Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Last week the country, and the world, was rocked by the news of Nelson Mandela's death. Not that it was a huge shock, at 95 and a very ill man, we knew it would happen soon but it's still hits you when it happens.

A few things have struck me during this week, the most striking being how the vast majority of people, from all walks of life and various political persuasions, have turned full circle in their thinking on Nelson Mandela and respect him as a great man who did great things. I have been amazed how people in their 80's who were subject to massive amounts of propaganda about him have a new understanding now.

I was fortunate enough to have met this great man. He visited Valley Pre-Primary where I taught for 6 years. I remember that he was a very humble person, unassuming even and... that he was very tall! But what made the biggest impression on me that day were his hands!!! He had very big hands, good for boxing!

As a child I remember hearing about this almost mythical figure, Nelson Mandela, a "terrorist". Being white, I was very sheltered from the violence that was happening not too far away but even that which I knew about was explained to me through the lens of propaganda and an ideology of Apartheid.
In High School I did a project on the ANC/Nelson Mandela and for the first time began to understand it all in a different way.

It was around about the same time that F.W. de Klerk had the wisdom and foresight to release Nelson Mandela and start negotiations towards a democratic South Africa.

How grateful I am that God would use these 2 men - 1 white and 1 black, from opposite ends of the political spectrum to bring about such change in this beautiful country and many other places far and wide. However, for those of us who lived through Apartheid - on either side, the biggest change must surely be in our hearts and minds.

I think that for many people it was the forgiveness he showed on being released from prison that made them take a step back. It could've been so different. I've read so many stories this week about how he went out of his way to reconcile with people. My favourite is the one about how he invited all the living wives/widows of the previous Presidents to tea. Betsy Verwoerd could not make the trip due to her health, so Mandela made a special trip to see her and have tea with her at her home. Remarkable. There are many similar stories.

Now, 23 years later, my children, thankfully, do not live under Apartheid. They have neighbours of  every colour, they have friends from all races. However much has not changed. Their school is still cleaned exclusively by black people, they still see the huge poverty in which people, mostly black people, live.
Still their minds seem unable to comprehend the historical reasons for this being the case.

Of course they know who Nelson Mandela was, that he was the President but they do not know or understand fully the long road he walked to get there. It is still on my agenda to visit the District Six museum to be able to better explain to them the history of this country and what Nelson Mandela did.

Yesterday we went with some friends to The Grand Parade in Town to pay tribute to this man. 
It was hot!
But it was good. 
A worthwhile experience. 

We travelled in by train, the fact that, had it not been for people like Nelson Mandela, part of our group would not have been allowed to travel in the same carriage, was not lost on us.

At the Parade we found the huge "wall" of flowers and tributes - in all shapes and sizes.
We added ours to the thousands already there.
Then we wrote in the books of condolence.

Niaves message - completely unassisted and without any discussion!
I was quite surprised!
Ironically there has been an exhibition on at the Civic Centre in honour of Nelson Mandela running since his 95th birthday in July.
In the heat, we headed over. 
We were very glad to be in the air-conditioned  building for a while!!
It was also a worthwhile visit. A really lovely display and quite poignant in light of recent events.
Three banners stood out to me considering what is taking place right now and what has been said:
The events of the past week
not exactly a reflection
of this...
Just yesterday I heard people say that
he was like Moses!

Lots of valuable quotes on this one
but the one I thought was so relevant in the
current context is the line at the bottom:
"I am not a messiah but became a leader
because of extraordinary circumstances"

Another place to write a message.

I didn't agree with much of what the Methodist minister had to say at the memorial service on Tuesday but he ended with this which I thought was quite fitting and gave me goosebumps:

from: "If" by Rudyard Kipling

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch.
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
if all men count with you, but none too much.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
with sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a man, my son!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Twelve? How did that happen?!

Today I have been a parent for 12 years.
It seems ages and like a flash all at the same time.
In another 12 years time Abigail will be an adult, possibly living far away, possibly finished studying something, possibly married, possibly a MOTHER - scary!

This is the start of her last year as a child although in many ways she is a teenager already.
A t-shirt she recently chose says it all - "Please don't interrupt me while I'm ignoring you!" -at least it says please!!

