Thursday, 30 January 2014

This and That

For dinner tonight we had pasta with a tomato and herb sauce, and a summer salad. When I put Immy's plate down in front of her, she looked suspiciously at the pasta, stuck her finger in the sauce and tasted it. The verdict was an unfavourable one. When I asked what was wrong with it (mentally armed with replies for any reason she could possibly give), she said: It tastes very red. 

Final score: 4-year old, ONE. Comebacks - ZERO.


We are one month into the new year already. A month of re-establishing routines - the school run, early bedtime, swimming lessons, work and a to-do list that seems literally to sprout more tasks every night while I sleep. We're getting to bed earlier, and waking up earlier. Which means calmer mornings, and a happier start to each day.

A glimpse of this and that from our January.

First day back at school. She couldn't wait. She picked out the hugest school bag on wheels. I'm not sure why, because the only things we actually pack in it are one extra set of clothes and a bottle of water.

Weekends in the garden with the usual suspects - toys, and painting, and puzzles.

And this. When I asked her what she was doing, she said 'I'm putting my kids to bed'. I find 'the kids' in random places throughout the house - in her bed, under the duvet. On the couch, tucked in under a blanket.

And in this case, snuggled up in her tent.

We blew up her pool. It took absolute ages - and not surprisingly, about 10 minutes after we finally got it inflated and half-filled with water, the thunder clouds rolled in and stayed for the rest of the weekend.

Simple celebrations.

Like slow Sunday mornings, with freshly-brewed coffee, and scones straight from the oven.

Reading. And writing. REAL writing - in a book, with a pencil. Flowers from the garden, and candles, candles, candles. 

And finally - my moment of the month. Finding her outside, looking like this. Ama-ama-rockstar.

We're getting ready to celebrate a birthday next week - and Valentine's Day of course. I've already got some handmade felt heart brooches (matching ones!) on the way for us girls. Rob politely declined the offer.

Thanks for stopping by. Happy January!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Small corners

Last night I stumbled across a video of Immy that we recorded just after her 2nd birthday. I howled with laughter watching it - and then most unexpectedly, just ended up howling. Tears running in silent channels down my cheeks for about - oh, an HOUR. I'm not sure what prompted it, or why I needed it, but this is my theory.

Somewhere in my soul - all of our souls, maybe - there is a small, dark corner. In this corner, quietly tucked away and mostly forgotten, lie all of my dusty regrets, secret sorrows and unspoken fears. Sometimes that small corner needs to have the door opened, and a light switched on. Sometimes I need to take one or two of those neglected things off the shelf and spend some time looking at each one. Last night, it was time. Time lost, and spent, and never to be regained. Watching that video, I was struck by how time counts itself out in seconds, minutes, hours and then all of a sudden, without me even noticing - two whole years. The simultaneous miracle and heartbreak of how in two short years a baby can grow up, and away. I guess it's the away part that I have the hardest time with. And it got me thinking: did I pay enough attention to that smiling baby with the softest soft curls? Was I present enough, soaking in her voice and her chubby hands and her dimpled smile? I don't know. Deep down in my heart, I think so. I hope so.

As a mama, my job is to help her find her way along her path. To walk alongside her until, eventually, I'll fall back and she'll walk on ahead. I'm ready for it. But sometimes, I miss that small, warm body curled into mine. That freshly-bathed baby smell. The lisp in her speech and the wobbliness of her walk. The feeling of being everything to this small human being that so consumed our world.

She is already finding her way. With confidence, and excitement, and a spring in her step. And I'm grateful for moving forward, and all the promise that lies ahead.

But in that corner of my soul, there will always be that special once-in-a-while place: for looking back, and remembering, and for wishing- just for a moment - that I could reach my hands out and stop time dead in it's tracks.

To live in this world

 you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

- Mary Oliver

Friday, 17 January 2014

West Coast Road Trip: Bethulie

On the road to Bethulie, I found my Zen. Which sounds like a really lame song title, but allow me to explain.

We had been driving for approximately 10 hours when we turned off the highway at the Bethulie sign. It's a 52km detour from the highway (one way), and I was starting to doubt our choice of overnight accommodation. 52km seemed like an eternal distance to drive. The sun had set, and the sky was darkening from pink, to lilac, to dusky grey. And then about 40km's in, Rob suggested we stop and listen to the quiet.

So we pulled over, and got out. And stood, our little family, in the middle of the road, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and listened. It wasn't silent - we could hear the frogs in a nearby pond making plinking water droplet music, and the distant, gentle lowing of cattle settling down for the night. Instead, it was the absolute stillness of the place. An unmoving, enveloping sense of peace,  unending time and space. It whispered it's way into my heart and settled right into my soul. And I knew that that feeling was something to hold onto. That keeping it close and tuning into it would be my antidote to the constant hum of the city, the routines, the traffic and the always-noise which seems to break bits off of me.

I asked, but Rob said we couldn't stay there forever.

I call it my Zen because I can't think of a better way to describe it. I'd be lying if I didn't say that me and my Zen have parted ways a number of times since our first fateful encounter. But thankfully - so far- we seem to keep finding each other again. We walk a ways together on the path, and then a traffic jam strikes and I'm already late and my Zen quietly takes it's leave and drifts off into the undergrowth until I call it back and we link arms again.

