most of my readers have been there. Some of you were there with me. During those days, other mothers would often reassure you that it gets better. It’s true when they say that it gets easier when the youngest turns 4. It got easier for me when my boys could pour their own cereal, their own juice and potty alone – etc. Don’t forget those magical moments when they learned to play alone or were finally entertained by the younger sibling. The best or easiest years might be between the ages of 4 and 6 when they’re just happy to play and watch cartoons and eat whatever you put on toast and have a few hours at daycare.
But then they turn 6 and 7 and start school. Then it gets hard again. You find yourself repeating your entire education all over again, but you have to pay much more attention this time.
I mean let’s just start at the process of actually getting them IN to a good school. Holy shit, I was not prepared. I couldn’t get Noah into the school I wanted for him for grade R. I kept him at his daycare / creche and would not give up. I called the school I wanted every single day. I sent flowers. We moved house. I called again. I had paperwork on standby. Eventually, a spot opened up and Noah got bumped to the top of his list. He had his interview that week and started school the following. Getting your first child in makes it so much easier to get the second in, so I knew that I could exhale for a good 7 years.
I was so wrong.
I had to follow all the class schedules, extra murals, homework, sports and the darn homework book closer than my own life. The amount of times I sent a child with the wrong book or without a swimming costume or relevant musical instrument is astonishing. Lunch boxes that were forgotten in my car. Breakfasts that were eaten on the way to school. Tuck shop days that I forgot or raffle sheets that I lost. All of the mothers in the room are nodding along with me. We’ve all been here and some of us still are.
I joke that my children need their own PA but I’m actually not joking. I AM their PA. I manage their diaries, book their appointments, pay their accounts, arrange their social activities, outings and all their special occasions. I’m in charge of catering & entertainment. Finance, sport & academics. And culture. I had a joint calendar for them but now it’s broken up into individuals. Honestly – Google Calendar will save your life.
Between my kids, they do tennis, cricket, chess, hockey, art club, swimming & piano. I have to select their activities so that they’re on the same day as this really helps for lifts, e.g Noah will have chess on the same day that Ben has cricket so they’re only doing 1 extra mural a day each. Then there are the matches. My friends, do NOT allow your children to enjoy cricket. Tell them that it is extremely terrible and boring and horrible. I say this because cricket matches are like 3 – 4 hours long so y’all better enjoy sitting on a field talking to random parents for that long!
It’s exam time now. So they’re busy with study and exam time tables on top of this. I mean, it’s so tough on the kids as it is, so I need to be hyper organised to make it all easier on them. I need to know who should be studying for what on which day and ensure that it’s happening instead of Minecraft, you know?
Don’t even talk about all the class parties and farewell activities and fun days where I have to know which kid is taking juice and which one is taking chips on which day to which school field and are they wearing civvies and do I need to pay for that on the Karri app or send money and do I even have change in my wallet what is going on.
Add to this that you’re trying to order next year’s stationery and uniforms, nevermind remembering the teacher’s gifts and returning the library books that you obviously can’t find.
Anyway. I keep my cool with them and they think I’m super mom but behind the scenes I am making lists and checking them 7 times and taking extremely wonderful medication for anxiety so that I don’t start drinking wine at 4pm. I mean, sometimes.
I work full time managing a team of writers and intense deadlines. I’m honestly lucky beyond measure that I have the support structure that I have to help with the afternoons. I also co-parent and share days with the boys’ dad, but we’re so intertwined and attend all their big matches, concerts, picnics, events etc together so that’s another big plus. I have incredible men in my life – the big ones and the little ones!
But this is what I’m saying: It’s still hard. When you have a newborn, you feel the loneliness of being the primary caregiver and the exhaustion on your body. When they’re in school, you’re still the primary caregiver when it comes to organising their activities and education. Graeme and Francois will often ask me “who has tennis again today” or “what time is the music concert” regardless of the amount of calendars, print-outs, whatsapp groups and reminders. I’m guessing that this is just how dads are? Or just men – in general? So the loneliness I feel is often the burden of it all. Knowing that if I don’t check that class whatsapp message, then my child might miss the bus to the cricket match because the pick-up gate has changed. You know? I know that you know.
I don’t mind taking the pressure. I love that my boys are oblivious to it all. In their lives, they’re just having fun and playing sport and looking forward to class parties and that’s how it should be.
It does get hectic when you’re running a full-time job, your kids’ schedules and a household. Getting home and realising there’s no bread for tomorrow’s lunch boxes or that the milk is off. Giving your kids hot dogs for the second night in a row because you really don’t have the energy for that spaghetti bolognese. Some nights I swear it’s cereal. And then we wake up tired the next day and do it all over again. Because we love them.
I wouldn’t change any of it for a second. Sometimes I lay awake at night and wonder what I would do if I was like, really super rich. Honestly, I wouldn’t change much. I’d still work my job, I’d still live in the same house. I would still manage their schedules like a hawk. I WOULD (however) get a chef! Imagine a world where you get home and a perfectly balanced, nutritious meal is waiting on the table? And the lunch boxes and work lunches are packed. I mean that would be so incredible, right? I think about that a lot. I lay awake wondering where I can take a little bit of pressure and stress away. I’ve been better at planning and bulk shopping, but those little things still creep in like a child who forgot that the has to dress up for “Egyptian Day” TOMORROW or a forgotten oral or classmate’s birthday. No matter how well you plan, there is always something. And that’s okay.
I just wanted to send a heartfelt shout-out to all the other moms and parents who are doing their very best at this time of year. Hang in there. Pretty soon, we’ll be sipping homemade cocktails in the garden or laying on the couch doing absolutely nothing. I can’t wait.
PS Have you seen that series on Netflix called “Maid”? It’s so damn good! Watch it.
2
0