Just like the last 12 years, this phase of self-consciousness and embarrassment about everything will pass too quickly. At the end of June next year she will be half way through her school career, probably not soon enough for her but way too soon for me.

Abigail's loves: 





 Abigail's "hates":


talking in public 
(how embarrassing!),



How did this toothless wonder 
turn into 
this "grown up girl"?

The past 12 years have been a wonderful, interesting journey; may the next 12 years be the same.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

1Bedroom, 2 Days, 3 People on a mission!

To begin this story we have to go back, way back, before Niave was born.

When we first moved into our house Abigail, at 11 months old, had the room she is in now, but when Niave arrived she chose to move to the spare bedroom and give Niave her old bedroom, then along the way they had a time of sharing the bigger bedroom which didn't really work out and so Niave moved out into the smaller room and Abigail landed up back in her old room!

As a result the curtains, furniture and bedding were all mixed up and in the wrong places.
It was always on the list to get sorted but just never did until one day I decided enough is enough! If there's one thing I dislike more than mismatched linens it's non-functionality and that is just what Abigail's room was: a mess of non-functionalness!! (Sorry Renette, I know that's not actually a word!!)

So, with her birthday approaching and the realisation that she would be away this weekend I hatched a plan to give her bedroom a revamp as a surprise for her on her return, only problem being it would have to be a budget-style revamp as the coffers don't extend all that far!

I spent the last 2 weeks or so dashing about in every spare moment I had when they were not with me to source and price all the items I needed, I was very fortunate to get some good bargains and discounts and even a piece of furniture for free passed on from friends who no longer needed it.

So, Friday the 20th of September arrived and the hour of departure for camp drew near...finally I got to drop her off in Simonstown and head back to get started.

Just so you can appreciate the dramatic change here is a "before" picture: 

There is only 1 word: sad.

Okay, here's another... piles of junk everywhere!

The poor girl still had the faded curtains from when she was born!!!

Okay, so you can see the desperation!

First and foremost was the need for paint, Banana Milkshake may do when you're 1 but turning 12 - not so much, I found a really nice, inexpensive paint at Builder's Warehouse - R250 for 5L.

I went with a very neutral colour that will hopefully not date! Well, not as much as banana yellow anyway!

Next were bedding and curtains, really everything hinged on the duvet cover choice and after searching high and low I decided on this one:
I had to find something that was not too young, not too old and not too pink!
(Duvet cover and curtains from Sheraton - R380 altogether)

So with duvet cover in hand and curtains to match I could then start to look for some accessories. I found a blanket and floor rug at Mr. Price which rang up with a R40 discount - kaching!! Love that!!

I was hoping to be able to give the (very) old desk in her room a much needed coat of paint as well as the cupboard but as budget did not allow for that I just went with replacing all the doorknobs/handles with new and uniform ones - makes such a difference, I will still hopefully get to jazz up the desk but not this month!!

There is an old chair standing in Abigail's room that never really served much purpose other than to stack junk and the odd item of clothing en route to the washing machine, my mom found a really nice throw to go over it and voila, a chair to sit in, how functional!! 

Charly seems to like it already!

A few weeks ago I came across a chap who makes beaded items, he had some words - peace, hope, love etc. and I thought it might be nice to get Abigail's name done so I did!

Haven't quite decided where to hang it yet, it works well at the window with the light coming in but maybe it will move...

With Abs getting to be almost a teenager she really was/is in need of a dressing table of kinds, I found a lovely mirror and was going to recycle a shelf as a make-shift table until I was offered a workbench by friends who no longer needed theirs - very generous and it is just perfect.

With no built-in cupboards in her room, the extra storage space is going to be welcome, a couple of baskets should do the trick!

And so the (almost) finished "product":

 Just need a bedside lamp and 1 or 2 pictures and/or a pin board...but a major transformation nonetheless and a room, I think, very befitting of a 12 year old! 

And just because there are not nearly enough images in this post (!) here are some more:

Before :-(

After :-)

(Total cost: R1250.)

