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.
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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.

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Bunny fishing banana

I feel like I need to walk around here with a feather duster and dust all the cobwebs off of this blog! It’s been so long, and I’ve missed being here. I really love keeping all my memories in one place and having a little online journal! How I’ve missed writing.

Today I want to talk about Benjamin Nicholas Clark! He is the sweetest little guy that you’ve ever met in your life, and he loves nothing more than fishing. He started when he was about 2 years old and he’s NINE now. He’s caught more fish than anyone else I know and he’s really, really good at it. I don’t know what attracts people to fishing, but whatever it is – it literally has Ben hooked!

My boys each have their own hobbies, talents and interests. Benjamin is all about fishing and art. He loves to draw and sketch and has built up a gorgeous portfolio of pieces. I think that I help out more on the art side and his dad is also a passionate fisherman. They spend hours at the local dam or on a kayak pulling bass out. Once, when we were in Paternoster – I organised for him to go deep-sea fishing with a family friend. He pulled out the biggest fish out of all the grown men and was in his element. They caught Hotentots and that night Ben helped scale, prep and braai his very own catch. It was such a lovely moment to be a part of. He was SO PROUD.

Anyway, I need to keep all these pictures together for him, because it’s so nice to watch him grow through the years and develop into a proper little fisherman. I always wonder if he’d want to join a fishing club or go professional in some way one day. I love that fishing gets him out the house and into the outdoors, and that his best friend (James) is also a major fishing enthusiast. When Ben has a great catch, he immediately wants to call James on the phone and tell him all about it. Here’s a look at Ben’s fishing trips and catches throughout the years. What a great little man! I love you Ben.

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Welcome to Bunny-Land.

You know what this blog is like to me? A friend. A friend that I’m really bad at keeping in touch with and never get around to seeing, but when we catch up again then it’s like nothing ever changed. I miss writing. I mean, I write for a living – but I miss writing here. I write for clients, other blogs and websites and I recently finished my first children’s book called The Silly Adventures of Buttons and Honey. I’m officially an author, and it blows my mind.

I have to tell you about the book first, though. About 5 or 6 years ago I started telling my kids these sweet little bedtime stories. You know when your kids are in bed and you’ve re-read all their books a hundred times? And you don’t even want to switch the lights on to find a reading option because, my God, that might wake them up all over again? I wish I knew the exact date or year that I made these characters up, because it’s literally their birthday and I just have no idea.

I created these characters called Buttons and Honey. They’re brother and sister bunnies who live in Bunny-Land, under a big apple tree. When I think about the sh*t that I made up I find it incredibly hard to believe that I’ve never taken drugs. I really haven’t. When you read the books one day you might suspect this, but seriously… I’m clean, you guys.

Buttons and Honey basically push boundaries. Instead of parents restricting you to one glass of Nesquick, these bunnies’ parents filled an entire swimming pool with Nesquick. And sweets. So it’s not “Alice in Wonderland” or anything like that. It’s more… Richard Scarry meets Beatrix Potter and Julia Donaldson. I have made up dozens of Buttons and Honey stories over the years.

A few months ago, I finally got the courage to actually write them down. I was laying in bed really late at night and I kept telling myself that I need to get around to it… to these books that I want to write. I guilted myself and then I had a super hard conversation with myself. The inner guilt-trip switched to motivation and I thought you know what? I’m just going to get out of bed RIGHT NOW and do it. The whole house was asleep and I was so tired, but I sat writing until the early hours (at least 2 or 3am or later) until I had all three of my favourite books penned.

Over the following couple of weeks, I’d gathered Theodore Key (the most incredible illustrator) and I spent so many wintery afternoons sitting in the sunroom at our Stanford house, putting the layout together. I can’t draw (at all) but I managed to shape the book into a 32-page layout, and off Theo went to bring Bunny-Land to life. There have been so. many. tears. I cried, cherished and celebrated every single step.

I got the most phenomenal literary agent (Catrina) and we signed contracts and put some legal things together. My designer, Colin put it all together and on my 35th birthday – I printed the very first Buttons and Honey book. Having that (and a bottle of Moët) in my hands was definitely one of the proudest moments of my life.