I lost a very important bag last week

Last week Friday; I left a bag in my Uber driver’s car. I *never* do this, but I was carrying my laptop bag, handbag and takeaway coffee. I also had my favourite white cotton / tote bag with me. It’s my favourite bag & so sentimental. Ben had made a drawing of him & I at his crèche when he was about 6. As a gift, his teacher had the drawing hand-stitched to a cotton tote bag and I’ve treasured it since. I mean, I look amazing.

Note: I was not pregnant at the time but okay thanks Ben. 

The bag was stuffed with things from the office but also contained brand-new pink cat-ear, light-up Bluetooth headphones that my boys got me for my last birthday. They’d even ordered them online for me!
I also treated myself to a pink lunchbox and bought myself a pink lipstick at Dis-Chem that day. Lots of other little things in the bag… all could have been replaced eventually.
I was so hurt about the bag. I contacted the Uber driver immediately but he wasn’t getting back to me and on the app, they have 24 hours to respond. I had asked him to drop me at a Pick n Pay, and then I walked home from there. I realised I didn’t have the bag as I was walking home and my. heart. stopped 🙁
I contacted Pick n Pay, but their safe was locked by then and they didn’t have access to it until the morning to check if my bag was handed in. I tried to reach Ben’s old teacher to have another bag made, but it looks like her little school has closed and I couldn’t find her online. I was so hurt. Ben was sad too.
Later that evening and after so many attempts to get hold of him; the Uber driver called me. I explained the whole situation to him and pleaded about the bag. He promised to message the 3 passengers he collected after my trip and enquire about the bag.
The next morning, I went to the Pick n Pay and spoke to the manager & security department. My bag wasn’t handed in and I begged them to check their security cameras. I wanted to narrow it down to where I had lost the bag. They promised to look at security footage, took my number and promised to call. That was Saturday morning. Today is Tuesday.
I still haven’t heard from them.
Later that afternoon, the Uber driver let me know that HE FOUND MY BAG. It seemed like nothing was touched, taken or tampered with. Not even my freakin apple. I’m really so grateful for the passenger’s honesty as well as the effort and honesty from the driver. I could see on his profile picture that he has a daughter around my kids’ ages, and I’m sure that she would have loved the headphones & make-up, but Morris ensured that I got everything back. He even drove all the way to my office this morning to give it all back to me. I gave him a little reward for this trouble, airtime & petrol etc to fix my OWN screw-up. Here’s what happened with my bag:
The world looks a little bit better today, doesn’t it?
0
0

A quick story

Noah loves playing the piano, and he’s really good at it too. I bought him a pretty old, vintage-looking Beethoven piano about 6 years ago. Since then, he’s been thriving at it. He plays beautifully and does brilliantly in all his Trinity exams. I’m so proud of him. Here’s a quick clip. He composed his own bridge from “Ballad” to Vivaldi.

He has lessons twice a week at school, and is supposed to practice every day. Noah divides his time between my home and his dad, Graeme’s house. Graeme doesn’t have a piano and it’s not an easy thing to buy. They’re really expensive.

