Catching up – on spending time with children and sport

treeWe planned nothing this past weekend, except for spending time with the kids, and it was SO worth it. Puzzles were built, movie was seen, Spur was eaten, trampoline jumped, tickles were tickled, copious kisses and hugs were dispensed and walks were taken. We literally love-bombed them this weekend and it was awesome.

The week before last I was away in Gauteng for 3 days for work (loved it there by the way, lovely people, great weather!), then came back on the Friday night and off we went for an adults only night away to Riebeeck Kasteel with 3 other couples on Saturday night that was arranged ages ago. I felt really guilty about leaving the kids, but it was great to spend time with Etienne, we both needed it. Hence the weekend of kids only this past weekend.

The only pre-arranged thing we had this weekend was taking Daniel to a rugby match in Paarl on Saturday morning. I say ‘take Daniel to a rugby match’, as we didn’t really get to watch him play because he refused to once the game started. He didn’t even break into a run once during his match, it was painful to watch. I conveniently went off to buy coffee, so I was saved the worst of it.

There were plenty tears afterward, so we decided to withdraw him from the last 2 games, it really is not worth the heartache for him.

But hear me out before you start judging.

This made me think long and hard about the decisions we made at the beginning of the winter sports season. First Daniel wanted to play rugby and couldn’t wait to start, then not. Then there were lots of conversations about how much fun it is to play with your friends. Then he wanted to rather play hockey because one of his mates changed over early in the second term. We stuck to our guns, we really wanted him to see the season through as we felt there was a lesson in it for him about completing what you start. We (to be perfectly honest) also felt that maybe, just maybe, he was a tad lazy.

After Saturday we realised that he’s not lazy (mostly), he just really doesn’t enjoy team sports. Etienne asked him what he wanted to do in summer: not cricket, tennis please. Maybe hockey next year, but we aren’t going to push him. He is also keen to do gymnastics, so we’ll investigate that. He doesn’t enjoy physical contact of a competitive nature if that makes sense.  It’s hard to explain, as he is a very affectionate little guy.

It is really important for us to have our kids play a team sport, but after seeing what it does to our normally vivacious child are we really going to compromise his sense of self and his confidence?

I think not. We would rather find him something to do that doesn’t entail him sitting on his backside, builds his confidence and he absolutely loves and we will keep trying until we find out what it is.

Does this mean that we are going to let him change his mind every 5 minutes? Absolutely not. But I am no Tiger Mother, I have precious little time with my children, I would rather make it count.

Sometimes, as parents, we need to re-examine our own principles and the things we feel are important as they aren’t necessarily valid or applicable to our own children. And sometimes, just sometimes, our own shit gets in the way of raising happy, adjusted kids that will actually want to spend time with us when they’re all grown up in about 5 minutes’ time.

Edit to add: the other thing we did this weekend was to purge all the clothes from the cupboards in our room we don’t wear anymore and never would.  I went to drop off several black bags and a box of kitchen stuff at The Haven Night Shelter in Bellville.  I swear it looks like we have been burgled, we now only have the things we actually wear in our cupboards and I feel 10 times lighter not holding on to those size 8 pants I’ll never fit into again.  Hopefully there are a couple of people out there that are warmer tonight.

You win some you lose some

The school sent us a note earlier in the week to inform us that they would have a book sale yesterday for the Grade 1’s, please could we send money. Our firstborn has a bit of a checkered history with money and the tuck shop (trust me, you don’t want to know), so I made sure to ask the teacher how much money to send. R30-R50 she SMS’s back.

So, we give the fruit of our loins, our firstborn child, R50 with strict instruction that IT IS FOR BOOKS ONLY. And to bring change.

When I walked in the door last night there was a really awkward silence and I assumed that something must have gone awry.

Our eldest child, the joy of our lives, had taken his 50 SA Ront (which isn’t worth a whole lot in Dollars these days), gone to the book sale AND DIDN’T BUY A SINGLE BOOK. He did however go to the tuck shop and spend our hard earned R50 on Dilly Dallies (sp?) at R5 a piece.

He has been banned from computers, iPad and Xbox for a whole week.

On the upside, he knew to ask for 10 Dilly Dallies with his R50 and he did share.

We are just all about silver linings.