Writing a children’s Picture Book is much, much harder than I imagined it. Honestly, it’s so difficult, time-consuming, meticulous and expensive (if you’re paying for artwork). You don’t need to submit illustrations for picture book consideration (to publishers) but I wanted to do it for myself and for my kids. I was so proud to show them that mommy finally did it. I definitely think that I’ll stick to picture books, as YA (young adult) is so saturated and daunting for me. I think I’d rather leap to an autobiography one day, as I write very easily in this narrative.

What I HAVE discovered is an incredible, supportive, informative, encouraging, friendly and kind community of writers on twitter. Honestly, I have learned more about the world of publishing by following a few key authors, agents, illustrators, editors and publishers than I could have imagined. I’ve also reached out to local authors for support and the amount of gracious love and kindness that I’ve received has surpassed all the expectations I didn’t even have.

I’ve also learned that I need to keep blogging. I need to keep this narrative and my own inner protagonist going so that my craft stays fresh. I need to keep writing, communicating and surrendering my thoughts to typeface. I’ve realised that I’ve always lived in Bunny-Land and every step I’ve taken in my writing career (from poetry and anthologies of verse to gossip mags. From parenting blogs to news writing, press releases, social media content and lifestyle communication) has shaped and nudged my talents into various directions that all either hit the end of the stream of made me run out of steam. I either hit a brick wall or got gloriously bored. But not this. This is different, and I can feel it in every stroke of the keys, in every new rhyme, every furious scribble and I can see it in every illustration.

To quote my favourite lyric in one of my favourite musicals (The Greatest Showman): This is me.

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Flying with children

Travelstart asked me to share some tips with them on flying with children. My friends, all I really want to tell you is what NOT to do by telling you a story of what happened to us the last time we flew with the boys. There is a big reason why this was the last time. We actually got those tickets via a Travelstart search, so check their deals on cheap Flights to Cape Town

Three years ago, we flew to Durban on Christmas Day because the flights were so much cheaper. The boys had received toy swords for Christmas (yay) well actually all their gifts included swords, shields, superhero costumes, water guns and erm… handcuffs. Metal ones. Obviously, those were left behind. On the plastic swords, I was just like… “maybe I should just call the airport and check if they can bring them on the flight…” like a good and organized mother, taking all the necessary precautions *pats self on back* It went something like…

Me: Hello Cape Town International Airport?

ASCA: Yes

Me: Is this Airports Company South Africa?

ASCA: Yes (doesn’t like being at work on Christmas Day)

Me: My sons have these erm, swords. You know those cheap, plastic, kiddies swords?

ASCA: Yes ma’am (probably doesn’t though)

Me: They’re not like, dangerous. I was wondering if the kids are allowed to take them like, on the plane. Just as carry-on? I mean carry-on is probably better. Is that fine? You know those plastic swords? Totally not dangerous

ASCA: They’re not metal?

Me: No-no, they’re plastic. Pretend. Like, for playing

ASCA: Those are 100% fine, they can bring them as carry-on. Yes that’s fine, as long as they’re not metal

Me: You’re really sure?

ASCA: Yes

Me: Oh good, I mean – they just got them today and they’re so excited about them… you know how kids love swords

ASCA: Was there anything else ma’am?

Me: Nope! Thanks so much for assisting! And HEY – Merry Christmas! :))))

ASCA: *click*

So off we headed. Okay no well, wait… They also had these plastic water guns. They’re so cool, you can add a balloon to the end of the (rifle shaped) gun and then you pump water into it. So actually not a gun, a pump!  They’re plastic and I was in charge of packing, so I was like “no man this is fine… it’s plastic, won’t even show up in the detectors… totally cool… I’ll just put them in.” And then the boys each had a backpack of toys and colouring books to entertain them on the plane ride. Check. Best mother ever. All sorted.

Well.

We got to the check-in counters to get our boarding passes. Load the bags. And the check-in lady (CIL) was like

CIL: Where are you flying to?

Me: Durban! And hey! Merry Christmas!! :))))

CIL: The 13:30 flight? (I don’t think she was of religion that celebrates Christmas) (at least not the sort of Christmas where you buy weapons for your children as gifts) (why did I do that again?)