The school has been nagging us for 2 years to get a second piano or keyboard as Noah is falling behind and not reaching his full potential without regular practice. They tried to make a plan and placed a keyboard in a passageway at school so that he could practice during break times. This isn’t always possible as Noah needs to eat his lunch and play with the other kids. It’s also really cold and rainy these days, so sitting alone in a cold passage to practice isn’t ideal.

I knew that his piano at my house is very old, but I didn’t realise how old until I got a professional to tune it. About 2.5 years ago, I found a man named Keith who specialises in dealing and tuning pianos. He came to our home and took Noah’s whole piano apart. He discovered that Noah’s piano was made in around 1920. I had bought it from a man who was clearing out his grandmother’s storeroom, and she had been a piano teacher. It sounds really romantic, right? A piano from the roaring 20s. All jazz and The Great Gatsby. Beautiful.

Except that Keith said it was very bad news. The strings are old and rusted and built in a way that pianos aren’t made anymore. He can’t tune the piano to 100% as he can’t tune it too hard in case the strings snap (which he said they definitely would). There’s a bunch of other things about its age causing problems, and he very politely kind of told me to get rid of it. He can only tune it to about 70% and because of the wear-and-tear, it tunes out very quickly again. The biggest concern is that Noah can’t hear the notes properly which will hinder his progress and ‘musical ear’ so to speak. I don’t know the exact terminology.

So we are sitting with a piano that is basically ruining his life and the absence of a second piano which he needs for regular practice, AND his school music department giving us a bit of trouble about Noah’s lack of progress in relation to his ability. Over the past year, Noah has threatened to quit piano at least three times in frustration.

He loves his old, 20s jazz-era piano though. She’s a beauty and he said he would always keep it in his home one day as it was his first piano and he’s had it since he was about 9. He can tell the difference with the notes in comparison to his school’s piano and sometimes cringes and shrieks or laughs when his “old lady’ hits really bad notes. He still gets to practice his hands, so it’s good enough for now.

I asked Keith to tune Noah’s piano again last month. As I mentioned, the upkeep of a piano is expensive and a call-out for a professional tuner isn’t cheap. It takes about 3 hours to tune Noah’s piano. Over the past few years, I had sent Keith intermittent videos of Noah’s musical progress. He showed the videos around to colleagues and said that Noah is a very gifted musician. He plays songs by ear, memorises his sheet music and learned Vivaldi Four Seasons (Spring) in like 20 minutes all on his own. More than that, I think that Keith could see how passionate he is about piano.

So Keith came around at the beginning of April to tune the piano as much as he could. He’s a really nice guy and he and Noah spent some time together – playing for each other, gossiping about his piano and talking music in general. He’s a really, really nice guy. Keith was more ‘angry’ at the piano this time and told us that we seriously need to replace it for Noah. I thought maybe I looked like a neglectful mom, so I explained how we’d barely received an income over the past 1.5 years due to Covid, alcohol bans, lockdowns, losing clients and tourism. He said that the kind of piano Noah needs is in about the entry level price of R15 000. Entry level. Then I also need about another R5000 for a second-hand keyboard for Graeme’s house. His professional music / piano lessons aren’t cheap, not to mention all the books and fees for grading entries. Piano lessons are about R2500 a month – if you’re interested. It can be cheaper if you split with other kids, only do once a week or only do half-hour lessons. Noah has private lessons twice a week.

Anyway, I still asked Keith to keep a look-out if he saw a really good deal that we could maybe save up for. I made him some tea, Noah jumped on his (slightly) tuned piano and was really grateful that it sounded a bit better. I messaged Keith that afternoon to request his bank details for his services. He was at my house for about 3 hours and I know that he lives quite far away, so there was a “tuning” and “call-out” fee. He sent me a message saying: “I’m not charging this time.” I was blown away and so grateful for his kindness. We stayed in touch and I still sent him the odd video of Noah’s progress and thanked him each time for his generosity.

On Monday, I got an out-of-the-blue message from him. He had gone to see some lady (Anne), and he forwarded Anne’s message to me. I’ll share an extract of her message to Keith:

“I would like to go with the plan to gift my piano to that family in Claremont. The little boy seems so keen and I hope would get much pleasure playing it. I shall leave it to you to arrange it all and hope that you can arrange a free transfer. I should sometime like details of the family and would visit them. Very many thanks, Anne C.”