Isabel has also been entertaining us with being able to count until 1000. By ‘a 1000’ I mean that she counts until 100 and then in 100’s until 1000. We are a little gloaty about this, she is such a clever little button.

Mignon is the writer, she’s very keen to learn letters and words and really good with knowing her alphabet. Too cool.

Isabel also writes letters, but she mainly writes popopo and then asks us to read it so they can all belly-laugh until they cry.

Very entertaining this lot. We shall keep them and treasure them.

ps.  Our resident leftie, Isabel, writes from the right to the left.  Apparently this is a thing with left-handed children when they learn to write?

Just another morning

You know how some mornings you find yourself standing in the kitchen with no idea what you are doing there?  You then find yourself wandering aimlessly around the house picking up your discarded bra from the couch where you gratefully took it off the night before, contemplate packing lunchboxes and oohhh twitter! And Facebook!

This morning was that kind of morning.

It felt disjointed from the start as Daniel and Isabel were in a race to see who would be done first, whilst Princess Mignon was huddled under the blankets, a little lump of sleepiness.  The minute all 3 of them are not doing the same thing at the same time the wheels come off.  Then it is inevitable that someone leaves the house without brushing their teeth or wearing socks.  Don’t ever mess with the system.

As I’m about to get ready we realise that Mignon’s dress has a hole.  It’s one of those dresses with a frill at the bottom and part of the frill had unravelled, so not a simple sewing job.  Add to that the mute refusal as per SOP to take the dress off for any love or money I did what any self-respecting Mother would do:  I sewed the damn dress whilst the child was wearing it.

Then I had a wardrobe (socks with holes), hair (too wet outside so hair won’t go straight for all the tea in China) and mascara fail (smeared all over my face when I changed tops).

And then, grabbing a favourite big scarf from the drawer I finally manage to open it up whilst driving to work and get hit by that stale too-often-worn smell I loathe. You know that smell. It’s the smell of old dorm rooms and linen that hasn’t been washed in weeks.  THAT smell.

So now I’m at work in clean socks without holes (that I had to take off halfway through the morning and put handcream on my feet because I hate dry feet and there was no time to put cream on my feet this morning), missing half the eye shadow on an eye and stinking of used linen.

How’s your day going?

And the parenting awards keep rolling in…

Now there’s an idea!

Monday mornings at our house are always fun.  It is a mad scramble to get everyone dressed, everything brushed and out the door before the first bell goes at school.

Today started out slow, it took special skills to coax the kids out of bed.

It also took major patience to get them fed and convince, especially the girls, to get dressed.  Daniel was on a roll and quite happily playing with the iPad as reward for being ready early.

As I was packing Mignon’s ballet clothes into her suitcase (yes, I should have done this last night, judge away) Isabel comes into the kitchen looking for her boots.

Here’s the thing about twins: they are great to have around when one forgets the words or tune to a song they learnt in class, as there’s always someone to help.  They really are double the joy.

But man, sometime they are double the pain in the behind. Double the drama, double the stubborn, double the powers of convincing required.

Someone gave us a pair of Wellington boots with hearts on them ages ago that are already quite worse for wear.  We have lots and lots of pairs of Wellies, but this particular pair have always been a bone of contention.  Because, well, they have hearts on them.  Isabel usually wears them because SOMEONE (not me) wrote her name on them one desperate morning a long long time ago.  So technically they aren’t “her” boots, they have to share and take turns.

But this morning she wanted those boots and when she came into the kitchen looking for them I had a feeling we were in for a challenge.  Mignon was already wearing them.  When she found Mignon hiding out in our room wearing those boots there were tears.  At approximately the exact time we were meant to be leaving the house. When those meltdowns happen I have a little scream on the inside and I admit: I panic.

See, I’m really bad with picking one child over the other and terrified of making one child feel left out/disadvantaged in any way (my own shit, I know).  So mostly I leave Etienne to mediate, which he is spectacularly good at.  We usually have strict rules about ownership, but for reason these bloody boots slipped through the muddy cracks.