Me: Yes

CIL: Bags please ma’am

Me: Graeme! (I mean really as if I could lift that bag. We’d only packed two bags – a communal one for him and I and a joint one for the kids. Because I’m smart!)

CIL: This bag is 27kg ma’am (HATES me)

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Me: That’s nice

CIL: You’re only allowed 23kg per bag, per person

Me: Yes, but you see – my husband and I put both our things in ONE bag. So like technically, the bag is 19kg UNDERweight.

CIL: No ma’am

Graeme: It’s fine, what do we do now? How much is the charge per kg?

Me: NO! I mean, this is ridiculous. We have an allowance of 46kg between us. That doesn’t make sense.

CIL: You could move some of your things to another bag so that this one is at 23kg

Graeme: That’s fi…

Me: NO! I mean. This is ridiculous. It’s the same amount going on to the same aircraft, you just want us to move it into a different container? I mean this doesn’t make any sense. This is just so ridi…

Graeme: Unzips bag to begin moving things from one bag to another. As soon as bag is unzipped, two water balloon rifles are exposed

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CIL: Ma’am…

Me: It’s fine, they’re plastic. Like, they don’t even have triggers, it’s just to…

CIL: Ma’am. We need to take you to security.

Me: WHAT THE ACTUAL F…

Graeme: Where are they? Do we need to have these cleared? What is the procedure? (annoying how level-headed and rational he is)

CIL: Please come with me. You’ll need to be escorted

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Before we could leave we had to fish through our bags to distribute those golden 4kgs. There is nothing glamorous about diging through your underwear with about 37 people standing behind you in a check-in queue. We had to go to the other side of the airport, the whole family and CIL in tow, with the 23kg bag containing the forbidden plastic water pumps shaped like guns. Very dangerous. Kids are by now all WTF YOU SAID WE WERE GOING ON A PLANE (fine, they did not actually say WTF) The bag needed to go through some sort of special clearance, departments were phoned, we had to wait a while and CIL was very happy to leave us there as somebody else’s problem for the day.

Eventually, they decided what I knew all along: THAT THEY’RE PLASTIC BALLOON PUMPS that can inflict absolutely no harm on another living being or aircraft containing passengers. Like, if someone was (let’s say) trying to hijack a plane with a neon green toy then y’all would be like “sit down”. I know you aren’t allowed to mention plane jackings in airports but like THIS IS MY BLOG AND I’LL SAY WHAT I WANT.

Satisfied and reassured that all our bags are safe and will arrive at the said destination at the same time, we were super eager to get to the boarding gate, maybe have a Wimpy  burger, buy a magazine (all parents going lololol right now) and relax before our flight (more lololol) Yay us! Before we even got to the boarding gate, while we were in the queue, it started again. This time from the Boarding Gate Lady (BGL)

BGL: Ma’am. Excuse me ma’am? Those aren’t allowed

Me: WHAT?!

She was pointing toward the boys’ backpacks. The sword handles sticking out in the centre – too large to be zipped up.

Me: No-no it’s fine, I called the airport and they said it’s cool. Really (trying to reassure her) it’s totally cool! (like really… I wasn’t worried at all) (thinking “shame”, maybe she’s new)

BGL: Ma’am those are not allowed through these gates

Me: Can I speak to your manager? This is unacceptable.

BGL: Step aside please ma’am

By now, the boys are inconsolable, we’re about to miss our flight and Graeme and I are having a full-on argument in the airport. On Christmas day. In front of everyone. The supervisor arrives.

BGL2: What seems to be the problem?

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By now, I am not wishing anyone a Merry Anything. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not even Christmas anymore. I mean, I am such an organized person. I had booked these flights in like October and all our Christmas shopping was done by mid-November. I LOVE administrative detail, being organized and having things go according to plan.

So I explained the whole thing to her, that I’d phoned, that I’d been told the swords are allowed, that well – we’re going to miss our flight and we really need to get going.

BGL2: Who did you speak to on the phone?

Me: I don’t know? The person who answered it.

BGL2: That person gave you the incorrect information

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Me: I’m sorry, but when you call THE AIRPORT which REPRESENTS… our airport and you ask an AIRPORT RELATED question, you sort of expect them to know how things work and give you the correct information, right?