Keith explained that it was a John Broadwood piano with a lovely tone. He said it’s in great condition and that Noah will love it.

It was my first day at my new job and I was in-between meetings for my orientation. I had a quick cry alone in the boardroom as Keith was messaging me details on delivery and transfer (all free) and we were arranging how to get Noah’s new piano to him.

We decided to put Noah’s new piano at Graeme’s house so that Noah can (finally, for the first time) be able to practice every week. Every DAY if he wants to. It’s really hard keeping him off the piano! He can still practice on the “old lady” at our house until we can put her in storage for him and eventually invest in something better. Maybe for his 16th or something!

When I got home last night, Noah was in the bath and I ran in to tell him the great news. He pulled this crazy, shocked face and sunk his head in the water in disbelief. He is so grateful. He phoned Keith to thank him and sent Anne (a complete stranger) the sweetest voice note in gratitude. I must figure out how to post it here so we can keep it! See if the below plays for you?

 

 

Anne replied to him: “Thank you for your messages. It’s a special piano for you Noah so take care of it. I got it when I was 9 years old so it’s been a good friend of mine! I will speak to you soon and keep in touch. Anne.”

I wanted to share this because I’m so grateful and it really shows that there are still very good people around us, with kind hearts and generous spirits. That lady could have got a pretty penny for her piano but chose to gift it to a little boy she heard about – a young boy with a genuine passion for the piano who needed a bit of help.

It’s being delivered soon and Noah is so excited. We’re all so grateful and overwhelmed. The world looks beautiful today.

6
0

Dear diary May 2021

I still can’t believe that Covid happened to the world. I can’t believe that my entire family got it. We know people who lost their lives to it, their jobs, their businesses. Everything has changed for most of us, and I still haven’t come to terms with it all. I remember that at this time last year, everyone was watching Tiger King and making banana bread. Cigarettes and alcohol was banned and everything was closed. I missed iced coffee the most. Any kind of takeaway coffee, really. I remember helping the boys with homeschooling, being really down and not even being allowed to walk my dogs. Sometimes we were allowed to walk them between like, 7 and 9am or something. I remember that their favourite park was so crowded that you couldn’t pass people and the dogs could hardly break a trot it was so busy.

At this time, Francois and I were both working mostly in tourism and hospitality. Him with his own business (a tour company) and me as mostly a freelancer. We also own and run a guesthouse in Stanford. I remember how ‘those’ calls and emails started trickling in… “The bookings have gone down” to “There are no bookings at all”. I remember my clients closing their doors – some temporarily, not knowing that they would never open again. I had a few months without any income at all, and then neither did Francois. But we still had to pay our rent (at our Claremont home) and put food on the table. We moved to our Stanford house for a few days which turned to weeks.

When we got Covid, we had to quarantine for 2 weeks so we went to our Stanford home where there’s a bigger garden for the dogs and more space in general. Stanford is a very quiet town. One day, after being stuck indoors for over 2 weeks, I pretty much lost it and grabbed the dogs and walked the few meters down to the river at the end of our street. I know full-well that the river is deserted during the week in the mid-mornings. I knew full-well that we would not be in contact with a single soul. I got out of home for 15 minutes and this lady in the village posted to a whole bunch of people about us breaking quarantine and “putting the whole village at risk”. I was so mad. I was so hurt. It’s been almost a year and I still think about how mean and unnecessary that was.

Then we thought: We just need to get through winter! Francois’ business relies 95% on international clients. He runs these super popular wine tours to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Some days, he’d have 5 busses of tourists out every day. They went from that to zero in a matter of days. “The tourists will come back soon, just wait for spring!” I’d tell him. That was 10 months ago. There still aren’t any tourists. Some things hit even harder, like the international news reporting that South Africa had developed a new strain of Covid, AND… with every alcohol ban, the wine industry shut down. I had clients who were restaurants and bars and they closed too. Then the big hotels closed.

Tour busses can seat 13 people, but those got banned at one point too. Then they said that like 70% capacity is ok, so even if you had a tour out – your profit got slashed.

We did a few clever things, though. I got involved and we created a super fun domestic campaign to encourage locals to take trips to the Karoo, Kruger & Matjiesfontein (also in his company’s portfolio). He was on TV and radio and all over websites. Then another alcohol ban came. It was like every time you tried to stand up, someone would take a baseball bat and hit you on your shins.