So we tried to coax Mignon into taking them off, which felt wrong to me, besides the fact that she mutely stared at me, refusing to budge. Then we tried to get Isabel to wear another pair of boots in that high-pitched “look at how lovely these boots are” voice.  You know which voice. THAT desperate we’re-late-but-I’m-going-to-humor-you-for-5-more-minutes-until-I-lose-my-shit-voice

Isabel cried actual, desperate, heart-wrenching tears.  I couldn’t bear it.  So, I offered a Mother’s desperate ultimatum: if Isabel doesn’t stop crying and give Mignon a turn no-one can have them.  They will go into the bin.

Cue more tears, more mute, immovable stares. And Daniel’s helpful little taunting voice in the background saying how cross Mommy is.

I lost the plot, took them off Mignon’s feet and chucked them in the bin.  The recycling bin nogals.

I know, I’m horrible.

Isabel was crying full-steam when they got into Etienne’s car saying how she promised to share if only I wouldn’t throw the boots away.  Promise!  Promise! That was like the knife twisting in my heart.

Which meant we were all unhappy, go ME!

We had a little make-up at the car with some serious hugs and kisses, but I felt like shit.

Thing is, I had visions of sending them to school with that one pair of boots between the two of them and the potential fighting there and I was just not prepared to cause more problems. I keep thinking about what the lesson was that we were all meant to learn and if I royally fucked up my kids this morning.  I also keep thinking of what potentially would have been a win-win for everyone or whether one of my kids (I can’t even decide which one because neither of them was really wrong!) had a lesson to learn from it.

Then I entertained (and swiftly abandoned) the thought of going out and buying new boots.  But then I would have had to buy 3 pairs of new boots and that’s just silly.  Besides, they have lots of boots as it is.

I don’t want to raise children that won’t want to share with each other, but I also don’t want to raise children that can be easily victimized or aren’t independent.  I battle with this a lot and I’m just really, really grateful that we have Etienne, he is often the lone voice of calm in a sea of emotional turmoil.

How do you deal with this kind of thing in your house? 

Is it an issue at all?

Welcome to the jungle

If winter is anything like tonight was I might be committed before very long.

I don’t know if the kids OD’d on sugar at school today or what, but it was a veritable friggin zoo at Casa Roux. I’m hiding in the bathroom at the moment because I’m afraid 1) of what will remain standing when I emerge and 2) what Etienne will be drinking in this time.

I don’t plan on leaving the loo until this blogpost is done by the way, iPads for the win.

Besides the normal burp and fart jokes it was mayhem and screaming and manic laughter from the minute I walked in. Our Norma isn’t here tonight, so it’s just Etienne and I. Outnumbered by our lunatic children.

Our day didn’t start out very well, they pretty much woke up like this. Then we forgot to pack in their juice. Then Megan (Au pair) came to fetch the house key from me at work, only she couldn’t get in the gate as it was the wrong set. Which meant a mad dash home and dispensing of frenzied hugs. (Which I’m not complaining about). Then Mignon lost her ballet shoes at school.

Crazy dinner making, usual complaints about mushrooms in Mac and Cheese (yes, they are over our last bad experience) and wanting Mom’s salad instead. Then on to read time and all 3 of them, each with a brush in my hair. I’m still flinching, I might be bald in several places.

But you know what, they play together. They laugh together. They aren’t bitching and fighting and hating each other. They are literally laughing their heads off at each other. They are having the time of their lives before the cruelty of teasing and judging and pressure of school and performance kicks in. They are being children and they are doing a damn fine (if loud) job.

And this? This is apparently a train-hug.

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Ps. I didn’t finish this post in the bathroom, little people were lining up outside the door for hugs and cuddles and kisses, so it’s much later now.

Edit to add: I forgot to say last night that they were also singing the praises of Perry the Platapoooeees. If you have ever spent time with anyone from Cape Town or encountered an angry Bergie this would need no clarification. If you are not familiar with the Cape vernacular, there is a very expressive, very popular naughty word which is the same word for cat in Dutch. That is all I have to say about that.

Lastly I’m adding this pic of the pics for posterity. All 3 kids in the bath on Sunday, soon they won’t fit in there and they won’t want to bath together.

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The obligatory first day of school post

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Before we discuss the spectacularly uneventful and drama-deprived first day of Grade 1 and the girls’ Grade 00 (fledglings) I should tell you about Isabel this morning.