BGL2: You were given the incorrect information. Those are not allowed on the plane. You can go to the security point and put them in with your main luggage. They might give you clearance.

Me: We were JUST there, our bags were already cleared. They’re probably already on the plane. I mean, I can’t do this anymore.

I usually don’t care a lot about these kinds of things, but these were my kids’ Christmas presents that I’d told them they can keep and that I’d already called to clarify and confirm because I was unsure. I mean, they were from Father Christmas, after all. Graeme was SO over it by now, but I was adamant that I was told this was allowed, and BGL2 is obviously wrong. And so it just got worse.

BGL2: Ma’am you’ll have to leave these here

Me: WAIT! I know. I’ll *phone* the airport right now here next to you and you can speak to them and they’ll just clarify everything. I’ll sort it all out right now! *presses redial*

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ASCA: Airport Company South Africa

Me: Hello, YES! Is this Airports Company South Africa?

ASCA: Yes (still doesn’t like being at work on Christmas Day) (basically this whole thing is all this guy’s fault) (not that I’m BLAMING him) (I am)

Me: I spoke to you earlier, about the swords – you know the toy swords? Did I speak to you?

ASCA: *pause* yes ma’am

Me: OKAY!!! So. I’m at the boarding gate. With the swords. And they won’t let me take them on the plane. Can you speak to the supervisor, please?

ASCA and BGL2 exchange words for at least… 7 seconds. BGL2 hangs up. Passes phone to me.

BGL2: Ma’am. You spoke to customer care. They aren’t authorised to make those decisions or to handle security queries. They’re just customer care

Me: That’s odd, cause I AM A CUSTOMER. Is there another number I should have called to get this kind of information?

Graeme: Tash seriously, we’ll leave the swords here, it’s fine. Is there a holding locker or something? Can we collect them on our way back?

We had to explain it all to the kids who by now had forgotten they even had swords they were so over it. I was over it. The airport was over us. Finally, all issues aside, we made our way through the boarding gates. I sighed with relief as nothing beeped when I went through the metal detector. No weapons in my handbag. Laptop all scanned through. I was READY to get to Durban. Christmas, round two was underway! Whoohoo!

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*beep beep beep beep beep*

Wait, what? No really… WHAT? Somewhere behind me, there was an issue with Graeme and the boys and security. No, really. I could see the Boarding Gate Scanner Guy (BGSG) freaking out a bit (whispering and making eye contact) as the boys’ backpacks went through that x-ray carousel thing.

BGSG: THERE ARE GUNS IN HERE

Me: You have got to be…

All other airport folks are now stepping back and staring at my family. Graeme looking at me as if I had just murdered someone. Or farted. The kind of fart that makes you not love someone anymore.

Me: I SWEAR I have nothing to do with… Graeme? they packed their own bags. Oh dear God why did we let them pack their own activity bags?

Noah’s bag contained: One pair of scissors. Two plastic guns. Another water gun. All of which got thrown into a big container next to the BGSG. Ben’s bag contained much of the same, another two pairs of scissors. Fair enough. Eventually, the boys got the backpacks back with wide eyes and renewed respect and fear for the airport system. Grays and I sort of stood around putting things back into bags, sheepish grins as the piled up queue and other parents just stood there watching us. Judging.

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And that was the first 2 hours of our holiday. It was obviously all forgotten as soon as they saw the plane and got lost in the excitement and wonder of flying. Have any of you had airport dramas like this? Of course you haven’t. Because you don’t pack guns and swords into your luggage, and nor do your children!

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<sidebar> Obviously I do not BLAME the airport for not allowing us to take these items on to the plane. It’s just a funny story. If you’re ever unsure of an item that you’re allowed to take on the plane, it’s best to phone ACSA and ask to be put through to the SECURITY department. The airports do a very good job. Please don’t ban us.

Unfortunately, I have to fly with the boys again this year. We’re planning a trip to Johannesburg  because I really want to take the boys to the Johannesburg Zoo. They both love animals and Benjamin wants to work as a Zoologist one day, so it’s going to be a huge treat/surprise for them. Check out TravelStart’s deals on > Cheap Flights From Johannesburg To Cape Town because there are so many deals on right now. I’m also including the infographic on how to fly with children, just so you can be more prepared this holiday season.