We're only sixteen days into this relationship. But my Zen and I, we're making things work. 


Some pics from our final days of holiday.

Last sandcastles.

An afternoon in Yzerfontein. Rob has already decided that we should retire here when we're old and grey, and our biggest adventure in a day will be a trip to the shop for bread and milk. I told him we should maybe just book a summer holiday there as a first step.

It IS beautiful. An endless beach (16 miles, to be exact), crashing waves, and rocky outcroppings jutting into the sea where you can watch the tide roll in. It was so surprising to hear the sea ROAR after the other West Coast towns, where the sea is meek as a lamb.

And after all of this, at the end of a gloriously perfect holiday, who could have guessed that the cherry on top waited at the end of the road to Bethulie? The Royal Hotel. Which is the sanctuary and living dream of the owner, who always wanted a house lined wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with books, and records.

120,000 books. I'm not sure how many records. It's like a Russian nesting doll of rooms - each room opens into another room lined with books, which opens into a smaller room lined with books until you eventually get to the end of the building.

This is the dining room/disco area and these are only SOME of his records. The music played during meals was like being bodily transported back in time. The host is a published author, and hands down the most interesting person I have ever encountered. At dinner, he pulled up a chair at our table and regaled us with stories about Bethulie, the origins of the Pretoria Zoo, the well-behaved Bethulie ghosts - a break and a spot of ballet with Immy on the dance floor - and a midnight trip to the town graveyard with a group of Spanish tourists that gave everyone the fright of their lives. All delivered in the most charming British accent.

We practically RAN OUT THE ROOM next morning to continue our conversation at breakfast. The entire experience was refreshingly surreal.

Apparently he hosts Murder Mystery nights at the hotel. I can't imagine a place better suited to this purpose. It even comes with it's own resident ghosts. And large spiders on the roof which are less than ideal but easily dealt with by means of a bath towel (sweep spider off the roof), lightning reflexes (jump smartly sideways/backwards when it scurries into the folds of the curtains near your feet) - and a heavy-soled shoe.

And so ended our 2013 December road trip. It was an incredible holiday with all the best elements - quality time, beautiful weather, an unexplored part of the country, a few plans gone awry, and best of all - a whole new set of stories to file away in our Family Travels collection of memories.

My friends tease me because I am already browsing and dreaming and planning where to go next. I just can't help it.

And so to end: a quote by Mark Twain. Which so beautifully expresses how I feel about this, and what I so wish to pass onto Immy:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

There's always a next adventure , waiting just around the corner. And for me, the only question to be answered is: where?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

West Coast Road Trip: Cape Town

The most daunting thing for me about a new blog post is sifting through all the photos to choose just the right ones to tell our story. Sounds un-intimidating, I know. But since I actually know very little about my camera, I end up taking a zillion photos in the hopes that somewhere along the line I'll have captured that moment. Earlier this week, I sat up until after midnight for two nights in a row selecting photos for this post - none of which I felt happy with. So I deleted all my selections up to that point, and took a break for a couple of nights. I finished my book, did a bit of painting, spent a shameful amount of time playing Run Cow Run! and have returned tonight ready to tell our Cape Town story.

We took two day trips into Cape Town. Our first trip was inspired by a beautiful, cloudless day. All looked good for our plan, which was to take the cable car up Table Mountain - a trip down memory lane for Rob and I (we did it together over ten years ago), and a new adventure for Immy.  As we drew nearer to Cape Town, we saw that the sky was indeed cloudless - because every single cloud was cunningly lying on top of the mountain. This meant the cableway was closed, our plans were somewhat derailed and other Cape Town pursuits were turned to instead.

Lunch in Camps Bay, followed by a drive up Signal Hill. The perfect place to view the offending clouds and blanketed mountain up close.

The view of the mountain driving down from Signal Hill. Taken through the windscreen, ahem.

Next stop was the aquarium. We got side-tracked by all sorts of things - the science lab, the touch pool and a slightly bizarre puppet show on why frogs are super important and what we should be doing to save them.

We checked the weather reports, and picked another perfect summer day for our second attempt. This time we started things off with a picnic lunch, a bit of rolling around in the grass, in-between resting and some crazy swinging.

And then we were at the front of the queue, and then we were on the cable car, and next thing we knew we were walking among the clouds. Gosh. I've been up there before, but every time I am just DAZZLED. The silence. The views.

We breathed the fresh air, and walked a slow loop around the top of the mountain. We admired the view, took pictures and watched as Immy scuttled up every rock, enjoying the feeling of being temporarily obscured by a drifting cloud. We gathered ourselves tighter in our warm hoodies when the weather turned chilly, and then hostile. Damp, icy fog and a stiff wind.

Ah. Moody mountain. By the time we got down to the bottom, she was feeling like this.

On the way back after a long, satisfying day, I looked out the back window of the car at Table Mountain receding in the distance, and wondered - as I always do when I visit this beautiful Mother City of ours - CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE REMIND ME WHY I'M NOT LIVING HERE???

One final instalment of our West Coast road trip to come. On retirement, a Book Hotel and the kind of quiet where you can hear your soul breathe.