Things have been up and down. They go from better to worse every other week, but we’re holding on as tight as we can. We made a few clever moves (well, Francois did!) that really helped. We rented out our Stanford house on a long-term lease as nobody was traveling to guesthouses at that point. We saved a lot of money because we weren’t going out, eating out of traveling anymore.

Probably my core focus was protecting the boys from feeling any of it. I didn’t want them to know when we were stressed, or struggling. I didn’t want them to panic or worry or feel unstable in any way. I mean, their entire lives had changed, their routine was non-existent, they were trapped at home and seriously missing school and their friends. Keeping a straight face when things get tough is exactly what we did. Keep your chin up, put your shoulders back – and carry on!

Things seem to be changing again. We’re in a “good week” but you never know what’s waiting around the bend.

Another clever hack of ours, is that we’re part of two different “home exchange” type of groups. If you own a lodge / guesthouse / hotel you can be part of this group. It works on a point system, so you can use your points to stay somewhere as long as people can also use their points to stay at your place, etc. We had loads of people use their points at our guesthouse over the years, so we had accumulated a lot  of points;  which is how we managed our holiday to Mozambique. We also saved so much by flying instead of driving and thank goodness, because the land borders closed the week before our trip. We’re currently using our points here and there when we want to stretch our legs and try escape some of the stress we have to deal with sometimes.

Oh man, another awesome hack was that Francois’ business gives bank cards to the tour guides to fill up with petrol. For years! He’d earned so many eBucks (like points you can use at certain partners) that we used them on groceries for like 2 months. I could use my medical aid savings for basic medicines that we needed. Pick n Pay Smart Shopper points came in handy too. We also had this brand-spanking-new massive kennel that we’d bought for the dogs. They hated it and never set their paws in it, so we gave it back to the pet shop in exchange for store credit. I could get enough dog food for three dogs for two months out of that! It’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you really need to, and know how to.

Oh MAN, another thing we did! Haha. It was so funny. Francois had a whole storeroom full of ‘grape juice’ that was left over from a project, and that we couldn’t sell. Cases and cases of the stuff. During the first alcohol ban, we sold like, all of it. We made a pretty penny, too! There was this one couple who were in the process of emigrating. They gave us like, this really cool (brand new) printer in exchange for a box of it. I was thrilled as the boys really needed one for home-schooling. Some people traded us grape juice for other kinds of juices, like potato juice – which is my preferred one. We felt like the mafia! Within a week, that storeroom was empty.

We’ve learned so many lessons this past year. We found areas where we used to over-spend, hacks we weren’t using and tricks we didn’t know about. I made it a game with the boys when we went grocery shopping. I’d be like “If we buy this 150g product for R45 does it work out cheaper if we buy the 500g one for R87” and things like that. We’d make it this fun math game and they’d get so proud of their equations and how they were really ‘sticking it’ to the corporates who were trying to trick us into spending more money.

Not that Francois and I were ever flashy or spent a lot of money. We share a car that’s paid in full. We rent a tiny little house in the suburbs and don’t buy designer things or expensive clothes. We pretty much never eat out. We only ever really spent extra money on travel, because that was a priority for both of us. Why buy a R850 dress when that could be a train ticket from Rome to Venice? I guess that’s how we used to see things.

Now it’s a year later, and we’re about to go into winter again. We’re repeating all our re-assuring words to one another: “Just a few more months” and “This is almost over” followed by “We just have to make it through winter.”

I know that things have been hard on everyone and some people have lost everything including their lives or loved ones. I know this. I can only be grateful for what we’ve managed to hold on to and the lessons we’ve learned. Sometimes I just don’t know how much longer we can hold on for.

Amongst all of this, Francois’ old knee injury started acting up again. When your knee gives in, you walk a bit skew with a bit of a limp, so his lower back went into excruciating pain. I had never seen a grown man cry out and scream in pain like that. His Orthopaedic surgeon scheduled another knee op, which didn’t help. Eventually they booked him in for a knee replacement (after nothing else worked). When he went in for that, they found a big infection, so they closed him up and sent him home instead.

Francois has been in pain and on crutches for as long as I can remember at this point. As soon as he recovered from the one surgery, he was being booked in for the next. Of course I didn’t mind looking after him, but this meant that I was spending more time doing things on my own and had to run everything, look after the dogs, kids and house on my own. Some days, I didn’t make my deadlines at work and it was putting strain on my income.