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A weekend away as an Experience

A few months ago, I got an “Experience Days” voucher to try out. They’re a company that lets you buy experiences for people, – instead of presents. I happen to be big on this; I would much rather buy someone art lessons, a weekend away, bungee jumping etc instead of a random, heartless gift. So “Experience Days” is how you can gift someone things like horseback riding through the winelands, weekends away, shark cage diving, a supercar driving experience, a flower arranging course – etc. If you’re stuck on getting something for ‘the person who has everything’ then this site is for you. They’re big overseas and have just launched in SA. The company asked me to pick an experience for my family to do… just to get the feel of it and how it works. Check them out here > Experience Days.

I chose a night away, ‘Glamping’ with the boys in Montagu. You can find the listing on their site here. The place we stayed at was really, really cool. A few things I loved:

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  1. They’re totally affordable. It’s R800.00 for the voucher and you get your own, private campsite for a night, that sleeps 4
  2. They’re dog-friendly. It’s so hard to find a place where we can take Jack. I hate leaving him behind
  3. There’s a working farm on the premises with chickens, sheep, goats, geese, and alpacas. The owners live nearby and they give you food to feed the farm animals. The boys got to hold a 3-day old goat, see a 4 HOUR old lamb and baby geese too. They fed the Alpacas which was so sweet.
  4. There’s a dam there for fishing/swimming. We didn’t catch anything, but it was fun trying. Sort of!
  5. There are braai facilities, and you can order wood (R25 per basket) Your campsite has its own private kitchenette (with gas stove) and a bathroom with a shower.

The boys really enjoyed playing in a proper tee-pee. We slept in the handmade gypsey wagon which was pretty darn cool. There are beds with bedding and towels in the ‘rooms’ so you don’t have to worry about dragging your entire house along to go ‘camping’. It was a short stay and we definitely could have stayed an extra night. The drive is pretty far from Cape Town (about 2 – 2.5 hours) so pack entertainment for the kids.

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We fished, and Francois braaied for us. The boys played ball on the lawn and we felt like we were a million miles away, which was really nice. I made a big bed under the stars for the boys and we all laid there watching the sky together. Even Monkey (our new baby lovebird) joined for the weekend. He’s super tame and hand-reared – but I’ll tell you more about him another time!

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So check out Experience Days if you’re stuck on a gift for someone. What I like about them is that you can send gifts to friends and family in other provinces/countries without relying on the post office or a florist. The prices are good and there’s a big range of things to choose from. E.g. my dad lives in Durban, and I can send him a voucher to go River Rafting for Christmas. It’s something that I know he’d never do on his own, and I think it’s more special than sending a bottle of whiskey or similar, you know?

 

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The boys in their Winter Country Road gear!

I haven’t done a little shoot of the boys for such a long time. With the move, renovations and work, I’ve barely got their winter wardrobe sorted and find myself fishing through cupboards trying to find snuggly gear that still fits. Growing kids are the toughest, because when they were younger they needed a new wardrobe every single year. Can you imagine that for a second? That everything you own in your cupboard needs to be replaced every year from your shoes to your shirts? Actually, that doesn’t sound bad at all. Now that they’ve settled in to their growth, I’m getting 2-3 years of wear out of items (especially when I’m sneaky and buy a size too big hehe) so I’ve really enjoyed dressing them more lately. I love it when they look good and people stop and comment on how stylish or adorable their little outfits are.

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I shopped at Country Road V&A Waterfront as they have a huge kids section. They had a 20% sale on some winter items, so I did go a little bit mad. I love the quality of Country Road’s clothes and have a few of their items in my own wardrobe too. When I went to Melbourne in January I came home with the most beautiful Country Road dress you have ever seen – but more on that another day / post. Extending my favourite brand in to the boys’ wardrobe makes me happy and I can see how proud and different they act when they’re dressed well, you know? It has begun! I really love the kids denim range. The fit is so snug and lightweight and makes them look like proper little tiny grownups.