Before we left for school I went to the loo and as I got up to zip my pants Isabel asks me ‘Mamma, hoekom is jou magie so vet?’ (Mom, why is your stomach so fat?). When I managed to gather my dignity off the bathroom floor I explained that she, Daniel and Mignon all came our my tummy. But not at the same time of course. There was a moment when she looked like she wasn’t going to accept that perfectly (!!) good reason for not having a concave stomach, but then she smiled and nodded. Phew.

How was our morning? Amazing. We were on time, no-one was shouting, there were no tears and no hysterical clinging to legs. And that’s just me.

We all walked Daniel to his class where he had no problem waving us off after a little spell of uncertainty. Etienne and I then walked the girls to their class where Mignon immediately hugged her new teacher and Isabel dodged the hug (not that into affection that child) and headed straight for all the cool stuff in the class. We hung around for a while, dispensed many hugs, kisses and high fives. They then discovered some play dough and promptly dismissed us.

Etienne and I were a little, well, bemused. As first school days go this was a complete breeze. He is dropping off for the rest of the week, so lets hope the good luck continues!

How was your first day of school?

Ps. My Mother, bless her, bought each of our children a microphone for Christmas. And a guitar for Daniel. Aren’t we lucky? This is how lucky we are:

If being stubborn was an illness..

.. then Isabel would have been terminally ill.

We try really hard not to a) compare the girls with each other, especially because they are twins and b) predict what they will be like when they grow up. It feels like we would put them in a certain “box” and we want our kids to be free to grow up to be who they are, not what we think they should be based on our perceptions.

But.

Isabel is by far the most stubborn child I have ever come across. Eeeever. Take last night for example:

We made lovely ostrich steaks, mash and salad for supper. (yes, I actually helped, it might rain) Madam decides, no, she’s not even going to come to the table. At this time of year we all use leverage created by the Christmas hype such as no gifts, no visit from Santa, no sweeties from the advent calendar and so on and so forth.

We don’t often use this leverage, it’s not how we want to parent, but it shames me to say it has come up over the last few days. Whenever we do use it it works to varying degrees, so imagine our surprise tonight when none of it worked.

Isabel just ignored us flat out. She wandered around the house whilst the rest of us had a lovely supper and knew not to come near the table otherwise there would be trouble. We didn’t shout, we didn’t get mad, we just said that there would be no other food and no choccie from her advent calendar. Was she upset? Nope, she was not bovvered. Not one little bit.

She just politely ignored us. We were waiting for her to finally give in and have supper, she has done this before, but always caved in and had supper in the end. But she stuck to her guns.

As a matter of principle we don’t fight about food, we only ask that they have at least a little of what is on their plate and generally they all eat really well. But this is a whole different ball game.
I know I over analyse stuff, but I worry that she is trying to control or manipulate us. I worry that she might have issues with food. I worry that she trying to tell me something I am missing. I worry if she is getting enough attention. (Etienne, if you’re reading this, stop rolling your eyes!)

Or maybe she just wasn’t hungry. But she said no to chocolate. What type of kid says no thanks to chocolate? (Actually, Mignon does, but that’s another story)

Do you have a really stubborn child? How do you handle these situations?

Ps: This is the same child that politely informed me this evening that she will have an iPad and a diamond necklace for Christmas. Boy, is she in for a nasty surprise.
Pps: it’s December. In Cape Town. Rain is highly unlikely. Just so you know.

Who carries the weight and a quick poll.

There’s something I’ve been wondering about for a while and I’m really hoping I will get it out right and not offend anyone (or that I haven’t already).

Here goes:

I’m forever going on about how fabulous my darling husband is and he really is (except when he is snoring at night).  He is just so much better at most things parenting than I am.  He feeds kids in the mornings and doesn’t lose his temper when there are last minute outfit changes or meltdowns.  He plans a menu for the week. He juggles cooking supper and keeping kids happy until I get home at night.  He cleans as he goes in the kitchen (big plus in my opinion, he even cleans up after me).  He mostly gets up at night, because I take happy drugs to help me sleep otherwise I won’t sleep and I won’t function.  He did poo.  He changed nappies.  He jumps on the trampoline.  He talks and listens to our kids.  He knows what movies they like and has seen them all with them whereas to me they are background noise.

In a nutshell: the man is a saint.