In recovery (after his attempted knee replacement), his back got so bad that he could no longer make it to the bathroom. Without mobility, his neck started going into spasms and he could no longer lift his head to swallow pain tablets. When I say that my husband was in pain; he was in more pain than I’ve ever seen anyone in. I threatened getting an ambulance, taking him to hospital – anything to make him feel better. Francois hates a fuss and he’s quite stubborn. One morning I’d had enough of watching him suffer and called his surgeon. The doctor was like, omg he needs to get to hospital… but you can only take him in 4 days time when some really brilliant back doctor is on call. They made all the arrangements, Francois powered through and he was admitted to hospital for permanent care. They took X-rays of his back, booked him into theatre and injected cortisone directly into the inflammation. He spent a few more days in hospital. I think he was there for a week?

When he got home, his recovery continued and about a week later, he was booked in for his full knee replacement. I’m not going to lie, I was SO EXCITED for him to finally have the operation, knowing just how much pain he’d been in for so long. It’s now been about 3 weeks since his recovery and his mobility is much better. Some days he only uses one crutch and sometimes can walk around a bit and do basic things for himself like make a cup of tea. Last night, he even cooked dinner and I must admit it was so nice to get a tiny bit of help for one night and to see him be able to do a task again. While he was trying to keep his business open, he was also dealing with excruciating pain and recovering from major surgeries. That husband of mine is honestly impenetrable and so much stronger than I thought he was.

Probably the biggest factor is that we’re getting a lot less sleep. Francois is obviously very restless and uncomfortable at night. He struggles to sleep from the pain. I get up and try help him, or make him some tea or get his meds for him. Some nights he sneaks out and sits in the living room or kitchen from like 3am – 6am. Then I’m up at 6:30 to sort the boys out and do the morning run, which wakes him up again. Luckily the boys’ schedules and routine is exactly the same and they’re quite oblivious to anything but fishing, Minecraft, Fortnite and surfing. There’s been a lot more screen time around here lately and I couldn’t give a shit, honestly.

Today is a good day. There’s been some good news here and there. Two days ago I was jumping up and down from joy. Yesterday I burst out crying in a parking lot with my eldest in the car. Today, I’ve taken the day off. I mean I still have to do the basics but Francois is out at doctor and business appointments. The kids are at school. I got back into bed at 10am and decided to write a bit. To do something for myself.

It hasn’t been all bad. Francois and I are closer than ever. The boys are absolutely thriving at school. They have sports again and have joined a few clubs. They have play dates and sleepovers with their best friends again. I got super into gardening but then my asshole rabbits ate all my flowers.

I have a few squirrels now. I started feeding a squirrel that I saw in our garden. I called him Chip. Then he brought his friend, who I named Chappie. Then they brought two smaller squirrels with them, so now I have this little squirrel family that I’ve been feeding for about 3 weeks. I always take their peanuts to the edge of the garden and place them on top of a shelf. This is usually at about 8:30am when I’m home from dropping the boys and walking the dogs. This morning, I went to re-fill their bowl and Chip and Chappie came jumping down from the tree! They were a bit hesitant, but then they came RIGHT UP to me and nibbled their peanuts just above my eye-level, like 30cm from my face. I didn’t want to scare them, so I just stood completely still and watched them learn to trust me. These wild squirrels and me: their Peanut Lady. I don’t know why it made me so happy, but it felt really good. I feed them every morning, then I sit at our garden table, drink my tea and watch them have their breakfast. They’re really cool. You’d like them.

I have a bit of other updates and news to share, but I don’t feel like talking anymore. I think I’m going to make another cup of tea and maybe have a long bath, put on some nice clothes and maybe even a bit of makeup. Francois is so used to seeing me in sweats, tights and pyjamas. Anyway, I really think that today is going to be a good day. I hope so.

Thanks for listening x

2
0

Book Review: The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)

I asked a few of my Instagram followers what their favourite book of ALL time is. I took the four books with the most recommendations, and added this to my list of ‘must reads’. These books are:

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls | A man called Ove, Fredrik Backman | Educated, Tara Westover and American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

I finished The Glass Castle in three days, and I actually wasn’t very impressed. It’s a powerful memoir and really hard to put down, but I was disappointed by the ending. The book is also very monotone and unbiased – like the author is complaining about family members without badmouthing them throughout the entire book. I like that you are left to make your own assumptions and I love a good story, but it all fell really flat for me at the end. I wanted to know what happened to certain characters, I wanted to know what happened to the property and I need to understand a few things. I was super impressed and locked in at the beginning & middle and then a bit disappointed in the end.