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We took a walk down to our favourite sushi spot the other afternoon, so I took some fun pictures along the way to show you how sweet the latest kids #Countryroadstyle gear is. The boys are so good on camera and love playing along. They do drama at school, so I totally take advantage and say things like “show me happy” okay now “show me serious or excited or fun” like really, they are always so keen to play pretend and will be on a ramp in Milan or at least in Vanity Fair in absolute no time. KIDDING. Am I? How cute are these outfits!

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PS Check out sweet Nina’s new outfits on Angie’s blog if you have a girl and want to play dress-up too > Lucky Pony 

 

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Cotton On Kids: Playground Approved Denims

Last week the nice people at Cotton On Kids sent the boys some very cool outfits and an invitation to put them to the test at our local aquarium. Basically, “Playground Approved” a 40 piece collection in the latest styles, made with with premium stretch fabrics. The jeans are definitely more comfortable for them (they said) with more wriggle room for running, jumping and playing. There was definitely a lack of denim apparel that is suitable for the every day life of a kid. These denims have (discreet, sewn in) elasticated waistbands so you’ll get more wear out of them as your kids grow. The new range is available for boys and girls up to 14 years, in store at Cotton On Kids now. Here are some fun photos I snapped of the boys at the aquarium last weekend. Aren’t they just the cutest, coolest kids in town? I think so!

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You can check out more of the range on their website over here > Cotton On Kids and a major thank you to the team for the boys’ new little outfits. They had a really fun day!

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My top beach prep & packing tips for families

We’re planning our December holiday and I’m sure that you are too. Over the years I’ve become quite the bag-packing expert. I wanted to share some of my essential (and also favourite) items that need to be in your family beach bag this festive season, as well as some beach safety and convenience tips.

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1. Freeze bottled water the night before your day on the beach. This way, you can use the frozen bottles instead of ice to keep your other refreshments and snacks cool.

2. My favourite beach foods to pack that keep well in a cooler bag (and are easy to eat) are grapes, berries, naartjies, sandwich rolls, drinking yoghurt, dried fruit and nuts.

3. Always take wet wipes for sticky fingers (and bathroom emergencies) and a plastic packet for rubbish in case there isn’t a bin around when you leave.

4. Baby powder works a charm to soak up moisture and easily removes sticky sand off of legs and feet before getting in the car! The beach sand in some parts of KZN is the worst, but baby powder will remove every last grain of sticky black sand. Try it!

5. For safety at crowded beaches, I like to draw a big circle around our spot and tell the boys to stay in the circle unless given permission, eg to fill a beach bucket with water. It’s good to have a general ‘reminder’ chat with your kids in the car about petting dogs they don’t know, blue bottles and water safety on the way.

6. Remember to have some money on you to treat the kids to an ice cream. Sometimes you really just want a lolly to make you jolly on the beach. I mean, it’s the holidays, after all. Take cash!

7. Let the kids pack their own bag of beach toys, and don’t think conventional. Items like tupperware, plastic spoons, ice trays or plastic cups will entertain them for hours.

8. Apply sunblock to yourself and your kids before you leave the house or hotel. This saves you from spending your first 20 minutes on the beach struggling with wiggling kids and rubbing suncream on your husband’s back. Use a 50spf with kids – it just lasts longer.

Other than that, you’ll definitely need your essentials like towels, cozzies, spare clothes, music, goggles, a book, floaty toys, a camera and some sun hats. Moms might want to pack a nifty travel razor like the Venus Snap, as well as your tweezers for some last minute and on the go grooming emergencies. Here are some fun pictures that Graeme took of Noah and I at the beach this weekend.

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Keen to WIN a really cool prize? Venus is giving away a shopping spree worth R20,000 at Topshop to a very lucky girl! All you have to do to stand a chance to win is:

  • Buy one of their Venus Snap razors
  • Snap a flat lay image including your Venus Snap
  • Upload it to Instagram using #VenusOnTheGo. I made you a little example below. How easy?

I’ve got some more holiday vibes and ideas to talk about and share with you, but please go enter this competition in the meantime and tag me in your pictures. I want to see what’s in your beach bag this Summer!