Just to say that I could not have done this, and certainly not in the record time of 1 night and 1 day, without the help of my parents, I think we are all going to ache all over tomorrow!

I can't wait to see Abigail's reaction, and remember, it's a surprise, so if you see her between now and tomorrow afternoon - shhhhh!

Sunday, September 1, 2013


A little bit of catching up is in order since I haven't posted since here goes:

During the June-July School Holidays we had the great joy of meeting up with an "old" friend!
My friend Cathy and I ended up having our first babies 3 months apart to the day and while Abigail and Tamsyn saw each other a fair amount up until the age of about 5 they hadn't seen each other for many years since. Cathy and her family recently moved to Canada but before their departure Tamsyn was able to come to Cape Town to spend time with her Grandparents and so the girls got together again. I had been a little concerned as at the age of almost 12 they could have been very different personalities, however, they got on like a house on fire! Anyone would have thought they had spent every day together!
"Old" friends!

On this particular day it was also Niave's first time ice-skating - on the big rink. Thank goodness for friends who are happy to hold the hand of small person while she finds her feet!

Another outing with Tamsyn was to Greenpoint Park on a wonderfully warm and sunny winters day.

It is nearly time for another school holiday but earlier in the term Abigail had to preserve something! We investigated various options and although her 1st choice was Biltong, the time frame didn't allow for that so we opted for jam instead. I was a little apprehensive, never having made jam before but I'm happy to say that it was relatively painless and really quite delicious...SO much better than store-bought, I am going to have to experiment with other fruits too!  

A couple of weekends ago we went for a walk in Tokai "forest" - it used to be a forest, now it is mostly fynbos but still lovely and almost more beautiful as with the pine trees removed other plants can actually grow. Even though we could see the snow on the mountains across the bay it turned into a lovely warm sunny day and the kids were stripping off their layers soon enough!

Having a rest!
 With the term winding down and it being the end of winter (haha), Niave took part in the Inter-schools Cross Country. True to form she came...second last!! It was a muddy, marshy track thanks to all the rain despite the beautiful sunny and even hot day that the event took place on. 

That lovely, hot sunny day was the calm before the storm as a few days later we were hit by a massive cold front. As a result of more than 30 hours non-stop rain there was major flooding all around the peninsula including my garden and the park over the road!

That brings us up to date...but now, ironing calls!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On this day forty years ago...

Today, forty years ago, a sister that I never met died. She would have celebrated her 1st birthday just 10 days later.
I think my siblings and I must be the only children in the history of the world to have been named alphabetically! 
The 3rd child born to my parents in 4 years, Cindy was a small baby, born just 17 months after her big sister Beverley. Andrew, about to turn 4 was the proud big brother who apparently doted on his littlest sister.

I could never understand until about 12 years ago what it actually meant to lose a child. Not that I can fully understand that even now but it was only when I was married and friends started having children that I could better understand what it must have been like. 

I always knew about her and what had happened - it wasn't hidden or hushed, my parents were very open about it, but it was all just facts or history to me until I was an adult.
I remember "mourning" for a child, a sister that I never knew when I finally understood what an 11 month old was like - a part of the family, crawling around, not just a still face looking at me through black and white photographs.

Realizing, when my own children were born, that 10 days before their first birthday, party preparations would be in full swing, only they ended up planning a funeral instead.

Until my own daughter was 4 and her little sister a baby, I could never have known what it meant to come home without your youngest child. To deal with your own grief as well as that of your other 2 very small children, I still don't know fully.

I would, as a teenager, often call myself "the replacement" when I was angry with my parents but I understand now the joy my birth must have been to a grieving family.

If it weren't for the death of that little girl, I may never have been born, and neither would my own children have walked the earth. It's difficult to understand God's timing a lot of the time and His purpose for things that happen in our lives. Sometimes perspective can come after a long time. 

Who knows where Cindy would have been today, had she lived. What she would have been like. Married maybe, a mother maybe, we'll never know.

It's been a long time since I looked at old photo albums, Niave says she's never seen a photo of Cindy, I think it's time to dig out those albums again and take a trip down memory lane.
Cindy Faith Koch
27 July 1972 - 17 July 1973

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A trip to the Country!