Would I recommend this book to my friends? Sure. Is it one of The Best Books I’ve Ever Read? No.

It’s a woman’s account of her impoverished upbringing, weird mom and drunk dad. I can’t say much more without giving it all away, but maybe the point is that there isn’t actually much more to reveal.

0
0

2021 Board

I’ve been really good at planning and organising things lately, so I wanted to put this ‘mood board’ together for everything that I want to transpire this year! My MAIN THEME is Italy. Francois bought us tickets to Italy for Christmas and it’s all I want! But with Covid and everything else going on, I’m not sure if we’re going to make it in June / July which is when our tickets are booked and paid for. Anyway, these are all the things that I have my eye on for this year.

0
0

My ultimate skincare wish – list

These are all my absolute favourite skincare products that I have my eye on for my face’s future! Some of them are SUPER expensive and I can almost never afford them, but I just wanted to put this ‘online’ so I can reference it real quick when I can afford them!

0
0

Going to Mozambique with kids

1. I love Bilene because it’s situated on a lagoon with no waves or strong currents. Perfect for little kids & water sports. The water is that gorgeous translucent turquoise, blue & green like you see in postcards. The water is shallow and refreshing and warm.
2. We booked & flew straight to Maputo via AirLink / Travelstart at about R2700 (from Cape Town) a flight. It’s about R2000 from Joburg. That seems steep but compare it to renting a 4X4 for your entire trip or even driving. Sometimes people wait up to 6 hours at the borders (without food, water or bathrooms), but the flight from JHB -> Maputo is 40 minutes. If traveling from Cape Town, pay special attention to layover times as  you’ll be flying Cape Town > JHB > Maputo.
3. We got a transfer from Maputo to Bilene with a tour company called Tours2Moz. They only operate on certain days so they referred us to a different company for our transfers.
4. In Bilene, we stayed  in a self-catering waterfront villa that sleeps 8 people. It’s called Villa’n Banga and it has its own on-site restaurant, bar, canoes, snorkeling, volleyball, pool table etc.
It’s currently R2000 a night. The villa is serviced daily (inclusive) and you can have your laundry done daily too. It’s SO much more relaxing being on holiday when your basic cleaning is done for you – especially with kids and a house that is covered in sandy towels & wet clothes half the time. Your kids will go through 3 outfits a day – easily!
5. We booked a boat via a man called Dercio who works at Villa n Banga. Our skipper was John. We booked the boat from 12 noon to about 7pm to go tubing, skiing, bar-hopping, exploring the town of Bilene & going shopping etc. They charged us +- R3000 for a family of 4 to use their services for like 7 hours.
John charges about R800 – R1000 an hour for tubing which my kids said was the highlight of their trip! Again, rates are always negotiable depending on duration.
6. My one son went on a fishing trip. We paid R2500 for him to go deep-sea fishing for about 8 hours. This included his rod, reel, bait, snacks, juice, water & a fishing coach & skipper. He also brought plenty of fish home for us to eat! We booked via Highlander Fishing Lodge. Piet junior & senior are SO great with kids. They loved Ben so much that they let him go on a second trip for free! Trust me, you will catch.
7. You can’t reach Villa n Banga without a 4X4. The owners (Lee & Anton) will gladly fetch you from Bilene at a small fee. I honestly wouldn’t rent a 4X4 for your trip if you’re flying in. Your car will just stand as everything you need is at the Villa.
8. If you need a transfer to Highlander Fishing Lodge or into the village for groceries, then Kobus is your guy. He’s a local with a 4X4 and he will take you on trips for a small fee. We only went into the village (Bilene) once for groceries. Your family won’t go hungry.. the restaurant (Babalaria) is a few metres from your villa and they even bring coffee, breakfast, food whatever to your house. John (boating guy) will also drop you at the village and walk with you to draw money / buy basics etc
9. Things to do in the area: Most family friendly is Nghunghwa Lodge with 2 pools & canoes for the kids. Don’t leave without trying their R&R slush puppies! We also loved the Flip-Flop bar! I recommend booking John for a day as he’ll scoot you from one place to the next and happily tube your kids along the lagoon right in front of you while you sip on your cocktails & demolish a prego roll (Flip-Flop Bar!) Don’t forget the R&R jello shots
(I HAVE to give a special mention to our new friend, Clint. I found him via the DriveMoz facebook group and he gave us all these great tips. The trip would not have been the same without his recommendations, which I’m now passing on to you!)
10. Activities at Villa n Banga include snorkeling (rent snorkels at the Babalaria bar). They also have a swimming pool, pool table & big screen with DSTV going for the kids. The bar is right on the lagoon. Your villa also has a huge outdoor braai & seating area. I most loved sitting on the balcony couches with a coffee or a drink and watching the water and the kids play.
You will need to stay in Maputo while you wait on your negative Covid result. We found a gorgeous, cheap & cheerful guesthouse called “Guesthouse 1109” with a pool, rooftop bar & air conditioning. You will find hundreds of places on Booking.com (where I always book) but Maputo can be quite dodgy and this place is central & safe (and walking distance to a Spar) 