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Why kids and parents love PediaSure Complete

I’ve spoken about this a lot over the years, but our little Noah is a self-proclaimed vegetarian and has been since he was three. It happened when we had the general food education chat with the boys. It’s so important that they know where their food comes from, how it is sourced and what the nutritional benefits and downfalls are. I regularly talk to them about ’empty’ foods such as macaroni and cheese that might taste really good, but it doesn’t have a lot of vitamins to make them big and strong. Literally all that little boys want to be is ‘big and strong’ and I love that after a good home cooked meal, they run to me and show me their muscles.

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When I explained the origin of meat to the boys – they each processed the information differently. Noah became increasingly aware of food processing. At school, they were learning about carnivores and something just started to make sense for him. He decided that he wanted to be a herbivore and not ever eat animals. I thought that it would be a phase, but FOUR years later, he has remained firm in his convictions, beside the odd food item. He could eat a 2kg steak if he wanted to, but he just doesn’t. Supporting him is key, both emotionally and physically.

On the flip side, Benjamin is a meat, rice and potatoes kinda kid. He’s (sort of) (okay not really) good with vegetables but after school, the ONLY thing he wants to eat is bread with melted cheese and tomato sauce. Noah is good with his grains, cereals, yoghurts and fruit but right now he’s losing his milk teeth and all his front teeth are wobbly, so he doesn’t want to eat anything hard. He hasn’t eaten apples for weeks and for some reason he despises bananas and genuinely hates citrus. So right now I have a boy who needs a supplement for fruit, protein and iron and another boy who needs a supplement for everything other than tomato sauce. While I make them nutritionally balanced lunches most afternoons, some of it gets left untouched or little excuses come up like them being ‘too full’ or not liking lettuce and today, this sandwich which contained absolutely no pepper at all, apparently had too much pepper on it.

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When the PediaSure team asked me to share my story on how I’m raising boys with dietary needs, it was a no-brainer because this is real life and something that I’ve been wrestling with for years. I want them to have the freedom to experiment with food, new tastes, cravings, phases and favourites. While we’re enforcing, encouraging and creating healthy eating habits, I need their nutrition bases covered to buy me some time and alleviate some stress. You cannot force a child to eat something that they have decided they do not like. Sometimes I can convince them, like: “Broccoli are mini trees, oh my gosh how cool that you’re eating a baby tree?!” and other nights I am just like “Who wants cereal for supper?” Graeme is a grown man and I can’t get him to eat brussel sprouts, marrows or patty pans. You should totally come ’round our place at supper time because some nights it’s just plain funny.

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I’ve given the boys this PediaSure milkshake as a supplement when they’ve been sick and don’t want to eat. When I say “milkshake” just remember that this is a powder that you mix with water – so it’s safe for lactose or gluten intolerant children. I love the vanilla one and obviously so do the boys. It’s creamy, sweet and filling and honestly tastes like ice cream. Inside each ‘milkshake’ you’ll be feeding your kid 16 vitamins and minerals, including Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Omega 3. Each serving is 225ml and contains 225 calories which is about 940 kilojoules. That’s about the same as 3 pots of kiddies yoghurt, so don’t worry about solely this product causing weight gain. It does serve as a meal replacement and the boys prefer having it at breakfast or as a mid-afternoon snack. Sometimes I put a few sprinkles of cinnamon on top because then it tastes like actual milk tart.

PediaSure Complete is a balanced nutritional supplement (scientifically-proven) and is ideal for the picky or fussy eater or even kids that need additional support in their diets like children with allergies – or little vegetarians like mine.

They have this whole website with myths and facts about fussy or picky eaters and how to manage their nutritional needs. If you’re worried about your kid missing out on essential nutrients for growth, then you can check out their Facebook Page which has a few tips > www.facebook.com/PediaSureSA and you can do some research on their website to see where your children might be falling short >  www.pickyeating.co.za

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This post is sponsored by PediaSure®Complete. The comments on this page do not constitute medical advice.

Your healthcare professional is best placed to evaluate your child’s growth and development. Should you have any concerns or questions, please seek advice from your healthcare professional? For product-related questions, contact the Abbott Nutrition Support Line on 0861 22 68 87.

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