When I was a child we used to take the liberty of an afternoon drive to the country quite regularly. I have spent many an afternoon eating my lunch at the side of the road!
Although we rag my dad about it now those were good times.
My children don't get to do that enough.
But on Saturday that is exactly what we did, packed the car and settled in for a trip to Malmesbury/Riebeek West.
We have a beautiful country.
The iconic South African windmill!

I love the different shades in this picture.

Strolling through the vines.
If petrol wasn't so expensive I could do this every weekend!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Feeding the Squirrels (and rats, geese, pigeons and fish!).

During the holidays we always like to take a train trip to Town to stroll through the Gardens and feed the squirrels. This time another "goal" was to try out the new Burger King.

Well, we ended up feeding just about every creature except for ourselves!
As usual there were plenty of hungry squirrels coming out of the woodwork, they are so tame and will literally eat out of your hand if you sit still long enough bearing peanuts!
One thing that was unusual this year was the rats challenging the squirrels for their loot! I guess it's a given that they are there but we've never seen them before! The squirrels gave them a run for their money, uh, nuts though!

Along with the squirrels we are usually also covered in pigeons, once they get wind of the peanuts, this year we found a family of geese who were much more interested than the pigeons, I was quite surprised at how happy the parents were for us to be so close to their gosling's.

Further up towards the museum we finally found the pigeons, Abi and Bryce seemed to love becoming statues for them to sit on!

Niave and Mitchell preferred the fish that were literally jumping out of the water!

Four packets of peanuts later and there were some stuffed tummies, problem was they weren't ours!
Since the new Burger King opened, Abigail has been desperate to try it out...only thing is the queue! Minimum 1 hour wait but I thought maybe by now the hype would have died down...apparently not!
After a long trek down from the top of Town to almost the Foreshore we dragged our hungry little bodies back to the station, our hunger pangs only just warded off by a Sundae ala McDonalds!!

Another trip to Town done and dusted!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Purr Factory.

Every two years Greenfield puts on their school production. The entire school takes part - one of the many benefits of a small school is that every child takes part in things like gala's, sports day's and school plays. By the time Niave leaves Greenfield we will have been a part of 6 of these delightful events. That sentence can sound a bit sarcastic but it's not, they truly are delightful. Hard work, exhausting, disruptive to routine - yes, but delightful none-the-less!

The quality of performance that the "Dream Team" - as they have been dubbed, are able to produce each time amazes me. They are, after all, working with primary school girls between the ages of 6 and would never say so at times. The drama and dancing teachers are incredibly dedicated and have once again outdone themselves and will, I'm sure, need at least a week to recover!

So in spite of the moaning and complaining that I think we were all guilty of, it was a great success. So many talented girls and indeed parents - the sets were amazing as were the costumes.

The Purr Factory is of course about cats. The entire cast except for the grade ones were cats. The grade 1's were mice and there was 1 dog!

Four performances multiplied by 200 cat faces equals a lot of busy mommy's transforming the girls into cats and kittens of many breeds and varieties. And don't think the teachers were excluded!! They also had a part to play and took their costumes, make-up and hair very seriously!!
The Principal and grade 3 teacher!
One of the teachers told a story about stopping at the ATM on her way home after the first performance after having removed her make-up and ears, only after climbing back in the car did she realise that she was still wearing her tail!!!

The play takes place at Suzie Swishtail's Academy for Kittens where kittens learn how to be cute and adorable and finally graduate by receiving their purr's... BUT... the purr's go missing and the mystery has to be solved...

Niave was a mouse, they were Mickey and Minnie Mouses and looked very sweet in their red and white outfits and their Mickey ears! I am very glad not to have to get that hair in and out of those buns again!!
Not a very happy mouse at this point!
The boy and girl version of the mice costumes.

Abigail was an Alley Cat. 
They were brilliant - she had to have her hair teased to death 5 times in 1 week - I don't think it will ever be the same!

It's amazing what make-up can do, they were very cat-like.
Limits pushed, friendships formed, memories made, exhaustion and excitement in large amounts - thank goodness it only happens every second year!