1. All they need is a backpack with like 5 swimming costumes, a beach towel & 2 pairs of slops. Pack light. They will NOT wear all the clothes you want to pack. Also pack an activity book, pencil, their tech device & earphones. Just that 1 backpack. Don’t check any of your luggage in.
2. Draw cash at an ATM as soon as you land in Maputo. You have no idea how many times the kids will want a water / snack and the local stop won’t have card facilities.
3. Get a SIM CARD at the Maputo airport and load it with at least 5G data and airtime. The transfer to Bilene is 2.5 – 3 hours and you will save your soul by letting the kids use your hotspot and connect to your WiFi / data.
4. Download at least 5 new, free games that DON’T use data for their devices for actual emergencies (delayed flights / queues / transfers)
5. Have 1 travel envelope to keep all the passports, Covid tests & boarding passes in 1 place
6. If you fly AirLink, note that they do serve a light meal and beverages on all flights. But still carry snacks in your bag. Why do they always need snacks?
7. Pack a first aid kit. I don’t mean just burn shields & plasters. You MUST pack:
Allergex cream for insect bites
Swimmer’s Ear drops for sore / blocked ears
Allergex tablets
Panado
Valoid (for nausea)
A stick of Peaceful Sleep that you can easily rub & re-apply after swimming
Malanil malaria tablets
1. If you fly in via Maputo, you will ask your transfer company to stop at Baia Mall. Here you will buy the groceries & basics for your stay. If you have only packed hand luggage (and I recommend you do as you don’t need much and it makes the airport such a breeze) then you will need shampoo, conditioner etc. You will also need long life milk. A few loaves of sliced bread (I freeze the bread & pop slices in the toaster as needed). Lots of eggs, cheese, cold meats, firelighters, bottled water, snacks, cereal etc. With the kids, I found that those packets of ready-sliced cheese on toast went a long way! You will need lots of fruit juice and of course your alcohol (which you can buy at the GAME). Pro tip – there are bakeries in the mall that sell authentic Portuguese pasteis de nata. Do not miss out
2. Learn basic Portuguese phrases for hello, thank you, please etc. This goes a long way in how the locals treat you.
3. Join a Facebook group called DriveMoz. It has like 68 000 members and people post daily tips & questions re life and travel in Moz. They also have VERY handy printable documents & info on their website. Eg, if you’re divorced / traveling without the other parent – all the consent forms & info is there.
4. DriveMoz has an option where you can pre-order registered and loaded SIM cards, delivered to your door before your trip. Highly recommend!
5. The roads in Mozambique are mostly awful. After Maputo, you won’t easily (or at all) find any luxuries or even fresh milk. No fast food chains.
6. Bilene has a bottle store and a very, very basic shop and some fruit / veg vendors
7. The Mozambique ATMs will only allow you to draw 5000 meticals (about R1000) at a time, up to 3 or 4 times a day. Most places & suppliers accept rands, so have a backup stash of cash to tip people, pay for boat trips, drivers etc. Where possible – pay via EFT in advance.
8. You need at least 8 days in Bilene to truly get settled in and have enough time to relax. Then you need to add another 2 days in Maputo for your Covid tests & waiting on results
9. Take Malaria tablets. Malanin is expensive but great. You don’t need a script. A few pharmacies don’t have it so contact / order in time for them to get stock
10. Have fun. It’s a tiny mission / 2.5 hour transfer from Maputo to Bilene but once you’re there it’s absolute paradise!
0
0