Here’s what I want to know: how involved is your husband/wife/co-parent?  Do they share the load or are you the one doing all the “admin”? I’m referring to all the things above (and parenting/life partner support in general) and it doesn’t matter that you might be a Stay at Home Parent, in fact your job is probably a lot harder to do because you cannot close an office door.

I’ve put together a poll, it’s anonymous, but I’m curious to know (as I’m sure you are) how much support our partners give us.  I’m hoping we will all be pleasantly surprised and even if the end result is sad I’m hoping it will make people like me that aren’t as involved as I should be think about it.

My fingers are crossed!

Ps: So clearly I haven’t blogged in a while.  I could complain about being too busy, but that would imply that I am busier than other people which could not be farther from the truth, so I’ll just keep it zipped.

Truth is I feel pressure to write and when I feel pressure to write I don’t, if that makes any sense.  It’s been quite liberating to not give in to the pressure of writing my self-imposed minimum of 2 blog posts a week and I’ve been spending some time thinking about next year and blogging, but I’m still thinking about it, so watch this space.

Grumpy McGrumpypants

I’m taking a moment to whine.

My Saturday hasn’t gone very well so far. It started with a burst water pipe in our street and went downhill from there. I thought there was more water in our geyser, so imagine my joy at being covered in conditioner and soap at the very moment the water ran out. Charmed.

I’m going to skip past the middle bit which also wasn’t pretty, but I briefly felt better after a nap. I then made the mistake of wanting to take Daniel to the hardware shop late this afternoon as I had taken the girls out with me this morning. I was at the same time looking forward to spending time with him and dreading his obstinate behavior. I have no idea where he gets this from. ‘Whistles and looks away’

We arrive at the hardware store and he says he is not getting out the car. So, I suggest that he either gets out the car or I can take him home and he crosses his arms and asks me to take him home. Which I promptly did.

Halfway home he changes his mind, no, he will get out the car, we have to turn around. Under normal circumstances I would have huffed and puffed, but I would have turned around gone back.

Not today. Today I thought fuck it. So I said no, it’s too late now.

We drive home in icy silence.

We pull into the garage.

He says he is not getting out the car.

I get out the car and stomp into the house.

Etienne asks what’s wrong and I tell him. Apparently this is a regular thing with them and Etienne normally just gets out the car and then Daniel hurriedly changes his mind and gets out too. But I also just know that if I try this he will call my bluff and simply stay in the car. So I huff and I puff some more and Daniel comes into the house.

I take my bag and leave the house on my own and needless to say there was much crying and gnashing of teeth.

I drive to another hardware store, only to find them closed.

By now I’m really pissed off, so I realise that I’m probably meant to drive back to the original store and see if I can still catch them open so I have some time to calm down. Which I did.

I arrive at the original hardware store, face still thunderous and look for some paint to finish a project that I’ve been procrastinating and some paint stripper for a new project.

In the 5 minutes to spare I couldn’t find the right colour, but I did find some paint stripper. I could probably have just looked at the frame I want to strip and the paint would have dropped off anyway, but now I have paint stripper, but no paint.

Go figure.

I guess what I’m really asking is this: do you ever leave your kids in the car?

Ps. I’m spending my Saturday evening at the Spur. This also does not please me. But I hear they have wine.

The balancing act

This might as well be renamed The Week Of Manners. I’m doing this as an exercise in mental stability, so it’s not a pretty post. (My mental stability, not the kids’, they are on their own.

Once again, is it just us, or is it normal?

Things we chose not to fight about tonight:
Children eating with their hands
Shrieking (ok, maybe just a little)

Things we did (constantly) remind the kids to do:
Eat with your mouth closed
Don’t jump on the couch
Don’t stab your carrots with the sosatie stick
Don’t scrape your fork on the wood of the dining room table
Don’t jump on the couch
Please, for the love of sanity choose a friggin toothbrush. (They have several each, we seem to have an issue with throwing them away)
Did I mention don’t jump on the couch?

Things we didn’t have to worry about tonight and are immensely grateful for:
Kids playing together
Eating of food – they cleaned their plates
Laughing out loud
Hugs
Reading time, without a single argument

In-between we have been shouting at the dogs barking at passersby with dogs and loud guinea fowl.

I live in a zoo. Happily so.